Autobiographical (but still Mindfulness & ACT)

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First, We make the Beast Beautiful

Sarah Wilson

I loved this book. Sarah gives a very honest and brave desciption of her journey with anxiety and OCD. I feel it will help many people, especially those who feel very alone in dealing with their anxious feelings and who judge their internal experience as uniquely 'crazy'. The prevailing view of traditional psychology, that anxiety is a disorder and the symptoms should be eradicated, is challenged in this book and I think that is probably its most important contribution - that the conversation about anxiety needs to change. Medication for symptom reduction alone is not treatment and often comes with a raft of other problems, perhaps most commonly the cost of living small and with a label of oneself as 'disordered'. We know that avoiding internal experience only strengthens symptoms in the long run and the most effective approach to anxiety is to work on changing your relationship with it. To be able to start to see, and accept, what being anxious (sensitive) is for you and how it carries meaning in your life. In telling us of her journey so far, Sarah shows us how she has approached this, what has worked for her and what hasn't. Some very useful tips as well as some important philosophical discussion about how to position anxiety in the context of a rich and meaningful human life.

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Saltwater Buddha

Jaimal Yogis

I am a bit obsessed with surfing. Actually, more than a little bit. I grew up in a surfing town and always wanted to learn. But in Australia we have actual real surf that dumps you hard and things that bite you also live in there. So, I was always too afraid. But I’m so drawn to the metaphorical links between surfing, meditation and fear. And I’m determined to learn (this is the year!). And it helps that Dubai has no real surf or sharks (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). A friend saw this book and knew I’d want to live vicariously through it so sent it to me. And it’s a great read. It’s by Jaimal Yogis, now a journalist, who grew up in suburban America but was always drawn to surfing and the freedom lifestyle it promised. So, when he was a teenager he ran away to Hawaii to pursue his dream with little more than a copy of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha and enough cash for a surfboard. His journey is a coming-of-age saga that takes him from communes to monasteries, from the warm Pacific to the icy New York shore. Equal parts spiritual memoir and surfer's tale, this is a chronicle of finding meditative focus in the barrel of a wave and eternal truth in the great salty blue.

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Blue Mind

Wallace J Nichols

I loved this book. Read it in one go on a night flight (as my friend who was trying to sleep will attest - sorry Rose!). Jay Wallace is a marine biologist who has long been interested in understanding what happens to people when they get on, near or under water. Feelings of wellbeing - inspiration, happiness, calm – are common themes when you ask people about their time in or near water. I get what I call the 'beach stupor', a kind of meditative state when I can just sit and stare, fully present, and take in the colours and movement around me, literally for hours. It's super relaxing. In this book Jay investigates these links between water and happiness and specifically looks into the physiological effects on the brain and nervous system. With his blue marble project people the world over have been inspired to take action to protect rivers, oceans and the life within them. His argument is that we will protect what we love, and if we can better understand the vital role water plays, not just in the health of the planet but also for our own bodies, brains, systems and moods, then we will get more creative and committed about conservation. A brilliant read that will make you want to go jump in the sea.