malabeads

Svarupa is the shape of your soul. In all these practices, in everything you do in meditation, follow the shape of your own soul. … No matter how wounded, wacky, or wonderful you think you are, celebrate your individuality.”

The Radiance Sutras.

I have been a meditator for years. I remember learning about meditation when I was about nine or ten. I had an old friend come over as I announced to her, “We’re going to try meditation.”

I remember thinking this was somewhat illicit behavior. I thought we might levitate or see through to another dimension, like in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. As anyone who meditates knows, this was far from the case. As I recall, we sat. For about two minutes. We got bored and went back to coloring and watching She-Ra. Cut to 10-15 years later…

In my twenties, I immersed myself in many methods and schools of thought in this arena. I stumbled into Zen at the SF Zen Center and learned not to move  no matter how much I wanted to, while falling in love with the clack of the wood blocks.

A week in silent vipassana meditation at Spirit Rock freaked me out. Sitting with my eyes closed in rows instead of with eyes open facing the wall felt like an entirely different world. My teacher popped that bubble so kindly. I walked. I sat. I walked. I calmed down just a little bit more.

In my 30s, once I was living in Los Angeles, I took a full course of guided meditation and energy alignment with my amazing teacher, Ashanna, who I still connect with monthly. And I came to Against the Stream in L.A. and sat with people who swore, had tattoos, and thanked their exes for changing their lives. We all gave the finger to the camera for a center anniversary photo. It was fun. The space felt raw and real.

But after all of these years and all these methods, I have come back to just yoga practice and sitting alone with my mala beads (these are my favorite) and a mantra. Just me and breathing. Every morning. It is my foundation.

This past April, I took Susannah Conway’s course, The Sacred Alone, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It was such a gift to formalize how much I want to sit in my meditation area and be with myself before starting the day.

I have a new routine now. First, read something inspiring- you should see the stack I have built up for this purpose- and then sit. It varies from 5-20 minutes. The longer sits usually happen on the weekend, when I can linger and enjoy the process even more. Then journal and finally, fill out that day’s page of Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map agenda.

This feels juicy. And how much can half an hour a day change your life?

I can’t be sure that this is the only reason, since I have made so many shifts the past few months, but I think it’s possible that this time could change a life completely. It has started the possibility for a new story. I feel new plots growing out of my fingers and toes. I see my eyes looking with new life and I am open to things happening again. It is a new world in here.

I want to say more about The Radiance Sutras. But I think I’ll save that for next time… It’s worth its own post.

  • May 13, 2015 - 23:06

    Claire - I loved reading how your story of meditation has unfolded and what it’s doing for you in the present. Beautiful <3ReplyCancel

    • May 14, 2015 - 11:01

      caroline - Thank you so much, Claire! Do you practice as well? I’d love to hear your story.ReplyCancel

      • May 19, 2015 - 12:59

        Claire - I dabble with meditative prayer, but don’t have a regular practice. I don’t know on why I’m depriving myself – craziness!ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2015 - 03:04

    Kim Manning - I started yoga a couple years ago and meditating more recently. I have been able to change my life through this practice. Your journey is much longer than mine and I loved reading about it. I look forward to more posts. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • May 14, 2015 - 11:02

      caroline - I am happy to share more, Kim. I would love to hear about how your practice has changed your life- how exciting!ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2015 - 08:23

    Virginia Robert - This is a really beautiful, heartfelt post. I’m very inspired to bring back my own meditation ritual again. Thank you for the inspiring wordsReplyCancel

    • May 14, 2015 - 11:01

      caroline - Yes! Please let me know how it comes along. I would love to hear about your ritual.ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2015 - 19:03

    Kim - Hi really enjoyed reading about your meditation practice and about all your previous experiences. (I don’t think I’d even heard about meditation until I was in my late 20s and it was probably from an Oprah episode!) I’ll have to try your practice of reading something inspirational first, meditating and then journaling. I’ve been wanting to deepen my journaling practice so maybe this would help. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • May 18, 2015 - 11:40

      caroline - Yes! I find journaling right after I meditate is a huge help. Let me know how you go.ReplyCancel

  • May 15, 2015 - 12:46

    Lola - I’m always fascinated with how people come to meditation, and how their practice has evolved. I really enjoyed this – I was sort of visualising a timeline as I read my way through your metamorphosis. That’s a lovely mala, too. Not surprised it’s your favourite!ReplyCancel

    • May 15, 2015 - 18:05

      caroline - Thanks so much, Lola! I’m glad the timeline made sense… I’m so glad you stopped by. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 16, 2015 - 15:25

    Dal - I love this! I think colouring in She Ra is a meaningful meditation in and of itself! It’s funny how many things we have to try and experiment with until we get to something that feels right for us. Think I need to do Sacred Alone! I’m a huge lover of mala beads for prayer and meditation, techniques learnt from my father who uses mala beads and prayers every morning. Beautiful. namaste xxReplyCancel

    • May 18, 2015 - 11:42

      caroline - Perhaps I should find some She-Ra to color again… that might be really fun, actually. I do love coloring. And I highly recommend Sacred Alone. It was magical. You will love it. Do you have any mala beads that are favorites? I love seeing them.ReplyCancel

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path

I started this site just over a year ago, with the intention of it being an advice column for readers. I was so happy to get so many “Dear Book Dr.” letters and to be able to share them on the site. But as the year progressed, I felt that it wasn’t growing because I could only write when there were letters.

