Every once in a while, I come across a book that just happens to change my life.
Over the past few years, I’ve come across loads of ‘em, judging by the stacks piling up around my apartment. I thought maybe it was time to share some of this soul fire with you.
If you’re looking for some inspiration and self-empowerment, these are five of my very favorites.
These are the books that rocked my world and tilted me on my axis—or, really, brought me back into my own natural alignment. My own empowerment.
In these books, I found voices that echoed what I had been feeling for so long, but which other voices had told me weren’t practical:
- We are here for more than just keeping ourselves safe.
- What we love matters.
- Loving ourselves is the only way to love everything else.
- We are in reciprocal relationship with everything in the universe.
- Everything is connected. Everything.
Reading these books, wisdom that had been tucked away in my bones re-emerged, singing itself back to life.
Some call this awakening. To me, it felt like remembering some magic I had known long, long ago. It’s exhilarating—and so empowering.
These are the pages that have my notes scrawled in the margins. I’ve underlined phrases, and added stars and exclamations points. The ones I return to again and again, and underline and exclamation-point some more.
Maybe they’ll inspire some exclamation points in your life, too. Let me know!!!
~~ The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram
This is the book I first stumbled across that woke me up. About five years ago, I picked it up in the bookstore because it had a pretty cover and an alluring title. Which is actually perfect, because what this book taught—actually, reminded—me is that we are in a reciprocal relationship with everything in the universe. My love of beauty and wordplay, the fact that I used to win spelling bees in grade school—these were not coincidences. The book was picking me as much as I was picking it.
Abrams explores how humankind lost touch with the natural world and what that has cost us.
He examines storytelling and the evolution of language in different cultures and time periods, shamanism, animism, phenomenology, and the idea that spelling is not simply writing down letters, but casting magic. If you’re interested in the nature of the universe and our relationship to it, you will fall in love with this book!
It’s nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite quote, but here’s one:
“We regularly talk of howling winds, and of chattering brooks. Yet these are more than mere metaphors. Our own languages are continually nourished by these other voices—by the roar of waterfalls and the thrumming of crickets. It is not by chance that, when hiking in the mountains, the English terms we spontaneously use to describe the surging waters of the nearby river are words like ‘rush,’ ‘splash,’ ‘gush,’ ‘wash.’ For the sound unites all these words in that which the water itself chants as it flows between the banks. If language is not a purely mental phenomenon but a sensuous, bodily activity born of carnal reciprocity and participation, then our discourse has surely been influenced by many gestures, sounds, and rhythms besides those of our single species. Indeed, if human language arises from the perceptual interplay between the body and the world, then this language ‘belongs’ to the animate landscape as much as it ‘belongs’ to ourselves.”
Carnal reciprocity! Ooooohhhh. Goosebumps. Read it. Feel it.
~~ Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin
This is the second book I picked up, and the one that led me to take action with all of this buzzy, renewed energy bubbling in my body—the energy that comes from finding something that resonates. It led me to a vision quest in Vermont; I didn’t even really know what a vision quest was at the time, I just knew in my bones I was supposed to do it.
I was learning to trust my intuition.
Plotkin calls this book “an experiential guide to the wilderness of the soul.” It examines the different phases of the heroic journey—that epic journey we embark on in order to find our truest gifts—our soul gifts—and return to offer them to the world.
We all feel calls to adventure, large and small; not all of us answer those calls. I’ve ignored many of them in my life. I got so frustrated by missing out that I finally sought guidance on how to cultivate courage, skills, and desire so I can answer as many of them as possible. (Warning: it’s addictive, and sometimes scary as hell. And so worth it.) Now, these skills are what I offer my own coaching clients—because it changes the whole game into the game you want to play—not the one you find yourself stuck in.
This book is for those wild souls who dare to answer—or are just about to (yesyesyes!!!).
“Love is what evokes in us the desire to make our own next evolutionary leap as a species.” Mic drop.
“For it’s not just our inner afflictions that arise from soul loss; the crises of our outer world can be traced there as well. When we become alienated from soul—from inner nature—we lose respect for outer nature, resulting in pollution and degradation of the environment.”
“The soul is like an acorn. Just as the acorn gives instructions to the oak about how to grow and what to become, the human soul—a type of spiritual blueprint—carries an image or a vision that shows us how to grow, what gift we carry for others, the nature of our true life. Unlike oaks, however, we humans are the one part of creation capable of ignoring or refusing the flowering of our own souls.”
Answer the call! If you need a little help, drop me a note. Don’t ignore it any more. It won’t go away. (Trust me.)
