Naked House Interview: “Take a Hard Look at Your Calendar”

writings in a planner
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Kelly Rupiper is Content Director at Upparent, a recommendation-sharing website for parents. She is also the mother of two elementary school-aged kids. See Upparent.com. Here is the interview we did for my book, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Kelly: Parenthood brings with it a lot of stuff. When my kids were a newborn and a toddler, we moved from a small condo into a larger home and it felt like the floodgates for accumulating toys, clothes, and gear were opened. It was easy to add more and more stuff now that we had the room, and though I don’t think we had gone overboard by common standards, eventually I started feeling like we were spending too much time putting away toys, sorting through piles of clothes, and generally cleaning up. The effort that we were putting into taking care of all of these things was more than the happiness we were getting out of having them. This was around the time that people started talking more about a minimalist lifestyle, and the idea of letting go of the clutter seemed freeing to me. I spent the better part of a year combing through our home and putting together donations, selling items on Facebook, and handing things down to family members. A few years later we embarked on a cross-country move, and this was a great opportunity to think critically about what really needed to come with us and pare down some more.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?

Kelly: A minimalist lifestyle isn’t just about owning as little as possible or going without. It’s about limiting yourself to the things that are important, special, and useful to you, and getting to enjoy these things every day because you’re not weighed down by needing to weed through and maintain all of the fluff.

It’s also not just about physical belongings. Think about taking a more minimal approach to the way you schedule your family’s time and attention, too. Take a hard look at all of the after-school activities and obligations on your calendar, and think about how it would feel to spend less time driving around and more time at home as a family.

Mollie: Tell me more about the benefits of minimizing one’s schedule.

Kelly: Aside from keeping more money in the bank and enjoying more family time together, I have found that minimizing the number of activities that kids have on their plates helps to keep them from getting burned out. My kids tend to get overwhelmed when the schedule gets to the point where we’re running from one activity to the next, and lessening their load means they can actually look forward to the things they’ve signed up for.

Mollie: Why do you think people have a hard time being at home with no planned activity?

Kelly: There’s an instinct to feel like we have to entertain our kids, and the choruses of “I’m bored!” don’t help. But when kids aren’t overwhelmed by a playroom stuffed with endless choices and instead have a small collection of toys that inspire open-ended play, it’s pretty amazing to see how well they can entertain themselves and each other without parental intervention.

Mollie: How can people learn to embrace unplanned family time?

Kelly: Simple, low-key family traditions can be a great way to give some structure to your family time without introducing outside obligations. My family does a weekly Friday night family movie night and we rotate the person who gets to pick what we watch. The kids look forward to it all week. We are also reading the Harry Potter series together, and we sit down to read a chapter most evenings after the kids are showered and ready for bed. Introducing fun (and often free!) activities like these gives the family something easy to do together that they look forward to and creates memories that you’ll be able to enjoy for years.

Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for simplifying a home?

Kelly: Do what you can to keep excess things from coming into your house in the first place. Getting your family on board with this will make it much easier. It’s hard to deny well-meaning relatives who love to buy gifts for your kids, so give them ideas that mesh well with minimalism: a museum membership, a kids cooking class, or one larger-ticket holiday gift (like a basketball hoop or a streaming service membership) for the whole family to enjoy together. My kids will often choose a special family experience like an amusement park trip or theater tickets instead of a large birthday party with friends and gifts.

Mollie: Any final thoughts?

Kelly: Minimalism isn’t just about clearing out your house. It’s about changing your mindset, so you’re better-equipped to maintain your new way of life moving forward. Once you discover and embrace how freeing it is to be living without the clutter in your house and on your calendar, it’s easier to be able to say “no” to the pressure we all feel to take on more.

A place for everything and everything in its place. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: A Self-improvement Self-education

assorted books on book shelves
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Make no mistake: Self-help reading isn’t just self-help books. Nonfiction of all kinds contributes to a person’s physical, intellectual, emotional, financial, spiritual, and relational well-being. For this reason, I’ve made use of my obsession with all kinds of nonfiction (and love of note-taking) to compile a comprehensive-as-possible recommended reading list for people looking to achieve their own feats of great strength. This list includes books on business, finance, psychology, sociology, history, spirituality and more. For each book listed, I provide a brief content summary, then offer practical takeaways from a self-help lens.

Does your next feat of great strength require research–more than you have time to do? Subscribe to the right for a comprehensive self-improvement self-education, featuring summaries and tips from over 400 works of psychology, sociology, biography, history, anthropology, spirituality, science, memoir, economics, self-help and more.

Here are some of the books I plan to write about in this series. (Note that this list is a work in progress.)

Psychology

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin Seligman
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Martin Seligman
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcom Gladwell
Blissology: The Art and Science of Happiness, Andy Baggott
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Joe Dispenza
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems, Daniel Amen
Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free from Imagined Limitations, Robert Firestone
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown
I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power, Brene Brown
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Laurence Gonzales
Depression: How It Happens and How It’s Healed, John Medina
Depression Is Contagious: How the Most Common Mood Disorder Is Spreading Around the World and How to Stop It, Michael Yapko
Dibs: In Search of Self: Personality Development in Play Therapy, Virginia Axline
Don’t Shoot the Dog: The Art of Teaching and Training, Karen Pryor
Dressing Your Truth: Discover your Personal Beauty Profile, Carol Tuttle
The Child Whisperer: The Ultimate Handbook for Raising Happy, Successful and Cooperative Children, Carol Tuttle
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman
Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life, Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin
Exploring Happiness, Sissela Bok
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty, Jonathan Grayson
Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life, Christie Tate
Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, Richard Layard
Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, Daniel Nettle
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener
Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Presence, Patt Lind-Kyle
How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer
Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles, Dan Ariely
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, Lori Gottlieb
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resistence and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, Dan Ariely
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, Tara Brach
Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution., Brene Brown
Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Kristin Neff
Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, Gregg Krech
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk
The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good, David Linden
The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, Gad Saad
The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love or Sex, David Buss
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now, Meg Jay
The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, Alice Miller
The Feeling Good Handbook: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns
The Freedom Formula: How to Put Soul in Your Business and Money in Your Bank, Christine Kloser
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence, Gavin de Becker
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor
The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, Neil Pasricha
The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, Shankar Vedantarn
The How of the Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky
The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace, W. Timothy Gallway
The Magic of Thinking Big, David Joseph Schwartz
The Mindful Brain: The Neurobiology of Well-Being, Daniel Siegel
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression, Andrew Solomon
The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to Performance and Personal Renewal, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, Charles Duhigg
The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results, Bob Knight and Bob Hammel
The Power of Positive Thinking: A Practical Guide to Mastering the Problems of Everyday Living, Norman Vincent Peale
The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, Gregg Easterbrook
The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier, Stefan Klein and Stephen Lehmann
The Smart But Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain’s Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and at Home, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare
The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great, Ray Bennett
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
Tinker Dabble Doodle Try Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind, Srinivasan S. Pillay 
Unchain Your Brain: 10 Steps to Breaking the Addictions That Steal Your Life, Daniel Amen and David Smith
What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, David DiSalvo
Why We Feel: The Science of Human Emotion, Victor Johnston
You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself, David McRaney
You Need Help!: A Step-by-Step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get Counseling, Mark Komrad and Rosalynn Carter
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson
This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, Augusten Burroughs
When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life, David Burns

Sociology

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcom Gladwell
What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, Malcom Gladwell
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon
A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire, Sai Goddam and Ogi Ogas
Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich
Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Lives of Adolescent Girls, Mary Pipher
The Disappearance of Childhood, Neil Postman
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation, Matt Ridley
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Barry Schwartz
The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers and Family Life, Marie Winn
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry, Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes
The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men, Christina Hoff Summers
White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, Tim Wise
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman
The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race In America, Shelby Steele

Science

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande
Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, Robert Lanza and Bob Berman
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Mary Roach
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Mary Roach
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach
Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly
Genome: The Autobiography of A Species in 23 Chapters, Matt Ridley
Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, Mike Massimino
The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think, Jennifer Ackerman
The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, Sam Kean
The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, Brian Greene
The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of A Citizen Scientist, Richard Feynman
The Particle at the Edge of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World, Sean Carroll
The Rise of the Robots
The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, Tor Norretranders
Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life, Stephen LaBerge
A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics, Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeizel and Thomas Peisel

History

1776, David McCullough
Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography, Peter Green
An American Childhood, Annie Dillard
A Short History of Financial Euphoria, John Kenneth Galbraith
Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steve Sheinkin
Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, Stephen E. Ambrose
Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, Katie Hafner
Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, Bryan Burrough
Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned, Kenneth Davis
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansong
How the Web Was Won: How Bill Gates and His Internet Idealists Transformed the Microsoft Empire, Paul Andrews
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, Albert Speer
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James W. Loewen
Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787, Catherine Drinker Bower
Mythology, Edith Hamilton
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times, Susan Wise Bauer
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 2: The Middle Ages, Susan Wise Bauer
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 3: Early Modern Times, Susan Wise Bauer
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age, Susan Wise Bauer

Education

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn–And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner
Free-Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything, Laura Grace Weldon
How Children Fail, John Holt
Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, John Holt
In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences, Thomas Armstrong
Learning All the Time: How Small Children Begin to Read, Write, Count, and Investigate the World, Without Being Taught, John Holt
No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Alfie Kohn
Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes, Alfie Kohn
Seven Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences, Thomas Armstrong
Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-class Performers From Everybody Else, Geoffrey Colvin
Teach your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, John Holt
The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence, Josh Waitzkin
The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn
The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould
The Unschooling Handbook, Mary Griffith
The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer
The Well-trained Mind: Guide to a Classical Education at Home, Susan Wise Bauer
The Year of Living Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling, Quinn Cummings
Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook, Michael Fogler
Unschooling Rules, Clark Aldrich
What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
What Your First Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
What Your Second Grader Needs to Know, E.D. HirscWhat Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch
What Your Third Grader Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch

Economics and Business

Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsich
Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler Cowen
Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination, Hugh MacLeod
Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Get Slightly Famous, Steven Von Yoder
Getting Things Done, David Allen
Getting Things Done, Edwin Bliss
Good to Great, James C. Collins
Grapevine: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Dave Balter and John Butman
Hug Your Customers, Jack Mitchell
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini
Life After the 30-Second Spot, Joseph Jaffe
Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership, Richard Evans Farson
Mindsharing: The Art of Crowdsourcing Everything, Lior Zore
More Damned Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues, Joel Best
Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, Keith Ferrazzi
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell
Permission Marketing, Seth Godin
Quitter, Jon Acuff
Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, Steven D. Levitt
The Big Red Fez: How to Make Any Website Better, Seth Godin
The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), Seth Godin
The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine
The Four Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss
The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn
The Great Eight, Scott Hamilton
The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Carmine Gallo
The Long Tail, Chris Anderson
The One-Minute Manager, Kenneth H. Blanchard
The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential–in Business and in Life, Leo Babauta
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey
The Whuffie Factor, Tara Hunt
Think Like a Freak,
Trust Agents, Chris Brogan
Viral Loop, Adam L. Peneberg
What Color Is your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-hunters and Career-changers, Richard Nelson Bolles
What Would Google Do?, Jeff Jarvis

Relationships

Attached, Rachel Heller, Amir Levine
Codependent No More, Melody Beattie
Come as You Are, Emily Nagoski and Nicholas Boulton
Couples, Gender, and Power: Creating Change in Intimate Relationships, Carmen Knudson-Martin PhD, PhD Knudson-Martin, Carmen, PhD Mahoney, Anne Rankin
For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed, Tara Parker-Pope
His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard F. Harley Jr.
How to Break Your Addiction to a Person, Howard Halpern
Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding, Aaron Beck 
Love Sense, Sue Johnson
Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, Lori Gottlieb
Mating in Captivity: Sex, Lies and Domestic Bliss, Esther Perell
Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships, Neale Donald Walsch
Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg
Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, Sheila Glass
Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, John Gottman
The Ethical Slut, Janet Hardy
The Impossibility of Sex: Stories of the Intimate Relationship between Therapist and Client, Susie Orbach
The Relationship Cure, John Gottman
The Science of Trust, John Gottman
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman
The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference, Shaunti Feldhahn
Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiciton, Douglas Braun-Harvey
Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, John Gray
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman
Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship, Stan Tatkin

