"Braving the Wilderness" by Brené Brown
Reviewed by Andrea Sanchez
Full disclosure: I am huge Brené Brown fan. As a Texan, a woman, a curious human, and as someone who also probably curses a little too much, I identify with her deeply. For my thirtieth birthday, a certain friend who runs this blog bought us tickets to see her speak on her newest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.
If you don’t know Brené (yes, we are on a first-name basis), she is a Houston-based professor, social scientist and New York Time’s best selling author. And as mentioned in an earlier review of her book Rising Strong, her Ted Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of most-watched TedTalks of all time.
In her latest book, she writes about what she calls “a spiritual crisis of disconnection” we are experiencing in this new age of increased polarization. And more importantly, she explores the meaning of true belonging.
I want to share the big takeaways I got from her message:
We have to do away with “us vs. them.” It has become a popular cliché: If you’re not with us, you’re against us. But we know life is more nuanced than this. We know it’s possible to love someone who voted differently than we did, because we probably all do. Can we extend this same kindness to others who may have a different religion, opinion, or background than us? Can we come from a place of curiosity when we disagree with someone, and seek first to understand?
It’s not up to the victim to start the conversation. The victim doesn’t have a space at the table. It’s up to those who do to start those conversations. That means men need to stand up for women. That means white people need to stand up for people of color. That means straight people need to stand up for the LGBTQ community. This is how we all contribute to making our world better.
Silence always favors the oppressor. This one really hit home. Can you think of a time in life when someone else was being bullied or mistreated and you stayed silent? I can. It’s easy to think “it’s none of my business” or “it doesn’t affect me.” What most of us don’t consider often enough, is if we’re not saying anything, we are silently supporting the oppressor. This can be applied in situations on a micro level like work, friend groups or school, and on a macro level, like our opinions on what our government does. Staying silent is the antithesis of positive change.
Although this book is a pretty quick read, its message can have such a huge impact on our world, and on our own individual approach to living authentically. Readers learn that the path to true belonging begins with braving the wilderness of staying true to ourselves.
"Awake in the World" by Michael Stone
Last November, I decided to attend my second yoga training with my teacher and mentor, Janet Stone. As is customary for most trainings, we had a few books assigned to read before and during our training. "Awake in the World" came highly recommended by Janet, and as I dove deep into its pages while sunbathing in the middle of the Mexican desert, I understood why. Michael was a teacher of yoga and Buddhist meditation, as well as a psychotherapist in private practice and founder of the Centre of Gravity Sangha, based in Toronto. He recently passed in an unexpected and tragic way, and when I heard news of his death, it brought me back to this book and its powerful messages. Stone explains how the practices of yoga and meditation can help us become more present, connecting us in a deeper way with the world around us. He speaks to awakening the "dormant interiors" of the body, mind, and heart through these practices, as a way to come in closer contact to our Selves. He talks about how yoga is the practice of "attentiveness and loving action" -- a practice that dissolves the patterns of greed, consumption, addiction, and inattention. Through his deeply powerful words, Michael describes how through yoga and meditation, we can form a loving relationship with this world, our community, and ourselves. My copy is completely covered in notes, underlines, and markings -- a testament to how much this book resonated with me. An incredible read for any teacher and student of yoga -- or really anyone trying to connect these ancient practices to a bigger purpose -- "Awake in the World" is one of those books where words fail to describe how incredible and moving it really was. This book holds a special place in my heart.
Rest in peace, Michael. Your words will always keep your incredible mind and spirit alive.
Purchase a copy of "Awake in the World" here, and also listen to Michael's podcasts here, which include guided meditations and cover other mindfulness-based topics. You can also donate to contribute towards his wife and two children's family fund here.
