Reviewed by: John Stokdijk
Since retiring in 2012 I have read almost a hundred books. I have written about sixty book reports. But there is only one book that has invoked a strong, persistent feeling that I rarely experience. It seems as though I have been waiting for years for this book to find me. Even these words are not ones I usually choose. More often I know what I want and I go after it.
But somehow Collective Presencing by Ria Baeck found me. I do not mean this in some mystical sense as if cosmic forces are at work. Maybe there are; maybe there aren’t. I do not know and I am not interested in finding the source of my feelings at this time. And one of the reasons I like this book is because Baeck herself does not go very far in a mystical direction, unlike some books of this type.
Soon after I began reading this book I realized that it might not have been an appropriate selection for the Ajijic Book Club. The book is more of a how-to manual for a new way to live rather than a book to read and discuss. Realizing that many ABC members would probably not want to read the whole book, I prepared a An Introduction to a Beginner’s Guide to Collective Presencing. Yes, merely an introduction to a beginner’s guide because there is a great depth of information in the book. My twelve page summary does not do the book justice.
Another aspect of Collective Presencing is its impressive balance of research and lived experience. Many books in the personal growth genre are, in my opinion, unbalanced. Some offer mostly research. Others offer mostly lived experience. But without the unique journey of Ria Baeck through life this book would not have been possible and she gets the balance about right.
Collective Presencing is the first selection of a new book club, the Embodied Book Club, at The Stoa, a new initiative stewarded by Peter Limberg. There are six weekly meetings and as I write, I have attended the first three. The author is leading the sessions which adds much to the meetings. But these too seem to me to be barely scratching the surface of the book’s content. Again, this is a book to live rather than talk about.
Chapter 6 talks about taking the leap into the new way of living the book promotes.
At this stage there isn’t much left to say: you either take the leap or you don’t. It’s that simple in the end. There might be a long journey before you actually jump, during which you ponder all manner of fears and anxieties about whether or not you will survive; or perhaps you think you should be working or living somewhere else while your soul’s calling is simply to stay put and apply all your wisdom right here where you are… The leap always feels like leaving the safety of stable ground – at least the old familiar patterns are known, even if they are painful or destructive… In taking the leap, we say good bye to the identity we constructed to fit so nicely in that box we lived in before, to replace it with uniqueness and intimacy. Our lives become a patchwork that might not make much sense to others, but shows our unique colours, that we no longer seek to hide or gloss over. Instead of clinging to our different roles, identities or social personae, we can ground in our uniqueness and capacity to be intimate with all that is around us, living flexibly and creatively with what life and circumstances bring us.
I sense that I am preparing to jump.