The following is a widely varied list of books and CDs I recommend during divorce or any other period of transformation.
HOW TO STUBBORNLY REFUSE TO MAKE YOURSELF MISERABLE ABOUT ANYTHING, YES, ANYTHING! by Albert Ellis, PhD. The father of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (the precursor to Cognitive-Behavior Therapy) explains how your thoughts create how you feel. This is an invaluable tool for living a happier, calmer life as it promotes unconditional self-acceptance and develops inner strength.
ASK AND IT IS GIVEN by Eleanor and Jerry Hicks. A new age book about the laws of attraction. This is not like the THE SECRET. It’s well thought out and there are a wide variety of helpful techniques in the second half of the book. I highly recommend doing the Vision Board as you work through your divorce, break-up or life transition. It is an extremely creative, positive and optimistic activity. (The more I listen to the Hicks’, they also offer a wide range of fabulous CDs, the more I am convinced their philosophy and approach is a New Age version of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy or Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy. The more recent writings and CDs, those from 2007 and later, seem to be the best.)
HEALING BACK PAIN and THE MIND-BODY PRESCRIPTION by Dr. John Sarno. It is fairly common for our bodies to express emotions physically because we sometimes haven’t yet learned to express them consciously. One of the stages of grief is denial, and divorce can be replete with emotional avoidance tactics. The body’s aches, pains, and symptoms are its way of expressing these unconscious issues. Dr. Sarno points out how these repressed emotions get expressed physically and how we can get in touch with and acknowledge them thereby releasing the tension that creates all sorts of symptoms from migraines to IBS.
MOLECULES OF EMOTION by Candace Pert, PhD. The world renowned psychoneuroimmunologist explains how her research into receptor sites for peptides, neuropeptides, etc. demonstrates that there is a feedback loop between our emotions and every cell in our body. Be warned, this is a fairly scientific book, but fascinating.
THE WONDERS OF SOLITUDE by Dale Salwak. A great little inspirational book on enjoying one’s time alone. Out of all the books in this genre I found this the most useful.
MEDITATIONS FROM THE MAT by Rolf Gates. A rich amalgamation of writing on yoga, from pragmatic to esoteric topics, all delivered in a very welcoming style.
AT BLACKWATER POND by Mary Oliver. A CD of Mary Oliver, one of our greatest living American poets, reading dozens of her pieces.
FEELING GOOD by David Burns. A cognitive-behavioral psychologist helps you through depression. I think the depression that many people feel as they go through divorce isn’t true depression, but grief masquerading as depression. However, this book is full of useful, straight-forward techniques.
THE COMFORT BOOK by Matt Haig. I strongly suggest listening to the audio version that’s available through the Libby app as it’s read by the author. A wonderful stream of consciousness book of quotes, inspiration, recipes, philosophy and lived experience.
THE ART OF SELFISHNESS by David Seabury. A real classic in the field of positive psychology in that it was written in the 1930s but is as relevant as anything written last week. Seabury shows how what appear to be selfish acts really benefit everyone. This is especially good for all those middle-aged women who are divorcing after long marriages where they put their family’s well-being above their own.
THE TAO by Lao Tsu, translated by Ursula LeGuin or Stephen Mitchell. These two different translations of the Tao (pronounced “Dow”) are great places to start your familiarity with one of the great books of all time. Mitchell’s work is more accessible, but LeGuin studied the Tao for 50 years before attempting her translation. If you are in the throes of emotion save these for later. They’re quite philosophical, and something more immediately pragmatic might be a better choice.
LEAVING HOME by David Celani. One of the best books on how we get through a toxic childhood. I’m suggesting it here because divorce often stirs the pot of unresolved childhood issues and it may be useful to understand what could have predisposed you to be in the relationship that’s ending. It’s bit of a slow read, but full of great insights.
THE BODY NEVER LIES by Alice Miller. A brilliant, compassionate book on childhood abuse and its lingering effects into adulthood. This came before Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book, THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE. It’s a completely different approach and very supportive. His book is more suited to therapists.
TOXIC PARENTS by Susan Forward. A classic in the field. Much easier to read than Celani’s book, but recommended for the same reason: to use this transformative time to heal.
REMEMBERINGS AND CELEBRATIONS CARDS from Robyn Posin’s site: www.compassionateink.com. These are one of the most useful tools you can ever have. 64 cards with ways of looking at yourself and the world that will change your life. I know the site is very female friendly, but my male clients love these cards too. (While perusing Robyn’s site you might want to read some of her longer autobiographical pieces as they are a fascinating–and helpful–glimpse into one woman’s way of being in this sometimes crazy-making world.)
