Good Books: December 2016 Newsletter

 

a-life-ofenoughA Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough
by Wayne Muller
Three Rivers Press, 2011
paperback, $14.00

“But as we listen carefully for this next right thing, it is good for us to remember we are not necessarily seeking something we do not already have. The very practice of seeking can sometimes presume we are not where we need to be, and that whatever we have right now, or whomever we are this minute, cannot possibly be enough.”  – Wayne Muller

Years ago, I read two books written by Wayne Muller and both remain on my bookshelf: How Then, Shall We Live?: Four Simple Questions That Reveal the Beauty and Meaning of Our Lives (1996) and Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest (1999). His most recent book was published six years ago, but I just heard about it when it was recommended in one of my groups. The topic of enough is just as relevant as it’s ever been — maybe even more so.

Muller has been a minister, therapist, advocate, and spiritual director. He is also the founder of Bread for the Journey, an organization focussed on ordinary people becoming neighborhood philanthropists. Muller is intimately aware of the challenges people face as they try to balance the demands and expectations from without and within. He writes openly about his own attempts to navigate life’s complexities.

The book is exactly what the title suggests: a thoughtful collection of short chapters/essays on being, having, and doing enough. Although I read it from beginning to end, next time I might just go to the table of contents to see what grabs my attention. I think the essays will be just as meaningful and thought provoking read that way.

Muller begins the book with the words, “We have forgotten what enough feels like.” Everywhere he goes he meets people who are overwhelmed and exhausted by all the things they are doing, and all the other things they still need to do. For many, there no longer seems a way, or a time, to ever be done. The sense of enough for now—followed by time to breath, renew, rest—never kicks in. The burden of doing is never ending.

The book is a thoughtful consideration of this very real dilemma, both the damage it is doing and how difficult it can be to shift the pattern. Muller doesn’t tell readers how to resolve anything. Instead, he offers opportunities to listen to our own lives, as he shares his personal observations and understandings of what we are facing and what might make a difference.

If you are easily irritated by the use of religious quotations or references, you need to look at the book for yourself before you decide to purchase it.

For all of the curious readers, here are the four simple questions from How Then, Shall We Live?:  Who am I? What do I love? How shall I live, knowing I will die? What is my gift to the family of the earth?

 

upstreamUpstream: Selected Essays
by Mary Oliver
Penguin Press, 2016
hardcover, $26.00

“Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart—to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.”
– Mary Oliver

If you’ve read my newsletters for awhile or sat at the purple table in my office—writing, then you’ve encountered a few of Mary Oliver’s beloved poems. You might have even shared your own favorite(s) with the rest of us. And you might have heard me read from my favorite essay, Pen and Paper and a Breath of Air, from her book Blue Pastures.

“By no means do I write poems in these notebooks. And yet over the years the notebooks have been laced with phrases that eventually appear in poems. So, they are the pages upon which I begin.”

In addition to her many, many books of poetry, Oliver is the author of several works of prose. Upstream, her most recent book, is a collection of essays, many of which appeared first in Winter Hours (1999) and Blue Pastures (1995).

This is a slim volume—a great place in which to lose yourself. It might be a lovely gift this winter season.

turn to Practice page

 

Good Books: August 2016 Newsletter

 

Walking Home

Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed
by Sonia Choquette
Hay House, 2015
paperback, $16.99

“Gumby looked at me from the nightstand, as if to ask if he could ride up front on Pilgrim today. I looked at him and said, “No problem. You’re in.” He made me smile. He made others smile, too, when they saw him. He was definitely earning his passage. He was a good little totem, and I was glad I’d brought him along for company.” – Sonia Choquette

I’d heard about the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage route across northern Spain, before I started to read Walking Home. Several people I know have expressed an interest in walking it. I have to admit the Camino has never had a pull on me, and it still doesn’t, but I found Sonia Choquette’s account of her pilgrimage fascinating and compelling.

It is the story of multiple journeys. On the surface, this is genuinely interesting travel writing: one woman traveling the Camino alone and writing about her encounters with everything from the daily weather and other travelers to ill-fitting hiking boots and rationed PowerBars. Choquette is a good story teller who expanded her cast of characters to include Pilgrim (the lighter daypack she carried with her along the way), Cheater (the too-heavy-to-carry overflow “cheater” pack that was transported for her), and Gumby (her Camino totem who accompanied and befriended her).

The first twelve chapters in Part I are pre-journey. They set the stage for how Choquette comes to embark on this 500+ mile trek across Spain. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say she is overwhelmed by loss in her life and desperately in need of something. The 34 chapters in Part II detail each day of the journey. In a way they are journal entries, taking on the daily rhythms of the trek. But this is a spiritual pilgrimage and the walking is more than an interesting hike.

“I sat for a long while and listened to the birds singing in full force, thinking about my intentions for this pilgrimage. My prayer said it all. I wanted to return to my spirit and no longer be lost in the pain of my past mistakes. I wanted to be present and let the past go. I took a breath and looked at the beauty around me as I ate my PowerBar. Maybe because I had been unplugged from any technological distraction for over ten days, I found listening to nature deeply soothing to my heart.”

Choquette openly documents her descent into deeply rooted pain, fear, anger, disappointment, and resentment. Day by day, the Camino unravels and reveals the past in the present and the present in the past. Choquette’s encounters, some remarkable and others quite ordinary, parallel the inner and outer journeys that are leading her toward forgiveness and healing.

If it seems to you that the book requires more interest in spiritual matters than you possess, you might be surprised. Walking Home didn’t make me want to walk across Spain, but it did inspire me to pay deeper attention to my life. I respect the openness, honesty, and tenacity of Choquette to seek what she needed. As I reached the end of the book, it was clear that her journey wasn’t really over — it was beginning again.

Note:  If you’re interested, think about joining the conversation about this book in November. Details are on the Events Calendar page.

turn to Practice page

 

Good Books: April 2016 Newsletter

Wired to Create

Wired to Create:
Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind
by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire
Perigee / Penguin Random House, 2015
hardcover, $26.95

“Recognizing ourselves as creators and fostering creativity in our everyday lives brings us to life and connects us to who we are.
Creativity isn’t just about innovating or making art—
it’s about living creatively.” -from Wired to Create

I had the clear feeling I would like this book as I read about the authors on the back flap of the dust jacket.

Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, is scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the measurement and development of intelligence, imagination, and creativity.”

Carolyn Gregoire is a senior writer at the Huffington Post, where she reports on psychology, mental health, and neuroscience.”

Wired to Create is a distinctively different book about creativity. Before the book was published, Gregorie wrote an article that went viral when it appeared in the Huffington Post in March 2014: “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently.” The article, like many books on the topic, only skims the surface with the sort of things you might expect; but it got people talking.

Wired to Create, the book that followed, will get you thinking. Kaufman and Gregorie achieved a wonderful balance between scientific research and fascinating stories. They “scoured current and past scientific research over the past hundred years… and extracted common themes from within the minds and lives of eminent creators throughout the course of human history.” And they made it all very engaging and readable.

Instead of recycling the 18 things mentioned in Gregorie’s article, Wired to Create is organized around ten theme chapters: Imaginative Play, Passion, Daydreaming, Solitude, Intuition, Openness to Experience, Mindfulness, Sensitivity, Turning Adversity into Advantage, and Thinking Differently. Each chapter delves into the paradoxes at the heart of creativity. “Those murky, ambiguous places… are quite often where the creative magic happens.”

Mindfulness and daydreaming… seriousness and play… solitude and collaboration. “[These] seeming contradictions capture some of the polarities that come together in the creative person and that are reconciled through the creative process.” Wired to Create was written to help readers embrace these contradictions in order to express their deepest creativity. This is the most interesting and informative book on creativity that I’ve read.

Vital Signs
In the last issue of the newsletter I reviewed Vital Signs by Gregg Levoy. I’m mentioning the book again because it’s a great companion book to read along with Wired to Create.

Check out the Vital Signs review if you’re intrigued.

 

 

turn to Practice Page

 

Good Books: December 2015 Newsletter

Big Magic
Big Magic:
Creative Living Beyond Fear

by Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House, 2015
hardcover, $24.95

“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges:  Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures which are hidden within you? The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt—that’s what I call Big Magic.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

In the last issue of the newsletter, I mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic, scheduled for release last September.  Within weeks, I was running into people who were reading the book and wanted to know if I’d read it yet, which I hadn’t. Without exception, their responses were wholeheartedly enthusiastic. When I inquired, some had also read and loved Gilbert’s 2006 hugely successful bestseller Eat Pray Love; not one person mentioned the two books which followed: Committed: A Love Story or The Signature of All Things.

Big Magic is an exciting book, a gift of encouragement and inspiration. Gilbert generously shares her perspective on a fascinating range of life experiences hoping to nudge/touch/spark/awaken what is true and waiting within readers. It really is about creative living every day—with and without creative inspiration—with and without success.

“I believe that curiosity is the secret. Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. Curiosity is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Furthermore, curiosity is accessible to everyone. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times… The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion… Curiosity doesn’t ask nearly so much of you.”

Big Magic is clustered around six themes: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity. Within each section, you’ll find an intriguing collection of essays that swirl around the theme, as they flow from one to another to another. It was difficult for me to pause in my reading and put the book down, but Gilbert’s ideas / language beg for attention and thoughtful reflection.

I loved the exquisitely magical story that unfolds when Elizabeth Gilbert meets novelist Ann Patchett. This story alone is reason enough to begin the book; decide later if you want to finish it.

The following are among my favorite essays: Why It’s Worth It, A Dazzled Heart, Your Permission Slip, Your Day Job, Devotion to Inquisitiveness, and In Conclusion (printed on the back of the dust jacket for the book). “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all…”


Vital Signs:
The Nature and Nurture of Passion

by Gregg Levoy
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2014
hardcover, $28.95

“I know this reflects a substantial failure of some kind, but at the core of the human soul, I think, is not just a chewy nougat of kumbaya but also an emptiness. And yet, this thing we’ve devoted our lives to and cannot possibly do—lifting ourselves up from our fallen grace—is part of our pure sadness and whining that may draw us toward home.” -Gregg Levoy

Gregg Levoy’s book Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life was published in 1997; it easily became a bestseller and has remained a favorite for many who have discovered it in the years since. When I learned that Levoy had written another book, I couldn’t wait to read it. “IT” turned out to be a huge volume: 466 pages covering continents.

This is a mammoth work, by a former reporter, “drawing from centuries of history, art, science, psychology, and philosophy, as well as in-depth interviews with people who rediscovered and reignited passion in their own lives.” Levoy’s stories are compelling, his insights powerful, and his prose lovely. He writes from a vibrant sense of living and a desire to awaken readers to their own wonder and aliveness. In a book this size, you’ll appreciate the extensive bibliography and index when you want to locate important half-remembered references.

At one point in my reading I was convinced Vital Signs should have been published as two or three books, rather than one. I wondered whether readers would stay with such a lengthy book or consider reading it in the first place. I’ve since changed my mind on this and now look at Vital Signs as Levoy’s incredible gift to his readers.

The book is organized into six sections; each one felt as though it was my favorite, until I read the next. 1) Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Wonder, 2) Questing: The Happiness of Pursuit, 3) Call Of The Wild, 4) A Spark Needs A Gap: Love and Passion, 5) The Freedoms Of Expression, and 6) The Passion Is In The Risk.

Two of my favorite Gregg Levoy quotes:

“The Declaration of Independence promises the pursuit of happiness, not the achievement of it or even the enjoyment of it.”

“You’re probably better off not even thinking in terms like failure and success. Rather, think like a scientist. Life is an experiment and there are only results.”

turn to Practice Page

 

Good Books: Late Summer 2015 Newsletter

 

Finding Your ElementFinding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents & Passions and Transform Your Life
by Ken Robinson
Viking, 2014
paperback, $16.00

“You live as we all do in two worlds. There is the world that came into being when you did, and that exists only because you exist… There is also the world that exists whether or not you exist… This outer world was there long before you were born, and it will continue long after you have left it. You only know the outer world through your inner world. To find your Element, you have to explore both of these worlds.” –Ken Robinson

When a friend mentioned she was reading The Element, I’d never heard of it. In the process of checking it out, I discovered there are actually two books: The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (2009) and Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life (2013), both written by Ken Robinson.

Following the publication of his 2009 inspirational bestseller, The Element, Robinson experienced an especially enthusiastic response from readers—some wrote to share their own Element stories, others to ask for more help and direction to find their Element. With so many readers wanting more, Robinson wrote the companion guidebook, Finding Your Element. 

The intended purpose of this follow-up book is to offer practical support to readers on their personal quest to find their Element. According to Robinson “being in your Element is more than doing things you are good at… To be in your Element you have to love it, too.” Each of the book’s ten chapters “sets out ideas and principles to clarify what being in your Element really means and how this may manifest in your own life.” There are lots of interesting stories which demonstrate the presence of the Element in people’s lives, including the author’s. There are fifteen exercises spread throughout the book, as well as questions at the end of every chapter—all intended to help you reflect more deeply on your quest to discover yourself. I enjoyed that eight of the book’s ten chapter titles are in the form of a question: What are you good at? How do you know? What do you love? What makes you happy? What’s your attitude? Where are you now? Where’s your tribe? and What’s next?

I love that the very heart of Robinson’s work is based on the following core principles: “First, your life is unique. You can learn from the experiences of other people, but you cannot and should not try to duplicate them. Second, you create your own life and you can re-create it. In doing that, your greatest resources are your own imagination and sense of possibility. Third, your life is organic, not linear. You can’t plan the whole of your life’s journey and you don’t need to. What you do need to plan are the next steps.”

I encourage you to check out Robinson’s 2006 TED talk on creativity and education. He is a passionate and humorous speaker and it’s no surprise that his talk How Schools Kill Creativity remains at the top of the list of the most-watched TED talks.

 

Rising StrongRising Strong:
The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.
By Brené Brown
Spiegel & Grau, August, 25, 2015
hardcover, $27.00

Brené Brown is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. She is also known for her 2010 TED talk The power of vulnerability, followed in 2012 by Listening to shame.

Brown’s new book will be out before the end of August.

 

Big MagicBig Magic:
Creative Living Beyond Fear

by Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead Books, September 22, 2015
hardcover, $24.95

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the best-selling memoir Eat Pray Love which was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts in 2010.

Watch for Gilbert’s new book in late September.

 

Good Books: December 2014 Newsletter

I was invited to write the Bookshelf essay for the January issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press. Click on the link above or find it on page 12 of the print edition.

 

Untethered SoulThe Untethered Soul:
The Journey Beyond Yourself

by Michael Singer
New Harbinger Publications with Noetic Books, 2007
paperback, $16.95

“Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself. You’re ready to grow when you finally realize that the “I” who is always talking inside will never be content. It always has a problem with something…. Before you had your current problem, there was a different problem. And if you’re wise, you will realize that after this one’s gone, there will be another one.” -Michael Singer

This is the latest book I selected for the One Book Group, and the book that generated the most heated reactions, mainly related to the author’s style. I’m featuring The Untethered Soul here for its life-changing focus and potential. But first read a chapter or two for yourself; this is not a book to buy impulsively, even if the cover and the title are compelling.

The main complaint we had as readers is that Michael Singer can come across as a know-it-all; we found his dogmatic style off-putting. That said, he knows what he’s writing about — how to be free of the endless inner chatter that monopolizes and spoils life.

The ability to stop dwelling on something, especially when there is nothing that can be done about it in the moment, has always mystified me. Now, after reading The Untethered Soul, I have Singer’s clear and simple guidance and understand how to separate myself from my own relentless thoughts; I even have some success at doing it.

The book’s nineteen chapters are organized into five parts: Awakening Consciousness, Experiencing Energy, Freeing Yourself, Going Beyond, and Living Life. In the first two chapters, Singer introduces “the voice inside your head” and your “inner roommate.” He offers a simple demonstration to help readers objectively observe these interior characters. This is followed by exploring the question Who are you? If you read this far, you’ll probably value most of what follows.

Chapter 17, Contemplating Death, is quite amazing. Most of the brief selections the members of our book group brought to read out loud to each other were from this chapter. One reader observed: the chapter is an exceptional essay that deserves to be included in an anthology on living well.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, as long as you’re willing to take what is helpful and let go of the rest.

 

UnretirementUnretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way
We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life

by Chris Farrell
Bloomsbury Press, 2014
hardcover, $26.00

“Unretirement will reshape how we think about retirement planning. Over the past three decades the baby boom generation has been taught to equate preparing for retirement with investing in the markets…. Instead, focus on what kind of job and career you’d like to do as you get older. Invest in your human capital, maintain your skills, and add to your education.” -Chris Farrell

Many of you will recognize Chris Farrell as economics commentator from Minnesota Public Radio. He is also senior economics contributor at Marketplace, an award winning journalist, and the author of The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better.

Unretirement has been described as a “hopeful” look past the fear and hype surrounding the idea that today’s aging workers will outlive their personal financial resources and become a national burden. I admit to occasionally being freaked out by the idea of running out of money before the end of my life. So, I’m grateful to Farrell for his balanced and thorough look at the research and the “facts” that inform this topic. He synthesizes relevant reports from economists, gerontologists, demographers, health care professionals, financial planners, employers… He looks at the obstacles and opportunities for employing elders who are interested in continued employment.

Farrell also points to growing evidence that retirement is already undergoing a transformation that will better meet the needs of older workers and create a more vibrant future for all of us. The heart of his reporting centers on the positive: stories of people who are reinventing themselves at a time when they might be expected to be withdrawing from the workforce. They are examples of how to extend working, continue earning income, create meaning and purpose, and delay filing for social security. They are creating new possibilities for those who follow.

I recommend the book if you are pre-retirement or recently retired. There is an Appendix: DIY Research on pages 223 to 227 which lists excellent resources for further exploration, as well as a detailed index.

Note: This is not a typical book for me to include in Good Books or for me to read on my own. Even after I was several chapters into it, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about topics I often set aside. I assume they will be too boring or too in-depth to hold my interest, so I don’t even begin. Farrell has a gift for writing about money/finances/economics. I actually stayed up late reading, reluctant to put the book down. I only wish there was a more likable word than unretirement.

 

Good Books: August 2014 Newsletter

The Desire MapThe Desire Map:
A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul
by Danielle Laporte
Sounds True, 2014
paperback, $22.00

“Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have. Generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life.” – Danielle Laporte

Danielle Laporte is also the author of The Fire Starter Sessions (2012), which I reviewed in the December 2012 issue of this newsletter. The Fire Starter Sessions came out in paperback earlier this year, and the quote above is from chapter three on The Strategy of Desire. That chapter had a life of its own and evolved into Laporte’s latest book The Desire Map.

Laporte describes The Desire Map as two books in one: the first book is the theory and the second is the workbook. I’d suggest reading book one (pages 1-150) before diving into the workbook that begins on page 151.

Rather than figuring out what you want in life and then creating goals to get you there, The Desire Map begins with clearly identifying how you want to feel in life and what you can do, right now, to feel that way. “You’re not chasing the goal itself—you’re chasing the feelings that you hope attaining those goals will give you.”

The workbook guides readers to explore two essential questions: “How do I want to feel?” and “What do I need to do to feel the way I want to feel?” On the surface, this might seem like a no-brainer. Who doesn’t want to feel happy, healthy, successful, and fulfilled. But Laporte isn’t satisfied with too-quick, on-the-surface responses. She wants you to dig deep and find out what really lies behind every word that you might use to describe how you want to feel. She wants you to identify your core essential feelings, with the help of a dictionary, a thesaurus, and some soul-searching reflection.

To get you started, the workbook introduces five life areas: livelihood & lifestyle, body & wellness, creativity & learning, relationships & society, and essence & spirituality. Readers are encouraged to rename these areas to fit who they are, and also to be clear about what is and isn’t working in each area. This is a way to begin collecting and exploring your particular feeling words.