"Material Girl, Mystical World" by Ruby Warrington
Like I've mentioned, I am a huge fan of anything considered New Age, holistic, mystical, or (the newest buzz word) high vibe. So, when a friend of mine posted a snap of this book on her social media, the title pulled me right in (also, who could resist a HOT PINK book cover?). I immediately ordered myself a copy and upon its arrival, I dove right in and found myself connecting SO much to Ruby and her curiosity about the unknown. Here's a little backstory: Ruby Warrington is the creator of The Numinous, a website dedicated to providing visitors with info on everything esoteric -- from finding your spirit animal to joining a healing circle. It's a one-stop shop for everything high-vibe, and a treasure trove of information for anyone on a journey to tap into higher consciousness. Similarly, Ruby's book connects the "mystical with the mainstream" (as she mentions on her site) and is the perfect beginner's guide to understanding practices like reading your astrological birth chart (WAY more than just what your horoscope says about your sign) or beginning your own tarot card ritual (something I personally have been dipping into). Of course, she writes about her experience with the usual suspects, like yoga and meditation, but she also touches on deeper topics, like tapping into the divine feminine, self-care as an essential practice, and how to find your dharma (or higher purpose in life). Since Ruby has a background in the fashion & magazine industry, her personal stories come from someone emerging from an intensely materialistic world, and her own journey of finding a better understanding of not only these ancient themes, but of herself, makes this book a relatable and often humorous read. She even has a chapter about spiritual style icons (Beyonce and the goddess Kali are on there, just to name a few). I found myself resonating with so much of Ruby's journey, and would highly recommend her book to any modern girl looking to begin or deepen her exploration of these mystical, spiritual practices.
"Rising Strong" by Brené Brown
My first experience with Brené Brown came with my reading of "Daring Greatly" -- an amazing book based on her research of vulnerability and its related topics. I was instantly drawn in by her intelligence on the subject matter, and her almost magical way with words and metaphors. But her use of personal stories is what makes Brené one of my favorite authors; she makes the reader feel like she is sharing a story with you over a cup of coffee at her house, on a relaxed Sunday afternoon. Her form of storytelling make these sometimes intense topics deeply relatable to all of us, and she has a sensitive, yet masterful way of humanizing even the darkest of emotional turmoil. "Rising Strong" deals with how we face our toughest failures -- the times in life when we, as Brené eloquently states it, "fall face down in the arena." Her Rising Strong process is a simple one, yet it can be super impactful on those of us working through our hardest moments. She speaks to being present with our negative emotions, and what this can do to power us forward in a way that can strengthen us and give us life-changing information on the way our minds work. An incredible read for anyone, but especially those having trouble figuring out how their failures can be seen as lessons, this book is powerful and motivating. I highly recommend it for those working in the counseling or social work field, as it gives great insight on emotional work that can be applied to clients. But it's also a must-read for anyone going through any hardship. "Rising Strong" paves the way towards healing and transformative growth in a way that is inspiring, relatable, and deeply insightful.
"Living with Intent" by Mallika Chopra
When it comes to the self-help book realm, the line from authentically inspiring to cheesy can sometimes be very thin. I find myself not being able to connect with anything that feels pushy, or touted as a quick-fix or cure-all. I especially can't relate to authors who speak about how certain methods of bettering your life are "easy to do for everyone." Any sort of bettering of yourself takes work. Why? Because implementing change is HARD. This is why I fell in love with Mallika's book; it is an authentic look into the struggles she faced while shifting her life for the better. Her writing felt relatable, raw, and most importantly, human. She discusses her challenges with meditation, eating healthy, and practicing yoga just as openly as her successes, and reminds us that every one of us (even the daughter of famed Deepak Chopra!) has a hard time choosing healthy habits over what we're comfortable in. She interviews great minds about how they found their own intent, and uses their knowledge to build a path of purpose for herself and the reader. I also appreciated her inclusion of easy-to-do journaling exercises, so the reader can do some side-work while they read, and explore their own road to workable ways of building intent. An inspiring read if you're looking for how-to's on implementing self-care into your daily routine (without beating yourself up about it), and if you're working towards finding more clarity around your own objectives and purpose in life.
You can purchase her book on Amazon here, and also visit her website www.intent.com to join a community of people who support each other's journeys by sharing their personal stories of finding their own authentic intent and aspirations.