Mind Bending: magical ways to healing
But does guru Martha Beck have the power to overcome her sceptics. In the past few weeks no less than four self-help books have found their way onto my desk for review.
One of them is Martha Beck's Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. I'm sure Beck would say my energy is drawing this information into my life, that I'm unconsciously seeking new methods of living.
Perhaps she's right, but I've always been sceptical of considering these kinds of "coincidences" as having a deeper meaning. In fact, I've always been rather sceptical about self-help books.
Remarkably though, in very different ways each book delivers the same message: the way we've been living our lives has got to change. We're going nowhere, way too fast and killing ourselves with stress in the process.
For example, Beck says: "You must unlearn almost everything you learned in school about what it means to be intelligent.
The sharp focus you were told to sustain is actually a limiting, stressful, narrow attention field - something animals only use in the moment of 'fight or flight'."
Peace is the source of our happiness, she tells me, as I rush into her hotel room to interview her, 10 minutes late.
''Take a deep breath," she says as I rummage for my pencil and notebook.
"When you're in a state of anxiety, stillness seems boring."
Beck's life has been anything but boring. Her life lessons are grounded in serious academia and traumatic personal experience.
She has an MA and a PhD in sociology from Harvard University, has published a number of books and writes a column for Oprah Magazine.
She also has three children, one of whom has Down's syndrome.
Both Beck and her husband have come out as being gay, after co-authoring a book called Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behaviour , which treats homosexuality as a ''compulsive behaviour". They have recanted this view.
One of eight children, she was brought up in the Latter Day Saints Mormon church and received national attention after publishing her bestseller, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith, in which she accuses her father of sexual abuse.
Her secret to life, she says, is to start from a place of peace.
In her book Finding Your Own North Star, she says everyone has a compass inside them, which can lead them back to their true nature, and result in a more satisfying life.
But most of us are too caught up in the daily grind of work, kids and money to know what we really want. Beck sums up her new book in two words: ''nature heals".
She offers two explanations: nature can come back from what we've done to it, it can heal itself. It can also heal us by helping us to be in a state of energy that is curative, calm, relaxed and peaceful.
''And when nature heals, it spreads outwards creating a beautiful, benevolent cycle of healing," says Beck.
She calls those who intrinsically understand this "The Team", or ''wayfinders", easily distinguishable from self-designated healers, gurus, and spiritual teachers, "who seem primarily devoted to the health of their bank accounts".
So, I ask her, why do we live in a state of anxiety?
''As resources diminish and the acquisition of wealth becomes paramount, we start to live in a continuous state of anxiety.
"We've been trained to see the world as a hostile place where, in Thomas Hobbes' words, life is nasty, brutish and short."
Her aim is to teach strategies that gear people towards peace and love, or what she calls ''Oneness".
''Technologies are powerful and magical tools that can be used to heal our world instead of destroy it," she says.
''Knowledge is power, right? Not any more. Knowledge is easy to access these days. Real power lies in what's in short supply: human attention."
This makes some sense. I'd love to be able to access inner peace, even if it means I have to be part of "The Team" and become a ''wayfinder".
Could I let go of my scepticism and do it?
The second part of the book is about the way ''magic" can heal.
Beck says she's manifested internet connections where there hasn't been any wireless connectivity.
She also swears she's bent silverware with her mind, and even impressed a cowboy by bending a length of steel with thought waves.
She says she's come face to face with live animals like rhinos and leopards and felt only the force of their love.
''Set your attention to experience an event. If you imagine that something can happen, it usually does," says Beck.
''This is the magical side, when it feels like everything is harmonising with you. If you're open to them, experiences seek you out."
'Finding Your Way in a Wild New World' by Martha Beck is published by Penguin Books and costs R220