Laporte’s approach is definitely worth exploring. I think you’ll enjoy her engaging writing style and animated personality, especially if you listen to the audiobook.

TheARTofUncertaintyThe Art of Uncertainty:
How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It

by Dennis Merritt Jones
Tarcher/Penguin, 2011
paperback, $14.95

“Whether pushed by pain or pulled by the infinite possibilities of a life worth living, [we] are proof that living in the mystery of that which is yet to be is not something to be feared, but something to which we can look forward.” – Dennis Merritt Jones

I selected The Art of Uncertainty for review after also considering Dennis Merritt Jones’ newest book Your (Re)Defining Moments (2014). I no longer recall why I chose this one over the other; think about checking out both books.

Dennis Merritt Jones founded the Center for Spiritual Living in Simi Valley, CA and was its spiritual director for twenty-three years, until 2008. Since then his work has focussed on writing books, teaching workshops and classes, and giving keynotes and lectures. He is also a columnist for The Huffington Post.

There are times in everyone’s life marked by uncertainty; they range from discouraging / frustrating / maddening to stressful / painful / unbearable, with shades of everything else mixed in. Most of us don’t like it at all when we don’t know what will happen or when things feel out of our control.

The Art of Uncertainty is essentially a guidebook that offers readers an opportunity for their own thoughtful processing on living with uncertainty: “absorbing its deeper meaning and thinking about how it applies to you.” At the end of each chapter you’ll find Points to Ponder & Personalize which summarize the essence of the chapter, and Mindfulness Practices which are simple ways to experience connection with all that is.

While reading the book, I kept thinking none of this is all that new to me, and it probably won’t be new to you, either. At the same time, the presentation is fresh, compelling, and timely. And a significant part of learning is remembering what we know and applying it in ever new and deeper ways.

In the end I felt myself being spiritually re-calibrated by the book. Who hasn’t made an uncertain situation much more difficult than it needed to be? Why do we think we need certainty, even deserve it? Why does not knowing sometime feel so awful?  And why can’t we be uncertain and okay, at the same time? “The idea of certainty and uncertainty is a human invention. If humankind did not exist, certainty and uncertainty wouldn’t exist, either, because both are a human concern.”

Here is what the book does best: it details the hell of what it can be like to live with uncertainty and the heaven of what it can be like to love life’s mysterious adventures.

Good Books: December 2013 Newsletter

HowTheLightGetsInHow The Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice
by Pat Schneider
Oxford University Press, 2013
paperback, $18.95

“Writing about deep memory can bring up from the unconscious seemingly random images and phrases that we have known all our lives… They float in and out of conscious memory like flotsam and jetsam on the surface of the ocean that is our unconscious life. Writing them—slowing down and allowing the images to write themselves, without trying to analyze them—can bring about an amazing experience of personal revelation.” – Pat Schneider

Almost twenty years ago, I read another of Pat Schneider’s books, The Writer As An Artist: A New Approach to Writing Alone and With Others. Back then, she had already founded Amherst Writers and Artists and was teaching writing in a variety of settings using the workshop method she developed.

How The Light Gets In is a book for writers at all levels who are open to being amazed by process writing. The book reads like good memoir, the kind you can’t put down. It also takes you into the heart and soul of a writing workshop, where you’ll witness the writing process and the spiritual journey seamlessly revealing themselves. At times, you’ll be inspired to pick up your pen and try an exercise yourself, or at least note it so you can return to it later. What you won’t find is quick directives with easy steps to better writing. This book goes deep, like a poem goes deep, because that’s the way the author-poet lives and writes and teaches and breathes.

The themes of creative writing and spiritual practice are Schneider’s story, the background of every page in the book. Everything can be viewed through one lens, or the other, often both; which is what Schneider does so exquisitely. For the reader who naturally resonates with her themes, the book will be compelling. But what about readers who are attracted to writing more than spiritual practice, or the other way around? Schneider’s “in-the-moment” transparency in both living and writing demonstrates the presence of something other; call it what you will—creativity, spirit, mystery, presence…

“That strangeness, the way the delicate touch of an image can evoke something in metaphor that is central to your work, something you never would have found by left-brain analytical planning, is for me a kind of holy process. It requires waiting and listening and trusting  whatever image the unconscious gives. It requires attention to what is given, no matter how common and unremarkable it may seem. That attention, that trusting, cracks open something inside, and lets in the light.”

The book includes thirty-three of Schneider’s poems, some previously unpublished. Glancing at the table of contents, you will feel the poetry of language drawing you in: what has no name—there is a spirit—instructions for the journey—this is a river—doing good—strangeness—joy. Thankfully the book includes an index, making it easier to locate references to many other cherished writers and poets.

Finally, the book’s oh so perfect epigraph:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

Good Books: August 2013 Newsletter

Contagious:
Why Things Catch On
by Jonah Berger
Simon & Schuster, 2013
hardcover, $26.00

“This book explains what makes content contagious. By “content,” I mean stories, news, and information. Products and ideas, messages and videos…. By “contagious,” I mean likely to spread…. from person to person via word of mouth and social influence. To be talked about, shared, or imitated by consumers, coworkers, and constituents.” – Jonah Berger

On the surface, Contagious might seem an unlikely book for me to mention in this newsletter. If you’re not working in marketing, what does it have to do with you? Why would understanding how something gets shared, talked about, forwarded, or purchased matter to you? According to Berger, whoever you are, “you need to understand how to make your product or ideas catch on.”

Maybe you dream of going viral with…. well something: your own business or your own creative genius. Maybe there are causes you value and support, things you cherish, or places you’re passionate about. Who hasn’t shared—or commented on—inspirational photos or messages, an entertaining or laugh-out-loud YouTube video, an important news development or a remarkable story?

Jonah Berger is a marketing professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In this position, he is frequently contacted and asked to recommend something ordinary people could read in order to understand what causes things to catch on. Contagious was the book people were asking for, so Berger wrote it: “A book that provided them with research-based principles for understanding what makes things catch on.”

Berger identifies six principles of contagiousness. These principles will interest curious types who wonder about—and want to understand—why things spread, go viral, get shared and talked about. The same principles will also be of interest to those “who want their ideas, products and behaviors to spread.”

Berger’s six key STEPPS framework:
Social Currency—Does talking about a product or idea make people look good or feel good?
Triggers—What else cues people to think about a product or idea?
Emotion—Does talking about a product or idea make people feel something they want to share?
Public—Does a product or idea advertise itself? Is it obvious to others when people are using it?
Practical Value—Does talking about a product or idea help people help others?
Stories—Is a product or idea embedded in a story people want to tell?

Contagious is an especially readable book filled with interesting stories that demonstrate how Berger’s principles, and word of mouth, work.

Daring GreatlyDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms
the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
by Brené Brown
Gotham Books, 2012
hardcover, $26.00

“We must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly…. as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” – Brené Brown

I know some of you are already familiar with Brené Brown, having viewed her now famous 2010 TED talk The Power of Vulnerability and her 2012 TED talk Listening to Shame. Maybe you read one of her earlier books: The Gifts of Imperfection, reviewed in the December 2010 Newsletter, or I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power.

Brown is known for her research into fear, shame, and vulnerability. In writing and speaking about her work, she focuses on what is essential to living a wholehearted life, and that includes identifying what gets in the way: moving from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.” Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”—not weakness.

In her quest for personal and professional understanding, Brown also studied courage, self-worth, guilt, connection, change, control, authenticity, perfection, compassion, joy, gratitude…. It’s an impressive and interconnected list, encompassing much of what it means to be human. This is where Brown really stands out: her book is based on twelve years of research interviewing women and men, making observations, describing patterns, discovering connections, defining terms, explaining relationships, clarifying discoveries…. What she offers to readers is her professional expertise along with her own floundering stories of trying to live wholeheartedly.

 

Good Books: April 2013 Newsletter

 

Seven Thousand Ways To Listen:
Staying Close To What Is Sacred

by Mark Nepo
Free Press, 2012
hardcover, $26.00

“When being authentic, we often come close to what matters, even hold it in our hand, and just as often put it down. This is not because we are dense, though sometimes we are, but because it is hard to sustain our presence. Often, we don’t listen or give our attention long enough to know the secret is in our hands. Sometimes we revert so quickly to the habit of our seeing that we miss the resources coming our way.” – Mark Nepo

In 2005, I reviewed Mark Nepo’s book The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life. The words—exquisite risk—still come to mind efforlessly, reminding me to live true; these two words are a testament to the power of Nepo’s poetic voice. Last December, when my friend Carol mentioned his new book, I was eager to read it.

The tiltle of Seven Thousand Ways To Listen was the result of Nepo’s conversation with a linguist who mentioned there are seven thousand known living languages. As Nepo tells it, that night in bed, “in the silence that’s never quite silent, I realized that, if there are at least seven thousand ways to speak, there are at least seven thousand ways to listen. And just how few we know.”

As a poet, philosopher, teacher, and writer Mark Nepo is a master listener, someone who practices and makes a living listening. He is willing to stop, or be stopped, and to pay attention, to notice the details. He naturally poses questions, delves deeper, and ponders the meaning of even small events. Yet, as he writes in the introduction, listening is a “personal pilgrimage.” There is no easy list of instructions for how to listen. Fortunately, every day brings opportunities to learn more about living, through listening.

Seven Thousand Ways To Listen contains three sections: The Work of Being, The Work of Being Human, and The Work of Love. Each section contains a dozen chapters filled with Nepo’s stories that illuminate the process of listening to life. Here are a few: Being Lost, Deep Listening, Restoring Confidence, The Call of the Soul, Not Getting What We Want, Wandering Authentically…. Although I read the book from beginning to end, it could be read one chapter at a time, in any order. At the end of each chapter, occasionally within a chapter, Nepo includes what he calls A Reflective Pause—some combination of A Meditation, Journal Questions for written exploration, or Table Questions for discussion with one or more trusted others. The meditations were definitely my favorite: calming, centering, restorative, dreamlike, beautiful. AND, poems written by the author are sprinkled throughout the book, waiting to be discovered.

As you immerse yourself in Nepo’s other-worldly writing, you will naturally begin to detect things. Little things, but nonetheless meaningful to you. Your attention will float from one thing toward another toward the whole. You will begin to feel more connected, to something. And in a rather curious way—you’ll be listening to your own wisdom surfacing.

“But why listen at all? Because listening stitches the world together. Because listening is the doorway to everything that matters…. Listening is being present enough to hear the One in the many and the many in the One. Listening is an animating process by which we feel and understand the moment we are in: repeatedly connecting the inner world with the world around us, letting one inform the other.”

Learn more about Mark Nepo.

 

The Law Of Divine Compensation:
On Work, Money, and Miracles

by Marianne Williamson
HarperOne, 2012
hardcover, $23.99

“With every thought we think, we either summon or block a miracle. It is not our circumstances, then, but rather our thoughts about our circumstances, that determine our power to transform them.”  – Marianne Williamson

The subtitle of the book—On Work, Money, and Miracles—actually intrigued me more than the title, The Law of Divine Compensation. As a career counselor, I regularly have conversations with clients about work and money; I even have conversations with myself about work and money. Respectfully summarized, here is one of the most commonly expressed work-money dilemmas: I don’t want my job anymore, but I need the money.

Marianne Williamson is the author of an impressive list of spiritual books including several New York Times #1 best sellers. Her first book was published in 1992, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Since then she is known for her teachings on universal spiritual truths about love, fear, and transformation. The Law Of Divine Compensation is no exception.

The book is compact, 5 inches by 7.5 inches and 185 pages, perfect for reading in small, reflective portions. Williamson guides readers in exploring their relationship with work and money, focusing on the energies of love and fear. These are emotionally charged topics for many, especially when things do not go as we had planned or hoped. In a very calm and reassuring manner, Williamson explains how to apply simple, loving universal truths to work-money situations. She has an amazing gift for clearly demonstrating the difference that love makes. According to Williamson, the real miracle is not that an outside force magically changes your external circumstances; the real miracle is that the “nature of your thoughts” can change.

“There is a difference between having to work and having to struggle. Work is creative effort, a righteous extension of positive energy that attracts abundance; struggle is a perversion of creative energy based on a misunderstanding of one’s basic relationship to the universe…. If you think you have to struggle, you’re forgetting your relationship to the universe.

Learn more about Marianne Williamson.

 

Good Books: December 2012 Newsletter

 

The Great Work Of Your Life:
A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling

by Stephen Cope
Bantam, 2012
hardcover, $26.00

“Most of the ordinary people whom I have studied, when first confronted with the notion of dharma, imagined that for them to claim their dharma probably meant inventing an entirely new life…. Not so. As it turns out, most people are already living very close to their dharma. Really. Within spitting range…. Their own sacred calling is hiding in plain sight. They keep just missing it.” -Stephen Cope

This fall I got an email from Shelley who was reading The Great Work Of Your Life. She was excited about it and thought I might like it, too. I ordered it immediately; but honestly, if I had seen this book on my own in a bookstore or online, I suspect I would have judged it by its cover and moved on to something more appealing. Fortunately, that isn’t what happened.

Stephen Cope, author of The Great Work Of Your Life, has an amazing job title: he is the director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. If the words “extraordinary living” grab your attention, then so will his book.

Make sure you read the front matter, A Note To The Reader as well as the Introduction; and if like me you’re not familiar with the Bhagavad Gita, a two-thousand-year-old text, don’t let yourself be intimidated. Cope explains “this is a book about dharma — about vocations and callings” which includes stories of both illustrious lives (Jane Goodall, Beethoven, Marion Woodman, Mohandas Gandhi….)  and ordinary lives (you, me, the author, his college roommate….). All are examined in the light of the Bhagavad Gita, a dialogue between the very overwhelmed warrior Arjuna and his charioteer mentor Krishna, revealing “a path to the authentic self through action in the world.”  Story by story, Cope highlights important principles for true and fulfilled living in the midst of longing, confusion, fear, and doubt. Interestingly, Cope’s study has brought him to a place where “there is no longer really any distinction at all between great lives and ordinary lives.” I found each story fascinating and compelling.

Cope structures the book around the four pillars of Dharma: Discern your dharma (your calling), Do it full out, Let go of outcomes, and Turn it over to God. His selection of stories within each section nears perfection, as does his compassion and understanding in telling them. In his position of privilege and confidence he could easily abuse his role, instead he lovingly witnesses and honors the process of each person’s dilemma.

NOTE: I asked Shelley to join me in February or March for a sort of “one-book” book group. We’ll invite others who have read the book to meet with us to talk about it and it’s effect on our lives. The events calendar page on this website will have details once we select a date and time.

 

Inspired & Unstoppable:
Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!

by Tama Kieves
Tarcher/Putnam, 2012
hardcover, $24.95

“[Some of us] won’t succeed through traditional means because force, fear, and standard projections do not motivate us. We are moved by bold ideas, big love, and intuitive, flawless direction…. We did not come here to do what’s been done before. We came here to expand—inspire, heal, express, create, and realize the exhilaration of being everything we are meant to be.” -Tama Kieves

Ten years ago Tama Kieves self-published her first book This Time I Dance: Trusting the Journey of Creating the Work You Love: How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All To Have It All. Within a year, her book was picked up and released nationally by Tarcher/Penguin. If you’re interested, you can find a review of This Time I Dance in an earlier newsletter.

Inspired & Unstoppable, her long-awaited second book, brings readers and fans up to date on her story of having a dream and making it happen. Kieves is as passionate and as honest as ever, but now in addition to being a successful writer she is also an international motivational speaker, spiritual teacher, and success coach.

Expect a bit of overlap between the two books; the focus of This Time I Dance was on Kieves own “journey of transition” while the focus of Inspired & Unstoppable is on the reader’s journey. “This book is about wildly succeeding in your life’s work: taking what you came here to do to the next level.”

Kieves believes in a path of inspired success, rather than one of linear success. She doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all plan with clear and easy steps. Instead, she tells stories that illuminate the brilliant inner guidance, resources, and power of those she coaches, with the expectation that readers will be inspired and guided into their own unique genius. “You deserve to succeed in your own way, unlike anyone before you, and beyond everyone’s wildest imagination, including your own.”

Learn more about Tama Kieves.

 

The Fire Starter Sessions:
A Soulful & Practical Guide To
Creating Success On Your Own Terms

by Danielle Laporte
Crown, 2012
hardcover, $24.00

“If you try to keep your most sacred ambitions off of your weekly calendar and your most genuine traits off of your resume, then you’re missing out on the power of real integrity.” -Danielle Laporte

If it’s super important for you to be real, to live and work on your own terms, then Danielle Laporte’s new book will interest you. Laporte is smart, accomplished, irreverent, and soulful — and so is her book. Open it anywhere, flip through a few pages, and you’ll discover a book with visual attitude. It’s got spunk!

The text is lively and fun to read. Laporte includes lots of great quotations, to-the-heart questions, and appealing worksheet-style exercises in every chapter. Here are a few example worksheets: The Burning Questions, Dream Analysis, and The Stop-Doing List which is one of my favorites. Her advice is spot on. In session 3, The Strategy of Desire, the focus is on How do you want to feel? “Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have. Generating those feelings is the most creative thing you can do with your life.”

How many writers do you know who include the playlist they “listened to obsessively” while creating the book? See page 329. Learn more about Danielle Laporte.

Good Books: April 2012 Newsletter

Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
Crown Publishers, 2012
hardcover, $26.00

I’m reviewing this book as an introvert, one who leaped with joy upon seeing a book with the title Quiet. My expectations were high; like Susan Cain, I wanted her book to promote understanding and appreciation of introverts. Beyond that, I wanted introverts to better understand and appreciate themselves.

Cain combines a readable mix of stories about famous and not so famous introverts, alongside results of research studies to which she offers fresh interpretations and insights. But the highlight of the book is in the opening chapters. Cain introduces the work of cultural historian, Warren Susman, who traced the 20th century shift in the dominant culture from one of character to one of personality; extroversion became the new ideal and leadership became synonymous with a charismatic personality. It wasn’t enough anymore to let character speak for itself, now a person needed to sell themselves, and it helped to have an attractive, energetic, dominant personality — quite like a movie star — quite unlike an introvert.

This shift in culture also happens to coincide with the birth of the self-help movement. Is there an introvert who hasn’t pondered the question, “What’s wrong with me?”

To investigate the myth of charismatic leadership, Cain attends an entry-level Tony Robbins’ seminar. She also visits Harvard Business School and the campus of one of the largest evangelical churches in the United States. Her intention is to focus on leadership models in these three hyper-extroverted settings. I particularly enjoyed the field trip nature of this chapter, with its behind-the-scenes report on whether extroversion is a prerequisite for leadership.

Following a great beginning, the book goes on to examine how —

• forced collaboration squishes creativity for those who prefer to work alone
• introversion is confused with shyness and/or sensitivity
• biology and free will play a role in temperament
• Asian-American students react to the extrovert ideal

I found Part Four: How to Love, How to Work a bit of a letdown. This final section reads more like a collection of case studies in communication and parenting, each one followed by Cain’s advice. However, for a parent wanting to raise a confident introverted child, the book’s last chapter might be the most important chapter in the book.

Cain’s book is worthy of all the attention it receives. Between one third and one half of the population has introverted preferences; that’s one third to one half of employees. Every workplace concerned about the present, or the future, would be wise to consider how it unknowingly diminishes results by failing to understand the way of half of its employees.

You might be interested in this TED talk given by Susan Cain on The Power of Introverts.

