Bookshelf Additions- Fall 2016

Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff

Kristin Neff’s book is on such an important topic, that can be nothing less than life-changing for those who struggle in this area.  She defines self-compassion as the sum of three components:

First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.  Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering.  Third, it requires mindfulness- that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it.

There are so many exercises that I’m looking forward to using, and I was really interested in how she encourages parents to cultivate self-compassion in their kids:

“…focus on their actual behavior, rather than on their general character.  You want to emphasize that we are not defined by our failures and shortcomings but are instead all of us works in progress, in a continual state of learning.  It’s also important to validate the emotions underlying your child’s misbehavior before trying to correct it…If you make it safe for your child to take personal responsibility for his actions by using compassionate language combined with a kind and caring tone, however, he will find it much easier to acknowledge his problem behavior and work on changing it.”


Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton

“I am empty, alone, addicted- and still, invited…Something in me says yes to the idea that there is a God and that this God is trying to speak to me, trying to love me, trying to invite me back to life.  I decide to believe in a God who believes in a girl like me.”

 “Crisis comes from the word meaning ‘to sift.’ Let it all fall away and you’ll be left with what matters.”

 “I didn’t know that everyone feels the hot loneliness.  I didn’t know that it would pass.  So…I reached for an easy button- a book, a binge, a beer, a body, a shopping spree, a Facebook feed- to shove it back down…what if my anger, my fear, my loneliness were never mistakes, but invitations? What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons?  Maybe instead of slamming the door on pain, I need to throw open the door wide and say, ‘Come in.  Sit down with me.  And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.’“

“What if pain- like love- is just a place brave people visit?…I need to resist the easy buttons.  Maybe my reliance of numbing is keeping me from the two things I was born for: learning and loving.  I could go on hitting easy buttons until I die and feel no pain, but the cost of that decision could be that I’ll never learn, love, or be truly alive.”

“Grief is love’s souvenir.  It’s our proof that we once loved.  Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world:  Look!  Love was once mine.  I loved well.  Here is my proof that I paid the price.”


Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist

“If you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.  In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.”

“The only way through the emptiness is stillness: staring at that deep wound unflinchingly.  You can’t outrun anything…all you can do is show up in the stillness…I start to carry an inner stillness with me back into the noise, like a secret.”

“You were made by hand with great love by the God of the universe, and he planted deep inside of you a set of loves and dreams and idiosyncrasies, and you can ignore them as long as you want, but they will at some point start yelling.  Worse than that, if you ignore them long enough, they will go silent, and that’s the real tragedy…We get to shape our days and our weeks, and if we don’t they’ll get shaped by the side catch-all of ‘normal ‘ and ‘typical,’ and who wants that?…You get to make your life.  In fact, you have to.  And not only can you make it, you can remake it.”

“We get to decide, which is both so freeing and such a beautiful responsibility…What do you want? What do you love? What ways of living have you simply acquiesced to, because someone told you to?  Because it seemed smart or practical or easy?  Are those the best words to describe how you want to live?”

“Brave doesn’t always involve grand gestures.  Sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject…It’s about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving.  It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wolly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.”

“I will spend my life on meaning, on connection, on love, on freedom.  I will not waste one more day trapped in comparison, competition, proving, and earning.  That’ the currency of a culture that has nothing to offer me.”



The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

“Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions.  It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think.”

 “Whether we remember a particular event at all, and how accurate our memories of it are, largely depends on how personally meaningful it was and how emotional we felt about it at the time.  The key factor is our level of arousal…The mind works according to schemes or maps, and incidents that fall outside the established pattern are most likely to capture our attention…We remember insults and injuries best”

“The essence of a therapeutic relationship:  finding words where words were absent before and, as a result, being able to share your deepest pain and deepest feelings with another human being.  This is one of the most profound experiences we can have, and such resonance, in which hitherto unspoken words can be discovered, uttered, and received, is fundamental to healing the isolation of trauma- especially if other people in our lives have ignored or silenced us.  Communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.“


