Heart-Led | Optimist| Idealist | Innovator | Disruptor | Integrator
For me, the term “Spiritual” simply means anything which relates to the questions of who I am, why am I here and what I should do with my life; and who we are, why we are here and how we should live together on and with our home planet.
I’ve always been interested in these existential questions, even as a kid, but it was as a result of losing my first wife to breast cancer in my very early thirties that I began to spend more of my time seeking out different answers.
I enjoy exploring ideas, perspectives, and narratives but I have a strong aversion to any beliefs (and, for me, it’s all just beliefs at the end of the day) which come on too strong – I don’t trust dogma and I don’t believe there’s a single truth! I like to journey into different philosophies, scientific theories, and fictional imaginings and to integrate the aspects which resonate most for me. Over the years, various movies, documentaries, speakers, webinars, and books have broadened my views, changed (sometimes even blown) my mind and provided me with inspirations.
Here’s a selection of the books which had a particularly profound impact. They opened my heart and mind and helped me to explore my potential, purpose, and passion.
GAVIN ANDREWS is Managing Director for HeartMath in the UK and Ireland, and the founder of WeAddHeart and co-founder of Syntropy States.
Gavin discovered HeartMath, coherence and heart-based living 14 years ago after a particularly challenging time in his life. HeartMath helped him to heal from loss and to connect with the heart of who he really was. Since then, he has found joy, meaning and purpose in sharing the science and practice of coherence with others.
Gavin is passionate about finding practical ways to help people discover calm, clarity and coherence in our increasingly chaotic world. Recently he co-founded Syntropy States, a start-up which creates beautiful Audio-Visual Relaxation Aids and Breath Pacers using digital generative art and 8D chillout music. The Syntropy app is available in the app stores. www.heartmath.co.uk | www.weaddheart.com | www.syntropystates.com
My 10 Best
Life on Earth
by David Attenborough
This might seem like an odd choice but as a seven-year-old, I just couldn’t put this book down. This is the book that accompanied the original 1979 TV series; and of course, I loved the TV show too.
I remember reading Life on Earth for hours and being in awe of the wonder and variety of life; the miracle of it all. I’ve always believed in a purpose and intelligence behind the beauty and complexity of life and this book was certainly instrumental in that. I can see now that my interest was both scientific and spiritual, and since that early age, I’ve had a thirst to explore both.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach
I was in my late teens when I read this. A friend gave me his copy and I was struck by how much he said it had impacted him. I was intrigued to read it and did so in one sitting. The metaphor of the seagull, Jonathan Livingston, turning away from the squawking, chaotic, feeding and fighting of the flock to focus his purpose on perfecting flight switched me on to the realisation that the way we live our lives is a choice, and that if we are not careful, the choice is made for us by culture and society. Reading this book made me realise that I wanted to explore “higher” ways of living.
However, the lesson of the book didn’t stick with me and, somehow, I ended up losing myself and spending ten years living mostly out of alignment with the heart of who I really was. In hindsight I can see that this was an early lesson that “knowing” is not the same as “being” nor “doing”. Knowing something without integrating it and acting on it is largely hollow. And just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, learning and changing behaviour requires dedication.
by Arthur C Clarke
I’ve always been a big fan of Science Fiction. I think the fascination for me is playing with ideas of different realities. I particularly enjoy the strange worlds created by Philip K. Dick and the way he breaks the rules of time and cause and effect.
Arthur C. Clarke is another author whose books have expanded my perspective on who we are and what our place is within the universe. 2001 A Space Odyssey is my favourite film and I still get goosebumps at the scene where the monolith appears amongst the pre-humans, initiating a leap in the evolution of our species. The belief that we are continuing to evolve our consciousness towards something increasingly complex, ordered and superior, as opposed to chaotic or random, is very strong for me.
Childhoods End is strange, unsettling, and yet hopeful. The plot centres around the arrival of aliens who conceal their physical appearance from humankind for decades. The reason is because they look like terrifying devils. And the reason why humans fear devils is the result of our collective memory from the future of the arrival of the demonic-looking aliens. The aliens are here to oversee the development of a generation of children who represent the end of humankind as we know it and who will transform, along with the Earth into the next stage of our cosmic conscious evolution. Many people view the book as dystopian, but I think it’s utopian – it’s just that the journey to the unknown (and to be fair, unrevealed) utopia is rather extreme and unpleasant!
Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
I love this book and I’ve read it more times than any other. I studied English Literature at university, and during one module I read Brave New World followed by George Orwell’s 1984 and Yevegeny Zamyatin’s We. When I look at the world today, and how events are occurring which are impacting negatively upon our physical and spiritual freedoms; and how information is controlled and manipulated; and how we are fed a diet of addictive foods and distracting, exciting, titillating media, I think that we are in danger of edging closer to a society which is essentially a synthesizing of Huxley’s, Orwell’s and Zamyatin’s ideas. That is something I want to resist. We need to protect our individual freedom and sovereignty.
Brave New World is the most entertaining (and least depressing) of the three dystopian novels. In my view it’s also perhaps the closest to where capitalism is taking us. It’s a great adventure with wonderful characters. The story centres around an ultra-modern World State which is run by The Controllers, a totalitarian elite. The Controllers keep people happy and obedient through a system of pleasure-inducing experiences; a drug called Soma which chemically induces happiness and obliterates pain and depression; a strict social hierarchy based on a genetic and intellectual class system; lots of pornography and sex; no disease and the amazing technology that makes it all possible! While that might sound pretty good to most people, the reality is that life is essentially superficial and meaningless. No one is self-aware, nor free to be an individual, nor to question the status quo. The World State is like a human beehive where all are in service to the Queen bees. Or a zombie world where the zombies happen to be very clean, happy and compliant.
One of Huxley’s main themes is the choice between truth and happiness. That message is very, very important right now. We should not give the power to shape The Truth to people who offer us happiness in return. Their agenda is not our happiness. It is our compliance.
The Biology of Belief
by Bruce H Lipton PhD
As you might expect from my involvement in HeartMath, I’m a bit of a nerd for leading-edge science. And that’s one of the main reasons why I love this book so much. The first half is a beautifully written and fascinating explanation of cell biology and physics. Lipton is a former medical school professor and research scientist who, as a result of his own research, realised that the scientific doctrine of “it’s all in your genes” was wrong. Genes and DNA don’t control us, they receive information from outside the cell and then respond. And a significant source of that information is our own thoughts and feelings. The moment-to-moment content of our thoughts and feelings is literally impacting us on a cellular level and, depending upon whether the thoughts and feelings are positive or negative, they have a direct impact on both our physical and mental health.
Lipton’s message is empowering – we have choice and control when it comes to our beliefs, and as such, we have choice and control over our health and happiness.
As a Man Thinketh
by James Allen
Every time I pick this book up, I’m astounded at just how far ahead of his time James Allen was. He was the original personal development guru and if he was alive now I have no doubt he’d be the biggest name in the business. This book is literally full of incredibly powerful statements which cut straight through to the heart of living one’s life well and with purpose. This work spans both mental and physical health and it’s the latter where I think Allen has some of the most important things to say. The line below beautifully encapsulates for me the truth of the mind/body connection. And although Allen wrote this almost 120 years ago, it is the essence of what Bruce Lipton explains to the modern audience. Allen just didn’t know about epigenetics and telomeres!
“The body is a delicate and plastic instrument which responds readily to the thoughts by which it is impressed, and habits of thought will produce their own effects, good or bad, upon it.”
Mind to Matter
by Dawson Church
While Lipton focuses on the biological impact of our thoughts and feelings, Dawson Church extends them out into the world and reveals how our minds literally shape our environment and experience. He does this by reviewing scientific discoveries across the fields of epigenetics, wave phenomena, electromagnetism, neuroscience and public health, and he brings the science to life with inspiring stories and case studies.
I often find that there’s some sort of synchronicity when I discover and read a new book. And that was certainly the case with Mind to Matter. In fact, the synchronicity was… synchronicity! Church includes a whole chapter on the subject. I read it at the time when Syntropy States unexpectedly became “a thing” in my life and I quickly realised that its origins and emergence was synchronistic. Mind to Matter helped me to believe that I should trust what was happening and keep the frequency in flow.
