Lighthouses: Books That Have Lit the Way for Me (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of the list of books I’ve read during my search for joy that have guided me along my path. (See Part 1 here.)

The Artist’s Way and The Vein of Gold, Julia Cameron: incredible resources for anyone who wants more creativity and authenticity in their lives, whether you’re an “artist” or not. Her tone is calming and supportive, and her tools and exercises really work.

In The Artist’s Way she introduces morning pages, where you write longhand, stream of consciousness, for three pages first thing each morning. This clears the “sludge” out of the mind and can also help you identify fears and issues that are holding you back. Another tool is the artist date, where you take yourself somewhere creatively inspiring each week.

In addition, she outlines a 12-week program designed to help you break through any creative blocks and rediscover your true self and what you want to do. It’s amazing. Many of the women I interviewed for my book on morning rituals mentioned this book and how transformative it had been for them.  

The Vein of Gold takes you further along the” journey to the heart of creativity” and provides new exercises that are designed to “engage the reader in inner play.”

How We Choose to Be Happy, Rick Foster and Greg Hicks: they interviewed extremely happy people and found that often they were happy not because of their circumstances, but in spite of them. They CHOSE to be happy and accomplished this by setting that intention and looking for the positive in whatever happened to them. This shows that it’s not the external things that make us happy, but how we feel inside and how we perceive our lives. That’s why being a millionaire doesn’t automatically make someone happy. The authors were able to identify nine choices that all of the people had made that accounted for their happiness, and they discuss those. It’s a fascinating read.

 A Short Guide to a Happy Life and Being Perfect, Anna Quindlen: these deceptively small books pack a punch! Her writing is elegant and straightforward, and a pure joy to read. A Short Guide is an eloquent reminder to cherish each moment and appreciate the richness of our everyday lives.

Being Perfect rocked my world when I first read it. It’s full of brilliant insights about “the perfection trap,” which I often find myself caught in. She encourages us to be ourselves rather than constantly strive to live up to others’ expectations. These quotes really hit home for me: “Eventually, being perfect became like carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day” and “What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Yes!

How to Live a Good Life, Jonathan Fields: this is a very practical and easy-to-follow book that gives concrete recommendations on how to create a more fulfilling, engaged, happier life. He breaks life up into three “Good Life Buckets”: vitality (the state of your mind and body), connection (relationships), and contribution (how you contribute to the world). He says, “The fuller your buckets, the better your life. When all simultaneously bubble over, life soars. That’s what we’re aiming for. But the flip side is also true. If any single bucket runs dry, you feel pain. If two go empty, a world of hurt awaits. If all three bottom out, you don’t have a life. Figuratively and, in short order, literally.”

He gives a “60-second snapshot” to determine the levels in each of your buckets, and then the following chapters describe 10 ways to fill each bucket. Fields also runs The Good Life Project, which offers courses, podcasts, and even a summer camp for adults every year in upstate New York.

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin: this was probably the first book I read that was specifically on looking for ways to be happier. It is also a very practical and easy-to-follow book, about how the author spent a year “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier” after realizing that she was wasting her life in a sort of malaise. She had reasons to be happy, but often didn’t feel happy, so she decided to dedicate a year to trying out different ways to boost her happiness. Rubin is an excellent, engaging writer and it’s a fun read with lots of interesting ideas to try.

The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace Is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh: simply reading his books makes me feel peaceful. His style is so restful—it’s like meditating while reading. And his concepts are simple yet incredibly powerful. If you find meditating or mindfulness difficult, like I do, these books will be very helpful.

I hope that one or more of these books makes a difference for you, as they have for me. Stay tuned for Part 3!

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Lighthouses: People + Books That Have Lit the Way for Me (Part 1)

When I began this quest for joy, I wandered all over the map, metaphorically speaking. At first I was stumbling along in the dark, but the books, classes, and coaches I’ve found as I searched have lit up the path like little lighthouses guiding me forward. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

(This is Part 1 of the book list, because if I tried to list each one that I’ve read and loved, we’d be here all day.)

Books

“Wherever You Go, There You Are,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn: the first book I remember reading on this path. It introduced me to the concept of mindfulness, which was radical to me at the time. Very gentle and straightforward.

“The Joy Diet,” Martha Beck: such simple, clear instructions for finding joy—and lots of great humor, too.

“Expecting Adam,” Martha Beck: the magic!! Oh, the magic. And the love.

