Books: Catherine Dowling’s “Radical Awareness”, as reviewed by Pranada Devi

Irish breathwork practitioner Catherine Dowling has recently released her book “Radical Awareness: Five Practices for a Fully Engaged Life” under the Llewelyn imprint. This book guides people through five practices and 46 exercises intended to awaken a sense of oneness with all that is and use that sense to fuel personal growth and transformation.

“Radical” seems to be one of the latest buzzwords in personal growth or self-help, and Dowling’s book fights in search rankings with the better known volume “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. But it’s worth the extra searching.

Dowling observes,

Awareness—of who we are, of who others are—is spiritual literacy, an essential skill for navigating life. We all see life through the filters of our beliefs and attitudes… With Awareness we become conscious of those filters and of the difference between reality and our interpretation of reality. If, for example, I feel powerless in a given situation, how much of that powerlessness is generated by my own assumptions and beliefs, and how much of it is real?  If I believe myself to be unlovable, when I look at others, do I see rejection, even where no rejection exists?

When we let go of beliefs, experiences and attitudes that no longer serve us well, we are freed to enter a state of union with the present moment. In the present, we can engage with the gritty richness of life. We trust life, or rather we trust that everything in life is an opportunity to grow. And grow we must. The alternative is stagnation.

Radical Awareness has five components for Dowling:

  • Awareness of our self and reality
  • Absorption in the present moment
  • Trust
  • Growing from suffering
  • Experiencing union with self and life

When I first began reading Dowling’s book, I was concerned by the frequent use of the word “mystical” to describe oneness states. Dowling herself acknowledges the word is often misunderstood. I find it can sometimes carry an egoic charge of feeling “special”, somehow better than. I wondered if I was seeing a spiritual self help book that fed into an unconscious desire to get “above” or “beyond” the challenges we may encounter on the path, rather than being present with them. Thankfully, this is not the case. Throughout the book, Dowling emphasizes the importance of being present and connected for whatever may arise. Oneness experiences are not something to hoard greedily but to accept as they arise and remember the interconnection they show us.

After introducing the practices, Dowling goes on to discuss oneness states that may be experienced as a result of breathwork, and how to put spirituality into action by transforming the ways we shape our lives.

Dowling is a longtime practitioner who has worked with the Irish Department of Health and advised the Irish health Services Executive on the issues of suicide prevention and residential childcare. She has a clear, engaging and credible voice. Check out Radical Awareness and see what it can do for you.


Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. She is the editor for Parvati’s book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie: A Revolutionary Life Makeover for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker”.