Tag Archives: Memoir

Self-Help Success Story: “Art Heals the Mind, Body and Soul”

Contributor: Guy Hoffman. Guy is a full-time Florida-based artist and the founder of OmArtist.com, a blog dedicated to showcasing people who are creative with a purpose. Guy is an energy artist who creates figurative and abstract art with healing energy infused in each piece as he creates them. You can see Guy’s work on Instagram by following @creative365 as well as visiting GuyHoffmanArt.com.

My depression existed long before I recognized it. Here’s the short version of how it came to be.

First came my divorce in 2009. Shortly after that, in 2010, I became the caretaker for my mom who had a number of health issues. In 2013, about the third year into caring for my mom, I realized that something in me had changed. There were many times I felt that I was constantly moody, impatient and resentful, especially towards people in my family for not helping me with the care of my mom. I was sad, I felt alone and the things I loved doing (art, meditation, gardening, etc.) were dropping away quickly. I think that was the beginning for me but I hadn’t recognized it yet. In my head I just didn’t have time for anything else and when I did I was too exhausted to care. This would continue to get worse until 2016.

What happened next was my biggest fear come true. In December 2015 my mom was diagnosed with Stage Four cancer. We were devastated. It was a week before Christmas and we carried on with our family traditions for the holiday, trying to make the best of the situation, but the reality was a lot to take for my mom and quite frankly for me, too. I watched her decline very quickly and the medical system had me so disappointed and so discouraged.

Cancer didn’t end up taking my mom from us. On January 22, 2016, she had massive stroke. She never regained consciousness and passed away the next day.

It wasn’t but a few days afterward that I fell into a darkness. Once all the medical equipment was removed and the house was quiet again, I was lost. I had been a caregiver for so long and now I was free of that responsibility. It was a blessing and curse.

I felt the initial relief of no longer having such an emotional and time-consuming care regimen but in the emotional mix, too, was the need to get used to all this time and quietness. A week later a friend asked me if I was okay. He said, “You haven’t been yourself for a long time. You haven’t created, written or photographed any work in so long and now you’re so sad, man. You need to get back to creating. You need to find your passion again and start healing.” Of course, he offered me any help I might need.

At first I didn’t listen to this advice. I was wallowing in my sadness. My dad had passed in 2010. I had this alone feeling that I can’t explain. My parents, the people who created me, were gone. My work at my job suffered. My physical health was declining.

In March 2016, six weeks after my mother’s passing, I decided to take a much-needed vacation from work. It was during that vacation that I connected with something in me that began the healing process. I felt like I needed to try to get back to some old practices and if I couldn’t make a change on my own I would need to get help.

I began to research natural and holistic practices that might help my depression. I improved my diet. I looked to nature for some help. There was some improvement. If I had to identify a turning point it would be sitting on a hill over looking a farm on a rainy day. I had been hiking and stopped to rest. I had been writing in a journal and I took it out and placed under my jacket to keep it dry while I thought about my next entry. Then, for whatever reason, I began to speak out loud. This speaking became an emotional conversation with my mom. I cried, then cried some more. This was the start of my healing. I could clearly identify how I was not living authentically. I knew what toxic things needed to be removed from my life in order to get healthy.

My recovery plan was to return to living in the moment. Mindful practices were the way forward for me. I resumed many of the practices that I had abandoned while being a caregiver. Along with exercising and eating right, I started meditating again. On a bad day I might meditate many times throughout the day.

Four months later I quit my high-paying but highly stressful job and returned to my creative practices. This is something that I am so grateful for. Art heals the mind, body and soul. I’m a testament to that.

For me, creativity plays a role in keeping me balanced. That depression I left behind still lives in me. If I deprive myself of creativity, I can feel it creeping back in. When my depression was at its worst, I was lucky
enough to realize that creativity would, at the very least, help me feel better in the moment. Then, when I returned to my creative practices I felt alive again. Without it I felt as though I had been missing this thing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I began to create again.

Today, my daily creative time is spent around drawing, painting, photography, writing poetry and many other creative practices that speak to me. I’m an explorer of creativity. For me there is a spiritual element to
being creative. There is a meditative quality to it that brings me joy. What better way to balance the darkness of life, than with the light of joy! What better way to live in the moment than to be fully engaged in the “thing” you are creating. I have used my art to express the nagging stuck emotions as well as the surprises of this beautiful life. In both cases I feel the benefits of creativity.

No one’s life is perfect, so whether I use my creativity to release darkness to allow my light to shine or just to express how grateful I am to be living a life that is authentic to me, either way I am left with this feeling of being grounded or balanced. For me that is what pulled me out of my depression. That is what continues to teach me how to balance all of the emotions, feelings, expectations and disappointments that I experience in
my life.

I think every human has the innate ability to create. Even those who say or think “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”. People often want to narrow creativity to just drawing or painting but it has many forms. Everyone can find a creative endeavor to dedicate time to, such as cooking, decorating, art, music, photography, writing, crafting, coloring, gardening and on and on! There are so many ways to be creative, we simply need only try a few to see what we connect to or what makes our heart sing. That is the true power of creativity. It teaches us patience, acceptance, concentration, and it keeps us fully in the moment, to name but a few benefits. The lessons are endless but so is the feeling of joy once you find which creative practice really makes you feel alive. What makes me feel alive is to explore all things creative!

My healing began in March 2016 and continues today. I am aware enough now to know the difference between healthy thoughts and thoughts that can damage my healing. I know in my heart that the practices I do daily have everything to do with living healthy and depression-free but more importantly I know that the practices and the creativity are the way I live authentically. As long as I live in this authentic way I feel healthy and strong to take on any of life’s challenges as they come.

“Man will begin to recover the moment he takes art as seriously as physics, chemistry or money.” ~ Ernst Levy

Guy

Self-Help Success Story: “Joe Vitale’s ‘Zero Limits’ Method Is Great. But There Are, In Fact, Limits”

There’s a fun spirituality book called Zero Limits by one of the speakers featured in the movie The Secret. It’s by law of attraction writer (and super nice guy–he once called my friend to tell her he liked her book) Joe Vitale. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

The book is autobiographical–more a memoir than a traditional self-help. I love a good memoir, and it’s an entertaining read. But even better, it’s practical; it gives an in-depth explanation of a New Age/New Thought-type process for altering your state of mind and your beliefs (and maybe your reality, too). I’ll get into that in a second, but first, a brief assessment for those of you who already know the book.

Does this spiritual practice work against depression?

Yes. As a technique to deal with depression, Zero Limits can be awesome. I’ve tried it with some decent results. But be warned: the process is very similar to just saying mantras, and personally I’m not convinced these mantras are particularly special.

Have you tried it? For how long?

Yes. Not for long, though. Just a few days.

What were your results?

The first time I read Zero Limits, I was super excited. I wrote about this already, in You’re Getting Closer. That first night, I said the phrase over and over, and as I did so, my mood lifted and my head cleared. I entered into the state of meditation and stayed there.

The next day, however, the effect lessened considerably, even though I continued the practice. I decided that my belief in the technique, rather than the technique itself, had been responsible for my results. Since then, I’ve used the method just a few times, and never with the same commitment.

Personally–and this is just my opinion–I’d be more inclined to use the Zero Limits method on a specific situation or physical need, rather than as a way to heal depression. When I repeat a mantra in order to break out of a bad mood, I often end up more frustrated than when I started.

Is this spiritual practice enjoyable, though? Is it easy?

Yes and yes.

How does it work? What do you do, exactly?

Though there are other aspects to the technique, the main activity is repeating four lovely statements as often as possible–continuously?–throughout the day. They are:

  1. I’m sorry.
  2. Please forgive me.
  3. Thank you.
  4. I love you.

I won’t go into the philosophy behind the choice of statements here; for that, you can read the book. (And I recommend that you do.) The basic idea is that the statements have a cleansing power and can help you resolve any undesirable situation–like depression. By using them and visualizing a cleansing action (such as an eraser erasing a chalkboard), you rid the program from your mind that created it or brought it into your experience.

What’s the up-side?

Like I said, it is enjoyable. And it’s easy. And if you stick with it, you’ll likely see results. I happen to prefer other practices, that’s all.

What’s the down-side?

The book claims that the method is a version of an old Hawaiian healing tradition called Ho’pononpono. However, it’s significantly different from that tradition–a spinoff created by a kahuna named Morna. I’m sure Morna is or was inspired and wonderful. But I would’ve preferred she give her method a different name from the original.

The legend of the book and part of what makes it so popular is that Hew Len, the co-author of the book and of the method, emptied a mental ward of patients by using this method–nothing else.

What’s the bottom line here?

My super scientific, soon-to-be-patented depression effectiveness rating for the Zero Limits method: 5 on a scale of 1-10.

Where can I find out more?

