Hello from an energetic day 16. I'm in the mood for sharing some knowledge and no better way than to share what books have helped me on my healing journey over the last five years. It turns out I really like books. A lot! Here are my top 25 books for menstrual cycle healing, creativity and soul nourishment - great for the inner-autumn and pre-menstrual soul.
When I left my last corporate job over five years ago, it suddenly occurred to me that I was free to read whatever books I wanted to. No more pressure to read books about business all the time or books related to academic study. I was finally free to choose my own books for me! Soul books! So, in no particular order, I present to you some incredible books that really changed my life. You may notice that you can purchase them from my website directly, which makes it easier for you to buy if you fancy, but also shares a little extra with me as an Amazon affiliate. Warm thanks!
1. Wild Power by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer
This book has really changed my life. Not only this book but the online programmes and the other books that Red School have released into the world. Coming into relationship with my menstrual cycle has totally changed my life for the better. I feel more grounded, more connected, more whole and I know exactly where I am. I don't necessarily know where I am going, but thanks to menstrual cycle awareness, I know I am supported by my menstrual cycle and the collective feminine energy. This stuff is sacred.
P.S I vlogged about it here.
2. Womancode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source by Alisa Vitti
This was the first book I read about menstrual issues such as PCOS, period pain, endometriosis and how to go about managing those conditions through diet. I learned a lot from this book! It helped me to see how not only diet but also cosmetics, detergents and the way we exercise can have an impact on our hormonal levels. Definitely worth a buy. It contains a straightforward 6-day liver detox and lots of great recipes for hormonal balance.
3. Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O'Donohue
All of John O'Donohue's writing is incredibly soulful and poetic. That's really why I love his work. He was an Irish philosopher, poet and spiritual teacher. Anam Cara is a beautiful reflection of Celtic spirituality, the mysteries of life and the sacred. If you're learning to track your menstrual cycle, this will be a great addition as Celtic spirituality is all about honouring a cyclical way of living in tune with the seasons. This book is a gem that I regularly turn to when in need of some soul nourishment, which is usually in the second half of my menstrual cycle - the via negativa (see Wild Power above for more on the via negativa and via positiva).
4. The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self by Julia Cameron
This book has been recommended to me by so many but sadly I have not finished it. It's a classic for getting creative, realising your creative goals and getting connected with synchronistic energies to help you. It's a book you do rather than one you only read. This book helped me to separate from my creative inner critic. It taught me about artists dates and how important it is to fill your pot if you want to be creative in any way. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to tap into that creative energy whether for creating, healing or finding your way in life.
5. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Hand on heart, this book changed my life. I read and did this book a little bit before Mindfulness became very popular here in the UK and Ireland. This book was eventually on many bestseller lists and all over bookshops and for a good reason. It's easy to understand, non-spiritual, and the tone in which it is written is incredibly soothing. As a reader, I felt that my feelings of anxiety were being acknowledged and normalised. Thanks to this book, I'm a big fan of Mindfulness meditation and would highly recommend this book. It comes with a CD following an eight-week course of short meditations.
6. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Again, another book I haven't read cover to cover as it is one to dip in and out of. This is a fabulous book and another classic. It's filled with short mythological stories from cultures around the world, which the writer then breaks down and analyses using her background as a Jungian psychoanalyst. There are so many deep spiritual lessons in this book and has been a true source of wisdom for me during difficult times. One everyone should have a copy of, even men!
7. If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
I read this book just last year (2017) and loved it. It's not an easy read as it goes into a lot of detail and depth with great intelligence. Throughout, I was able to apply the teachings to spirituality of the menstrual cycle, from which I learned a lot. Sharon Blackie comes from an academic background (not that it's written in that style), but it is definitely worth a read if you're looking for something more meaty on the topic of mythology, feminism and spirituality. That's exactly what I loved about it. Sharon Blackie shares both beautiful and harrowing stories from celtic mythology and uses them to question our lives as women and our role on this planet. She weaves her own personal journey throughout very skilfully. Packed with wisdom and honest questions. I loved this book and highly recommend!
8. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This is the book on my nightstand at the moment and am really enjoying it. I was introduced to Jon Kabat-Zinn's work a couple of years ago and it really appeals to me as it's so down to earth and practical yet full of wisdom and compassion. In a nutshell, this guy is another one all about Mindfulness and he has a heap of books out. I picked this up mostly because I loved the title. It's not a do a course book, it's a read this and think about it book. This book is recommended for beginners of meditation to get more understanding on the topic but also for those who already practice, to deepen their knowledge and practice. So far, this book has definitely deepened my knowledge of Mindfulness meditation and has motivated me to continue with it. I highly recommend. It's a delight to read, bit by bit.
9. Wood You Believe: The Twinless Self by Fr. Jim Cogley
This one is a bit of a wild card really but one that has brought immense healing to my story. Through some work I was doing a few years ago, I learned that I was something called a 'womb-twin,' where there was a large chance that it wasn't just me alone in my mother's womb but that we both didn't make it. This is very common but not talked about much and can be the cause of suffering for some people unbeknownst to them. After research and deep work, I met Fr. Cogley, who is also a psychotherapist and woodturner in Ireland. I recommend this book and Fr. Cogley's work to anyone who may suspect they could also be a womb-twin and would like to do some work around that. I am also open to having a chat with you about this topic, so don't hesitate to get in touch!
10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
I love fiction too and this is a great overlap of fiction and stories about the sacred feminine and menstruality. This is the untold biblical story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and the struggles of ancient womanhood during those times. A beautiful story, moving and shocking in parts. It was this book that inspired the Red Tent movement globally as we see it today. I highly recommend this novel to anyone interested in Red Tents and how it all started. I cried at parts!
