These books are more than self-help
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about modern spirituality and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. To get more content about how to infuse your life with thoughtfulness, reflection, and meaning, subscribe here.
Happy Sunday, friends. Some of you may know that I am in a year-long certification to become an integral coach (meaning helping a person with their holistic development to develop their potential, yadda yadda). I recently went through a 5-day intensive in-person part of the course, which has left parts of my brain temporarily fried, so I was struggling to think of a good topic to write about this week.
Then I looked at my piles of notebooks and books, and realized that as part of my certification, I have been given access to an enormous library of meaningful books that help with spiritual, emotional, and personal development, and some of you might like to hear about them! So I’ll today about a few that have had already a large impact on me (some of these were assigned by my program, and some I read on my own.)
Without ado, here a few of the latest that are worth picking up (and a note, these are old-white-hetero-people heavy. My apologies. The current popular cannon of spiritual exploration books is varrrry old-white-dude heavy. If you have recommendations that would broaden my view on this front, I welcome them.)
Soul Without Shame: My #1 most mentioned book. Book description: “Whether we call it the inner critic, superego, or just plain nag, most of us have a “judge within” who’s constantly on our case. A comprehensive guide to understanding how the inner critic works, this book offers practical, positive suggestions for breaking free of it.”
Read it if: You judge yourself harshly. You are mean to yourself. You judge others harshly. You are a self-described perfectionist. You’ve recently become aware of the fact that the critical thoughts in your head are not actually yourself, they are a separate voice, and you want that voice to go bye-bye.
Focusing in Clinical Practice: Book description: “Focusing is based on a radically different understanding of the body as inherently meaningful and implicitly wise. Mere intellectualizing or talking about problems can keep clients stuck in their old patterns of behavior. Focusing introduces the concept of the “felt sense,” a moment in process when there is a potential to experience more than is already known and to break through old, frozen, stuck patterns.”
Read it if: You’re aware of being an overthinker, and would like to tune more into your bodily intuition or gut. You’re not sure where feelings “live” in your body. Your head feels disconnected from the rest of your self. You think about “having” a body, not “being” a body.
A Path With Heart: Book description: “In undertaking a spiritual life, we must make certain that our path is connected with our heart, according to author and Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield. Since 1974 (long before it gained popularity in the 1990s), Kornfield has been teaching westerners how to integrate Eastern teaching into their daily lives. Through generous storytelling and unmitigated warmth, Kornfield offers this excellent guidebook on living with attentiveness, meditation, and full-tilt compassion.”
Read it if: You’re curious about spiritual paths, particularly Buddhism. You find metaphors for spiritual concepts useful. You’re open to more practical spiritual approaches.
Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind: Book description: “Dr. Roger Walsh has discovered that each of the great spiritual traditions has both a common goal and seven common practices to reach that goal: recognizing the sacred and divine that exist both within and around us. Filled with stories, exercises, meditations, myths, prayers, and practical advice, Essential Spirituality shows how you can integrate these seven principles into one truly rewarding way of life.”
Read it if: You’d like a guidebook to give you doable exercises to help you discover a more spiritual way of being.
The Power of Myth: Book description: “It reveals how the themes and symbols of ancient narratives continue to bring meaning to birth, death, love, and war. From stories of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome to traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, a broad array of themes are considered that together identify the universality of human experience across time and culture.”
Read it if: You’re curious about the ways humans across history have brought meaning to their lives. You’re interested in mythology, ritual, and symbolism in a variety of cultures — and why we’ve lost access to it.
That’s it for now. What are you reading?