Book Reviews

D Fitzgerald (California) – June 19, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

I was very impressed with this book. I’ve read quite a few books on spiritual development and all of them offer good information. The problem is how to apply it to yourself within the context of your culture and experience. McAlister’s book really works for me, a mainstream suburban American male.

Its easy to compare this book to Ekhard Tolle’s excellent books “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth”. Tolle and McAlister seem to have a similar basic understanding of the spiritual path. McAlister’s approach is rooted in Zen which provides a well developed and time proven foundation. Tolle’s teaching is often more vague. McAlister takes his teaching farther than Tolle’s; that is he takes you higher on the mountain. He is talking about reaching the summit itself; enlightenment in this lifetime.

The most important thing in any book like this is how well you, as in individual, can relate to and use the ideas it contains. This book has worked very well for me so far. I find I can “get” things at both a shallow intellectual level but that they also resonate within.

This book is one that I’ll keep in my backpack as I follow my path to awakening.

JV – February 17, 2010 / 5 out of 5 stars

This is one of the simpliest writings I’ve seen on the subject of how to live Zen in the modern day world. Zen is very difficult to speak about because words can’t say IT, only application of these words. Being a Zen teacher myself, I recommend it to my students.

Dale Hume (Oklahoma City, Ok United States) – August 1, 2009 / 5 out of 5 stars

If you really want to know how to awaken (achieve some level of enlightenment, or climb the mountain of spirit) in this lifetime, there is no better book to lead you in that direction. Michael McAlister has an excellent command of the English language, and, though the experience of enlightenment is beyond words, (indeed it is beyond mind) he is able to use words to present concepts in a manner that one can grasp. No other book has helped me further down that path.

C. Thompson (Singapore) – April 16, 2009 / 5 out of 5 stars

Books in this genre often struggle by being too verbose and somewhat ethereal. McAlister claims right from the start that he isn’t going to teach anything new but he will present it in a different light. It’s very effective and the “climbing” metaphor provides the reader a visceral model that gives structure to the complex discussion of enlightenment. McAlister is honest in his writing and will often explain complex topics in a few different ways. The reader is never left to linger in the abyss without some guidance and structure. McAlister’s humour also adds levity to the topic without trivializing. A very enjoyable, practical and digestable read on one of the most challenging topics in our lives.

K. Strand (Lafayette, CA) – September 29, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

Awake in this Life by Michael McAlister spoke to me on many levels. It explained in clear language the journey to enlightnement found in non-dual faith traditions. It spoke to my emotions through the descriptions of this journey; it let me know I was not alone. And the best part, I found, was the invitation, in these pages, to go beyond intellectual understanding and emotional comfort–to know this path through my own experience of the Infinite.

By practicing the stillness that Michael McAlister speaks of in his book, I have begun to move beyond my ego and its obsession with trying to control the future and its attachment to the past. As Michael says: “Will our relationships be informed by wisdom and thus become an expression of compassion? Or will our relationships be informed by grasping and thus become an expression of greed?” The choice is ours.

Michael’s book is a bright light pointing the way to compassion; comforting, affirming, assessible to everyone with a willing heart. We are all Buddha’s and Awake in this Life helps us relize this now.

Glenn B. (Los Angeles, CA) – February 5, 2010 / 5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by a friend recently and I must admit that Michael McAlister fires on all cylinders in every bit of his delivery.

I’ve been a consumer of this type of book for a while and I often find myself disappointed since the language of the “nondual” author can be pretty abstruse and/or needlessly flowery. I’ve flirted with several traditions and the mystical aspects of faith can get lost in translation. McAlister’s words don’t fall prey to this tendency. His writing is remarkably cogent, down-to-earth, funny and yet illuminating and deep. So deep, in fact, that I’ve read it three times, each time getting some incredibly rich stuff that has worked to support a meditative practice I’ve had for many years. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how his irreverence seemed to shred lots of old Buddhist stuff that I’ve held as sacred and yet this has enhanced what had become stale. No doubt this might give fundamentalist practitioners of any tradition some pause. But this is perhaps the best reason to read the book: it forces us to confront our own fundamentalism so that we can move past it.

