July 2016: Soulful Reads For Me-Time

You don't necessarily have to catch up on reading on a plane or at a beach holiday. I find it really therapeutic to read while waiting between commute, at a cafe, in between appointments and classes and before bedtime. The pockets of waiting time outside serves as great opportunity to dwell into books compared to being sucked into games and social media indulgence on the phone.

I am personally a non-fiction, philosophy and self help sort of reader. They aren't just about giving insights to knowledge and wisdom but also because they are so relevant , stuff that can be applied instantly to various situations. As a practitioner and teacher, these nuggets of wisdom from books are just going to remain as ideas and concepts until they are brought to life in experimenting and applying them to daily situations, classes I teach, people I meet and how I manage life in general. 

There seems to be a wave of people going through transitions, taking time off to reconfigure and recalibrate their direction in life, at major crossroads etc... I hope whatever juncture you are at, these book recommendations below may serve to your advantage should any of them resonate and inspire you in your own personal journey through life. I have read most of them and all have powerful messages within them. They have opened up my heart, mind and being, to new, compassionate ways of seeing the self, the world and the power we all infinitely possess and learn to harness it to wholeness and greatness!

May you be blessed with wisdom, love and joy with these books!


1. Light on Yoga - B.K.S Iyengar

A classic text for yoga practitioners and teachers. I resonate greatly with the philosophical wisdom of the late B.K.S Iyengar although I don’t physically practise the Iyengar style. 

Favourite Quotes: 
"Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together."

“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

“You must purge yourself before finding faults in others. When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake. This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement. Do not look at others’ bodies with envy or with superiority. All people are born with different constitutions. Never compare with others. Each one’s capacities are a function of his or her internal strength. Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.”

2. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

This book is such a magical read close to the heart. It took me places, inspired and transpired realisations and ideas into action that has since journeyed me to discover dreams and places I have never thought possible. I am so thankful for the wisdom of Paulo Coelho!

Favourite Quotes:

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

3. The Prophet - Khalil Gibran

Timeless, ageless book about freedom, tolerance, unconditional love.  Beautifully written .

Favourite Passages:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.” 

“The timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.” 

"Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.' Say not, ' I have found the path of the soul.' Say rather, 'I have met the soul walking upon my path.' For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.” 

4. The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz

4 Simple but challenging values in showing light about self-limiting beliefs that prevents us from living a wholehearted life .
Read more about the ancient toltec wisdom here: http://www.toltecspirit.com/ 

1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

Favourite Quotes:

“We have the need to be accepted and to be loved by others, but we cannot accept and love ourselves. The more self-love we have, the less we will experience self-abuse. Self-abuse comes from self-rejection, and self-rejection comes from having an image of what it means to be perfect and never measuring up to that ideal.  Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves; it is why we don’t accept ourselves the way we are, and why we don’t accept others the way they are.”

“God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, "I love you, God," is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, "Thank you, God," is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now. Whatever life takes away from you, let it go. When you surrender and let go of the past, you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.” 

“Also, go inside and listen to your body, because your body will never lie to you. Your mind will play tricks, but the way you feel in your heart, in your guts, is the truth.”

5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,
   The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo

Before we can invite new opportunities and possessions into our lives, we have to clear out some clutter, make space for newer better things. The state of the physical space we live in reflects on our inner state of mind and emotions. When we are able to physically clear out material possessions, our minds seem to go through a cleaning process too, thus, eventually having more space, clarity and ease . I had such a merry time reading this book and so excited to jump right into the action.  I have always thrived on the motto of Less is More, and this activity reinforces this. Do we NEED that many shoes ? handbags? clothes? etc?? Are possessing material items a way of filling the gaps and emptiness of life? I am so happy clearing out dozens of thrash bags worth of clothes, misc items and donating them away. What's left are just the essentials. Never have I felt much "lighter" and clearer.