Parenting

Attachment Parenting, Katie Allison Granju
Between Parents and Child, Haim G. Ginott
Brain Rules for Baby, John Medina
How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, Norman H. Wright
If I Have to Tell You One More Time, Amy McCready
Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv
Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, Adele Faber
Nurture Shock
Oh Crap! Potty Training
Parenting with Dignity, Mac Bledsoe
Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, Foster Cline
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, John Mordechai
Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber
The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two, Dr. Barry Sears
The Case for Make-Believe, Susan Linn
The Trouble with Perfect: How Parents Can Avoid the Overachievement Trap and Still Raise Successful Children, Elisabeth Guthrie and Kathy Matthews
The Whole-Brain Child
Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being A Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, Bryan Douglas Caplan

Spirituality

10% Happier, Dan Harris
A Course in Miracles
A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis
A Mind at Home with Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Turn Your World Around, Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell
A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken
Autobiography of A Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
Beginning Your Love Revolution, Matt Kahn
Conversations with God, Part One, Neale Donald Walsch
Conversations with God, Part Three, Neale Donald Walsch
Conversations with God, Part Two
Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, Anita Moorjani
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Jon Kabat-Zinn
I Need Your Love – Is That True?: How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead, Byron Katie
Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Sharon Salzberg
Loving What Is, Byron Katie
Many Lives, Many Masters, Brian Weiss
Meditation Without Gurus, Clark Strand
Peace Is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh
Staring at the Sun, Thich Nhat Hanh
Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity, Bruce Bawer
The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery, Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle
The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
The Quantum Doctor: A Quantum Physicist Explains the Healing Power of Integrative Medicine, Amit Goswami
The Search For Grace: A Documented Case of Murder and Reincarnation, Bruce Goldberg
The Shack, William P. Young
The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell YOU, Mike Dooley
The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving Kindness, Pema Chodron
Whatever Arises, Love That: A Love Revolution That Begins with You, Matt Kahn
When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life, Jon Kabat-Zinn
You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, Joe Dispenza
How God Changes your Brain: Breakthrough Findings From A Leading Neuroscientist, Andrew Newberg
Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon–Survival of Bodily Death, Raymond A. Moody, Jr.
Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d, Candace Pert
Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, Candace Pert
Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable–and Couldn’t, Steve Volk
Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death, Chris Carter
Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms, David Kessler

Food & Nutrition

The Food Therapist, Shira Lenhewski
Mindful Eating, Jan Chozen Bays
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Warsink
Crave, Cynthia M. Bulik
Eat Fat Get Thin, Barry Groves
Overcoming Emotional Eating, Geneen Roth
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
Fasting and Eating for Health, Joel Fuhrman
Fit for Life; Not Fat for Life, Harvey Diamond
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, Michael Pollan
Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes
How to Make Almost Any Diet Work, Anne Katherine
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan
Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch
Mastering Leptin, Byron J. Richards
Natural Hygiene, Herbert Shelton
Neanderthin, Ray Audette
Love Hunger: Breaking Free from Food Addiction, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Robert Hemfelt and Sharon Sweed and Don Hawkins
Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Quick Fasting, Nathaniel Hawthorne Bronner, Jr.
Rethinking Thin, Gina Bari Kolata
The Diet Cure: The 8-Step Program to Rebalance Your Body and End Food Cravings, Weight Gain and Mood Swings-Naturally, Julia Ross
The End of Overeating, David A. Kessler
The Fasting Cure, Upton Sinclair
The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery, Michelle Stacy
The Fit for Life Solution, Harvey Diamond
The Great Cholesterol Con, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick
The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight, Susan Yager
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, Richie Chevat
The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf
The Philosophy of Fasting, Edward Earle Purinton
The Vegetarian Myth, Liere Keith
Trick and Treat, Barry Groves
Triumph Over Disease By Fasting and Natural Diet, Dr. Jack Goldstein
When Food Is Love, Geneen Roth
When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair, Geneen Roth
Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, Gary Taubes
Why Weight?, Geneen Roth
Women, Food and God, Geneen Roth

Writing

Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster
A Whack On the Side of the Head, Roger von Oech
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Don’t Make Me Think!, Steve Krug
Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, Luke Sullivan
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go, Leslie Edgerton
How Fiction Works, James Wood
How to Be Funny, Jon Macks
Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, Elizabeth Lyon
On Writing, Steven King
Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell
Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder
Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies, Blake Snyder
Sick In the Head, Judd Apatow
Spunk & Bite, Arthur Plotnik
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation
The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, Donald Maass
The Non-Designer’s Design Book
The Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
The Well-Fed Writer, Peter Bowerman
The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler
Whack on the Side of the Head, Roger von Oech
Writing Irresistible Kidlit
Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maas
Your Life Is A Book: How to Craft & Publish Your Memoir, Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann

Memoir

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
Educated, Tara Westover
Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout
Into the Wild, John Krakauer
Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis
The Cross and the Switchblade, David Wilkerson

Classic Nonfiction

The Holy Bible
The writings of Buddha (500s–300s BCE)
The Analects, Confucius (500s BCE)
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze (500s BCE)
The Art of War, Sun Tzu (500s BCE)
The Magna Carta (1200s)
The Declaration of Independence (1700s)
The Constitution of the United States (1700s)
The Bill of Rights (1700s)
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Olaudah Equiano (1700s)
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas de Quincey (1800s)
The Gettysburg Address (1800s)
Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth (1800s)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1800s)
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs (1800s)
Walden, Henry David Thoreau (1800s)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass (1800s)
The Souls of Black Folks, W. E. B. DuBois (1900s)
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson (1900s)
I Have a Dream, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1900s)
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank (1900s)
The Story of My Life, Helen Keller (1900s)
Roots, Alex Haley (1900s)
Autobiography of Malcom X, Malcom X (1900s)
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair (1900s)
Black Boy, Richard Wright (1900s)
Native Son, Richard Wright (1900s)
Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (1900s)
The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom (1900s)
A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking (1900s)
The Meaning of It All, Richard Feynman (1900s)

Advanced Classic Nonfiction

The Histories, Herodotus (400s BCE)
The Republic, Plato (400s BCE)
History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides (400s BCE)
Rhetoric, Aristotle (300s BCE)
Apology, Plato (300s BCE)
Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle (300s BCE)
On the Nature of Things, Lucretius (60s BCE)
De Republica, Cicero (50s BCE)
The Early History of Rome, Livy (20s BCE)
Wars of the Jews, Josephus (70s CE)
Annals, Tacitus (100s CE)
The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius (100s CE)
Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian (100s CE)
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (100s CE)
Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch (100s CE)
Enchiridion, Epictetus (100s CE)
The Confessions, Saint Augustine (300s)
The City of God, St. Augustine (400s)
The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius (500s)
The Quran (600s)
The Ecclesiastical History, Adam Bede (700s)
The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Peter and Heolise Abelard (1100s)
Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas (1200s)
The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis (1400s)
In Praise of Folly, Erasmus (1500s)
The Education of a Christian Prince, Erasmus (1500s)
The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther (1500s)
Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1500s)
History of the Reformation, John Knox (1500s)
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila (1500s)
The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila (1500s)
Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross (1500s)
The Defense of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney (1500s)
Novum Organum, Frances Bacon (1600s)
The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1600s)
Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes (1600s)
Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (1600s)
Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (1600s)
The Second Treatise of Government, John Locke (1600s)
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys (1600s)
Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather (1600s)
An Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope (1700s)
An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope (1700s)
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (1700s)
The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine (1700s)
Common Sense, Thomas Paine (1700s)
On Liberty, John Stuart Mill (1800s)
The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1700s)
The Journal of John Woolman, John Woolman (1700s)
The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1700s)
A Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (1700s)
On American Taxation, Edmund Burke (1700s)
Life of Johnson, James Boswell (1700s)
The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton (1700s)
Memoir, Correspondence and Misc., Thomas Jefferson (1800s)
The Memoirs of Victor Hugo, Victor Hugo (1800s)
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1800s)
A Child’s History of England, Charles Dickens (1800s)
For Self-Examination, Soren Kierkegaard (1800s)
On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin (1800s)
The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams (1800s)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Frederich Nietzsche (1800s)
Beyond Good and Evil, Frederich Nietzsche (1800s)
An Autobiography, Annie Besant (1800s)
Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale (1800s)
Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud (1900s)
The Ego and the Id, Sigmund Freud (1900s)
The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud (1900s)

Other Recommended Books

703: How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life, Nancy Makin
A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir, Lev Golinkin
A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan About Living, Loving, and Waking Up, Linda Leaming
Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island, Thor Heyerdahl
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Elizabeth McCracken
Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir, Frank McCourt
Angry Fat Girls/Eating Ice Cream with My Dog, Frances Kuffel
A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein
As a Man Thinketh: Classic Wisdom for Proper Thought, Strong Character, and Right Actions, James Allen
A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story, Brenda Ashford
A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
Augusten Burroughs
Autobiography of A Face, Lucy Grealy
A Way of Being, Carl Rogers
A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, Joan Anderson
Banished: Surviving My Years In the Westboro Baptist Church
Basic Counseling Techniques: A Beginning Therapist’s Toolkit, Wayne Perry
Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir, Irvin Yalom
Bending God: A Memoir, Eric Robison
Beyond Order, Jordan B. Peterson
Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened & the Everyman Elevated America, Daniel Flynn
Blue Days, Black Nights: A Memoir of Desire
Bossypants, Tina Fey
Boy Erased, Garrard Conley
Chelsea Handler
Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert
Cracked: Life on the Edge in a Rehab Clinic, Drew Pinsky
Cult Child, Vennie Kocsis
Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron
David Sedaris
Devotion: A Memoir, Dani Shapiro
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), American Psychiatric Association
Disaster Preparedness, Heather Harrilesky
Dying: A Memoir, Cory Taylor
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
Eating the Dinosaur, Chuck Klosterman
Enola Gay, Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts
Escape
Escape from Babel: Toward a Unifying Language for Psychotherapy Practice, Scott Miller, Barry Duncan and Mark Hubble
Excavation: A Memoir, Wendy Ortiz
Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Mental Illness, Mary Forsberg Weiland
Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman
Favorite Wife: Escape From Polygamy, Susan Schmidt
Fifty Acres and a Poodle: A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm, Jeanne Marie Laskas
Five Men Who Broke My Heart: A Memoir, Susan Shapiro
Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir, Jennifer McGaha
Found: A Memoir, Jennifer Lauck
Full: How I Learned to Satisfy My Insatiable Hunger and Feed My Soul, Kimber Simpkins
Girl in a Band: A Memoir, Kim Gordon
Girl in the Woods: A Memoir, Aspen Matis
Girl Walks Out of A Bar: A Memoir, Lisa Smith
Give Me Everything You Have, James Lesdun
Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan
God Hunger, Desiree Ayres
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott
Growing Up Amish: A Memoir
Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Anne Lamott
Hidden Valley Road, Robert Kolker
Holy Hunger: A Memoir of Desire, Margaret Bulitt-Jonas
How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds-And How You Can, Too!, Dana Carpender
How Starbucks Saved My Life, Michael Gill
How To Stay Married: The Adventures of a Woman Who Learnt to Travel Light in Life, Love and Relationships, Mary-Lou Stephens
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxanne Gay
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir, Carrie Brownstein
Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh
In Memory of Bread: A Memoir, Paul Graham
In Small Doses, Marc Pollard
In Therapy: The Unfolding Story, Susie Orbach
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Matt
Into the Magic Shop, James Doyt
It Was Me All Along: A Memoir, Andie Mitchell
Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me, Rachel Bersche
Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins, Kathy Griffin
Killing Yourself to Live, Chuck Klosterman
Klostermann II, Chuck Klostermann
Lab Girl, Hope Jahren
Learning to Eat Along the Way: A Memoir, Margaret Bendet
Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship
Letters to a Young Therapist, Mary Pipher
Lift, Kelly Corrigan, November 2017
Lights On, Rats Out: A Memoir, Cree LeFavour
Lit, Mary Karr
Locked Up for Eating Too Much, Debbie Danowski
Lost and Found, Geneen Roth
Love in a Time of Homeschooling, Laura Brodie
Love Warrior: A Memoir, Glennon Doyle
Lucky Man: A Memoir, Michael J. Fox
Madness: A Bipolar Life, Marya Hornbacher
Manic, Terri Cheney
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home, Rhoda Janzen
Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind, Jaime Lowe
MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, Rachel Bertsche
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, Amy Silverstein
My Two Moms, Zach Wahls
Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler, Robert Beattie
Obsessed, Allison Britz
Official Book Club Selection, Kathy Griffin
On Becoming a Better Therapist: Evidence-based Practice One Client at a Time, Barry Duncan
On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, Anne Lamott
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in A Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman
Ordinary Light: A Memoir, Tracy K. Smith
Out of Orange: A Memoir, Cleary Wolters
Pajama School: Stories From the Life of a Homeschool Graduate, Natalie Wicham
Passage, Connie Willis
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint
Plan B, Anne Lamott
Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir, Wednesday Martin
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife, Eben Alexander
Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters, Adam Bau
Purge: Rehab Diaries, Nicole Johns
Red, Hot and Holy: A Heretic’s Love Story
Same Kind of Different as Me, Ron Hall
Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream, Adam Shepard
Seasons of a Mother’s Heart, Sally Clarkson
Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klostermann
Sex, Drugs and Meditation: How One Woman Changed Her Life, Saved Her Job and Found a Husband by Mary-Lou Stephens
Sex Object: A Memoir, Jessica Valenti
Sin Bravely: A Memoir of Spiritual Disobedience, Maggie Rowe
Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life, Jason Hanson
Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All, Stephen Fry
Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, Anne Lamott
Straight Pepper Diet: A Memoir, Joseph W. Naus
The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do, Jeff Goins
The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, Sarah Silverman
The Boston Strangler, Gerold Frank
The Chicken Chronicles, Alice Walker
The Child Bride, Cathy Glass
The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch
The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success, Darren Hardy
The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It, Geneen Roth
The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, Wendy Shanker
The Gift of Therapy, Irvin Yalom
The Good Eater, Ron Saxen
The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin,
The Imperfect Therapist, Jeffrey Kottler and Diane
The Janus Point, Julian Barbour
The Making of a Therapist, Louis Cozolino
The Man with the Candy, Jack Olsen
The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir, Elna Baker
The Night of the Grizzlies, Jack Olsen
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, Bill Bryson
The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy
The Secrets of Exceptional Counselors, Jeffrey A. Kottler
The Seven Good Years: A Memoir, Etgar Keret
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Elisabeth Tova Bailey
The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy, Ann Rule
The Two Kinds of Decay, Sarah Manguso
The Wishing Year: A House, a Man, My Soul: A Memoir of Fulfilled Desire, Noelle Oxenhandler
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
The Year of No Clutter, Eve M. Schaub
They Left Us Everything: A Memoir, Plum Johnson
This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression, Daphne Merkin
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott
Triumph: Life After the Cult–A Survivor’s Lessons
Two of a Kind: The Hillside Stranglers, Darcy O’Brien
Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and Other Affairs), Wendy Plum
Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, Debra Ginsberg
What Therapists Don’t Talk About and Why, Pope, Sonne & Greene
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir, Saloma Miller Furlong
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, Eve O. Schaub
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir, Sherman Alexie
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux
I Pledge Allegiance…: The True Story of the Walkers: An American Spy Family, Howard Blum
Is Paris Burning?, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
Jay J. Armes, Investigator, Jay J. Armes and Fredrick Nolan