Living Beautifully, with Uncertainty and Change  Pema Chodron

“The propensity to feel sorry for ourselves, the propensity to be jealous, the propensity to get angry- our habitual, all-to-o-familiar emotional responses are like seeds that we just keep watering and nurturing…But every time we pause and stay present with the underlying energy, we stop reinforcing these propensities and begin to open ourselves to refreshingly new possibilities….it’s important to realize that interrupting thoughts isn’t the same as repressing them.  Repression is denial of what’s happening, which only sends the thoughts underground where they can fester.  At the same time, we don’t want to keep chasing after the thoughts and getting hooked by them.  Interrupting thoughts is somewhere between clinging to them and pushing them away.  It’s a way of allowing the thoughts to come and go, to arise and pass, to not be such a big deal.”

“You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts…it’s the definition of having loving-kindness for yourself.  Loving-kindness for yourself does not mean making sure you’re feeling good all the time. ..Rather, it means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate self-honesty.  In this way you become more attuned to seeing when you’re biting the hook, when you’re getting caught in the undertow of emotions, when you’re grasping and when you’re letting go.  This is the way you become a true friend to yourself just as you are.”

We can spend our lives consumed and hooked by chasing or avoiding the 8 worldly concerns (pleasure/pain, fame/disgrace, gain/loss, praise/blame) or we can work to liberate ourselves.

Tonglen- breathing in pain, breathing out relief.  It’s powerful for developing our courage- sense of oneness with others and awakens our empathy-  breaks down walls we’ve built for ourself and liberates us from the prison of self.  It reverses the usual logic of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.

The author outlines 4 Commitments:

1- to not cause harm, in speech or action

2- to take care of one another

3- to embrace the world just as it is

“It’s not easy to keep this vow, of course.  But every time we break it, what’s important is that we recognize that we’ve closed someone out, that we’ve distanced ourselves from someone, that we’ve turned someone into the Other, the one on the opposite side of the fence.  Often we’re so full of righteous indignation, so charged up, that we don’t even see that we’ve been triggered.  But if we’re fortunate, we realize what’s happened- our it’s pointed out to us- and we acknowledge to ourselves what we’ve done.  Then we simply renew our commitment to stay open to others, aspiring to start fresh.”

 “Letting go of the fixed self isn’t something we can just wish to happen…It’s something we predispose ourselves to with every gesture, word, deed, thought…We’re either going in the direction of letting go and strengthening that ability or going in the direction of holding on and reinforcing that fear-based habit.  We can choose reality- stay with it, be here, show up, be open, turn toward the sights and the sounds and the thoughts that pass through our minds- or we can choose to turn away.  But if we turn away, we can pretty much count on staying stuck in the same old pattern of suffering, never getting closer to experiencing wakefulness, never getting closure to experiencing the sacredness of our existence.”

“We discover selflessness gradually, but always the prerequisite is being present.  When we can be present with an emotion without any distractions, we find out very quickly how insubstantial, how fleeting it is.  What seemed so threatening, so solid, so lasting, begins to dissolve, giving us an immediate experience of impermanence, as the feelings arise, dwell, and then pass away.  We feel an emotion and it threatens to take us over, but if we stay open to it and look directly at it, it either disappears altogether or morphs into something else.  Fear might become sadness.  Anger might become hopelessness. Joy might become vulnerability.  When emotions start to pass away, we never know what they will become.

“I realized then what it means to hold pain in my heart and simultaneously be deeply touched by the power and magic of the world.  Life doesn’t have to be one way or the other.  We don’t have to jump back and forth.  We can live beautifully with whatever comes- heartache and joy, success and failure, instability and change.”


Bookshelf Additions: Summer 2016

It was a challenge to read much this summer (at least the sort of reading worth sharing online!).  But I recently sat down with a couple of great books and have a lot of helpful take-aways for myself, some clients, and my children.


The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

I’ve been a fan of Dr. Siegel’s since I was introduced to his ideas a couple of years ago in a training.  He focuses on the integration of a person’s brain (in this case, a child’s)- which helps all the different functions of the brain work together as a whole.  He asserts that the brain is plastic, moldable, throughout life, and that, since neurons that fire together grow connections, we can use that to “rewire” the brain.