I have always harboured a morbid yet practical thought: what happens to my stuff if ever (touch wood) something happens to me at any point in my life? I’d visualise what conversations or scenarios could happen when loved ones pack and decide what to do with them. So I guess at the back of my head, I actually Do have it all planned out already. heh heh. Many items I currently possess are easily available for donation to the less fortunate. I have a wish to relinquish material and money things and contribute them back to the needy and/or organizations that need any form of support at that time. This is an easy a resolve for me as my life experiences has cultivated me to learn the art of detachment to the worldy possessions that most men thrived deeply in. It is the skill that one can learn to avoid the chains of bondage of over-reliance of material possessions. I believe the lesser stuff left behind at the deathbed, lesser worries to bring into the final rest, means more space to Live- enjoying the process of life and death. The only prized items are my musical instruments and singing bowls which need more thought to whom they will be donated or sold to eventually. Everything else are just necessities and disposables. Eg. I am happy living with just 2 pairs of slippers and 5-6 pairs of sneakers. Functional is the new Style, for me at least. How is your living space like? Are you a hoarder or a minimalist? 

This book is written in a simple and Kawaii japanese fashion so its really easy reading and enjoyable.

Favourite Quotes:

“Does this spark joy?”

“ When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: An attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

“Keep only things that speak to your heart”

6. You Can Heal Your Life - Louise L. Hay

We already know that many diseases start from the mind.  We have been thinking, fearing and feeling our way negatively to being in a state of Dis-ease. A line from the book states, “ All Dis-ease comes from a State of Unforgiveness” 

This is a book that helps us to understand the relationship between our bodies and illness through the mental patterns, belief systems, emotions that we hold to from years of conditioning. It comes with many exercises to work on so that by the end of the book, certain changes through awareness can already start getting shifted. There are a lot of affirmation-based work . As cliche as positive psychology can be, there are truths within it. The mind and human consciousness doesn’t define time and itself through past, present and future as we know of. So whatever we think in our minds, that will be what it holds for in truth for the moment. When we are able to connect the dots between our thought patterns that affect our moods and therefore our health, we would start being more mindful about how we treat ourselves from within. 

Favourite Quotes:

“Loving the self, to me, begins with never ever criticizing ourselves for anything. Criticism locks us into the very pattern we are trying to change. Understanding and being gentle with ourselves helps us to move out of it. Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” 

“We forget that we create the situations, then we give our power away by blaming the other person for our frustration. No person, no place, and no thing has any power over us, for “we” are the only thinkers in our mind. We create our experiences, our reality, and everyone in it. When we create peace and harmony and balance in our mind, we will find it in our lives.” 

“Your security is not your job, or your bank account, or your investments, or your spouse or parents. Your security is your ability to connect with the cosmic power that creates all things.” 

“Trust your Inner Guidance to reveal to you whatever it is you need to know.” 

7. Anatomy Of The Spirit- Caroline Myss

This is a more in-depth book about the connection of mind ,body and spirit. Healing doesn’t begin from outward in but inward out. Dr Myss brings together the universality of the 7 stages of 3 spiritual traditions: the Hindu Chakras, Christian Sacraments and Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. Reading with an open curious mind, I was wow’ed over by the synchronicities of the 3 traditions and in wonder of creation , the universal laws that brings us to one. Going deeper , Dr Myss explores the links between spiritual and emotional stressors that affect particular parts of the human body which illness manifests from. It gives insight to cultivating an intuition she calls ‘ symbolic sight’, where one can spot areas that are energetically unbalanced but hasn’t manifest into physical problems yet. I recently went for a Biofeedback session which the machine was able to pick out the information about the health of my organs , the health of my emotions and thought processes through gaining data from the informational field.
Like what these 2 books are about, it was able to spot the energetic imbalances of certain organs, which are caused by a certain emotion or thought pattern that vibrates at a lower than optimal frequency. It was a pretty accurate assessment thus, gaining a deeper understanding about my own internal , subtle health. Certain dietary changes are needed with more awareness of the inner work. Will definitely re-read this book to support and deepen my understanding and awareness of the anatomy of the spirit. 

Favourite Quotes:

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind” 

“your biography—that is, the experiences that make up your life—becomes your biology.” 

"Our goal while on this earth is to transcend our illusions and discover the innate power of our spirit. We are responsible for what we create, and we must therefore learn to act and think with love and wisdom and live in service to others and all life."