SPIRITUAL DIVORCE by Debbie Ford. A valuable book for radically shifting your perspective on your divorce and embracing its lessons.
THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR by Martha Stout. An eye-opening look at the ubiquitousness of sociopathy.
THE MYTH OF NORMAL by Gábor Máté. Trauma, illness and healing in a toxic culture.
THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON by Elaine Aron. A truly brilliant assessment of what it means to be sensitive in our society and how to appreciate that in yourself, if you are highly sensitive.
WHEN THINGS FALL APART by Pema Chodron. Buddhist path through life’s hazings. A slow read, but worth the time and effort.
RISKING EVERYTHING, TEN POEMS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE, and other compilations by Roger Housden. These books are not just compendiums of poetry, they are replete with Roger’s unique take on the challenges of being human. He is refreshingly forthright and honest.
THE EIGHT HUMAN TALENTS by Gurmukh. A real gem. Gurmukh is a Sikh and a Kundalini yoga teacher. She delves into all realms of emotional territory with great compassion and sensitivity. There are various postures and practices, including breath work and mantras, to help you re-center and re-energize.
YOGA NIDRA by Richard Miller. Yoga Nidra translates to: yogic sleep. This isn’t sleep as you know it, but an ancient technique to catalyze deep relaxation and inner focus. The book comes with a CD. You don’t need to know any yoga to do this as there are no postures. It’s all done lying on your back.
YOGA NIDRA CD by Swami Janakananda. I like this yoga nidra CD best of all. There is a short form and a longer version, each with its own merits. The Swami has an Indian accent, but he’s easy to understand. Highly recommended.
YOGA NIDRA by Maalika available from Amazon or iTunes.
YOGA NIDRA podcast by Elsie’s Yoga Kula. I can’t believe this is free, but it is. Go to iTunes. Click on Podcasts. Find Elsie’s Yoga Class. Find the episode called “yogic sleep, yoga nidra.” (It’s Episode #62, from 1/25/08.) This is an incredible yoga nidra practice, though you may want to skip the first 14-15 minutes, as she talks about a slew of other topics before launching into the yoga nidra practice. A hour of pure bliss.
GUIDED MEDITATIONS FOR CALMNESS, AWARENESS AND LOVE by Bodhipaksa. Bodhipaksa is a Welsh Buddhist. There are three segments to this CD: a breath section, a loving kindness mediation, and a walking meditation. I have been using this CD for years and still find it incredibly calming.
MEDITATION by Swami Muktananda. A short, beautiful book on meditation.
POSITIVE SOLITUDE by Rae Andre. An excellent, thorough look at solitude and how to enjoy your time alone.
CALLING IT QUITS: LATE LIFE DIVORCE by Dierdre Bair. Fascinating accounts of middle-aged and older women choosing to leave long marriages.
ON MY OWN by Florence Falk. Excellent resource book with a great bibliography.
HOW TO NOT BE AFRAID OF YOUR OWN LIFE by Susan Piver. The title’s a bit unwieldy, but the book is great. Honest, and full of psychological and philosophical gems with a meditative and Buddhist slant.
RADICAL ACCEPTANCE by Tara Brach. On of the best books I ever read on coping with life’s challenges. The author is a psychologist and Buddhist. Unflinchingly honest, brilliant, and helpful.
THEY CAN’T FIND ANYTHING WRONG by David Clark, MD. On the relationship between stress and disease.
WALKING MEDITATION by Thich Nhat Hanh. I believe this book comes with a DVD and a CD. The book is a delight and the CD quite calming.
A NEW EARTH by Ekhart Tolle. Tolle’s books are great, but I prefer to listen to him talk. You can do this for free on iTunes by accessing their podcast selections and searching for Tolle. He and Oprah had 15 hours of conversations on this book with questions from people Skyped from all over the world. He’s a funny man with a prodigious knowledge of human nature, philosophy, and psychology.
QUIT LIKE A WOMAN by Holly Whitaker. An excellent book for all women, not just women with alcohol issues. Direct, inspirational, brazenly honest, incredibly useful and well written.
THE ESSENTIAL RUMI translated by Coleman Barks. I adore this book. It has the poem, The Guest House, that is so wonderful I’ll post it here so you can see if Rumi, a Persian poet from the 13th century, appeals to you.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture.
Still treat each guest honorably.
They may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
For each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
MOTHER HUNGER by Kelly McDaniel. An excellent exploration of the ways abandonment and abuse, especially by a mother, can have long lasting effects. Most of the book describes and validates your experience, if this was your childhood paradigm. The last takes you on a path to self-compassion and healing.