He talks about two kinds of integration:  1- horizontally: left brain (logical, literal, linear) and right brain (nonverbal, emotional, intuitive) and 2- vertically: “downstairs” (primitive-  anger, fear, survival, fight vs. flight) and “upstairs” (thinking, imagining, empathy).  We recognize when kids become “trapped downstairs” when they are flooded with the more primitive emotions and just don’t have access to the kind of thinking we want from the upstairs brain.  We can help them by:

  1. Connect & redirect-  when the child is in an emotional flood, we can connect first to the right brain  and then appeal to the logic of the left brain
  2. Name it to tame it- Retelling stories helps children make sense.  Journaling can be so helpful because it calms the right brain so that they can hear the left brain.
  3. Ask which part you’re appealing to (upstairs or downstairs).  Access their thinking by saying “convince me” or “come up with a solution that works for us both”.
  4. Exercise their upstairs brain-  decision making practice, breathing & calming, empathy.
  5. Move the body!
  6. Replaying memories (to integrate the explicit and implicit)- Storytelling is the most effective way to promote integration.  Use the idea of a DVD player with a remote control and ask them to pause, rewind, fast forward (especially when recounting something difficult).
  7. Making recollection a part of daily family life (tell me 2 things that really happened and 1 that didn’t;  tell me your high and low and one act of kindness).
  8. Let emotions roll by (like a cloud).
  9. SIFT-  pay attention to what’s going on inside sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts.
  10. Getting back to the hub- looking at mindsight or wheel of awareness, recognizing when they’re fixated on one of the rim points and can instead choose to return to the stable, calm, big picture center.
  11. Increase family fun factor.
  12. Teach kids to argue with “we” in mind.



Presence, Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy

I first heard of Amy Cuddy through her massively-popular TED Talk, and I finally read her book, which convinced me fully that our bodies have the ability to change our minds.  Through research and examples, she showed how people can get in their own way of being present with their self-monitoring, “imposter syndrome”, and communicating physically like they don’t deserve to be there.  She demonstrates how we can break out of that powerlessness with some powerful body languages (think Wonder Woman power poses!).

“When we feel powerless, we cannot be present.  In a way, presence is power- a special kind of power that we confer on ourselves.”

“Personal power is all about having the confidence to act based on one’s own beliefs, attitudes, and values, and having the sense that one’s actions will be effective.  Effective, in this context, doesn’t mean we will always get the result we desire; instead it means that we will come away from every interaction feeling that we fully and accurately represented who we are and what we want.”

“The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power- the kind of power that is the key to presence.  It’s the key that allows you to unlock yourself- your abilities, your creativity, your courage, and even your generosity.  It doesn’t give you skills or talents you don’t have; it help you to share the ones you do have.  It doesn’t make you smarter or better informed; it makes you more resilient and open.  It doesn’t change who you are; it allows you to be who you are.”

Why should you do a 2-minute power pose before doing something big or bold?  Expanding your body:

  • makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.
  • causes you to think about yourself in a positive light.
  • frees you to approach, act, persist.
  • physiologically prepares you to be present; it overrides your instinct to fight or flee, allowing you to be grounded, open, and engaged.
  • toughens your body to physical pain.

“In each challenging situation, we nudge ourselves: we encourage ourselves to feel a little more courageous, to act a bit more boldly- to step outside the walls of our fear, anxiety, and powerlessness.  To be a bit more present.  And incrementally, over time, we end up where we want to be…”

Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies.” – artist Frank Gelett Burgess

Bookshelf Additions: Spring 2016

This spring I read a couple of new books on anxiety, one geared more towards children and one written for parents of children who have anxiety symptoms.


What To Do When You Worry Too Much, Dawn Huebner

This is a great book written for kids who struggle with anxiety in some form.  In kid-friendly short chapters, the authors explain what anxiety (or worry) is, how to recognize it, and how to begin to interact it with if differently to get some relief.