You can read my book summaries and takeaways here:

Best Spirituality Book for Depression: Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More by Joe Vitale and Hew Len

Best Spirituality Book for Depression: At Zero by Joe Vitale

Or you can find the book and info about Joe Vitale and co-author Hew Len here:

Zero Limits on Amazon

Joe Vitale’s Official Website

Hoʻoponopono and Hew Len on Wikipedia

Hew Len’s Official Website

Joe Vitale’s law of attraction success story: “I am rich

Self-Help Success Story: “I Tried Mindfulness for Depression”

So, I have a confession to make: I’ve always hated the idea of mindfulness. Here I am, all spiritual and New Agey and stuff, and I’ve never even initiated a conversation about it. Ridiculous, right? Here’s my excuse.

Until very recently, I knew nothing about this spiritual practice. It was just a vague term, and not an especially pleasing one at that. Whereas for some, the idea of mindfulness inspires a sort of beatific glow, for me, it was just another entry on the never-ending to do list of life. Just learning more about it seemed exhausting. Then I actually did learn more–and abruptly changed my perspective.

Right now, as research for this site, I’m reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zin for the first time. Now a modern classic, this gives one of the more detailed, systematic (even medical) approaches to mindfulness meditation. It’s based on the successful hospital classes led by Kabat-Zin many years ago, with more recent additions in the revised version I’m reading. I’m also reading several books by Thich Nhat Hanh right now, and listening to an Eckhart Tolle audiobook. I didn’t think of Tolle as a mindfulness meditation teacher, but I’m seeing now that he is (though he might not appreciate the label).

Previously, I viewed mindfulness as a sort of bland, unoriginal approach to spirituality. I mean, it’s just so popular, right? Even non-spiritual people are doing it. After doing the above reading, though, I changed my mind.

Mindfulness, it turns out, isn’t what I thought it was.

I thought mindfulness was: Enjoying life.

Mindfulness is: Being aware of and accepting whatever thoughts come, whether or not they’re thoughts of enjoyment and appreciation.

I thought mindfulness was: Thinking pleasant thoughts about the ordinary things you see around you as you go throughout your day.

Mindfulness is: Feeling your “inner body,” as Tolle calls it–bringing your attention to the energy within you throughout the day.

I thought mindfulness was: Eating more slowly. Listening more carefully.

Mindfulness is: Being who you are. Doing what comes naturally to you when you’re acting from your highest self.

I thought mindfulness was: Not future-thinking. Not past-thinking.

Mindfulness is: Using your mind in the ways that it serves you. That includes some future- and past-thinking.

I thought mindfulness was: Being in a state of deep acceptance of what is.

Mindfulness is: Being in the state of meditation. Even when you’re not totally able to accept what is.

I thought mindfulness was: A politically correct alternative to more advanced ways of meditating.

Mindfulness is: As advanced as I ever need to be.

In other words: Before, mindfulness seemed to me both overly simplistic as well as impossible to achieve. Now, it seems to be exactly what I already do every day: meditating, appreciating, loving. Rinse, repeat.

I still don’t love the word mindfulness for some reason. At this point, the
guilt-producing mental associations still sully it. But I do like mindfulness itself.

Here, a self-interview about using this practice for depression.

Does this spiritual practice work against depression?

Yes. For sure. Probably for everyone.

Have you tried it? For how long?

Possibly the main takeaway I got from my recent reading is that I’ve actually been practicing mindfulness meditation for at least four years now. I don’t do many long sitting meditations these days, but my main spiritual practice is to enter into a state of meditation–just a behind-the-scenes sort of sensing of the Divine–in the morning and to hold that place throughout the day. I certainly don’t always succeed in this (read You’re Getting Closer to see what I mean). But when I fail, I return. It’s my most consistent spiritual habit, and as it turns out, it’s nothing special–just what everyone is talking about: mindfulness.

What were your results when using mindfulness for depression?

At times, total transformation of my mood, immediately. Other times, frustration due to just not feeling it.

Is it easy?

For me, yes and no. It does take work, especially for the first several years of practice. It’s a tough habit to create and keep.

How long does the effect last? Does it keep working or does the effect taper off after a few weeks or months?

The mood effect does not taper off at all for me if I practice consistently throughout the day, week or month. And after a break–even a long one–I can pick up right where I left off.

How does it work? What do you do, exactly?

The answer to this question is different for everyone; there are so very many ways to be mindful.

For some, mindfulness is simply noticing what is and thinking thoughts of appreciation. For others, it is noticing unhelpful thoughts and letting them pass, turning their attention to their present surroundings instead. Right now, for me, my main mindfulness practice is to say a mantra many times throughout the day, as follows: I am sensing my inner body. I’m doing what feels deeply right. This reminds me to come back to myself, then check in with my intuition when making any kind of decision. It works wonderfully for me.

I also say, Thank you, God, and There is time for that, too. (This last because of my Type A accomplishment obsession.) And since I’m not so great at just thinking about trees or children’s smiles or whatever, I think thoughts of appreciation about these things. In other words, instead of saying to myself, Here are the trees. They are green and beautiful, I might say something like, I so appreciate these trees. I am so lucky to live here.

Does that make sense? For me, this subtle difference is huge.

Is this practice scientifically backed?

Yes. There are many books on the benefits of meditation in general, but mindfulness meditation is particularly well-researched. It is used outside spiritual circles–in hospitals, therapy practices and much more.

What’s the downside?

None that I can think of, except that it may take years and years of practice for it to feel natural and easy. At least, it did for me. And I definitely still struggle.

Self-Help Success Story: “Healing Begins With Therapy”

Contributor: Ingrid Vasquez. Ingrid is a freelance writer based out of Texas. She has contributed to Fox News and Cosmopolitan.com.  I interviewed her over email after seeing one of her articles online about depression. You can start a conversation with her, too, at byingridvasquez@gmail.com, or at @byingridvasquez on Twitter.

Mollie: How did your depression begin?

Ingrid: In high school I was a happy student. I wasn’t the popular kid, but I had a tight group of friends who I could depend on for anything. My life at home, though, wasn’t the best.

From a young age my parents never had the greatest relationship. It was a “stay together for the kids” type of thing. Also, we had money problems. I have memories of being told I was going to have to eat everything at school because we might not have enough money for food at home, but at the time it felt normal. In a way I’m blessed to say I was never truly made aware of everything we were going through because my parents would figure it out for my two siblings and me one way or another. I guess you could call this being sheltered.

But because of this, moving away from home was terrifying. It wasn’t that I missed home (as my family believed). I just couldn’t adapt to change and the things that were supposed to be so natural to me weren’t. I started to become afraid to talk to people.

I began my first semester of school just going through the motions. I wasn’t comfortable enough to leave my dorm room. I managed to go to all my classes but I couldn’t study. I went from being an A and B kid to being put on academic probation.

What truly became the breaking point was when I began feeling like everyone around me was looking at me all the time. I felt like each person that walked by me as I was walking to class was talking about me. Even if I sat in the back of the room I felt like people were somehow talking about me.

I stayed in contact with my friends from back home but depended on the workers in the school cafeteria to be my “social contact of the day” because they were literally the only person I would talk to. I don’t have many memories of speaking with my professors.

Mollie: How did this finally start to turn around?

Ingrid: Eventually, I decided to start therapy. I’m not sure what finally made me seek it out. I think at one point I was just walking by the building and decided to go in. However, once I began, I got very attached to it. I hated that it was only once a week because in my eyes, these were the only people who I could speak with and who wouldn’t judge me.

I got clinically diagnosed and was advised to take pills but decided on a different approach. Each week I attended my individual therapy session, two group sessions, and a yoga and meditation session.

The moment I felt a switch was one day late in my first semester when I was walking to my dorm listening to Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up”. Somehow, listening to those lyrics and someone literally saying “keep your head up” made me feel like someone had pulled a switch in my mind. I had a sort of out-of-body experience where I said, “What am I doing?”

After that, I continued going to therapy for two more years. I got steadily healthier. I started making friends, which helped, too.

Mollie: Are you still depressed?

Ingrid: While today I can tell you that I am not depressed, I like to refer to depression as a disease sort of like alcoholism. You’re going to have your relapses and boy have I had mine. But I can talk to people now, even though I’m still incredibly reserved.

I am in recovery.

Mollie: Is spiritual practice part of your recovery?

Ingrid: Yes. I still meditate twice a day for twenty minutes each time, as I did during my college years. From time to time I use incense cones during my meditation sessions, too. I’m also experimenting with healing stones.

Mollie: How do you feel during your meditation sessions?

Ingrid: It might be odd to say, but I feel out-of-body. I’m able to let go of everything else and just concentrate on me.

Mollie: How important is it to your mental health to keep up this practice?

Ingrid: People often say “go pamper yourself” and see that as a trip to the spa or going on a shopping spree. Those things are nice and can make any person happy, but meditation is a form of pampering yourself that is not only affordable, but truly your own thing.