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin. This is a great book for radically rethinking your relationship to money. It points out how to have more time and freedom by making different choices about work and spending habits.
HOPE AND HELP FOR YOUR NERVES by Claire Weekes. A classic for panic and anxiety. Claire is a real healer, and an extremely supportive, loving guide.
THE HEART OF ADDICTION by Lance Dodes. I’ve been working with alcoholics and their families for almost 35 years. This book presents a completely different view of addiction. Not a panacea, but a new perspective.
THE SMALL BOOK & RATIONAL RECOVERY by Jack Trimpey. For those not inclined to go to AA, these books use rational-emotive behavior therapy to conquer addiction.
THE NEW MENOPAUSAL YEARS, THE WISE WOMAN WAY: ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES FOR WOMEN 30-90 by Susun Weed. This is a great reference book for women going through peri-menopause and menopause. Ms. Weed, a master herbalist, is full of suggestions ranging in their intrusiveness from least invasive to most. She lovingly suggests a wide variety of interventions for every aspect of a woman’s changing body-mind.
HEALING THROUGH THE DARK EMOTIONS by Miriam Greenspan. Ms. Greenspan is a very brave woman. She plumbs the depths of her own grief, rage and despair to help you see their transformative power. Not a quick read but worthwhile. One of her quotes, from the Talmud (the Jewish bible) is: “Your heart will give you greater counsel than all the world’s scholars.” She encourages you to fearlessly dance the dance of dark emotions, rather than succumbing to society’s injunction to be “emotion-phobic.”
CHOCOLATE UNWRAPPED: THE SURPRISING HEALTH BENEFITS OF AMERICA’S FAVORITE PASSION by Rowan Jacobsen. A great guide to chocolate’s health benefits; plus, history, recipes, myths, and nutritional information. Concise and convincing.
WALKING MEDITATION with CD by Anh Huong Nguyen and Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a great little book, currently on sale at Amazon for $7.49. The CD alone is worth the price. Anh talks you through the meditations. She is so profound, yet amazingly sweet, simple, and loving. The book is a wonderful catalyst for inner peace.
NOLO’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO DIVORCE, 2nd Edition, by Emily Doskow. This is a very comprehensive and easy-to-assimilate reference book with excellent sections on everything from the different types of divorce and their relative costs, to a wonderful parenting agreement. I strongly recommend reading this before hiring a mediator or lawyer.
WE ARE THE ONES WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR by Alice Walker. An excellent compilation of various talks, poems, and essays that will resonate with you if you walk the earth. Deep, thought-provoking, and loving. Who could ask for more?
CRAZY TIME, SURVIVING DIVORCE AND BUILDING A NEW LIFE by Abigail Trafford. A comprehensive view of divorce. She can be a bit negative sometimes, but, overall, I would recommend it. There is an excellent section on anger; and, I was interested in her ideas of emotional and psychological divorce. Ditto, some of her comments on deceivers/deniers and dominance/submissiveness. If you like lots of examples and case studies, this is for you.
THE CRAGGY HOLE IN MY HEART AND THE CAT WHO FIXED IT: OVER THE EDGE AND BACK WITH MY DAD, MY CAT, AND ME by Geneen Roth. Ms. Roth is an excellent writer on the topic of weight, body image, and gaining self-acceptance. This memoir is a departure from those themes; at least, overtly. It’s an excellent examination of parental betrayal on a few levels.
DIVORCED DAD’S SURVIVAL BOOK by David Knox, Ph.D. This is quite comprehensive, with sections on introducing your kids to your new partner, coming out to your wife and children, divorce mediation, what to do and not to when you kids are with you or your former partner, and staying connected to your kids. It’s direct, clear, and easy to read.
FOR YOURSELF: THE FULFILLMENT OF FEMALE SEXUALITY by Lonnie Barbach. The definitive guide for women who want to increase their sexual enjoyment.
The University of Illinois has some wonderful FREE BROCHURES online for everything from alcoholism to stress and trauma. Check out their list at: http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu/?page_id=7“%3E”
JOURNEY TO THE HEART: Daily meditations on the path to freeing your soul by Melody Beattie. I often find these types of books tedious and unfulfilling, but this one is deep and helpful. I can see how many of its entries would steer you to a new perspective as you go through your own transformative process.
MEDITATIONS TO CHANGE YOUR BRAIN by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendlius. This audiobook from Sounds True is both didactic and experiential. It helps you create new, positive pathways in your brain, which, in time, override old, painful memories.