Riding the Iron Rooster, Paul Theroux
The Bridge at Chappaquiddick, Jack Olsen

The Devil’s Triangle, Richard Winer

The War Magician, David Fisher

Treblinka, Jean-Francois Steiner
Twelve Great Philosophers, Wayne Pomerleau

School in a Book: Personal Records

ball point pen on opened notebook
Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on Pexels.com

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for lists. I’ve kept a written record of every significant book I’ve read since high school. I also list my own and my kids’ other achievements and experiences, including places we travel, awards we win and the like. What better way to round out this checklist of facts, skills and resources, then, than providing a place for you to do the same (or to at least get started)? (Don’t forget to include the dates!)

Enjoy all the books. Enjoy all the adventures. Thank you for taking this educational exploration with me.

Children’s and Middle Grade Books I’ve Read

Young Adult and Adult Fiction I’ve Read

Young Adult and Adult Nonfiction I’ve Read

Poems I’ve Read

Significant Movies and Shows I’ve Seen

Significant Podcasts and Other Presentations I’ve Seen

Places I’ve Traveled

Other Notable Achievements and Experiences I’ve Had

Naked House Interview: “Living in an Off-grid Tiny Home Is Extremely Important to Me”

snow covered wooden house inside forest
Photo by Adriaan Greyling on Pexels.com

Tara Skubella teaches tantra and conducts tantra ceremonies. See nakedearthtantra.com.

Mollie: Tell me about your minimalist lifestyle.

Tara: My partner and I are minimalists who live in a tiny home (a converted fifth-wheel) nearly off-grid on the side of a mountain. We’ve been here for three years and love it. We’ve condensed so much of our lives to make this our truth. Not only are we tiny house minimalists, but we don’t have running potable water and heat with wood.

Mollie: What was your decluttering and simplifying process like?

Tara: My first decluttering process happened while I was living in a 1400 square foot house. I donated, gifted or threw away 365 things in my home that I no longer needed. These items ranged from old cleaning products and makeup to pairs of earrings to clothing to a piece of furniture to kitchen supplies and books. It’s amazing how fast you can rid of items no longer used.

This became a ritual I continue to do about every other year, even while living in a tiny home. Most of the items I release these days are small things like pens or pencils, makeup, notebooks, accessories, old food and clothing items. It feels good to have a fresh start every now and then. Releasing 365 things clears the mind and gives us one less object to worry or think about each day for a year.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle? What ideas you want to spread?

Tara: Living a minimalist, off-grid, tiny-home life is extremely important to me. I enjoy being immersed in Mother Nature. I depend on snow for water to do my dishes and to boil water for tea. I depend on dead standing wood to heat our tiny home during the harsh 9,000-foot winter months. Living with Mother Earth instead of carving space into her creates a wealth of gratitude each day. Even living the primitive way I do is still very abundant, as I’ve experienced harsh survival situations in the past. Coming home to a cozy, safe space warms my heart.

I also believe living with less helps me with my ADHD. Since my mind is cluttered most of the time, living in a space with less to clean and to worry about simplifies my life even more. Living with less is also a mindful life choice and practice. Consciously choosing what we can live without opens the spirit to reconnect with intuitive choices about what we truly need in order to survive. Otherwise, instead of being more mindful of tasks we look for an easy way out. Thinking this way sometimes isn’t a big deal; however, the more we develop an attachment to objects for meeting our needs, the more we look for answers outside instead of within.

Mollie: Can you share a few very specific tips for cleaning, organizing and simplifying a home?

Tara: Yes. First, if you haven’t used something in a little over a year, you really don’t need it so get rid of it.

  1. Second, if you bring a non-perishable item into the house, release something else as an exchange. For example, if you buy a new pair of socks, donate or gift a pair that has never really fit right. If you receive a fancy new air-vacuumed mug for your birthday, donate the plastic one that doesn’t keep coffee warm as long as your new one.
  2. Also, remember that linens and towels can add up quickly. We only need one to two sets of sheets per bed and one to two bath towels per person. Depending on the family size, three or four kitchen towels is plenty. People often accumulate too many linens because we don’t like to do the laundry. This accumulation also happens with clothing. The more we are able to be mindful with laundry, the less we actually need on hand.
  3. My final tip is to rent a storage unit. Seriously. If you are uncertain about releasing a number of items, rent a storage unit and place those items in it, then see how often you return to use them. For the items you truly need, you’ll be willing to drive to the unit, use it and drive it back. If items stay unused for several months or they aren’t worth the rental fee, then you’ll learn that those unused items aren’t worth the money and effort to keep around.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked Interviews: “I Brought Two Suitcases with Me and Two Suitcases Back”

suitcases placed on edge of bed
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Haley Gallerani runs The Vegan Abroad, a website about traveling sustainably and as a vegan. Visit it at theveganabroadblog.com.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly minimized your possessions? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Haley: I would say that I officially became a minimalist in 2018 when I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I brought two suitcases with me and two suitcases back. I knew that I wouldn’t be living in Thailand forever so I didn’t want to purchase too many things while I was there. I did have to purchase a few things for my apartment, but it came furnished so my purchases were minimal.

The biggest way that I minimized my possessions was with my clothing. I used to own so many clothing pieces that I hardly ever wore. I now rotate among around ten different outfits. My biggest tip for simplifying your wardrobe is to only purchase neutral colors. This will allow you to mix and match more than if you own clothing with different colors and patterns.

Mollie: What is your life like now? How often do you travel and for how long? Do you still take only two suitcases?

Haley: I have been in the United States for the past few months, but I will be moving to Europe in January 2020. I am a big believer in slow travel. That means that I spend a long time in one location before moving onto the next. Europe is a bit more complicated than Thailand because of visa issues. I will start in Italy where I will stay for three months: one month in Rome, one month in Florence, and one month in Sicily. Then I will be going to Croatia for three months before finally settling in the Czech Republic where I will get a visa.

I am planning on only bringing one suitcase and a backpack with me to Europe because I will be moving around so much. I know that this is going to be even more challenging since Europe has four different seasons that I need to pack clothes for whereas it was almost always summer temperatures in Thailand. I am excited about the challenge, though, and I think that I will grow even more minimalist.

Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?

Haley: My most prized belief regarding a minimalist lifestyle is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for minimalism. I think that you have to find what brings you joy in life and focus on that. Clothing doesn’t bring me joy, so that is a very easy area for me to be a minimalist in. I do love cooking, though, so someone could look at my kitchen and think that I am not a minimalist, but then look at my closet and think that I am. Ultimately, I think that minimalism is about focusing on the things that matter to you, and spending less time (and money) on the things that don’t. When you find the things that don’t bring you joy, get rid of them.

Also, try to find ways to simplify the things that do bring you joy. For example, I am an avid reader. I only purchased physical books prior to moving to Thailand. I decided to purchase a Kindle before moving to Thailand so I could easily purchase books in English while I was abroad. It ended up being one of the best purchases that I have ever made because I no longer have the clutter of books anymore, and I can fit hundreds of books on a very small device.

Mollie: Any final thoughts?

Haley: Becoming a minimalist can be scary at first as you are getting rid of a bunch of your possessions. The thought of “What if I need this in the future?” may show up. My advice would be to keep the item that you are questioning for six months to a year depending on what the item is. If you haven’t used it in that time then you should probably get rid of it.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Voids Can Give Meaning and Emphasis to Chosen Elements”

worms eyeview of well
Photo by Filipe Delgado on Pexels.com

Pablo and Beverly Solomon have been minimalist designers for over forty years. Their work has been featured in over forty books as well as numerous magazines and newspapers; on TV and film; and on the radio. You can see examples of their fashion and home designs at PabloSolomon.com and BeverlySolomon.com.

Mollie: What is the essence of your minimalist design philosophy?

Pablo: You have so often heard it said that the core of minimalism is the concept of “less is more”. We would modify that a bit and say that putting quality over quantity is also minimalism. Minimalism is also the recognition that simplifying your life and achieving a harmonious balance between things and experiences, between your comfort and respecting nature, between activity and rest, etc. are also goals. Minimalism strives to be a physical representation of a serene, uncluttered mind that lives in harmony with nature.

Mollie: That’s an interesting idea. What does minimalism have in common with living in harmony with nature?

Pablo: Beverly is part Native American. One of her core beliefs that we try to follow is that we are just passing through this life and should leave the smallest negative marks behind—that we respect nature by using only what we need and protecting the rest. Minimalism design not only tries to blend the architecture into the setting, but to do the least amount of damage in the process. The concept of your home blending into the setting is representative of your being part of nature, not at odds with nature.

Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for living a successful minimalist lifestyle?

Pablo: It really begins with choosing to live in harmony with nature and to create a setting for yourself that puts you at peace. Keep the things that you cherish, that bring you happy memories, that make your life more pleasant. Eliminate those elements that just fill space for the sake of filling space. Learn to embrace the concept that voids can give meaning and emphasis to chosen elements. And it is okay to be as minimal or non-minimal as makes you comfortable.