My only caveat to purchasing this book is that the map of this terrain isn’t easily followed. Of course enlightenment isn’t easy, I assume, but McAlister continually suggests that any real spiritual practice isn’t about escaping from our daily grind into bliss. Instead, it’s about meeting everything head on with our deepest awareness. Again. And again.

Get it. And read it. Again. And again.

E. Nicol – April 2, 2009 / 5 out of 5 stars

Michael McAlister gives us a well-written, concise description of a path to enlightenment, based on Zen Buddhist teachings. Far from being dry or intimidating, his experience and humor shine through on every page. I appreciate his perspective that enlightenment for its own sake is not the point – rather the point is to bring what we know and learn into the world. It makes me wish I lived in the Bay Area, so I could participate physically in the Infinite Smile Sangha. At least I have this book, and his podcasts to give me tips along the path. Highly recommended for seekers of all stripes.

Jeff Bilsky (Salt Lake City, UT) – December 4, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

Michael’s teachings are fantastic and have a great universal message accessible to all walks of life. I thoroughly enjoy this book – it has a place on any bookshelf and will be revisited on mine many times.

Cristina Behrens (Venice, CA) – March 15, 2010 / 5 out of 5 stars

If you are searching for something more from “the daily grind,” I highly recommend Awake In This Life. I first read the book when I was 25, lost and searching for answers that nobody seemed able to provide. Since reading this book (twice now), life’s moments have become more meaningful, Michael McAlister’s thoughts continue to inspire…

Martijn Samsom (Pacific Grove, CA, USA) – June 1, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

For anyone serious about starting, continuing or deepening their spiritual practice, this is a must read. Awake in This Life does a beautiful job of laying the foundation for and helping the practitioner stay on the path up the mountain. The author’s perspective on ego is quite remarkable. Michael skillfully shows the reader how to identify the many faces of ego, followed by compassionate, integrative ways of working with it. Ultimately, Awake points us in a direction where we can start living life beyond the confines of our thinking. Dare I say we start to connect with spirit and the infinite truth of life in the here and now? Get this book, it will not disappoint!

Barbara R. Hollenbach (California) – December 1, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

Michael McAlister uses humor and profound wisdom to gently point us all towards our true nature. His book has been a great guide for me to be truly “Awake in This Life”. I highly recommend it!

Patricia Shanahan (San Francisco, CA) – November 20, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

The U.S. seems to be at a tipping point on so many levels – political, financial, spiritual, etc. Many of my friends are looking to the spiritual realm for answers, yet they don’t seem to know where to turn. Busy lives seem to get in the way and good intentions. While reading Awake in this Life I realized how many of my friends would really enjoy Michael McAlister’s approach to spirituality in today’s world. He has a unique approach to guide one wherever they are along their spiritual journey – beginner or well traveled. Reading this book can be fitted into any busy life. I highly recommend this book as special gift to family and friends.

Philip B. May (Frankfort IL) – November 6, 2008 / 4 out of 5 stars

A great read. Non dogmatic. Michael is a great teacher and his journey is a transformational lesson for all of us. If your interested in Zen but a a bit put off, this book is for you. Michael bridges east and west with humor.

Barbara Papini (Oakland, CA United States) – November 4, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

Michael McAlister writes from his heart. He comes across as “of this world”, giving his very human experiences on his path in Buddhism. He is at times funny, and always generous and encouraging to those looking for guidance for waking up! I have given this book to my family members and I have it on my bedside table. I can open it at any place for inspiration. I highly recommend it!

Regina Rocca (Lafayette, CA) – October 22, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

Bad news: Michael McAlister’s book will not save you from yourself. Good news: Michael McAlister’s book will not save you from yourself. It will, however, lovingly and repeatedly point you toward your true nature, or home, where safety is neither a problem nor some thing you can acquire. This book is not only practical and accessible, but also poetic and spacious. Michael’s words have accelerated my own process of separating thoughts from awareness. It’s a book I’ll return to, and have shared with others. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is tired of fighting impermanence, who would like to quiet the mind, and who would like to notice the noticer, the one who has always been awareness.

