3 Books to Help You Through Difficult Times

November 12, 2015

3 Books to Get You Through Difficult Times

“It’s not happening to you, it’s happening for you.”

It just came flying out of my mouth one Saturday morning while teaching yoga.  It wasn’t my idea; I am almost certain it was a divine intervention hatched between my inner guru and my voice.  Just hours before, I awoke to a police officer at the door, informing me that my car had been stolen and totaled.  I had just begun a regimen of prescription drugs for the nightly panic attacks that began after a dear family member passed away, and my family was dealt with additional tragic news on my Mom’s cancer only days later.  I also was in the middle of learning the arduous process of forgiveness, and somewhere in this mess of foggy days, one of my teeth fell out.  I used to love this quote, “it’s not happening to you, it’s happening for you,” but right after it flew through my lips, I began to resent the teacher I heard it from. I started to wonder what I did to deserve these things, and began to believe that the universe was “crapping on me.”

I stood in front of my class as those sweet yogis held an asana for too long, as I gave myself a pep talk.  If I am going to preach it, I must live it. These things are not happening to me, rather for me.  Who knows why, but if nothing less, my best option is to practice, or grow faith from here. Hand it over. Choose love over fear. End resistance and accept what is. Rise like a phoenix, wiser and stronger than the woman I was before.

Okay, Universe. Challenge: ACCEPTED. I shall choose curiosity, allowing my heart to crack wide open, rather than harden up and shrivel. This fire of suffering will burn away the unnecessary armor and illusions I have built around me, enabling me to become more alive, compassionate, and see more clearly my inner truth. This is where I cultivate grace, and this is where I exercise faith.

For a moment, I am ready to take it on. I feel as though I am doing remarkably; in ebb and flow of the universe, riding the waves with grace. Then, I crash on the shore of what I perceive as my terrible reality.  I lie there, stunned, and unable to pick myself up.  Grief sets in, I am angry, and fear the future.  I loathe the void where things used to be; where I think they still should be.

In my plea to stay open and curious through difficult times, there is no better place than in my bed under the weight of too many blankets, with books to guide my heart through to the other side.  There is something comforting about reading, an opportunity to simply absorb and relate without saying a word.  These are a few that I have recently read, that feed me all kinds of love, so I may keep my eyes on the light.

These are on my bedside table:

when things fall apart

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.

“Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape — all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”

Pema speaks directly in to my soul.  She explains Tibetan Buddhist philosophy at the “kitchen sink level.” When Things Fall Apart is a collection of chapters that gradually build on each other, unlocking old thought patterns, so the reader may develop new samskaras, or new paths of thinking.  She speaks to attachment, acceptance, and compassion, dissecting each and addressing sources of and cures to suffering.  Through meditation practices such as Metta and Tonglen, Pema prescribes antidotes for difficulties times, and recognizing our connectedness to others.

broken open

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.”

Elizebeth Lesser is one of the founders of The Omega Institute in Rhineback, New York.  In her book, she traces dots backwards in her life, as well as the lives of those who have come through her life, identifying the potential “phoenix process” in real life trials and tribulations.  The books gives hope to coming full circle, should we endure difficult times with at least an ounce of grace.  Each chapter is an inspiration for the reader to find insight through death, divorce, strained relationships, and so on.  There is something for everyone in this book.

return to love

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The audiobook is in my car, and I listen to it over and over.  I hear something new and profound every time.  A Return to Love is based on A Course in Miracles, which Marianne studied for years before writing this book.  The main point is, love is the answer.  Marianne backs up this notion with real life examples, making love’s case hard to argue.  This book also validates our connectedness, our humanness, and the importance of knowing the divine spirit in each of us.  She says “the news isn’t what is wrong with the world, but what could be right,” igniting in us the transformational inertia only suffering has the power to do.  She notes that tragedy with love and compassion can bring out the best in a person.  If there ever was a book that will keep your heart soft and your soul intact, this is it.

Also by Jess: 3 Modern Feminist Icons to Inspire You

3 Things to Remember When Going Through Tough Times

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Photo: lookingforabura via Instagram

Jessica is a runner, snowboarder, amateur gardener, yoga teacher, mala maker, cook, excellent eater, and is always listening to music. She lives on Cape Cod with her two children and husband.


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