Tag Archives: Mental Health

Self-Help Interview: “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 Interview: “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 Interview: “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 Interview: “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 Interview: “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

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 Interview: “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

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

Best Channeled Books


What could be better than reading direct revelations from the other side? Not much, as it turns out. Channeled books give us something we get nowhere else: crazy-sounding rants from spiritual beings who for various reasons haven’t quite perfected their English grammar.

Oh, and some unique, life-changing firsthand insights, too.

For these reasons, Best Channeled Books is a book category that’s close to my heart, as it may be to yours. 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 all of the other channeled books I’ve come across but may not have read yet. Let me know what I’ve missed and I will update this list and likely promptly devour.

Best Channeled 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 Channeled Books:

Conversations with God, Parts One through Three, Neale Donald Walsch
The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
The Magical Approach: Seth Speaks About the Art of Creative Living, Jane Roberts and Seth
Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul, Jane Roberts and Seth
Whatever Arises, Love That, Matt Kahn
A New Dispensation: Plain Talk for Confusing Times, Kryon Book Ten, Lee Carroll and Kryon
100 Daily Messages Volumes One through Four, Leta Hamilton and Archangel Michael

Other Recommended Channeled Books:

Neale Donald Walsch:

Friendship with God, Neale Donald Walsch
Communion with God,
Neale Donald Walsch
The New Revelations, Neale Donald Walsch
Tomorrow’s God: Our Greatest Spiritual Challenge, Neale Donald Walsch
Home with God, Neale Donald Walsch

Neale Donald Walsch Books That Aren’t Channeled:

Conversations with God – Guidebook, Book 1, Nancy Ways
Conversations with God – Guidebook, Book 2,
Anne-Marie Barbier
Conversations with God – Guidebook, Book 3,
Alissa Goefron
The Conversations with God Companion: The Essential Tool for Individual and Group Study, Neale Donald Walsch
Conversations with God for Teens, Neale Donald Walsch
Conversations with God for Teens Guidebook, Neale Donald Walsch
Conversations With God for Parents: Sharing the Messages with Children, Neale Donald Walsch
Meditations from Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsch
Meditations from Conversations With God: Book 1, Neale Donald Walsch
Meditations from Conversations With God, Book 2: A Personal Journal, Neale Donald Walsch
Questions and Answers on Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsch
The Wedding Vows from Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsch and Nancy Fleming-Walsch
Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships, Neale Donald Walsch
Neale Donald Walsch on Holistic Living, Neale Donald Walsch
Neale Donald Walsch on Abundance and Right Livelihood, Neale Donald Walsch
Applications for Living from Conversations With God (compilation of three books; Relationships, Holistic Living, and Abundance and Right Livelihood), Neale Donald Walsch
Bringers of the Light, Neale Donald Walsch
Recreating Your Self, Neale Donald Walsch
Moments of Grace: When God Touches Our Lives Unexpectedly, Neale Donald Walsch
Part of the Change: Your Role As A Spiritual Helper, Neale Donald Walsch
Happier Than God: Turn Ordinary Life into an Extraordinary Experience, Neale Donald Walsch
When Everything Changes, Change Everything: In a Time of Turmoil, a Pathway to Peace, Neale Donald Walsch
The Little Book of Life: A User’s Manual, Neale Donald Walsch
The Mother of Invention: The Legacy of Barbara Marx Hubbard and the Future of YOU, Neale Donald Walsch
When God Steps In, Miracles Happen, Neale Donald Walsch
The Storm Before the Calm, Neale Donald Walsch
What God Wants: A Compelling Answer to Humanity’s Biggest Question, Neale Donald Walsch
The Only Thing That Matters, Neale Donald Walsch
What God Said, Neale Donald Walsch
God’s Message To The World: You’ve Got Me All Wrong, Neale Donald Walsch
Conversations with God: The Making of the Movie, Monty Jones with Neale Donald Walsch
Re-Minder Cards: Conversations With God, Book 1, Neale Donald Walsch

Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham:

Money, and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Wealth, Health, and Happiness, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
The Vortex: Where the Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent: Living the Art of Allowing,
Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
The Teachings of Abraham: The Master Course CD Program, 11-CD set, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
Getting Into The Vortex: Guided Meditations CD and User Guide, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
The Astonishing Power of Emotions: Let Your Feelings Be Your Guide, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
A New Beginning I: Handbook for Joyous Survival, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham
A New Beginning II: A Personal Handbook to Enhance Your Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness, Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks and Abraham

