Stark Raving Zen

A Memoir of Coming Alive

Non-Fiction - Spiritual/Supernatural
342 Pages
Reviewed on 08/06/2020
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Author Biography

Kristy Sweetland is a writer, teacher and coach of transpersonal growth and transformation. She holds a master's degree in psychology and is professionally credentialed as a transformational life coach. Kristy writes exclusively on the subjects of freeing the human spirit, and healing and growth through creative expression. She considers Mother Nature to be one of her greatest teachers, and utilizes eco-psychology, animism, and feminine mythology in much of her work. Kristy has a private practice in northern New Mexico where she assists others through their own spiritual transformations. When not writing, teaching, or coaching, Ms. Sweetland can be found with her husband and cherished dogs, hiking the gorgeous canyons around her home, day-tripping to the glorious Sangre de Cristo mountain range, weekending to the Colorado Rockies, or scrambling around Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the Jemez Mountains. She also shares her life, if not her hiking adventures, with two magnificent indoor felines who appreciate being mentioned. Kristy Sweetland has previously co-authored a book with Nina Brown, called The Fascinated Observer.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Stark Raving Zen: A Memoir of Coming Alive is a work of non-fiction in the spiritual and supernatural sub-genres, as well as a slice of life and memoir-style work by author Kristy Sweetland. Combining these different and very interesting concepts, the author offers an authentic look at otherworldly and spiritual shamanic experiences and, as such, this work contains some scenes which may be distressing to more sensitive readers. The book recounts the incredible experiences on a road trip that lasted only ten days but caused the author to recount her whole life to that point, and gave her powerful visions and a guiding voice from somewhere beyond our usual comprehension, willing her to survive, change and thrive.

Author Kristy Sweetland delivers a masterful and emotive work that combines some very powerful and fascinating out of the ordinary experiences with a reflective look at life, psychological trauma, and how we all have the strength and capacity to rise up and change, provided we know where to seek the right guidance. I felt for the author very deeply throughout, which is a testament to the book’s raw exploration of feelings, and the bold narrative style that lets us right into Kristy’s head as each moment unravels. It was a unique reading experience like no other. Overall, I would certainly recommend Stark Raving Zen: A Memoir of Coming Alive to anyone intrigued by the lesser-known paranormal and spiritual experiences of life, as well as those looking for a powerful, inspiring story of survival.

Publisher's Weekly

Life Coach Sweetland (The Fascinated Observer) recounts in this gripping memoir the "spontaneous shamanic initiation" she experienced during a road trip from Minnesota to New Mexico...her writing conveys the joy and terror of mystical experience. Sweetland's surrender to unbidden visions will appeal to believers in mediums and channeled wisdom. - Publisher's Weekly

Book Viral Reviews

A uniquely powerful and thought-provoking read, Stark Raving Zen: A Memoir of Coming Alive speaks directly to those who find their lives sapped of meaning...Her descriptions of otherworldly encounters are simple, not overly poetic, just the memories of someone who experienced the indescribable and then found the best words to describe it. For many readers, it will raise questions to the most pressing questions they may have about the purpose of life. To others, it may provide the answers they have knowingly or unknowingly been seeking. Either way, Sweetland's words are likely to broker much in the way of reflection...A highly accessible account of spiritual enlightenment with broad appeal, Stark Raving Zen: A Memoir of Coming Alive is certainly deserving of your attention and is strongly recommended. - BookViral Reviews

Stephanie Himango

When you read the pages of this extraordinary book, expect to take a journey unlike one you've ever imagined. Kristy's vivid life experiences and her deft ability to express them with vulnerability, insight and a mastery of language is a raw and beneficent revelation that leaves the reader awed, shell-shocked and renewed.

Valentine McKay, PhD

Spontaneous shamanic initiation is the theme of Kristy Sweetland's riveting account of a life-changing road trip, from her home in Minnesota to southern New Mexico and back, in company with her beloved dog, Arya. Readers will travel every step of this journey with Kristy-thrilled by the fearsome beauty of the Southwestern landscape, comforted by the calm presence of her angel dog, hearts beating double-time in anticipation of whatever new challenge will present itself, just around the next curve in the road.

Tom Glaser

From the first page, Stark Raving Zen is as riveting as it is brave, raw, and true. Such clarity and authenticity are rare and sorely needed in these times. Though speaking of supernatural and at times terrifying things, the voice remains casual, with humor, humanity, and lightness.

Vishnu Subramaniam

I walked this powerful journey with the author of her spiritual awakening. The book lived up to it's title and more. It's part memoir, part spiritual guide and ultimately a book about accepting yourself and awakening who you are. There is so much pain and sadness in this memoir but it ultimately leads to her deep spiritual awakening. Her story is filled with some unbelievable spiritual experiences, magical experiences and out of body experiences. The buildup to her spiritual crisis and ultimate awakening was riveting. It's hard to stop reading this memoir once you start. Highly recommend!