P. Lolonis (CA) – October 20, 2008 / 4 out of 5 stars

Has all the stuffing necessary for longtime practitioners and enough humor for beginners. I took it with me on my plane trips–quite helpful on the journey.

Shelley Clark (California) – August 26, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

I find the teachings in “Awake In This Life” to be very helpful. Michael’s insight and ability to elevate my understanding of myself and the universe is profound. This is a must read.

Dr. L. DuRard (Orinda, California) – August 7, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

In AWAKE IN THIS LIFE, Michael McAlister conveys the essential message of non-duality in clear and refreshing ways. Like Eckhart Tolle, Nathan Gill, Stephan Bodian, and other contemporary teachers in this tradition, he emphasizes that our normal internal sense “of being a distinct and separate ‘I’” is not the full story of our reality. He points the way of the pathless path (the “Mountain of Spirit”) toward boundaryless awareness and recognition of our deep unity with everything. The goal, he says, is to live each moment as consciously as possible–to uncover “that which is always and forever whole.”

With wisdom and humor, McAlister gently challenges us to see the mental conditioning that makes us unconscious of our limitless true nature. His discussion of our habitual grasping and avoidance patterns, and of our mistaken identification with thoughts and feelings, is particularly helpful; when these limiting egoic tricks are seen through, we begin to live the full truth of what we are.

This book will resonate with anyone who yearns to live from, and embody, a place of spaciousness rather than of limitation and separation; I highly recommend it.

P. J. Miller (Walnut Creek, CA) – August 3, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

This is a great book. It is well written and doesn’t miss a thing. Not a single word is wasted. This book is a must read for anyone seriously interested in the spiritual journey. I’m sure you will refer to it again and again! :-)

J. D. Burress (Del Mar, CA) – August 3, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

What a breath of fresh air to read personal stories and anecdotes about the author’s ups and downs along the path. This book provides information on many levels that will allow the reader to take something new from it each time they read it. And the humor and gentleness injected into the writing comes shining through!

L. Schroeder (Munich, Germany) – July 20, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

This book is written from the point of view of someone who started like all of us – a bit cynical, a bit arrogant, a bit impatient, but searching for some meaning in life – and found what he was looking for by sitting still, shutting up and watching what happens. Anyone can relate to this journey and this book gives hopes to the rest of us that enlightenment isn’t some special thing you can only achieve in a serene Buddhist monastery.

Jane Austen (Lafayette, Ca. USA) – July 1, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

This book is rich in many aspects. It helps people let go of allowing their egos to run them around. It is also helpful in showing people how to use meditation so that their every day life is enhanced and enriched.

Awake in This Life is enlightening and practical, I highly recommend it.

Ralf Schroeder – June 10, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

Following the highly valuable Infinite Smile podcasts, in his new book Michael McAlister does a wonderful job explaining how authentic spirituality is not only attainable in a remote monastery, but in the midst of our busy day-to-day life. He outlines how the path up the Mountain of Spirit can be walked to free us from the trappings of our Ego and, once on the summit, he brings the view from there all the way back home.

I highly recommend this book to any practitioner that seeks an accessible guide to Spirituality.

David Deutscher (Pleasant Hill, Ca.) – June 9, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

As I read this book I could not stop thinking of all the people I wanted to share it with. It touched me in such a way I had to laugh as I think of the story is fitting in one way or another for all for us. One does not have to be on a religious or spiritual mission to enjoy and his humor and gain from this book. I see the struggles that so many of us deal with on a day to day basis. This book lays out a practical path to being able to put all of life’s issues into prospective.

I am now on my fifth book purchased to share with those I care for.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Erin Green (Walnut Creek, CA United States) – June 9, 2008 / 5 out of 5 stars

A practical and non pretentious guide to tapping into that which is already inside you. It was no surprise to me, but you may find yourself giggling in parts. Think you’re not ready for the climb? Try anyway. You might surprise yourself.

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