Book Review: Remember Who You Are – Seven Stages on a Woman’s Journey of Spirit
Like the last book I reviewed (Janice Lundy’s Your Truest Self) Linda Carroll’s Remember Who You Are is a spiritual rather than religious book for women. It is subtitled ‘Seven Stages on a Woman’s Journey of Spirit’, and as this suggests, the book focuses on the stages of the spiritual process, apart from any particular religion. The seven stages Ms. Carroll identifies are Forgetting, Remembering, Exploring, Practicing, Shadows on the Path, Reclaiming, and Acceptance. Forgetting is “losing [our] connection to essential spiritual self” and Remembering is any spiritual experience or insight that helps us to reconnect. The other stages are all steps in the process of seeking that spiritual self. Although these stages are presented linearly, Ms. Carroll tells us that often “the stages overlap, circle back, and intertwine, forming a pattern that reflects the multifaceted quality of the feminine spirit.”
Of course, these stages aren’t intrinsically feminine, and each are described in the mystic writings of all the world’s major religions. But two things make Remember Who You Are a uniquely feminine book, and a beautiful read. First, Ms. Carroll incorporates dozens (maybe hundreds) of poems, quotes, and passages from fabulous women poets and authors such as Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson, Alice Walker, Annie Dillard, Virginia Woolf and more. Second, she includes a comprehensive guide to using the book as part of a women’s book club or spiritual support group, with detailed guidelines for forming, organizing, and conducting such a group.
Ms. Carroll herself clearly loves poetry, and her prose reflects that. The chapters are more like musings or contemplations of each spiritual stage, and she seamlessly integrates the poems and passages of others. Each chapter gets to the point quickly, and thus the book is a little gem, at only a little over one hundred pages. The Practicing and Shadows chapters were my personal favorites, each exploring ways we can get sidetracked or distracted by our own spiritual practices. As a mother of young children, I especially enjoyed a story about a mother attempting to start a regular morning meditation practice, only to end up frustrated and angry as she is continually interrupted by her young boys’ demands. As Ms. Carroll tells us, “[Lily realized] her practice was hurting all three of them. What her true practice should be…was to use every event in the day as an opportunity for kindness and patience to emerge. Nowhere was this practice more important than with her children.”
Another favorite section of mine, ‘The Secret Club’ tackles the spiritual ego, and the feeling of exclusivity and specialness that can easily arise. Ms. Carroll quotes Julia Cameron here, from her book God is No Laughing Matter:
“Sometimes when you talk to them, Very Spiritual People close their eyes and sort of nod sagely as if they were on heroin. They do this in alot of settings where they are being officially spiritual. You’re at a spiritual talk, for example, or a concert, and all of a sudden, whoops, there go the eyes…Very Spiritual People scare me to death. They know the secrets. It’s like a spiritual clubhouse.”
As this quote demonstrates, much of Remember Who You Are is probably most meaningful to women who already consider themselves on a spiritual journey. However, the reflection questions at the end of each chapter, and the guidelines for using the book as part of a women’s group, help to make the material accessible and relevant to anyone reading it as part of such a group.
You can read more about Ms. Carroll at http://lindacarroll.org or purchase Remember Who You Are by clicking on the title anywhere in this post (as with all my posts, if you purchase the book through the Amazon links I include, a small percentage of the proceeds will come back to me to support this blog, which is ad-free.) Or, if you are interested in more book reviews, check out the Book page, and check back in the coming weeks for more lists and reviews.