If you want to think more about the connections between character, personality, and happiness, check out this post on the blog Marc and Angel Hack Life: 5 Character Traits That Make You Happy

 

The $100 Startup:  Reinvent the Way You Make a Living,
Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
by Chris Guillebeau
Crown Business, 2012
hardcover, $23.00

In the April 2011 issue of the newsletter, I reviewed another book by Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity. You might remember him as the author and social entrepreneur with the goal to visit every country in the world, do work he loves, and live life on his own terms.

I just noticed his latest book is out and I want to mention it here, even before I read it. If the title, The $100 Startup, doesn’t grab you, check out the subtitle: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do what You Love, and Create a New Future. 

On Amazon.com’s main page for the book, scroll down to the Editorial Reviews to find a Q&A with Gretchen Rubin and Chris Gillebeau.

Good Books: December 2011 Newsletter

How Georgia Became O’Keeffe
Lessons on the Art of Living
by Karen Karbo
skirt!, 2012
hardcover, $21.95

“Georgia, had she been into discussing ideas, would have probably come down on the side of process-is-what-matters. Once she was immersed in a mad art-making phase, she kept at it until she felt as if she’d gone as far with the theme as she possibly could…. Which explains why there are series of poppies, calla lilies, jimsonweed, iris, New York skyscrapers, cow skulls….”

—Karen Karbo

When I picked up Karen Karbo’s latest book, I’d never read a biography about Georgia O’Keeffe, even though I’ve been intrigued with her work and her life for many years. What pulled me into Karbo’s book was the subtitle: Lessons on the Art of Living. How Georgia Became O’Keeffe is the third and final book in Karbo’s “kick-ass women” trilogy; it follows How to Hepburn and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel.

Karbo uses ten one-word chapter titles to examine themes from O’Keeffe’s life, work, and process: defy, grow, adopt, muddle, embrace, bare, rebel, drive, break, and prize. Her non-traditional biography includes enough O’Keeffe stories to be satisfying, but goes far beyond these. Karbo gives herself permission to enter the process of creation to imagine what it was like for Georgia to become O’Keeffe. In doing this, she invites readers to go beyond reading a fascinating biography to experiencing Georgia as a creative dynamo with real dilemmas. Actively imagining how Georgia lived with her particular challenges demystifies her as a modern icon and permits readers to see a woman artist trying to be who she was. These are O’Keeffe’s lessons on the art of living.

It’s difficult to remember that O’Keeffe, who lived to be ninety-eight years old, didn’t start out famous. This is where Karbo gives her greatest gift to readers: all ten of the themes are windows into O’Keeffe’s process as well as their own. You probably didn’t survive typhoid and take a year to recover the way Georgia did, but you likely had some setback that derailed your life and left you wondering what you really wanted. You’ll find yourself fascinated by the people, circumstances, struggles, opportunities, decisions, and yearning that shaped the life of O’Keeffe. Throughout, Karbo wonders—how are all of these forces present in our own lives too?

If you are a passionate follower of O’Keeffe or an armchair art historian, you might be tempted to silence Karbo and revoke her creative license. How dare she use her imagination to fill in the blanks and tell more than the facts? But that is one of the many reasons O’Keeffe’s life and work continue to thrill us: Georgia went so far beyond facts that she entered and created a new world.

I’m just imagining, but I think this might be Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite O’Keeffe biography. It feels in sync with her spirit and her approach to creating art and living life.

Leveraging the Universe
7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic
by Mike Dooley
Beyond Words / Atria, 2011
hardcover, $21.99

“The only way to fully engage the Universe is to fully engage yourself by doing all you can, with what you have, from where you are.”

—Mike Dooley

In earlier newsletters, I’ve mentioned several books by Dooley including his three-book series: Notes from the Universe, More Notes from the Universe, and Even More Notes from the Universe.
I found a fair amount of overlap between his latest book Leveraging the Universe and his previous two: Manifesting Change and Infinite Possibilities. If you haven’t read any of his books, maybe this will nudge you to check out one of them.

Dooley has a likable, conversational writing style that honors humor, especially when he references examples from his own life. He has tested all of this material on himself and he loves to tell what happened, not just what worked. The heart of all of his books is beautifully captured in his tagline phrase — “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

Mike Dooley is someone who believes in magic, not the “save me from myself because I’m powerless” kind of magic; but rather the “I’m showing up and something is going to happen” kind of magic. 

The seven steps to engaging life’s magic, mentioned in the subtitle, are the seven chapters of the book: Understand your power, Chart your course, Take action and delegate [to the Universe], Leverage the Universe, Align your beliefs, Engage the magic, and Adjust your sails. All of these steps are based on the power of your own thoughts, words, and actions to create what you focus on—even if you have no idea HOW. This is the secret to leveraging the Universe: do what you know to do and delegate to the Universe all that you don’t know how.

When things don’t seem to be working out the way we think they should, we often limit the limitless Universe by thinking we know what needs to happen. If we allow it, the possibilities are infinite.

I encourage you to visit Dooley’s website, where you can register for his daily emails from the Universe at http://www.tut.com TUT stands for truly unique thoughts. Here’s an example:

There’s always more than one right answer, path, possibility, nuance, or flavor — so insist upon none. Insisting on details always limits you.

—The Universe

Good Books: August 2011 Newsletter

Stop Saying You’re Fine:
Discover A More Powerful You
by Mel Robbins
Crown Archetype, 2011
hardcover, $24.00

“The first and most important step is to stop saying you are fine. You are not fine. You need to quit pretending that you are, and state for the record what’s bothering you. There is a lot more in store for you than what you’ve got going on right now, and the first step to getting it is to stop pretending that everything is okay.”

—Mel Robbins

I’d never heard of Mel Robbins until I picked up her first book, Stop Saying You’re Fine, and learned that she has a syndicated radio talk show, where listeners call in for her advice on relationships and careers. Robbins, a former lawyer turned life coach, is also a columnist in Success magazine and a mother.

Like a certain variety of advice gurus, Robbins initially came across to me as a bossy know-it-all. I was halfway through the book, still debating whether I wanted to review it, before I was able to separate her advice from her in-your-face style. As soon as I made that distinction, I started feeling better about the book. That said, I still prefer a collaborative approach based on respect.

According to Robbins, here’s why people aren’t getting what they want in life: they’re saying they’re fine, when they’re not. This little lie keeps people stuck, because it keeps them from taking action to bring about what they desire. Plus, the real problem is “you;” you are the biggest obstacle you face. You are in your own way. Adding to that, the way the brain functions is a big part of the problem. The brain is constantly working to keep people in safe, but unfulfilling routines.

After making her case, Robbins shares her five-step program, supported by a seven-day stamina challenge, to help anyone make changes in their life and get what they want:

Step 1. Face it, you are not fine.
Step 2. Admit what you want.
Step 3. Go public with what you want.
Step 4. Zoom out and create a map.
Step 5. Lean in to change.

7-day Stamina Challenge

Day 1: Face the day. Get up on time.
Day 2: Admit it. IT is “the big embarrassing idea you want to make happen”.
Day 3: Exercise twenty minutes.
Day 4: Break your routine.
Day 5: Make eye contact “with five people.”
Day 6: Go public. Talk with two people about your big idea and ask for advice.
Day 7: Connect [with someone you care about].

Robbins offers small, practical steps to help you take action, whether or not you know what you want. She says it’s the small things you do—not what you feel, not what you think—that get you unstuck. It’s the small actions that eventually alter the course of your life to bring about the real change you desire. Again, you don’t even need to know what you want. “Every new element that you introduce into your life becomes a clue to help you create a new direction….You just need to wake up and notice.”

There aren’t many books that effectively tackle the dilemma of being stuck. People who are stuck often feel frustrated, fearful, angry, and resistant—a difficult audience for a book to reach—which helps to explain Robbins’s very direct approach. She’s confident she knows what people need to do to become unstuck, and it’s not that difficult: temporarily ignore how you feel, stop thinking, and just act.

“When you’re in crisis, your life will change whether you like it or not. Your major task is how you manage the change. But when you’re stuck, the major task is deciding if you’re going to change at all.”

—Mel Robbins

Good Books: April 2011 Newsletter

 
The Power of Receiving:
A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve

by Amanda Owen
Tarcher/Penguin, 2010
paperback, $13.95

“Whatever we don’t include, we marry, go to work for, or give birth to.”
“The world will give only as much as you can receive.”

—Amanda Owen

In The Power Of Receiving, Amanda Owen writes about fulfilling the desires, dreams, goals we have for our lives, a topic already explored by thousands of writers within the self-help genre. Owen’s approach is unique, going beyond identifying, attracting, and manifesting, to actually receiving what we desire.

It all begins with developing an understanding of the wholeness inherent in receiving and giving.

The book includes twelve interesting exercises designed to help readers practice receiving. The very first step, in the first exercise, is a simple warmup: Accept All Compliments. This sounds so easy, but it was very revealing when I tried it. I especially like that all of the exercises are conveniently summarized in the final chapter.

As readers begin to strengthen their capacity to receive, they move on to write and attract a goal, and cultivate a healthy relationship with it. By referring to your goal as “someone,” Owen demonstrates a way to easily shift how you think about, communicate with, relate to, and feel toward your goal.

Two chapters are devoted to understanding and working with what lurks in the shadow and stands between you and your goal. Using the little circle of what you exclude, separate from and outside of The Big Circle of all that you include, Owen provides a simple, visual representation of the forces at work within each of us. When it comes to manifesting your desires, what’s out wants in, or else.

The book offers practical things you can try when facing one of life’s common disappointments: working toward something that never quite seems to materialize. Owen offers a possibility that makes complete sense: some of us are missing out on a dream because we didn’t know we needed to receive it.

I highly recommend The Power of Receiving, especially if you recognize yourself as someone who prefers to do it yourself and has difficulty receiving.

The Art of Non-Conformity:
Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want and Change the World

by Chris Guillebeau
Perigee, 2010
paperback, $14.95

“The purpose of this book is to transform your thinking about life and work.”
“You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”

—Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau is a thirty-something writer, entrepreneur, world traveler, and non-conformist. On his website, he admits he writes “for a small minority of people interested in living life on their own terms while making a dramatic, positive difference in the lives of others at the same time.” If you’ve been led to believe this can’t be done, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Guillebeau spent four influential years as a volunteer aid work in West Africa, followed by a return to the U.S. to work on a graduate degree in International Studies. When asked by friends what he was going to do next, Guillebeau eventually responded, “I’m going to start my own social movement…. The Art of Nonconformity.” This is the heart of his compelling life, work, and story: “How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World.”

“… on a train ride between Slovakia and Hungary a couple of years ago, I figured out that the cost of visiting 100 countries would be roughly equal to that of buying a new S.U.V. When I saw how relatively little that was, I felt encouraged. I gave up the hypothetical large vehicle and received the world in return.” Just so you know, Guillebeau is now well on his way to reaching his goal “to visit every country in the world.” So far the count is at 151 out of 192 countries. He is also actively partnered with Charity: Water in Ethiopia sharing royalties from the sale of this book.

If you’re withering on a conventional vine, wanting to “create an opportunity for change,” or just launching your life, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in Guillebeau’s writing on life, work, and travel. The book might make a wonderful gift, and a world of difference, for a high school or college graduate you know, or someone with a passion for traveling the world.

Take time to visit Guillebeau’s website too: http://chrisguillebeau.com

Good Books: December 2010 Newsletter

The Gifts of Imperfection:
Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

by Brené Brown
Hazelden, 2010
paperback, $14.95

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves.”

— Brené Brown

Brené Brown is a high energy researcher, and academic, telling a down-to-earth story of imperfections—her own. Brown spent the early portion of her career exploring shame and fear, then moved on to love, belonging, and worthiness, the subject of this book.

In this memoir about wholehearted living, Brown’s personal and professional journeys are intertwined. As she conducts research interviews, defines terms, and identifies patterns in her interview notes, she unearths more of her own story and tells it with honesty and humor. Brown enters therapy for a “long year” to work through her Breakdown or “Spiritual Awakening” as her therapist calls it.

Following this intensely productive year, Brown has the insight to write what she now knows, as her memoir. “I’ll tell the story of how a cynical, smart-ass academic became every bit of the stereotype that she spent her entire adult life ridiculing. I’ll fess up about how I became the middle-aged, recovering, health-conscious, creative, touchy-feely, spirituality-seeker who spends days contemplating things like grace, love, gratitude, creativity, authenticity, and is happier than I imagined possible. I’ll call it Wholehearted.”

Following this lively introduction and beginning, the majority of the book is devoted to ten guideposts. Each one focuses on cultivating a desired life quality and letting go of the things that get in the way of living and loving wholeheartedly. For example, guidepost # 1 is Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think, and guidepost # 8 is Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle. Brown makes the point that the guideposts are not a to-do list. “It’s not something we accomplish or acquire and then check off our list. It’s life work. It’s soul work.” The Gifts of Imperfection is Brown’s wholehearted gift, a guide to living—knowing you are enough.

If you’re interested in hearing Brené Brown speak about her work, check out this YouTube video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=X4Qm9cGRub0

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010
hardcover, $18.95

“The earth is home to millions of potential pathogens, of which a thousand or so depend on human hosts. The pathogen I contracted was, in its own way, an author: it rewrote the instructions followed within every cell in my body, and in doing so, it rewrote my life, making off with nearly all my plans for the future.”

— Elisabeth Tova Bailey

I have never read a book anything like The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating—a beautifully written memoir infused with detailed observations of the habits of a woodland snail. Before you claim to have no interest in snails, I didn’t think I did either.

Elisabeth Bailey experiences an illness that transforms her life, initially confining her to bed and the care of others. It is during this time that a visiting friend digs up and brings in a pot of field violets, and spontaneously places a snail, found on a walk, among the violets. No longer able to do the things she would have done before her illness, Bailey begins to watch the snail that resides on her bedside table.

The wonder of the living snail soon preoccupies Bailey, creating a focus in her now unknown world and helping to transport her through the first year of loss. “After weeks of around-the-clock companionship, there was no doubt about the relationship: the snail and I were officially cohabiting. I was, I admit, attached…. It was adding a welcome focus to my life, and I couldn’t think how I would otherwise have passed the hours.”

This small book is so very lovely, right down to the delicate pencil drawings scattered throughout. I offer one caution: I think this is a book for introspective personalities. Given a slower pace and narrow focus (hope in the isolation of illness), and an abundance of scientific and natural details, it will not entertain the average reader. That said, I found it fascinating and inspiring, and couldn’t put it down. I loved it and so might you!

Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less
by Marc Lesser
New World Library, 2009
paperback, $14.95

You are perfect the way you are…. At the same time, we must embrace the paradox that, despite being perfect, we can all “use a little improvement.” Needing “improvement” does not make us less perfect, just the way we are.”

—Marc Lesser

More-with-less is a favorite concept of mine. When I discovered an article about Marc Lesser’s new book—Less— in EXPERIENCE L!FE, the Life Time Fitness magazine, I was intrigued.

I enjoyed learning that earlier in his career Lesser was the founder and CEO of Brush Dance, a favorite publisher of inspirational calendars and greeting cards. Prior to that, he left college in his senior year and spent ten years as a resident of the San Francisco Zen Center. For five of those years he lived at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Zen monastery, where he was assigned a variety of kitchen jobs and then became director of Tassajara in his tenth year. Lesser is now the founder of a management consulting, coaching, and training company. He also holds an MBA. I’m mentioning all this to highlight his background in spiritual practice, business, and creativity.

Lesser points out that few have escaped the life-altering consequences of a “more-faster-better” mindset that dominates life at work and at home. In response, he proposes The Less Manifesto which “focuses on engaging less in five self-defeating habits in order to experience more ease—more composure and better results—within ourselves and with others.” The five self-defeating habits he features are fear, assumptions, distractions, resistance, and busyness. He devotes one chapter to each habit and includes worthwhile exercises and practical advice on how to shift behavior. Chapter 8 on busyness, or finding the one who is not busy, will leave you yearning for more time with that essential, unchanging part of yourself.

Less is a very useable guide for assessing how life is going and making adjustments to improve the overall flow. I didn’t find anything astounding or new, rather an engaging and grounded review of trusted practices. It seems to come down to making sure our habits and routines are positive and healthy.

Lesser’s recommendation to most of his coaching clients is threefold: practice meditation daily (if possible), exercise three days per week, and write every day in a journal. We already know some variation on this advice, but knowing isn’t doing. That’s where Lesser’s book can help you begin to apply the small things that will bring about disproportionate rewards.

If you’re looking for a book to provide a supportive, helpful structure for an end-of-year review, this might be it. The tone is consistently respectful, compassionate, encouraging, and hopeful.

Here’s a link to the EXPERIENCE L!FE article, where I learned about the book Less:

http://www.experiencelifemag. com/issues/december-2009/life- wisdom/do-less-accomplish- more.php

Good Books: August 2010 Newsletter

Infinite Possibilities
The Art of Living Your Dreams
by Mike Dooley
Atria Books / Beyond Words, 2009
hardcover, $25.00

“As you begin uncovering more and more of life’s truths, so will you begin to understand the awesome potentials that are latent in all you think, say, and do.”

—Mike Dooley

You might remember that I mentioned Infinite Possibilities in the December 2009 issue of this newsletter. I was looking forward to reading it and, now that I have, it deserves further mention.

When the book came out in September 2009, it made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. If you can’t find it in stock locally right now, you can still find it on the internet.

The heart of Mike Dooley’s work is centered on helping people to grasp that “thoughts become things.” What we repeatedly think about, is what we get. It doesn’t matter if we’re aware of our own thoughts or this principle. It’s simply the way things work.

In the first chapter, Thoughts Become Things, Dooley includes the story of the totally miserable start to his first career, working as an auditor for the former accounting firm Price Waterhouse. Things were not going well, everyone knew it, and Dooley didn’t have a clue what to do. He feared he was going to be fired and was obsessed with these dire thoughts. Since Dooley had no idea what a successful auditor did, he couldn’t visualize himself doing those things. Instead, he leaped to the end result and began to visualize himself walking down the hall—greeting and being greeted by partners and staff—happy to be at work and loving his job. Shortly after he began his visualization project, he was loaned to the tax department. “…in what seemed like no time at all, I was walking up and down the hallways of P.W. just beaming with joy. It turned out that the tax department loved me, and I loved being in the tax department. My short-term loan became a permanent transfer, and from that day forward my career at P.W. took off.”

Dooley has a way of taking what could be slippery concepts and making them user-friendly. He wants readers to understand the basics of living their dreams and begin applying them, now. You’ll find lots of help for understanding the thoughts and beliefs at work in your life. “You want to go from thinking the kind of thoughts that have delivered you to this day to thinking the kind of thoughts you’d think once your dreams have already come true.” An important step in living your dreams involves recognizing what has worked superbly for you and what isn’t working at all. Dooley never implies he has the answers for your life; instead, he wants you to remember they’re already arriving for you.

If you work with visualizations and affirmations, you’ll probably discover a few tips you haven’t encountered elsewhere.

Create for yourself a huge palette of thoughts to dwell on.

Don’t link your dreams together. Visualize one at a time. (Why? See page 49.)

Five minutes, once or twice a day, is enough.

Infinite Possibilities does an excellent job of balancing the world of spirit and intention with the material world of action and results.

Disneystrology
What Your Birthday Character Says About You
by Lisa Finander
Quirk Books, 2010
paperback, $16.95

This is the first book I’ve mentioned in Good Books that was written by a friend of mine. It’s an amazing, fun, and spirited book. Did I mention it’s beautiful, too?

For each day of the year Lisa selected a Disney character whose personality and traits represent the essence of that day. Readers will be delighted and amazed how the character of their birthday reflects back to them their own strengths, gifts, and challenges. You’ll see beloved and familiar characters from the Disney Classics all the way to UP and Toy Story 3. You’ll also meet characters you might have missed, or totally forgotten about. Lisa brings them all to life for you.