Mollie: What do you recommend other people who are suffering with depression or anxiety do first? What is the number one thing that they can do for themselves, if they only feel able to do one thing?

Ingrid: I believe it starts off with therapy. I knew nothing about meditation, yoga, expressing my emotions, or anything else that could help without going to a source that didn’t necessarily have the answers, but could lead me in that direction. It is with that process that you’ll find your best form of medicine.

I understand therapy is such a tricky and scary thing for some people and don’t want to necessarily say that nothing else can be done without trying it, but I do feel strongly about its importance.

Ingrid

100 Websites for Free Alternative Spirituality Ebooks

As I’ve mentioned before, online lists of spirituality ebooks are often pretty hard to navigate successfully. It’s a hunt-and-peck operation; the few great books that are free are often hidden under figurative mounds of overly difficult or overly simplistic material. For that reason, I created a list called Best Free Spiritual Ebooks. That said, there are likely quite a few more that I could add to this list, if I took the time to look through what’s available.

If you feel inclined to take on the project, here are a few places to start.

100 Free Alternative Spirituality Ebooks Websites:

Top 100 Free Amazon Best Sellers: New Age Religion & Spirituality

Free Nook Books: Alternative Spirituality

New Thought Library: Archives

Free Ebooks from Project Gutenberg: Spirituality

Smashwords: New Free Ebooks

Kobo: Religion and Spirituality

NewAgeBook.com: Free Ebooks

New-Age-Spirituality.com: Free Ebooks

Metafiz Books: Metaphysical and Spiritual Library

Author Marketing Club: Free Kindle Books

FreeSpiritualEbooks.com

Endless Satsang: Free Spiritual Books

Obooko.com: Free Mind, Body and Spirit Ebooks

SpiritualBee.com: Free Spiritual Books

GetFreeBooks.com: Free Spiritual Books

GetFreeBooks.com: Free Spiritual and Inspirational Ebooks

TechSupportAlert.com: Free Books on Religion

FreeBooksForAll.com: Spiritual Books

HolyBooks.com

WebSpirit.com: Free Ebooks

FreeEbooks.net: Religion and Spirituality

Trans4Mind.com: Spiritual Books

PublicBookshelf.com: Spirituality Books

2020k: Religion and Spirituality

A Buddhist Library

Al-Islam

Arthur’s Bookshelf

Author Stand

BiblioFaction

Bibliotastic

BookRix 

Booksie

BookYards: Religion and Spirituality

Bored.com: Religion

Bring The Books

BuddhistELibrary

Centsless Books

ChestofBooks: Religion

Curriki 

Daily Free Books (UK)

Daily Free Books (USA)

DigiLibraries

DivineLifeSociety

Ebook.com.au: Sacred Texts and Religion

Ebook Junkie

Ebooks@Adelaide

EbooksDirectory

Ebooks Free Free Free

EbooksFreeNet

EbooksForAll

Ebooks Library

EbookTakeaway

eReader IQ

eReader Love

eReader Perks

EWTN Libraries

Foboko

Free Audio Books.WS

Free Books.com

Free Books Hub UK

Freebook Sifter: Religion and Spirituality

Free Ebooks Blog

Free Ebooks Daily

Free Ebooks.net: Religious

Free-Ed Net

Free eTextbooks Online

Free Read Feed (UK)

Georgia Download Destination

GoogleBookSearch: Religion

Hundred Zeros CA

Hundred Zeros UK 

Hundred Zeros USA: Religion and Spirituality

iLove Ebooks: : Religion

Internet Sacred Text Archive

Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive

ManyBooks: Religion

MemoWare: Religion

Merlot: Religious Studies

MetaReligion

Modern Buddihsm

Munsey’sMobile

New World Order Library

Nobooko: Religion and Spirituality

One Hundred Free Books

OnlineBooks4Free: Religion

OnlineBooksPage: Religion

Online Library of Liberty: Religion

Overdrive: Religion and Spirituality

PDF Titles

Religion-Online

Snick’s List

The Book Depository

The Divine Life Society

VirtualReligionIndex

Walking By The Way

WikiSource

Wikiversity: Theology

Self-Help Success Story: “I’ve Stopped Fighting. It Was Useless, Anyway”

Thanks to a hunch and a great title, I purchased Sex, Drugs and Meditation on Amazon–and liked it even more than I expected I would. So I wrote the author, Mary-Lou Stephens, to ask if I could interview her for this site and for an upcoming book of mine. She kindly agreed. (And she was even willing to challenge my beliefs below, which I loved!)

Mollie: Right now I’m working on a book about examining and questioning deeply-held beliefs. The top spiritual beliefs I’ve found within myself so far, which are explained further in the book, are: spirituality is good; life is a game; there are no rules; people are holy; absolutes are fine, but certainty is not; happiness is the truth; God is simply reality–nothing more; and acceptance is “where it’s at.” What do you think? Agree or no?

Mary-Lou:

1.    Spirituality is good.

To quote Shakespeare, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I don’t think spiritual people are better than non-spiritual people or vice versa. Many people live good, happy and useful lives without any sense of spirituality.

2.    Life is a game.

Life is what it is. It’s what we make of it. We get to chose what it is through how we think about it. The word “game” to me is too loaded with meaning. It’s possible to cheat when playing a game, and there are winners and losers. Also, to me, a game is too impersonal, too superficial. Life is an ever-unfolding wonder. Sometimes games are involved. I love playing Scrabble, but life as a game? No, that doesn’t resonate for me.

3.    There are no rules.

I believe in boundaries, good healthy demarcations, but are these rules? No. I believe in working out what makes life better for me and those around me and living within that paradigm. As I mentioned before, when I was growing up in a Christian household I thought I had to obey all the rules to be worthy of love, and there were a lot of rules. I didn’t feel loved, no matter what I did. In 12-step programs I discovered that working the steps made my life a whole lot better so I was happy to keep working them again and again. Working those steps made my life work. With meditation I have found that life flows a lot easier. I don’t work the steps anymore. I have no schedule of spirituality I have to adhere to. I just live.

4.    People are holy.

I do believe that God is in everyone. We are all part of the One. But once again, “holy” is a loaded word so I’m going to disagree with this one, too!

5.    Absolutes are fine. Certainty is not.

There are no certainties, no absolutes. Everything changes, all the time. It’s the nature of the Universe.

6.    We have power.

Yes, we have power. We have the power of choice. We can choose what we say, how we respond, how we spend our time, how we treat others. This is power.

7.    Happiness is the truth.

Totally disagree with this one. Happiness is a fleeting feeling. The truth is everlasting.

8.    God is reality—nothing more.

God is a paradox, everywhere and nowhere, everything and nothing, immeasurable and infinite. God may not even exist. But there is a strong sense within me that s/he does.

9.    Acceptance. It’s where it’s at.

Yep! I love acceptance. it gives me so much more space and time to do the things I love to do. I’ve stopped fighting. It was all useless anyway. In the end, even the victories I had mean nothing. Acceptance brings me joy.

To learn more about Stephens and her work, see:

Read the rest of this series at Spiritual Practice Success Stories.

Self-Help Success Story: “Don’t Blame Yourself. Don’t Blame Your Karma. Things Just Happen”

Contributor: Mary-Lou Stephens, author of Sex, Drugs and Meditation.

Mollie: Do you practice acceptance of what is in a conscious way with the goal of greater inner peace?

Mary-Lou: I practice acceptance every day. It gets easier as I get older, or perhaps I’ve just had more practice. I don’t practice acceptance with any goal in mind. I practice it because it’s easier than any alternative I’ve found … and I’ve tried quite a few. Ranting and railing, pushing the river, complaining, playing the victim, playing the star, being a martyr … none of these proved very successful. Acceptance is a much more peaceful way to be. It’s not a goal, it just is.

Mollie: When and how did you begin this practice? How has it affected your life?

Mary-Lou: I first learned about acceptance in 12-step programs. The Serenity Prayer was a revelation to me. I always thought it was my job to change other people, places and things. When I discovered the only thing I could change was myself I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from me. I didn’t have to be responsible for all that stuff I thought I was responsible for; in fact, I couldn’t be responsible for it and didn’t have any business trying to be. I just let it all go. This gave me incredible freedom. As my meditation practice grew and became stronger so did my ability to be a witness to what was going on around me without having to buy into it. Being able to witness my own thoughts was an amazing breakthrough. I am not my thoughts … which is just as well because they’re crazy!

Mollie: Can you offer any advice to people who would like to learn how to be more accepting of hardship and to use it to their benefit?

