"I am part of everything that I have read." ~Theodore Roosevelt
It's very rare that I am ever reading just one book at a time. I love to read, especially in the summer months when I have more time to dive into a book during the long daylight hours rather than at the end of a busy day when I can barely stay awake for a single chapter. This month I am sharing my top five literary pics for your learning, longing, loving and enjoyment as you staycation, travel or simply savor some extra downtime:
• Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is one of two books that I re-read every summer. It's definitely on my top ten favorite books of all time. Lindbergh (wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh) created a legacy of her own through this book as a woman exploring the great balance of life as individual, artist, wife, and mother. Each chapter is named for a different sea shell and the various themes are connected to the unique qualities of the shells. In the "Moon Shell" chapter she writes of the importance of solitude as a source of nourishment in a woman's life: "Solitude, says the moon shell. Center-down, say the Quaker saints. To the possession of the self the way is inward, says Plotinus. The cell of self-knowledge is the stall in which the pilgrim must be reborn, says St. Catherine of Siena. Voices from the past. In fact, these are pursuits and virtues of the past. But done in another way today because done consciously, aware, with eyes open. Not done as before, as part of the pattern of time. Not done because everyone else is doing them, almost no one is doing them. Revolutionary, in fact, because almost every trend and pressure, every voice from the outside is against this new way of inward living. Woman must be the pioneer in this turning inward for strength." When you buy this book get at least two copies and gift a woman you love!
• The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the second book that I ceremoniously read during the my yearly summer sabbatical. It's the classic hero journey told through the story of Santiago, a young shepherd boy, in search of his personal legend and a secret treasure that he is determined to find. It's the universal love story of each of our Souls that longs to live into the fullness of our destiny. In the beginning of the book the boy has a fated meeting with an old man who tells the boy he is a king. He explains to the boy what a person's "personal legend" is: "It's what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend." I read this book every year, purposefully, to minimize this mysterious force and remind myself of what's possible. Every time I read it, I am inspired to continue the pilgrimage of my soul and to recognize the omens that are guiding me along the way. This book is certainly one of those good omens.
• Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur was a gift I received for Christmas. From my ex-husband. While we were still in the process of divorce. It's a book of short poems and illustrations by Kaur that take your hand and heart and walk you through another classic journey of childhood trauma, sex, love, loss, heartbreak and healing. It's all the heavy hitters in one small anthology that apologizes for nothing and tells it like it like it is. This book is part poetry; part self-help: i know it's hard/believe me/i know it feels like/tomorrow will never come/and today will be the most/difficult day to get through/but i swear you will get through/the hurt will pass/as it always does/if you give it time and/let it so let it/go/slowly/like a broken promise/let it go. I read this book in one sitting and by the end I felt like I had travelled through my own emotional wasteland of grief and loss only to find a deep pocket of honey in my own heart. My former spouse never read the book himself; when I asked him how he picked it for me he just said--"it looked like something you would like." He was right. I think you might like it too.
• Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Quest for the Sacred Feminine by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. is one of those books that I have had on my "to-read" list for some time and finally read it recently at, of course, just the perfect time. Bolen is a psychiatrist with a Jungian background and feminist approach to her work. After the dissolution of her marriage she was invited to take a pilgrimage (yes, this is definitely an important theme in my life!) through some of the most famous Christian pilgrimage sites throughout England and Scotland as well as the mythic "Avalon" where she discovers the hidden power places of the Sacred Feminine that have been systematically covered over by patriarchy. Her journey represents what has become a very personal healing journey of my own in the last few years: one of reclaiming my feminine roots through relationship with the goddess or the Great Mother. Her description of the "Forest" landscape of midlife is among the best that I have encountered. This book is serving as a map that is helping me navigate the terrain of my life as I make my way through this difficult passage that feels much like an initiation. "During midlife, the desire to be real to ourselves, which comes from our soul, contributes to the crises we unconsciously create when we do not consciously acknowledge that we do not feel vital and authentic. There is an internal impetus to become a whole person and when we spend time in the metaphorical forest and the actual forest or natural world, we are exposed to the possibility of retrieval and growth of our instinctual nature, our spiritual connection with Nature, and our sense of oneness with the universe." While each of our journeys through midlife will be unique and the crises we face are ours alone to traverse, these themes of consciousness, wholeness, vitality, authenticity and connection are common to us all. As soon as I finished this book I started it all over again because of the way it speaks so directly to much of what I'm facing in my life now. If I ever write a book, this is the kind of book I aspire to create. The wisdom is passed like a torch from a woman who has made the passage herself through this dark and difficult wood, sharing her personal experience and calling on the revival of the archetypal feminine as a key force in our journey as women seeking wholeness and claiming our power.
• How To Be An Adult In Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo will first reveal exactly how you've probably been acting like an immature child in your relationships and then offer tons of practical exercises in how to relate as a healthy, conscious grown up. Richo is a Buddhist psychotherapist that identifies the five "A's" that are the building blocks of intimacy. Essentially we feel loved when we receive: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and when we are allowed the freedom to live in accord with our own deepest needs and wishes. This book walks you through the stages of relationship from romance to conflict to commitment and will have you facing some highly vulnerable and emotionally charged corners of your psyche. It will illuminate the shadow places of attachment, addiction and obsession that we can get entangled in and enlighten the ways we fear abandonment and engulfment. It took me several months to get through this book. It's not an easy read, but an important one. Ultimately, a healthy ego and cultivated connection to our soul will lead to healthy relationships: "When we have the courage to share who we are in unique and free-spirited ways, we are likely to receive attention. When we accept ourselves, are proud of who we are and, at the same time, admit our mistakes, we are likely to be accepted. When we show generosity, compassion, and integrity, we are likely to be appreciated. When we offer affectionate touch and consideration, we are likely to receive affection in return. And when we act assertively, with clear boundaries and respect for others' rights, it is likely that others will allow us the freedom to be ourselves." The teaching and tools in this book have helped me be more aware of offering the five "A's" in parenting my children--where intimacy is first mirrored. Whether you are in partnership or not, this book is both an incredible wellspring of knowledge and superior source of support.
