5 Books I’m Reading (That You Should Too)

Books

If my mother were to have given me only one trait, it would have been her love of books. Growing up, my house was filled with guides for traveling, biographies of famous singers, books on astrology, astronomy, gastronomy, and everything in between. While I loved reading as a teenager, that passion has amplified after moving out. In only a few short months of living on my own, I’ve managed to fill my bookcase.

Here are the five books I’m reading:

1. Eat. Pray. Love. by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s taboo to read a book after you’ve seen the movie, but I could help myself with this one. Liz is a recovering divorcee who, after being in a manipulative relationship, finds happiness in the places she travels to. She sets course for Italy, India, and Indonesia to find pieces of herself that she feels are lost. Each country also represents a different aspect of Liz that she needs to confront. Italy is the country of desire, full of pastas, romance, and is truly alive. India is where she finds devotion. Indonesia teaches her how to love again.

I fell in love with this one while flipping through it at a bookstore in Texas. Liz’s style of writing is smooth and comfortable to read. The parts of herself that she struggles with are things I’ve struggle with too. She has the same constant need for newness in her life and a passion for traveling.

While I’m only 40% through this book, I highly recommend it. Liz is easy to relate to and her journey around the world is enjoyable to read. I may not be able to travel now but I think that the traveler in me is satisfied with reading about Liz’s adventures.

2. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

As the world’s most clumsy person, it’s interesting that I picked up a book written by a choreographer. The focus of this masterpiece is creativity, more specifically, how to make it into a usable force. While dance is Twyla’s way of expressing herself, the book doesn’t focus on a particular art medium. Instead it teaches the reader how to work hard and become passionate.

I’ve read the first half of this book already and I’m rereading it from the beginning. Not only is the book beautiful to hold and read, it’s incredibly useful. I’ve come back to it because it’s so easy to digest. The techniques Twyla suggests are profound and have changed the way I view creativity.

I suggest this book for artists who find passion in creating but haven’t made it into a committment. When you’re first stumbling into art, it feels wonderful to produce something but you’re not always sure how much to create or what to make. This book answers these questions about creativity and gives motivation in only a way that Twyla Tharp could.

3. Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!) by George Lois

This is my latest addition to my bookshelf, after I saw a great photographer recommend it. It’s a simple book that you can read in a few hours. Overall, the book totals to less than 200 pages, and there’s pictures!

George Lois is a famous marketing/advertising celebrity that has helped shape our country’s culture. His work has brought Jiffy Lube, Tommy Hilfiger, MTV, and many other organizations, from the brink of extinction into complete stardom. Contributions by him have changed routines and covered our billboards since the 1950s. It’s no surprise that this book is profound.

In this book, George Lois shares a ridiculous amount of advice that comes across as bold and unapologetic. After reading it for 45 minutes, I feel like my confidence has boosted enormously. My art feels much more important, and I feel better prepared to share it with the world.

4. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

Completely the opposite from the previous book, AWOL is about book about David Miller’s hike from southern USA into Maine. In the early 2000s, David quit his desk job to take a trip across the country, the book is his diary along the way. He runs into bears, sleeps at shelters on the trail with odd travelers, and contemplates life.

I really enjoy this book because it’s written on a very personal level. David shares what happens and it feels like you’re there with him. By reading this book, I feel like I’ve shared his journey through the Appalachian Mountains. Not only has it motivated me to do the hike myself, I feel like I’m more motivated to explore the world.
If you like non-fiction adventure, this book is great!

5. Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

While I haven’t gotten far into this book, I’m already in love with it. I purchased it earlier this year with the intention of reading it in only a few sessions. Instead it’s been 6 months and I’ve hardly dented it. Not because it’s a bad book, but because it takes more time to digest.

This book is about Robert’s motorcycle trip across the northern US in the middle of the 20th century. He rides across the country with his best friend, his son, and his best friend’s wife. The journey leads Robert into heavy contemplation about the meaning of modern life. Along the way he relates the journey to different aspects of zen buddhism and the human condition.

It’s a beautiful book about mortality, life, and everyone’s purpose. I can’t wait to get further into it!
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These are all the books I’m going to share with you today! Each has changed me over the last year and I hope that you choose to pick one of them up for yourself. In the future I’ll write more specifically about individual books but today I just wanted to share what books I’m switching between!

Have a wonderful night!

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Separation

無 Mu

We are the same; there is no you, I, or them. It is only us. There separation between us is an illusion. Just as the trail mix sitting in front of me will soon become part of my body, the bounds between us are merely constructs. Where is the separation between food and my body? When does it stop being food and become part of “me”? Is it when it hits my lips or digests in my stomach? Was there any real separation?

When you die, your body returns to the earth. From the earth, plants grow. As we consume the plants, the plants become part of the body. Was there really any separation?

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~Thoughts about “Pure Heart; Enlightened Mind” by Maura O’Halloran~

A note on meditation

Meditation is something that I do almost daily now and its effects have been profound for me. It’s helped improve my happiness, my presence, and my life as a whole. Because I am able to sit down and calm my mind, when I’m not meditating, I am able to do the same thing. I train my mind for even when I’m not meditating.

If I meditate on happiness and forgiveness, I am better able to be happy and forgive those around me when the time gets rough. It’s a way for the mind to learn a pattern or habit and keep it in place. When a chef can chop through vegetables quickly, they also have more precision when they are doing other things. The same is true with the mind. The mind is a muscle.