You don’t need to be a certain age or even a Disney fan to appreciate the truths of each character’s story and celebrate their special contributions. But if you’re a follower all things Disney, or you know one, this is definitely a book to add to the collection of Disney favorites.

Congratulations, Lisa!

Here’s a link to Disneystrology on Amazon where you can order a bunch.

Good Books: April 2010 Newsletter

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to….
by Gretchen Rubin
Harper, 2009
hardcover, $25.99

“During my study of happiness, I noticed something that surprised me: I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies. I find greater value in what specific individuals tell me worked for them than in any other kind of argument—and that’s true even when we seem to have nothing in common.”

—Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin didn’t spend a whole year working on her happiness project because she was so unhappy; she wasn’t. As she tells it, riding the bus one morning she realized—time was slipping by. Aside from knowing that she wanted to be happy, Rubin hadn’t given much thought to what made her happy or how she might be happier. This was the beginning of her happiness project, a year spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” Rubin experiments with hundreds of ideas, and begins a blog that leads to a book. And she becomes happier.

Rubin makes it clear that everyone’s happiness project will be different. In her book she allows readers to see how she sets up her project and what happens. “I made up my mind on a Tuesday morning, and by Wednesday afternoon, I had a stack of library books teetering on the edge of my desk…. I couldn’t just jump into this happiness project. I had a lot to learn before I was ready for my year to begin.”

This passion for books, reading, ideas, truth, learning, and writing is what makes The Happiness Project such an exciting and inspiring resource. Rubin tests out ideas for herself, candidly recounts what happens, and summarizes her thoughts about what worked, what didn’t, and why. I appreciated her openness to trying out worthy ideas that didn’t particularly appeal to her, as well as her willingness to say up front that she wasn’t going to do or continue some things (therapy and the daily gratitude journal).

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s use of a Virtues Chart for daily scoring his own progress, Rubin creates her version of a Resolutions Chart. This allows her to focus daily on how well, or not so well, she’s doing with the resolutions of the month, and as time goes by, all the months preceding.

The book is divided into twelve chapters, one for each month, each devoted to a topic Rubin wanted to work on in her life. The year begins with Energy and ends with Happiness. In between, you’ll find familiar topics like Friends, Money, and Work, as well as a few novel ones Eternity, Passion (Books), and Attitude. Each month Rubin identified the resolutions she wanted to focus on. These resolutions are specific and measurable, so that she can evaluate her progress or lack of progress. “Be a better friend” is vague and more difficult to evaluate than “Remember birthdays,” “Show up,” and “Don’t gossip.”

Rubin obviously loves to do in-depth research. For her happiness project she read things I would probably never read myself—finding them too scholarly or too academic—but I enjoyed her reports of what she discovered and how she applied it to her own happiness project. For me, the most compelling aspect of the book was discovering what happened when Rubin tried to keep her resolutions. She is a gifted writer—honest, smart, witty, entertaining—the sort of person you want for a friend because she is trying to “Be Gretchen,” even as she tries to change her life. Mostly, I enjoyed the matter-of-fact accounts of how a resolution played out on an ordinary day. It was the clarity of Rubin’s insights that made this book a page turner. I witnessed her becoming happier in small but real ways. From her I learned that becoming happy is an impossibly difficult goal, but becoming happier is a challenge worth pursuing.

Subscribing to the Happiness Project blog reminded me of happiness every time I received an email, even if I didn’t take time to read it. These regular “Happiness” reminders were making me happier; I guess I was paying more attention to happiness and experienced more happiness in return. This qualifies as an example of you get more of what you focus on.

Since I subscribed to the blog and had read hundreds of Rubin’s entires, I wondered how similar the Happiness Project book would be, and whether I’d be interested in reading it. As I thought about this last fall, I realized I had become a loyal follower and fan of Rubin and her about-to-be published book. So, when The Happiness Project book came out last December, I wanted it to be a success, which it is—making it to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and I wanted to do my part. I bought the book, read it and I love it.

This is one book you don’t want to miss, even if you are already happy, and especially if you aren’t. Understanding what makes you happy and discovering what makes you happier is crucial information, since all lives inevitably have their ups and downs.

Visit the Happiness Project blog www.Happiness-Project.com to find:

  • Gretchen’s Twelve Commandments, Four Noble Truths, and Secrets of Adulthood
  • Happiness Quotations
  • Tips to try
  • Resolutions to inspire
  • Interviews with valuable insights
  • Archive of Gretchen’s blog entries
  • Sample chapters from the book

Also, check out the related web site www.HappinessProjectToolbox.com to begin your own project.

Good Books: December 2009 Newsletter

What Matters Most:
Living a More Considered Life
by James Hollis
Gotham Books, 2009
hardcover, $26.00

“We do not serve our children, our friends and partners, our society by living partial lives, and being secretly depressed and resentful. We serve the world by finding what feeds us, and, having been fed, then share our gift with others.”

—James Hollis

I read Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, an earlier book by James Hollis, when it came out five years ago. This fall when I picked up a copy of What Matters Most and noticed that Hollis was the author, I remembered how much I had valued his thoughtful wisdom and fascinating insights. In addition to writing and teaching, Hollis continues in private practice as a Jungian analyst.

In the preface to What Matter Most, Hollis states he will not be focusing on the standard list: “friends and family, love, honor, good work, reputation and the like.” Instead, he offers an “eccentric compilation” written to engage readers in considering what matters most for them.

Notice how these select chapter titles/ subtitles act as invitations for consideration:

That Life Not Be Governed By Fear
That We Learn to Tolerate Ambiguity
That We Consider Feeding The Soul
That We Step Into Largeness
That We Write Our Story, Lest Someone Else Write It For Us

In each chapter, Hollis offers ways to encourage readers to show up for their lives, in spite of difficulty, uncertainty, disappointment, and suffering; because there is also imagination, creativity, beauty, truth, and courage. Working with life stories and recounting dream memories, Hollis illuminates the soul’s deep and guiding wisdom.

Once again, I found Hollis to be an absorbing writer-teacher-storyteller. I appreciate his willingness to occasionally use himself as an example, as well as his unwavering respect, awe, and wonder for the dream material offered by his clients. He frequently comments, “Who would make this stuff up?”

The exquisite way Hollis unravels dreams, to get to their deeper meaning, is lovely to observe.

I See Your Dream Job:
A Career Intuitive Shows You How to Discover What You Were Put on Earth to Do
by Sue Frederick
St. Martin’s Press, 2009
Hardcover, $19.99

“Your life is on purpose. There are no accidents. Every event, circumstance, and relationship has been nudging you to follow your true path and do your great work—which is the only path to real success and abundance.”

—Sue Frederick

I See Your Dream Job is the first book I’ve discovered written by a career intuitive. From talking with clients, I know that many people consult with psychics at some point in their search for the work they are meant to do. Frederick is in a unique position to write this book, making the tools of her trade accessible to readers seeking to discover their life purpose.

If you aren’t open to, or interested in, ancient wisdom, astrology, numerology, symbols, and inner guidance, you can skip this book. On the other hand, if you find these topics fascinating, whether or not you understand them, I See Your Dream Job offers a step-by-step process that might allow you to see things from a perspective that dots the i’s and crosses the t’s for you. It probably won’t reveal anything you don’t already know, but it will remind you how much you do know and what perfect sense it makes.

Once you confidently own and affirm the truth of who you are, Frederick suggests how you can move forward and initiate desired change. I See Your Dream Job could be an important step in trusting yourself to do what you were put on earth to do.

One More Recently Published Book

Infinite Possibilities:
The Art of Living Your Dreams
by Mike Dooley
Atria Books / Beyond Words, 2009
Hardcover, $25.00

“We have our dreams for many reasons, not the least of which is to make them come true.”

—Mike Dooley

Last December I mentioned Mike Dooley’s trilogy, Notes From The Universe. His latest book, Infinite Possibilities, quickly became a New York Times Bestseller this fall. Prior to publication, the information was only available in audio format. Thousands of Dooley’s readers and supporters swooped up the first several printings, putting the book on backorder as soon as it was released. Infinite Possibilities is on my list of books to read.

Good Books: August 2009 Newsletter

Instead of writing substantial reviews for this issue, I’m giving myself permission to take it easy this summer. I’ll briefly mention a few books of possible interest to you.

Curious?
Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life
by Todd Kashdan
William Morrow, 2009
hardcover, $25.99

“Go beyond the need to predict, understand, and control your…world. Attend to what you don’t know, expand the boundaries of who you are and what you do, follow your instinct of what is interesting to you and what is interesting to other people, and this will lead to positive changes….”

—Todd Kashdan

In my work I observe what happens when curiosity is ignited: it turns into a powerhouse of focus and energy. Curiosity can even fill in for courage. In spite of its importance, I don’t remember ever seeing an entire book devoted to the topic.

Kashdan works as a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University. His book identifies curiosity, rather than happiness, as the “central ingredient to a fulfilling life.” Kashdan introduces readers to the science of curiosity and then weaves in interesting stories to illustrate the concepts. You’ll also find exercises intended to develop the “curious explorer” within.

Did you know there are five significant benefits to being a curious person? Health, intelligence, meaning / purpose in life, relationships, and happiness.

My one disappointment was that some of the exercises reminded me of those a researcher might use to gather data for a study.

Career Renegade:
How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love
by Jonathan Fields
Broadway Books, 2009
paperback, $14.00

“So many others I knew had found a guru and their lives seemed so much better, more directed and purposeful for it, but that never happened to me…. Why couldn’t I find that person? It finally dawned on me: The person I was looking for was the one I would need to become…. Upon that realization, I began to accept responsibility not only for my life to date, but for the process of making it come alive from that point forward.”

—Jonathan Fields

I don’t know why, but there is something about the word “renegade” that I enjoy. So when I saw  Career Renegade mentioned on Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness-Project, I wanted to know more.

Although the title reminds me of Marsha Sinetar’s Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow, one of my all-time favorites, this book is very different. Fields is into the practical, telling you what he and others have done so you can maybe do it too, but with your passion. He does a fabulous job of identifying resources, including techie tools, telling you why and how to use them, and what they can do for you. His information is rarely in-depth, but it will definitely increase your awareness and your options.

You can visit www.CareerRenegade.com and download the book’s introduction for free.

Spent:
Break the Buying Obsession and Discover Your True Worth
by Sally Palaian
Hazelden, 2009
paperback, $14.95

I just learned about this book, so I haven’t read it yet. But I’m planning to check it out, thanks to Kim Ode’s interesting piece, Needs vs. wants: a tough lesson to heed in a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Good Books: April 2009 Newsletter

Success Intelligence:
Essential Lessons and Practices from the World’s Leading Coaching Program on Authentic Success

by Robert Holden
Hay House, 2008
hardcover, $26.95

I picked up a copy of Success Intelligence, not recognizing the author or his work; the title just intrigued me. It turns out that Robert Holden wrote the best-selling books Shift Happens! and Happiness Now! which are both available in paperback. Holden is the Director of Success Intelligence and The Happiness Project, and his work is featured in two BBC television documentaries: The Happiness Formula and How to Be Happy, neither of which I’ve seen.

In the Prologue to Success Intelligence, Holden tells the story of when he was sixteen years old and the painful reality of his father’s alcoholism confronts him on the public sidewalk of his hometown. Questions, triggered by what was happening to his father, haunt Holden as they also shape his life’s work. What is success? What is happiness? What’s real? What is life for?

In seven parts, Holden explores the primary, interweaving themes of vision, relationships, and work as they relate to success and happiness. He also considers the importance of potential, wisdom, courage, and grace. In the final part, Renaissance, his focus is on the “challenge to take your true place in the world.” Thirty of the chapters end with a Success Intelligence Tip, which is really an opportunity to personally explore an aspect of Success Intelligence in your own life. Expect more of Holden’s original questions.

Robert Holden is a thoughtful and engaging writer, who knows and appreciates the challenge of living and working in a “Manic Society” that values busyness and speed more than vision. He is also a leader in the use of positive psychology to bring about individual and organizational change. Reading Success Intelligence had the feel of talking with a wise and caring mentor who took the time to pass along what he has learned and believes will make all the difference—a life with authentic success and real happiness. I am grateful for this book.

The Hay House paperback edition of Success Intelligence is scheduled for early May.

“What looks like a dead end to our egos is really an invitation to go higher than before. It is a lifting-off point where you are asked to give up your own efforts for more grace and to let go of your own plans for greater inspiration. Every dead end is a place in the road where you must let go of what does not really work for what really can.”

—Robert Holden

The Answer Is Simple…
Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit!

by Sonia Choquette
Hay House, 2008
hardcover, $19.95

Who among us doesn’t want to love the life we are living?

In her latest book, The Answer Is Simple, Sonia Choquette, writes about how it’s possible to love your life, regardless of the inevitable ups and downs or less than fortunate circumstances you might be facing. As the subtitle suggests, loving yourself and living your Spirit come before loving your life; not the other way around.

Through her work Choquette has been fortunate to talk with and observe people, from widely different circumstances, who succeed in really loving life—and to her they are different. Instead of relying upon ego and intellect to navigate life, these individuals are guided by the Spirit within. They know who they are: they are worthy, part of the Divine whole, here to love what they love, and share that love.

The book is organized into ten simple steps/ideas intended to help you practice “self-love and authentic Spirited living”: Welcome Your Spirit, Connect with Your Soul Family, Remember What You Love, Choose Kindness, and six more. Each idea is followed by practical action you can take to live in the joy, light, and love of your Spirit, rather than the pain, fear, and control of your ego.

Midway through the book, you’ll find an “Interlude” titled The Heart of the Matter. This section focuses on how to fully engage the heart—love yourself and live your spirit—by considering four expressions of Love/Spirit: open heart, clear heart, wise heart, and courageous heart.

The Answer Is Simple is a book that will be valued by readers who seek to know and live the uncomplicated truth of their own hearts.

Choquette is the author of several more best-selling mind-body-spirit books, including Trust Your Vibes. The Answer Is Simple is also available as a deck of oracle cards.

“The ego differentiates…things as more or less important, but not the Spirit…. All gifts are equal in Divine mind. Claiming, valuing, and then sharing yours completely, without hesitation or interference from your ego, is one of the greatest and simplest secrets to loving yourself and living your Spirit. What do you love? Sharing that fully is your purpose.”

—Sonia Choquette

Good Books: December 2008 Newsletter

Thank you Margaret G. and Nancy D. for mentioning the following two books. On my own I might not have picked up either of them, but now that I’ve read them I understand your enthusiastic endorsements.

When Organizing Isn’t Enough:
SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life
by Julie Morgenstern
Fireside, 2008
hardcover, $24.00

Julie Morgenstern, author of the bestseller Organizing From The Inside Out, is back with a new book about getting unstuck in order to create the life you really want, even if you’re not sure what that is. The transformational process she calls SHED consists of four steps: Separate the treasures, Heave the trash, Embrace your identity, and Drive yourself forward. SHEDing begins with thoughtfully naming a theme for the next chapter or phase of your life: vibrant health, close to nature, creative expression, boundless learning, offering expertise, circle of friends….

Along with motivating stories, Morgenstern offers readers effective tools to begin dealing with objects overflowing their spaces, commitments competing for their time, and habits working against them. Once the obsolete stuff is identified and let go, there is time and space to enjoy the treasures, move around, try new things, and reflect on the experience. SHEDing is a way to first discover and then create what you really want.

What excites me the most about Morgenstern’s latest work is the attention she gives to uncovering the positive motivators that sometimes lead to suffocation and paralysis by stuff. Something that appears and feels quite negative, can have truly positive roots. Not an advocate for shaming or ruthless de-cluttering, Morgenstern wants readers to understand the very real needs that drive a person to do what they do. Her goal is to help people understand and shift their behavior, using practical steps that lead to a new way of living.

“You are standing at the doorway to possibility. You will experience a tremendous lightness of being—an energy you haven’t felt for a long time—and the thrill of adventure all around you. Let yourself enjoy the release and the shifts in priorities. There is a sense of vitality, of owning your identity—and choosing your life. You will begin to come up with more ideas of what you want, because now you have space to think. And ideas will have time to develop, because you are no longer distracted with piles of “stuff” or bad habits that you are fighting on a daily basis.”

—Julie Morgenstern

Harmonic Wealth:
The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want

by James Arthur Ray
Hyperion, 2008
hardcover, $24.95

“Harmonic Wealth isn’t just about material abundance…. It’s about abundance in all areas of your life.” In his new book James Arthur Ray focuses on five key areas, which he refers to as the five pillars: financial, relational, mental, physical and spiritual.

In the first chapter Ray includes a simple way to start noting the abundance in your life, using just a few questions for each of the five areas. How much do you want in your financial freedom account? Do you treat yourself the way you want other people to treat you? How many books do you choose to read per month, per year? Do you have all the toys you want? Have you discovered that one-on-one connection with your creative source?

Many of the ideas and exercises included in Harmonic Wealth will sound familiar, especially if you’ve read other books on the topic of attracting and creating what you want. What distinguishes this book is the person of James Arthur Ray. Page by page, I developed a genuine liking for him and his unique style. He is a voracious learner, willing to grapple with ideas, someone who has traveled the world to educate himself. He loves life and wants to share what works for him. Throughout the book he includes portions of his own story, for instructional and entertainment purposes, giving readers permission to consider their own complicated histories and realize what still holds them back. I appreciate that Ray writes transparently about coming to his own understanding of true wealth.

You might recognize James Arthur Ray as one of the featured experts in The Secret. If you liked his approach and ideas in the movie, I think you’ll really enjoy the more in-depth presentation this book allows.

“I struggle a bit with the label self-help, even if that’s the section where you found this book, because I come from the premise that you’re already perfect, magnificent, and divine. To my way of thinking, self-help says that you’re broke and need to be fixed. I prefer personal transformation. Personal transformation says that no matter how fantastic things are for you, you can always grow, expand, and more fully express yourself. There’s always room to receive more of the richness and wealth the universe has to offer. If you’re currently struggling in any area, it doesn’t mean you’re not perfect. It just means you’re ready for shift.”

—James Arthur Ray

I’m mentioning three more books I’m excited to have stumbled upon. They might make a wonderful gift for someone on your holiday list, or for you.

Notes From The Universe: New Perspectives from an Old Friend
More Notes From The Universe: Life, Dreams and Happiness
Even More Notes From The Universe: Dancing Life’s Dance
by Mike Dooley
Atria Books / Beyond Words, 2007 & 2008
hardcover, $17.95

“What if the Universe were to send you frequent reminders of the absolute power you have over your life?”

from the back cover of Notes From The Universe

The trilogy, Notes From The Universe, originated as daily thoughts written by Dooley and sent from the Universe to a list of subscribers, now numbering over 250,001. Dooley intends to delight, encourage and inspire you to think and live large and true—right now—today. He wants you to remember: “Thoughts become things.”

These “reminders of life’s magic and our divinity” began as a labor of love. Even though Dooley has written thousands of them, you can still feel the love.

If you are interested in signing up to receive the free Monday through Friday daily notes, visit Dooley’s website below. Once you’re there, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to read more about Dooley. His path to his life’s work is an interesting story.

FYI: “tut” stands for “totally unique thoughts.”

http://www.tut.com

Good Books: August 2008 Newsletter

The Second Journey:
The Road Back to Yourself
by Joan Anderson
Hyperion, 2008
hardcover, $23.95

Joan Anderson’s first book, A Year by the Sea, chronicled the “awakening” she experienced when she made the decision to walk out of her old life and live for a year on her own on Cape Cod. Her account of that year touched thousands of women and led to Anderson traveling around the country offering weekend workshops and writing several more books: An Unfinished Marriage, A Walk on the Beach, and A Weekend to Change Your Life. Now, ten years later she finds herself at another crossroad stretched dangerously thin by her own schedule and expectations.