"When we harbour negative emotions toward others or toward ourselves, or when we intentionally create pain for others, we poison our own physical and spiritual systems. By far the strongest poison to the human spirit is the inability to forgive oneself or another person. It disables a person's emotional resources. The challenge is to refine our capacity to love others as well as ourselves and to develop the power of forgiveness. “

8. Mindful Relationships - Dr Richard Chambers & Margie Ulbrick

A must-have book that is valuable to be kept for reading over and over again. 

Relationships of any kind are about relating with people, communication is the medium to relating. Effective, loving and compassionate communication starts from the way we communicate to our innerselves. More often than not, our fears and insecurities are masked by the hurtful and insensitive words we speak (which comes from our emotions and thoughts) to ourselves and to the people surrounding us. 

What is mindful communication to you? 

Mindfulness in its notion is about taking a pause in the moment and be an observer of the present reality with non-reactivity, non-judgemental attitude. It is Definitely easier said than done. However the success in practising Mindfulness lies not within how good you are at it . Also, beating yourself up when you set expectations and then realise your thoughts are all over the place in the attempt to practise is also counter-intuitive. It begins with self acceptance and compassion, unconditional friendliness and love to ourselves, the moment and eventually towards the relationships we hold. 

It explores how parts of the brain ( Prefrontal Cortex vs Insula Vs Amygdala) function when we are on default mode vs mindfulness mode. It is possible to develop the “mindfulness muscle” in the brain and with regular practice, it will be strengthened and benefit us greatly. Neuroplasticity is what this process is. The brain has the ability to restructure itself with repeated practice of a certain habit or task. 

Favourite Quotes:

"Mindfulness starts with being. Only when we learn to quieten down and become intimate with ourselves and the world around us can we start responding appropriately. Prior to that, we are merely reacting. But once we learn how to be, we can discover how to bring that being into the world- into our work and play, into our relationships, families and communities."

"Mindfulness offers us the capacity to wake up.We begin to see the patterns that may have held us back and the ways in which we have been stuck or saying no to life."

9. Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking- Susan Cain

This is for the quiet warriors. 

“ How does the Introvert I am relate and stay relevant to the world that is dominated by extroverts minus the anxieties and awkwardness?
For many years, this nagging question was in my mind. I didn’t know where or how to seek an answer from. I often get misunderstood by people who think I appear snobbish, arrogant, or what locally we call "dao". But in reality, I am just shy, introverted, quiet, reserved, doesn't like talking much to people I don't know and definitely have low-zero attention seeking trait. ( But I can yak alot to close ones and it takes long time for me to warm up ). I am pretty selective but that doesn't mean unfriendly. 
A repeated comment on my primary and secondary report books were : " Amanda is a quiet and reserved student" " Amanda needs to participate more in class discussions" .
I do agree speaking up is always an issue I struggle with. So I challenged my intensed public speaking fear by well, becoming a teacher! I taught music to schools , 1-1 , and now yoga. Alot more can be done but I think the progress has been unbelievably evident. It's fascinating how a change in mindset coupled with readiness can spur changes that I never thought possible. Relieving and letting go of self-limiting beliefs has been one of the toughest battle I fought within. Still fighting!
I prefer solitude most of the time. Otherwise I don't think I would hang out with more than 4-5 people at a time as it really does drain me out. It's just the way I am wired perhaps. I won't usually be the one starting a conversation nor do I like to have small meaningless talk. So yes I can be socially awkward. Even more awkward during the days of being heavily involved in the media's limelight. I struggled with identity issues because being young and less skilfulI, I didn't know how to strike a balance between being comfortable with the introverted self within the overstimulating extroverted entertainment industry and its ridiculous expectations. I was feeling conflicted and socially awkward most of the time as I always felt displaced in any social situation. Being alittle under the radar now gives me space to be much more in my skin, and being confident of who I am. I've learnt to embraced the traits of what makes me, me with a little more TLC to the self. 

I am so happy to have discovered this book . A true godsent as the answers are all presented in there! Even better, there are tons of research done over the years, and so many case studies to relate with and learn from.
It starts with a historical insight to the transitional era of the Pre-1900’s ideal of Character as a virtue to the early 1920’s shift of Personality as a Virtue. Virtues like shardworking, loyal, honour, integrity now has been sidelined while charisma , fascination, dominant, attractive, energetic and forceful virtues have taken the place.

They say blame it on the media, and true that. 

