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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Mindfulness Book Recommendation Part 1

Melissa’s Mindful Moments

Book Recommendations (part 1)

Melissa Ann Roush MS, LPC-Intern

Supervised by Katrena Hart, LPC-S

 

Many people ask me when and how my journey with mindfulness practice began, and where they should start- specifically if I could recommend any books.  In truth, I have no clear cut starting point to my journey.  I have always been a “seeker” and had been reading “self-help” – including inspirational and esoteric books since I can remember.  I do know that the practice of carving out specific time to mindfully meditate began about 10 years ago following my divorce.  And honestly, for me, my practice has never really been about carving out specific time or following a specific guru, but at that time in my life, I needed the structure and I needed to commit to practice.  I find that during times of change, this is very important for me. 

I also find that when the student is ready, the teacher (or earth angel) will appear.  During that time of my life, I was very lost.  I was lost to a degree that I believe had it not been for my faith, and earth angels, I certainly would not be writing this today.  My faith was strong that there was some kind of meaning to my life and to the dark places that were welling up inside of me.  The earth angels came in the form of books, friends, therapists of all types, and strangers in all places. 

I recall vividly a day when I was crumpled up on the floor at Half Price Books sobbing so desperately for some relief from the pain and fear of being so lost and alone.  This type of “alone” was not about having no one to talk with or be with, this type of alone was about recognizing that I was on a spiritual journey that could only be walked by me and would only be survived by getting up every day and facing the pain of being torn apart, bit by bit, so that I could rebuild myself.  That day, I made it to the bookstore, desperate for the How to Build Peace and Wholeness with as Little Pain as Possible Book for Dummies.  Surprisingly,it was nowhere to be found.

However, there was a very persistent and annoying woman who kept asking me if she could help me find “something.”  I first heard her standing over my shoulder, her voice faint through my sobs.  Embarrassed, I sniffled through a weak, “No thanks.”  A few minutes later, there she was again, “If there is anything I can help you find….?”  I remember thinking it was not the norm for the Half Price employees to “help” me in the aisles, so maybe they were freaking out because I was crying.  I straightened up to appear a bit more composed- as if I knew what the heck I was looking for, “No.  I got it.”  Of course, I did not.

She came back again about 10 minutes later – clearly, I was not able to find what I was looking for- “I can help you if you need some help.”  Good God, this woman was relentless.  I was now angry for the constant intrusion on my misery.  I want to be alone in my alone- you know?  I turned around to face her expecting her to be in her Half Price apron all smiley while I have any number of things dripping down my face- “Look.  I do not need hel-  p.”  As I turned around she started pulling books off the shelf and was handing them to me.  And to my surprise, she was not an employee.  She was a very simple woman whose appearance I cannot recall, but who, very gently, spoke to me about the darkness I found myself meandering through and how important it was to find inner reliance and strength- to stop seeking it externally.  I also remember after she walked away feeling ashamed that I was so rude to this angel in disguise.  Her words were so soothing and the books were perfect- though I did not know it at the time.  The only thing I knew was that this was one of “those” moments when you know Someone or Something is watching over you.  So, I trusted that, and her, and I trusted that the books she handed to me were rightly chosen.   

My mindfulness practice now includes looking for moments like those.  I do not take for granted words spoken by strangers, or seeming coincidences, or even days of darkness.  Everything is an opportunity to be present, mindful, and in wonderment for the journey.  Even darkness-  especially darkness. 

Throughout the summer, I will offer book suggestions that have inspired me.  I do not offer them as THE books.  I offer them as I offer pieces of my own story- they are what inspired me - maybe they will also inspire you.   My practice includes a very spiritual component.  So if you- the student- is ready for this, one of my gurus is Thich Nhat Hanh.  His beautiful book, Living Buddha, Living Christ is one of my favorites and rests on my nightstand- and has been there for 7 years.  The following is an excerpt: 

When we were in our mother’s womb, we felt secure- protected from the heat, cold, and hunger.  But the moment we were born and came into contact with the world’s suffering we began to cry.  Since then we have yearned to return to the security of our mother’s womb.  We long for the permanence, but everything is changing.  We desire an absolute, but even what we call our “self” is impermanent.  We seek a place where we can feel safe and secure, a place we can rely on for a long time.  When we touch the ground, we feel the stability of the earth and feel confident.  When we observe the steadiness of the sunshine, the air, and the trees, we know that we can count on the sun to rise each day and the air and trees to be there tomorrow…

“Taking refuge” is not based on blind faith or wishful thinking.  It is gauged by our real experience…

To take refuge in mindfulness, our capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment, is safe and not at all abstract…When we sit, walk, stand, breathe and know that we are sitting, walking, standing, breathing, we touch the seed of mindfulness in us, and, after a few days, our mindfulness will grow stronger.  Mindfulness is the light that shows us the way…gives rise to insight, awakening, and love.

…“Be an island unto yourself. Take refuge in yourself and not in anything else.”  This island is right mindfulness, the awakened nature, the foundation of stability and calm that resides in each of us. 

 

I love this little book. This little earth angel.  I hope you find it somewhere along your journey towards more mindful living.  Or maybe, it finds you. 

 

 

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Allen, TX 75013
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