Chelsye Chaney

The fact that Kristy was able to accurately document and give language to her spontaneous spiritual awakening is nothing short of profound. The art of storytelling has been used throughout time to weave the human experience into the tapestry of life. Storytelling evokes an ancient and powerful medicine and this memoir is like balm for the human spirit. I have undergone my own version of a spiritual awakening and I struggled with finding the words to describe my journey. By reading Kristy’s beautiful and raw account, I was able to gain a deeper level of meaning and dialogue with my personal story. Kristy’s memoir granted me the ability to feel as if I was sitting shotgun with her and Arya on their road trip from Minnesota to New Mexico, from the depths of hell to the euphoria of the heavens and all the places in between.

Michele DeLuca

Based on an Instagram post, I purchased this book two days ago and read it straight through. I appreciate how hard it was for the author to share her wild and extraordinary journey but her story lifted my heart and fortified my own spiritual adventure. As a writer myself I have to applaud her for her beautiful work and I encourage others to read this book to feel the benefits of her hard won understanding within their own spiritual quests.

Connie Johnson

This book is absolutely amazing! Regardless of your faith base, I truly believe that this story will change your life. I did not know exactly what to expect, but was completely blown away by her story. Kristy’s writing is so wonderful, you feel as though you are right beside her as she tells her incredibly difficult and personal life story (going back through her childhood) as well as on the physical journey and subsequent Spiritual awakening that she took across country with her beautiful dog Arya. I honestly could not put it down! I also bought another copy and sent it to someone that I dearly love (I just had to share it with her, but wanted to keep my own copy for myself) This book is truly life changing!

Diane McGregor

Kristy's book is pointing the way to how we can live an enchanted life, be our best selves, and mature spiritually. Her wisdom in this book is profound. AND it's a great story, too -- wonderful writing -- funny and scary and miraculous all at once! A powerful read - I couldn't put it down!

Tom Henderson

Highly recommended! If you want to read a story that gives you inspiration that big change is possible, look no further! There has never been a better time for a story like this.

Mary McKnight

This well crafted story, kept me turning page after page, hoping beyond hope that the Heroine (Kristy) would come out of her toxic family of origin to her truth. This quest with Arya felt like it was happening to me as I read it!. The book did not disappoint and kept me reading until the end and wanting a second book from her!

Cara Brewer

Such a wonderful book - riveting, gripping, touching, meaningful. So helpful in recognizing the importance of allowing our spiritual awakenings to guide us on our journeys. I pray mine is as life changing!

Heidi Brandenburg

Fascinating read! I couldn’t put it down. I felt I was experiencing her journey right along with her.


Kristy had me captured from the first chapter, I didn’t want the book to end! She is gifted with the ability to write with the detail to make you feel like you are living her story. I appreciate the honesty of her story.

Jo M.

Very thought provoking for each of us on our own spiritual journeys. I loved the positivity that this book fed on!

Annabel Joseph

I picked this book up not sure what to expect, but once I started reading it, I could not stop. I think this book has a two-fold appeal. First of all, the story (the author's real life road trip) is so fascinating, well-written, and surprising that it's a real page turner. My attention never flagged, the book never dragged for a second.

Second, there is so much to draw out from the pages, from the author's experiences and revelations. The way it's written, it's so easy and so interesting to ask yourself, what would I have done in this situation? What is she discovering about herself and the abilities of our own bodies and minds, that can help me in my own daily journeys, whatever they might be? In some strange way, the author is not talking at you...she is immersing you in her story so you can learn from it at the same time you marvel at all she learned and endured.

This book brought a real jolt of energy to my life and I'm very glad I read it. It's going on my keeper shelf.

Nancy Haag

A amazing book by a very gifted writer. This story is full of hope and transformation. And this writer will draw you in immediately and make you glad you decided to accompany her on this amazing journey.

Dan Berkner

Kristy Sweetland takes a the extremely misunderstood experience of spiritual awakening and explains it in such vivid language that even the most skeptical person would have a hard time denying that her experience was as real as the nose on their face. While my personal spiritual awakening has been more of the educational variety, I’ve read many other accounts describing this process. The difference with Stark Raving Zen is that it is a complete story of where she came from and how her life experiences led up to having such a profound experience happen to her. I have never read such a thrilling and enchanting account of a spiritual journey.

I wasn’t able to stop reading, until I got to the end of the book. There were some specific parts of the tale that I had to take some time to think about and digest as they were thought provoking and needed to be processed before I could continue.

I’m still thinking about the book a few days after finishing it, which is one reason I decided to leave a review. If you are looking for a book about a spiritual journey that reads like a Stephen King thriller at times then this is a book you want to pick up.

Chris Mentzel

A friend gifted me this book. I am so grateful she did! From the very first sentence I was hooked....I found it difficult to put down to attend to anything other than reading it. Ms. Sweetland’s writing style is mesmerizing and the bits of humour interjected into serious situations I appreciated. I found myself laughing out loud at her brilliantly clever metaphors, often interspersed in dark moments on her journey. I highly recommend this book.

