Resilient Grieving – Dr Lucy Hone
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. There are very few books about resilient grieving. Most of us are familiar with the stages of grief but this is a very passive model. It seems we are expected to sit and wait out all the stages of grief until we get spat out the other side. Then we can pick up the pieces of our lives and carry on. When Dr Lucy Hone’s daughter Abi was killed in a road accident she used all the skills and knowledge she had in positive psychology and applied it to the grief process. This allowed her to continue to parent her two boys, maintain a strong relationship with her husband and friends, and take an active role in her experience. There are so many practical strategies in the book which I know would be invaluable to those going through grief. Lucy is very authentic and grounded. She has so much wisdom to share. I have recently bought this book for a friend who lost her son – it felt good to be able offer something of practical support at this time.
My interview with Lucy will go live tomorrow (Friday the 7th of April) but in the meantime check out this podcast interview by Larry Weeks. His podcast is called Bounce and it is fantastic.Listen to the Podcast
One Year Wiser – An Illustrated Guide to Mindfulness – Mike Medaglia
If I had to choose one book to give to someone who was starting to explore mindfulness this would be the one. It is a graphic novel and it beautifully illustrates all the main aspects of the practice. It includes exercises to complete at the end of every chapter. Ultimately it feels like a very friendly, easy guide. I am going to give it my highest accolade which is to purchase it for my collection and perhaps an extra copy to share with friends. Go on, hit me up. 🙂
Jacqueline and the Beanstalk – Susan D Sweet and Brenda S Miles
This is a lovely picture book all about facing big fears. Jacqueline is a princess who is protected by her royal guards. Everywhere she goes it is “shields up!” But those guards are stopping Jacqueline from having fun. One day she finds a beanstalk and despite warnings she climbs up to meet the giant. Beautiful illustrations and a great story to help children understand and face their fears. There is a caregiver guide at the back of the book with lots of ways adults can help children understand fear and anxiety and ways they can manage it.
When My Worries Get Too Big – Kari Dunn Buron
This book teaches relaxation techniques for children who experience anxiety. The strategies are based on cognitive behavioural management. Through the pages children are able to explore the different things that cause them anxiety and why. Then they are given some great strategies to calm themselves. I particularly like the illustrated stress scale and calming sequence. This would be equally helpful for adults. There are also evidence-based strategies outlined for caregivers to support highly anxious children.
How To Be Human: The Manual – Ruby Wax
This is an excellent book. It is written with the Ruby’s irreverent sense of humour but combines this with the wisdom of a Buddhist monk and the knowledge of a neuroscientist. She has written a previous book about mindfulness which is excellent but this book dives deeper into some of the theory behind it. She covers evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, compassion, relationships, sex (warning: a very short chapter – she lies about this), kids, addiction and the future. As well as a great deal of imparted factual knowledge from three different and complimentary perspectives there is also a huge section containing a number of mindfulness exercises.
I bought this book on Kindle but I think it would be better to have a physical copy. With all the exercises you are going to want to flick back and forward, write your own notes in the margins, and basically make the book your own in ways you just can’t with an electronic version. I know you can do all this using a Kindle but trust me – you want to pull out your felt tips pens for this one.
With all the books published on mindfulness why would you buy this one? Well, for starters, you need more than one book on mindfulness. Everyone approaches the subject from a slightly different angle and not everyone’s approach will appeal to you. By reading widely you can create your own personal practice which works for you. I would also argue that with this book you almost get three books in one; as the three participants give very different ways of looking at mindfulness. I also love Ruby Wax and her sense of humour. She is very authentic and makes me feel okay about all my own personal baggage. Ruby has a truckload.
I can not recommend this book highly enough. A very good place to start if you are beginning a mindfulness practice but also a great place to explore the subject deeper if you already meditate regularly. The tone is light and deeply human – just as the title implies. It is okay to be mindful and have a chuckle along the way. Enjoy!
