Happy April! Not to worry - there won't be any April Fools' shenanigans around here. As a credulous person, I've never liked playing tricks on people and I'm guessing that's not your thing either. (As super-feelers, our high sensitivity makes it such that we feel what others are feeling, like, immediately, and the twisting, squirming, churning of humiliation isn't actually fun, right? No thank you!)
Instead, because I'm often asked, I've decided to make a very sincere, very genuine list of my favorite books for self-helping. I consider these my essentials:
Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck
More than any other book, this is the one that changed my life. Rather, I learned how to change my own life by reading this book. I often tell the story of how I was uncharacteristically browsing a big-box bookstore on a Friday night when this book basically jumped off the top shelf and into my hands; I opened it to the middle, read a page, and found myself literally laughing out loud in the middle of the "psychology / self-help" aisle. (Definitely one of my finer moments - it's good to keep unsuspecting strangers on their toes, right?) From that point, I read FYONS every year, at least two or three times per year, for about six years, memorizing full paragraphs, doing all the exercises and learning the tools...until I eventually allowed myself to consider the possibility of leaving my education career and becoming a (gasp!) life coach. Read this book if you've been considering the possibility of working with a life coach like me. Read it if you're considering the possibility of becoming a life coach yourself. Read it if you have a nagging spidey sense that your life could be richer, more joyful, more fulfilling, more liberated, more interesting - and please please please write me to share what happens next.
The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
One afternoon a few years ago, I was driving north on highway 280 in Palo Alto, California when a car in front of me suddenly veered sharply to the right and then careened back to the left, slamming into the center divider. I barely avoided what would have been a truly terrible collision. That day I experienced something relatively new: raw, unrefined fear. I learned how enormously different fear and anxiety feel in the body, and this book thrillingly explicates the difference. My favorite chapter is "The Technology of Intuition" - it's a real treat, especially if you've been told to be more logical. From the epilogue, here's a favorite quote: "In fact, worry and anxiety hurt plenty of people - through high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and nervous habits such as smoking. These things kill hundreds of thousands each year, more by far than all the foreign viruses, electromagnetic fields, and airplane crashes put together." Read it if you consider yourself an anxious person and would like to get started feeling less afraid, less worried, and more joyfully engaged in your own life.
Loving What Is by Byron Katie
What lies are you telling yourself? Find out by reading this book. Byron Katie's method for ending one's own suffering, called The Work, is a process I use with every single coaching client. I also use it with myself, and I credit Byron Katie with teaching me how to meaningfully attend to my own thoughts, reduce (or even eliminate) my own suffering, and joyfully engage in the present moment. For example, if you think, I have to get it all done today...if you think, gah, I don't have enough time!...if you think, my boss doesn't value me and never will...if you think, I'm the only one who can handle this...if you think, omg she has joined a cult!...if you think, I could never change careers...etc., etc., etc. - then you would very likely benefit from The Work. To be completely honest, it takes a whole hell of a lot of courage to face one's own thoughts and take responsibility like this. That's why I love using this method: it takes courage to make more courage, and my clients are beautifully brave. Read this book if you'd like to stop torturing yourself. (Or just hire me - because we will most definitely do The Work.)
Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver
Ready to get radical? This book is by far the most "spiritual" one on this list, and I've surprised myself by falling madly in love with it. It's also the book I've most recently added to my list of essentials - it's been about a year since I first read it, and I still keep coming back to it. (Remember Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street? This book is a series of vignettes, albeit nonfiction, and is similarly easy to read.) I credit Tosha with giving me concrete skills that can be used every day, in every circumstance. Want help selling your home? Finding a seat on an oversold flight? Leaving a job, or a relationship, or a city? Handling a psychic vampire??! It's all included. Here, for example, is what Tosha has to say about travel: "Whenever I travel I invoke Divine Order to open the way. It's like having a cosmic advance team. Ahead of departure, I imagine the whole trip surrounded by light and energy...Not every door opens like magic but the way is eased or at least made tolerable. Maybe think of it like WD-40 on the etheric plane." For me, this entire book is WD-40 (infused with sparkly glitter!) for any stuck places. Read it if you're spiritually curious, or if you're looking for an intelligent alternative to The Secret, or if you'd simply like to learn how to work real magic in your own life, marrying spirituality and practicality and straight-up fun. Because you can.
Much love, and happy April!
P.S. What books are your favorites? As someone who acquired her new library card before her new driver's license here in Seattle, I'd love to know.