Even the choice of the name Syntropy was synchronicity as the word kept appearing to me in various places. I later discovered that one of Syntropy’s lesser-known meanings relates to retro-causality—the present emerging and self-organising not as the effect of past causes, but of the future—time’s arrow inverted.
by Doc Lew Childre
Doc Childre founded HeartMath in the early 90’s and for the first couple of years he was a prolific writer. Self-Empowerment was his first book, and I think it’s even more relevant today than it was 30 years ago. I find Doc’s writing a bit awkward—he has an unusual turn of phrase—but there’s a powerful frequency to what he says and his message cuts through with crystal clarity. Essentially, the book is about managing stress through emotional self-regulation. The world is way more complex, confusing, and challenging now than it was back then and I think many people would benefit from a refreshed and re-edited version of this book. Doc writes about emotions and the importance of the heart as a source of intelligence, intuition, and discernment. He explains how it is stress and negative emotions that get in the way of our heart connection and his examples of the causes of stress and the emotional traps we fall into are so clear and relatable. Doc provides both scientific and practical evidence for how heart-brain coherence is an effective way to regulate the negative impact of stressful emotions on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how coherence can help us to intentionally cultivate positive emotions and thereby benefit our health and happiness.
Doc also writes about the need for men to learn how to be more connected to their hearts, to be more open, sensitive, and nurturing. I believe that for too long our world has been driven by the worst excesses of male behaviours—our need to compete, dominate, subjugate, and accrue wealth and power. It’s why we’re in the mess we are today socially, economically, environmentally, and politically. We men need to change our operating systems. Since learning how to connect with my own heart I’ve noticed how much of my formative male programming has weakened and softened. I still have work to do around compassion but practising Doc’s HeartMath techniques daily has made me a better and kinder person – both to others and to myself.
by Dean Radin
Dean Radin was, until fairly recently, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. I really enjoyed his book Entangled Minds. Real Magic is basically about… Real Magic! Radin blends the history of magic with scientific research into areas like telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, clairsentience and more. He writes with clarity and humour and there’s a lovely section dedicated to how we can each utilise the centuries-old practises of [real] magic in our daily lives through behaviours like meditation, affirmations and remote viewing.
That’s all fascinating enough, but what really blows me away about Real Magic is the various case studies about gifted individuals who are capable of astonishing things. There are clearly people in this world who can do remarkable things that most people cannot. Things which utterly defy the version of reality held to be true by materialists and reductionists. And while super-powers like levitation and manifestation may not be commonplace, clearly some “magic” skills are! Many people experience synchronicities and knowing things that they should not know (like when they are being stared at; what people are thinking/feeling; what is going to happen next; when loved ones are in trouble) which of course materialists will put down to “coincidences”. Which sometimes they may be. But statistics prove the reality of these experiences under laboratory conditions. And in the real-world, many of us know people who have healed themselves of terminal disease. I do, and in each case the person has dedicated their time, energy and intention towards overcoming their disease.
I defy anyone to read Real Magic and wrote it all off as nonsense. If you do, you certainly are not “following the science”!
Man’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor E Frankl
Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camps and this book describes his experiences and explains how he was able to endure such horrific hardship and survive when many others could not. As I read about Frankl’s life as a prisoner, I asked myself if, like him, I would be able to find the strength and meaning to survive, or if I would have given up as most of his fellow inmates did. I really don’t know what the answer is nor what I could or could not endure. And I pray I never have to find out.
What I do know is that losing my first wife woke me up and set me on my journey to discover what is important and meaningful. That awful experience made me a better person. My loss gave me growth. Whenever challenges arise in my life, I remember that. And interestingly, when I flicked through my copy to write this review, a page opened which included my underlining of a number of particularly powerful sentences. This line leapt off the page at me:
“… everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
For me, living a spiritual life is living a life of choice. I’ll end my Top 10 Spiritual Books review with this quote from Frankl, which I use to remind myself that I do have a choice, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”