Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Reading 2015: Spirituality & Resilience ...

One benefit of summer was
that each day
we had more light to read by...

Jeanette Walls

Hi Everyone!

It's almost time to say "Happy Summer!" and I, for one, can hardly wait to spend some long lazy days with my nose planted in a good book.

All through a VERY busy spring, I've fantasized about sitting on the deck at the cottage with the sun on my back and a pile of books on the ground beside me. As I've made a list of titles to pack into my duffle bag, I've been a little surprised to see that many of them are connected by the thread of spirituality. (I've been growing more and more interested in spirituality as a resilience factor for both compassion fatigue and chronic sorrow but hadn't expected that interest to show up in my vacation reading as well.)

Let me share with you some of the titles that will soon be winging their way to the Muskoka lakeside with me:

1.  The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health & Lifelong Thriving by Lisa Miller, PhD
I've cheated a bit with this one and started reading it already. Written by the director of the Clinical Psychology Program at Columbia University, it reads a bit slowly but offers a host of new-to-me studies on the impact on physical and mental health of supporting and nurturing a child's "natural spirituality".
Research by Miller and her colleagues over the last decade shows that children who have a positive, active relationship to spirituality are 40% less likely to use and abuse substances, 60% less likely to be depressed as teenagers and 80% less likely to have dangerous or unprotected sex.  They are also more likely to have positive markers for thriving and for high levels of academic success.  I'm finding the book a warm, hopeful and practical guide for enhancing children's spiritual development.
2.  The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise by Martin Pretchtel
Martin Pretchtel was raised on an Indian reservation in New Mexico and was trained by a renowned shaman there. According to the reviews, he says that modern society has lost its way in leaving grief to be experienced and expressed alone, without the support of community.
He says, "Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honours what it misses." He explains that the unexpressed grief prevalent in our society today is the reason for many of the social, cultural and individual ills we're currently experiencing. He shows how this collective, unexpressed grief, long held by our ancestors as well as ourselves, can be worked through so we can all be healed from the intergenerational trauma of loss, war and suffering.
3.  Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most by Tim Schriver
I've wanted to read this book ever since seeing Tim Schriver interviewed about writing it. He struck me as an authentic, vulnerable and articulate seeker who was able to translate both the best aspects of his faith tradition and his experience with the intellectually disabled through Special Olympics into a strong and supportive personal spirituality. He has also drawn on the Kennedy family story of "retarded" Aunt Rosemary who, he says, "taught them all how to care from within". Kirkus Book Reviews has pronounced the book "sincere, profound and deeply satisfying".
4.  Blue Horses: Poems by Mary Oliver 
This is Mary Oliver's latest collection of new poems. She describes in spare and perfect phrases both the everyday happenings and beauty of Nature and the resilience that comes through our connection with the natural world. I can't imagine a summer at the cottage without one of her books.
5.  Walking the Walk: Putting the Teachings into Practice When it Matters Most by Pema Chodron (Audiobook)
I figure this audiobook by Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron, will help to pass the time waiting in airports and during the five hour flights to and from Toronto.
Pema addresses the difference between knowing spiritual concepts and applying them in everyday life. In four sessions, we have the opportunity to reflect upon practices that can be applied in any faith tradition - stabilizing the mind (awareness, presence and foundation), unconditional friendship with yourself (getting unstuck from patterns that create our own suffering), freedom from fixed mind (releasing biases and prejudices to revitalize everyday experiences) and taking care of one another (learning to be truly there for others).
And, as you might guess looking at previous lists, I'm also planning to find space in my bags for a couple of escape novels. At the moment, Joanna Trollop's Balancing Act and Elizabeth George's Lynley and Havers mystery, Just One Evil Act are in the running. (I know, I know, I'm just a little behind on this series!)

Whatever you choose to do this summer, I hope some happy moments with a good book are there in the mix. Enjoy!