Whether you believe you’re here for a reason or that our existence on this planet is a happy accident of the universe – when it comes down to it, we’re all on a search for meaning in our lives. It’s human nature to ask what we’re here to do and what will make us happy – the two are almost always one and the same!
Sometimes our purpose is hidden from us. At other times, it’s clear as daylight. Frequently, we’re prevented from grasping hold of it for a variety of reasons. The journey can be lonely and moments of frustration do arise. That’s why along the way it helps to have people to lean on, friends to confide in, and trusted advisors to help guide us. And it never hurts to have a good book (or three!) to keep us grounded and inspired, to give us a good cry and, alternately, a happy chuckle.
If you’re looking for company on your journey of self-discovery, these three books make great travel companions and offer immense insight.
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra
What better way to begin than with this handy classic? It’s a quick read that you’ll return to again and again – a kind of handbook for spiritual good health. Reading this book first will help ground you in the basic principles of spiritual thought and practice, defined by Chopra as the seven laws -“The Law of Pure Potentiality,” “The Law of Giving,” “The Law of Karma (or Cause and Effect),” “The Law of Least Effort,” “The Law of Intention and Desire,” “The Law of Detachment,” and “The Law of Dharma (or Purpose in Life).” In each section of the book, Chopra explains the law and then provides three suggestions to help you practice applying the laws in your daily life.
In “The Law of Dharma (or Purpose in Life)” chapter, Chopra writes that “Each of us is here to discover our higher self or our spiritual self,” and that every human being has “a talent that is unique in its expression, so unique that there’s no one else alive on this planet that has that talent, or that expression of that talent.” Chopra’s unique gift is the ability to explain ages of spiritual wisdom and practice in clear, concise, easily understood terms, equipping you with the spiritual tools you need on your life’s journey.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
There’s no more charming travel companion than author Elizabeth Gilbert, whose spiritual memoir of her year abroad is at once anguished and funny, intelligent and accessible. Our charismatic narrator, Gilbert, takes us with her “to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”
Her journey of self-discovery is preceded by an ugly, soul-destroying divorce, a disastrous rebound relationship, bouts of depression and, finally, the yearning for spiritual wholeness that sends her on her journey to three countries. In Italy, she learns a new language and happily puts on weight. At an ashram in India she finally learns to meditate. And in Indonesia, she apprentices with a village medicine man and finds true love.
Gilbert writes, “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” This book recounts that effort and does it in a way that makes you willingly hop on for the ride.
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
Finally, if you like dishing it out over dinner, Julie Powell’s witty, sharp-tongued record of her year of cooking, loving and learning is a must-read. Powell’s success story began, as all success stories do, with a certain amount of failure. Pushing 30 and working as a temp with no real career aspirations, Powell felt like she was going nowhere fast. After lifting her mother’s 1967 edition of Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she decided to cook all 524 recipes in the span of one year. This involved tracking down unusual ingredients, ingesting copious amounts of cream and butter, eating oddities like brains and kidneys and learning to love liver. But what it also involved was -surprise! – finding new meaning and direction in her life. Powell documented her culinary successes, failures and downright disasters in her blog “The Julie/Julia Project,” which led to the deal for this book and a forthcoming film based on her story.
Despite her at times rough-and-tumble language, Powell comes across as a real softie. Anyone who can describe peeling potatoes this lovingly must be kind-hearted: “One interesting thing to meditate on while you’re making this soup is potatoes. There’s something about peeling a potato. Not to say that it’s fun, exactly. But there’s something about scraping off the skin, and rinsing off the dirt, and chopping it into cubes before immersing the cubes in cold water because they’ll turn pink if you let them sit out in the air. Something about knowing exactly what you’re doing, and why… ” Right here resides a metaphor for Powell’s own transformation – her journey of self-discovery through cooking – the peeling, cleansing and preparing which ends with soup… really delicious soup and a life well-lived.
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