Three Transformative Books

I read Journey Into Power, by Baron Baptiste, in January of 2013. I had decided I wanted to get into yoga more heavily that year (that was my New Year’s resolution, in fact.) But I don’t know why I picked up that particular yoga book over any other. It was a random thing. (Though are there really random things? That’s a question for this post series.)

I can’t say I got heavily into yoga that year as a result of reading it (that particular resolution didn’t really take that year.) But when I started reading it, the underlying philosophy of the book most definitely penetrated. And that, in hindsight, was pretty important for me. This book gave me a framework for the way I operate on a day-to-day level that I really needed.

Passages like this for instance drove home points that I recognize now were (and are) essential for my own growth:

“…[S]o many of us are not living life at 100 percent. But if you are not living in truth, you are cheating yourself. If you are living in a body that is weighed down and unhealthy, you are robbing yourself of your vitality. If you are plagued by anxiety and worry, you are denying yourself the peace that is so readily available to you. If you are controlled by your fears and emotions, you have sacrificed your personal power.”

~Baron Baptiste, from Journey Into Power, pg. 18.

Actually, reading that again and typing it out here, I think maybe I might be benefited by re-reading this book right now. I think I might need to revisit some of these ideas.

Not that I’ve ever really stopped thinking about them. The concept of centering and breathing and training myself to live in the present moment has proved tremendously impactful to me. That idea of “sacrificing my personal power” particularly I think a lot about. (I’ve blogged about it more than once. Here, for instance.)

And I don’t know that I thought about presence and breath in such personal terms until I read Journey Into Power. That’s what made this such a pivotal book for me. Adopting that framework of understanding changed a lot of things (I see now.)

You miss a lot when you’re scattering your energy – throwing it back at the past in lamentation and regret, or throwing it forward at a future that may or may not come the way you want or expect. It can be helpful to be mindful of past mistakes and future goals – but I’ve learned (and I’m still learning this; it’s a tough one for me) that I’m most effective, most fulfilled, and just happier when I keep my focus on the present. My life is richer.

The new self-awareness that I garnered from reading this book is what I think made me open enough to be able to grasp what I needed to grasp from the next two books – both of which I read in the following months.

*

Unlike Baron Baptiste’s book, which wasn’t familiar to me until I saw it in the store and bought it, both The Alchemist and The Artist’s Way were books I’d seen literally hundreds of times each during my years of working in bookstores. Why I didn’t actually flip them open and explore their contents until 2013 is a total mystery to me – because I was very apt as a bookseller to leaf through popular books, to get a feel for the writing, to get a sense of their messages. Both out of intellectual curiosity and as a means of helping customers, I did this – all the time. I was a pretty competent bookseller, and I liked the work. I liked learning about books and the publishing industry (trying to understand why things resonated or otherwise found attention, etc.) And I liked gleaning little bits of insights into strangers’ psyches by talking to them about why they were attracted to certain books.

But yet, I never explored either of these extremely popular books. I vaguely knew what The Artist’s Way was about, and I knew that The Alchemist was a work of fiction that a lot of people found inspirational. But yet I never so much as opened either of them up when shelving them, or asked any of the customers purchasing them about their appeal.

Again, this is just very, very unlike bookseller-me.

Of course, both of these books are favorable to the idea of intuition and “signs” – so I think either author would probably say that I didn’t delve into them until I was “ready.”

I don’t know what I feel about that.

Thinking about things like that is part of what I’m writing this post series to explore.

*

I finally picked up The Alchemist at the library. This was in Spring 2013 – probably just about exactly two years ago. (I think it was March or April 2013 when I first read it.) It was a completely spontaneous grab. I was looking to see what books were onhand from another author in the vicinity of the Paulo Coelho books. (Kate Christensen, most likely. I think I read her Trouble a few months before this and really liked it, so she was on my radar.) So I was there, I saw The Alchemist, and I picked it up without really thinking much about it. I just wanted something different to read.

There are people who evangelize about this book. There are other people who hate it. I’m just going to say that the theme of finding your path and uncovering the thing(s) you were meant to do in life, and the idea that there are signs along the way that help you to navigate, were things that resonated really deeply with me. I feel like the story, the message, is one that I knew on some level before reading it – knew from somewhere inside. Like, I knew it without being fully cognizant that I knew it. And then when I saw it laid out there in black and white, that inner knowledge, which had hitherto been sort of swirling around chaotically, came together in a coherent way inside of me for the first time – and then I knew in my brain what I had known before in my gut.

And that kind of connection-to-inner-self changes things.

This was a centering kind of reading experience for me…another layer to go along with what I’d taken from the Baptiste book.

*

The Artist’s Way was another book I randomly snagged at the library – this one in July/August 2013.

The Artist’s Way, with its combination of essays and exercises, is designed to help creative people get out from under “blocks” and jumpstart their motivation to pursue their art. I didn’t feel particularly blocked when I brought it home though. That’s not why I borrowed it.

In hindsight, I most definitely was blocked – but I didn’t at all think I was at the time. I picked it up for much the same reason that I picked up The Alchemist: because I saw it at the library and just spontaneously put it under my arm to bring home – purely to have something different to read.

I should say that I was in something of a period of transition in 2013 regarding my entertainment choices – mainly books and music; that’s where all that “something different to read” stuff was coming from. The things that had been pleasing me for the last two years were now making me feel itchy: bored and restless.

In hindsight, this was a big marker that I was changing internally. I didn’t see it at the time. I just knew that I couldn’t seem to find anything to read or listen to…and it was a little annoying!

But it’s also what pushed me to explore different things. Which is an interesting thing to look back and notice.

I didn’t expect to find an antidote to any of my boredom/restlessness in The Artist’s Way. Again, I didn’t think I was blocked. I didn’t even go through the book the way you’re supposed to. I didn’t separate it into weeks. I just read when I felt like it and did the exercises casually, just for fun. But I did do them all. I did the Morning Pages. And I tried – especially once I kind of got into it – to take it seriously. I gave it my best effort.

And it paid off. It really, really paid off. That book was completely transformative for me.

It was in the course of reading The Artist’s Way that I got the urge to paint. And that was the first step to…well, quite a bit of change.

*

I think I’m trying to get somewhere (mentally, emotionally, etc) with this post.

I’m going to attempt to write my way there over the next few posts.

To be continued…

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