Jane Roberts and Seth:

The Nature of Personal Reality, Jane Roberts and Seth
The Seth Material, Jane Roberts
The “Unknown” Reality, Volume One, Jane Roberts and Seth
The “Unknown” Reality, Volume Two, Jane Roberts and Seth
The Nature of the Psyche: Its Human Expression, Jane Roberts and Seth
Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, Volume One, Jane Roberts and Seth
Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, Volume Two, Jane Roberts and Seth
A Seth Reader, Jane Roberts
The Early Sessions (Sessions 1 through 510 of the Seth Material), Jane Roberts
The Personal Sessions, Jane Roberts
The Early Class Sessions, Jane Roberts
Seth, Dreams and Projection of Consciousness, Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts Books That Aren’t Channeled:

How To Develop Your ESP Power/ The Coming of Seth, Jane Roberts
Adventures in Consciousness: An Introduction to Aspect Psychology, Jane Roberts
Dialogues of the Soul and Mortal Self in Time, Jane Roberts
Psychic Politics: An Aspect Psychology Book, Jane Roberts
The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, Jane Roberts
The Oversoul Seven Trilogy, Jane Roberts
The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto, Jane Roberts
If We Live Again, Or, Public Magic and Private Love, Jane Roberts

Lee Carroll and Kryon:

The End Times: New Information for Personal Peace, Kryon Book One, Lee Carroll and Kryon
Don’t Think Like a Human: Channelled Answers to Basic Questions, Kryon Book Two,
Lee Carroll and Kryon
Alchemy of the Human Spirit: A Guide to Human Transition into the New Age, Kryon Book Three, Lee Carroll and Kryon
The Parables of Kryon, Kryon Book Four, Lee Carroll and Kryon
The Journey Home, Kryon Book Five, Lee Carroll and Kryon
Partnering with God: Practical Information for the New Millennium, Kryon Book Six, Lee Carroll and Kryon
Letters from Home: Loving Messages from the Family, Kryon Book Seven, Lee Carroll and Kryon
Passing The Marker: Understanding the New Millennium Energy, Kryon Book Eight, Lee Carroll and Kryon
The New Beginning: 2002 and Beyond, Kryon Book Nine, Lee Carroll and Kryon
Lifting the Veil: The New Energy Apolcalypse, Kryon Book Eleven, Lee Carroll and Kryon
The Twelve Layers of DNA: An Esoteric Study of the Mastery Within, Kryon Book Twelve, Lee Carroll and Kryon
The Recalibration of Humanity: 2013 and Beyond, Kryon Book Thirteen, Lee Carroll and Kryon

Lee Carroll Books That Aren’t Channeled:

The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, Lee Carroll
Indigo Celebration: More Messages, Stories, and Insights from the Indigo Children,
Lee Carroll
The Indigo Children Ten Years Later: What’s Happening with the Indigo Teenagers!, Lee Carroll and Jan Tober

Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias:

The Creator Series, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Live Your Divinity, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Journey of the Angels, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Masters in the New Energy, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Act of Consciousness, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Crimson Circle Library (video, audio and text), Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
The Tobias Materials: The Creator Series – New Tools for Our New Spiritual Journey, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Masters in the New Energy, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
A Letter to Awakening Humans, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Call to Awaken (Audio CD), Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Opening into Consciousness – A Guided Experience (Audio CD), Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
The Twelve Signs of Your Awakening Divinity, Geoffrey Hoppe and Tobias
Journey of the Angels: The Tobias Materials, Geoffrey Hoppe, Tobias and Linda Benyo

Other Recommended Channeled Books and Channels:

A Course in Miracles, Helen Shucman
The Great Human Potential: Walking in One’s Own Light, Wendy Kennedy
Darryl Anka and Bashar
A Vision, W.B. Yeats
The Great Shift: Co-Creating a New World for 2012 and Beyond, Martine Vallee
The Secret of Effortless Doing: Be . . . And It Will Be, Ronny and Zach Sivan
Oahspe Bible, John Ballou Newbrough
The Cosmic Tradition, Max Theon and Alma Theon
Book of the Law, Aleister Crowley
Toward the Light, Johanne Agerskov
Arten and Pursah Channelings, Gary Renard
The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, Levi H. Dowling
The Urantia Book
George Van Tassel
Gina Lake
Eileen Caddy
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
JZ Knight
Rueckert
John Edward
Sylvia Browne
James Van Praagh
Lisa Williams
John Holland
Sally Morgan
Vladimir Megre

Self-Help Interview: “Loving God Gives Me Joy"

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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

Mollie: Other than saying “I love you, God” repeatedly, is there something you do to stay in touch with the Divine during the day? What do you do when you’re at loose ends?