In her latest book, Anderson embarks on a second journey that takes her back to her true self by way of Iona, an island off the coast of Scotland. Her struggle to take her own advice and carve out time and space for herself is complicated by the demands of success, her aging mother, her own health, grandchildren, children and husband. She knows she is living a life that has somehow become not her own; it is this crisis that intersects with an out of the blue invitation to come to stay in a cottage on Iona, a place her immigrant father had insisted she visit.

The month she spends living on the island, exploring and discovering its ancient secrets, turns out to be a spiritual journey of remembering herself. Removed from the never ending pressures and entrenched patterns of life back home, Anderson is free to decide for herself, however she is not free of herself. The outer and inner paths she travels are intricately connected and her telling of both makes for compelling reading.

As soon as I finished reading The Second Journey I went in search of all of her books. I found A Year by the Sea and was immediately happy because I did not want the story to end. Anyone facing the dilemma of living in a life that no longer fits or has become too full to enjoy will benefit from Anderson’s book on beginning the second journey.

”There are the outlived events and relationships that we must celebrate and then let go of, and there are the unlived experiences that we must search for, welcome, and live into.”

—Joan Anderson

Creating Money:
Attracting Abundance
by Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer
H J Kramer published in a joint venture with New World Library, 2008
paperback, $13.95

“This powerful book shows you the way not only to abundance but to something far more important: a life well lived, full of joy and satisfaction, for you are following your inner guidance every moment, and doing what you love to do.”

—Marc Allen, publisher of New World Library
from the foreword

Creating Money, first published ten years ago, has been revised and published as a joint venture with New World Library, after selling over half a million copies. I accidentally discovered the book on my way to locating another title on a nearby shelf. It turns out to be one of the best books I’ve read about attracting abundance.

The authors attribute the book’s spiritual and energy teachings to their spirit guides Orin and DaBen. If you can easily accept that, or forget it, I think you’ll find the book instructive and fascinating.

Creating Money includes four sections: Creating Money – “a step-by-step guide to the art of manifesting,” Developing Mastery – working and moving through “any blocks you may have about allowing abundance in your life,” Creating Your Life’s Work – making money and creating abundance through “doing the things you love,” and Having Money – creating “joy, peace, harmony, clarity, and self-love with your money, letting it flow and increase.” This arrangement of topics doesn’t distinguish the book from many other books about money. What’s different is the way Creating Money helps readers to acquire, and act on, new beliefs and thoughts about money and a string of related topics: abundance, attraction, manifesting, magnetizing, success, fulfillment, trust and worth. After all, we create our reality through what we believe, think, and say. In the words of Louise Hay, “It’s only a thought and a thought can be changed.”

Each chapter is interspersed with well written, easy to locate affirmations in large type. A few examples follow: My prosperity prospers others. I choose beliefs that bring me aliveness and growth. I allow myself to feel successful. I know what I love to do and I do it. At the end of every chapter you’ll find an exercise or playsheet that allows you to thoughtfully apply the chapter’s teaching to your own life. There is a complete list of these exercises following the table of contents.

“The only way you can truly love and support others is to support their aliveness and growth, and one of the best ways to do that is to support your own aliveness and growth.”

—Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer

The following books remain on my reading list:

A Life At Work:
The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do
by Thomas Moore
Broadway Books, 2008
hardcover, $24.95

I haven’t read another book by Thomas Moore since Care of the Soul, so I was excited to find this book on the work we are born to do. If it had been another Care of the Soul spinoff, Care of the Soul at Work, I wouldn’t have picked it up. I’m hoping it contains fresh material and insights.

The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die
by John Izzo
Berrett-Koehler, 2008
paperback, $15.95

I picked this up on impulse when I saw “As Seen On Public TV” on the cover. I didn’t see the television series myself, but I’m attracted to the idea of interviews with 200 people, ages 60-106, who were identified by those who know them as “the one person they knew who had found happiness and meaning.” Izzo distills what he learned from the interviewees into Five Secrets, which are probably things we already know, but need not to forget. That could make for a great read.

The Passion Test:
The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Destiny
by Janet Bray Attwood & Chris Attwood
Hudson Street Press, 2007
hardcover, $23.95

I’ve had this book since it came out last fall and I keep meaning to read it and review it. If it interests you and you don’t want to wait any longer for me to get to it, go ahead and see what you think of it. Passion is an attractive concept that often mystifies us when we try to identify it in our own lives. If you don’t know your own passion(s), where do you start and how do you find them? Maybe the Passion Test will help.

Good Books: April 2008 Newsletter

Happy For No Reason:
7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out
by Marci Shimoff, Carol Kline
Free Press, 2008
hardcover, $24.95

If you’ve spent any time browsing nonfiction books lately, you might have noticed quite a few titles on the shelves with the word happy or happiness featured on the front cover. There are books reporting on the science of happiness, books revealing the habits of already happy people, and books teaching how to become happy or be happier than you are. Below are some of the books I’ve seen:

100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman
Choose to Be Happy by Rima Rudner
Choosing Happiness by Stephanie Dorwick
Feel Happy Now! by Michael Neill, Candace Pert
Field Guide to Happiness by Barbara Ann Kipfer
Happier by Tal Ben Shahor
Happiness by David Lykken
Happiness by Matthieu Ricard
Happiness Now! by Robert Holden
How We Choose to Be Happy by Rick Foster, Greg Hicks
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama
What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Cameron Stauth

For the record, I’ve been unhappy and I’ve been happy, and I definitely prefer happy. But glancing at the list above, I’m reminded of how many expectations there are around being happy. What if you aren’t happy now or never really have been? What if you’ve already tried your best and happiness still escapes you? Is happy better than unhappy? What can we learn about being happy that will deepen our understanding and experience, and move us toward an authenticity and wholeness that includes depression and unhappiness?

I chose to review Happy For No Reason because of the title. Learning about the possibility of being happy—for no reason—struck me as a powerful life tool, especially when I discovered that author Marci Shimoff described herself as “unhappy from the get-go.” Her book was born out of her “own deep longing to be happy.”

In researching the question “Could a person actually be happy for no reason?” Marci Shimoff eventually located and interviewed 100 deeply happy individuals who she refers to as the Happy 100. Regardless of the particulars of their stories, Shimoff observed that these individuals seemed to live free of the Myth of More and the Myth of I’ll-Be-Happy-When. Their stories also exhibited several principles at work in their lives: what expands you makes you happier, the universe is out to support you, and what you appreciate, appreciates.

The seven steps mentioned in the subtitle make up the how-to chapters of the book and include: take ownership of your happiness, don’t believe everything you think (my favorite), let love lead, make your cells happy, plug yourself into spirit, live a life inspired by purpose, and cultivate nourishing relationships. Each of the steps introduces three happiness habits, all of which are followed by one of the Happy 100 interview stories, and an exercise to do. In her choice of accompanying exercises Shimoff often draws from, and credits, the work of others, so that readers are introduced to many helpful resources they might choose to explore further.

The book begins with an excellent overview of what is already known about happiness. It offers readers inspiration and ideas to try on their own, simple ideas that can significantly influence the way we feel. At the back of the book there is a generous list of resources that includes books, web sites, techniques, and more.

”When you’re Happy for No Reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don’t need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live from happiness, rather than for happiness.”

—Marci Shimoff

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project will be coming out in late 2009 (HarperCollins). In the meantime, you can check out her blog The Happiness Project and follow along as she reflects on her experiences testing out what works and doesn’t work for her. If you want, you can also create your own happiness project and interact with others who have done the same.

The Three “Only” Things:
Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence & Imagination
by Robert Moss
New World Library, 2007
hardcover, $21.95

If you desire to be more awake in life, to expand the limits of your awareness, and to gain a deeper experience of unseen connections, this book is a useful guide. Moss uses stories—from history, his own life, and the lives of people he meets through work and travel—to demonstrate how dreams, coincidence and imagination make their appearance in our lives and how we can tap their power for guidance and healing.

This is not an in-depth how-to book; it’s more an introductory overview, but an excellent one. The title comes from reactions the author encounters repeatedly: “It’s only a dream.” “It’s only a coincidence.” “It’s only my imagination.” Instead of minimizing these experiences, Moss teaches how to recognize them and how to extract the messages, direct or indirect, that they contain.

In each of the three parts of the book, there is a chapter devoted to everyday ways to develop the ability to use our own dreams, coincidence and imagination: Everyday Dream Games, Asking the Everyday Oracle, and Building in the Imagination. By taking time to read The Three “Only” Things and apply these three chapters, you will acquaint yourself with simple techniques for using information that is readily available, but frequently overlooked. According to Moss, this underutilized information will help you feel more clear and confident about life.

“Living this way—even for just five minutes of dedicated time each day—we put ourselves in touch with our inner truth. We find our inner compass and get a “second opinion” on vital personal issues in the midst of confusion and conflicting agendas. We open and sustain a dialog with a Self that is wiser than what Yeats called “the daily trivial mind.” We allow ourselves to move effortlessly into creative flow.”

—Robert Moss

Good Books: December 2007 Newsletter

The Instruction:
Living the Life Your Soul Intended
by Ainslie MacLeod
Sounds True, 2007
hardcover, $24.95

If the idea of understanding your soul’s purpose in this lifetime resonates with you, I can’t think of a more interesting book to recommend. MacLeod is a psychic and the process he calls The Instruction was given to him by his spirit guides. This might strike some as too wacky to be taken seriously, but if you can withhold judgment long enough to read a few chapters, you will discover a fascinating perspective on why you’re here and what you’re doing, along with intriguing insights into the patterns of your lives.

The Instruction is made up of three parts: Direction, part 1, includes chapters about the ten soul ages, soul types and missions; Empowerment, part 2, covers the ten past-life fears, desires, challenges and investigations; and Fulfillment, part 3, focuses on the ten powers, talents and paths. Except for the terms challenge and investigation, most of these concepts mean pretty much what you’d expect.

MacLeod presents a step-by-step process in a matter-of-fact style. Each chapter introduces and demonstrates a topic, before ending with instructions for identifying how it expresses itself in your life. This always involves a simple meditation to ask your guides to help you to make the identification.

The book is full of interesting client stories which ground and illuminate a process that could easily lack integrity or credibility.

The skeptic in me still questions one thing: How is it that almost every list, and there are ten major ones, has ten items on it?

”In everyday life, nothing—and I stress nothing—gets in the way of living the life your soul intended more than this: other people’s expectations.”

—Ainslie MacLeod

Sound Health Sound Wealth:
The Biology of Hope and Manifestation
by Luanne Oakes
Nightingale-Conant, 2006
hardcover, $22.95

“Sound—with the dual meaning of fundamental strength and audio phenomena—is the basis of this book.”

Luanne Oakes writes of science, spirituality and health in order to share her lifetime of studying and integrating Western and Eastern philosophies. As a writer she is a master at making science accessible, demonstrating principles through storytelling, and developing innovative tools with names like Frequency Treatments, Future Memories, Crystalline Language, Your Heart’s Most Treasured Desires, and Your Magical Divine Experiment.

Sound Health Sound Wealth presents dozens of topics which somehow all end up flowing together to become tools for healing. This is an innovative guidebook to help you expand your consciousness by exploring ways of thinking that increase your sense of wellness. Luanne Oakes is a gifted, pioneering healer.

The book contains many wonderful opportunities for directed writing and comes with one of Luanne’s sound Frequency Treatment CDs.

“You cannot necessarily choose your first thought or feeling. Thoughts and feelings often arise unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere. You can, however, choose your second thought and second feeling, replacing fear with faith, depression with hope, anxiety with serenity.”

—Luanne Oakes

The Astonishing Power of Emotions:
Let Your Feelings Be Your Guide
by Esther and Jerry Hicks
Hay House, 2007
hardcover, $24.95

For anyone familiar with the work of Esther and Jerry Hicks this latest book follows the format of their earlier ones: Esther channels the wisdom teachings of the nonphysical consciousness Abraham. Although the process sounds peculiar, their work is engaging and genuinely helpful. The focus of The Astonishing Power of Emotions is on learning to choose thoughts that allow you to be in alignment with your true self, feeling positive emotion, going with the flow—downstream. “Nothing that you want is upstream. Not one thing that you want is upstream.”

Part I – Discovering the Astonishing Power of Emotions, contains nine chapters, but only 45 pages of material, some new and some review. Part II, Demonstrating the Astonishing Power of Emotions, makes up most of the book. There are 33 Examples ranging from I Am Totally Disorganized, I Cannot Find a Mate to People Steal My Creative Ideas, I Keep Getting Passed Over for Promotions at Work. Several of the Examples sounded interesting to me, so I read those chapters, but then skipped most of Part II, which is what many busy readers will do. Considering the cost of the hardcover edition, and the amount of material in Part II which you might not even read, this is probably a book you want to borrow from the library.

“As you begin to go with the flow, since everything that you want is downstream, you begin to float into desired circumstances and events. All kinds of things that you’ve been waiting for—sometimes for a long time—become almost immediately apparent to you, because the only thing that was keeping you from them was that you were paddling upstream.”

—The Astonishing Power of Emotions

Good Books: August 2007 Newsletter

The Not So Big Life:
Making Room for What Really Matters

by Sarah Susanka
Random House, 2007
hardcover, $24.95

This is the seventh book by Sarah Susanka, architect, author and creator of the not-so-big approach to designing and building “better not bigger” homes. Susanka’s first award winning book, The Not So Big House, was followed by Creating The Not So Big House, and a handful of other not-so-big-house spinoffs.

In her latest book, The Not So Big Life, Susanka applies the not-so-big philosophy to our lives as she expertly develops the theme of being at home in our lives. After reading this book, I can think of no one more suited to this fascinating undertaking: exploring the connections between the interior spaces of a home and the interior processes of our lives. Susanka’s detailed and fascinating descriptions of her own ongoing awakening and inner work illustrate how we can change life patterns to allow ourselves to live more of what we truly desire.

Chapter one introduces a chapter-by-chapter overview of “Blueprint for a New Way of Living.” Susanka suggests that our “too big lives” need more than the equivalent of furniture rearranging or redecorating. “What we need is a remodeling that allows us to experience what’s already here but to experience it differently, so that it delights us rather than drives us crazy…. When we’re done, the contents of your days will still be quite recognizable to you, but there will be room to do what you’ve always wanted to do and the freedom to experience more of the potential you know is waiting within you to be revealed and realized.”

Each chapter begins with a one-page summary of a design principle that applies to both the design of a home and a life. For example, the principle “interior views” precedes the chapter on Listening to Your Dreams, and the principle “point of focus” precedes the chapter on Creating a Place and a Time of Your Own. These summary pages were among my favorite passages in the book.

Each chapter is followed by a thoughtful, well developed exercise to put into practice or delve deeper into the theme of the chapter. Most exercises require a commitment of time and attention in order to produce worthy results. You can’t just read through them, you will need to set aside alone time, turn off the phone(s) and pull out your notebook. I don’t think you’ll regret what happens.

“So when we find ourselves tired and frustrated by the direction of our lives and wanting to make room for things that have more significance and more meaning, we must realize that our image of fulfillment looks entirely different from the actual experiencing of fulfillment. It turns out to be unbelievably simple, requiring no doing at all, only a great letting go as we quit hanging on to the character in the waking dream that we believe to be our self and become aware that our lives are perfectly crafted to reveal who and what we really are. All that’s required is our presence. We just have to show up.”

—Sarah Susanka

Good Books: April 2007 Newsletter

The Soul of Money:
Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources
by Lynne Twist
Norton, 2006
paperback, $18.95

Although Lynne Twist lives in San Francisco, she seems a true citizen of this world, finding herself at home wherever her work takes her. As an activist and fundraiser she spent twenty years working to end world hunger as part of The Hunger Project. More recently she has been invited to work with remote indigenous groups living in the Amazon rain forest, helping them to prepare for contact with the modern world and the inevitable change that will follow.

The Soul of Money introduces three myths of scarcity. Myth 1: There’s not enough. Myth 2: More is better. Myth 3: That’s just the way it is. These myths are followed by three truths of sufficiency. Truth 1: Money is like water [“a current, a carrier, a conduit for our intentions”]. Truth 2: What you appreciate appreciates. Truth 3: Collaboration creates prosperity.

Twist is a master storyteller who draws from her professional and personal experience to introduce new possibilities for our world, ourselves and our money. She seeks ways that are sustainable, ways of having enough and using what we have for our own fulfillment as well as the benefit of others. She demonstrates the power in conversation, collaboration, dreams and creativity to change what needs changing. Time and again she demonstrates how money alone is not enough.

This is an inspiring, thought provoking book that would be wonderful to read and discuss in a book group, simple living group, investment group, or community building group.

“We each have the power to arrange life so that the stand we take with our money and our life with money is a right-now, every-day, every-week expression of our core values, not a some-day, next-year, or when-I-retire or when-I-have-enough expression of our core values. Every moment of every day there are chances to participate in expressing your individuality and creativity, in contributing to your vision for yourself, your family, your community, city, or world. When we bring this consciousness to our choices about money and use our resources—money, time, or talents—to take a stand for what we believe in, we come alive. We are flooded with a sense of purpose even in the smallest action, and a feeling of power and energy opens up in our life.”

—Lynne Twist

Women & Money:
Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny
by Suze Orman
Spiegel & Grau, 2007
hardcover, $24.95

Who hasn’t heard of Suze Orman, best-selling author and personal finance guru, or seen her award winning PBS specials? Reading Women & Money, her eighth book, I was surprised to discover this is the first book she has written especially for women. It’s also the first of her books that I’ve read and I recommend it highly.

Women & Money focuses on developing a healthy relationship with money, at the beliefs level and at the behavioral level. The information ranges from very basic to intermediate, but it’s genuine, accessible, interesting, lively, and motivating. Orman presents her Save Yourself Plan, a five month agenda covering checking and savings accounts, credit cards and FICO credit scores, retirement investing, must-have documents, and insurance. Although Orman divides the plan into five months of assignments, nothing prevents readers from working at their own pace while tending to everything Orman suggests. For women who are more experienced managers of their money, the book might still be an excellent review as well as a quick checklist to make certain things are taken care of properly.

Throughout the book Orman endorses a no shame, no blame approach. She is passionate about passing along what she knows about money so that women can be in control of their own lives and their own money. This is definitely a resource to turn to if you are seeking a healthier more confident relationship with your money or the inspiration to start doing the things you know you need to do.

“That’s what controlling your financial destiny comes down to: knowing what to do and what not to do—and having the conviction and confidence to go out and do it. Not just think about it. Or intend to do it next week or next month. To actually do it.”

—Suze Orman

The Secret (DVD)
produced by Rhonda Byrne
TS Production LLC, 2006
Extended Edition DVD, $34.95
91 minutes

The Secret is a fast-paced documentary in which Rhonda Byrne brings together nearly two dozen authors, philosophers, scientists and teachers who introduce viewers to the secret power of the Law of Attraction: what we think about we bring about. This includes the things we think about because we want them in our lives, e.g., friends, as well as the things we think about because we don’t want them, e.g., debt. The law of attraction is always working and applies to every area of our lives: finances, relationships, health, work, home, possessions and opportunities.

After revealing the secret, the presenters talk about how to use it to be, do or have anything you want. The focus is definitely on having wealth and things. That said, the DVD is engaging and does an excellent job of introducing the basics of the law of attraction. Unfortunately, many of the speakers are featured for no more than a thought or two at a time. Since I was unacquainted with most of them and genuinely interested in what they had to say, I would have liked the opportunity to listen to them in more depth.

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to watch The Secret, maybe even more than once. Whatever your reactions to the content and presentation, you will probably have a lot to think and talk about afterward. This would be a great DVD to view and discuss within a small group.

