Would you like some wisdom?
Did you know that in 1977, when the first Voyager spacecraft was launched, two phonograph records were included aboard, containing sounds and images that were thought to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. It's a kind of time capsule intended to be listened to by any intelligent life form or future humans who find them. They are known as the Golden Records and contain 115 images and recordings including a volcano erupting, Georgian folk music, excerpts from Star Trek and the brainwaves of a woman in love. You can find out more at: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/
This page is nothing like that but I like the idea.
Books were my first love. I learned about worlds outside my world, ideas, desires and feelings beyond my experience in the company of those I would never meet. Then I discovered art, and theatre and poetry and film, music and comedy…..then other forms of soul food. Across my life, I am so grateful to those who share their worlds with us in whatever medium. There are too many influences to record here so here is my time capsule of things that I regularly dip into for wisdom, for rest, for expansion, for solace, for joy.
I’ve grouped them by topic for ease of reference…if there is something you’re looking for and don’t find a reference here, just ask. I’d love to see if I can help. You'll also find some of my published articles and my TED talk here.
I include latest discoveries in my monthly newsletter Soul Notes, so if you’d like a regular update, please subscribe below:
I spent a life-changing week in Colorado with Dr Estés in 2018 and she has deeply influenced my life and work since then. You’ll see her ideas appearing in various Soul Notes and my workshops are based around her work.
This book is her seminal work on what it means to be a woman. Weaving stories, psychology, personal reflection and an ancient wisdom, she invites us all to awaken our deep feminine power and passion and to live a more full, rich and true life. Compulsory reading for everyone in my book.
This is an inspired listen for anyone who wants to expand into their creative self. Dr Estes reads this audiobook in her inimitable soothing tones and teaches the hidden aspects of creativity, including how we get in our own creative way.
This book changed my life as I followed Julia Cameron’s twelve week programme to unlock my own creativity and discovered how much I both loved writing, and how much I was able to produce. This is inspired and a book to come back to again and again. She now also has an online program which you can access through her website.
Accompany with The Prosperous Heart, also by Julia Cameron. I used this book religiously when I left my secure consultancy role and set up my own business. In it, she guides you to basic practices to give you financial peace of mind as you launch your creative endeavour.
This guide to unlocking your creative self comes filled with wisdom and anecdotes from one of America’s leading dance choreographers. It often feels like being at the ballet barre of repetition and practice but she offers a way to regular creative practice and mastery.
Thanks to my creative coach, Jackee Holder, I've discovered a new writing practice that has really got my creative juices going. Tapping into 27 Days of Wild Writing, I've been tuning in daily to Laurie Wagner's short videos, a snippet of poetry and launching into 15 minutes of free flow writing each day. I've written poems, thought pieces, lists, a haiku...you name it, I've played with it and gathered a ton of ideas for future writings. It's also inspired me to read, watch and listen more to stories in various forms so I feel very nourished. If you like writing and appreciate a little structure, this might be just your thing.
When reading this book, I felt like it was written just for me (although it was published when I was three years old). It's one of those timeless books that arrived at just the right time in my life. I can recommend it for anyone who prizes those special moments alone; those who long for the quiet of an empty space and the space of a quiet time. May Sarton believed that "real life" was what happened when she was alone, making sense of what had happened in the outer world. And what inspired sense of it she makes.
This is a rich resource for coaches working with clients on their creativity. It contains 40 case studies where coaches describe their work with clients on issues of motivation, blocks, procrastination, anxiety, perfectionism and more.
Another soulful book from one of my favourite writers and philosophers, John O'Donohue. Anam Cara means "soul friend" in Gaelic, the person to whom you can reveal the hidden intricacies of your life. Digging deep into Celtic mystery, he reveals what is hidden in our own souls and in our relationships. It is a lyrical escape into an ancient and mystical world which tells us much about ourselves today.
Complement with this interview with the author on beauty as a human calling. He is so wise about what it means to connect with self and others.
I love the timeless wisdom of poet, David Whyte, who invites us into an imaginative conversation about life and work.
David Whyte’s poetry is often a place of refuge and inspiration for me. Find his collections and more about him here.
Hollis is a Jungian psychoanalyst and writes extensively about creating meaning in the second half of life when we begin to question our choices, realise our limitations and become stuck. His book is full of wisdom for any of us at a stage in life where we are looking for more meaning or fulfilment.
In this podcast, James Hollis talks about the increasing sense of importance for people about living meaningful lives and finding resilience during difficult times. Opening the creative doorway can often be the difference between a life that feels rich and meaningful and one that does not. Lots of food for thought here.
"Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?" This is the question asked in this gorgeous little book of wisdom on trusting and listening to your inner teacher to guide you to where you need to be in life.
This book guides you through eight gates of soul wisdom to move gracefully into the second half of life. I use this as a resource with many of my clients who are wondering about purpose and a deepening of exploration of their inner world as they get curious about what this next phase holds for them.
This is a treat of a book for those who spend a lot of life pleasing others and abandoning themselves. Beautifully illustrated and simply told.
You can dip into the original article that sparked the book on medium here
This is one of the first books I ever read about transformational leadership and it touched me deeply. Jaworski tells his personal story of finding his purpose and becoming a more connected and human leader. If you are a leader wondering about how to bring more of your authentic self, this one is for you.
This book invites you to rituals, meditations and creative exercises to facilitate your spiritual growth. It’s a generous guide for anyone connecting with and deciphering their purpose.
Read Jackee’s reflections on her experience of both writing and publishing Soul Purpose 13 years on.
My first therapist recommended this book to me many moons ago and I didn’t get it! Only now can I appreciate Marion Milner’s attention to the daily detail of her inner life, documenting the smallest worries and fluctuations of mood that characterise our human experience, as she tries to discover what it is that makes her happy. She normalised my inner turbulence in a way that made me realise the difference between my “identity” and “biography” and for that I am deeply grateful.
Addiction to Perfection - Marion Woodman
Following my Jungian theme this month, I’ve been reading this study by Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman, of the psychology and attitudes of modern women. She uses case studies, literature, mythology and dreams to explore the journey of integrating body, mind and spirit in a world that favours patriarchal values and often undermines the more feminine way of being. It is a compelling read for both men and women.
Meditation teacher, writer and therapist, Tara Brach shares her four step RAIN process to awaken compassion and release the grip of painful emotions. Her approach to tuning in through this process, about which I've written before, is simple and effective. Recognise what you're feeling, Acknowledge it, Investigate it and Nurture the underlying need. This is beautifully written and outlines a simple but transformative practice to bring presence and love to every experience. I can highly recommend it.
Complement with: Tara Brach podcast, Radical Compassion, Parts 1, 2 and 3 - Loving Ourselves and Our World Into Healing
This is Dr Kristin Neff's website. She is one of the world's leading experts on self compassion and has done some pioneering research in this area. The site is packed full of resources. There are questionnaires to gauge your level of self compassion, guided meditations, journal prompts, exercises, research papers and much more.
Her book The Self Compassion Workbook features here, as does her most recent book, written with Christopher Germer on Teaching the Mindful Self Compassion Programme: A Guide For Professionals which is a great resource for anyone working to develop self compassion with clients.
Where Should We Begin - Esther Perel
This podcast is a groundbreaking intimate insight into couples therapy with the feisty and funny therapist, Esther Perel. I love her chutzpah, her edginess, her insertion of herself into the relationship which isn't working with the utmost compassion and care as well as no nonsense approach. She describes herself as someone who creates conversations about the stuff we don't want to talk about, but we definitely want to listen to them.
Complement with: her work based podcast: How's Work? if you want to explore those relationships in more depth.
This book brings attachment theory to adult relationships and explores why you may be struggling to build or maintain relationships, romantic or otherwise. It is based in psychotherapy research and is very accessible and easy to understand and recognise yourself.
This is one of the bestselling books during the Covid-19 pandemic for obvious reasons. Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun who writes in the most down to earth way about the human experience. She argues for us to not shy away from life's pain and suffering but to walk straight towards the fear and heartache. She believes it is this meeting that leads us to peace and happiness, not finding the perpetual ways to avoid and insulate ourselves from them. I've found this to be a very holding read through recent days.
I recommend you read anything and everything by Rebecca Solnit. She is a piercing and lyrical modern thinker and writer. This book deals with the uncertainty of life and the beauty and radicalism of allowing ourselves to wander and get lost. A perfect place to walk the mind at this time.
Psychoanalyst and feminist Susie Orbach has written this brilliant article for The Guardian which weaves together the experience of our physical bodies with the social body we belong to. She describes this era of social distancing as a time when "We are learning a whole new etiquette of bodies." and argues that it is time to create a whole different kind of society, with a whole new etiquette of "transparency, with heart and by learning from the people who have been staffing" the institutions that have borne the brunt of the pandemic, not just the managers and owners.
Solvable - Malcolm Gladwell & Jacob Weisberg
In this podcast Jacob Weisberg talks with Zimbabwean psychiatrist, Dixon Chibanda, who introduced "Friendship Benches" as a way of tackling the mental health crisis in his country at a grass roots level. This idea has spread globally and builds on a simple idea of creating community spaces, where people can speak openly about any issues.