YOGA FOR EMOTIONAL BALANCE by Bo Forbes, Psy.D. This is a very soothing practice to calm your nerves. It focuses on all aspects and combinations of anxiety and depression. The suggestions include breath work, restorative poses that seem disarmingly simple, yet are quite powerful, and various cognitive approaches to re-framing one’s thinking. I loved her tone, the clear instructions, and the simplicity of this approach. As the Chinese say: simple, not easy. The challenge is incorporating new behaviors into one’s daily life with regularity, so deep patterns can change.
HOW TO SURVIVE THE LOSS OF A LOVE by Melba Colgrove, Harold H. Bloomfield, & Peter McWilliams. This pithy, helpful book was written in 1976 by a psychiatrist, psychologist and a poet. It’s a great little resource, full of helpful reminders you want to hear when your world is inside out from loss.
GETTING UNSTUCK by Pema Chodron. Buddhist perspective for life enhancement.
THE POCKET PEMA CHODRON. All her most quotable remarks over various books and talks.
AWAKENING JOY by James Baraz, Buddhist view.
YOGA FOR PAIN RELIEF by Kelly McGonigal.
BACK IN CONTROL by David Hanson, MD, second edition. An extraordinary book about how we unconsciously turn our emotions into physical issues, From a spine surgeon’s perspective. (See my piece on Tension Myositis Syndrome as it explains this and provides many other resources.)
THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Bessel van den Kolk, MD. The essential book on trauma for therapists.
LOVE 2.0 by Barbara Fredrickson. A wonderful exploration of how micro-connections feed us in far deeper ways than we knew.
THE TAPPING SOLUTION by Nick Ortner. An excellent introduction to Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping. When used in a customized format it can really shift your thinking and ratchet down an activated nervous system.
THE MIDDLE PASSAGE FROM MISERY TO MEANING by James Hollis. A Jungian perspective on aging.
THE GRIEF RECOVERY HANDBOOK by John W. James and Russell Friedman. This is an excellent workbook that purports give you all the tools you need to complete your grief. While I may not agree with that lofty promise, the book has numerous things to offer, not the least of which are loss and relationship timelines that can be most elucidating.
AROMAYOGA by Tracy Griffiths and Ashley Turner is an excellent handbook that succinctly covers a multitude of complex topics. There are photographs of all the poses, breath work practices, meditations, mantras, suggestions for using various scents with your yoga, affirmations, as well as excellent descriptions of balanced characteristics of each chakra along with excessive qualities, deficiencies, and a very interesting section on traumas and abuses. The spiral binding allows you to easily keep the book open while practicing.
If you are not already familiar with www.Gaiam.com, you may want to check it out now. Ms. Turner has a highly illuminating and pragmatic series of videos, a different one for each chakra, that would be a great companion to this book.
YOGA FOR EMOTIONAL FLOW By Stephen Cope. Two CDs, the second of which CD is filled with incredibly healing, calming meditations.
KEEP MOVING by Maggie Smith. Both the book and audiobook are wonderful, even though I don’t agree with her comment on hope…here’s why: Whenever we’re hoping we’re essentially saying this minute is not ok as it is, or I can’t stand the ways things are now. The truth is, you may not like what is true for you now, but clearly you can stand it. The choice as she posits it, between hope and cynicism, is really between living mindfully in the present or wishing the present away. The Buddhist view is to accept each moment as it is, fully feel all your feelings and work on accepting what you don’t like. A lot harder than hoping, but it makes a difficult present a lot more bearable.
TRIGGERS by David Richo. This is an excellent book, though not easy to implement. Here is a link to an audio recording on YouTube of him reading the Buddhist inspired affirmations in the appendix: https://youtu.be/hoT5tlkS69M
THE WAY OUT by Alan Gordon. A revolutionary guide to helping you with tension myositis syndrome, mind-body syndrome or neuroplastic pain. Not only is this incredibly useful, but it’s written in a light, friendly style that makes it easy to understand.
KUNDALINI YOGA TO DETOX AND DESTRESS by Maya Fiennes. A wonderful introduction to the healing powers of Kundalini yoga with poses, mantras, and Maya’s infectious life-affirming philosophy.
KUNDALINI YOGA WITH MAYA FIENNES is a three DVD set that explores the Chakras. The topics are Creativity, Willpower, and Courage. I have been practicing yoga daily for over ten years and I found some of these sequences challenging; however, in time, you can build your stamina and strengthen the first, second, and third chakras. As usual, Maya is appealing, supportive, and knowledgeable. Maya’s videos are also available on www.Gaia.com.