“The good that you want is already here. All you have to do is get in harmony with it. You do that through your own thinking.”

—Bob Proctor in The Secret

NOTE: After producing the DVD, Rhonda Byrne wrote the book The Secret (Beyond Words Publishing, $23.95, hardcover) which covers the same material as the DVD but in more depth. While I was working on this newsletter, the book was out of stock everywhere so I haven’t read it yet; but I definitely will.

Good Books: December 2006 Newsletter

Perfectly Yourself
9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
by Matthew Kelly
Ballantine Books, 2006
hardcover, $22.95

We expect self-help books to focus on the changes we want or need to make in our lives. That’s why this title, Perfectly Yourself, appealed to me. It’s almost a radical thought to think of already being perfectly yourself, whatever that might mean.

Well, it turns out that Kelly is focusing on becoming a “best” or “better-version-of-yourself.” This is still self-improvement, but with gentleness.  It’s about staying true to self-not attempting to become someone else who you will never be, at least not happily.

Kelly’s selection of nine lessons reads like a touchstone, inviting us to remember: What does really matter in this life? The lessons won’t be unfamiliar to most readers, but many of us want to hear them again: celebrate your progress, just do the next right thing, put character first, find what you love and do it, live what you believe, be disciplined, simplify, focus on what you are here to give, and patiently seek the good in everyone and everything. Kelly offers insights, stories and approaches to “imperfectly” living these lessons, with examples coming from his work with others and his own life.

Each of the nine chapters ends with an excellent summary of the lesson, followed by very empowering steps for applying it. This makes it easy to review a chapter and refresh its lesson during a brief morning or evening meditation.

I wish the book’s editor had noticed and encouraged Kelly to remove several statements about women, parenting and children that felt inappropriate. Other than that, I recommend the book.

“Let this idea guide you. Whatever is stopping you from becoming the-best-version-of-yourself, cast it from your life … and whatever is helping you to become the-best-version-of-yourself, embrace it with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. If you are to be happy, it will be as yourself-not as what someone else wants you to be or expects you to be or wishes you were but as your own wonderful self.”

—Matthew Kelly

You Can Have What You Want
Proven Strategies for Inner and Outer Success
by Michael Neill
Hay House, 2006
paperback, $14.95

The back cover of Neill’s book reads, “Would you like to discover an easy, fun way to live the life of your dreams? This book can change your life for the better just by reading it…”

Thousands of mediocre books sell when they promise readers quick and easy transformation. Neill’s book could have been one of those, but it’s not; it’s different.

Neill is as an international success coach, master trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, writes a syndicated coaching column and magazine column, and hosts You Can Have What You Want on Hay House Radio. Neill’s book is a handbook filled with exactly what readers need: short snappy sections and proven strategies. Part I, “Creating a life that makes you go “WOW,” focuses on knowing, trusting, inspiring and loving yourself; it also introduces the idea of effortless success. Part II guides readers through “nine key life obstacles that people use to stop themselves from having what they really want in life”: information, skill, belief, well-being, other people, motivation, time, money, and fear. Neill suggests reading and working with these nine chapters in any order that seems relevant and trying some of the experiments. He makes the point that you don’t need to do everything in order to succeed.

One unique feature, “From theory to practice,” appears in boxes throughout the book. This is an opportunity for you to test whether the information being presented actually works for you.

“If a wonderful life is the sum total of a whole lot of wonderful days, what can we do to ensure we have as many wonderful days as possible?” [Look for Neill’s top ten tips in the epilogue.]

—Michael Neill

I want to mention the following two books, even though I didn’t get them read in time for review.

Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!
Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD

by Edward Hallowell
Ballantine Books, 2006
hardcover, $24.95

Dr. Hallowell is a psychiatrist, the co-author of Driven to Distraction, and the author of many other books about Attention Deficit Disorder. He is known internationally for his practical, solutions-oriented approaches to helping individuals with ADD. In Crazy Busy he now offers help to readers whose lives have spun out of control. To learn more, visit the website for Crazy Busy at www.crazybusylife.com

Yearnings
Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life
by Irwin Kula
Hyperion, 2006
hardcover, $23.95

This first book by Rabbi Irwin Kula explores seven timeless human yearnings. Watch for the new two-hour public television special “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings with Irwin Kula.” Also, visit the web page for the book at http://yearnings.irwinkula.com/thebook.htm

Gift Idea-Inspirational Card Decks

Several years ago, when they first began to appear, I included a list of inspirational card decks that make wonderful holiday gifts-the sort of gift that keeps on giving each time someone opens the box to randomly select a card for consideration or writing. Most decks come in sturdy, compact storage boxes containing 50-60 cards. Each illustrated two-sided card contains a thought related to the theme of the deck.

In bookstores you often find them shelved next to the author’s books, or sometimes in a separate area with other decks, e.g., Tarot or Medicine cards. Hay House continues to offer some of the finest; if you want to see them all, visit their web site at www.HayHouse.com

Here are a few you might like to know about. Unless noted, they are priced at $15.95.

Louise Hay

Power Thought Cards

64-card classic deck of affirmations for developing inner strength.

Wisdom Cards

64-card companion deck of affirmations for nurturing inner wisdom.

Power Thoughts for Teens

50 powerful affirmation cards with vibrant illustrations especially for teenagers.

Cheryl Richardson

Grace Cards

50 beautiful cards with keywords and guiding thoughts to explore the answers to your own questions.

Self-Care Cards

52 cards with specific actions to honor your self-care and improve your life.

Sonia Choquette

Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose Oracle Cards

63 cards and guidebook for understanding life’s pressing questions-your soul lessons.

Trust Your Vibes Oracle Cards

52 cards and guidebook to help you develop your psychic sixth sense.

Ask Your Guides Oracle Cards

52 cards and guidebook to introduce you to the work of your guides and help you connect with them.

Denise Linn

Soul Coaching Oracle Cards

52-card deck with guidebook to discover “what your soul wants you to know.” Features keywords along with positive, encouraging thoughts.

Several decks from the publisher, New World Library, come boxed with a prop-up frame to display one card. The price of these decks is $17.95.

Shakti Gawain

Creative Visualization Deck

50 cards with quotations from the author’s writings. Cards contain additional comments and guided meditations. Useful for inspiration or meditation.

Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now Inspiration Deck

50 cards with quotations from The Power of Now on one side and artwork on the back.

The Power of Now Meditation Deck

50 cards with key words on one side and related quotations from the book on the back.

Good Books: August 2006 Newsletter

Ask and It Is Given
Learning to Manifest Your Desires

by Esther and Jerry Hicks (The Teachings of Abraham)
Hay House, 2004
paperback, $14.95

The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent
Living the Art of Allowing

by Esther and Jerry Hicks (The Teachings of Abraham)
Hay House, 2006
hardcover, $24.95

These are two of the most unusual books I’ve chosen to feature in this newsletter. Since they contain overlapping teaching material, I’m reviewing them together and mentioning their distinguishing features.

In workshops, books, videos, audios and CDs, Esther and Jerry Hicks present The Teachings of Abraham, a group of nonphysical teachers, channeled by Esther. Abraham is also referred to as a Collective Consciousness (think Inspiring Loving Voice of Wisdom focusing on your joy and well-being). Both books contain an “Introduction to Abraham” which describes how these unusual dialogs originated and what happened next. The introduction might actually be better appreciated after you’ve read the book; otherwise, the whole thing could come across as downright weird.

That aside, I consider both books extremely useful and powerful resources for instructing readers how to incrementally improve their feelings in order to align with and attract their desires. Both books work extensively with an Emotional Guidance Scale consisting of 22 feeling levels ranging from:

  1. Joy/Knowledge/Empowerment/Freedom/Love/Appreciation
  2. Passion
  3. Enthusiasm/Eagerness/Happiness

all the way to

  1. Jealousy
  2. Insecurity/Guilt/Unworthiness
  3. Fear/Grief/Depression/Despair/Powerlessness

Part II of Ask and It Is Given, introduces 22 processes for readers to work with to improve their vibrational point of attraction. When the vibrational feelings of our thoughts match the vibrational feelings of our desires, we allow our own Well-Being rather than resist it.

I especially liked working with Process #1 The Rampage of Appreciation (focusing on the many things you clearly appreciate in the here and now), Process #5 The Prosperity Game (on day 1 you pretend to deposit $1000 into an imaginary checking account and spend it all; on each following day you deposit double the previous day’s amount and imagine spending all of that too, expanding your imagination day by day as the amount needing to be spent increases substantially), Process #13 Which Thought Feels Better? (entertaining a variety of possible thoughts to determine which ones feel worse, the same or better), Process #15 The Wallet Process (carrying a $100 bill and spending it mentally on many things to gain the vibrational advantage of spending several thousand dollars rather than actually spending $100 once).

In The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent many of the above 22 processes are presented and applied again. Having read the first book, this second book felt redundant and a little disappointing. It uses a format that quickly becomes boring, due to the inclusion of too many examples. However, it ends with a fascinating 60-page section Abraham Live: Questions and Answers, a transcript of an actual Art of Allowing workshop. This enables readers to both observe the process and feel the shift in vibrational frequencies of each guest. One thing missing from The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent is the very helpful glossary in Ask and It Is Given.

If you’ve ever tried to change a recurring negative thought that you know undermines your ability to feel good, these techniques will be a welcome tool. You won’t get left with that awkward feeling that you’re simply manipulating words you don’t even believe are true for you. Instead, you’ll experience a noticeable shift as you change your thoughts and your feelings improve: moving you from a place of resisting your well-being to a place of allowing it to manifest.

“Remember, you live in a Vibrational Universe, and all things are managed by the Law of Attraction. And you get what you think about, whether you want it or not, because whenever you achieve vibrational harmony with something because you are giving it your attention, the vibrational essence of it will, in some way, begin to show up in your life experience.”

—Abraham

Abraham-Hicks Audio CDs :

Ask and It Is Given—Part I: The Law of Attraction
Ask and It Is Given—Part II: The Process
Hay House, 2005
4-CD sets, $23.95

The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent—Part I: Living the Art of Allowing
The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent—Part II: Finding the Path to Joy through Energy Balance

Hay House, 2006
4-CD sets, $23.95

Also Available :

The Teachings of Abraham: Well-Being Cards
Hay House, 2004
$15.95

A boxed deck of 60 two-sided cards presenting the words of Abraham with “Hay House art.”

The Renaissance Soul
Life Design for People with TOO Many Passions to Pick Just One

by Margaret Lobenstine
Broadway, 2006
hardcover, $19.95

This book was first brought to my attention earlier this year by a client who recommended  it highly.

The author, a renaissance soul herself, has a career and life-coaching business working with other renaissance souls to help them design their lives, not just their careers. The book has a great Introduction to get you started: Lobenstine’s definition of a Renaissance Soul, brief sketches of clients she has worked with, a list of Five Signs That You Might Be a Renaissance Soul, Women and Men throughout History who shared this personality trait, a description of The Renaissance Soul Approach, 5 Career Options [Variations] for the Renaissance Soul, and a 20-item quiz Are You a Renaissance Soul? And if you are, you’ll value a book that genuinely understands and validates your “natural way of operating,” while guiding you toward new possibilities and the opportunity to design a life that fits. Lobenstine has created an interesting, inspiring, practical guide with resources to move readers out of stuck places.

“Renaissance Souls love nothing better than to take on a new problem or situation and then dig into it…until we master the challenge we’ve set for ourselves. And then, with fresh enthusiasm, we move on to another passion. We are lucky people who, if left to our own devices, are never bored for long…. Let me reassure you right now: your desire to follow many (and frequently changing interests) is one of the best things about you.”

—Margaret Lobenstine

Good Books: April 2006 Newsletter

Trust Your Vibes
Secret Tools for Six-Sensory Living
by Sonia Choquette
Hay House, 2005
paperback, $14.95

Sonia Choquette is a professional intuitive, spiritual teacher and guide whose other books include: Diary of a Psychic, The Psychic Pathway, True Balance, and Your Heart’s Desire. Choquette helps people learn to use and trust the guidance of their intuitive sixth sense. Her mission is to increase awareness of this spiritual—rather than physical—sense and how much we need it to “fulfill our life’s purpose and to be peaceful and happy.”

The book consists of 33 secrets (chapters) with titles like the following: The Sixth Sense Is Common Sense, Go With The Flow, Seek Higher Vibrations, Love The Adventure, Laughing Matters, and Slow Down. Choquette uses interesting stories from her work and life to illustrate the use of simple practices and techniques for developing intuition. Each chapter concludes with an idea for six-sensory practice.

This is an interesting, practical and informative book about a natural ability that can develop our creativity, nurture our spirituality, enhance our lives and increase our sense of well-being.

Also available from Hay House for $15.95, Trust Your Vibes Oracle Cards: A Powerful Tool Kit for Awakening Your Sixth Sense. Contains a 52-card deck plus guidebook.

“Being passionate about life tends to change your vibration from one of resistance and defense to one of attraction and receptivity. When you love life, life loves you back—so when you dive into it with exuberance and joy, life will reach out and enthusiastically embrace you. The more you love life by fully engaging in what feeds your soul, the more you spread that love around, and in doing so you heal yourself and others.”

—Sonia Choquette

A New Earth
Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
by Eckhart Tolle
Dutton, 2005
hardcover, $24.95

Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher and author of the best-selling book The Power of Now. Tolle’s latest book, again about spiritual awakening, follows his first by seven years which he spent teaching and giving talks around the world. Those years refined and evolved his teaching, but more importantly they highlighted the urgency of a new and more loving way for humanity to inhabit the earth.

A New Earth examines in great detail the current state of humanity identified with ego-based consciousness. Following this Tolle introduces the shift/leap in consciousness that will reveal, and allow us to experience, who we truly are. It isn’t until chapter nine—the book has ten chapters—that Tolle touches directly on your life’s purpose. But there are glimpses in every chapter of living more freely, more peacefully, more joyfully and true to your purpose.

One chapter in particular, The Pain-Body, beautifully explains how our negative thoughts feed our emotional pain and keep it alive. While reading this chapter (I don’t think it was a coincidence) I had the opportunity to both experience and observe this process occurring in my own mind. I found myself feeling afraid and upset when something didn’t happen the way I thought it would. Eventually I saw that I was keeping the fear alive with my thoughts. To stop the pain this was causing, all I had to do was stop the thoughts, the ones I was using to feed and keep the fear and pain alive. So clear, yet so difficult; but I got it and I haven’t forgotten.

Also available from Penguin Audio for $29.95, as an unabridged set of 8 CDs read by the author.

“There are three ways in which consciousness can flow into what you do and thus through you into this world, three modalities [Acceptance, Enjoyment, Enthusiasm] in which you can align your life with the creative power of the universe….Acceptance means: For now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly….Enjoyment is the second modality of awakened doing. On the new earth, enjoyment will replace wanting as the motivating power behind people’s actions….Enthusiasm means there is deep enjoyment in what you do plus the added element of a goal or a vision that you work toward. You will feel like an arrow that is moving toward the target—and enjoying the journey.”

—Eckhart Tolle

Inspiration
Your Ultimate Calling
by Wayne Dyer
Hay House, 2006
hardcover, $24.95

Wayne Dyer’s newest book, and latest PBS television special, looks at inspiration with a twist on the ordinary. Instead of viewing inspiration as a mysterious, motivating energy that occasionally visits us, Dyer looks at inspiration as how we are called to live: “in-Spirit.” How we go about our day, choosing to inspire others and allowing ourselves to be inspired, is what determines whether inspiration freely flows through our lives.

The book is full of Dyer’s stories of how he practices inspiration and how he has been inspired by others. His enthusiasm and generosity toward the people he encounters might prompt you to examine your own interactions. Could you be making more of a difference, for others and yourself, in those brief, unplanned encounters that happen throughout an ordinary day? Would you be feeling more inspired yourself, if you reached out more to others? Do you slow down enough to allow situations and others to inspire you?

Dyer likes lists and offers them throughout the book: Ego’s Dominating Messages, Essential Principles For Finding Your Way To An Inspired Life, The 12-Step Program to Simplicity, When You Are Inspired…. At the end of each chapter you’ll find a section with suggestions for putting the ideas in the chapter to work.

In the Introduction, Dyer claims this is his most personal book yet. Critics might say it is also his most “preachy,” pointing to frequent passages where Dyer seems to have it all figured out. In spite of that, reading the book is an opportunity to examine taking a more active role in living a life that inspires you and others, not just on occasion, but in a day-to-day way.

“Make an affirmation that whatever brings passion, enthusiasm, and inspiration to you is on its way. Say it often: It is on its way, it will arrive on time, and it will arrive in greater amounts than I imagined. Then look for even the tiniest clue that will help you be a vibrational match with your affirmation. You’ll get what you think about, whether you want it or not!”

—Wayne Dyer

Good Books: December 2005 Newsletter

Coming To Our Senses
Healing Ourselves And The World Through Mindfulness
by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Hyperion, 2005
hardcover, $24.95

Last winter I attended a class on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction based on the program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and introduced in his earlier book Full Catastrophe Living. I loved the class and was excited to have his new book to look forward to once the class ended.

Now that I’m reading Coming to Our Senses it feels as though it will be a work in progress. There are 609 pages and I’m moving through them slowly and randomly. Not only is there a lot to read, there is a lot to consider, distill and absorb. I find myself reading a chapter and then setting the book aside for awhile, or sometimes just reading one chapter several times.

Coming to Our Senses is organized into eight parts, beginning with Meditation: It’s Not What You Think and ending with Let The Beauty We Love Be What We Do. There are chapters with intriguing titles: Original Moments, Filling Up All Our Moments and Dying Before You Die, but there are others I’ll be tempted to skip. So far, Kabat-Zinn consistently offers thoughtful stories, clearly articulated insights, information about the body/mind connection and gentle instruction in mindfulness—all with a genuine heart for opening readers to the tremendous possibilities for healing ourselves and our world.

What I’m valuing most about reading the book is the opportunity to stop and to be in the company of a gifted teacher who demonstrates compassionate acceptance of what is, over and over and over again—a teacher who models beginning, over and over and over again.

“To be present is far from trivial. It may be the hardest work in the world. And forget about the “may be.” It is the hardest work in the world—at least to sustain presence. And the most important.”

—Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Unmistakable Touch Of Grace
by Cheryl Richardson
Free Press, 2005
hardcover, $23.00

Cheryl Richardson, professional life coach, is the author of Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, and Stand Up for Your Life. Unlike her earlier bestsellers, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace is a more personal book in which Richardson shares her spiritual journey. Her own stories detailing encounters with Divine grace are intertwined with stories from the lives of friends and clients with whom she has worked.

Instead of focusing on how to begin living a life touched by grace, Richardson takes a different approach—recognizing the grace that has been and already is in our lives. In the Introduction she offers readers a helpful statement to use with experiments in recognizing grace: “I am open and receptive to the power of grace in my life now. I ask to be shown clear examples of how this energy is operating in my life.” I used these words myself as I read the book and found them amazingly helpful.

Richardson suggests starting a “grace journal.” Each chapter ends with an experiment “designed to help you recognize and use the power of grace in your own life.” Most of these include a series of questions to be explored in the journal. Excellent resources for further exploration are listed after each experiment: mainly books and websites with a few magazines.

“The answers I was searching for were in the silence. In the past, meditation meant quieting my mind long enough to hear my intuition or inner wisdom. Now I was beginning to understand something more important—the answer was the silence itself.”

—Cheryl Richardson

Compass Of The Soul
52 Ways Intuition Can Guide You to the Life of Your Dreams

by Lynn A. Robinson
Andrews McMeel, 2003
paperback, $14.95

Compass Of The Soul consists of fifty-two chapters or lessons intended to help readers recognize intuition, the wisdom within, and use its messages as a trusted guide in all areas of life. In each brief chapter Robinson offers accessible ideas that speak to the heart and what it longs for. Her message is consistent: Listen for your intuition. Learn to recognize how it communicates with you. Allow your intuition to reveal to you what you need to know.