~~ Deep Play by Diane Ackerman
This might be one of the most important books you’ll ever read. It’s the book that reminds us that not everything has to be hard.
Let’s take a sec to let that sink in.
I have to remind myself all the time: NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE HARD.
Play is actually essential to evolution! In a culture that glorifies long hours at work, being constantly on the run, and doing rather than being, we SO need to be encouraged to play. People with kids and dogs have a leg up—because obviously, kids and dogs are placed here on earth as our gurus.
“The more an animal needs to learn in order to survive, the more it needs to play. The more leisure time it has, the more it can play. Play is widespread among animals because it invites problem-solving, allowing a creature to test its limits and develop strategies.” Why do you think I call you guys my Wild Tribe? Play, guys, play!
“The spirit of deep play is spontaneity, discovery, and being open to new challenges. As a result, it allows one to happily develop new skills, test one’s limits, stretch them, and then maybe refine the skills and redefine the limits… It carries one across fear and uncertainty toward the slippery edges of possibility, where on must use oneself fully and stretch human limits to achieve the remarkable. It encourages discovery and growth.”
Doesn’t that sound more fun than to-do lists?
Bring on the leisure time—you’re not lazy, you’re evolving.
BTW: Play is also really helpful when getting up the guts to answer the call to a heroic journey. It’s a good way to trick ourselves into being courageous, and to remembering that NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE HARD. In case that bit wasn’t clear. <!NOTE TO SELF!>
~~ The Invitation by Oriah
If you’ve been waiting for someone to invite you to live your truest, most meaningful life, this book is that someone. A quote on the cover reads, “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for.” Wow.
Oriah asks those questions that lightning right to the heart:
When did you last laugh until your sides ached?
What is the taste, the look, the sound that comes when you touch the center of your sorrow?
Are you willing to meet yourself and not turn away from what you see?
She invites us to live a life of deeper intimacy and full participation—with ourselves, and with the world.
“All my journeys have been in search of the desires I’ve abandoned.”
“If we are strong enough to be weak enough, we are given a wound that never heals. It is the gift that keeps the heart open."
“I forget that it does not matter how far or how fast I move, but how much of myself I take along for the journey.”
Like all the best teachers, Oriah understands that courage comes from the heart; only our hearts have the power to propel us through fear, betrayal, heartbreak, tragedy, doubt, expansion, gratitude, forgiveness, and reclamation.
Only our hearts can lead us back home, for our hearts are our home.
The book offers a beautiful journey into your own heart. It’s an invitation worth accepting. That is the most heroic journey of all.
~~ The Soul of Sex by Thomas Moore
I wish everyone in the whole wide world would read this book. I thought it was going to be about sex. It is. And—more than that, it is about how we can live life erotically—that is, through our senses, fully engaged and turned on, in soulful partnership with life itself. And that is the soul of sex—its truest gift, if we can remember how to give and receive it.
I’ve come to believe that this—reclaiming our healthy, enchanting sexuality and sensuality, our reciprocity with ourselves and the natural world—is literally one of the most important issues of our time.
Our sexuality is our origin story—if we don’t claim it, we can’t claim ourselves. Our sensuality is how we reciprocate with life; if we don’t live sensually, we can’t live or appreciate life fully. If we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love the world. I don’t know about you, but I want ALL of it. Don’t you?
To live fully, wildly, engaged, enchanted, and turned ON.
This book will remind you how to do that. I’ve pretty much underlined and exclamation-pointed this entire book, but here are just a few favorite quotes:
“…The body is the soul manifested by the senses.” Oooooh! Think about that for a bit.
“In Greek literature eros is nothing less than the magnetism that holds the entire universe together, and human love in its many forms is simply a participation in that greater eros.”
“One of the first achievements to be made in the reconciliation of body and spirit, which is a prerequisite for a deepened, soul-filled sexuality, is a rediscovery of the virtue and value of the body's eroticism. We may have to realize in the starkest terms that the historical and psychological splitting of body and spirit, of transcendence and sensuousness, and of virtue and desire is a neurosis, a disturbance of the soul."
Isn’t it time to answer your soul’s craving?
I hope you’re inspired to pick up one or two (or all!) of these books, my wild friend. If you read any of them and feel empowered to take action in some way, I’d love to know! Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sending lots of love to your heroic heart and sensual soul.
Love + courage,
p.s. NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE HARD.
p.p.s. Know someone else who might find a little spark of inspiration in these books? Why not send this along to them? It might be just the thing to fan their flames.
p.p.p.s If you need a little help in making EVERYTHING NOT SO HARD, drop me a note—I’d love to connect!