  1. Using logic (realistic self-talk that replaces catastrophizing)
  2. Designating a “Worry Time” in order to spend less time with the worries
  3. Externalizing the worry, so you can talk back to the Worry Bully
  4. Resetting your system via activity (exercise or distraction) or relaxation (deep breathing, favorite memory, progressive relaxation)
  5. Self care to prevent them from coming back (adequate rest, exercise, etc.)

The book is best when read by both the parent and child, and then they can use the ideas and shared vocabulary to address the child’s anxiety.  There’s some exercises throughout the lessons, some of which I may incorporate into my work with clients.



Anxiety-Free Kids, Bonnie Zucker

The authors describe the symptoms of anxiety, and the different ways in which it’s typically manifested in children (generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.).  Lots of case studies are used, making it easy for parents to see what their own children’s struggles are.  The author then describes Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is often used to treat children struggling with anxiety.

“When your child avoids situations that evoke anxiety, this is called avoidance behavior….However, each time that your child avoids something because it makes her feel anxious, the anxiety wins and becomes reinforced and strengthened, and your child loses.  But each time your child does something that makes her feel anxious, she wins and the anxiety loses.”

She walks parents through the task of developing a list of anxiety-provoking situations, from least challenging (and anxiety-inducing) to most, which is structured as a ladder that the family will “climb.”

The author then describes more ways to get relief from anxiety through:

  1. calm breathing
  2. progressive muscle relaxation
  3. relaxing imagery
  4. perspective (think of the big picture…)
  5. scheduled “worry time”
  6. positive self-talk
  7. talking back to the anxiety
  8. challenging cognitive distortions (replacing thinking errors with more helpful thoughts, instead of catastrophizing, all-or-nothing, filtering, magnifying, mindreading, overgeneralization, etc.)

“Anxiety breeds self-doubt, which may weaken or threaten self-esteem, overcoming anxiety can be an incredibly powerful boost to your child’s confidence in himself.”



Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

This book was a re-read for me, and I might have found this meaningful book even more impactful this time around (with a few more years and life experiences under my belt).  It’s such a powerful book, and

Frankl is the father of logotherapy, which is centered around people needing to identify and pursue meaning in their lives.  He survived concentration and extermination camps in 1942-1945, and throughout part 1 of this book he weaves in stories about human suffering and loss, as well as resiliency and meaning which was found in even the worst of circumstances.   He outlines stages that he identified of the prisoners’ psychological reactions.  In part 2 he goes into more details about logotherapy.

“He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.”  -Nietzsche

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity- even under the most difficult circumstances- to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish.”

“These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment.  Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way….No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any of destiny.”

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life.  He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.””

“The crowning experience of all…is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more- except his God.”




The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

This was the first in a series of three books by Brown, the other two of which already have a prominent place on my bookshelf.  Because I read them out of “order,” this one felt like a review in some aspects, but still is full of important truths.

“Many of the truly committed compassion practitioners were also the most boundary-conscious people in the study. Compassionate people are boundaried people.”

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness- the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.  When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our live that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.”

“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted.  Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

The author introduces the concept of 10 Guideposts, to set and strive for.  I like the phrase “cultivating” that she uses, as these are decisions and efforts made day by day, even moment by moment-  never arriving at perfection yet growing in the right direction.

1.  Cultivating authenticity…letting go of what people think.

2.  Cultivating self-compassion…letting go of perfectionism.

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

3.  Cultivating a resilient spirit…letting go of numbing and powerlessness.

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty.  All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” -Terri St. Cloud

4.  Cultivating gratitude and joy…letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.

5.  Cultivating intuition and trusting faith…letting go of the need for certainty.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”- Anne Lamott

6.  Cultivating creativity…letting go of comparison.

7.  Cultivating play and rest…letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

8.  Cultivating calm and stillness…letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.

9. Cultivating meaningful work…letting go of doubt and “supposed to.”

10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance…letting go of being cool and “always in control.”

Bookshelf Additions: Winter 2016

Has this been a busy season for you like it has for me?  With a family move added into our already busy schedule, I haven’t been carving out time for reading as much as I’d like.  But I did manage to get a couple of good books in during winter!