Leta: When I am at loose ends, I usually muscle test. Muscle testing has been a huge tool in my life and I use it every day. (For more on this, read David Hawkins’ Power Versus Force.) This technique is so useful in my life I don’t know how to emphasize it strongly enough.

Loose ends means time to check in. I think of many things … and check in as I go along. Sometimes the guidance is to just sit, breathe, be patient, wait. Sometimes the guidance is to move to a different room. Sometimes it is to write. Sometimes to watch TV. There is no rule to it.

Listening, centering and checking in are my go-to pauses when I don’t know where to go next, what to do next. I wait until the thing comes. Often, it is a small micro-movement. It can be as simple as turning my body in a different direction.

I think that is why I am called to do yoga once a week. It is full of micro-movements. That is such a big thing for me. I was just thinking about that today … the micro-movements of my yoga class. It totally makes sense now.

I have a fun time on Netflix. I watch these shows that I love and just learn, learn, learn about people. The kids are directed by me about a fifth of the time and the rest is left to peers, Dad, TV and all the rest of the world (church, extended family, school, etc.).

It feels like a balance to me. If that helps, then I am glad. I never know if I am helping or not.

I just do my best to love God. That is pretty much the meaning of everything to me. To love God creates joy in my heart. I love God so much. I can’t express enough how much the love of God plays into my being-ness from moment to moment. It is the reason I live. I feel like a religious fanatic … but that really is how I function from day to day. Life is getting through the days learning how to love God more. God is not a concept or an idea, but a living energy that flows through me with every breath.

I love God!!! I don’t know how else to put it.

Thank you for letting me share. Peace out!

Leta

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: Think Deeply and Be Alive (Alone and Together, Part Thirty-Five)

Tonight, I stood outside on my balcony and looked at the trees. The air smelled good. It was nice. Every time I do something like this—every time I stop and just stare at the sky or trees or at the moon, for no other reason than the pleasure—I remember the time I spent alone. I remember how much I used to appreciate the sky and the trees and all the beautiful things in the world.

And how I felt, every day, like they were mine.

Being lonely inspired me. It made me think and feel everything more strongly. It made me believe that the world was full of possibilities.

It made me deep.

In his book Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut described one of his characters who had just arrived in New York City for the first time. He said it was like he had just been born. It was like it was his first day out of the womb and into the world.

And that is how I used to feel every day.

Tonight, I didn’t feel like I’d just been born. But, after a couple of years of trying to live more the way I really want to live, of being open to new things and new people and all of the different emotions, even the bad ones, I am feeling more of what I used to feel again.

I am feeling inspired.

Even though I live in the suburbs. Even though, someday, I will probably get a car.

Because, after all, I can still take walks. And I can still not buy things I don’t need and not be materialistic. I can still be romantic. I can still write poetry.

I can still refuse to get old.

Anyway, in many ways, what I feel now when I’m by myself is better than what I felt before. I don’t just have hopes anymore; now, I have goals. The things I want to do are the things I will, someday, actually do.

I’m a real adult now, after all. Not just a person in college.

I have power.

I am not only thinking about all the things I want to do in life.

I am living.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: You Can Be Whatever You Want To Be (Alone and Together, Part Thirty-Four)

One day, soon after Thanksgiving, I decided to put on some Christmas music—and I enjoyed it. Before that time, I didn’t really like music and I never really had, and, until that time, I thought I probably never would. Anyway, even if I did, I figured, I would never really be good at it; catching up on everything I missed would take way too long.

I have my limitations, after all.

So, instead of trying to pretend to like something just to sound cool, I decided to do the opposite, but with the same result: I’d be proud of not liking music. I’d tell everyone as soon as I got a chance. I’d admit I was a dork, which, to me, was a different kind of cool.

And so, I did. And after a while, it became part of who I was, and part of who I wanted to continue to be.

That day, though, as I listened to the Christmas music, I realized that I could like it. I could be a person who likes music—even sappy music—if only I wanted to be.

I could be something new. I could change my idea of myself.

I can be anything I want.