Have a beautiful Summer~xo
"Simplicity is complexity resolved." ~Constantin Brancusi
Ah sweet summertime. . . another school year is complete and the pace of life slows dramatically. It's the savasana (corpse pose) of my year where I can gratefully let go of the effort of living: juggling work, teaching classes, school projects, and extracurricular activities. This is when I settle into the delicious sweetness of being for a couple of months. One of the benefits of being self-employed is that I get to structure and plan my life in a way that allows for this kind of space to recalibrate and restore. I use this time to nourish my body with more rest and lighter foods (lots of watermelon!), stimulate my mind with books that I specifically save for these longer days (stay tuned for my summer reading list) and ignite my soul with plenty of time to daydream and listen for what inspirations are seeking my attention.
More than any other season in my life, summer is dedicated to savoring simplicity and ease above all else.
Also, as this month marks the mid-year point, it is the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on where the first half of the year has brought me and to consider my next steps. I project my vision to December 2018 and choose NOW how I will conclude the calendar year. How do I want to feel as this year ends? What am I most proud of? Who have I become? That positive projection helps me discern my next right steps and keeps me on track with fulfilling my intention to stay aligned with my greater mission for being alive. I don't concern myself so much anymore with "how" things will unfold, instead I anchor my commitment to my "why" and trust that the details will fall into place as I continue to show up and stay curious.
I've collected a few gems that I have discovered this year so far that I'll share as my "Mid-Year Manifesto." Here's what's been important in my journey in the first half of 2018:
*Simplicity reigns supreme. As this post is themed, simplifying has been an overarching theme in my personal life. It's an art to be able to refine and define your life based on a few core values and then create something beautiful as a result. My new mantra: subtract to find the solution. Less really is more. Unless it involves watermelon.
*Despite evidence to the contrary, if it doesn't feel right it's probably not. Don't wait for full blown red flags. Pay attention to the yellow lights and stop before you override your intuitive hunches. Science has proven that you actually have a gut-brain that can signal the central nervous system--use it wisely.
*When in doubt, zoom out. Make a regular practice of widening your perspective. Wherever you are right now, imagine you could look at yourself from high above and at a distance. What do you notice about yourself and your life from this place? How do your problems look? What couldn't you see that you now recognize? How can you use this information to serve you? Broadening the lens through which we perceive helps us identify what's most important and let go of the rest. Which leads me to my next revelation:
*It's okay not to care so much about everything/everyone. This has been such a liberating gift for me this year. As an empath, it's incredibly challenging to turn down the volume on feeling so much. Learning to create healthy boundaries is one of the biggest lessons for the thin-skinned. I recently read the book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@ck and my big take away was this: Give less fucks. Be much more selective about the fucks you give. In the end, was it worth giving a fuck about? The thread of simplicity weaves right through here and the law of subtraction must be applied for best results.
*Tell the truth without blame or judgment. I am learning that real truth telling takes time and patient persistence. It's not for the faint of heart--it's for the courageous ones who aren't willing to settle for less than their very best. Start by telling yourself the truth. Say it out loud. "My deepest truth right now about ______________is __________________." Notice how it feels. Is it scary, exhilarating, shameful, empowering? If you're willing to take it a step further, try sharing your truth with someone you can trust. If, like me, one of your greatest values is freedom--you must be willing to tell the truth.
*Take the leap. Do the scary thing that you know clearly in your heart you are called to do next. Yes the fear and doubt are there but deep down you know it's right. Ask yourself: will I be sorry that I didn't take my chance? If not now, when? Just do it.
*Cherish the people in your life that feel easy like summer to be with. Your people, your tribe, your allies. They are one of life's greatest treasures and without their love and support you wouldn't be who you are. These are the people that only want to see you truly happy and living in joy. This kind of love is the ultimate simplicity--grace embodied.
What beautiful gems or challenging wisdom has the year offered you so far? Write them down. Share them with someone. What do you want to have a bigger experience of in the next 6 months? What is your positive projection for the conclusion of the year? Send it out with clarity and knowing that everything is unfolding perfectly. Then just relax, let go of the hustle and let the summer be savored.
What My Clients Are Saying:
"I know that “life changing” is a bit over used but it best describes how I feel about what Jenny Clarke offers with "The Courage to Create" course. She uses the metaphor of the labyrinth. A twisted turning path with hidden chambers that takes you to the center and then back out again with new insights. I took the private version of this program. The weekly lessons took me to the core of who I am. Along the way looking into some long closed chambers where we cleared out a few ghosts and discovered some buried gems. At the end of the course I emerged forever changed with a new understanding and appreciation of who I am. You can not get lost in a labyrinth as long as you keep moving forward. The journey begins when you take the first step. I highly recommend that you take the first step and sign up for the Courage to Create!" ~L.H.
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