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9 books that could change the way you live and look at yourself.

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I loooooove books. LOVE them. The right book, at the right time, can be like balm for the soul. It can thaw even your most protected pain enough for you to begin to heal it. (Sometimes, just the smell and weight of a book is enough to comfort me.) I have 9 such books for you. Word by word, idea by expansive idea, chapter by chapter, these 9 books are evoking my own essence, softening my heart and influencing me to be more me. Truer. Braver. More relaxed and reverent and accepting of who I am and how I’m unfolding.

In no particular order…

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Women Who Run With the Wolves — Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Every woman should read this book if she wants to come back into her wild, natural, instinctive power (and all women do). And all good men — the one’s who love, respect and honour women — should read this book, if they want to champion women on their journey back to wildness (and all good men do). Estes is equal parts poet and priestess, and her words are remedies for disconnection. “When we are connected to the instinctual self, to the soul of the feminine which is natural and wild, then instead of looking over what happens to be on display, we say to ourselves. ‘What am I hungry for?’ Without looking at anything outwardly, we venture inward, and ask, ‘What do I long for? What do I wish for now?’ Alternate phrases are ‘What do I crave? What do I desire? For what do I yearn?’ And the answer usually arrives rapidly: ‘Oh, I think I want… you know what would be really good, is some of this or that… ah yes, that’s what I really want.’ Is that on the smorgasbord? Maybe yes and maybe no. In most cases, probably not. We will have to quest for it a bit — sometimes for a considerable time. But in the end we shall find it, and be glad we took soundings about our deeper longings.”

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Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — Susan Cain

When I was struggling hard against my shyness, to come out of my shell, to be bolder, prouder, louder, Quiet was the permission slip I needed to relax into (and stay true to) my own naturally introverted nature, which is: “The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

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Illusions. The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah — Richard Bach

“If you really want to remove a cloud from your life, you do not make a big production out of it, you just relax and remove it from your thinking. That’s all there is to it.” Illusions is full of this kind of simplicity and profoundness. Practical spirituality. Yes, please.

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Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert

This passage saved me from the torturous grip of doubt: “Never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgements about you are none of your business. Lastly, remember what W. C. Fields had to say on this point: ‘It ain’t what they call you; it’s what you answer to.’ Actually, don’t even bother answering. Just keep doing your thing.”

And this could easily become a mantra for living: “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise — you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” THIS, my fellow maker and creative risk-taker, is how we do it (or at least, how Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to do it, and how we can choose to do it). Our road is paved with joy, light, fear, courage, commitment, a lotta “what ifs”, a lot more “fuck its”, generous sprinklings of “ooooohs” and “aaaaaahs” and “oh nos”… and above all (or maybe despite it all), a repeatedly renewed devotion to the act of making… because we can, because we must, because why not? And besides, as she playfully challenges you on almost every page of her delightful book: what’s the alternative?

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The Book of Awakening — Mark Nepo

I haven’t read more than the first few pages of this book yet. But just having it on my bedside table feels like a blessing. Every morning, when my feet hit the floor, my eyes rest on the cover and I remember the introduction — an invitation, really — and already, I am more mindful, more peaceful, more great.full, more centred: “All I can ask of this work is that it comes over you the way ocean covers a stone stuck in the open, that it surprises and refreshes, that it makes you or me glisten, and leaves us scoured as we are, just softer for the moment and more clear.”

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The Essential Rumi — translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

For cultivating and deepening your relationship to your own divinity, which is the divinity in and of all things.
“But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.”

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To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee

“‘First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'” Atticus Finch and Boo Radley shaped the way I think about courage and integrity. I was young when I first read it. I cried the second time I read it. I cried again the day Harper Lee died, thinking about the power and beauty of words, how they can be strung into profound ideas and ideals, how they can strum the chords of our hearts, and how we can steer our lives by their light. This book was all that for me.

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Daring Greatly — Brené Brown

If Atticus shaped my thoughts about courage, Brené is shaping my heart to hold it and live it. “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. Yes, we are totally exposed when we are vulnerable. Yes, we are in the torture chamber that we call uncertainty. And, yes, we’re taking a huge emotional risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But there’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness.”

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Now, Discover Your Strengths — Marcus Buckingham

When I read Marcus’ definition of a strength — not necessarily something you’re good at, but something that makes you feel stronger when you do it — I sighed with relief. And I stopped ironing my laundry and going to networking events. Because, screw what we should be doing (or what comes easily or naturally to us, for that matter). If it makes you feel weak, it’s not a strength, and forcing yourself to keep doing it won’t necessarily make you feel stronger at doing it.

xo

xo Neshika

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The right book, at the right time, can be like balm for your soul. @NeshikaBell’s got 9 for you. Twitter Bird Icon: Neshika's Tweetable

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