Actually, you know what, I should just put “Everything ever written by Martha Beck,” including all of her columns in “O” magazine! They each have had a real impact on me. Other books are: “Finding Your Own North Star,” “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World,” “Steering by Starlight,” “Leaving the Saints,” and “Diana, Herself.”

“Loving What Is,” Byron Katie: Man, she’s tough. And so right: “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering, it’s our thinking about the problem.” This is a book I need to read over and over, because “The Work” really does work, but I have trouble consistently practicing it.

“The Gifts of Imperfection,” Brené Brown: I love me some Brené Brown! She is so smart and funny. If you haven’t watched her TED talk on vulnerability, do it now! As a dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist, I really appreciated this book’s advice about owning and embracing who we are.

“The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle: I’m still working my way through this one. Brilliantly simple yet also kind of a lot to wrap your mind around. Hmmm … funny I wrote that, seeing as how the whole premise is that you are not your mind; you can only connect with your true nature when your mind is still. See what I mean?

“The Untethered Soul,” Michael A. Singer: I read this just before I started “The Power of Now,” and it was an excellent introduction to the concept Tolle expounds upon. It’s very easy to read and presents the idea that we are not our minds clearly and concisely. It also presents some fascinating thoughts on opening your heart, energy, nonresistance, etc.

“Eat, Pray, Love” and “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” Elizabeth Gilbert: The first book inspired me to live my life more fully and the second inspired me to be more creative. Her concept that ideas come to you, and if you don’t want to or can’t bring them to life, they move on to someone else—and the story she tells about her personal experience with that—wow!! It will definitely motivate you to take action! Her practical advice is wonderful, and her honesty and compassion shine off of every page.

 “A Gift from the Sea,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh: I first read this as a young girl, and was struck by the beauty of the writing. I’ve re-read it countless times, and each time something new speaks to me. It’s like a little handbook for living. She compares the phases of a woman’s life to different seashells, and she’s just spot on with every observation.

People

Carla Robertson: Carla is a life coach who specializes in nature-based coaching. I discovered her as a fellow participant in an online class several years ago. When I went to her website (www.livingwildandprecious.com), I immediately connected with a tagline that was on there at the time: “Less worry, more wonder.” Yes!  I had a magical weekend retreat with her and several other women in St. Francisville, LA a few years ago, where I discovered quite a few things about myself. She has also helped me cut to the core of some practical issues and figure out a way to handle them.  Her blog is very insightful, and her Instagram feed is beautiful—so many tiny miracles in nature!

Sonia Sommer: Sonia is a Master Healer who, as she puts it on her website (www.soniasommer.com) “bridges the gap between woo woo and doable.” She combines physical, mental, and spiritual tools to help people feel their best in all of those aspects. Her Feel Awesome Again online course taught me all sorts of techniques I’d never heard of before—and they really worked. Her newsletters are full of helpful ideas and fascinating exercises. She has some great tip-filled videos, made even better by her wonderful Australian accent!

Anna Kunnecke: Anna is a life coach who helps women “declare dominion over their gorgeous lives” (www.declaredominion.com). I’ve taken several of her courses and subscribe to her weekly newsletter. She has excellent practical advice about how to improve your life by getting organized, adding beauty and bliss to your day, and making wise decisions. Also, as a “heathen mystic,” she can teach you how to protect your tender parts. Her guidance on how to be an EFBA (Epic Fucking Badass) is just awesome.

Martha Beck: As you’ve probably guessed by now, I really, really like Martha Beck (www.marthabeck.com). Her books opened the door for me into the world I’m now exploring, and the teleclasses I’ve taken have been transformative.  She combines clarity and integrity with extraordinary compassion and snort-milk-up-your-nose humor. Just listening to her talk soothes my soul, and when I actually implement her advice—wow. Life-changing.

Koelle Simpson: Koelle is a life coach and “horse whisperer” who offers Equus Coaching®: “a unique experience with horses that offers an individual the opportunity to gain a visceral understanding of how their inner dialogue affects their relationships and everyday life.” (www.koelleinstitute.com) I haven’t had a chance to work with her yet, but attending one of her Equus workshops is one of the top items on my wish list. For now, I just enjoy reading her newsletter, but she is up ahead on the path, giving me something to look forward to!

I highly recommend all of these people and books. I hope that one or more of them will help light your way, too.