Mary-Lou: Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame your karma. Things just happen. Most times it has nothing to do with you. It’s horrible and it’s hard but it’s not personal. God, the Universe or karma are not out to get you. Learn the lesson and move on. Also, don’t expect to get over hurts or grief quickly. You won’t. And some things will be with you for the rest of your life. Once I learnt to accept that, I was a lot more peaceful. I used to think I had to rise above the bad, forgive everything and everyone, not have any negative thoughts, blah, blah, blah. Now I know I’m not perfect and I don’t expect to be. Some feelings stick with us for a reason–as a warning or as a blessing. Many situations I’ve been through have helped me to relate to others better. They’ve also been beneficial when offering a shoulder or an ear.

Mary Lou

To learn more about Stephens and her work, see:

Self-Help Success Story: “The More I Observe My Thoughts, The More I Realize How Funny They Are”

Contributor: Mary-Lou Stephens, author of Sex, Drugs and Meditation.

Mollie: What are a few of your foundational spiritual beliefs?

Mary-Lou: When I was growing up my parents were heavily involved with the Charismatic Christian movement—lots of speaking in tongues and prophesying, healing and excitement. As a child I was very much wrapped up in that world … a world where God was love but also any negative feelings or misgivings were pushed away and ignored. If you felt bad, clearly you weren’t praying hard enough. As a teenager I felt bad all the time and so became increasingly disenchanted with those that were reaching to heaven but ignoring what was going on at their feet.
In twelve-step programs I was told I could believe in a God of my own understanding. God could be a color, the sun, the wind or anything I wanted, just as long as God was a power greater than myself. This was liberating. Slowly, and with a few missteps, I developed a relationship with a God of my own understanding, one that had nothing to do with religion or other people’s beliefs. This God was a God I could rely on, lean on, talk to, be reassured by. I didn’t have to be good for this God to love me. I didn’t have to do penance or chant the right prayers or go to church. This God loved me just as I was, no matter what I did … but living a life of good thoughts and actions helped me love and live with myself.

These days, God just is. God is in everything, everywhere—a benign, loving presence. This gives me a sense of peace.

Mollie: What are the specific spiritual practices that you prefer (i.e., journaling, meditation, etc.)?

Mary-Lou: I used to use specific techniques—journaling, meditating at a set time for a set amount of time and the like—but now acceptance, witnessing my thoughts and meditation are all part of my day. I don’t put them in specific time slots. It’s more like breathing. It just is without me having to do anything.

Mollie: What do you mean by witnessing your thoughts?

Mary-Lou: I observe my thoughts and decide whether or not to engage with them. This is a benefit of meditation. In meditation I don’t try to stop my thoughts (impossible!). Instead, I watch them as they do their crazy dance. The more I observe my thoughts, the more I realize how funny they are. And to think they used to rule my world. No wonder I was so unhappy. I believed what I was thinking was true when most of it is just reaction and craving. Life is a lot more peaceful now and although peace and happiness might have been my goal when I first started meditating I don’t think about goals at all anymore. So many goals are counter-productive.

Mollie: Do you practice acceptance of what is in a conscious way with the goal of greater inner peace?

Mary-Lou: I practice acceptance every day. It gets easier as I get older, perhaps because I’ve just had more practice. I don’t practice acceptance with any goal in mind. I practice it because it’s easier than any alternative I’ve found … and I’ve tried quite a few: ranting and railing, pushing the river, complaining, playing the victim, playing the star, being a martyr … none of these proved very successful. Acceptance is a much more peaceful way to be. It’s not a goal, it just is.

Mollie: When and how did you begin this practice? How has it affected your life?

Mary-Lou: I first learned about acceptance in twelve-step programs. The Serenity Prayer was a revelation to me. I always thought it was my job to change other people, places and things. When I discovered the only thing I could change was myself I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from me. I didn’t have to be responsible for all that stuff I thought I was responsible for; in fact, I couldn’t be responsible for it and didn’t have any business trying to be. I just let it all go. This gave me incredible freedom. As my meditation practice grew and became stronger, so did my ability to be a witness to what was going on around me without my having to buy into it. Being able to witness my own thoughts was an amazing breakthrough. I am not my thoughts … which is just as well because they’re crazy!

Mollie: Can you offer any advice to people who would like to learn how to be more accepting of hardship and to use it to their benefit?

Mary-Lou: Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame your karma. Things just happen. Most times it has nothing to do with you. It’s horrible and it’s hard but it’s not personal. God, the Universe or karma are not out to get you. Learn the lesson and move on. Also, don’t expect to get over hurts or grief quickly. You won’t. And some things will be with you for the rest of your life. Once I learnt to accept that, I was a lot more peaceful. I used to think I had to rise above the bad, forgive everything and everyone, not have any negative thoughts, blah, blah, blah. Now I know I’m not perfect and I don’t expect to be. Some feelings stick with us for a reason—as a warning or as a blessing. Many situations I’ve been through have helped me to relate to others better. They’ve also been beneficial when offering a shoulder or an ear.

Mary Lou

To learn more about Stephens and her work, see:

Other Best Alternative Spirituality Books

It’s not really New Age. (No one seems to love that term, do they?) It’s not really New Thought, since that’s more specific. And it sure as heck isn’t Buddhist, Christian, Jewish or any other more easily defined belief system.

It’s the brand of spirituality we sometimes call “spiritual but not religious.” Even though we know that it’s a terrible term. I mean, it’s a good, accurate way to describe my philosophy and that of a rapidly growing segment of society. But man, is it a mouthful. Maybe we need to use the acronym instead: SBNR. Okay, maybe we don’t.

Let’s do “alternative spirituality” instead.

Here, then, is my Other Best Alternative Spirituality Books list. It follows on the heels of a handful of other, more specific Best Alternative Spirituality Book lists. This is the stuff that is not easily labeled–the stuff that bookstores don’t quite know what to do with, the stuff they might stick in the Spiritual/Inspirational or the New Age category and call it good. Of course, there are plenty more books on my lists that could fit into this category, too. However, if there’s a more specific list on my site that fits it better, I chose to just keep it there.

I chose the books in the first section because they inspired me deeply, changed me for the better and helped me find greater inner peace. The second section features many of the other general inspirational books I’ve come across but may not have read yet.

By the way, don’t let the title fool you: This is one of my favorite book categories. These books are a bit different, but in a good way.

Other Best Alternative Spirituality Books is an ongoing project. Check back here or subscribe on the right for updates.

P.S. Here are a few related links for you, too:

Other Best Alternative Spirituality Books:

The Work of Byron Katie: An Introduction, Byron Katie
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell
Who Would You Be Without Your Story?: Dialogues with Byron Katie, Byron Katie
I Need Your Love – Is That True?: How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them, Byron Katie and Michael Katz
A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are, Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell
A Mind at Home With Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart and Turn Your World Around, Byron Katie
What I Know for Sure, Oprah Winfrey
The Shack, William Young
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Heretics, G.K. Chesterton

Other Recommended Alternative Spirituality Books:

Byron Katie:

Various Audio and Video Recordings, Byron Katie and Byron Katie International
Question Your Thinking, Change The World: Quotations from Byron Katie,
Byron Katie
A Friendly Universe: Sayings to Inspire and Challenge You, Byron Katie
Loving What Is: 52 Meditations on Reality (Card Deck), Byron Katie
Byron Katie’s “Katieisms”: Inner Wisdom Cards (Card Deck), Byron Katie and Hans Wilhelm

Gary Zukav:

The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New PhysicsGary Zukav
The Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav
Thoughts from the Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav
The Heart of the Soul: Emotional Awareness, Gary Zukav and Linda Francis
Thoughts from the Heart of the Soul: Meditations for Emotional Awareness, Gary Zukav and Linda Francis
The Mind of the Soul: Responsible Choice, Gary Zukav and Linda Francis
Self-Empowerment Journal: A Companion to The Mind of the Soul: Responsible Choice, Gary Zukav and Linda Francis
Spiritual Partnership, Gary Zukav
Soul to Soul, Gary Zukav
Soul Stories, Gary Zukav

Don Miguel Ruiz:

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery (Toltec Wisdom), Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz
The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship, Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements Companion Book: Using The Four Agreements to Master the Dream of Your Life, Don Miguel Ruiz
Prayers: A Communion with Our Creator, Don Miguel Ruiz
Wisdom from the Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
Wisdom from the Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz
The Voice of Knowledge: A Practical Guide To Inner Peace, Don Miguel Ruiz
The Toltec Art of Life and Death, Don Miguel Ruiz

Marianne Williamson:

A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a “Course in Miracles,” Marianne Williamson
The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money, and Miracles,
Marianne Williamson
Enchanted Love: The Mystical Power of Intimate Relationships,
Marianne Williamson
Imagine What America Could Be in the 21st Century: Visions of a Better Future from Leading American Thinkers, Marianne Williamson
Healing the Soul of America: Reclaiming Our Voices as Spiritual Citizens, Marianne Williamson
A Woman’s Worth, Marianne Williamson
Everyday Grace: Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness, And Making Miracles, Marianne Williamson
Illuminata: A Return to Prayer, Marianne Williamson
The Gift of Change, Marianne Williamson