Mollie: How do voids help give meaning? Can you give me an example of how you would use a void in an interior or exterior home design?

Pablo: The most simple example would be a wall. Having one valued painting is emphasized by the blank space around it. Were the wall to have as many paintings as you can cram on that wall, no one painting would have much impact.

Mollie: Any other thoughts?

Pablo: Like so many truths in life, the journey is often more important than the destination. Just considering the mindset of minimalism and taking the first steps in simplifying your life and calming your mind are worth it. Just let go of one thing today. Tomorrow is another day.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

Naked House Interview: “Respect the Space as a Defined Perimeter for How Much You Can Keep”

close up photo of yellow tape measure
Photo by Marta Longas on Pexels.com

Amanda Clark is the owner or Ever So Organized®️, a full-service home organizing company based out of Orange County, California. They specialize in decluttering and creating beautiful, functional and organized systems for homeowners. See eversoorganized.com for more information.

Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?

Amanda: A few years ago I moved into a new home, more than doubling the square footage of the previous home. I did not declutter before the move because I was pregnant with my third baby and fairly immobile. A month into the move my third baby was born and I decluttered my entire house during my maternity leave. I no longer wanted to organize and re-organized the amount of stuff I knew I didn’t even need. I wanted to enjoy the expanded space without adding more stuff in it.

Mollie: So now you actually have a large home that is spacious, too? What is that like?

Amanda: With more space in my home comes more space in my head; a weight has been lifted. I’m extremely proud of my house and it has been featured in a local publication. That never would’ve happened if it was filled with stuff.

Mollie: Can you share your process for decluttering?

Amanda: Look at one area at a time. For example, a pantry, closet, or even a drawer.

Step one: Remove everything from the space. That means everything!

Step two: Wipe down and clean the surfaces while they are empty.

Step three: Sort like items together. You may be surprised at how many black socks, tubes of toothpaste (you can never find) or cans of beans you own.

Step four: Declutter. Be ruthless. Do you love it? Does it improve your life? Can you purchase it in twenty minutes for under $20 if you need it later?

Step five: You are now allowed to shop for those pretty containers only after you know what you have left. Can risers, plastic dividers for drawers and matching slim velvet hangers really can make a big difference organizing your space. Go wild on Pinterest for ideas or check out my Instagram @eversoorganized.

Step six: Use containers to separate items and label everything.

And finally: Respect the space as a defined perimeter for how much you can keep. Don’t cram more stuff in the space later on. Use the one-in, one-out rule to keep it under control.

Mollie: Any more tips?

Amanda: Yes!

  • Turn all of your hangers backward in your closet. As you wear something replace the hanger with the cleaned item as you normally would. At the end of the season you can clearly see which clothes you have worn and which you haven’t. Consider decluttering those never-worn items.
  • Have a pretty bin, basket or container in a handy area. Put your mail, to-do items and even broken items you’ve been meaning to fix inside the container. Set aside time every single week to work on those actionable items. If you are consistent, very few things will fall through the cracks.
  • File fold your clothes in your drawers. This will change your life.

Mollie: What is file folding?

Amanda: File folding is a simple way of folding your clothes in a square or rectangle shape and then placing them in the drawer on their sides instead of flat. It looks similar to folders in a file cabinet. No more forgetting about what’s on the bottom of your pile: now there is no bottom.

Mollie: Any final thoughts?

Amanda: Less stuff truly means more time, more money and more freedom: less time maintaining the stuff, more money in the bank account because you are buying less and more freedom from consumerism.

The solution is almost always fewer things. Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home.

School in a Book: Algebra and Geometry

When it comes to algebra and geometry, most schools emphasize skills practice while spending almost no time helping students understand the ideas they are putting to use. Studying the definitions of commonly used higher-level math terms might help further your grasp of these subjects and allow you to converse about them more easily. Fluency in these ideas might also ease transitions between math teachers and curriculum and shorten your review time before exams.

Note that calculus and trigonometry terms are not included in this book, as these ideas require the kind of in-depth explanations that aren’t practical in this format. Also, this treatment of algebra and geometry focuses on the ideas and processes that are most useful for a general audience.

Basic Algebra

Algebra: An extension of arithmetic in which unknown numbers can be represented by letters

Variable: Any letter that stands for a number

Expression: Any string of numbers and symbols that makes sense when placed on one side of an equation; for example 5x + 4x

Term: Any part of an expression that is separated from the other parts by either a plus sign or a minus sign; for example, 3x and 5x in the expression 3x – 5x

Coefficient: The numerical part of a term; for example, the term 3x has a coefficient of 3

Constant: A number without a variable; for example, the number 2 in 6m + 2 = x

Like terms: Terms whose variables (with any exponents) are the same; for examples, 3x and 5x

Order of operations: The correct sequence of operations to use when solving an expression with multiple operations. Mathematical symbols are often used to indicate this sequence; for example, in (3x + 5x)/2, 3x and 5x are to be added before that number is divided by 2.

Theorum: A mathematical proposition that has been proven true, such as the Pythagorean Theorum

Rational number: A number that can be made by dividing two integers (an integer is a number with no fractional part)

Irrational number: A real number that can NOT be made by dividing two integers (an integer has no fractional part)

The Commutative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when two terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Commutative Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when two terms are multiplied, the order of multiplication does not matter

Associative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when three or more terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Distributive Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when a number is multiplied to an addition of two numbers, it results in the output which is same as the sum of their products with the number individually. The equation for the for this is: a × (b + c) = (a × b) + (a × c). For example, x2 × (2x + 1) = (x2 × 2x) + (x2× 1).

The inverse property of addition: The rule that states that for every number a, a + (-a) = 0 (zero)

The inverse property of multiplication: The rule that states that for every non-zero number a, a times (1/a) = 1

Factorization: The mathematical process of breaking a number down into smaller numbers that, multiplied together, equal the original number

Prime number: A positive number that has exactly two factors, 1 and itself

Square root: The number that, multiplied by itself once, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the square root of 16 is 4 because 4 x = 16.

Root: The number that, multiplied by itself one or more times, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the number 2 is a cube root of 8 because 2 x 2 x 2 equals 8.

Radical: The symbol √ that is used to indicate the square root or nth root of a number

Exponent: A number that indicates how many times to multiply its associated number. An exponent is written in a smaller font at the top right-hand corner of its associated number.

Exponential growth: The rapid numerical growth that occurs when numbers are multiplied, then multiplied again, with each iteration folding in the previous total and multiplying it by x number.

Second-degree term: A variable raised to the second power, like x2, or the product of exactly two variables, like x and y

Linear equation: An equation in which the highest power of the variable is always one. The standard form of a linear equation with one variable is: Ax + B = 0. These are some of the easier algebraic equations to solve, and are introduced early in the subject.

Linear model: A model that assumes a linear relationship between the input variables (x) and the single output variable (y)

Quadratic equation: An equation that has a second-degree term and no higher terms

Quadratic formula: A formula that provides a solution to the quadratic equation ax2 + bx + c = 0. The quadratic formula is obtained by solving the general quadratic equation.

Polynomial: A mathematical expression with one or more algebraic terms, each of which consists of a constant multiplied by one or more variables raised to a nonnegative integral power (such as a + bx + cx2)

Monomial: A polynomial with only one term

Binomial: A polynomial with only two terms

Trinomial: A polynomial with only three terms

Degree of a polynomial: The sum of the exponents of variables that occur in that term (if there is no exponent written on a variable, such as in 3x, the exponent is one). The degree of a polynomial is the greatest degree of any term in the polynomial (for instance, for the polynomial 4x2 + 7xyz, the degree is 3 because of the last term).

Function: An expression that states a relationship between one variable (the independent variable) and another variable. These expressions can be graphed on a coordinate plane.

Nonlinear function: A function whose graph is not a line or part of a line

Vector: A quantity that has both magnitude and direction but not position. Examples of such quantities are velocity and acceleration

Simple interest: Interest that is calculated on the principle amount only

Compound interest: Interest that is calculated on both the principal amount as well as the interest accumulated over the previous period

Amortization: A method for calculating interest payments wherein a much higher proportion of the total interest is charged first, and reduced at a regular rate over the life of a loan

Scientific notation: A way of writing very large or very small numbers in a shorter form, using symbols; for example, 650,000,000 can be written as 6.5 ✕ 10^8

Relation: A collection of ordered pairs containing one object from each set

Transformation: A general term for four specific ways to manipulate the shape and/or position of a point, line, or geometric figure

Simultaneous linear equation: The two linear equations in two or three variables solved together to find a common solution

Other Algebra Skills

  • Using algebraic symbols
  • Solving for variables
  • Solving and graphing inequalities
  • Calculating ratios, rates, percentages and proportions (as when finding taxes, discounts, markups, gratuities, commissions, simple interest, the percent rate of change, exponential growth and more)
  • Finding prime numbers and square roots
  • Solving quadratic equations
  • Working with radicals
  • Comparing functions

Basic Geometry

Plane geometry: The mathematics of flat, two-dimensional shapes like lines, circles and triangles

Solid geometry: The mathematics of three dimensional objects like cubes, prisms, cylinders and spheres

Point: A specific position on a line, plane, or in space. A point is a theoretical construct. It has no dimensions, only position.

Line: A one-dimensional figure that features length but no depth or height. A line is a theoretical construct.

Plane: A flat two-dimensional surface. A plane is a theoretical construct with no depth whose height and width are infinite or indefinite

Solid: A three-dimensional shape

Polygon: Any two-dimensional (plane) shape with straight sides, such as triangles, rectangles and pentagons

Quadrilateral: A polygon with four sides

Pentagon: A polygon with five sides

Hexagon: A polygon with six sides

Septagon/Heptagon: A polygon with seven sides

Octagon: A polygon with eight sides

Rhombus: A quadrilateral with parallel and equally-sized opposite sides; a diamond

Parallelogram: A quadrilateral with parallel but unequally-sized opposite sides

Trapezoid: A quadrilateral with two parallel and two nonparallel sides

Isosceles triangle: A triangle with two sides that are of equal length

Equilateral triangle: A triangle with equal sides and angles

Scalene triangle: A triangle with unequal sides and angles

Right triangle: A triangle with one internal 90-degree angle

Cube: A three-dimensional square

Cone: A three-dimensional triangle with a round base

Cylinder: A tube-shaped object

Sphere: A ball-shaped object

Pyramid: A three-dimensional figure on which the faces are triangular and converge to a single point at the top

Prism: A three-dimensional figure with identical ends of any shape. For example, a rectangular prism has identical rectangles at each end. Note that a cube is a prism.

Angle: Two lines that meet to form a corner

Parallel lines: Lines that do not intersect

Perpendicular lines: Lines that intersect at a 90-degree angle

Vertex: A corner point

Right angle: A 90-degree angle

Acute angle: An angle less than 90 degrees but greater than 0 degrees

Obtuse angle: An angle greater than 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees

Diameter: A straight line that passes through the center of a circle or sphere and ends at the circle or sphere’s outer edges

Radius: A straight line that extends from the center of a circle or sphere to the outer edge; half of a diameter

Chord: The line segment between two points on a curve

Face: A surface plane of a three-dimensional shape

Edge: The meeting place of two faces on a three-dimensional shape

Slope: The steepness and direction of a line as read from left to right

Transversal line: A straight line that intersects two other straight lines

Coordinate: Two numbers (or a letter and a number) that signify a specific point on a coordinate plane

Coordinate plane: A grid with a horizontal x-axis and a vertical y-axis that meet at a center point, with the center point value being 0 and each line on the grid representing whole numbers as they increase or decrease along each axis. The plane has four quadrants: quadrant I, with a positive x value and a positive y value; quadrant II, with a negative x value and a positive y value; quadrant III, with a negative x value and a negative y value; and quadrant IV, with a positive x value and a negative y value. A coordinate plane is used to graph points, lines and other objects.

X-axis: The horizontal axis in a coordinate plane

Y-axis: The vertical axis in a coordinate plane

Congruent: The same shape and size (though not necessarily positioned the same way)

Similar: The same shape, with the same angle degrees (though not necessarily the same size)

Pythagorean theorem: The rule of mathematics that states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. Written as a formula, this is: a2 + b2 = c2 (for a right-angled triangle).