The Art of Work, Jeff Goins

Admittedly, this one was an audiobook, but I enjoyed it and I found some good insights to hold onto.  Here were some of my favorites:

“I used to think that your calling was about doing something good in this world. Now I understand it’s about becoming someone good—and letting that goodness impact the world around you.”

“Every calling is marked by a season of insignificance, a period when nothing seems to make sense. This is a time of wandering in the wilderness, when you feel alone and misunderstood. To the outsider, such a time looks like failure, as if you are grasping at air or simply wasting time. But the reality is this is the most important experience a person can have if they make the most of it.”

“Sometimes failure is the best thing that can happen to you if you learn to listen to the lessons in it.”

“Remember: your vocation is more of a magnum opus than a single masterpiece. It’s an entire body of work, not a single piece.”



The Book of Forgiving, Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu wrote this beautiful book on how to grant and receive forgiveness. Tutu was the chair of South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission following apartheid in the 1990’s, and I had the privilege of hearing him speak at my graduation several years ago.   The need for forgiveness touches us all, and this book outlines the Fourfold Path to forgiveness as:

  1. Telling the story
  2. Naming the hurt
  3. Granting forgiveness
  4. Renewing or releasing the relationship

They dispel some of the common misunderstandings, and shares that


  • Is not Easy
  • Is not Weakness
  • Does not subvert justice (it creates space for justice to be enacted with a purity of purpose that does not include revenge)
  • Is not forgetting
  • Is not quick


“The response to hurt is universal.  Each of us will experience sadness, pain, anger, or shame, or a combination of any or all of these.  Now comes the moment of choice, although for most of us our reactions are so habitual we don’t even realize we have a choice. …The affront is so painful, so intolerable, that we cannot accept it, and instead of placing our hands on our hearts and weeping for what we have lost, we point our fingers or shake our fists at the one who has harmed us.  Instead of embracing our sadness, we stoke our anger.”

“When we cannot admit our own woundedness, we cannot see the other as a wounded person who has harmed us out of his or her own ignorance, pain, or brokenness.  We must reject our commonality.”

“When we can accept both our humanity and the perpetrator’s, we can write a new story, one in which we are no longer cast as a victim but as a survivor, even perhaps a hero.  In this new story, we are able to learn and grow from what has happened to us.  We may even be able to use our pain as an impulse to reduce the pain and suffering of others.  This is when we know we are healed.”

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”       – Lily Tomlin

“There are times when we truly did nothing, as when a stranger robs us, but even then we have a role in permitting or participating in a society where such desperation exists.  I do not say this to inspire guilt or apportion, blame, since no one person creates a society.  But each of us does have a role in the society we have created.  We can take responsibility for our part in a way that frees us from being a victim and allows us to open our hearts.  We are always at our best when compassion enables us to recognize the unique pressures and singular stories of the people on the other side of our conflicts.  This is true for any conflict, from a personal spat to an international dispute.”

“Marshall Duke [in his “Do You Know” scale] found out that the more children knew of their families’ history- the good, the bad, and the ugly- the more resilient the children turned out to be.   Dan Siegel explains that the best predictor of how well a child will be attached to his or her parents-  have positive, loving relationships- is whether the parents have a clear and coherent story about their lives and the traumas they have experienced.  In other words, if you are able to talk about your life and the joys and sorrows you have experienced – if you know your story- you are much more likely to be a skillful parent.”

Empathy vs. Sympathy

Brene Brown’s work has become relevant and important to me, both professionally and personally.  I’m currently taking one of her online courses, and I look forward to sharing some of that in the weeks and months to come.  But in the meantime, I came across this video a while back and I keep coming back to it.

This video is a great illustration of why we need empathy, not sympathy,  and how we can be more empathic to the people that we care about.  Because we all need connection, and to be able to share our stories and inner worlds with important people in our lives.


Pomodoro Technique

I like to use this tool with people who need a kick-start to working on one of their goals.  Sometimes they’re overwhelmed with the amount they want to accomplish or the number of steps involved, and others become stuck in “analysis paralysis,” not knowing where to begin.  The simple solution?  Just do something!  Set a timer (in this case, 25 minutes), and DO something until the buzzer goes off.  There’s an immediate (well, 25-minute-delayed) payoff, and it’s that much easier to set the timer again the next day and jump back in.