David R. Hawkins:

Power Versus Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior, David Hawkins
Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender,
David R. Hawkins
Transcending the Levels of Consciousness: The Stairway to Enlightenment, David R. Hawkins
Transcending the Levels of Consciousness: Live Your Life Like a Prayer, David R. Hawkins
Success Is for You: Using Heart-Centered Power Principles for Lasting Abundance and Fulfillment, David R. Hawkins
The Eye of the I: From Which Nothing Is Hidden, David R. Hawkins
Truth vs Falsehood: How to Tell the Difference, David R. Hawkins
I: Reality and Subjectivity, David R. Hawkins
Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self: Contemplations from the Teachings of David R. Hawkins, David R. Hawkins and Scott Jeffrey
Discovery of the Presence of God: Devotional NonDuality, David R. Hawkins
Reality, Spirituality and Modern Man, David R. Hawkins
Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life: Setting Boundaries on Unhealthy Relationships, David R. Hawkins
Along the Path to Enlightenment: 365 Daily Reflections from David R. Hawkins, David R. Hawkins and Scott Jeffrey
The Ultimate David Hawkins Library, David R. Hawkins
When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You: Finding God’s Patterns for Healthy Relationships, David R. Hawkins
Breaking Everyday Addictions: Finding Freedom from the Things That Trip Us Up, David R. Hawkins
Never Fight Again . . . Guaranteed!: Groundbreaking Practices for a Win-Win Marriage, David R. Hawkins
The Power of Emotional Decision Making: Using Your God-Given Emotions for Positive Change, David R. Hawkins
Stumbling Toward Obedience: Learning from Jonah’s Failure to Love God and the People He Came to Save, David R. Hawkins
The Clear Pathway to Enlightenment-Four CD Set, David R. Hawkins
Project Y: The Los Alamos Story. Part I: Toward Trinity. Part II: Beyond Trinity, David R. Hawkins and Edith C. Truslow
In the World, but Not of It: Living Spiritually in the Modern World, David R. Hawkins
Healing and Recovery, David R. Hawkins
The Discovery: Revealing the Presence of God in your Life, David R. Hawkins
Normal People Do the Craziest Things, David R. Hawkins

Carol Tuttle:

Remembering Wholeness: A Personal Handbook for Thriving in the 21st Century, Carol Tuttle
It’s Just My Nature!, Carol Tuttle
The Path to Wholeness: A Guide to Spiritual Healing & Empowerment for Survivors of Child Sexual & Spiritual Abuse, Carol Tuttle

Other Authors:

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Burn, Baby, Burn, Evan Griffith
Indigo Adults: Understanding Who You Are and What You Can Become, Kabir Jaffe and Ritama Davidson
Personal Development for Smart People, Steve Pavlina
Human Design: Discover the Person You Were Born to Be, Chetan Parkyn and Steve Dennis
Understanding Human Design: The New Science of Astrology: Discover Who You Really Are, Karen Curry
Human Design: The Definitive Book of Human Design, The Science of Differentiation, Ra Uru Hu and Lynda Bunnell
The Open Secret, Tony Parsons
Butterflies Are Free to Fly, Stephen Davis
The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Alan Watts
Keys to the Ultimate Freedom, Lester Levinson
Past the Gate, Esther Teule
God Goes to Work, Tom Zender
The Outlook Beautiful, Lilian Whiting
Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen
The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, Scott Peck
Messages from Water and the Universe, Masaru Emoto
Add More Ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness, Gabrielle Bernstein
In Search of the Miraculous,
P. D. Ouspensky
Grace, Gaia, and the End of Days: An Alternative Way for the Advanced Soul, Stuart Wilde
Live Your Bliss, Terry Cole-Whittaker
What You Think of Me is None of My Business, Terry Cole-Whittaker
The Future of Love, Daphne Rose Kingma
Mystery Teachings From the Living Earth: An Introduction to Spiritual Ecology, John Mihael Greer
The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, Charles Eisenstein
Living in the Heart: How to Enter into the Sacred Space within the Heart, Drunvalo Melchizedek
Adventures of the Soul: Journeys Through the Physical and Spiritual Dimensions, James Van Praagh
The Sculptor in the Sky, Teal Scott
The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose, Janet Attwood and Chris Attwood
The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman
Living A Course in Miracles: An Essential Guide to the Classic Text, Jon Mundy PhD
Kinship with All Life, J. Allen Boone
The Reconnection: Heal Others, Heal Yourself, Eric Pearl
The Seeker’s Guide, Elizabeth Lesser
The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer
Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell
A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life, Wayne Teasdale

Self-Help Success Story: “Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’ Works For Me”

In the very famous book by Robert Cialdini called Influence, he tells a story that has been co-opted many times since, and now, I think I’ll do it again.

Beginning in the year 1961, Yale University conducted a set of frightening psychological experiments on a mix of average people. Bear with me a few moments—this is a little complicated. (But worth it.)

In each iteration of this study, three roles were played: the subject, the button pusher, and the director. The idea was simple: the button pusher would attempt to teach the subject, who was sitting in a different room, a set of word pairs. Then the button pusher would test the subject’s learning ability. When the subject responded incorrectly, the director (wearing a white lab coat) would tell the button pusher (the actual subject of the experiment) to deliver electric shocks of increasing intensity to the subject by—you guessed it—pressing a button.

Of course, the set up was a bit of a sham. No actual electrical current was delivered, but the subject made a convincing show of suffering, anyway.

The results of the study and subsequent studies shocked the researchers and the public alike: 65 percent of the button pushers complied with the researcher’s demands and pushed the torture button until the highest level of pain (an excruciating 450 volts) was delivered repeatedly—despite the fierce cries and protests of the subjects.

When the results of this study were announced to the public, they apparently caused quite a media frenzy. Respected analysts and psychologists made pessimistic observations about the evil inherent in human nature and society. What the journalists apparently did not reveal, however, was this:

The button pushers were in absolute anguish a great deal of the time.

They paced. They protested. They cried—even grown men cried. They begged not to be required to go on.

They didn’t want to do it at all.

In Influence and other analyses of this fascinating study, a clear conclusion is drawn: People in general put a great undue trust in authority. We listen to our leaders—or the people we perceive to be our leaders—and do almost anything they ask, whatever the consequences may be.

And I agree with this idea. In fact, I could not possibly agree more. However, there is a second conclusion to be made, and personally, I think it’s even more important than the first: People are almost totally unaware that the source of their greatest anguish is not other people.

It is themselves.

At any point in time during this experiment, any of the button pushers could have ended the torture of both the subject and themselves by doing one simple thing.

They could’ve stopped pushing the button.

Here’s the thing: We are powerful. Our minds–our beliefs–are the source of our greatest pain, as well as our only true joy. And yet, as many times as we New Agey-types say this, repeat this, remind ourselves of this, we often seem to forget it.

Which is where Byron Katie’s The Work comes in.

When I first came across Byron Katie’s website, there was a prominently displayed quote that went something like this: “The Work has one purpose: To end suffering.”

And I thought, Yeah, right, you guys. Everything I need to end suffering is right here, on this website.

A reasonable reaction, maybe. But that was long before I ever put The Work to the test.

What is The Work?

For those of you who are not familiar with The Work, here is a brief description from thework.com: “The Work is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity. In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and the turnarounds.”

The questions are:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

Pretty simple, right? And yet, The Work is one of the most powerful spiritual techniques I’ve ever tried. It combines well-known cognitive psychology principles (CBT is similar, and similarly amazing), neuroscience (brain rewiring theory, and all that), and–you guessed it–spirituality to address anything and everything that ails you.

And it delivers.

Can you be more specific?

Here are some of the negative thoughts I’ve freed (or partially freed) myself from through this method, just during the first two months of practicing it:

  • I’m not thin enough.
  • I’m not accomplishing enough.
  • I’m annoyed by [insert person’s name].
  • I’m angry at [insert person’s name].
  • I want to work more.
  • I don’t want to breastfeed anymore.

Another thought that I’m not totally rid of yet, but that I’ve already made inroads against: “I am depressed.”

Really? That doesn’t seem possible.

It’s true.

What do you mean, you’ve freed yourself from these thoughts?

I mean that when they come, they don’t feel as strong to me anymore. They are there, then I recall The Work that I did on the thought and how I turned it around, and it sort of makes its way through me to somewhere else. They’re not quite real anymore. I don’t take them so seriously.

And for depression, a condition that may be physically-based? Does it work for this, too?

Absolutely. I can honestly say that before The Work and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is very similar but not quite as powerful as The Work, I was never entirely convinced I could one day be completely free from depression. Now, I am.