Proof: Statements that prove that a mathematical concept is true

Formula for calculating the area of squares and rectangles: Multiply height by width: hxw. Note that some areas can be divided into multiple squares and rectangles and the results can be added together to find the total area.

Formula for calculating square footage: Use the same formula as for finding the area of a square, using feet as the measurement: hxw

Formula for calculating the area of a triangle: Multiple the height by the width, then divide by two: (h x w)/2

Formula for calculating diameter: Multiply pi by radius, then square this number: πR2

Formula for calculating perimeter: Add length and width, then multiply this by two: 2(length + width)

Formula for calculating the volume of a cube or rectangle-based shape: Multiply width, length and height: l x w x h

Formula for calculating the volume of a sphere: Cube the radius, then use this formula: 4/3 × π × R3

Formula for calculating the volume of a prism or cylinder: Find the area of the end shape, then multiply by its depth

Formula for calculating the volume of a cone or pyramid: Calculate the volume of the base as if the base were a square, then divide by 3.

Formula for measuring an angle: (n – 2) * 180

Trigonometry: The branch of mathematics that applies algebra and geometry skills to circular and periodic functions. It includes the use of sine, cosine and tangent.

Calculus: The branch of mathematics that works with series and sequences; probability and statistics; and limits and derivatives.

Other Geometry Skills

  • Measuring angles
  • Calculating scale
  • Calculating arc length
  • Graphing lines and slopes
  • Working with coordinate planes
  • Proving simple geometric theorems
  • Making geometric constructions based on a given set of numbers
  • Working with the Pythagorean theorem
  • Solving linear equations
  • Working with functions

A Complete Revised Worksheet for The Work of Byron Katie (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-Nine)

In a past installment of this serial, I shared my own worksheet for the Work, a longer version of Byron Katie’s. Recently, I decided to add another section. Over and over again, I come to the Work with only an undesirable feeling–no thought, nothing to blame. My need to excavate the feeling further before doing the Work led to my adding a new subset under Step One. I share the entire revised worksheet here.

As I noted previously, this information is not Byron Katie or Byron Katie Foundation approved.

A Complete Revised Worksheet for The Work of Byron Katie

There are three main steps to The Work of Byron Katie. First, find the thought that is causing you pain. Then question the thought as directed. Then turn the thought around–find evidence for it’s opposite and discover what it’s trying to teach you about yourself.

Step One: Find the Painful Thought

Painful thoughts are thoughts that judge a person or a situation unfavorably, causing negative emotion.

First, identify who or what you judge to be your problem.

Is your problem (apparently) an undesirable situation or event, the undesirable behavior of another person, or an undesirable, unexplained feeling? Move to the relevant section below. (Note that if the thought appears to be about yourself, it can and should be reworded to be about a situation instead. For example, “I am lazy” can be “I have a problem with laziness” and “I feel depressed” can be “I am experiencing depression frequently.”)

Thoughts Concerning a Situation or Event

1. What situation or event angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you and why?
I feel (emotion) because (situation).

2. How do you want the situation or event to change? What would you prefer instead?
I want (action/change).

3. What is it about this situation or event that you don’t ever want to experience again?
I don’t ever want to experience (emotion and/or action).

4. What does this situation or event say about you? What is the hidden meaning behind it?
This situation shows that I am (descriptor). This situation means that (hidden fear).

5. What difference would it make if you got what you wanted in this situation or event?
If I got what I wanted, I would feel (emotion). If I got what I wanted, I would experience (result).

6. What is the worst thing that could result from this situation or event?
Due to this situation, I could experience (result).

7. If your emotion about this situation or event was a small child, what would it be screaming out?
My (emotion) would be screaming out (unrestrained illogical conclusions).

Choose the thoughts from your list above that deeply resonate and do steps two and three with each.

Thoughts Concerning Another Person

1. Who angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you and why?
I feel (emotion) with (person) because (reason).

2. In this situation, how do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?
I want (person) to (action).

3. In this situation, what advice would you offer to them?
(Person) should/shouldn’t (action).

4. In order for you to be happy in this situation, what do you need them to think, say, feel, or do?
I need (person) to (action).

6. What is it about this person’s actions that you don’t ever want to experience again?
I don’t ever want to experience (emotion and/or action).

7. What does this person’s behavior say about you? What is the hidden meaning behind it?
This situation shows that I am (descriptor). This situation means that (hidden fear).

8. What difference would it make if the person acted the way you wanted them to?
If (person) acted as I prefer, I would feel (emotion). If (person) acted as I prefer, I would experience (result).

9. What is the worst thing that could result from this person’s behavior?
(Person) could cause (result).

10. If your emotion about this person was a small child, what would it be screaming out?
My (emotion) would be screaming out (unrestrained illogical judgments and descriptors).

Choose the thoughts from your list above that deeply resonate and do steps two and three with each.

Unexplained Feelings

1. What undesirable feeling are you experiencing?
I am experiencing (emotion).

2. What emotion would you like to feel instead?
I would like to feel (emotion).

3. Why don’t you like the feeling? What aspect of the feeling is undesirable to you?
This feeling is undesirable because (reason).

4. What difference would it make in your life if you never had this feeling again?
If I never had this feeling again, I would experience (result).

5. What is the cause of this emotion?
I feel (emotion) because (cause).

6. What life change could get rid of this emotion?
If (event), I would not feel (emotion).

7. What should you do differently in order to avoid this emotion?
I should always (behavior). I should never (behavior).

8. What do you lack inside yourself right now that might lead to this emotion?
I lack (personal or physical quality).

9. What does having this feeling say about you? What is the hidden meaning behind it?
This situation shows that I am (descriptor). This situation means that (hidden fear).

10. What is the worst thing that could result from your having this feeling?
With an ongoing experience of this emotion, (result).

11. If your emotion were a small child, what would it be screaming out right now?
My (emotion) would be screaming out (unrestrained illogical statements).

12. What are the benefits (seeming or actual) you receive when experiencing this emotion, either from others or from yourself?
When I feel (emotion), I receive the benefit of (benefit).

Choose the thoughts from your list above that deeply resonate and do steps two and three with each.

Step Two: Question the Thought

Slowly, carefully answer the following questions about your painful thought, whatever kind of thought it is.

1: Is it true?

2: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3a: How do you react—what happens—when you believe the thought?

3b. Can you find one stress-free reason to keep the thought?

4a: Who would you be without the thought?

4b. Can you find a reason to drop the thought?

Step Three: Turn the Thought Around

Finally, find evidence for the opposite of your statement and discover what your negative beliefs can teach you about yourself.

1. Turn the thought around to the opposite. For example, “Melody is rude” becomes “Melody is not rude.”

2. Turn the thought around to yourself. For example, “I am rude.”

3. Turn the thought around to your thinking. For example, “I am rude in my thinking.”

4. If the thought is about another person, turn it around by switching the names. For example, “Melody is rude to me” becomes “I am rude to Melody.”

5. If the thought is about another person, turn it completely to the self. For example, “I am rude to myself.”

6. If the thought is about another person, turn it completely to the other person. For example, “Melody is rude to herself.”

7. If the thought is about another person’s negative quality, turn it around by finding similar qualities you see in yourself. For example, “I am selfish when I . . .” or “I am impatient when I . . .”

8. If the thought begins with “I don’t ever want to,” turn it around by replacing that phrase with both “I am willing to” and “I look forward to.”

9. For each turnaround that resonates, find three pieces of evidence for the truth of the thought. For example, “Melody is always nice to my children,” “Melody is always nice to her children,” and “Melody was nice to our waitress.”

10. Finally, ask yourself how the experience or situation might be the universe’s way of bringing about your your highest good. If you do nothing else on this worksheet, ask this question.

Bonus Step: Ask yourself again: Is it true?

Byron Katie Versus CBT (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-Eight)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a bit hard to pin down. It’s a lot of things to a lot of people. The common thread is that it’s a therapeutic technique that teaches people how to identify “inaccurate negative thoughts” that can cause depression and anxiety and find “healthier ways to view the situation” (WebMD). Put simply, it’s talking yourself out of your negative beliefs. “I am stupid,” then, becomes “I didn’t study hard enough for the test,” and “No one like me” becomes “I haven’t reached out to new people and offered friendship.”

Sound familiar? Sure it does. The Work is a lot like CBT. Some might even argue that it’s a subset or an offshoot. Who can trace the history of an idea? In any case, in this, the first of several special sections for this serial, is a list of the major differences between these two great practices.

CBT Versus The Work

1. CBT is widely used by professionals and non-professionals worldwide. According to Wikipedia, CBT is “the most widely used evidence-based practice for treating mental disorders.” So there’s that.

2. CBT is well-studied and proven to be effective. It’s the therapeutic technique with the most proven results. The National Institute of Health and many other respected organizations claim that it both alleviates depression and prevents relapses, and does so as well or better than medication.

3. The Work is simpler. In spite of my musings on the complexity of Byron Katie’s process, it is as simple as it can realistically be. CBT can be simple, too; there are many, many versions of it. But Katie went to great effort to reduce the process to a teachable form.

4. The Work has the guru. And I like a guru. There’s something about a truly inspired teacher that sets a fire in you, the believer. Byron Katie is beautiful. She’s a human, but superhuman. She convinces us that deep, abiding inner peace is possible.

5. The Work is more dramatic. In doing the Work, we question everything. Anything and everything, even the reality of our own firsthand experience. This leads to some really deep, really insightful conclusions–conclusions we never see coming. An example: In CBT I might take the thought “I am depressed” and change it to “I feel some depression now, but it will pass. I am very good at finding new and creative ways of coping, and I’m very good at taking care of myself.” All good stuff. While working through Katie’s turnarounds, though, my results look much different. They cause me to examine the basic truth of the negative thought. “I am depressed” might become “I am not depressed in any essential way. My natural self is joyful and at peace. I am not suffering from a condition called depression. I am merely experiencing a temporary feeling that is the natural result of my habitual thought patterns up until this time.” Big difference. When you’re able to see that not only is your thought not true, but the exact opposite is true, something does shift inside you.

6. The Work feels more spiritual. While the Work can be done from an agnostic perspective, in practice it often brings us back to our core spiritual understandings. Many of the thoughts we want to get rid of have to do with death, loss, and animosity. When we believe, as Byron Katie does, that there is no death, and there is no loss, and all animosity is just misdirected ego . . . well, it really puts things into perspective. I’m not sure if you’d be able to completely turn around a thought about a seemingly undeniable factual experience if you didn’t believe, as Katie does, that reality is an illusion and truth is relative.

The way Byron Katie looks at things—the perspective you get from her while reading her book—is based on the idea that in the end, we’re really all okay. The stock market crashed? You lost all your money? Your wife is cheating on you right now, as we speak? Welcome it. Welcome it all. There’s even an analogy she gives about the peace people feel while plummeting to the ground with a broken parachute. And she’s right—that really does happen. Even in life-or-death circumstances, she says, the only real problem is our mind. And it’s that ultimate view of reality that in the end, none of this shit really matters that makes her often extreme positions on temporal pain tenable.

Far be it from me, though, to recommend one process over the other. I like both. I do both.

I’m thankful for the choice.

A Byron Katie Q and A (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-Seven)

And now, I leave you to it. But first, the final special Byron Katie section of this serial: A Byron Katie Q and A. Here, I take on some of the hang-ups people experience while doing the Work and some common difficulties in understanding the process itself. Note that the questions are mine and the answers are, too.

Q. Byron Katie says that all “should” statements are inherently not true, because everything that is, should be. So why does the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet specifically instruct us to write “should” statements? Isn’t that sort of stacking the deck?

A. Technically, yes. And if you don’t actually have a “should” thought, don’t write one down. But the reality is that most of us do. And the Work isn’t only for the thoughts that are logical. It’s for any stressful thought–even the ones we already know aren’t true. Because they’re there, hiding just beneath the surface and affecting us more than we realize. By working on them, we bring them into the light.

Q. What about when someone really should do something differently? For their own good, and all that?

A. This one is easy. Byron Katie often reminds us to stay in our business and let others stay in theirs. “Do you really want God’s job?” she asks. So sure, offer advice. Give them a friendly suggestion. Just don’t get attached to the results. Spend your energy doing the Work on your thoughts about the person instead.

Q. Byron Katie says it’s best not to have any goals regarding the Work as we’re doing it–not even the goal of feeling better, finding emotional relief. What is the reason for this? And is it even possible?