Every chapter opens with an inspirational quote related to the lesson. Each lesson is followed by an exercise designed to develop intuition and a section for journal exploration that includes well thought out questions.

The book lends itself to a yearlong study, working with one chapter each week, either in a group or on your own. Without a table of contents, it also invites browsing to find a chapter title that grabs your attention now.

If you find Robinson’s approach helpful, you’ll want to look for two of her other books: Divine Intuition and Real Prosperity.

“Living an intuitive life is much more than simply paying attention to your intuition. It includes looking within for the answers, living life with courage, faith, patience, and trust. It also involves connecting with your Spirit through daily practice and taking action on the wisdom you receive.”

—Lynn A. Robinson

The Best Year of Your Life
Dream It, Plan It, Live It
by Debbie Ford
HarperSan Francisco, 2005
hardcover, $21.95

If this past year wasn’t the best year of your life, or if you’ve never had a best year of your life, or if you want next year (and every year after that) to be the best, Debbie Ford wrote this book for you.

The Best Year of Your Life goes beyond predictable, superficial advice on how to make dreams come true. As the subtitle implies, Ford does what may self-help books do: she guides readers through the process of dreaming, planning and acting. Here’s where her work diverges; she exposes the common tendency to choose the easy way out, a way that keeps us stuck in “habitual patterns and behaviors that offer us no rewards—the thoughts, habits, excuses and behaviors that keep us from living our best lives.” Ford focuses on our use of excuses, negative internal dialogue, blame, righteous positions and self-defeating behaviors. She offers examples to help readers recognize these patterns in their own lives, as well as ways to develop and choose workable alternatives to move past these obstacles with intent and integrity.

“Most of us have put some kind of limitations on what we can and cannot have, what we can and cannot do, and who we can and cannot be…instead of joyfully going about the task of making the lives we are living great, we daydream about the life we wish we were living.”

“When there are no excuses, there will be only one path for you to take: the path to the best year of your life.”

—Debbie Ford

Health Journeys
Resources for Mind, Body and Spirit
1-800-800-8661

www.healthjourneys.com

This is a resource, not a book, for superb Guided Imagery CDs by Belleruth Naparstek. Dozens of titles are available: relaxation, healing, stress, depression, surgery, recovery, sleep, well-being… Most of the CDs include simple instructions, followed by guided imagery and affirmations. Naparstek’s distinctive voice combined with calming background music helps to release powerful, healing energies. Prices for individual CDs are about $18.00.

Good Books: August 2005 Newsletter

Finding Meaning In The Second Half Of Life
How to Finally, Really Grow Up

by James Hollis, Ph.D.
Gotham Books, 2005
hardcover, $25.00

I was considering featuring two other books on the topic of midlife until I discovered this wonderful new book by James Hollis, Jungian analyst, educator and author. Hollis explores the many ways our lives, and our very selves, are shaped to be too small for the soul’s yearnings at midlife. By uncovering persistent but unconscious patterns that no longer work for us (some never did), there is the possibility for a growing consciousness leading to new choices that offer “spiritual enlargement.” Throughout the book, Hollis unravels fascinating dreams and stories from the lives of his clients, and sometimes from his own life, to demonstrate how our own inner wisdom already knows and can be trusted to guide us, with personal clues, into a more soulful, meaningful way of living the rest of our lives.

The seventh chapter—Career Versus Vocation—is a wonderful resource for anyone grappling with the issue of making a living while longing for meaning. “We may choose careers, but we do not choose vocation. Vocation chooses us.” Here, as elsewhere, Hollis writes honestly about the “considerable personal cost” we might pay to follow the soul’s leading and to “choose what chooses us.”

On the page preceding the Introduction, you’ll find a list of eleven questions that midlife asks each of us. Here are three: Whose life have you been living? Why, even when things are going well, do things feel not quite right? Why does so much seem a disappointment, a betrayal, a bankruptcy of expectations? Hollis returns to these questions in the eleventh and final chapter—The Healing of the Soul—where he writes, “We need questions that ask that we grow up.” Most of us also need a competent guide or guidebook; Finding Meaning In the Second Half Of Life is an excellent choice.

“We dream this way every night. And every day the world is full of clues as to the will of the soul, if we are willing or desperate enough to begin to pay attention. If and when we do begin to take this inner life seriously, our locus of sensibility, our psychic gravity, begins to change. From this internal change, profound changes of the outer world become possibilities.”

—James Hollis

FYI: If you’re interested in the other two books I referred to above, they are The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of WISDOM by Angeles Arrien (2005, Sounds True) and Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood by Suzanne Braun Levine (2005, Viking). They come to me highly recommended, but I haven’t read either of them yet.

What We Ache For
Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
HarperSanFrancisco, 2005
hardcover, $21.95

What We Ache For is the kind of book you want to give yourself: great title, beautiful cover design and nourishment for your deepest longings.

Writers, and those longing to write, will probably love the book best, because it offers an intimate and generous opportunity to discover how someone else is doing writing. Most of the insights, suggestions and ideas could be adapted by readers doing other forms of creative work (this is mentioned repeatedly), but I’m not sure the book will speak to the hearts of others as passionately as it speaks to the hearts of those aching to write.

There is a way in which the book doesn’t quite turn out to be the book described in the opening chapter; it ends up being better. What We Ache For is a more personal, instructive and practical account of how a writing / creative life might be arranged, supported, developed and sustained, even as it evolves. Time and again, it reminded me of the Brenda Ueland classic, If You Want To Write. So, if you do, Oriah Mountain Dreamer offers you a beautifully crafted writer’s companion with chapters devoted to beginnings, endings, seeing, silence, doing the work, being received, the artist’s life and more.

At the end of each chapter you’ll find “questions for contemplation and practical suggestions for doing creative work, followed by writing exercises.” These are thoughtfully selected and definitely worth exploring. The author encourages readers to experiment and pay attention to what happens. “If my insights and suggestions help you…then use them. If they do not, ignore them and try something else.”

The book is full of good mentoring.

“Sometimes you have to give up the idea of the creative work you thought you were going to do in order to let the creative work you ache to do happen.”

—Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Make Your Creative Dreams Real
by SARK
Fireside, 2005
paperback, $16.00

This is SARK’S twelfth and latest book now out in paperback. It has her characteristic look and feel: vivid colors and quirky sketches with lots of stuff for you to do. You’ll learn about SARK’S journey to make her own dreams real, while she offers guidance and encouragement for your dreams. Although the book is designed as a 12-month program, one chapter for each month, you can use it in whatever way works best for you.

Whether you already know your dream and want help to make it real OR you want to discover your own dream to make real, SARK provides a surplus of playful ideas to move your dream along and keep it alive. Some of the steps / ideas are so small or so silly that you might be tempted to undervalue their potential, but they are doable. And that is the point: accumulation in combination with sustained attention. Especially helpful chapters include Finding and Naming Your Dream – chapter one and Nourishing You and Your Creative Dreams – chapter nine. Beginning in chapter seven, Inspiring Stories and Examples of Creative Dreams and Dreamers, you’ll meet a handful of SARK’S friends responding to her questions about their own experiences making their dreams real.

If you’re already a devoted fan of SARK, you’ll probably like this book too. But if you’ve never taken time to explore and work with any of her books, this might be the one to choose first.

“When we think of living our creative dreams, many of us become afraid. Our main fear is usually that we’ll fail. Of course, the real failure is in not trying, but fear hypnotizes us into forgetting that. Fear’s job is to make sure we don’t try…Then we’ll be SAFE. Safe and small and not dreaming at all. ”

—SARK

Good Books: April 2005 Newsletter

Soulcraft
Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche

by Bill Plotkin
New World Library, 2003
paperback, $15.95

Plotkin is a depth psychologist, ecotherapist and the founder of an organization that offers “nature-based soul-initiation” programs, in which all the forces of the natural world freely and synchronistically guide and inform the soul’s development.

Soulcraft reads like an adventure travelogue—an incredibly fascinating account of the inner/outer wilderness journey. Coverage is both in-depth and integrated across disciplines. Throughout the book Plotkin illuminates with poetry, dreams, myths, and engaging stories from the lives of participants on actual soulcraft journeys. There are ideas for journal work, imagery, rituals and more. The book also includes an excellent index which readers will find helpful, since this is such a comprehensive resource.

Soulcraft opens a way for readers to once again participate in the original, ongoing dialogue between the human soul and the natural world that has always been its home.

“The call to adventure is the prologue to the journey of descent. The call comes when it’s time to inherit a greater life, to plunge yourself into the limitless expanse and depth the world affords. This is both a crisis and an unsurpassed opportunity. The old way of life has been outgrown. The familiar goals, attitudes, and patterns of relationships no longer fit your developing sense of who you truly are. The time has arrived to step over a threshold into a whole new way of being.”

—Bill Plotkin

The Exquisite Risk
Daring to Live An Authentic Life

by Mark Nepo
Harmony Books, 2005
hardcover, $21.00

Mark Nepo is a poet, a teller of stories (both his own and those of others), a teacher of poetry and spirituality, a survivor of cancer, and a gifted writer. All this helps to make his latest book a fitting and inspiring companion to consider the living of your own life.

Listen to a few of the chapter titles from the table of contents: Holding Nothing Back, Steering Our Way To Center, The Struggle To Be Real, Going Beyond, and How Can We Go There Together? In truth, almost every chapter of The Exquisite Risk feels like an invitation to stop doing; each offers a quiet conversation, an opening to consider something of worth, a way to question or to remember, a moment to savor life’s sweet imperfection.

Nepo’s text is lovely, often dreamlike and poetic, as though it was written to secretly speak to some far region of your being, a place that can’t be accessed directly. Poems often manage to find their way there, and so will passages from The Exquisite Risk.

“This is the purpose of faith: to believe that this current is there even though we can’t see it. And this is the purpose of will: to correct our inevitable drifting with a paddle here and a paddle there, not trying to do it all ourselves, but trying to restore our native position in the ancient and immediate current so it can carry us into tomorrow… With discernment but without judgment, the human journey is one of steering ourselves back to center over and over.”

—Mark Nepo

If The Buddha Got Stuck
A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path

by Charlotte Kasl
Penguin Books, 2005
paperback, $13.00

If you’ve ever been really stuck or if you’re stuck right now, you’ll appreciate this small, thoughtful book by Charlotte Kasl. In both the Introduction and the Afterword, Kasl writes reassuringly about being stuck herself; she even got stuck writing this book about getting unstuck.

Kasl hasn’t taken a quick fix or surface approach to helping readers get unstuck. She begins by examining traits of people who are stuck and traits of people who generally remain unstuck. Then she asks readers to delve deeply into old, ineffective patterns of living and relating to themselves and the world. If all you want is to get unstuck right now, and painlessly, this book probably won’t rescue you. But if you want to understand what is happening and what you’re doing to both help and hinder yourself, and if you want to change things for the future as well as for now, then you’ve found a valuable resource.

Kasl structures the book around a seven-step process: Feel your longing – Notice where you’re stuck, Show up, Pay attention, Live in reality – Listen to your truths, Connect with others – Connect with life, Move from thought to action, and Let go. As a practicing psychotherapist, Kasl includes valuable insights from her work and many helpful stories to illustrate the process of becoming both stuck and unstuck. She follows most chapters with several exercises / questions for readers to use to personally explore the concepts.

Throughout the book Kasl introduces Buddhist spiritual teachings that offer alternative ways of thinking and behaving—options that support the letting go of fear and attachment, two key ingredients in remaining stuck.

“We leap into knowing and not knowing all at once. If you sense a possibility but want all the details and guarantees of “success” in place before moving forward, you may never move to action. You often have to take a first step before the next one presents itself. You break free when you take a step, any step, and see what happens.

This doesn’t mean you are passively blown around by whims or external events; rather, you listen with all of your being and follow where you are called. It’s about dedication and a deep desire to be who you truly are.”

—Charlotte Kasl

Good Books: December 2004 Newsletter

This Time I Dance!
Trusting the Journey of Creating the Work You Love

by Tama Kieves
Tarcher/Penguin, 2004
paperback, $12.95

Tama Kieves wasn’t always a writer and life/work coach. Before that, she graduated from Harvard Law School and was on the partnership track in a large corporate law firm, but miserable. “This Time I Dance” is the story of her transformation out of law and into writing, and more. It began when a friend asked the question, “If you’re this successful doing what you don’t love, what could you do with work you do love?”

This book won’t tell you everything you need to do to discover your dream and make it happen; no book can do that. Instead, you’ll find transparent stories from Kieves’ life showing you “the way this creative adventure revealed itself” to her, along with noteworthy insights about seeking and finding heart-filled work. You will be immersed in the love of writing, the necessity of daring and allowing, the fear of saying yes or no and then letting go, the lonely confusing stretches in between, the wisdom lurking within and all the grace revealed. Readers with writing aspirations will be doubly blessed to observe this book being birthed.

I couldn’t decide on just one quote from the book, so here are several:

“I dedicate this book to that part of myself that inched forward when a thousand winds blew and she had but one small pink birthday candle to hold up her wish.”

“From the minute I began writing this book, I wanted to be an advocate, a champion, a paper mentor to those who long to create a livelihood from their natural talents, their dreams, and their love. A mentor stands before us, not with answers, but as an answer. They have “been there,” faced their own ravaging nights, and now they are here, in the dawn, somewhat intact, and with any luck, dancing. In their presence, our own sense of danger loses a claw or a fang. Then we begin to breathe or even dare to dream in color.”

“I never consciously set out to do any of this. Not any of it. And thank goodness for the foresight to have no foresight because I could never have mapped out this unthinkable tapestry of grace.”

—Tama Kieves

Spiritual Literacy
Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life

by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Simon & Schuster, 1998
paperback, $15.00

“Spiritual Literacy” was published in hardcover in 1996 and came out in paperback two years later. I’m including it now because it remains a valuable companion for cultivating everyday spirituality. Anywhere you open the book is an opportunity for something significant to occur. You’ll find an alphabet of spiritual practices (attention, beauty, connections…. yearning, zeal), as well as essays, poems, stories and excerpts. You’ll be introduced to writers whose work you’ll want to read further. More than anything, you’ll discover a convenient way to stop briefly and consider things that matter. Every chapter ends with suggestions for practicing spiritual literacy through conversation/writing, action and ritual. I especially like that the readings lend themselves to aimless browsing and random sampling in order to come upon some truly helpful or inspiring thing—often exactly what you needed.

“Life is a sacred adventure. Every day we encounter signs that point to the active presence of Spirit in the world around us. Spiritual literacy is the ability to read the signs written in the texts of our own experiences.”

—Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat

Invisible Acts of Power
Personal Choices that Create Miracles

by Caroline Myss
Free Press, 2004
hardcover, $24.00

“Invisible Acts of Power” is a lovely collaboration between Caroline Myss and twelve hundred individuals who responded to her website request for stories about “their experiences with grace and life-changing acts of service.” Myss doesn’t just offer a collection of touching stories, she uses them to explore and illuminate how the energies of the seven chakras correspond to personal acts of power: “I discovered that just as there is a hierarchy of power, there is also a hierarchy of grace. And I realized that the call to be of service to one another, the intuition that prompts us to use our power to help others, is wired into our physical and spiritual nature.”

The most surprising thing about reading this book was how it opened up a stream of personal memories/stories from my own life; in some I offered help and in others help came to me. As I continued reading and remembering, the world seemed somehow more gentle, more tender, and I felt safer than I have in a long while because I felt the healing power of small choices that make all the difference.

“I had not considered, before writing this book, that caring for others and going that extra mile for family, friends, coworkers, or strangers could have a connection to our physical health. Now I believe that the human spirit needs to develop generosity and compassion to be healthy. We need to respond to others’ vulnerabilities in the process of addressing and healing our own.”

—Caroline Myss

Good Books: August 2004 Newsletter

The Seven Whispers:
Listening to the Voice of Spirit
by Christina Baldwin
New World Library, 2002
hardcover, $17.00

Christina Baldwin’s latest book focuses on listening to the whispers of spirit in our everyday lives. The chapter titles reflect Baldwin’s “spiritual commonsense,” seven memorable phrases she uses in her daily meditation practice:

  • maintain peace of mind
  • move at the pace of guidance
  • practice certainty of purpose
  • surrender to surprise
  • ask for what you need and offer what you can
  • love the folks in front of you
  • return to the world

“This is the practice—recite and see what happens. Call and see what responds. Notice how help comes.”

—Christina Baldwin

Ten Poems to Change Your Life
by Roger Housden
Harmony, 2001
hardcover, $15.00

This is the first title in the “Ten Poems…” series. The book pairs each poem with Housden’s reflections on its life-changing energy. There are poems by Mary Oliver, Rumi, Antonio Machado, Walt Whitman and others. Whether or not you agree with Housden’s selections, this small book will probably get you thinking about the poems you would choose and why.  Maybe it’ll send you on a quest for ten poems you love.

“If you are in the right place and read this poem at the right time, it may be the nudge you need to fall headlong into the life that has been waiting for you all along.”

—Roger Housden
writing about The Journey by Mary Oliver

The Alchemist
10th Anniversary Edition
by Paulo Coelho
HarperSanFrancisco, 2003
paperback, $13.00

This could be the perfect summer read: a short, inspirational, adventure novel. Santiago, a young shepherd, longs to see the world. When he dreams of buried treasure in the Pyramids, he sells his flock and sets off to find it. Along the way he meets several guides who help him to know and trust his own heart and find treasure within.

“The Alchemist” is also available in unabridged audio cassette or audio CD narrated by Jeremy Irons, making it a great option for road trips.

“What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up.”

—The Alchemist

The Sound of Paper:
Starting from Scratch
by Julia Cameron
Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2004
hardcover, $19.95

This lovely book is a collection of personal essays and exercises from Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way. Use it for support, inspiration and guidance to move through those empty times when creating anything seems futile. Here, unlike her 12-week programs, each brief essay is followed by one task to try. Read the essays in the way they are ordered, or any way you want. If you want to write, many of the titles make good writing prompts all by themselves: Setting Off, On A Dry Day, Buds, Happy Accidents, Containment, Allowing Guidance and many more.

“When we are willing to be open-minded, art and beauty come flooding into us in a thousand small ways. When we let ourselves see the possibilities instead of the improbabilities, we become as flexible and resilient as we really are. It is human nature to create.”

—Julia Cameron

Secrets of Six-Figure Women:
Surprising Strategies to Up Your Earnings and Change Your Life
by Barbara Stanny
HarperBusiness, 2004
paperback, $13.95

Stanny addresses the phenomenon of underearning and then offers seven strategies used by the women she interviewed who earned incomes of $100,000 or more. You don’t need to be female or have a goal of a six-figure income to benefit from this very readable book. Anyone who wants to claim their personal power will find helpful stories, powerful insights and genuine encouragement. Stanny’s message is clear: it’s fun, immensely satisfying and lucrative to be paid what you’re worth.

“There it was. The declaration of intention. I’d heard it in virtually every interview I’d done, though often cloaked in different words. Each woman would describe that point in her life when she said to herself, “It’s time to make some money.” And, in an almost uncanny way, the instant she made that explicit declaration to make more money her life took a definite turn.”

—Barbara Stanny

Good Books: April 2004 Newsletter

The Luck Factor:
Changing Your Luck, Changing your Life-The Four Essential Principles
by Dr. Richard Wiseman
Hyperion, 2003
hardcover, $23.95

Richard Wiseman is a research scientist and former professional magician who became fascinated with understanding the differences between lucky and unlucky people. The Luck Factor, his first book, reports on the questions, interviews and experiments with hundreds of volunteers over eight years that led to his discovery of the “four principles of luck”-four ways lucky people think and behave that make them lucky.