To promote the charismatic personable ideal, people are encouraged to be more vocal, outspoken while injecting the hostility of the public eye unto the mass, and the extroverts thrived. This Extrovert Ideal became an anchor for humanity’s way of life up to now. In that era, the quiet, shy ones are considered a problem and the media perpetuates that with their advertising campaigns. 

A 1922 Woodbury’s soap warned “ All around you people are judging you silently”

Williams Shaving Company advises “ Critical eyes are sizing you right now” “ Let your face reflect confidence, not worry! It’s the “look” of you by which you are judged most often”

In the 1930’s, Lux laundry detergent run an advertisement featuring a plaintive letter written to Dorothy Dix, the Dear Abbe of those days.
“ Dear Mis Dix, How can I make myself more popular? I am fairly pretty and not a dumbbell, But I am timid and self-conscious with people. I’m always sure they are not going to like me…Joan G”

The rise of the competitive culture, hunger for social validation and media’s influence has obviously caused an epidemic of anxiety outbreak and self-esteem issues. What was even more shocking was the effect of this. A drug company, Carter-Wallace decided to cash in on this epidemic by releasing an anti-anxiety drug, Milton, in the 50’s, “ reframing anxiety as the natural product of a society that was both dog-eat-dog and relentlessly social…... Within a year, one of every 20 Americans had tried it. By 1960, a third of all prescriptions from U.S doctors were for Miltown or a similar drug called Equanil. “ Anxiety and tension are the commonplace of the age"  read the Equanil Ad. The 1960’s tranquilizer Serentil followed with an ad campaign even more direct in its appeal to improve social performance. “ For the anxiety that comes from not fitting in,” It emphasized. 

<I was churning in my stomach with disgust about these brainwashing madness. This piece of history speak volumes to the state of the prescription drug overdoses and abuses happening right now.  It basically gave birth to Big Pharma.  Being on Anti-depressants, Zoloft and Xanax for over 3 years to cope with my anxiety issues, the drugs nearly destroyed my life instead of saving it. It made the existing issue worse with side effects which needed other meds. It didn't make sense after a while and I started to realise the money making business within it.  At that brink, I had to cut it off and boycott prescription drugs altogether. They really ROBBED the life out of me , leaving me numbed and empty. I am so thankful for the yoga practice I had that allowed me to find some space to invite more love to the self and eventually felt more alive while adopting natural herbs and remedies to cope. >
Moving on from the historical accounts, it begins to unfold into data, statistics, case studies, stories that made me go “ Yes yes yes! That’s how it has been for me!” So insightful and reassuring. 

I am 2/3 into this book and I’d like to savour it really slowly. I begin to better understand the differences of the variants of extrovert-introvert types. We all possess a certain amount of degree of each, depending on what the situation calls for. If you have taken the Myer Briggs test on your 4 letter traits, If you are an “I” , this book serves as a great empowering resource!

Favourite Quotes:

“ Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe."

“Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.” 

“Soft power is quiet persistence.” 

“a 2010 University of Michigan study shows that college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago, with much of the drop having occurred since 2000. (The study’s authors speculate that the decline in empathy is related to the prevalence of social media, reality TV, and “hyper-competitiveness.”)” 

10. The Chick The Parent The Wardrobe - Jacyln Chan

This book is special because the author, Jaclyn is my ex-schoolmate in secondary school. She reached out to me many years back to contribute a little piece of my story during the time I co-founded Thunder Rock School with some friends. Although I do not run the school now, I am happy my purpose was served during the founding days and watching it grow healthily under the care of the amazing team of musician teachers.  Here’s a snippet of it. 

This book is for the growing teenage girl, parents of teenage girls or daughters entering teens . It includes tips, advices, journalling activities and even letter to parents to allow them to understand what goes on in their kid’s mind during those awkward hormonal booming phase in life. A great gift to your female mommy friends or teenager !Do support her and grab a copy here: jacylnchan.com

To end the post, I'd like to share a beautiful spiritually grounding piece written by Reverend Jim Cotter, from the opening pages of "Anatomy Of The Spirit"- Caroline Myss. Thank you for your time in reading my nerdy soulful sharings! Feel free to share the list to people whom you think may benefit or in need of some inspirational reads. :)