Deep Work – Cal Newport
This book can be summed up perfectly by the first sentence on the back cover. “One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare.” The deep work referred to in this book is the ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks. “Without distraction!” I hear you lament. “How in earth can we achieve this lofty goal in today’s highly connected age?” I am pleased to say that not only does Cal Newport convince us of the need for deep work, he also does a great job of showing us ways that we can make space for it in our lives. There are extremely practical guidelines for achieving this state and massively improving the quality and depth of our work. I honestly believe this book, if applied diligently, can be life changing. I am also a true believer now in the need for all of us to understand and learn how to implement deep work if we are going to thrive in today’s increasingly competitive and relentlessly changing workplaces.
The Headspace Guide to Meditation & Mindfulness – Andy Puddicombe
I use Andy’s Headspace app for my daily guided meditation. The meditations are fine but it is the introductions and the explanation of difficult concepts which I value the most. He talks about meditating being like sitting beside a busy road and watching the cars go past. The cars are our thoughts. Rather than getting caught up chasing the cars down the road, or jumping into the traffic and trying to make them stop, we just sit there and watch them go by. Sounds easy doesn’t it. Another explanation is that our mind is like the sky and the clouds are like our thoughts. Even though at times it feels like our mind is full of thoughts – we need to remember that above the clouds the sky is always blue. In the same way once our thoughts clear away we have an endlessly calm clear mind. All we need to do is relax and trust and slowly the clouds start to clear away.
I know it is not really as easy as all that but it doesn’t have to be complicated either. The concept is simple; the application takes practice.
Another thing I love about Andy’s teaching of meditation is his emphasis of the need to apply meditation in our daily lives. This is what is now known as mindfulness. But it is also about taking opportunities for mini meditations during our every day lives. I use an excellent meditation he recommends for stress. During the day when I feel the pressure building I can slip back into this meditation state very quickly using the visualisation tools he teaches. I have found that technique alone extremely valuable. By releasing tension throughout the day I find myself at the end of the day without tight shoulders or a throbbing headache. It really does work.
I would recommend this book for people who want an everyday form of meditation. Even though Andy was at one time a Buddhist monk this is not a religious book and it is not an earnest guide to sitting in meditation for hours every day. I like it because it handles the subject lightly but deftly and it removes the mysticism from the subject. Meditation can be an amazing path to deep insight but this form of meditation is more of a tool to manage the daily stress of everyday life. It is a great introduction to the subject and a stepping stone to deeper study if desired.
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
I have a love / hate relationship with Elizabeth Gilbert. No, that’s too harsh; I have some concerns about Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn’t my favourite book or movie. I believe we essentially disagree on the mechanics of love. I think Elizabeth believes in soul mates and therefore you are entirely justified in leaving your current partner if your soul mate happens to appear in your life. In fact you just about owe it to the universe. I believe we choose to love someone and once we have made that commitment we should try our best to honour that commitment. Being in a relationship does not mean that we won’t potentially be attracted to other people but we don’t have to act on those feelings. So the funny thing is that Elizabeth would be considered a romantic (believing in soul mates) and yet it causes her to be a serial monogamist. I, on the other hand, have a more moralistic belief about love but it allows me to stay in a stable and happy relationship long term. I should also point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with serial monogamy; apart from the fact that there is usually a lot of pain caused any time we break a relationship (especially if the decision is one sided and made to form a new attachment). So this is a long rambling caveat to say that I do not worship at the altar of Elizabeth Gilbert and therefore this review is entirely impartial. 🙂
If you are looking for one book to give you the courage to pursue a creative life I believe this is it. The conversational style of writing allows Elizabeth’s natural personality to flow through. And she has a great personality – she is strong, feisty, authentic and not afraid to be vulnerable. I love how she dismantles the idea of the tortured artist; unable to create great art unless also battling the demons of drink, drugs or a disordered mind. The fact that many artists are afflicted in some way does not mean that creativity has to be extracted from our tortured bodies one bloody step at a time.
If you want to tap into your creative side and you feel blocked in some way – this book will give you the kick in the pants to get you going.
I had reason to dip into this book again today – it contains so much wise advice for those of us on a creative journey. This section really spoke to me:
“The results of my work don’t have much to do with me. I can only be in charge of producing the work itself. That’s a hard enough job… Also, I realise it would be unreasonable and immature of me to expect that I should be allowed to have a voice of expression, but other people should not… Recognising this reality – that the reaction doesn’t belong to you – is the only sane way to create… If people attack you…just smile sweetly and suggest they go make their own f***ing art.”