A. Every single time I do the Work, I have a goal: I want to get rid of that ugly thought. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing the Work at all, would I? I suspect if you’re at a certain so-called “level,” spiritually speaking, you know what Byron Katie means by having no goal. I suppose you’re able to comprehend the idea of total acceptance of all outcomes, all negative thoughts, all of what comes into your experience, even suffering. I’m not quite there yet. In one video I watched, Katie says that if your Work has goals, your Work will reflect those goals and, I suppose, yield results that are less honest. I see how that could happen. I’m not sure if it happens to me or not.

Q. We’re supposed to love our negative thoughts? Why?

A. Stressful thoughts are like alarm clocks, Katie teaches. They wake us up to reality, take us out of the dream. This is an important function, and if the thought isn’t lovable for it, it can still be worthy of appreciation.

Q. Byron Katie teaches us that stressful thoughts are never the truth. But how can we know that assumption is true? As long as we’re questioning things, shouldn’t we question that?

A. I don’t claim to know how Byron Katie would answer this question. It is a hard one for sure. My best guess is that she’d say that stressful thoughts always involve a story, an interpretation. No matter what happens to you, it’s the story that causes the stress, not the situation itself. If there is no story, all we’re left with is our true nature, which is to love what is. Two quotes on this that relate:

    • “Love is not a doing. There is nothing you have to do. And when you question your mind, you can see that the only thing that keeps you from being love is a stressful thought.”–I Need Your Love–Is It True?
  • “The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is is what we want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, ‘Meow.’ Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless.”–Loving What Is

Q. The Work isn’t as simple as I thought it would be. There are a lot of tricks to it. Why is that?

A. Such an interesting question. Again, my answer is just a guess, but here’s what I think right now. The Universe is such an amazing thing–so simple and at the same time, so complex. We look at the human brain, for example, under the microscope and all we see are clumps of cells operating on simple principles of biology and physics. But what those cells do is beyond our comprehension. No one understands what makes them work.

In the same way, the Work is simple yet complex and profound.

Q. Why does Byron Katie recommend that we only do the Work on other people, not on ourselves, until we’re more experienced with the process?

A. I hate this rule. It bugs me. I don’t have a ton of judgments about other people. Mostly, I have general negativity. My stressful thoughts usually have to do with slight annoyances that are no one’s fault or stuff about myself, usually bad feelings. When working on these thoughts, I sometimes write about them in the third person. It helps.

That said, there’s a decent argument in favor of this guideline. Other people serve as mirrors into ourselves surprisingly often. Also note that TheWork.com suggests that if you want to start by working on thoughts about yourself, you can call an experienced practitioner. (There is a free service available through TheWork.com.) Also not a bad idea.

Q. What if The Work doesn’t work?

A. How do you know it didn’t? The change in your thoughts and feelings can be subtle, and can take time to make themselves obvious. Try not to get too wrapped up in your preferred outcome. Trust there was an effect, and if the thought comes back, do the Work on it again and again–as many times as it takes. Another of my favorite Katie quotes: “No one has ever been able to control his thinking, although people may tell the story of how they have. I don’t let go of my thoughts—I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me.”

Q. Regarding the JYN worksheet and the four questions: Do you have to ask the questions in the order given?

A. No. Use your intuition. Byron Katie recommends not skipping straight to the turnarounds, especially if you’re new to the process. Elsewhere, though, she says that you could spend a long time just in question one, and at other times the Work will be almost automatic. Generally speaking, when in doubt, go through the process step by step. But don’t feel boxed in by that rule.

Q. Byron Katie sometimes suggests we make amends to those we’ve hurt–for our own good, not for them. What if the person is gone or dead?

A. There are many ways to make amends: not repeating the action; asking for forgiveness, even if they aren’t there to hear you; offering some sort of material recompense. My favorite, though, is Katie’s suggestion that we do random acts of kindness every day–and if someone finds out it was us, it doesn’t count. I love it.

Q. What if I really, truly want to change myself, to become a better person in some way, but I can’t? I try and try and just fail?

A. What you can’t do, you don’t need to do, Byron Katie says. No matter how important that thing seems to be. In one video Katie tells a man who thinks he’s not successful at his career that he should be glad that the work is getting done without his help. It’s getting done and he didn’t have to do it. Interesting.

Q. I have so, so many negative thoughts. How can I do the Work on all of them?

A. To this, Katie might say, “Do the Work on the one that comes next.” However, I’m too much of a planner for that. I like to keep a list of thoughts to do the Work on. I also like to play with them a bit till I find the one that packs the biggest emotional punch. Neither technique is wrong, and either way it’s the doing of the Work, not the specifics, that matters. The more you do it, the more automatic the process will become, until one day you realize you’ve fully downloaded the program. When stressful thoughts come, the four questions meet them immediately and without much conscious effort. When this is where you’re at, everything gets easier–even the stuff you haven’t worked on yet. It becomes habitual, ingrained.

Here, I might also suggest a non-Byron Katie-approved technique, which I’ll call the Quick Stop. As soon as a stressful thought comes, something like “I am so sick of doing the dishes,” take just a second to tell the thought to stop. Then find one reason–any one reason–the Universe is bringing you this inconvenience. Maybe the dishes are teaching you to slow down. Maybe they’re giving you an opportunity to serve your family, show appreciation, or contribute. Maybe they’re revealing to you that it’s time to do the Work on your stressful thoughts again, or teaching you a bit of patience. Maybe doing them allows you to experience anew the pleasure of a clean kitchen. Maybe the dishes give you an excuse to avoid other work or a chance to watch the birds out the window. Or maybe they simply remind you to get some more soap next time you’re at the store. Maybe you’ll have an important insight during this time, or a short mental break. Any reason your perceived inconvenience is working for you, not against you, is fine. No need to list more than one or two.

I know, I know. Being an optimist is such a pain. But it’s worth the effort, I swear.

Q. What if I don’t want to let go of a stressful thought since if I do, I will lose the motivation to act?

A. The final question, and for good reason. It’s one of the most common, and a particularly difficult one. I mean, Katie’s answer isn’t complicated. She says that we won’t lose motivation to do anything that is good for us and others that we’re meant to do. Our nature is love, she reminds us. If your child is hungry, you’ll feed her. If you need money to live on, you’ll go to work every day, and if you need a good friend, you’ll be one. So what about the other stuff, you might wonder. The stuff you don’t need to do, but should do? Katie would say, If you’re meant to do it, you will. But if you’re like me, that answer isn’t good enough.

I should play with my kids every day. I should drink more water. I should jog. I should read instead of watch TV. All these thoughts stress me out for sure. But do I really want to give them up?

Because I haven’t found my answer to this question yet, I’m going to leave it unanswered. Something for you to think about on your own.

A Byron Katie Metaphysics (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-Six)

Okay. Let’s take a minute here. Things are about to get complicated. You’ve heard this God-is-all-there-is theory before, but have you ever really unpacked it? Well, Byron Katie has. And in a way I hadn’t heard–really heard–until following her on her unique trip of the mind.

Before discussing this idea, though, let’s do something else. Let’s break down her entire philosophy of life–all the basics. I told you before that I wrote a few sections for this book concerning Katie’s actual teaching and concerning how to do The Work. This is a fun one of those. I call it A Byron Katie Metaphysics.

If this were a college class, here’s how it would start: the professor would watch the clock, waiting to begin. As soon as the second hand reached the twelve of the appointed minute, he’d say, “Byron Katie isn’t a spiritual person.”

Laughter. “Huh?” one student might say.

Another: “Okay. Then who is?”

“According to her, no one,” the professor would reply. “There’s no need to be; spiritual ideas are just a layer, an interpretation. Reality isn’t spiritual. Reality just is. What do you think? Does that make sense?”

“Are you saying that God is like reality? But God isn’t like reality. God is an unknowable, non-physical concept.”

“Are you sure? Byron Katie believes that God and reality aren’t only similar, but they’re exactly the same thing.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. Kinda changes everything, doesn’t it?”

The discussion would continue for forty minutes or so, and just before the end of class, the professor would hand out a piece of paper.

“Here are our topics for the semester.”

The students would then begin to read.

Byron Katie’s Philosophy of Non-Belief in Three Parts:

Part One: There Is No Knowledge

  • God may or may not exist. Truth may or may not exist. 
  • If God does exist, He is unknowable. If truth does exist, it is unknowable.
  • Reality exists. However, it is experienced subjectively and thereby distorted.
  • In sum, there is no true or objective knowledge, either of things seen or unseen. There is only subjective knowledge.

Part Two: There Is Only Reality, and Reality Is Perfect

  • If there is a God, God is just another name for reality. If there is a truth, truth is everything that is.
  • Reality is perfect. Everything that is, is exactly as it should be. Always.
  • For this reason, whenever you argue with reality, you suffer. In fact, all suffering results from believing a thought that argues with what is.
  • It is possible to be completely free from suffering.
  • The process of ridding ourselves of our suffering is self-inquiry.

Part Three: Experiences Are Not Reality

  • Reality and experiences are different. Reality is objective. Experiences are subjective.
  • Our experiences are a mirror of ourselves, of what we are believing about who we are and what the world is like.
  • Therefore, when you judge another person, you are actually finding that same quality in yourself.
  • By changing your beliefs, you change our experiences.

Part Four: Twelve More Surprising Beliefs

  • The universe is friendly. Reality is much, much kinder than the stories we tell ourselves about it.
  • Love is what we are made of. We can’t help but love, and we don’t need to try. If we want to feel it, we just have to uncover it.
  • There are no legitimate “shoulds” in the world. Not one. Everything should be exactly as it is, because it is. Even things like death, anger and abuse.
  • All thoughts are a gift, even the really awful ones. By listening to them, even loving them, we give them room to teach us, then leave us alone.
  • Intuition is more reliable than planning. Listen to your inner guide, not your mind. The right decision will come when you need it.
  • There is no such thing as a victim. You can only suffer if you believe a painful thought or tell yourself a painful story—not a moment sooner. Therefore, the only person who can hurt you is yourself.
  • “Letting go is an outdated concept.” It is impossible to drop a thought on purpose; it’s just not the way the mind works. Instead, the beliefs we don’t want let go of us after we question them honestly.
  • There is no reason to defend yourself. “Defense is the first act of war,” Katie famously says. Avoid starting wars.
  • There’s no such thing as enlightenment. And even if there is, simple kindness is a more noble goal, anyway.
  • The thoughts we think are not observations of facts. They are only suggestions. No need to take them seriously.
  • Negative thoughts about an incident are often far more injurious to us than the incident itself ever was.
  • Since God is reality, if you want to love God, just love what is.

Class dismissed.

Don’t you wish your real college courses had been this thought-provoking?

Byron Katie, Thank You (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-Four)

And now, time for the wrap up of this serial. Here are just some of the changes I noticed in myself over the past year.

  1. I’m less judgmental. One of the first changes I noticed in myself after starting this detox was that I didn’t come down as hard on other people in my thoughts. I still judge, but right on the heels of my judgment is often a benefit-of-the-doubt type modifier. She’s lazy, I’ll think. But hey, I get that. I’m lazy, too, when I think I can get away with it. I complain to no end about housework and cooking, for instance. . . . He’s negative, I’ll think. But I’m negative, too. I focus way too much on what I don’t have. These reminders take much of the bite out of my thoughts, which helps me see people more clearly. And I think they notice the difference.
  2. I am more fair-minded about myself. As described previously, I’ve found a great deal of freedom from the belief that I should be perfect and that I have to accomplish something significant every day (or ever, for that matter). I write when I have the time, energy and desire to do so, and I’m usually surprised by how much ends up getting done.
  3. I feel more secure in my friendships. Byron Katie says that the relationship you perceive yourself to have with someone else is the true relationship–even if the perception and reality of it is different for the other person. One of my favorite Katie quotes: “I like to say that I have the perfect marriage, and I can never know what kind of marriage my husband has.” In the past, I’ve often tried to analyze a friend’s feelings for me–take her temperature, so to speak–then grade our relationship accordingly. Lately, I’ve felt a much reduced compulsion to do so. When the temptation comes, I say to myself, “I love her. That’s my only job here.”
  4. I enjoy motherhood and marriage more. I love my family the same as ever, but now I appreciate them more. I understand that they’re not the source of my unhappiness–or my happiness, either.
  5. I feel less attached to my positive-feeling beliefs (including my spiritual beliefs). I’m humbled knowing I could be wrong about every last one of them.
  6. When a stressful thought arises, I feel a great sense of relief when I remember that I have the Work. I wrote about this realization early on in this serial, and it remains one of the most significant advantages of the process for me. The Work calms me, even before I begin.
  7. I am more grateful for challenges, more accepting of pain. I’m reminding myself often that the worst is really the best. Doing so has become a new spiritual practice.