This book sits by my desk and is well thumbed. Leading trauma expert, van der Kolk uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers' capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments that offer new paths to recovery.
Trauma and Recovery is a seminal text on understanding trauma survivors. By placing individual experience in a broader political frame, Harvard psychiatrist Judith Herman argues that psychological trauma is inseparable from its social and political context. Drawing on her own research on incest, as well as a vast literature on combat veterans and victims of political terror, she shows surprising parallels between private horrors like child abuse and public horrors like war.
Far too many of us had to learn as children to hide our own feelings, needs, and memories skilfully in order to meet our parents' expectations and win their "love". Alice Miller writes, "When I used the word 'gifted' in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb...Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived." This book offers a way to understand the child's experience and to reclaim life by discovering your own thoughts and feelings.
This incredible resource from Dianne and Doron Levene at Relational Spaces contains reading lists, talks, videos and many other tools to educate and support us all as we make the necessary inner and outer changes.
'Beloved' is the dazzlingly beautiful and innovative novel by Toni Morrison that leaves a mark on you. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature with this book. It pierced me and allowed me to feel something that I couldn't let in from the factual podcasts and documentaries and writings.
"1619" is the New York Times audio series following the stories of over 20 enslaved Africans arriving at the English colony of Virginia on a ship in August of 1619. It pieces together the story of the "stolen bodies" and how the wealth and power of the United States was built on the back of these slaves.
Rachel Cargle - Instagram
Black activist and educator, Rachel Cargle teaches me so much. She facilitates a community of online (un)learners called @thegreatunlearn to aid a collective approach to "learning outside the white lens". She also has a free 30 day online course for anyone who wants to take action and ally with black women. It's eye opening and confronting and intended to break down systems that oppress and disenfranchise the black community. Take a look at her instagram link and the wealth of resources she offers there.
Resmaa Menakem is a black trauma therapist who has deeply influenced how I understand race in the body. He offers a short online study course to enable you to get closer to this idea of racialized trauma in the body. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who's curious about change at a cellular level.
Channel 4's new series follows a British school that works to help its students uncover and eradicate hidden racial biases. This is an enlightening and uncomfortable watch that enables you to see how early we learn our racial bias, and how unaware white children are that race is something that applies equally to them.
This book gives us an intimate look at the forest as a social network and drawing on scientific evidence, the author makes a compelling case to show that trees are just like human families. A beautiful invitation to take a walk in the forest and tune into nature.
This book, is another intense read, but well worth it. In it, he unfolds The Diamond Approach, a body of knowledge about the nature of reality and an exploration of the ongoing realisation and integration of our essential qualities. Hameed was working on his PhD in Physics when he reached a turning point that led him to inquire into the psychological and spiritual aspects of human nature, so as to understand the essential nature of human experience and reality in general. Fascinating, mind bending writing. One for when you have a stretch of time on your hands.
This book was recommended by my wise therapy supervisor, Robert Downes. It's not a light read. You need to read in chunks. Stop. Digest it and then read again. Byron Brown explains what the critical voice is, how it works, why it's there, how to disengage from it and offers lots of practical examples, suggestions and exercises for moving away from it. It's well worth the effort.
The quality of attention determines the quality of our thinking. Nancy Kline's book was written many years ago but still has such relevance today in a world that moves in multiple streams at an increasing pace. How can we help each other create an environment that will allow us to do our best thinking? I'm working with the key principles from this book with clients right now and it's incredibly powerful to see the insight and connection generated from something so simple.
And if, once you've read the book, you're interested in doing a Time to Think workshop, then I can highly recommend Ruth McCarthy's two day Foundation course. You can find out more at: http://www.timetothink.com/coach/ruth-mccarthy/
I'm a little addicted to the New Yorker Fiction podcast, where writers read short stories by other writers and discuss them with Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker fiction editor. A recent treat is this one where A.M. Homes reads "Stone Mattress" by Margaret Atwood. I've since ordered the whole book of short stories for some summer garden reading and it is a delight.
This is one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve ever seen. It follows three men as they participate in a four day therapy retreat with convicts inside Folsom maximum security prison in the U.S. Over the retreat, each man delves deeply into his past and in a raw and revealing process, they are ripped out of their comfort zone, as you will be in watching this. Each man is transformed in ways he had not imagined and this is a stark look at masculinity, what it means to be a man, violence, vulnerability, and love. Watch the trailer here: https://theworkmovie.com/trailer/