Now, I like Christmas music and all kinds of unlikely things, and I’m glad I like them, even if at first I didn’t want to. And it’s little realizations like this that make life new every day.

I’m just a baby, really.

And that is the way I like to think of it. I like to think of myself as if I am one year old, and my life is just beginning, and I can be anything I want.

If I want to love someone, I can love them. If I want to be with someone, I can be with them. If I want to go to church, I can—and will—go to church. There is nothing in the way except tradition.

And tradition, we know, is negotiable.

David and I never got married. We call each other husband and wife, but really, that is not what we are. One day, after getting pregnant and deciding I didn’t want to have a different last name from my baby, and I didn’t want David to, either—we are a family, after all—I went to the courthouse and changed it.

I don’t know when we will get married and I don’t really care.

My ending is just as happy either way.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: Know–Really Know–You’re Good Enough (Alone and Together, Part Thirty-Three)

There was another thing I learned in my second and third years with David that went along with that, and it was: how to be more secure.

When David and I first got together, I obsessed about my looks. I wondered if I was pretty enough for him and whether he would stay attracted to me after our initial infatuation wore off. Then one day a couple of years after we got together, I looked in the mirror and realized something: I liked the way I look.

It surprised me.

Before that, when I would see myself in the mirror, I wouldn’t think I was very pretty. I have a big nose and a round face and that isn’t very feminine at all. (I look like my dad.) But that time when I looked, I thought, My face is intelligent. It is serious.

It is a great face and I would not change it at all.

Anyway, if I were prettier, I may have married earlier, I realized. That would have been bad. Also, I may have had an easier childhood. That would have been tragic. I would not be here right now.

I’m good enough.

Thinking this way was a definite improvement.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: Beware of Middle Age (Alone and Together, Part Thirty-Two)

Sometime during the second year of my relationship with David, I went out of town. I was gone for about a week.

It was the longest we’d ever been apart.

The people that were renting my house had just moved away, so I had to go home to do some repairs. I didn’t mind leaving, though, and I didn’t mind the work. I wanted to remember what it was like to be there again, living in the house that I was so proud of for so long, and to remember what it was like to be alone.

I took the train into town, then took a bus the rest of the way. When I got there, it was about five in the morning and I was tired, so the first thing I did was to put some blankets on the floor. Then, I fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up and there I was in my house again, just like old times.

I was alone, and yet, it wasn’t like it used to be.

As I worked on the house that week, I kept trying to figure out what had changed. I tried to remember what it was like when I lived there before, when I was still lonely, and writing a lot of poetry, and feeling strong and independent for living in my own house that I bought all by myself and that I loved. I remembered how I used to tell myself to never get married because if I did, it would change me forever and I’d become like everybody else.
Was I right? I wondered as I painted and hammered and cleaned. Maybe I was. I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I am rarely lonely and I love being this way so much. But I’m not the person I used to be.

These days, I’m almost like everyone else.

Then, the realization: This is the very beginning of middle age.

I never believed it would happen to me.

But I don’t want it to, I thought. I want to keep growing.

I need to find a way to keep growing.

The repairs went well and I worked hard. After the week was over, on the way back to Seattle, I made a decision: I would not live only for David anymore. Instead, I would do what I wanted to do, too.

I would be more of me.

And so, that is what I did. I started working harder than before. I started doing more of the things I loved. On my next trip to my hometown, I visited my mother and slept alone again for the first time in a long time and, that time, I enjoyed it more than I had before. I enjoyed having the bed to myself, and staying with someone other than David, and waking up to them instead of him, too.

For the first time in a long time, I was glad to be alone.

It felt like a betrayal.

It reminded me of a story by Albert Camus called The Adulterous Woman. She was married, but she didn’t cheat on her husband.

She just took a walk alone at night.

When I came back from that trip, David and I lay in bed for a while talking. He said he really missed me when I was gone, and I said I really missed him, too.

“But you don’t normally miss people,” he said. “You never missed your husband after he was gone.”

“That’s true,” I said. “But it was different. With him, if I ever did want him back, I could just remember the bad things and change my mind. With you, though, there wouldn’t be any bad things to remember.”

But the truth is, I am sure I would think of something.

Of course, I wouldn’t be as happy without him as I am now. And I’d probably start looking for another man again eventually. But not right away. I’d need time—probably a lot of time—to get over it.

And that’s something, after all.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: Expect Change (Alone and Together, Part Thirty-One)

The last thing that David and I have learned while being together I want to tell you about is this: let the other person change you—and let them change, too.