This technique is elaborated on at, and also in the book by the same name.  The primary focus there is on productivity, so you can delve so deeply into the Pomodoro Technique that it changes your approach to work.

While it can be a great time-management technique, it can also be a simple and effective tool to break out of inactivity and take a step, however small, in the right direction.  No need to procrastinate or feel guilty for letting another day go by without doing something important to you.  Instead, simply set your kitchen timer or the alarm on your phone, remove distractions, and go for it!

Brene Brown – Video on Shame & Vulnerability

Every once in a while I come across a video or idea that I think everyone could benefit from, no matter where they are in life or what they’re going through.  This is one of those videos that speaks to the humanity in each of us.  If you find it relevant for you, then I highly recommend checking out Brene Brown’s books.

And if you like watching this Ted Talk, then check out more!  There are many terrific speakers who are experts in their fields.  Ted Talks can be a great tool to get your mind off yourself and expand your horizons a bit (I know they’ve been helpful and inspirational to me!).

My Top 10 Books of 2015

1.  Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

This is probably my favorite read of the year.  I highly recommend it for anyone who desires to live “wholeheartedly”- which Brown defines as engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.  She offers 10 characteristics of wholehearted living for us to cultivate, and the 10 counterparts that we can work on letting go of.  She discusses shame and vulnerability in the most powerful and accessible way I can ever remember reading.

Some more of my favorite quotes and ideas from the book:

  • Brown describes the crux of vulnerability-  how I want to experience yours, but I don’t want to be vulnerable myself.  I see your vulnerability as courage, but I see mine as inadequacy.
  • I liked how she discussed disengagement as a more insidious form of betrayal than 1 big event;  how not caring, letting the connection go, turning away is dangerous, crazy-making, and shame-inducing.  This is consistent with Gottman’s research.

    “Joy comes to us in moments- ordinary moments.  We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

  • She gives 4 elements of shame resilience:
  1. Recognizing shame & understanding triggers
  2. Practicing critical awareness (reality-checking our messages & expectations)
  3. Reaching out- own and share your story
  4. Speaking shame

    “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen & known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.  Love isn’t something we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them-  we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.  Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal & the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.  Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”

2.  168 Hours- You Have More Time than you Think,  Laura Vanderkam

This was an interesting read- and I picked it up at just the right time for me to dive in.  I didn’t learn a lot of new information, but I did feel challenged to think through some important questions (I have pages of notes!) and I felt a renewed responsibility for the things that I allow or disallow to take up my time.

  • Vanderkam introduced me to the idea of time blocking-  scheduling absolutely everything during the week.  That alone caused me to scrutinize and reorganize my priorities, weeding out the things that weren’t necessary or furthering my goals.  I felt empowered to own those hours, and use them wisely.
  • The author urges you to identify your Core Competencies, and to specialize in the things that only you can do (or do well). Taking control of the schedule means getting rid of non-core-competency tasks by ignoring, minimizing, or outsourcing them.

“Career doesn’t have to conflict with a full personal life!”

3.  The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron

This book was published over a decade ago, but it remains relevant and helpful even now.  The author introduces some exercises recommended to break writer’s block, or bypass the inner critic, or get around whatever obstacles are in our way to practicing and pursuing creativity.  Admittedly, I did not complete the majority of the exercies (such as the Morning Pages or the Artist’s Date) but I found it inspiring still.

“Necessity, not virtue, was the beginning of my spirituality.”


“The quality of life is in proportion always to the capacity for delight.  The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”

4.  What Makes Love Last, John Gottman

I like Gottman’s methods working with couples, and I like how most of his books are interesting and accessible to read for anyone who wants to improve their relationship.  In this book he describes the importance of attunement (to understand your partern’s inner world) and “sliding door moments” (answering partner’s bid for connection, and turning toward them instead of away).  He also discusses how flooding and negative comparisons can be deadly to relationships, and how to move past “regrettable incidents.”  He touches on the 4 Horsemen of the Apolcalypse (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling), which poison relationships and, Gottman asserts, predict divorce.

