Musings & Threads. Self-Help.
I read over 20 self-help books so that you don’t have to…
As you can tell from my bio, I suffered a significant number of catastrophic losses over a very short time period. To cope, I devoured self-help books, listened to TED talks, attended spiritual lectures, tried learning new skills (such as writing), with the exception of running away and joining a monastery, I tried pretty much anything.
The self-help books tend to have one theme that they repeat over and over. I gleaned a couple of tips that should be helpful to everyone and I am offering two. (If you want more, just let me know via a comment and I will keep writing.)
The most effective tip, for me, was “Grateful Living.” Buddhists and those who focus on living in the present moment (“the past is past, we don’t know the future, all we have is the now”) are prolific sources. But my favorite practitioner is Brother David Steindl-Rast. He is a 92-year-old Benedictine Monk with a fascinating life story. He believes that the true source of happiness is grateful living. He gave a simple example: due to his age, he can no longer do many chores at the monastery, so his duty is to wash the dishes. He describes the sensation of the warm water, the satisfaction of seeing clean plates, etc. When you think of that simple example, it is easy to see how to be grateful. Grateful that my car started this morning, for a beautiful sunset, a bloom turned into a flower, a cardinal appeared at my birdfeeder, I have electricity, I have running water. When I focus on gratitude, I can see the gift in every moment. He gives a good summary in his TED talk. (Click here for the TED talk.)
I began keeping a journal of “moments of joy.” It was important to write them down, so that I could see my progress. My first entry was the hardest as I struggled to find any joy in my life. I ended up finding that I enjoyed the smell of my latte in the morning. My second entry was seeing a cardinal at my birdfeeder. But by powering through it and focusing on “moments of joy,” I was able to start searching for joy…sorrow was ever-present, but joy was too, it was just overshadowed by loss. I realized that while I lost a lot, I still have so very, very much: wonderful family and friends, loving animals, beautiful views of nature, kindness from strangers, it is a very long list. So by writing about joy, I began to see it, and see that even in the darkest moments, there is some beauty, somewhere, and I became grateful.
So those are my two tips for now…there are plenty of books on these if you are interested, but remember, “I read them so that you don’t have to.”
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