But it will take time. This is not an overnight miracle cure. It takes, as the name suggests, work. Depression has made such deep inroads–superhighways, really–in my mind. All that needs to be slowly undone.

If it’s this amazing, why doesn’t everyone know about it?

People find The Work when the time is right. Also, Byron Katie’s ideas are pretty darn controversial. In her world, the problem is never the other person; it’s always you. “No exceptions.” Change your perspective, and you won’t suffer anymore, she says–no matter what anyone else does to you. A lot of people are stuck in victimhood.

Anything else we should know?

I cannot do The Work justice in this blog post. Rather than attempt the impossible, then, I direct you to one of my favorite Byron Katie YouTube videos ever (and that’s saying a lot, since I’ve been binge-watching them every chance I get). In it, Katie helps a distraught woman plagued with guilt over a relationship mistake see the truth of the situation.

(By the way, everything you need to do The Work is available for free on Byron Katie’s website.)

Self-Help Success Story: “None of It Scares Me. I Have So Much Fun”

law-of-attraction-pink-bubble-background

Contributor: Author Leta Hamilton, whose books include The Way of the Toddler and a four-book series called 100 Daily Messages.

Me: Sometimes, we’re happy just because we’re happy. Other times, it takes a lot of work. What do you tell people who, unlike you, struggle with negativity and other emotional stuff on a daily basis?

Leta: My advice is to love what is. Just that.

Me: How? Can you give me a much clearer, more practical idea of what’s going on in your head as you are loving and appreciating throughout your day? Maybe a small example of a few moments inside your head?

Leta: Often, my head is just saying, “I love God.” I have thoughts. I’m human, after all. But my head is empty probably a lot more than most humans.

I will meet people I don’t like. I will encounter things and situations I don’t like. They may even be grotesque to my sensibilities. However, I am challenged to love the divine within all things. I am challenged to be One with all things. I am challenged to broaden my perspective so that I find the divine innocence at the heart of everything. I am challenged to love and accept everyone, even people I don’t like. If I meet someone I don’t like, I ask myself if this is a situation I can change. Am I willing to put forth the effort to like them (which would mean changing everything about myself, going into another personality and being someone I am not)? The answer is no. However, I can see the divine innocence in them. I can understand them and love them even though I may not like them. None of it scares me. I love it all. I have a relationship with myself that allows for constant self-inquiry leading to understanding and love that takes me beyond the disconnected to the connected. I have so much fun.

Leta

Best Near Death Experience Books

If you don’t love a great dear neath experience book, check your pulse; you’re probably already dead. (Miss you.) That said, books in this sub-genre are not all created equal. Some are super inspiring, while others just aren’t quite to my taste. A lot of them come from a religious perspective I don’t agree with and others are, well, a bit corny. That said, the stories themselves (sans lesson plan) can be interesting regardless.

I chose the books in the first list below because I’ve read and enjoyed them and because they offer good, practical life advice. If you want to get more immersed the subject, though, try the books in the “Other Recommended Near Death Experience Books” section. I chose them because they’re either well-known, seemingly well-researched, or just recommended on some website somewhere. (High standards, I know.)

My favorite book from this list: Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita-Moorjani. That book is definitely my friend.

I also highly encourage you to check out the TV series I Survived: Beyond and Back on Lifetime. Full episodes are available for free at mylifetime.com.

Best Near Death Experience Books is part of a larger project, a curriculum I’m writing called Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday. Like this list, it’s an ongoing, possibly unending, project. Check back here or subscribe on the right for updates.

P.S. Here are a few related links for you, too:

Best Near Death Experience Books:

Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, Anita-Moorjani
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Eben Alexander
Life After Life: The Bestselling Original Investigation That Revealed “Near-Death Experiences”, Raymond Moody
Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death, Chris Carter
Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms: Who and What You See Before You Die, David Kessler

Other Recommended Near Death Experience Books:

Application of Impossible Things: A Near Death Experience in Iraq, Natalie Sudman
Mindsight: Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind, Kenneth Ring
Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You, John Burke and Don Piper
Beyond Sight: The True Story of a Near-Death Experience, Marion Rome
Near Death in the ICU: Stories from Patients Near Death and Why We Should Listen to Them, Laurin Bellg MD
Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences, Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry
God and the Afterlife: The Groundbreaking New Evidence for God and Near-Death Experience, Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry
My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life, Marvin J. Besteman and Lorilee Craker
Love The Person You’re With: Life-Changing Insights from the Most Compelling Near-Death Experiences Ever Recorded, David Sunfellow
Dying to Wake Up: A Doctor’s Voyage into the Afterlife and the Wisdom He Brought Back, Rajiv Parti and Raymond Moody
Life After Death, Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die, Stephen Hawley Martin
Real Messages From Heaven: And Other True Stories of Miracles, Divine Intervention and Supernatural Occurrences, Faye Aldridge
Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose, P. M. H. Atwater
Embraced By The Light, Betty J. Eadie
Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience, Pim van Lommel
Near-Death Experiences Examined: Medical Findings and Testimonies from Lourdes, Patrick Theillier
Awakenings from the Light: 12 Life Lessons from a Near Death Experience, Nancy Rynes
Near-Death Experiences as Evidence for the Existence of God and Heaven: A Brief Introduction in Plain Language, J. Steve Miller and Jeffrey Long
Near Death Experiences of Doctors and Scientists: Doctors, and Scientists Describe Their Personal Near-Death Experiences, John J. Graden
Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully, Penny Sartori and Pim van Lommel
The Night I Spoke to God: A Miraculous True Story of A Near-Death Experience, Michael L. Eads
The Gifts of Near-Death Experiences: You Don’t Have to Die to Experience Your True Home, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Dennis Linn
How To Stop Negative Thoughts: What My Near-Death-Experience Taught Me About Mind Loops, Neuroscience, and Happiness, Barbara Ireland
Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife, Leslie Kean
NDE: They Went To Heaven And Back – Stories of People That Got A Second Chance, Gerard Radcliff
The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences: The Ultimate Guide to What Happens When We Die, P.M.H. Atwater

Self-Help Success Story: “There Is No Real Meditation”

law-of-attraction-pink-bubble-background

Contributor: Author Leta Hamilton, whose books include The Way of the Toddler and a four-book series called 100 Daily Messages.

Me: What is the essence of meditation? What is it, really?

Leta: What is real about meditation other than the practice of being present in your body, experiencing an IS-ness and connecting to a bigger-than-small-you field? There is no real meditation in my experience. Anything that promotes a feeling of bigger-than-small-you experience is a meditation. It can be folding the laundry, washing the dishes, sitting down on the toilet and so much more! There is meditation in everything. It is how you approach the experience that counts. Like a plug, we can plug in anything we do in our daily lives into the socket of “bigger-than-small-me” experience. This is the key to meditation in my experience.

Leta

Best Free Alternative Spirituality Ebooks

What could be better than a great alternative spirituality book that’s also free? Not much. Not much at all. But if you’ve ever done a Google search for “free spiritual ebook” or “free alternative spirituality ebook,” you know it’s not that easy. There are thousands and thousands of these volumes online, some from ages ago and some published just last week. Where do you start?

My advice: Start with the classics. Not just any of the classics, though; the ones that have received wide appreciation. Then take my advice (and the advice of others) on the modern stuff.

I chose these books because they inspired me deeply, changed me for the better, and helped me find greater inner peace. Let me know what else is out there that deserves to be here and I will gratefully update this list.

Best Free Alternative Spirituality Ebooks is an ongoing project. Check back here or subscribe on the right for updates.

P.S. Here are a few related links for you, too:

And if you would like to venture further into free ebook land, see my list of Free Spirituality Ebooks Websites.

Best Free Alternative Spirituality Ebooks:

The Work of Byron Katie: An Introduction, Byron Katie
Beginning Your Love Revolution, Matt Kahn
Hoist on My Own Petard: Or: How Writing 10% Happier Threw My Own Advice Right Back in My Face, Dan Harris
Autobiography of A Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
As a Man Thinketh, James Allen
Secret of the Ages, Robert Collier
Be Still, Emmet Fox
Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill
Science of Mind, Ernest Holmes
Feeling Is The Secret, Neville Goddard
The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale
Scientific Christian Mental Practice, Emma Curtis Hopkins
The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
100 Daily Messages Volumes One through Four, Leta Hamilton and Archangel Michael

Self-Help Success Story: “I Tried Mantra Meditation for Depression”

new thought and prayer

For several months, I had a mantra. A long one, one that I made up that said everything I wanted to remember each day. Since I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with many other types of meditation (I’ve pretty much always used mantras as a focal point during sitting practice rather than focusing on the breath or just clearing my mind), I figured I might as well make it a good, complete one. Each stanza is, for me, a consolidation of a great spiritual principle that upon contemplation can allow us to feel the feeling of feeling good (my definition of the state of meditation).