In the beginning of this serial, I hoped to make major inroads against my depression, to get rid of my negativity and maybe even to experience a glimpse of the nonbelief state in which nothing is known. I also wondered if the Work might be my so-called One Great Spiritual Practice–my go-to strategy for feeling better when everything else fails. I did not accomplish most of these goals. As I said before, I am still depressed. I didn’t glimpse the nonbelief state and truth be told, I’m not sure I want to anymore. I’ve decided I no longer believe in a One Great Practice; to the three I’ve been doing this year (mantra meditation, following my inner guidance and the Work) I’ve added two more: reminding myself in difficult moments that pain is a gift and taking time to feel my feelings of sadness. All these practices are helpful, and I don’t plan to prioritize the Work over any other of them. I’ll admit, though, that I have no desire to add another to the list. It just gets hard to keep track.

But there’s the negativity thing, too, and in that the improvement is significant. I didn’t realize how much victim thinking I’d fallen into until this year. As I wrote down my negative thoughts one by one, self-awareness crept in. Then, as I worked through them, my head cleared.

I called this process my detox, but do I feel detoxified? Honestly, not as much as I’d like. One year is a long time, but the thirty-eight and a half that came before it have taken their toll. My detox continues.

But then, you knew it would.

Byron Katie, thank you.

Depression Is Complicated (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-Three)

So, it’s June. June 12, my phone says. I find myself, suddenly, at the end of my detox. But it’s not done. I’m still going.

There’s more.

Though I appreciate the freedom I found this year as often as I remember it (which is often), as I told you before, my depression did not improve. I don’t know why this is, though I don’t think it’s a failure of the Work.

Depression is complicated. No one really understands it. Is it genetic? Is it reversible? We don’t know. I do know that I’ve now spent a year dealing with my negative thoughts using the primary non-medicinal treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and another process that’s similar. I’ve dealt with my negative thought patterns, untangled a lot of brush. I feel like I’ve cleared a pretty nice path and found a great amount of peace.

And my efforts, of course, were not limited to this year. The last decade of my life has been devoted in part to overcoming depression through spiritual and other means. And though I’ve had some significant successes with the spiritual stuff, it’s the non-spiritual methods that have worked the best so far.

So, this month, I return to my full dose of my antidepressant. Too, I recommit myself to frequent heart rate-raising exercise. I’m not giving up spiritual techniques; I’ll definitely continue doing the Work on depression. But I am giving up the idea that in order to be mentally healthy, I can’t rely on medication. I’m giving up the idea that antidepressants are a weakness, that I could do this on my own if only I were perfect enough.

I am not perfect. I am not always strong. And even if I were, I might not be able to cure my depression. “Even if I were.” How profound. How ridiculous. I’m not perfect. I’m not always strong. And because I’m not, I don’t need to be.

There are no “shoulds,” remember? There’s only what is. There is only each of us, doing the best we can. Right now, as I sit here, on the twelfth day of June, the best I can do is exercise and medication.

And more Work.

In May, I did the Work on twenty-one stressful thoughts, and I did a handful of extras so far this month as well. Here are a few significant examples of my turnarounds.

Thought: My husband doesn’t appreciate me. He takes me for granted.

Turnarounds: My husband does not take me for granted. I take him for granted. I take myself for granted. He respects me. I don’t respect him. I don’t respect myself. He was mad at me about an action. It was me who made it about not appreciating me and not acknowledging me, me who started looking for evidence of that.

Thought: My depression is deeply ingrained and will take a long time to undo. 

Turnarounds: My depression is not deeply ingrained and it will not take a long time to undo. It will take the right amount of time to undo. It is not ingrained at all. It is a result of my stressful and untrue beliefs. Maybe a different medication will help a lot very quickly. Just exercising helps me immediately, too, almost every time.

Thought: I am bored with life. Motherhood is so boring.

Turnarounds: I love being a mom. Love it. I can write, read, watch TV, talk with friends, make art and more if I feel bored. I am not bored with life. Motherhood is good to me. Life is good to me. Motherhood is quiet sometimes, but not boring.

Thought: I should not be depressed.

Turnarounds: I am meant to be depressed. There is a reason for it. I should be depressed. It is teaching me a lot. It makes me more compassionate, more caring, more sensitive, a better friend and a better human. I will be able to help a lot more people because of it.

Thought: I want to help more people in my life. I am not helping other people enough.

Turnarounds: The right opportunities to help others come along when they come along. What’s meant to be will be.

Thought: I cannot handle this much depression.

Turnarounds: I can handle this much depression. The nanny comes tomorrow and after that I’ll take a nap. I have things to look forward to. David is helping me greatly with the kids every day. I will get through, like I always do.

Other thoughts I worked on:

  • I am not a very likable person.
  • There is something about me that is unattractive to other people.
  • I am bossy, opinionated, uncaring, a loudmouth and judgmental.
  • I am incomplete.
  • I am deprived.
  • I am lonely.
  • I am heartsick.

Acceptance Isn’t Liking Something. It’s Not Liking It and Appreciating It, Anyway. (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-Two)

Several years after first learning about the power of the mind, I, too, was finding my way. For a time, my main spiritual practice was saying mantras and affirmations in an attempt to change my life circumstances. The strategy worked; things I wanted came to me. Then, the rate of change slowed. I became interested in other ways of improving myself, an interest that led to my writing the first two books in this series. During this time I learned several new spiritual practices, including meditation and following my intuition, practices I value to this day. By the end of the second of these spiritual memoirs, though, my focus began to shift. Rather than seeking enlightenment, I started seeking acceptance. And I don’t think it’d be an overstatement to say that since completing that book, acceptance has been the theme of my life.

It keeps coming back. It started with Matt Kahn and his book, Whatever Arises, Love That: A Love Revolution That Begins With You. Then, oh–Pema Chodron. She wrote When Things Fall Apart: A Heart Advice for Difficult Times, and several others just as good on the same topic. I was surprised by Glennon Doyle’s marriage memoir Love Warrior and then, at the tail end of my last pregnancy, I read Byron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, and that did it.

I’d learn this acceptance thing if it killed me.

One afternoon during this difficult time my Buddhist friend came to my house for a visit. She let me sit on the mattress on my living room floor–practically at her feet–and ask her what she thought of my life goal to live in a state of meditation (which for me is spiritual-ese for “continual bliss”).

“That’s a good goal,” she said. I was buoyed, but she wasn’t done. “You will still feel pain, though, you know. The waves won’t knock you over, and whatever happens, you’ll have peace. But sadness? That’s still going to happen.”

“Even if you’re perfect, if you do everything right?” I asked. “Even if you’re in touch with the Divine at all times?”

“I think so,” she said. “I think you always will.”

“You’re probably right,” I said. “But part of me is convinced that if I’m spiritual enough, pain will be impossible. I’ll be able to return to my spiritual high, no matter what happens–at least most of the time.”

“Well, that’s what you’ve been taught. As a Buddhist, I’ve been taught something different. Buddhists seek to be at peace in the midst of all circumstances. But we don’t try to maintain an emotional high. The body can’t handle it. It wouldn’t even be healthy.

“The high is temporary. The high is a buzz. When you seek to sustain it, you create attachment.”

Byron Katie disagrees. “Peace is our natural condition,” she says. When we’re free of our limiting beliefs, we can’t help but feel good; it’s who we are. The discomfort, the pain–they’re not the truth. They’re the result of our fears. As we do the Work and the untrue thoughts dissipate, we free ourselves from suffering. This is my experience, and yet–there’s still pain. Lots of it. Even after a year of the Work. Maybe a year isn’t long enough to find freedom. Or maybe my Buddhist friend is right, and as long as I’m still on earth, I’ll have suffering.

I don’t know. I wonder. I don’t know.

But I know what I know, which is that when you can’t avoid pain, you can still appreciate it.

Appreciation is a shortcut to acceptance.

***

A few days ago, a blog reader asked me how we can balance our need to change difficult life circumstances with our need to accept them. It’s a great question, and when I began my response, I didn’t know where it would go. I made a few general statements, nothing particularly insightful. Then I decided to speak of my own experience. This is what I said:

“Personally, I don’t leave much to fate. If I want it, I go after it. I simply try to do so in an detached way, with the attitude that if it’s not meant to be, well, I’ll be fine. Does this ‘going after’ of something sometimes feel like non-acceptance? Surprisingly, not really. Think of it this way: Acceptance is not liking something. Acceptance is looking at something you don’t like and realizing that it is the very best thing for you right now.

“Acceptance isn’t liking something. It’s not liking it and appreciating it, anyway.”

At the start of this serial, I described my struggles with motherhood, perfectionism, depression and more. And since writing those words, little in my external reality has changed. Ellie is over a year old now. My boys are five and three. I still don’t get much time to write, and I’m still depressed.

And yet. Things have changed. Internally, that is. Somewhere along the line–I believe it began in the fall–I started interrupting myself during tough moments to remind myself to appreciate difficulty. “This is the good stuff,” I tell myself when I find myself bubbling with annoyance or anger. “This is the best part, the part that helps me grow. If I didn’t have challenges, life wouldn’t be worth living. If everything was always perfect, what would be the point?”

It’s a great habit. No–it’s a great spiritual practice. One of the best.

These days, I still seek to maintain a state of continuous meditation. I still try to use my intuition for decisions large and small. But when it comes to spirituality, I’ve shifted focus significantly. My new form of spirituality isn’t seeking bliss, or enlightenment, or a continual experience of the Divine. It’s less lofty than that, more practical. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like spirituality at all; instead, it’s just a philosophy that helps me get through the day. Put succinctly, my religion is peace, pain, hard work, appreciation and acceptance.

Pain is a gift. It’s the greatest teacher we’ll ever have. Inner peace is our truest compass. Hard work reminds us of our humanness, but it’s appreciation that does the heavy lifting. When I appreciate something without liking it is when I’m really being a master. Then, at the right time, acceptance follows.

Appreciation leads to acceptance, which leads to peace.

Like Kuffel, I’m not everyone’s idea of a success story. She’s still fat. I’m still depressed. But I’m starting to see my way more clearly. And for now, that’s enough.

A Bold Decision, and a Rare One (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty-one)

Frances Kuffel is not a fashion model. She’s a literary agent, an author and a struggling overeater. She’s written two memoirs–both excellent, I might add–and she’s both your most smartest and your most understanding friend. In Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self, Kuffel recounts her journey from a size thirty-two to a size six. In Eating Ice Cream With My Dog: A True Story of Food, Friendship and Losing Weight . . . Again, she details her way back up the scale, and her attempts–and those of four of her friends–to regain control. In the end, none have met their goals.

And there is good reason for that, Kuffel writes. Everything from depression to hormonal imbalances to family to habits. When Kuffel attends a week-long weight-loss retreat, she follows the strict diet almost exactly . . . and loses two pounds. By the end of the book, she’s found acceptance for herself at her current weight, an example many of us would do well to follow. Of women who manage to maintain their hard-won weight loss, she says, “They are either biologically lucky or work so hard at it that it’s become their life.”

I have to agree. For some people who are temperamentally and evolutionarily predisposed to easy weight gain, being thin is worth the effort it takes. For others, it really isn’t. I wish more people would make the decision to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits, as Kuffel tries to do at any size, then let the numbers fall where they may.

It’s a bold decision, this cross-current choice. Many fat people feel constant pressure to force their bodies to change. I don’t know Kuffel’s thoughts about her body today and how much of that pressure she feels. But from her writing it seems that she’s found her own kind of happiness, her own way through it all.

In other words: she’s found acceptance.

A Belief-Questioning Round-Up (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Thirty)

Byron Katie isn’t the only one out there screaming about questioning one’s established beliefs. Lots of people are–people of all kinds. Most aren’t quite as awe-inspiring as Katie, but they’re pretty cool anyway. Here, a small list of people I find myself thinking about long after reading their stories.