I hope to have more letters. Please, write in for book requests! caro[at]book-dr[dot]com.

But I have realized that this is about more for me than just reading advice. It’s about story, and all that means to me as well.

I have turned to books as trusted friends and advisers ever since I pulled my first all-nighter under the covers to finish Bridge to Terebithia when I was in elementary school. I was a lover of books before then, afterward I became obsessed. I have stayed obsessed ever since.

When I studied psychology and expressive arts in graduate school, I was most entranced by the idea of Narrative Therapy. We make meaning out of our lives through story. We take the events in our heads and tell ourselves stories about them. This happens any time I say to myself “I’m the kind of person who…” Do you know this line as well?

There is more to share here. I hope to start a conversation about the stories that inform our lives. The books we are reading, the movies and shows that have lit us up and made other ways of living an option. I have so many of all of these- whenever I watch or read Henry and June, it’s all I can do not to run around in garter belts and ride my bike in flowy dresses in the woods for weeks. Or at least I got that way in my twenties. Now I am more likely to want to rent a castle in Italy for the month of April wishing for things hard enough that it happens.

So this is the new beginning here at Book Dr. There will be letters, I really hope there will be. But I want everyone to feel free to write about more. To talk about more here.

Let the story begin…

 

 

  • May 11, 2015 - 16:18

    Kate - great post, i hope you do get your letters 🙂ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2015 - 10:50

      caroline - Thank you! Feel free to write one yourself, or to share with anyone who loves books. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2015 - 17:46

    Laurie Nelson - Oh, may I join you in “ride my bike in flowy dresses in the woods for weeks” – what wondrous-ness that would be!

    LOVE this, Caroline. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2015 - 10:50

      caroline - Of course you can join! I am loving the replies. This is making me want to watch that movie again… Perhaps we start a film club here?ReplyCancel

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IMG_6407 2

This is a small section of a photograph I took from the window of my studio in Paris this past October. It has been my wallpaper ever since I got home, since I haven’t wanted to give up the view.

I read books when I travel in order to get inside the headspace of the place before I get there, and I read books about places I have just been in order to keep them with me after I get home. But my photographs do the same.

I am somewhat grateful that I recently broke my trusty 5S iPhone and had to replace it with a 6, since the storage is so much larger and I’m able to hold more images at once. It’s reassuring to flip through and see the views I loved so much on trips I have taken.

Scene is a vivid part of story. When I read a book that really catches me, often it’s because I can see the scene and feel myself stepping inside that world. A lot of why I feel pulled to travel in the first place is the need to change the backdrop I have been living in.

I have my best ideas when I travel. Realizations often come on trains. A new view is often all that’s needed to open up to a new plot in my life. And the last two times I have moved, I have ended up with a new job a month or two later. Movement creates movement.

What are your favorite places to try a new story?

  • May 8, 2015 - 17:21

    Freddy - I love the aspect of being able to be two places at once, via a book. So it almost doesn’t matter where I try a new story. It’s more that I get to bring a place with me wherever I go.ReplyCancel

    • May 8, 2015 - 17:32

      admin - True. I think I am also considering the way a place changes the story I am living, along with the one I am reading. I can carry the story in a book wherever I go, but I also find a new place can carry me into my own new story. Do you find that to be the case?ReplyCancel

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what kind of Dr r u? Where did u receive ur degree? -anonymous reader

Thanks for your question! It’s an honorary degree. I do have a Master’s in Psychology, but the title of Book Dr. came from friends and acquaintances who have gotten book recommendations from me for years.

What are you reading now?

The Book Dr.

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Dr. Caroline, I have long admired your work and find your tasteful web platform to be a soothing and safe place for book prescriptions. I moved to Italy a year and a half ago and since that initial move, I have enjoyed a variety of Expat Living in Italy type of books, in addition to the latest Liz Gilbert novel.With the onset of Fall and a new exciting job, I wish for a book with a refreshing, feel-good story that I may tuck into at night; an atypical romance is welcome. Grazie, Lady Louboutin

Dear Lady Louboutin,

First, let me congratulate you on your taste in shoes. I am a big fan of those beauties myself. 

I just returned from a two week adventure in Germany and France, so I now feel adequately prepared to answer your letter. I have been chewing on this challenge of the atypical romance to tuck into at night.

This is, of course, French, but my first thought is to confirm that you have read the Hedgehog?

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If not, this is your baby. Clever, witty, and with atypical romance woven in. I stand aside and let you enjoy. If you have read it already, I do hope that my mentioning it confirms that I’m on the right track. 

I very much want to give you Freddy and Fredericka, but I have just recently prescribed that one. Still, as atypical romances go, it needs to be on this list.

Finally, my big new thought for you, beyond the Me Before You kind of list I wrote for the person not wanting another self help book, is the His Dark Materials Trilogy. Yep. I’m giving you not one book, but an entire trilogy. This is what is called for. 

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I know- curveball with the young adult genre, but I assure you that the themes are extremely grown-up and that the love story in here will knock your socks off. There are actually many love stories twisted up in this narrative and I have read this series more than once.

As a retelling of Paradise Lost, Italy is exactly the place to dive in. It makes me want to read these again there. Perhaps I will come over!

Do let me know what you think and how these go for you.

Happy reading and congrats on the new job!

The Book Dr.

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