Titles are hard y'all. This post was originally going to be called Biography Book Club. But here's the thing: technically a biography is the story of someone's life written by another person. An autobiography is written by the person themselves, but it tends to cover their entire life. A memoir is a more focused, personal, and intimate story, often around a compelling and specific time period. But Biography Book Club sounds so good and has such nice alliteration...alas, I'm still struggling with what to call this endeavor. Maybe you can help.
Here's the plan. I read a fantastic book this year called Creating Your Best Life.
I'm not going to dive too deep into this book in this blog post because I'm planning a post about it for the new year. It's about goal-setting and goal-getting. But I do want to mention one of its specific recommendations: reading the stories of successful people who we'd like to emulate in our own lives.
As soon as I read that, I set that as a goal for myself. In 2018, I want to read at least one memoir or autobiography each month. I want to read stories written by women in their own words. I want to explore diverse authors and read about people who've overcome hardships to live their best lives in service of the greater good.
I read a ton, as you probably know, but I don't read a lot of memoirs. I think this will be good for me to step outside of my comfort zone and to learn from amazing women about how they set goals, achieved their dreams, and dealt with the inevitable difficulties in life.
I had big plans, as I always do, for creating this online book club. These plans have become simplified over the past couple of months. This isn't going to be anything formal. I'm going to post about these books on Instagram and share what I learned from reading them.
If you'd like to join along by reading the same books, awesome. If you'd like to choose different memoirs to read, that's great too. If you just want to read my reviews and learning experiences, perfect. Simplify, simplify, simplify!
Without further ado, here are some of my selections for "A Memoir Each Month" also known as "Biography Book Club" also known as something else that might come to me one night over the next couple of weeks. Seriously, I need a good hashtag. Any ideas?
I bet you can count. Yes, there are only eleven books in this picture. I still need one more to get to twelve, so I'm also seeking recommendations for another memoir.
I love pictures of books so much.
So this is it, I'm throwing this out there in case you want to ask for a memoir as a gift this holiday season or spend your gift cards on one of these babies. I hope you'll consider joining me in this endeavor in January.
You can find me @KarenRayCosta on Instagram.
I'm excited about this. I've realized over the past few years that a lot of women struggle to find their voice and speak their truth. When I see or hear women discovering that courage and putting their stories out into the world, whether it's on a grand scale or not, I'm truly moved. It's a beautiful thing. I think that every time a woman speaks her truth, an angel gets its wings.
I recently started a gratitude practice. Each morning, I pull out one of my beloved composition books that I purchased for only fifty cents each and I write down my "Daily Gratitudes." The inspiration for this practice came from two places.
First, I started Gabby Bernstein's May Cause Miracles book and work in September. It helped me to realize how powerful my thoughts are. I can choose to use that power for negativity of positivity.
Next, I have been following a woman on Instagram named Tammi Salas. Tammi is an amazing person and artist. She creates her own daily gratitudes and uses color and drawings to make the most amazing pieces. I'd been creeping on her posts for weeks and finally I let go of the idea that I had to make my lists look like hers. I just started writing.
Here are some pictures of my recent lists.
This morning I woke up with a headache and in the past I could've definitely gotten caught up in that story. Today, I tried a few alternative tricks, waited a bit, took some Tylenol, and made my list of daily gratitudes. This practice helps me to shift my mindset to focusing on what is good and to break free of negativity.
Loving and noticing what is good is tough for many of us because we get so busy and addicted to negative mindsets. But the real challenge is to love what's not so good, at least not on the surface or at first glance. This practice has helped me to be grateful for the challenges too.
Truth? Every "bad" thing in my life has helped me to grow. I might not love it when it's happening, but I can look back and see the gifts. I'm trying to be more open about experiencing that kind of gratitude for difficult situations as they happen, in real-time. I'm a work in progress.
How can you start your own gratitude practice? Find a notebook. The cheaper the better, in my opinion. Set aside ten minutes each morning and start your list. I challenge myself to always fill the page. Sometimes I write the same things (the morning sky makes a lot of appearances on my list, as does coffee) but I also reflect on what's going on in my life in that moment or what's on the horizon. Over time, I've noticed that the energy of gratitude stays with me throughout the day because of the seeds I've planed in the morning.
I knew this practice was working for me when I found myself not having to think about it. I just instinctively reach for the notebook each morning.