  • Gary Taubes argued convincingly against the health and effectiveness of the low-fat diet and quickly became a polarizing figure. (See Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.)
  • Timothy Ferris rethought work efficiency and built a huge, loyal following and a global brand. (Read The Four-Hour Work Week.)
  • Josh Waitzkin came up with a unique learning strategy—and won both the U.S. Junior Chess championship and the world champion title in Taiji Push Hands, a martial art. (See The Art of Learning: A Journey In the Pursuit of Excellence.)
  • Social media marketers Seth Godin and Jeff Jarvis were among the first to realize the potential of online social media-, gift- and content-based marketing. (Read anything by Godin and What Would Google Do?: Reverse-Engineering the Fastest-Growing Company in the History of the World by Jarvis.)
  • Robert Kiyosaki redefined wealth as the ability to live off the interest of your assets (Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!).
  • Chris Anderson predicted the future of purchasing patterns (The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More).
  • Tony Hsieh created a company devoted primarily to its front-line employees (Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose).

Then, of course, there’s Todd Beamer.

When United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked on September 11, 2001, this all-American hometown boy from Flint, Michigan helped deflect a terrorist attack. The Wikipedia article on his life tells the story:

“United Flight 93 was scheduled to depart at 8:00am, but the Boeing 757 did not depart until 42 minutes later due to runway traffic delays. Six minutes later, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. 15 minutes later, at 9:03 am, as United Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, United 93 was climbing to cruising altitude, heading west over New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. At 9:25 am, Flight 93 was above eastern Ohio, and its pilot radioed Cleveland controllers to inquire about an alert that had been flashed on his cockpit computer screen to “beware of cockpit intrusion.” Three minutes later, Cleveland controllers could hear screams over the cockpit’s open microphone. Moments later, the hijackers, led by the Lebanese Ziad Samir Jarrah, took over the plane’s controls, disengaged the autopilot, and told passengers, “Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board.” Beamer and the other passengers were herded into the back of the plane. The curtain between first class and economy class had been drawn, at which point Beamer saw the pilot and co-pilot lying dead on the floor just outside the curtain, their throats having been cut, as a flight attendant informed him. Within six minutes, the plane changed course and was heading for Washington, D.C.. Several of the passengers made phone calls to loved ones, who informed them about the two planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and the third into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. Beamer tried to place a credit card call through a phone located on the back of a plane seat, but was routed to a customer-service representative, who passed him on to GTE airphone supervisor Lisa Jefferson. With FBI agents listening in on their call, Beamer informed Jefferson that hijackers had taken over United 93, that one passenger had been killed, and mentioned the dead pilots. He also stated that two of the hijackers had knives, and that one appeared to have a bomb strapped around his waist. When the hijackers veered the plane sharply south, Beamer briefly panicked, exclaiming, “We’re going down! We’re going down!”

At this point, Beamer and several other passengers and crew members decided to ignore the threats of the hijackers and face near-certain death by storming the cockpit and steering the plane into the ground. “The plane was twenty minutes of flying time away from its suspected target.”

Beamer, a baseball player and Sunday school teacher, was survived by his wife and two sons, aged three and one at the time.

What inspires me most about Beamer, and about all of the people in this list, is realizing that at some point, they all had to make a decision. A window opened–whether for minutes, as it did for Beamer, or for months, as it likely did for some of the others–during which they had to define who they were, no matter the consequences. And each of them was able to get it right.

Would I?

By a general standard, I’m not a fearful person. Not shy. No huge paranoias or looming existential concerns. And yet, the opinions of others–or, more accurately, the possible opinions of others–give me pause on a nearly daily basis. Talking to other moms about various parenting decisions, for instance. Talking about a controversial book I like, or the fact that I’m a libertarian. Just earlier today I found myself seriously considering what my neighbors would think if I plant a bunch of new trees in our yard. Twenty trees, but still. They’re just trees.

What the heck?

I don’t know what it’s like to be Gary Taubes or anyone a tenth as influential as he. But if he can face the ire of entire organizations devoted to vegetarianism, grain production and nutrition information dissemination, plus a lot of reputable scientists and in-person hecklers, I think I can plant any damn number of trees I want.

I can make my yard into a damned forest.

I can question my beliefs–even the ones that people swear are healthy and important.

And I can swear once in a while, too, damn it.

We Have Power. Just Not All of It. (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Nine)

A Byron Katie Worksheet

Month Completed: April

The Statement: We have power.

The Questions:

Is it true? I’m getting a yes. I know that we often feel unable to change our bad habits, our bad feelings, our unhappy life situations. But when I close my eyes and question the belief, all I can think is, “Yes. I can feel it. My inner body, the energy inside myself that I feel when I’m meditating, is part of the rest of the world’s energy. I may be in this body right now, but the essence of me is power.”

Can I absolutely know it is true? No.

How do I feel when I think the thought? When I feel that I have power, I also feel that what I do, say and think is important. I remember that my thoughts create my reality, and even affect others around me and beyond.

How would I feel if I were unable to think the thought? If I thought I was powerless, I’d probably feel that life is meaningless, that nothing I did mattered.

The Turnaround: We don’t have power. This statement is also true. We don’t have power over God or other people. Also, though we do create our realities, the vast majority of that creation happens subconsciously. With years of spiritual practice, we can change our beliefs and brains somewhat, but most of us will never get around to doing the Work on them all. Which is why Katie tells us to focus on the thoughts that cause stress. The others just aren’t the priority.

So again, is it true? Yes and but. People have power, and yet, we can’t always access it. That is the truth, and it reminds me to have compassion for those among us that feel stuck in a pattern they don’t like.

Not All Good News (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Eight)

Since my last personal update, three breakthroughs, no breaks. Three months with some good news, some bad. February was slow, with only nine worksheets. In March I did thirty-three and in April, twenty-eight. As promised, I addressed the thought “I am not accomplishing enough” and “I have depression.” I also did excavations on my feelings of depression and guilt. I’ll start with the good news: I discovered that I am accomplishing enough and that I don’t have to be perfect (a thought I found to be at the core of my guilt). So, yeah–good stuff. Significant.

I share shortened versions of my Work on the latter statement below. It shows how I turned the thought around, but it doesn’t show my inner shift. It would be impossible for me to accurately assess the changes that have occurred, much less describe them. I suppose I can tell you that I no longer have these thoughts every day. And when they do come, there’s the Work, following right behind. Saying in my ear, “Is it true?” The Work is never a one-time healing session; it’s a living creature with a specific, ongoing job to do. It gets assigned to a thought much like a blocker would be assigned an opponent in basketball. It follows the thought up and down the court, sometimes stealing the ball, sometimes missing. Even when it gets outmaneuvered, it’s never far from its player.

Now for the bad news. While I feel secure in my progress on my guilt and my compulsive need to achieve, my depression–that beast–is unchanged. In my last update I mentioned it was still with me and since that time, not a damn inch of ground gained. If anything I would say it’s worse than it has been all year. An example of my Work on the topic is below, and though as I was writing these turnarounds I believed them to be true, I’m really slogging through these beautiful spring days. The skeptic in me would say that the Work is inadequate; I seem to abolish one stressful thought only to replace it with another. On balance, I am less happy than I have been since starting this detox, even though I’ve made lots of progress.

I’m not feeling guilty. I’m not hating motherhood. I’m not obsessing about how much writing I’m getting done. I’m more at ease in my relationships, and generally less negative.

But for all that, I’m not feeling good.

Sucks.

Here, my Work examples for February, March and April.

Beliefs Behind My Sadness: An Excavation

I am heartsick. I am lonely. I have depression. I am depressed due to a genetic predisposition towards depression. I have negativity. I have stressful beliefs. I don’t love myself. Others don’t love me. I am incomplete. My life is incomplete. I am lacking. I am deprived of love, fulfillment, beauty, accomplishments, fun, ease, relaxation, the state of meditation, friendship, caring, yummy food, goodness, enoughness. There’s something I am missing. There’s something I need to do have or be that I am not doing having or being right now. I need to do more, have more, figure out more, change, be different. My life is not perfect yet. I am not perfect yet.

The thought from above that resonates the most: I am depressed due to a genetic predisposition towards depression.

Is it true? I don’t know.

How do I feel when I think the thought? Stuck. Conditioned. Hopeless.

How would I feel without the thought? Free to feel any way I feel, without judgment of that feeling and without identity creation around it.

The turnaround: I am not depressed due to a genetic predisposition towards depression.

Evidence: I can be and regularly am free or partly free from depression. When I’m immersed in something enjoyable, I’m not depressed. Also, I have experienced true, pure inner peace at certain moments in my life. This couldn’t occur if I had a permanent physical condition. My depression may be a result of lifelong thought habits that I can change over time. Or it may be a result of my current belief system, which can change in just a moment.

Beautiful.

Beliefs Behind My Guilt: An Excavation

I should: take more walks with the kids, drive the kids more places, visit friends more, be a better person, be a better friend,  be perfect, be less judgmental, do the work more, eat much less, eat healthier, not let baby cry, be more sympathetic to my kids, not take on so many outside projects, take day each week to just play with and read to kids, not give the kids so much candy, help the kids through their fights more carefully and thoroughly, meditate all day, embrace boredom, give the kids more vegetables, be cooler, be a loner, be self-sufficient, be more caring and giving, be less selfish, be in the state of meditation all day long, do my own projects only when I have a nanny, sit more, walk more, nap more, smile more, write more, get more accomplished, do the Work more, and be more in control of my kids.

The thought from above that resonates the most: I should be perfect.

Is it true? No.

How do I feel when I think the thought? Absolutely frustrated with myself.

How would I feel without the thought? I would be able to forgive myself for wasted time and other mistakes, small and large.

The turnaround: I don’t have to be perfect. I shouldn’t be perfect. I am perfect enough. I am entirely perfect. All of these statements feel more true to me than my original thought.

Evidence: No one is perfect. Imperfect people still have wonderful, close relationships, fulfilling jobs and meaningful, happy lives. People forgive them, and they forgive themselves. In fact, if someone always did and said the right thing, it would hinder their ability to learn and grow and help others do the same. It would probably mean they weren’t taking on any challenges.

Love it.

Other stressful thoughts I worked on:

  • K is trying to take advantage of me.
  • K is a blamer.
  • That writing critique was mean.
  • Life is hard.
  • The kids should not cry so much.
  • The kids need me constantly.
  • The kids need more attention than I give them.
  • I am not enjoying my life.
  • My husband takes me for granted.
  • I am ten pounds too heavy.
  • I am bored.
  • My back hurts. It should not be hurting.

The Spirit Has Goals That the Mind Knows Not Of (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Twenty-Seven)

Author Rachel Bersche is a woman after my own heart. She’s a doer. A planner. A fixer. A solver. Someone who doesn’t wait around for results.

Someone who takes charge.

(Someone, also, who writes memoirs about her one-year self-improvement goals, but that’s sort of beside the point.)

All this to say that MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend is my kind of book. The premise is as follows.

After a move to a distant city to be with her boyfriend, Bersche realizes something: she really needs some new friends. So, she hatches a plan uniquely designed for the Generation Y’ers among us: She’d go on fifty-two friend dates—one each week for a year. She’d meet the women online, of course, as well as in the traditional ways—an improv class, book clubs, parties. Her motive wouldn’t be a secret; she’d blog about her experiences and tell many of the women what she was up to. After all, as she argues in her book, if people can admit to looking for a partner, why can’t they admit they want a new best friend?

Cute stuff, right? So practical. So original. And pretty challenging, too. But she did it. She accomplished her goal. And these days, it’s the Rachels of the world I most want to emulate–not the visualizers, manifestors and conference attendees.

Mostly, I just want to work hard.

The law of attraction is a useful concept. The problem is that it’s a bit . . . limited. When Jane died, I didn’t see it coming; it just happened. Life happens. Sometimes we don’t get what we think we want; instead, we get other circumstances that better serve us.

That’s right: we get what we need.

The spirit has goals that the mind knows not of. And I’ve decided I’m okay with that. Hard work is it’s own religion. So is neuropathway rewiring, whether Byron Katie-style or otherwise.

Often, changing our perspective on our circumstances, rather than changing the circumstances themselves, is enough.