6 Totally Must-Read New Age Self-Help Books.

Via on Sep 22, 2013

Eat-Pray-Love-Reading-Elizabeth-Gilbert

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”
~Oprah Winfrey

My most recent list of book recommendations were spiritual books that, in my humble opinion, fall into the category of “non new-agey.”

You may wonder, “What’s wrong with being New Agey?”

Well, it depends on how you define “New Age.”

I am currently working on an article which opens up that can of worms. For now, let’s just say it involves an eclectic array of influences, often including but not limited to: Oprah, astrology, “manifesting” via visualization and affirmations, Goddess worship, occult practices like Tarot reading and casting magic spells, “positive psychology,” Eastern spirituality and/or self-help.

I read a shitload of self-help books during my twenties. Now I view “self-help” as unnecessary, through the lenses of Buddhism and Vedanta. I agree wholeheartedly with Pema Chodron’s opinion:

“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth.

They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.”

Though I have moved away from the self-help genre, the following six decidedly New Agey books did resonate with me greatly at the time that I read them.

1. The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

Thanks to cutting class one afternoon in my sophomore year of college, I caught author Gary Zukav on Oprah and immediately ran out and bought his book. It was the year 2000. This book definitely opened me up to a new way of thinking and living. It’s all about getting in touch with your authentic power versus playing the victim when external powers that be get you down. I never have been able to get myself to reread it though.

2. Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain

The reality is, we don’t control the universe. There is no secret. The law of attraction is psychobabble.

That said, I have found that there is value in vocalizing intentions and setting reasonable personal goals. The meditative techniques laid out in Shakti Gawain’s 1970s bestseller are clear, coherent and practical. She explains how to strengthen self-esteem, improve overall health and experience deep relaxation.

3. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

A wise old gas station attendant named Socrates coaches confused young Dan Millman in this bestselling spiritual saga. A fictionalized memoir, it is admittedly a little cheesy, but its message of finding peace and happiness within resonate.

I met both Dan Millman and Shakti Gawain when I heard them speak at an event called the New Living Expo in San Francisco in 2004. Both authors emanated intelligence, vitality and friendliness.

4. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

I read this follow up to Tolle’s first bestseller, The Power of Now. I appreciated his non-dogmatic, clear language and examples from diverse spiritual sources. It sold a gazillion copies thanks to being chosen for Oprah’s Book Club. (Funny side note: in searching for this book on Amazon, I came across a rebuttal entitled A New Earth, An Old Deception: Awakening to the Dangers of Eckhart Tolle’s #1 Bestseller. Written by a Christian, not surprisingly.)

5. Incredible You! 10 Ways to let your greatness shine through by Dr. Wayne Dyer

I bought the Spanish edition of this book when I was teaching bilingual third grade in an Austin public school. Written by long time New Age guru Dr. Wayne Dyer, its feel-good message is aimed at kids. The ten lovely suggestions are based off of an book he wrote for adults called 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace.

6. In the Meantime: Finding Yourself and the Love You Want by Iyanla Vanzant

For someone (me) who had a whole lot of “meantimes” between disastrous dates and dysfunctional relationships in her twenties, this manifesto of how to be single and content and not settle for less than love sang to me.

Bonus: What book notably did not make the list? The Secret. I can’t stand it. (Neither can Waylon.) It’s this kind of pseudoscientific baloney that gives New Age a bad name.

What New Age/self-help books have helped you out most on your spiritual journey? Leave a comment to continue the conversation.

Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret Fajkus ("fake-us") is a proponent of natural, lifelong learning through yoga, mindfulness, living, loving and letting go. An avid reader, writer and blogger, she's a longtime lover of words and languages, especially English and Spanish. Today, Michelle is a 34-year-old expat from Austin living at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala with her life partner, daughter and black cat. Michelle is the founder of Yoga Freedom. She learned yoga from a book at age 12 and found Buddha in California at 23. She's written over 250 posts about mindful living on elephant journal since 2010. Her writing also appears on Rebelle Society, Be You Media Group and her blog, Daily Life Practice. Read her memoir, chakra guide or (free!) beginners guide to mindfulness and yoga here, or come on down to Guatemala for a retreat! Connect with Michelle on Google+ or Facebook.

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31 Responses to “6 Totally Must-Read New Age Self-Help Books.”

  1. J Maguire says:

    I LOVE Eckhart Tolle. That is a great book. And I completely concur–The Secret is ridiculous. After I laughed out loud countess times before I got halfway through it, I couldn't even force myself to finish it.

    Thanks for the suggestions. Looking forward to some good reads.

  2. Auntie Della says:

    Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom!

  3. Thank you for sharing this list. I look forward to reading your future article as my own personal journey has led me to see the fallacies within some of the self-help material too.

    Your last note about what book was not included caught my attention and brought a smile to my face… Because, ah, I know. I agree with you & I can relate. There is so much missing, and in some ways there appears to be false promises.

    However, in the last year or so, I’ve begun to see the collective value of the “new agey” materials, if nothing else, as an entry point.

    I honor that when I cracked the door for conscious re-engagement with my inner life, “The Secret” was the material that entered my awareness first… Helped me to begin to see life differently.

    Thankfully my journey has only continued to deepen, expand & wind. The same grace that helped me wake back up is also the same grace guiding a deeper, knowing, life.

