Reading can be good for us in many ways but it can also be just another distraction.
The only place we can really make change in our lives is through the gentle and compassionate attention to our own neurosis and our own mind and body states—this is where the real work of becoming healthy and more loving happens.
But we also need inspiration. We need encouragement and ideas and we need to hear words from wise people who have gone before us and can tell us how to figure our own sh*t out.
I guess my opinion would be there is a time for reading and a time to put all the books down and just be with ourselves in a very raw, vulnerable and organic way.
I have done both in my life.
When I was 18 years old and leaving my childhood home forever, having bought a one way ticket west, I was saying goodbye to my yoga teacher and telling her how heavy my bag was because I had packed so many books (I guess I thought there were no books out west).
My yoga teacher said that sometimes she went five years without reading a book.
At that stage in my life that seemed insane. It was like complete lunacy. I probably read half a dozen books a week, how could someone not read for five years?
Now this happens to me all the time, not reading for long stretches of time.
This was not the case when I first realized that my life needed to take a more spiritual turn. During that period of my life I read like crazy. And it helped so much.
So many people had walked the meditation, mindfulness and spiritual path before me and their words helped me see that I wasn’t going crazy, I was just changing my perceptions, in a way that was of benefit.
The following five books have certainly enriched my life in their capacity to understand my human existence in a more holistic well-rounded way.
I hope they may be of benefit to you.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is a very bold thing to say as it is only 2015, but I think this is the book of the century.
Gilbert boldly goes for it in this self-help book designed to encourage people to just get on with the act of being creative. She explains that ideas are their own entities, looking for a home, and we can make a choice if we want to birth an idea into existence. She reminds us not to wait until the time is right, or we think we can do it perfectly, but to create because it feels good and fulfilling and that this is what the world needs.
You do not need to be an artist, an aspiring artist or someone who cares about art at all to get much out of this book. You just need to be a human who cares about having a good day.
Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver
So many of us have forgotten about God. We think the world is in our own hands and we need to to figure out our lives all by ourselves. If this is you, how is this going for you? Does it feel easy and fulfilling or lonely and overwhelming?
Through her wit and punky charm Tosha Silver leads us through a series of personal anecdotes which highlight the mystery and the magic of opening to the divine. It is a fast and simple read and the techniques for working with the divine fit easily into anyone’s day.
Eastern Body Western Mind by Anodea Judith
This book is a masterpiece. Anodea Judith combines Western knowledge of child development with Eastern knowledge of chakra development to give the full picture of how our neurosis and struggles have come to be. It would be very hard not to see your childhood and challenges in some of the pages in this book. My personal challenges were so clear it was as if she was writing exactly about me.
Through Judith’s knowledge I gained a very clear understanding of where I was struggling in my chakras due to my childhood and through awareness and patience was able to have a great healing. I don’t think it would have been possible without this book.
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield
Kornfield shows us the universal nature of spiritual development in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. He interviews leaders in every religion and through their anecdotal tales Kornfield shows us the commonality of the spiritual path. He highlights the highs and the lows.
This book is for anyone who has felt the high of an enlightened experience and then felt the low that can come after. Just seeing that we are normal can be so healing
Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron
Any Pema Chodron book will bring sanity into your life but this one changed everything for me.
I read Taking the Leap while in a cabin 16 km in the bush at minus 30 degrees Celsius, and my face got so hot from the truth of her words I thought I had a fever.
Chodron tells an amazing story about having a fight with a friend she is on a three year retreat with and seeing there is nothing she can do to remedy the situation. Instead she meditates all night and sees that everything is “groundless.” That for as long as she can remember there is no sense of certainty and that this visceral search for certainty causes us so much pain.
The personal approach Chodron takes in this book is very revealing and makes the teachings she offers real and accessible.
Reading is terrific and essential for learning. But doing is necessary for healing.
I highly recommend that all of you read these five books but then after they are read we need to turn away from books, the computer and the TV and just be with ourselves.
We need to let the wisdom we have taken in seep into our lives through contemplative reflection of our own sensory experiences.
These books will be a great asset to do just that.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Alex Bellink/Flickr