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Scott Alexander King 45 cards and 176 page guidebook

The Oracle of the Innocent Heart is a card deck seeking to recapture the creativity, curiosity and naïveté of the youthful mind.

The illustrations by Sharon Mcleod perfectly capture the childlike sense of innocence and whimsy at the heart of this oracle. Children and animals feature throughout, with nods to the universal myths, fairy tales and archetypes of childhood. Drawing on this rich vein of material we see appearances from wishing wells and the tooth faerie, faerie cats and foxes. The detail contained in each card is enchanting; whimsical hand-drawn pictures loaded with symbolism reminiscent of the fantasy worlds created by famous children’s authors like Enid Blyton, Kenneth Graeme and May Gibbs.

Unlike other oracle decks this is a uniquely Australian creation, resplendent with native fauna like cockatoos, koalas, willy-wagtails and redback spiders. As a kid who grew up in Aussie suburbia I found myself very able to relate to imagery in the cards and the delightful stories used to expand on them.

The guidebook outlines in comprehensive detail the symbolism and meaning of each card and contains four custom spreads; so you can delve right into this oracle and start using it straight away. The cards have been designed so they can be used as daily affirmations or single-card readings in addition to more comprehensive spreads. The only (mild) criticism I have is that I felt a little overwhelmed by detail at times, such is the richness of the oracle. This is a deck you can really immerse yourself in, one that given the time to explore at leisure will no doubt reap the rewards of your attention.


Pema Chodron Audio CD (3 discs: 3 hours 30 minutes)

Human beings are fascinating creatures; capable of great feats of self-mastery and achievement on the one hand, yet also capable of a wide range of limiting self- destructive behaviours on the other, abusing things like food, alcohol, sex, shopping and drugs to escape feelings of pain and unease. Despite offering temporary relief, these things often become imbued with addictive quality and become the ‘itch’ we have to scratch.

This audio seminar by Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron introduces the Tibetan concept of shenpa, offering insight into ways we can become ‘unstuck’ from the patterns and behaviours that are holding us back, along with life-changing techniques to help break the mental hold our habits, cravings and addictions have over us. Meditation is just one of several resources in our ‘toolbox’ for interrupting addictions, albeit the most important one. Learning to stay with our unease and to work with it instead of against it is the goal here.

Shenpa is described as that feeling of being ‘hooked’, the tightening we feel when met with something that brings unease. Chodron’s gift lies in her ability to deliver ancient Buddhist concepts and techniques in ways accessible to a modern Western audience. Her wit, warmth and wisdom clearly hit a chord with her audience, her message delivered with clarity and compassion.

The personal highlight for me was when she talked about failure as nothing more than the opportunity to try again, such is the optimism in her message. In short: the more we stuff things up, the more chances we have to change. I swear I could feel her smile and hear the laughter in her voice as those words came through my speakers. Pema Chodron is an extraordinary teacher.


Karla McLaren Paperback 311 pages

As a parent to two young children under five, I kind of fancy myself as a bit of an ‘empathy machine’. I think most primary carers develop almost a sixth-sense for deciphering the wants and needs of pre-verbal children, the ability to accurately read their emotions and intentions, and have a special knack for translating the unique stylings of toddler-speak. It was kind of nice to have that reflected in my stellar results in the “How Empathic Are You?” quiz at the front of this book.

McLaren makes an interesting observation: despite being one of the core communication skills, empathy is rarely taught in any formal education setting. This is only now starting to change, with many schools starting to teach social skills, especially as they relate to bullying. The take-home message here is that empathy is one of those vital-yet-overlooked interpersonal skills; one that can be developed and strengthened.

The book is not just useful for people with low or average empathy scores, it is also equally vital for people who experience too much empathy (hyperempathy) and need to dial it back for their own emotional well-being.

The structure of the book is excellent and intuitively makes sense. It begins by defining and identifying ‘empathy’, breaks down the six essential aspects of empathy, discusses emotional styles and follows it with a comprehensive section on mindfulness skills that you can use to develop or improve your empathy. There are also several self- evaluation tools featured throughout.

Part II is dedicated to chapters relating to empathy and work, relationships, friendships, communication and parenting. It became clear that even self-professed ‘empathy machines’ like myself still have much to learn about empathy. Succinctly and powerfully written.

march 2014 41

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