“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines
what you will be when you can’t help it.”
I have to admit that I did not enjoy reading as a kid! My life was so traumatic that I just did not have the mental focus for it. In the preface of my book The Practice, I write about how I first became immersed in reading for inspiration when I went into treatment for my eating disorder. I left treatment thirty years ago, and I haven’t stopped reading!
Reading is such an important, joyful activity for me that it continues to be an essential part of my daily spiritual practice—even if I can only find the time for a few minutes on an especially busy day. Taking in, really absorbing, the words of the masters, mystics, saints, spiritual teachers, and healers of the past and present is a privilege and a true passion of mine. I explain it this way in my book:
“Just as the food we eat nourishes and strengthens the body, the books we read for inspiration nourish and enrich the mind. I thrive in my life and feed my soul with the reading I do daily.”
I love it when someone I know has read a book I have enjoyed, and we can then share some personal time to discuss and connect with that teacher together. I founded a meditation group fifteen years ago, which meets weekly. Part of our time together is reading from one of the great spiritual books and discussing the meaning of the teacher’s words and how we can practice those teachings in our personal lives. I believe these books are written to help us on our path and to guide us to discover our teacher within.
In my blog today, I am inviting you to think about starting your own Reading for Inspiration book group. It is a wonderful way to deepen your spiritual practice with like-minded people. Here’s how:
- Click here to view the list of the books I recommend for the purpose of nourishing and enriching your mind. Choose six books from the list that speak to you.
- Think of people in your life who are on a spiritual path. Invite them to participate in a book club that will inspire and nourish the mind, body, and soul. Keep in mind that with Skype and FaceTime and other video chats, people who do not live close may still be part of the group.
- Share the list of six books you have chosen with the group as a starting point. Be open to discussing and adding other books from the Reading for Inspiration list.
- Once you have two or more people interested in the group, get together and go over the details, such as when, where, and how often you will meet; how long you have to complete reading the book; and which book you will choose first.
Remember, your group practice is simply about sharing your observations with one another and deepening your personal understanding of what the teachers have written. I would be honored if you would like to share your group or personal experiences with me after you have read one of these beloved books!
Here are inspiring words from one of my greatest teachers, Thomas Merton:
“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.”
“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
As today is the first day of Hanukkah, I wish all my friends and readers who celebrate the Festival of Lights a beautiful, happy holiday!
A time of celebration most often calls for light in some way or another. Nearly every religion and spiritual tradition places the concept of light or creating light in a role of importance. Consider this: without light there would be only darkness—a mysterious and sometimes frightening place to be—so our love and reverence for that which brightens our lives makes perfect sense.
I believe we each have a light within us—a light we connect with by sitting quietly with ourselves every day. When we feel lost or afraid, this light reminds us we are not alone, and the silence helps us listen to the “whisperings of our hearts.” Our light is our essence in the world. I am deeply moved by the Sanskrit phrase Namaste, which means, “The light within me honors the light within you.” Here are four beautiful ways we can honor the light in others.
- Connect with the light within you. Sitting in silence each morning helps you connect within to your “true self.” This quiet time is a place of love, peace, courage, and support. It lights up the magnificent being that you are. It helps you to see the world as well as yourself more clearly.
- Take that light out into the world. When you have connected with your inner light, you take your light with you as you go about your day. If you perceive it dimming (it never really does, but you may be feeling a lack of energy), simply breathe and bring yourself back to the present moment and repeat your Sacred Mantra or a positive affirmation, reminding you of who you really are.
- Use your light to see the light in others. When you shine your light, you are able to see others more clearly, and you understand deeply that each of us is doing our best and that we all share the ultimate goal to be happy. Patience, gratitude, tolerance, acceptance, presence, and love are the gifts you give to others and yourself when you recognize the light in them.
- Acknowledge the light in others. By treating others with kindness and compassion, you are acknowledging that they are sacred beings with whom you share this planet. A smile, a helping hand, a nod of the head, a comforting pat . . . these are just a few of the ways you can let others know that you respect and honor their presence in your life.
The Festival of Lights continues for eight days, and over the course of the year, there will be many more celebratory opportunities, as well as solemn occasions, for lighting candles. Regardless of the spiritual tradition or religion, with each candle that is lit, let it be a reminder of the bright spark within each one of us that provides a steady glow of peace, love, and happiness.
“Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.”
Healthy companionship is a wonderful way to feel connected. It is an opportunity to express ourselves with others, feeling safe and free to be who we are. When we enjoy such relationships, we feel enriched and loved. We are truly blessed.
When we don’t have people in our lives with whom we feel this way, we may start to feel lonely, sad, or cut off from others. This feeling of loneliness also creeps in when we have been separated from someone we love either through death or distance. These are unhappy states, of course, but like all states of being, they are a perfectly natural part of life’s experiences. And like all the feelings we have, they are subject to change.
Sometimes we just need a reminder that “this too shall pass.” If you are feeling lonely and wish to connect—or maybe reconnect—with others, here are several choices you can make to transform this feeling of unhappiness into one of togetherness.
- Join a support group. If you are feeling lonely due to the death of a loved one or a major separation, connecting with others who are going through a loss of their own is an excellent way to share your feelings with people who understand. Many long-lasting friendships have begun this way.
- Take a class. What fascinates you? You can find a class for virtually any hobby or interest you may have. Sports and other physical activities also fall into this category. This is a great way to meet people who have similar interests, which is a firm foundation for developing friendships and feelings of camaraderie.
- Become a member of a place of worship/spiritual gathering. If you are religiously inclined, become a member of your local church, synagogue, or mosque. If you consider yourself more spiritual than religious, look for a meditation group in your area. Seeing the same people week after week and engaging them in friendly, meaningful conversation has a way of drawing us together and making us feel a part of something greater.
- Make a phone call. Is there someone you’re missing—a friend or relative who has moved away? Social networking doesn’t quite cut through those feelings of loneliness since we are only seeing snippets of someone’s life through photographs and words. So pick up the telephone and make the call.
- Volunteer for a cause you feel strongly about. Volunteer work in which you have the opportunity to join forces with others who share your passion can be fulfilling on many levels: helping others, bonding with likeminded people, and making a real difference in your life and the world.
- Adopt an animal companion. There are endless stories out there about animals fulfilling a need in people’s lives. While they aren’t a substitute for human companionship, their affection and devotion can certainly fill a big part of the void. Taking the dog for a daily walk has the added benefit of making you more available to your neighbors.
When it comes to being alone versus feeling lonely, there is truly a world of difference. In my workshops and in my book, I teach others to go within to be with themselves. However, the flipside of this—and it’s a crucial part of living life—is going out into the world and engaging with others. There is no reason to continue to feel lonely in a world of people. There is at least one with whom you will connect in a way that you can be totally yourself. Think about taking one step today to find that person.