“Many people think that the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a candlelit dinner or a a by-the-sea vacation.  The real secret is to turntowards each other in little ways every day.”

“To make a relationship last:  couples must become better friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes and dreams.”

5.  The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin

This was a really fun book to read, and described Rubin’s own Happiness Project where she tackled one area of her life for each month of the year in an effort to become, well, happier.  She weaves in her extensive research on happiness in with her personal experiences as she works on her marriage, friendships, work, money, etc.  I was inspired to try some of her suggestions, and I love the idea of readers carrying our their own happiness project (although I have yet to pull the trigger on that one).

She quotes William Buter Yeats in one of my favorite lines:

“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.”

6.  Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin

In this book about habits, Rubin outlines 4 tendencies around how people respond to expectations.  Upholders respond to both outer and inner expectations, Obligers respond to outer but not inner expectations (so they need accountability), Questioners respond to inner but not outer expectations (so outer expectations need to turn into inner ones to be met), and Rebels respond to neither.

Much of the book is about self-knowledge, and she poses questions such as lark or owl?  Simplicity or abundance lover? Familiarity or novelty lover?  Then she discusses strategies for changing or starting new habits (many of which have been helpful for myself as well as with clients):

  • Scheduling
  • Accountability
  • First steps
  • Clean slate
  • Convenience
  • Loophole spotting
  • Distracting
  • Rewards & treats
  • Pairing
  • Clarity

7.  Rising Strong, Brene Brown

This one follows Brown’s Daring Greatly.  She asserts that anyone who attempts to live wholeheartedly (by showing up in the arena, daring greatly) is going to fall.  Rising Strong describes the 3-step process of picking yourself up and moving on.  First is the Reckoning, walking into your story.  Here you recognize your emotions, get curious about your feelings, and try to make connections.  Next is the Rumbling, owning your story.  Here you get honest about your narrative and challenge your assumptions.  Finally is the Revolution, where you get to write a new, braver ending to your story.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or acceptable, but our wholeness, even our wholehearted news- actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”

“Breath and mindfulness give us the awareness and space we need to make choices that are aligned with our values.”

8.  Loving Your Kids on Purpose, Danny Silk

This book is a great read for parents who are Christians, or who are open to reading a parenting book from that perspective.  In it he promotes love & relationship above rules & discipline-  not eliminating consequences but rather allowing consequences in a way that preserves and even promotes the parent-child relationship.

The author walks parents through setting healthy boundaries with their children as an important part of self-care;  then thoughtfully and calmly allowing the child to experience the consequences of their choices.  There is also discussion around letting our kids fail, challenging the assumption that violence and anger are power, and making sure the correct person feels the weight of the problem (hint: it’s not the parent!).

I love the focus on building and protecting heart connections, and learning that discipline doesn’t have to happen at the expense of your relationship.  Children and parents alike crave and benefit from close, trusting, safe relationships and the author explains how this is possible.

“Many parents believe that when their children present failure, rebellion, disrespect, irresponsibility, or other willful or sinful actions, they must gain control by intimidating their children into changing their minds.”

“We need to learn how to be OK no matter what they do.”

“But when my heart is connected to your heart, my decisions are designed to protect our relationship no matter how far out of my presence you are.”

9.  Bread & Wine, Shauna Niequest

This book was about so much more than the food (although the recipes alone are great!)-  family, faith, friends, and how life just shows up and plays out around the table.  It was beautiful, and inspirational.  As someone who can be intimidated in the kitchen, I found it practical and also encouraging-  I like to think I’ll be more confident next time I approach unchartered territory with cooking or entertaining.  And there’s something about cooking, eating, or sharing a meal with someone- it’s a part of our shared humanity that we interact with daily.  It’s ordinary, but can be so much more.  I made her bacon-wrapped dates on Christmas night, and they were a hit.

10.  Food- A Love Story, Jim Gaffigan

This one is strictly for laughs (it’s great self-care!).  It’s good, (mostly) clean fun.  I actually listened to the audio version, that Gaffigan himself narrates.  Several bits had me wiping tears and replaying way too many times.