Sydney McCain

Even though the teasers promised a story of transformation and supernatural phenomena, I have to admit I was surprised by the author's extraordinary experiences and adventures. Her excellent writing skill makes these even more vivid and gripping as she takes you with her on a very personal shamanic journey.

Kristy is quite adept at pulling the reader into her world, inviting you to identify with her experience at a profound level. She weaves the fantastical into the grounded earthiness of the New Mexico landscape so well that you have no reason to doubt the veracity of her story.
I highly recommend this book! I couldn't put it down.

Nancy Banner

Not only has she woven all the fragments of her “before” story in a masterful way, Kristy’s account of ‘resurrection’ had me slurping up page after page like lemonade on a hot day.

I couldn’t put it down, yet didn’t want to finish it because the storytelling is so good and the story itself riveting. Thank you for sharing your profound experience with us Kristy!!!!!

Patricia Perone

Having been a client, fan, and friend of Kristy's for many years, I knew this book would be heartfelt, intriguing, and well written. I had no idea how many closed doors it would open up inside of me, and that it would re-introduce me to an inner world that I was previously at a loss to pinpoint or articulate. Unable to put it down, I read it cover to cover in days, enthralled by her experiences. I'm halfway through my second read, devouring up additional details and feeling them on a whole other level. Kristy's ability to keep it real and consistently and unabashedly be herself is something I aspire to. Do yourself a favor and read this today, so you can view the world with new eyes tomorrow, and every day after.

Amy King

With great wisdom and artfully woven words, Kristy Sweetland bares her soul as she recounts this awe-inspiring journey back to her spiritual self. The unfolding events of her story are out of this world! They beckoned me to roll from chapter to chapter in anticipation of what lie ahead. Stark Raving Zen left me vowing to keep the fire of my spirit burning no matter what should try to stamp it out.

Christine Turner

Kristy makes you feel like you're there with her during every fascinating twist and turn. It is not easy to share spiritually transformative experiences and dark family secrets. But for those of us on the spiritual path, it is a true gift to read another's account in such brave detail. Stark Raving Zen is not only an engaging read, but is also a reminder that we are part of something bigger and that healing on a soul level is possible.

Kelley Traister

This book feels so alive.. like an invitation, a call or an opening to another space that I never knew existed... or perhaps I sensed it before but in a way that was almost imperceptible. And somehow it also feels that THIS crazy time was the best time for it to be released! This is when we need it, when I need it most.

Lynn McGuire-Raj

A little spooky, very engaging and a lot enlightening! In this page-turner of a memoir, Kristy's traverse across the country becomes a much deeper journey within. And her courage along the way is a clarion call-- above all else, trust and follow your inner guidance. Just the medicine I need in these times. Kristy is a gifted storyteller and a powerful guide. I’m already waiting for the sequel.

Nina Brown

Kristy has perfected the heroine’s journey, having enrolled in “a trippy metaphysical flight school.” She mastered her past, where it went and where it would take her allowing the alchemical flame to burn away impurity, duality and the imbalances of living life separated from her higher self. Her tale, courageously shared, empowers the reader to accept their own story as being an experience on the spiral of life guiding them towards a state of higher consciousness.

Ann Campbell

Kristy Sweetland has the gift of storytelling. With Stark Raving Zen, she has gifted us with a page-turning story. Her story. The book reads like fiction, but every word...the light and the dark...has been a personal experience of transformation. Thank you for bravely sharing your story.

Toni S.

Kristy is so honest and brave in sharing her spiritual journey! This is a page-turner that I could not put down, definitely a must-read! The way she describes the events of her journey through Colorado and New Mexico, makes you feel like you were right there with her and Arya. I've always been intrigued with the spiritual realm, and this book left me with so many more questions! Thank you Kristy for sharing your journey of coming alive.

Ildiko Oravecz

This book reads like a fantasy novel, and it's amazing to realize that it is the true-life experience of the author. It's beautifully written and once I started reading it I wasn't able to put it down. This is an engaging and enjoyable read about the author's transformation, and I felt as though there were many lessons for me in her words. I definitely recommend this book!

Kirkus Review

"Sensing her mental well-being unraveling, a woman embarks on a road trip that proves to be a mind-expanding voyage of spiritual discovery in this memoir...those open to ideas of mediums and the existence of higher dimensions should find this book enthralling. A bold, if occasionally terrifying, personal account of spiritual transformation." -- Kirkus Reviews

Mary McKnight

Stark Raving Zen is a Hero's journey. After reading Kristy's story, it will inspire you to honor the intuitive inside yourself. Reading this book has you walking the path with her. Each step, each stop along the way makes the reader want to continue on to see how the story ends and also to see how the author's life altered and opened because of this journey.