Ever since I have known David, he has wanted to have kids. When we first met, though, I did not. He is the one that made me change my mind.

That happens, I guess, when circumstances change along with it.

As I told you before, I was married for nine months. With my ex-husband, I never considered having a baby. I went to the doctor and asked to have my tubes tied, but he said no.

Even then I could tell that he was a kind and good man.

At that time, I was still depressed. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to handle having children, though I didn’t realize it was because I was depressed. I just thought I didn’t want them because it wasn’t my style, and I wanted to do other, more important things instead.

I told the doctor this, but he didn’t believe me. He gave me an IUD instead.

I will be grateful to him forever for that.

Later, after my divorce, when David and I talked on the phone for the first time, he asked me why I didn’t want to have kids. I had told him this in an email already, and he had told me that he definitely wanted kids and we agreed that our relationship was probably doomed.

On the phone that day, though, I explained my thoughts on the matter. I told him that I didn’t want kids because I wanted to do other things and I didn’t think I could do both. He asked me what things I wanted to do.

It was a good question.

In the moment before replying, which lasted under one second, I made a decision. I decided that someday, I might want to have kids after all.

That is how things change.

Of course, I didn’t tell David that. Not right then. I just told him I didn’t know. Then later, a few weeks into our relationship, we talked about it again.

We were in bed. It was during one of the many all-night conversations that we had when we first started dating when he didn’t have a job and I was only working part-time, and when we would go over all of the things you would want your soul mate to know about you forever, and a lot of inconsequential things as well.

At one point, late that night, he put his hand on my stomach.

“Why are you doing that?” I asked.

“I like it,” he said.

“Why do you like it?” I said.

“Because that is where the babies come from.”

“Aw,” I said. “That’s sweet.”

We lay in silence for a few minutes. Then I said, “I might like to have babies someday.”

“Really?” he said, looking at my face.

“Yes,” I said. “Baby kitties.”

I laughed. He hit me playfully, saying not to joke about such things. But I told him I was just kidding.

I wanted human babies after all.

On Christmas morning—the second one that David and I spent together—we woke up at my mother’s house. No one was home, and since we had celebrated at my sister’s the night before, there was nothing to do, and no presents to open.

There was just me and David.

And that was okay. Presents are nothing to me anymore, I thought as I looked at my husband in his pajamas and made him an egg. Everything I have the right to ask for in this life is already here.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: Develop a System That Works (Alone and Together, Part Thirty)

The other secret that David and I have had for the whole time we’ve been together is this: We don’t nag.

And we don’t nag not because we don’t want to, but because of something much more effective: We don’t need to.

My mother—an otherwise very sweet, very competent, very beautiful woman—used to nag my father, and I was always scared I would, too. So, from the first day David and I lived together, we had an agreement: I would do all of the cooking and all of the housework, and wait on him hand and foot, and David would work more than me and pay more than his share of the bills.

So revolutionary, I know. So original.

And so, every morning, I make the bed and pick the clothes up off the floor. During the week, I clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, wash the dishes and vacuum the floors. I make all of our meals.

And I love it.

I don’t love cooking, but I like cleaning and I love living in a clean house, and—more than all that—I like taking care of my husband. And David, of course, likes it, too.

Originality is so overrated.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: When You’re Struggling, Admit It (Alone and Together, Part Twenty-Nine)

The second year David and I were together we learned even more about fighting.

One day, we were both feeling a little annoyed with each other though neither of us really knew why. Then, suddenly, while we were in our office sitting next to each other and reading or working or something, I realized, I don’t want to be annoyed with him anymore.

And I don’t have to, either.

Later, when he said something to me that seemed a little short, I said, “Honey, please me nice to me, because I am tired.” I said it in a little girl’s voice and he hugged me really hard and said, “Okay.”

And after that, whatever it was that had been bothering us was gone.

Later, we discovered a similar technique that we have used ever since. One evening after work, David was acting kind of grumpy and I said, “Honey, are you okay?”

He said, “I am grumpy.”

I said, “What can I do for you?”

He said, “Just a hug.”

I said, “Okay.” Then we hugged.

I didn’t get mad. And because I didn’t, it meant that I would get my turn to be grumpy later.

It’s a system that works pretty well, and I am proud of us for having it.

We are happy. We don’t wake up in the morning wondering if we are going to have a fight that day.

We are sane.

It is a good life indeed.