Some might say that happiness begins in the mind. And perhaps they’ve learnt a thing or two about it. Every thought we allow into our lives has the power to do harm or to do good, so They say, yet again…
Seems logical enough. Who knows? Maybe it’s time we got a little selective with the daily workings of our grey matter.
It couldn’t hurt to try, right?
So to give you – and me myself and I included (!) – a little nudge in the right direction, here are (for now!) my top literary picks to bring you back to your centre, back to the you that you can be, if maybe you’re feeling you’ve wandered too far from the point of it all….
Although, never forget, dear readers, that not all who wander are lost;)
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
“Do you really want to be happy?” Hoff begs the question. “You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got.” Sounds simple enough. But we know all too well the reality. Self doubt creeps in. Self criticism follows. Why do the lives of others, all glossy and airbrushed on Facebook, appear so flawless, and so very effortless? It’s easy to find ourselves falling for the same old trap. Allegorically drawing on the beloved character of Winnie the Pooh, Hoff introduces readers to the Eastern philosophy and practice of Taoism.
And really, who could be happier and more contented than that honey-loving bear of fond childhood memories?
Without denying room for growth, Hoff provides an anecdote to the gruelling times of always striving, to do more, to have more, to be better. Instead, he insists that we work at a practice of gratitude in the moment at hand.
A healthy reminder when it’s easier said than done.
Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore
Moore himself pens his book as a “programme for bringing soul back to life.” But what is this thing we call a soul? And how do we know when it requires new life?
In answer to this, Moore states simply, “Soul is not a thing but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart and personal substance.”
So caught up are we, Moore argues, with the task of day to day so-called survival, trying to desperately chase the next big thing, the restlessness and frustration often leave us living lives devoid of real meaning and purpose. We forget along the way the things that truly nourish us. So instead we go from one addiction to the next. We rely on quick fixes, and the path of least resistance often to our own detriment. And even in times of trouble, when we feel we have failed, when we feel depressed and lacklustre, Moore kindly reminds readers that sometimes these are the times the soul requires, trying times of self-discovery and difficult growth.
So if you feel you have even remotely misplaced your larger purpose in life (perhaps behind the sofa?), that your very being is tired and starved of itself, Care of the Soul might be just the read for you.
Eat Mangoes Naked by SARK
SARK, otherwise known as Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, invites readers to “play and connect” with her, as she uses her words and her art to bring us back to the sense of wonder we may have lost as grown-ups, increasingly world-wearied and ever cynical.
Well, bah humbug no more! Not with SARK at the ready!
There may be some truth in the old joke that we don’t need shrinks, what we need is an island getaway. Of course, we can’t run away to white beaches, warm waters and chilled cocktails on demand every time life gets a little tricky. So we count on the therapists and the older and wiser (or in SARK’s case, the plain ol’ infectiously happy!), to keep us on track in times of adversity.
With this book, SARK reminds readers to actively “seek out pleasure and lightly scoop it up!” (Even, she adds, in the “most difficult of places.”) Sharing her own “explorations into pleasure,” SARK leaves no stone unturned in her celebration of life’s simpler delights.
All that is asked of you, in the end, is to ponder the things that make you truly happy, those sensory wonders that get your toes tingling with joy, be it music or watermelon juice dribbling down your chin or the feeling of soft sand underfoot.
We have only this life to live, so we might as well enjoy it while we’re here.
That said, you’ve made it this far in one piece. Good job. Here’s to the rest of your wonderful life, full of heartache and happiness and everything in between.
It’s a great day to be alive.
Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
Nothing like a good spring clean before the chaos of the new year and all its neverending endlessly endless chores and duty-bound due diligence overwhelm the very mind, body and soul!
But I have to say, before this particularly gushing review takes its course, I have a confession to make… I have something of a culture crush when it comes to the Japanese… So am I inspired by the ancient Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, that exquisite art of fixing broken ceramics using lacquer dusted with gold, silver or platinum…
I take months to read the works of Haruki Murakami not because they are tedious, but because they leave me in a dream-like state, pausing between chapters to watch the birds and contemplate his evocative writing.
Then there is another little gem, awaiting my bedside table, given to me by a friend because I’m a self-confessed crazy cat lady: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. Excited much?!
Equally, I am enthralled by the cookbooks of a Japanese treasure, far as I’m concerned, Harumi Kurihara. Her approach makes a fine art of simplicity.
These writers, these traditions, they all speak to me like the calm after a storm. They turn the noise down on my city life and bring me the respite I so desperately crave some days.
I am always reminded of a particular Woody Allen quote. Tradition is the illusion of permanence. This is something I take to heart because I struggle with change, and need to accept it as an inevitable part of life. As Heraclitus of Ephesus once said, man could never step into the same river twice. He was never the same man he was before. And the river could not be stagnant. It had to be a body of water that flowed.
I like to think of myself as the river.
Nonetheless, when a culture has so finely honed a craft, to transform it into an art, how can one not feel even the slightest beguiled by traditions rooted in time immemorial…? So forgive me if I was biased when drawn to Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying by Marie Kondo. She was put through my usual paces though. Naturally. There are so many books. I cannot simply adopt them all!
They say, do not judge a book by its cover. But I could care less. I gravitate towards books that intrigue before I’ve even opened their pages. And this one is a stunner to say the least. Some like a bubble-bath. I like returning home with a pretty book, a cover I can tease it out of later.
Next test. Opening line. This is the deal clincher…Life truly begins only after you’ve put your house in order. Marie Kondo was speaking my language.
So I read a little further and the title of this sweet treat of literature came clearer into focus…Only when you know how to choose those things that spark joy can you attain your ideal lifestyle. If you are confident that something brings you joy, keep it, regardless of what anyone else might say.
I feel sometimes, as I do with my cats, that with books, they so often find me, and not the other way around. They are like love letters hidden, only to reveal themselves when I need their dearest words the most. To console… To enthral… To titillate… To resonate… Or in this case, to spark joy.
Whether for a gift for another, or a gift to say thank you to yourself for being you, this book is worth every pretty penny. I know, in my heart, it will serve me in life. And that is the best kind of book. A therapeutic read. A reaffirming read. A read that leaves you changed forever after, for the good.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
While the skillfully woven tale had me gripped from the words, “Chapter 1,” (and left with sun-scorched, pink skin afterwards!), there was more to it than that. This magnificent creature of a book is, quite simply, Beautiful. Colour me rendered quite literally speechless.
So have no fear, folks and dearest readers, of the post-vakansie blues… These restorative treasures will have you skipping along to the beat of your own merry drum again in no time! And on that note, Happy Reading!
‘Til we meet again…
Blue Nude with Green Stockings – Matisse
Feature Image: No Place to Sit by Darren Thompson