DEVA PREMAL’S music. Deva is a deep soul with a beautiful voice that transports you to realms of bliss with her unique renditions of classical Sanskrit mantras. The theory is the sacred sounds heal through their ability to attune with your body. You can sample her music on Amazon or iTunes.
AA NOT THE ONLY WAY by Melanie Solomon. This is really two excellent books in one: a thorough description of alternatives to AA, and an amazingly well-researched resource guide to therapists and treatment programs. You can also access her website: http://www.aanottheonlyway.com.
DAVID ISON’S CD: FREE YOURSELF FROM CHRONIC PAIN. David presents a compelling and enjoyable CD focused on deep meditation through sound healing. I found both his voice and the music very calming. In fact, it put me to sleep. To get the greatest benefit from this, and all meditative practices, you need to dedicate yourself to using it daily for, at least, a month.
GOLDEN BOWLS OF COMPASSION CD with Karma Moffett. This is truly excellent. There are many different types of singing, or crystal, bowl CDs out there. This is the only one that seems to really resonate in my cells. At 99 cents for the Amazon download, it’s an incredible bargain for over an hour’s worth of music. Also a great cure for insomnia.
COURAGE TO CHANGE: One Day at a time in Al-Anon II. An excellent resource to inspire, guide, and support you through any life transition. It may have been written for an Al-Anon audience, but it’s just as applicable to anyone felling adrift, overwhelmed, or confused. This book can be read a page a day or more quickly. Either way, you can return to it anytime life seems too challenging.
PROBABLY THE BEST MUSIC FOR RELAXATION AND MEDITATION. This is actually the title of a 30 minute downloadable 99 cent MP3 from Amazon that uses Binaural technology to help you deeply relax. Excellent for meditation, insomnia, and whenever you need a break from life.
COMING APART, Why relationships end and how to live through the ending of yours. By Daphne Rose Klingma. An excellent book that really walks you through the healing process. The beginning explains what made a particular prospective partner seem so alluring. My only quibble is Ms. Klingma seems to assume everyone wants another relationship almost immediately, while I believe a bit of time on one’s own is part of getting to the other side.
VINIYOGA THERAPY FOR ANXIETY by Gary Kraftsow. This inspirational DVD is an excellent, comprehensive resource for anyone suffering from anxiety. I was immediately impressed by Gary’s gentle, non-pathologizing approach. His conceptualization of anxiety and suggestions for applying yogic postures, meditation, breath work, and mantras to clearing its debilitating effects were clear and easy to follow. I also agreed with his focus on how intention, determination, and commitment are crucial to ameliorating anxiety. His suggestions for establishing rituals of self care, reframing thoughts, and taking a holistic approach all resonated with me.
VINIYOGA THERAPY FOR DEPRESSION by Gary Kraftsow. Another interesting, informative, and useful DVD including lectures, questions and answers from the audience, and actual yoga practices. Gary focuses on helping you strengthen self-restraint, impulse control, selective renunciation, rituals of self-care, and selfless service as ways of overcoming depression and re-engaging in life. I know how difficult some of this may sound, but, as counterintuitive as it may seem, caring for others when we are feeling deeply wounded and depressed is exactly what helps break us out of that downward cycle. As always, I like Gary’s use of adapting breath work to yogic postures, using breath with meditation, chanting, and his inspiring light imagery. You do not need any background in yoga to enjoy and profit from this DVD, or his other one on overcoming anxiety. The instructions are clear and easy to follow.
YOGA NIDRA by Maalika MP3 download from Amazon. An amazing yoga nidra practice that takes you to an incredibly relaxed state.
APP: Insight Timer. This has 100,000+ free meditations. Check out my curated list of my favorite teachers on this site.
Gaiam TV. This amazing site has a plethora of yoga videos of all styles, lengths, and levels. In addition, there are articles, movies, meditations, and music all designed to help you chill out, find your true self, and simply feel good. They offer a free trial and various membership deals.
Yoga International. Another great website with loads of articles and videos of yoga and yoga philosophy.
A Quite Mind
The Meditation Podcast
Sounds True, interviews with a wide variety of teachers
Episode #62, Yoga Nidra meditation practice, from Elsie’s Yoga
The Secular Buddhist
Jonathan Foust, Buddhist talks and meditations
Tara Brach, Buddhism and psychotherapy
On Being, Krista Tippet interviews interesting people on spiritual and humanitarian issues
New World Kirtan, Kitzi Stern’s wonderful selection of Sanskrit and English mantra music
Inside Out. Animated film that delves into internal family systems and Buddhist philosophy in a way that a child can understand. Yet, it’s incredibly wonderful for adults, too.