A few years back I went through a bit of a crisis. My health was in crisis/jeopardy, my job in corporate America was the equivalent to a plunger sucking the life out of my soul and I felt a lot of anxiety about the future. I have seen therapists throughout my life but none, (none!!!) taught me the practically free things that I have discovered in the books I simply adore listed about below. These books are all game changers in my opinion in their own way.
This book fell into my lap at the exact time in my life when I needed it and I return to this book very often. Chödron is an American Buddhist nun and author of many books that have been guideposts for many on their journey to live a full life. After reading this book I learned this important fact, being certain in life is what holds us back and that in order to really live, we must feel fear and be okay with that in order to grow in our life and our relationships with others and most importantly with ourselves. She says, "In fact, anyone one stands on the edge of the unknown, fully in the present, without a reference point, experiences groundlessness. That's when our understanding goes deeper, when we find that the present moment is a pretty vulnerable palace and that this can be completely unnerving and completely tender at the same time".
This book is a life changer. But I have to be honest about it, you have to be 'ready' when you read this. Why? I picked up this book in my early 20s and was completely lost by it. I was drowning from my inner voice, constantly running mind and just feeling a huge sense of displacement. I picked this book up again a few years ago and I return to it over and over again. You can see by the folded pages, underlined words and passages and how raggedy the book has become. What I learned from this book is that we create our own suffering by being trapped inside of our 'ego'. Prior to reading this book, I really though ego was just about being arrogant or proud. After reading it, I realized I have been a victim to my own ego for almost my whole life, meaning I was trapped in my thoughts and limited beliefs about myself and the world around me. I was rarely in the present. I was dwelling on the past, scared of the future and completely missing what was happening at the present moment. Eckahrt says, "Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence".
I have read this book three times and the first line always gets me: "There comes a time in the lives of those destined for greatness when we must stand before the mirror of meaning and ask: Why, having been endowed with the courageous heart of a lion, do we live as mice". The first time I read this I was in a terrible corporate job surrounded by people that I felt had given up not only on their career but on their lives. They accepted things as they were and it was very upsetting to me. I always have wanted to achieve greatness in my life and being around people with such a bleak outlook can really take its tool on your psyche and spirit. This book really helped me through that time. He said that "Great mean and women don't give a damn if anyone approves. They rarely seek permission from the world, because they know that the masses bound by mediocrity will never approve of anything that breaks convention or smacks of boldness and magic". This book is a gem and is a must-read for anyone that wants to be a source of light and greatness in the world.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” If you are looking to live a more meaningful life, I cannot recommend this book enough. In order for real change and abundance to occur in our life, we must be vulnerable and move past shame. This book was an eye opener for me. I didn't realize how much of my life I lived with shame. Prior to this book I thought shame meant being embarrassed. I was wrong. It is about feeling worthy in life, something she dubs as 'wholehearted living'. She says that “Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” This book is a game changer. I am always recommending it to everyone that I know.
I picked this book up after reading Daring Greatly and this spoke to me maybe even more. I am a perfectionist, who has been on a path to recovering from it since I read this book a year ago. I was under the impression for a very long time that if I did this, wore this, acted like this, said yes, smiled that everything would be just 'perfect' in life. She says, “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” I was also guilty of never really wanting to be in the place of feeling pure joy, another powerful chapter in the book. Having been through trauma in my life, I was scared that if I did allow myself to be happy something terrible would come along. If you are looking to live your authentic self and be seen in this world I recommend this short read.
I am not sure what took me so long to finally read The Alchemist, but I guess like Santiago, the sheperd boy the books's lead character, I was on my own journey to discover it. Often when I read it and re-read it, I get the chills because it speaks so deeply to me. What made me finally pick it up is the author himself, after listening to this podcast and his own trials and tribulations to success and about deeply believing in his purpose. In the book, there are many memorable lines, but a few of my favorite,“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Also, the most moving quote is “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”. If you are looking for a book to guide you, I recommend this book, even though it is 'fiction', it is based upon Coehlo's life and his journey to finding his ultimate purpose.
About more than a year ago, I was on a desperate search for some sort of meaning. I hadn't really discovered podcasts just yet and I felt like I was wandering around this world aimlessly. I stumbled across this series, yes, also an Oprah source (I love her!) and immediately felt better. It was a ten week installment of Eckhart talking about his newest book A New Earth - I actually read this before The Power of Now. A new word for me, pain body, something that we all have, but I was living my life with this pain body, which he states is 'an accumulation of old emotional pain'. I am now aware of this in may own life, as well as with others. One of my greatest takeaways from this book is that people act out of their own unhappiness. When I picked up this book I wasn't looking for my life's purpose per se, but rather about being more present. One of my favorite lines is "When you are present, when your attention is fully in the Now, that Presence will flow into and transform what you do. There will be quality and power in it. You are present when what you are doing is not primarily a means to an end (money, prestige, winning) but fulfilling in itself when there is a joy and aliveness in what you do". Amen.
This is one of the easiest reads on this list because it is pretty straight forward with the message. It talks about being original and how it is never to late in life to begin a creative endeavor and that the word 'creative' can mean a lot of different things to different people. One of my favorite quotes in this book is this idea about doing something that has already been done before, but she says, "Most things have already been done - but they have not been done by you". This is a must-read for anyone in the creative field or thinking about living a more fulfilling or inspired life.
Photography by Alison