    All of that is to say, while many materials that sustained me “in the beginning” may not be useful now… They were an entry point that I am deeply grateful for.

    • Jennifer says:

      Good point. If the Secret helps people start their journey then I welcome that.

    • Michelle Margaret Fajkus yoga freedom says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Rachel. I'm glad you can relate. It's great that your journey has continued and deepened. It is a very valid point that more mainstream books/media such as The Secret is often an "entry point" for spiritual sojourners. The problem is when the journey stops or plateaus there…
      Namaste,
      Michelle

  4. nicolaasengelbertus says:

    Self Help in short: Be Yourself (and be bold in doing so).

  5. Jennifer says:

    My husband and I have a stack of 1/2 read self help books on our shelf. We are challenging ourselves to read your selections and then we will give you our feedback. The secret is one of those books sitting… I agree not worth picking up and we only read bits of it.

  6. Jill says:

    this is missing a very important book that is very non-new agey "The Four Agreements" by don Miguel Ruiz

    (full discloser he is my teacher).

  7. Leonor says:

    I would love to read your comments on the books by Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God. Thanks for sharing your recommendations. Leonor

    • Michelle Margaret Fajkus yoga freedom says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Leonor. I read Conversations with God many years ago and found it harmless, but I have since seen many critiques of the author's method and style.

  8. Punkie says:

    Loved the article, one book that has resonated with me for years now and I do re-read once a year or so is The Mandala of Being by Richard Moss, MD. I learned why I make the choices that I do based on conditioning as a child and learning how to live in the now. A wonderful read and I recommend it to many people.

  9. Anna VanSant says:

    The Naked Now: Learning to see as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr

  10. Nicole says:

    And "You Can Heal Your LIfe" by Louise Hay is a great one, too!

  11. tplvth says:

    THe Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy oldie but goodie. Everything The Secret left out!

  12. Jenny says:

    Waves of Change – Unleash The Power of The Natural Self by Bartholomeus Nicolaas Engelbertus.
    Potent little book, easy read, and no mumbo jumbo crystal waving stuff written by the surf life coach

  13. Doug says:

    I'm afraid that to say "We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement." is its own form of new-agey pablum that trades on lite versions of older insights, ignoring the context of the statement. That's evident from the fact that the discussion quickly turns to 'self-help' books that are actually worthwhile.

    Rather than say we all need to 'self-improve,' we might simply say we all need — and usually want — to grow up and mature into well-rounded human beings, which is a natural part of being born into this world. Some ways of seeking insight into this process are better than others. Some — such as the 'Secret' — simply play upon adolescent concepts, urging us to revel in our fantasies. Thus some hate it while others love it.

    • Michelle Margaret Fajkus yoga freedom says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Doug. You're right… in my research I am discovering that pretty much all Western spirituality is somewhere on the spectrum of "New Age." I like your phrasing. Let's all grow up and become more well-rounded humans.
      Namaste,
      Michelle

  14. Nan says:

    I agree….The Four Agreements should definitely be on the list. It is a game changer!

  15. Tyler D. says:

    I was hoping The Secret would be the one not to read ever :D

  16. Caitlin says:

    Great! I'm glad you are exploring this subject. I am not into self-help books per se, but I find it helps my self when I read new age books.

  17. I finally had to tone down my prejudice against The Secret, but for me the best New Thought book remains The Game of Life, and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn.

    She shows how important it is that one’s affirmations and will stay in tune with life’s or God’s will. Without this spiritual anchoring one’s affirmations are but fancies at best and outright sorcery at worst… Only your most authentic desires are synchronised with the universe.

  18. Tara says:

    The Celestine Prophecy!

    For me, this book put into words what I’ve felt about life, religion and relationships my entire life but was unable to express it in my Christian up bringing. I love how its set in a fictional story, allowing the reader to feel connected and not necessarily preached at. Each new insite made me reflect on my life and ultimately changed my perspective….. Which is what I believe all these types of books should encourage. I personally believe a shift in perspective is where real change starts, not new radical ‘truths’.

    I was happy to see your last comment about the Secret. Intuition has always been my gift and when that book came out I got a very unsettling feeling about it and choose not to read it. Everyone I met asked if I had read it because of the things I talked about and ways I encouraged people to live, yet there was always an underline feeling of ‘fake’ or ‘fluffy’ when people talked about how the book changed them. Which is when I started to understand how to promote true and positive change in people. Simply by giving them the tools to find their ‘truth’ and appreciate others. Not forcing the world into the ‘right’ way of thinking/living.

    Thanks for sharing your list, definitely going to check these titles out!

  19. Nice article. Out of the list of six books you listed I have only read one which was the Eckhart Tolle book. Which was a very good read indeed. The Sylvia Brown books helped me to awaken and I would have voted for any of her titles. Although I have never read The Secret, I know I didn't miss out on too much. :)

    I respect your opinion on self help being unnecessary although I must respectfully disagree. Did you give up reading all together? To me, if you're reading anything on any sort of spiritual growth topic then you are doing so to improve yourself in one way or another.

  20. barbara says:

    Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander is an account of his Near Death Experience. Fascinating. I don't read books like that or other ;new agey' titles to self-improve, i read them to remember/discover who we really are

  21. Vicki says:

    Highly recommend Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye for great storytelling lessons in life. Met him at a book signing and he called self help books “shelf help books” for all the good they do us when they sit half-read on a shelf.

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