Here is the mantra that I used:

Angels, guides, God and all there is,  

1.
Please. Please.  
Help. Help.

2.
Notice. Notice.  
Accept. Accept.

3.
Surrender. Surrender.  
Flow. Flow.   

4.
Love. Love.
Give. Give.

5.
Body. Body.
Energy. Energy.

6.
Thank you. Thank you.
Life. Life.

I love this mantra. I love mantras in general, actually. And yet, I don’t use this one anymore. In fact, for the past year or so, I’ve used mantras only sporadically. Why is this? The reason is simple: other spiritual practices took precedent.

I just don’t have time for them all.

Here, a self-interview about using this practice for depression.

So do you recommend mantra meditation for depression, or not?

Absolutely. I have a strong feeling that I will circle back to it–maybe even to using it daily–after my Byron Katie obsession is no longer in the critical learning period.

And mantras in general? Do they help, too? Or is it best to combine them with meditation?

Mantras are just mantras. Unless they’re used in a certain way, in a meditative frame of mind, they’re just not all that effective.

I remember a time several years back when I thought I wanted to buy a particular house. So one day I said this mantra over and over for, like, a solid hour while doing yoga: “This is my house.” And I didn’t feel at peace about it at all–and I did not end up buying that house (thank God).

So what was the difference?

First, the mantra should be something that feels deeply right to you. Something that really increases your peace. And second, the mantra should be something you use as a means to an end–achieving a state of meditation–not as an end in itself.

So does that mean you shouldn’t use mantras while doing the laundry or at work?

Not at all. Sit-down meditation is awesome, but you can meditate anytime. I call this “walking meditation.”

How effective is mantra meditation for depression, really?

The thing about being depressed is that it’s really, really hard to boost yourself up out of it using the usual methods. I can remember so many times that I tried to force myself out of a bad mood using some kind of sitting or walking meditation, usually with a mantra, and just ended up more pissed off and frustrated. Maybe I’m just really bad at it (actually, I’m pretty sure this is the case). But I have a feeling I’m not the only one with this problem.

Sometimes it works really well. Other times, it’s just not enough. Personally, I’ve found that meditation is best when I’m already feeling either emotionally neutral (it then kicks me into a bit of a high) or already positive (it then kicks me into an awesome high). When I’m actually depressed, I need something … stronger.

Best Alternative Spirituality Children’s Books

I love buying books for myself. Like, a lot. But guess what? I love buying them for my kids even more.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the topic of alternative spirituality, children’s books are relatively rare. Here’s a list of those I’ve discovered so far. Please let me know of others you discover and fall in love with.

Best Alternative Spirituality Books for Children:

Sara, Book 1: Sara Learns the Secret About the Law of Attraction, Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks
Sara, Book 2: Solomon’s Fine Featherless Friend, Esther Hicks
Sara, Book 3: A Talking Owl is Worth a Thousand Words!, Esther Hicks
Sara and the Foreverness of Friends of a Feather, Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks
Om Baby, Child of the Universe, Schamet Horsfield
Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents), Eline Snel
Milton’s Secret, Eckhart Tolle
Emir’s Education in the Proper Use of Magical Powers, Jane Roberts
New Thought Children Stories, Christopher Morley
Emma & Mommy Talk to God, Marianne Williamson
I Am, Wayne Dyer and Kristina Tracy
Incredible You!, Wayne Dyer and Kristina Tracy
It’s Not What You’ve Got!, Wayne Dyer and Kristina Tracy
No Excuses!, Wayne Dyer and Kristina Tracy
Unstoppable Me!, Wayne Dyer and Kristina Tracy
Tiger-Tiger, Is It True?: Four Questions to Make You Smile Again, Byron Katie and Hans Wilhelm
The Four Questions: For Henny Penny and Anybody with Stressful Thoughts, Byron Katie and Hans Wilhelm
Santa’s God: A Children’s Fable About the Biggest Question Ever, Neale Donald Walsch
All the World, Liz Garton Scanlon
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss

Self-Help Success Story: “I Tried Positive Thinking for Depression”

Is positive thinking effective for increasing wellness and inner peace? I mean, really. It’s so corny. So Pollyanna. And yet, we spiritual people swear by it. Non-spiritual people, too. We give it credit for so many of our life achievements.

What gives?

I love this question. Really, really love it, partly because the answer isn’t straightforward. So the other week when I ran across an interview with Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Wayne Dyer in which it was asked, my ears perked up.

Strangely, positivity is a very polarizing subject. You have the extreme believers and the extreme haters. The believers think it’s the reason for everything good that ever happens (I’m looking at you, Rhonda Byrne). The haters view these people as not only misled, but downright ridiculous. Barbara Ehrenreich, for example, has become well known for books like Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Not the book idea I’d want to commit to for several years of my working life.

But there are a few less skeptical, more balanced approaches to the anti-positivity argument as well. And I was pleased that in the Dyer-Tolle interview, both shared interesting, balanced perspectives. They agreed that if a person really wants to achieve greater inner peace, positivity isn’t the goal, or even necessarily a great starting point. Instead, they say, work on being true to yourself, being honest–even if there’s some difficult emotions that come up.

Then Dyer mentioned Anita Moorjani, who wrote a book (Dying to Be Me) about her near death experience and what she learned from it. In it, she says that it’s not about positive thinking. It’s not about manufacturing good feelings where there are none. It’s not about mantras, and the law of attraction, and The Secret, and Norman Vincent Peale.

Positive thinking is a mere substitute for the real thing. Real enlightenment. Real joy. Real love.

It’ll only get you part of the way.

Pema Chodron would likely agree. Her (awesome) books are full of insights about the importance of honesty and authenticity–even suffering. She has a ton–really, just a ton–of amazing quotes on this topic. Here’s one, from When Things Fall Apart: “To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.”

So, okay. Maybe positive thinking isn’t all it’s touted to be. But, well–what is, right? Any idea that has entered the popular consciousness with as much force and repetition (not to mention anecdotal and even scientific evidence, a la the placebo effect) suffers from oversimplification syndrome. Maybe positivity isn’t the cure-all, or even one of the truly great spiritual practices out there. That doesn’t mean I’m giving it up anytime soon.

Briefly, here’s my take: As many of you know, I’ve experienced chronic dysthemia (low-level depression) for most of my life. Spirituality and prayer have always been a source of help for me, as have many other practices. But the very first true breakthrough I ever experienced regarding my depression resulted from reading a book on changing one’s thoughts. It was called Telling Yourself the Truth: Find Your Way Out of Depression, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Other Common Problems by Applying the Principles of Misbelief Therapy, and I still recommend it to this day (though there are other, similar books on the subject I prefer now). The basic message: your negative thoughts are responsible for your negative feelings. To change the feeling, change the thought. Oh, and by the way, those negative thoughts aren’t true, anyway–not nearly as true as the more objective–and yes, more positive–alternative perspectives.

The message was simple, and in some ways quite obvious, and yet, as a Christian who had always relied on prayer alone for healing, it was radical to me. When I began “taking my thoughts captive,” as the Bible teaches, I was finally able to cap off some of the depression.

These days, I use positive thinking as a tool every day of my life, both in a knee-jerk sort of way and as a dedicated journaling practice. Don’t get me wrong–I’d love to be more like Eckhart Tolle, who is able to “just be.” And Moorjani, who tells us that rather than try to drum up better-feeling thoughts, we should simply live a life that celebrates who we really, authentically are–whatever that may be.

I’m working on it.

Self-Help Success Story: “Meditation Gives Me a Feeling of Vastness”

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Contributor: Author Leta Hamilton, whose books include The Way of the Toddler and a four-book series called 100 Daily Messages

Me: People describe the feeling of meditation in different ways. For some, it’s just relaxation. For me, it’s slightly increased peace–a bit of space between myself and my neurotic mind. What does meditation feel like to you?

Leta: When I meditate, I see myself as the vast universe. I feel a hugeness from the inside out that can only be described as vast empty space. When I see a photo of the universe, of galaxies and the lights emerging from them, the colors they display, I feel that is the best description, visually speaking, of what I feel inwardly as I meditate.

I feel the whole universe is the space of my inner self.

This feeling is cherished and it is why I return to meditation again and again. Even when I have moments without meditation (without that feeling of vastness from the inside out), I remember it and return to it. Whether I am in the kitchen, car or store, I return to the vastness I feel when I am in meditation. Maybe that explains why I maintain the notion that meditation is more than just sitting with eyes closed and legs crossed. It is any time the feeling of vastness comes over me.

Me: Are you able to feel this anytime, even when you’re not alone?

Leta: It is harder to accomplish in the company of others. When I am with others, I am pulled back into the world and the illusion of separation. I am pulled into the physicality present in our form-sense orientation. I am reminded of my humanness when I am with others. This is not a bad thing in and of itself. However, I desire the balance of isolation as well to accompany it. I desire my own time without having to speak to another soul as much as I desire human interaction, love, friendship, and all the things intertwined with human-experiencing.

