Mindful Reading: Man's Search for Meaning

I learned about this month's book, Man's Search For Meaning, years ago after seeing it on many different 'must read' book lists. Not promising to have the answers on what makes life worth living, rather imploring people to find some sort of meaning in your life, this book gives a fresh perspective on the self-help trend.

The truth is, Frankl's experience which led him to have this wonderful perspective on life is quite dark. He is a concentration camp survivor and shares his story as a way to define how this concept of creating a meaningful life came to be. His accounts are as you would expect, but the book does not focus on the suffering as much as it does the strength that Frankl was able to find.

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Mindful Reading: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Wherever You Go, There You Are is instructional in nature and even has little "challenges" of sorts at the end of some chapters, encouraging readers to try various methods. I enjoyed the rudimentary, logical approach that Jon Kabat-Zinn provides. 

As an avid practitioner of mindfulness and a teacher of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Kabat-Zinn gives first-hand examples of how mindfulness is in all of its states: challenging, peaceful, confrontational, spiritual, and sometimes difficult. He has a down to earth and refreshing perspective on how mindfulness is not the answer, but is a means to get to the answer. 

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Mindful Reading: Steering By Starlight

Steering by Starlight belongs in the self-help category as its aim is to help people live a more intentional life while using their intuition to steer them in that direction. It does bring up quite a few spiritual points so I would consider it a book on spiritual beliefs as well. 

Martha Beck, the author of Steering by Starlight, is a creative and captivating writer with some self-proclaimed strange beliefs and methods. I am a skeptic by nature and while I buy into the hippie, woo-woo type stuff all the time, I also take it with a grain of salt.

This book fully acknowledges that some of the concepts are weird and may be hard to believe, but she encourages you to do them anyways and decide for yourself. I went there, even with my skepticism, and I will tell you that I found this book to be really helpful.

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Mindful Reading: Big Magic

Confession: I read a lot of books. It helps me focus and pass time but it also helps me expand my thinking. I tend to read a lot of books about psychology, wellness, and mental health and I thought, what better way to have a conversation with my wonderful readers! 

The intention behind the new Mindful Reading section of the Mindful Living blog is to share the knowledge that I pick up by reading these books. I hope you will join me in this virtual book club as we review a new book each month. 

The first book I chose, Big Magic, is especially meaningful to me because I read it at a time when I really needed to hear what the insightful Elizabeth Gilbert had to say. Her lessons are strong and I think it may resonate with you too.

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The Four Agreements: Blueprint for Happiness

You have heard the saying before, "life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it." The concept of personal freedom speaks to that 90%. Personal freedom is creating and choosing a life of happiness, love, and peace. In turn, creating freedom from self-rejection, blame, and suffering. 

Don Miguel Ruiz is a spiritual teacher and author of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. He offers four simple "agreements" or principles to live by that can change your relationship with yourself and the world around you. The idea is to break free from the agreements and beliefs that bring us suffering to allow more happiness into our lives.

Here are the Four Agreements and ways to practice each agreement in your daily life.

1. Be impeccable with your word. 

The Meaning: Spoken word is powerful and creates the realities of a person's life. Suffering and judgement are created when we allow others' words to dictate who we believe ourselves to be and internalize others' beliefs to define who we are. 

The shift: Question what you believe to be true about yourself and ask yourself where those beliefs originated. Those things that you tell yourself like "I'm not good enough" or "I'll never be able to do that" usually come from long-standing beliefs that have been developed with the help of others' words. When you begin challenging those beliefs and switching the dialogue within your mind, a strong shift will happen.

2. Don't take anything personally. 

The Meaning: Someone else's point of view can only impact your own if you allow it to. You are not responsible for the actions of others, only for yourself.

The Shift: Understand that what others do or say to you is about them. Assuming that what someone else does is because of you strips that person of any responsibility and places unnecessary burden on you. In reality, you have the power to choose what you internalize. By choosing not to take anything personally, you can decrease guilt and judgement and increase peace and happiness. 

3. Don't make assumptions. 

The Meaning: Mind reading and jumping to conclusions damage relationships and create barriers to communication.  

The Shift: Instead of assuming that someone "should" know what you are thinking, practice assertive communication in relationships. Avoid making meaning out of nuances or signals from others. When in doubt, ask!

4. Do your best. 

The Meaning: Moment to moment and within different circumstances, your best will change. As long as you do the most that you are capable of within that moment, you are doing your best. Do your best without expectation and without contingencies. 

The Shift: Become aware of what your "best" means by connecting with yourself and being mindful of your capabilities. Living with integrity will strengthen the relationship with yourself and others. That critical voice in your head can be replaced with more self-assurance and confidence when you remind yourself that you have done your best in any situation.

By practicing these simple but powerful principles of living, you will see a shift in the way you feel about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you. Most important, you will be creating personal freedom by making the most of that 90%.