A huge motivator for myself to meditate is “why don’t I want to sit with myself for ten minutes?”. Think about that. Anyone who has ever tried meditation has probably encountered this problem; it’s because we have difficulty doing nothing. We struggle even with sitting with our minds for ten minutes. Why is that? Our minds are always with us, so shouldn’t we make peace with it? That’s what meditation is. It’s getting used to dealing with your mind and learning how to be with yourself. It’s a very important skill for happiness and life. You should try it, sit with yourself for ten minutes today and write about it in the comments below! Tell me what your experiences were and what your mind was thinking!

Have a wonderful night!

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Coming “Home”

Where we are can mean a lot to us because we get attached to each location. Sometimes it’s passive, sometimes we intentionally make a space “ours”. We fall in love with the familiar and learn to judge our happiness based on how far we are from our idea of “home”.

After leaving my dorm for winter vacation I was temporarily relocated just across town. For some reason I was incredibly stressed about both moves; leaving my “home” of two months and then moving back. It seemed like every detail of both moves was a life or death situation and I dreaded each second of it. I attached to each location and couldn’t separate from either. My concept of home had become dynamic but it didn’t prevent the stress of leaving a familiar location.

One of the big things I thought I was going to learn with my job was adaptability. However, I confused the terms “adaptability” and “attachment”. Getting my job didn’t make me any less attached to each location or any of my possessions, it just forced me to become adaptable. Adaptability is the ability to change but adaptability doesn’t make the person accept the change. It just makes them more able to change.

Detachment causes adaptability because you are no longer desiring or anticipating certain outcomes. When you run across a bump in the road, you don’t get angry or upset. Adaptability merely refers to the actions and not the mindset.

When I returned to my old dorm room I opened my closet of possessions and felt happy. Immediately after feeling happy I had the realization that I was incredibly attached to my possessions. My possessions were what was creating my feelings of happiness. My items and familiarity with those items brought me happiness.

This is analogous to a rotten apple. From the outside it may look sweet and desirable but underneath there is just rot. The happiness was created on the surface with these items but underneath there was the fear of becoming separated from them. It was not really happiness, it was just satisfaction of possession. I was happy that I possessed these items again.

Attachment is incredibly difficult to overcome. To become detached, one has to openly embrace and accept the unknown. They must venture that they cannot know what is about to come. They could lose all their possessions or they could win the lottery. There’s a duality there where a person finds peace. You accept that you just don’t know if you’re going to win the lottery or lose it all.

Someone who wants to become detached must first work on the their possessiveness of their possessions. They must realize that everything they own could vanish at any given moment. If they can accept that, then they will have gratitude for everything they have. Whether that be friendships or fancy dinner plates.

For the next week I’m going to focus on removing myself from everything. Not retreat similar to isolation but rather removing my ownership of everything. My friends are not my friends, they are just people who I hang around. The clothing in my closet is just temporary clothing I use to cover my body. My body is not me, I am just an occupant in it. This time is not my time, it is just time passing by. When someone uses a lot of time, they are not using “my time” they are just using time. I cannot get mad at someone for just using time, I can only get mad when they are using “my” time.

It sounds ridiculous to say nothing is ours but none of it is really “ours”. This dorm that I live in is not my home. It is a home – it is a place. I may own it on paper or for the next five months but it is not really mine. It just is. I cannot change it, I can only accept it as what it is. As a place.

Putting expectations on it will only lead to unhappiness. One day I could walk to the door and find that I have been transferred to another location. I could find the room burglarized. The building could collapse and all of the things in the room could be destroyed by a fire. We do not really own anything. The things just are.

When we detach and realize that we own nothing, we come to a realization that we usually cannot control. Many things will just be as they are and we do not have the ability to change them. The things we thought we owned suddenly are shared and are independent of us. When I move rooms, I will not feel sad because I do not associate myself with this room. This room is just a room. It is not my room.

The room is not the memories that I built in it. The room is just a place. Leaving the room does not mean leaving the memories behind. If running shoes in the closet disappeared, I will not be saddened because I am not attached to them. The shoes are just shoes. They temporarily supported my feet and if they disappear, I do not worry. They are not mine, they just are. Having them disappear does not make me any less of a person. I am not less because I own less.

This is a practice that I’m going to focus on this week. I need to detach myself from anticipating the future. I do not own it and I cannot control it. I should just accept it as it comes along. There are no “should-have-been”s, there are just “are”s. The tests are here, the sky is blue, the fruit is rotten. I need to forget that tests are stressful, blue skies mean that it’s probably cold outside, and that rotten fruit is bad. None of this is necessarily true. It is only the adjectives we place on the words that brings us unhappiness. Putting an adjective with them that defines them as “good” or bad”, something we like or something we dislike. Just let the experience be and don’t define or attach to it.

Coming back to the room was an enlightening experience because it made me realize that I was too attached to my things. I anticipated what I would do with them and that I had expectations of them. In this case they made me happy but maybe next time they will be gone. That time I will not become unhappy, I will just accept what is in that moment.

Right now I’m changing how I think about what “home” is. A home is a place and that place for me is this moment. Then it is now this moment. It is always changing and I will always have to accept that. Home is not where I am physically, nor is it where I am mentally. It is when the two cross and I choose to live. I hope that you will also choose to live at those crossroads and remove yourself from “your” possessions.

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