Lucky people-

  • Maximize chance opportunities
  • Listen to lucky hunches
  • Expect good fortune
  • Turn bad luck into good

The book’s last section, Creating Luckier Lives, takes Wiseman’s research to the next step. What happens when volunteers go to “Luck School” and learn to think and behave like a lucky person? In Wiseman’s words, “Could the four principles … be used to increase the amount of good luck that people encounter in their lives? Would it be possible not only to explain luck, but also to create it?”

Throughout the book you’ll find techniques and exercises, based on the four principles, designed to help you increase the luck in your own life. I also encourage you to visit the author’s web site at http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com where you can download an interesting article about this research.

“… the good fortune experienced by lucky people is not the result of the gods smiling on them, or their being born lucky. Instead, without realizing it, lucky people have developed ways of thinking that make them especially happy, successful, and satisfied with their lives. In fact, these techniques are so effective that sometimes it appears as though lucky people are destined to lead charmed lives.”

—Richard Wiseman

The Power of Intention:
Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way
by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Hay House, 2004
hardcover, $24.95

In his newest book Wayne Dyer explores the word Intention not as something we do, but as an invisible field of ENERGY that intended us, and everything that exists, into being. Dyer uses Intention as a “synonym for the loving Source from which we all emanate and to which we all aspire to reconnect.” According to Dyer, this universal Source that co-creates with us possesses seven qualities or faces of Intention: Creativity, Kindness, Love, Beauty, Expansion, Abundance, Receptivity. In becoming these seven qualities, we connect with and stay connected with the power of Intention-and all we’re intended to become and to create.

Putting Intention To Work (Part II) consists of “eight chapters offering specific information and a step-by-step guide for applying these principles to your daily life.” The chapter themes range from creating self-respect and purpose to healing and abundance; the steps are simple, powerful reminders to stop connecting with ineffectual low-energy ways of being and connect with the energy of Source. Here’s one of the example steps from Chapter 14-It Is My Intention to Appreciate and Express the Genius That I Am:

“Step 2: Make a decision to listen more carefully to your inner insights, no matter how small or insignificant you may have previously judged them to be.”

This a book you’ll probably read more than once, and then return to for smaller doses of inspiration, encouragement and guidance. A free preview of Chapter 15-A Portrait of a Person Connected to the Field of Intention is available at www.DrWayneDyer.com.

In March, PBS aired a new 4-hour television special with Dr. Dyer speaking on The Power of Intention. If you missed it, watch for it in the future! It’s well worth your time.

“The key word here is contemplating…. The way to establish a relationship with Spirit and access the power of this creating principle is to continuously contemplate yourself as being surrounded by the conditions you wish to produce.”

—Wayne Dyer

The Wisdom of Florence Scovel Shinn
Four Complete Books
Fireside, 1989
paperback, $13.00

Over the years I’ve seen a number of references to Florence Scovel Shinn, but I didn’t know this book existed until a few months ago. Actually, it’s one volume containing four books: The Game of Life (written in 1925), Your Word is Your Wand (1928), The Secret Door to Success (1940), and The Power of the Spoken Word (1945). Shinn is described as a mystic, healer, metaphysician, lecturer, artist, illustrator… but I regard her as the “divine godmother” of affirmative thought and word. Her creativity knows no limits and her spirit still refreshes. I’ve gotten wonderful feedback from people who have picked up the book after I mentioned it to them. You can read excerpts from her writing on the “Florence Scovel Shinn Home Page” website at http://florencescovelshinn.wwwhubs.com.

“All that is mine by Divine Right is now released and reaches me in a perfect way under Grace.”

—Florence Scovel Shinn

Good Books: December 2003 Newsletter

The Call: Discovering Why You Are Here
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
HarperCollins, 2003
hardcover, $20.00

The Call is Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s third book.  First came The Invitation and then The Dance.  Like both books before it, The Call is structured around another compelling prose poem written by the author.  As The Call opens, Oriah Mountain Dreamer is approaching the end of week one on a 40-day vision quest in the Canadian wilderness.  As The Call unfolds, Mountain Dreamer risks revealing herself to us, line by line, for instructional purposes.  In this intimate telling of her intensive search, we observe the process of call as it happens in her life; and it isn’t what she or we expected.  For Oriah Mountain Dreamer the call reveals itself through one word: rest, as in “come home and rest.”

I encourage you to visit the author’s website at www.oriahmountaindreamer.com

“This is what I learned on my quest: There is simply no place, no location or situation, that cannot be used to wake up to and live all of what and who you are, if you are willing to show up, to be present in the only place you ever have access to: here.”

—Oriah Mountain Dreamer

The Practical Dreamer’s Handbook:
Finding the Time, Money, and Energy to Live the Life You Want to Live
by Sarah and Paul Edwards
J. P. Tarcher, 2001
paperback, $13.95

You might recognize Sarah and Paul Edwards as the prolific coauthors of helpful books for home-based entrepreneurs, including the classic Working From Home.  Although The Practical Dreamer’s Handbook is another resource for readers exploring or pursuing work they can do from home, it’s also an excellent guide for anyone wanting to explore or pursue a dream – – whatever it might turn out to be.  What I love about this book is the way it weaves together two essential threads / processes that often feel incompatible: dreaming and action.  The authors make clear that one process is not more important than the other; both are required, but at the right time.  Which leads to the question – How do you know what is needed and when?  The authors illustrate their answer to this question with lots of stories from their own lives and the lives of others in their community.  You’ll witness the process, and the power, of intuitive listening to inner promptings and outer events, and see how these are acted upon to move forward a dream idea.  Readers will follow the birthing of the Edwardses new dream to move to Pine Mountain, California where they now live.  Your dream might not be anything like theirs, or your desires might not even be defined yet, but in their book you’ll encounter truly valuable guidance for exploring and creating something wonderful of your own.  Each of the book’s three sections (Desire, Action, Satisfaction) contains numerous opportunities for you to “Try This”, and concludes with a remarkable “Remember This” in-depth summary of main points.

You might also want to look for some of the other books by Sarah and Paul Edwards, including Changing Directions Without Losing Your Way (2001 paperback), Finding Your Perfect Work (2003 paperback) and many, many more.

You can visit the book’s web site at www.practicaldreamer.net

“Like children, all dreams move on.  They grow up.  They mature.  They have children of their own.  It’s the nature of life.  Desire, action, satisfaction.  Practical dreamers love this creative process even more than any particulardream because they love life and this is life, the endless rhythmic cycle of the inhale and the exhale, the inspiration and the manifestation.”

—The Practical Dreamer’s Handbook

Good Books: August 2003 Newsletter

As you look over this summer’s list of books, I hope you discover at least one new book that might make a difference to you or someone you know. Thank you to everyone who took time to recommend a book.

Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life
by Joe Robinson
Perigee, 2003
paperback, $14.95

Joe Robinson is committed to educating workers about the true cost and the real danger of overdoing work. He is the founder of the grassroots “Work to Live” campaign which is currently lobbying for a minimum of three paid weeks of vacation for workers in the United States. If you want support for living a more balanced life, with less work and more time for the other things you value, this book offers the facts, inspiration and guidance you’ll need to begin making changes. You can also learn more by visiting www.worktolive.info.

Roadtrip Nation: A Guide to Discovering Your Path in Life
by Nathan Gebhard, Michael Marriner with Joanne Gordon
Ballantine Books, 2003
paperback, $13.95

Gebhard and Marriner, two new college graduates from California, traveled cross-country in a thirty-one foot RV to interview successful people: “folks with interesting stories who love what they do.” The write-ups of each interview are short, fascinating and informative. In the final section you’ll learn how to make cold calls to get interviews with people you’d like to talk with, how to create your own interesting interview questions, and more. The book is intended to encourage twentysomethings to explore their individuality and “self-construct” their own lives. It’s also a resource for anyone who wants to know more about how other people get to do likable things in the world of work.

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time
by Susan Scott
Viking Press, 2002
hardcover, $25.95

Fierce Conversations is also the name of Susan Scott’s international consulting firm; think fierce as in robust, intense, real – – not  fierce as in aggressive. “In its simplest form, a fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real.” The way Scott sees it, these are the essential conversations we need to have, FIRST with ourselves and then with others—at home and at work. These conversations are our relationships and our results. “… our very lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time. While many people are afraid of “real,” it is the unreal conversation that should scare us to death.”

Dragon Spirit: How to Self-Market Your Dream —A Zentrepreneur’s Guide
by Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold
Newmarket Press, 2003
hardcover $19.95

The authors of  Dragon Spirit are Chairman and COO of “The Republic of Tea.” In their quest for the world’s finest teas they travel the globe collecting teas, good stories and ancient wisdom. If you have a dream to market (or a business, product, idea, talent, skill), here’s new enthusiasm to add to your project. Among the topics included are overcoming limiting beliefs, maintaining faith, persevering, and doing well by doing good. “While entrepreneurs get hold of an idea, Zentrepreneurs allow an idea to get hold of them.”

What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can
Change Your Life for the Better

by Dan Baker
Rodale Press, 2003
hardcover, $22.95

Dan Baker directs the “7-Day Enhancement Program” at Canyon Ranch where he teaches people about happiness. It turns out that happiness and unhappiness might not be what you thought. According to Baker, a person’s highly evolved survival system with its “biological circuitry of fear is the greatest enemy of happiness.” The book explores common happiness traps: trying to buy happiness, trying to find happiness through pleasure, trying to be happy by resolving the past…. The book also offers tools to cultivate happiness: appreciation, choice, personal power…. Instead of asking, “Are you happy?” Baker poses the telling question, “Are you winning at life?” If happiness is a constant struggle, this book deserves your attention.

Good Books: April 2003 Newsletter

The following books were suggested to me by students, clients and friends—all lovers of a good read and a truly helpful book.

What Should I Do with My Life?
by Po Bronson
Random House, 2002
hardcover, $24.95

Several students in this winter’s “Intentional Living—Meaningful Work” class were reading Bronson’s new book and recommended it. If you’re studying, or just fascinated by, how people navigate changing their life and work in the direction of meaning, fulfillment or significance, you’ll probably discover things that will be useful to you. Bronson offers short summaries of the stories that emerged from his interviews and interactions with 55 people, but he doesn’t stop there. To this he adds reflections on his own searching and the “truths” he uncovered while writing this book. He also shares his candid reactions to the people he meets, the stories they tell and the changes they explore. Some readers / reviewers find Bronson’s comments, and the inclusion of his own process, intrusive; others find it adds immeasurably to the book. Just know it’s there and is a significant part of the book.

If you’d like to sample Bronson’s style, check out an article he wrote for Fast Company available online at www.fastcompany.com/online/66/mylife.html.

“I didn’t spend time in the library to write this book. Those sources of wisdom felt too abstract compared to the hard-earned record of those who actually took action, changed their life, and enjoyed or suffered the consequences.”

—Po Bronson

Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential
by Caroline Myss
Three Rivers Press, 2003
paperback, $15

This is the new paperback version of Sacred Contracts. I’m including it now because I didn’t mention the earlier hardcover edition when it came out in 2001, and also because it’s an excellent companion book to read with Po Bronson’s new book, mentioned above.

If you pick up Sacred Contracts, expect to study and interact with it – – not just read it. This is not an entertaining, feel-good, self-help book you’ll breeze through. Myss is an intuitive, a teacher and a scholar; AND she wants you to grasp what she comprehended in one gigantic, educated, intuitive leap, following years of intensive study across several fields.

Sacred Contracts offers an in-depth investigation of the archetypal energy patterns that guide us to develop our divine potential and reveal our life purpose, our “sacred contract.” The chapters devoted to identifying and interpreting personal archetypes, as well as the ones focused on creating an archetypal wheel and using it for everyday guidance are exceptional. This ingenious, inspired approach will assist you in deciphering your “guaranteed opportunities” and choosing your highest good. Ultimately, this is a book about spiritual transformation viewed within a world of symbols and unfolding patterns.

“Do you really want to look back on your life and see how wonderful it could have been had you not been afraid to live it?”

—Caroline Myss

The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
by Pema Chodron
Shambhala Publications, 2002
paperback, $12.95

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
by Pema Chodron
Shambhala Publications, 2000
paperback, $12.95

Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun whose timeless message might be important to you right now. These two books speak to the hearts and minds of readers with true and urgent needs. If you aren’t coping with fear or feeling that things are falling apart, these might not hold your interest or attention. But if you are, either or both are recommended.

“This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

—Pema Chodron

The Lost Soul Companion
by Susan Brackney
Dell Books, 2001
paperback, $11.95

The Not-So-Lost Soul Companion
by Susan Brackney
Dell Books, 2002
paperback, $11.95

Both of these quirky little books are intended for artist-at-heart, free-spirit types who grapple with the “darker side of creativity” and “whose dreams can’t be contained by an office cubicle.” Brackney, a struggling young artist-writer with a wacky sense of humor, speaks her truth while offering snippets of encouragement and advice on a range of topics: working a day job, struggling with depression and rejection, not fitting in, suicidal thoughts, ambitious dreams, being enough, living playfully, creating, procrastination…

You can also check out the Lost Soul Companion website.

Good Books: December 2002 Newsletter

Creative Visualization
25th Anniversary Edition
by Shakti Gawain
New World Library, 2002
paperback, $12.95

Shakti Gawain presents clear, simple, timeless instruction on using the power of your imagination to create what you desire. This self-help classic deserves 25th anniversary recognition.

Stand Up For Your Life:
Develop the Courage, Confidence and Character to Fulfill your Greatest Potential

by Cheryl Richardson
Free Press, 2002
hardcover, $24.00

Cheryl Richardson, author of “Take Time For Your Life,” returns with more of her values-centered program for creating the life you long to be living. This new book offers readers an opportunity to examine key issues related to hiding power and fulfilling potential. Richardson focuses on the necessity of turning inward to strengthen your relationship with yourself: knowing who you are, trusting your self and arranging the support you need. The book includes traditional fill-in-the-blank exercises and steps to follow; but there are also higher invitations, to consider yet other possibilities, that go well beyond.

“When you learn to stop hiding your power and use [your] fear to your advantage, you’ll become less attached to what others want for you and more attached to what you want for yourself. As this shift occurs, you’ll naturally begin to lead a more authentic and passionate life.”

—Cheryl Richardson

Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity
by Julia Cameron
Tarcher Putnam, 2002
hardcover, $24.95

Julia Cameron’s bestselling book “The Artist’s Way” has sold over two million copies while offering support to millions of appreciative reader-creators for ten years now. This is the sequel for everyone interested in exploring the next level or wanting more of “The Artist’s Way” approach. Once again Cameron provides a twelve-week program that includes both Morning Pages and Artist Dates, and something new—Weekly Walks. Don’t expect anything radically different in this book; it looks, feels and reads a lot like “The Artist’s Way.” Expect more of Cameron’s maturing genius AND many more opportunities to pay attention to your own life and what you’re creating. For every reader of “The Artist’s Way” who didn’t want that book to end, this should be good news. And if you’re interested, “The Artist’s Way” is now available in a 10th anniversary paperback edition.

Prosperity Pie: How to Relax About Money and Everything Else
by SARK
Fireside, 2002
paperback, $16.00

The title of SARK’s latest book might lead you into thinking this is mainly a book about Money, but it isn’t. It explores a broader range of topics that influence our perception and experience of prosperity: love, work, time, teachers, inspiration, adventures and more. If you preview “Prosperity Pie” you’ll immediately see SARK: her handwritten text, quirky line drawings, occasional splashes of color, bits of whimsy and personal musings—all the things her fans adore! The book continues her shared journal-like journey with spaces for readers to interact. If you’re new to SARK you might enjoy checking out a few earlier titles, too: Succulent Wild Woman, Eat Mangoes Naked, Creative Companion, and The Bodacious Book of Succulence.

“You Are enough – You Have enough – You Do enough – it’s True”

—SARK

The Louise L. Hay Gift Book Collection
by Louise Hay
Hay House, 2002
paperback, $34.95

This set of three Louise Hay gift edition books, exquisitely illustrated by Joan Perrin Falquet, includes: You Can Heal Your Life (1999), You Can Heal Your Life: Companion Book (2002), and Meditations To Heal Your Life (2002). If you’re open to choosing new thought patterns that affirm and attract your heart’s desires, these books will teach you how and you will change. Don’t expect each book to feel distinctly different; the content does overlap. Purchased individually the books sell for $17.95, so buying the gift set collection is a savings.

“…no matter what their problem seems to be, there is only one thing I ever work on with anyone, and this is Loving the Self. Love is the miracle cure. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.”

—Louise Hay

Good Books: August 2002 Newsletter

It’s summer and I’m doing another book sampler. This time I decided to share with you the books I’m reading, or looking forward to reading, before summer ends and fall arrives. I’ve narrowed my list down to the following:

When Life Changes or You Wish It Would:
How to Survive and Thrive in Uncertain Times
by Carol Adrienne
William Morrow, 2002
hardcover, $24.95

This is a great resource if you’re experiencing or exploring the PROCESS of uncharted change in all its mystery, frustration, confusion and wonder. Carol Adrienne understands the bottom line: Process has a life of its own beyond our planning and control. It involves the stuff that eventually makes perfect sense, but can not be “outlined” or “figured out” in advance. Again and again throughout the book, Adrienne demonstrates the benefit of paying attention to the signs that appear to guide us along. Some readers will recognize her as the author of “The Purpose of Your Life” and its sequel “Find your Purpose, Change Your Life.” She also co-authored several books with James Redfield associated with “The Celestine Prophecy.”

Turning to One Another:
Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future

by Margaret J. Wheatley
Berrett-Koehler, 2002
paperback, $15.95

When I first picked up this book I opened it to a page somewhere in the middle and read the question “Am I becoming someone I respect?” This isn’t a book of trendy conversation starters; it’s a book for soul-searching, life-changing, future-shifting conversation. It’s also a book suited to long road trips and seasonal gatherings where people have enough time to stop the rush and really listen to each other. You might also want to look for the August 2002 issue of the Utne Reader with Margaret Wheatley’s cover story on “The Power of Talk.”

“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again… Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.”

—Margaret Wheatley

The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters
by Peter Block
Berrett-Koehler, 2001
hardcover, $24.95

From the first moment I saw this title, I liked it and I remembered it. I also discovered a helpful way to use it. I found myself saying to myself, “Let’s just try that again. The answer to how is WHAT?” I can actually feel new possibilities creating themselves when I use this simple reframing. So even if I don’t get around to reading Block’s book this summer, I’ll be benefiting from the title.

“We find ourselves giving in to our doubts, and settling for what we know how to do, or can soon learn how to do, instead of pursuing what most matters to us and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires.”

—Peter Block

Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity
by David Whyte
Riverhead Books, 2002
paperback, $14.00

You might remember David Whyte as the author of “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America.” I’m eager to spend time in his company again, savoring the poetry of language and life, while contemplating the unknown and unknowable, crossings and pilgrimage, work and identity. I love not knowing what I’ll encounter, just knowing that I will.

“No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to Wren.”

from the poem LOST in “The Heart Aroused”
by David Whyte

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckhart Tolle
New World Library, 1999
hardcover, $21.95

I first encountered the name Eckhart Tolle in a memorable interview in the Fall/Winter 2000 issue of the magazine What is Enlightenment? I saw the same interview reprinted this year in the May and June issues of The Edge. When any book makes repeat appearances in my life, I try to pay attention. Tolle shares an amazing personal story and offers grounded teachings on living NOW, released from our “thought-created problems” of the future. The book uses a question and answer format. If that style doesn’t appeal to you, consider Tolle’s smaller, more accessible follow-up “Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises From the Power of Now.”