So I only have this to say: meditate. Breathe. Give back to society in whatever way you can. Volunteer. Think about others in everything you do. Lose yourself happily, because you are seeking nothing. Nothing means no-thing. Give yourself permission not to have goals–to have the goal of loving what is every moment.

That is the most awesome goal of all.

Vision boards, the law of attraction, bringing into your reality what you visualize/hold in your mind, etc., are part of the game of living on earth and they have their place, but I am more interested in being the galaxy and all the galaxies. I am more interested in returning to that place of great big BIG-ness that I feel when I meditate.

It must be a rush of endorphins or whatever brain chemicals rush through my skull that cause me to be so drawn to that meditative state. It is pure bliss and it comes whenever I am focused, steady and silent in my Self. It comes whenever I tell it to, but that is after years of practice.

Love.

Leta

Self-Help Success Story: “What’s Happening to Me Is What’s Happening In My Own Mind–Nothing Else”

In the world of alternative spirituality, it’s become a bit of a cliche: Everything we see, everything we experience, is merely ourselves, reflected back at us. We are here to discover who we really are, say our Buddhist teachers (like the great Pema Chodron) and our channels (like Esther Hicks, Jane Roberts and many others). This is supposed to make us feel better when things go wrong, I suppose; it’s not really happening, right?

But that isn’t the only reason we appreciate this teaching. We also like it because it gives us a sense of control. In his awesome pop psychology bestseller, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, David DiSalvo tells us about the human mind’s neurotic need for certainty and understanding–even in the face of very few facts.

Knowing what’s really going on at all times–with ourselves and everyone around us–is a major driving force of our actions and thoughts, he writes. There is a distinct physical and chemical pleasure response from coming up with a reason or explanation–no matter how accurate that explanation may be.

Enter all kinds of false conclusions. We even assign meaning to pure coincidence, making causal inferences from scant information.

And in Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Professor of Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely agrees.

So in a sense, believing the world is a projection of our own minds is a pretty attractive scenario. If I can change my mind, I can change my life, we conclude. Who doesn’t want that kind of power?

However, there’s a flip side to this perceived super power, a quandary to consider: What about when something goes wrong? Who do we blame when someone is truly mean, truly heinous, truly inconsiderate, truly . . . well, wrong?

Hmmmm . . . . That’s a hard one, isn’t it?

Clearly, your partner was not being nice when he told you he’d rather spend a night out with the guys than with you. Obviously, your mother should never suggest you go on a diet, and your sister is unfair to expect you to babysit her kids every week.

I mean, let’s face it: It’s one thing to believe in theory that everything that happens is a just projection of ourselves. It’s another thing entirely to act like we believe it, to truly believe that we’re the only ones responsible for our reality.

Some spiritual-but-not-religious folks have a code word for what happens when things go wrong. They call it “co-creation.” They think that even enlightened people experience bad stuff on occasion (in other words, even Esther Hicks gets sick). This is because, well, we’re not really the only ones out here on this plane of reality. And some, but not all, of the out-there stuff affects us.

We’re all in this thing together.

Another explanation, which I like even better, comes from a lesser-known but equally awesome teacher named Matt Kahn. (Get a free long excerpt of his book, Whatever Arises, Love That, here.) Kahn says that when bad stuff happens, it’s not because you didn’t create or visualize right; it’s because there’s some serious work going on inside you. The idea is similar to the Buddhist idea of working out one’s karma. (See Kahn’s video, “The Karmic Return,” for more.)

For quite a while, I accepted these explanations, and in fact I still do–partly. I do believe (for now, anyway) that there really are other people out there, and that those other people are actually doing things. If reality is a projection, I think it’s a collective one.

However, there’s another layer to this idea that I only recently truly discovered. And the teacher that led me to it was Byron Katie.

Here is Katie’s take on the topic in a nutshell. She says that it’s not that so-called “bad” stuff never happens to enlightened or “advanced” people. (She probably gets her disproportionate share of hate mail, for example, due to her nobody-is-a-victim philosophy.) But when you know that a comment just isn’t true, that comment doesn’t feel truly mean to you anymore. Instead, it just feels like pain. It feels like an angry child is speaking to you, someone who doesn’t understand you–someone who’s hurt and afraid.

Recently, I started using Byron Katie’s method of questioning my negative beliefs, and it has really changed things for me. I didn’t realize how negative I was until I started writing down the automatic thoughts in my mind. From the first time I did The Work (Byron Katie’s name for her process, which is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy), I was able to step back significantly from my experiences and realize that what happens to me isn’t really what’s happening to me. What’s happening to me is what’s happening in my own mind.

Needless to say, this was an incredibly freeing revelation.

I would really, really love for you to go down the Byron Katie rabbit hole with me. For a very short video introduction to her view on this topic, watch “Byron Katie explains a post: ‘Your partner’s flaws are your own, because you’re projecting them” on YouTube

Best Alternative Spirituality Blogs

I love a heartfelt, person-to-person alternative spirituality blog. And of course, I love to hear different perspectives on spirituality–not just articles, but real opinions. These bloggers deliver on all these points. Hope you like them, too.

Best Alternative Spirituality Blogs:

Notes for Creators, written by Evan Griffith

He’s not just spiritual. He’s creative. And his whole mission in life is to inspire you to be more creative, too–to make your dreams into goals, and goals into achievements. (Oh, and he’s a really good writer.)

Relax Like a Boss by Julian Goldie

This is a collection of mindfulness and spirituality blogs by Julian Goldie. You will get sucked in . . .

Good Vibe Blog, written by Jeannette Maw

She’s a pro. What more can I say? If you’re a law of attraction type, follow away. You won’t be disappointed.

Deliberate Receiving, written by Melody Fletcher

Snarky. Sarcastic. Super fun. Spiritual. All the stuff we want from a blogger. Her posts are long and very well thought-out. And she’s got a huge following, and a book.

Byron Katie Blog, written (recorded?) by Byron Katie

Normally, I don’t do online videos. I like the quiet too much. But I’ve gotten addicted to Byron Katie’s amazing, life-altering perspective. She is my new guru, for sure.

True Divine Nature, written by Matt Kahn and Julie Dittmar

What a duo these two are. And their message is really exceptional. Their blog could use a little more TLC, but I like keeping their work in my thoughts and learning about what they’re up to. And if you haven’t yet seen a Matt Kahn YouTube video, well, you may not yet truly be living. His videos are his real blog.

Mom On A Spiritual Journey, written by Sarah Lawrence Hinson

Motherhood and spirituality, all jumbled up together? This woman is speaking my language. Here are some article titles that give you an idea of what to expect from this straightforward blog: “The cold hard ugly truth about spirituality,” “6 good reasons to have an Akashic records reading,” and “Set up your computer browser for spiritual practice.” Sold! (How do I do that?)

Thoughts. Stories. Life., written by Sarah Centrella

I’ve been following Centrella for some years now, and she’s come a long way, baby. Her book, Hustle Believe Receive, is awesome, and I enjoy her vulnerability on topics from motherhood to midlife.

Happiness Beyond Thought, written by Gary Weber

Spirituality, science, philosophy–always a great combination. This is a blog for people who like to keep up on the latest research in spiritual practice, particularly Buddhist practices and meditation.

Spiritual Living Blog, written by Amanda Linette Meder

A psychic with a blog. What a world, my friends. Meder gets it right, though, and doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Lora Nedkov’s Blog, written by Lora Nedkov

Nedkov is a spiritual counselor, and her posts seek to inspire you to treat yourself with more kindness, love and grace. She uses A Course in Miracles as her basic text.

All Considering, written by Katinka Hesselink

Hesselink asks tough questions, then answers them from her unique perspective. She doesn’t put on airs, though–this is a real person just telling it like she sees it.

Erin Pavlina, written by Erin Pavlina

Pavlina is a channel who writes about reincarnation, divination, omens and the like, bringing some common sense to her uncommon ability. Here’s a sample of her direct writing style:

“Let’s say you’re some bloke named Oliver Queen and you die, are you still Oliver Queen on the other side, like forever? Or do you become someone else? Something else?

People ask me variations of this question a lot …”

Other Top Alternative Spirituality Blogs:

Maybe these aren’t so much blogs as just websites with a bunch of good content. Either way, they merit attention, for obvious reasons. (Namely, that they have a huge following and promote authors who have changed the world.)

EckhartTolle.com, written by Eckhart Tolle and team

Kryon.com, written by Lee Carroll and team

Abraham-Hicks.com, written by Esther Hicks and team

Marianne’s Blog, written by Marianne Williamson

Osho.com, written by various contributors

Bashar: The Official Site of Bashar Channeled by Darryl Anka, written by Darryl Anka and team