I hope you'll consider starting your own gratitude practice this fall. Namaste friends. -Karen
A couple of months ago, on my 38th birthday, I started reading and working through the book May Cause Miracles, by Gabby Bernstein.
I've read Gabby's Spirit Junkie previously and I follow her on social media. I knew that a lot of her teaching is based on A Course in Miracles and I've been feeling pulled to study ACIM, so I figured this book would be a good place to start. I also love basically anything that Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety does and says, and MCM is one of her recommended resources.
I got started on September 24th and pulled out one of my many composition books. I am basically obsessed with having a big pile of composition books in my office that I can pull out and dedicate to any idea or project. I tried being a Moleskine journal type person but I can't pronounce it and paying that much for a journal goes against everything that my Depression-era grandmother taught me.
Something that I wasn't expecting is that MCM is set up almost like a daily reader or workbook. When I read through the introduction, Gabby explained the model for how to complete the book. I would start each week on Sunday and go for six weeks, reading one day at a time. Each day consists of a morning and an evening practice that take between five to fifteen minutes. Here's a peek at Day 42 which I completed yesterday, WOOT WOOT.
Real talk: one of the biggest things I'm working on in my life right now is learning how to not follow every idea that I get, prioritizing my goals, and finishing what I start. I am finally confronting that my idea-generation is both a blessing and a curse. On the first day of MCM, when I looked ahead at six weeks of daily activities, I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish it. I started anyway.
I forgot to do my evening activities once and I didn't feel well on another night. In the past, I would've beat myself up about that, made myself feel like crap, and quit to avoid "screwing up" again. But I'm working on those kind of behaviors so instead I just completed those missed activities the next morning. It's important to know that this book is digestible and accessible. I think that is very intentional on Gabby's part. For example, most mornings you'll take a few deep breaths, read a paragraph about the day's lesson, and then sit in silence for one minute of reflection. Yes, I said ONE MINUTE. A lot of people avoid meditation and inner work because they think they have to meditate for a ton of time. Gabby reminds us that all we need is a moment of stillness to begin this work.
Evening activities include things like writing letters, journaling, and meditations. This is my one concern with the book. It was a bit confusing and difficult to access the guided meditations which readers are told are on the MCM meditation album. I wasn't sure which meditation to do on which day and I couldn't find all of the meditations. I don't know what happened there and it's unfortunate because this is such a fantastic book and experience. That being said, the old me might've let that frustration derail me. But guess what? I can't control the access to the guided meditations, so I just dealt with it as best I could. If I couldn't find the meditation for that day, I'd do a different one or just sit in silence and breathe for five minutes. In the end, it wasn't that big of a deal and I wouldn't let it stop you from using this book.
Did MCM cause miracles in my life? Absolutely. First, it helped me to commit to and finish a 42-day practice. Second, it got me back in the habit of meditating, if only for a minute each day. I experienced a traumatic brain injury this summer that I'm still recovering from and I had fallen away from my meditation practice during that time. Starting back up at a minute was perfect for me.
The big shifts came from the core teachings in the book, built on ACIM, which helped me to see that I have been living in a fear-based existence. When I read the introduction, it hit me. Fear is my primary addiction. Gabby provides daily mantras for most days and when I found myself thinking negative or fearful thoughts, I would replace them with my mantra. I would immediately feel my heart rate slow down and a sense of peace come over me. I did a lot of work around my ego, forgiveness, and gratitude. Over the course of these seven weeks, I started a daily gratitude practice. Each morning, I write down everything that I'm grateful for in my life. Learning to love what is shifts my energy completely. Rather than focusing on what I don't have or what I want, which creates a sense of lack and surrounds me with negative energy, I am developing an abundance mindset built on the foundation of gratitude. Of course, I have a special composition book for my daily gratitudes.
Another thing I've done is to place some of my favorite mantras where I can see them, right on our bathroom mirror.
MCM definitely takes effort, work, and dedication, but for me, it's been a very humbling, inspiring, and informative experience. If you feel stuck in any area of your life and are open to shifting your mindset completely, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the first step on this journey.
I have a copy of ACIM waiting in the wings. It includes 365 days of lessons! I'm giving myself a bit of time off to consider when I'll start that journey.
Have you read May Cause Miracles or ACIM? What did you think? In what ways have they impacted your life?