September 23, 2013

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

“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.

Relephant read:

11 Spiritual Books that Blew my Mind.

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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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Dana Aug 24, 2015 4:04am

Although The Secret may seem rubbish, it’s about how you interpret the information provided in it. Of course we cannot control the Universe, of course we cannot win the lottery (visualize it all day if you want to), you have to be a bit delusional to think you can understand physics because of auto-suggestion (as the author states she does). But it is an eye-opener. It was the first self-help motivational new-agey book I read. It actually made me feel great through times of struggle. If a book can make you feel good, it means it isn’t that bad. You just have to take the meaningful stuff out of it and apply it to your own world. Will give your suggestions a try.

HelenS May 4, 2015 9:31am

Since you include Eastern spirituality in your definition of new age, I highly recommend How to be Sick and How to Wake Up by Toni Bernhard.

Vicki Oct 16, 2013 11:01pm

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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Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom.

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