11. The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron
This book really helped me through a difficult time and I would like to say, also changed my life. It was recommended to me by a very good therapist and it helped me to understand my nature with greater depth. It turns out, I'm very sensitive! Hurray! But this book will guide you in practical ways of how to manage your sensitivity from relationships, health, food, sleep, chaotic environments, work and even spiritual sensitivity. This is one I dip in and out of from time to time. It's helped me a lot and comes in very handy for pre-menstrual sensitivities
12. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Stunning, stunning, stunning book. I have no words. This is one everyone should read. It is deep, rich, filled with utter wisdom and poignancy from someone who survived the Holocaust. Not a long book and easy to read. A beauty I keep proudly on my bookshelf.
13. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
This is a little gem of wisdom and another classic. Written in 1923, it is a short collection of poetic essays with spiritual teachings on everyday tasks, encounters and relationships. My inner poet absolutely loved this book. It's short and certainly more than just sweet.
14. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Okay, most people have read this. But if you haven't, I highly recommend it. It's a great place to start, if you feel you've been initiated on a spiritual journey and it uses the power of story and imagination to convey many deep truths of the world. I love how Coelho writes about the language of the world. One of my favourite quotes as a little teaser is, "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Enjoy it! This one is one to come back to time and time again as it holds many lessons for any life situation.
15. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
This is a beautiful story about the journey of a man who spends time with his dying former teacher. Similar to Paulo Coelho, Mitch Albom writes fictional stories to convey deep spiritual messages. And they stick! I remember reading this book a few years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed this story and his writing. You could possibly read this in a weekend, it's deep but light!
16. The Mirror Within: A New Look at Sexuality by Anne Dickson
This was again recommended to me by a very good therapist. It is a discussion of sexuality, what it is and how to allow ourselves to have a healthy relationship with our sexuality. This really helped me at the start of my own healing journey. Published in 1985, this is probably one of the first before healthy sexuality became a mainstream topic in the book world. I love it because it's honest, down to earth and non-spiritual, which is sometimes a breath of fresh air to me!
17. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlon Ruiz Zafón
I love fiction and firmly believe in the power of it for healing, soul nourishment and enjoyment. This is one of my favourite stories set in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War. It is the story of a young boy named Daniel and his journey to discover the secret behind a book he has been given by a bookseller. This is a story of magical realism, which I totally adore! The story had me engrossed for weeks.
18. And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Another novel I feel in love with. This is a stunning story about a brother and sister born in Afghanistan in 1952 who were separated during their early childhood. Hosseini, who also wrote The Kite Runner crafts a beautiful narrative, told from different perspectives that crosses generations and continents. I remember feeling very connected to this story and impressed with how the writer weaved it all together. Definitely one to recommend if you are in search of a captivating and well-written human story.
19. Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler
Choosing to not be on the pill or other forms of hormonal contraceptives doesn't mean there aren't reliable contraceptive options out there. As women, there is only a window of time that we are able to conceive during the month. Wouldn't it be empowering to know when that is?
I actually felt angry when I learned that there was so much to learn about female fertility that we were not taught growing up in school. This book has it all! If you want to come off the pill, or if you want to understand exactly when you are fertile and not, or if you want to just understand the biology of your menstrual cycle in more detail, this is the book for you. It's packed full of information, teachings, examples, studies and advice.
I use these teachings alongside my Natural Cycles App (sign up here to get 10% discount) for contraception. Please note, if you choose to take this path for contraception, you must take the three main teachings on fertility indicators in this book seriously: basal body temperature, at the same time every day; position of the cervix; vaginal discharge.
20. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides) by Marshall B. Rosenberg
I came across the work of Marshall Rosenberg on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) only last year. It has made a huge difference in my life with how I communicate with others. It's as if I can step outside of communication and see what is actually happening a bit more clearly. This book has helped me to create space between myself and the communication allowing me to not get caught up in uncomfortable cycles, triggers and inappropriate reactions. This book goes into a huge amount of detail and has practice quizzes. I don't remember all of it but many of the fundamental teachings have really stayed with me. I highly recommend this work for anyone looking for teachings on healthy communication for any relationship. A great one if you struggle with PMS around others.
21. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
I read this book with a student I was teaching English to and blogged about it over here. I like Brené Brown's lessons on vulnerability, shame, guilt and imperfection. She is very relatable and uses her own personal stories as vehicles for her wisdom and research. Without intending to, I definitely noticed a huge shift in how I approach my work and my creative projects since reading this book. I have become a lot more productive and accepting of imperfection. This has been a great remedy for my inner-spring, where the critic used to reside. Who wouldn't want that?
22. Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
My inner language nerd needs a voice heard here. I did an M.Phil in Linguistics as part of my professional career to become a language teacher and writer. One of my favourite subjects was called Linguistic Pragmatics, which was all about the gap between what is said and what is heard. I focused on metaphor and this was an incredible book. It's not just for academia, but also for fun, if you're into language! Did you know that the ways in which we speak about money and time are largely metaphorical, which in turn says a lot about what we believe to be true about money and time? Grab this book to really understand the hidden messages we use daily in language. Oh so satisfying for the soul!
23. Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney
Poetry is good for the soul. Fact. Especially during the second half of our menstrual cycle, that inner-autumn phase. And as a poetry enthusiast and writer, I really do recommend the work of Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. I love how he writes. It's just incredible how much feeling and depth of story he conveys in the words he chooses. His language is pared back. Each line and dot are carefully crafted and thought through. His poems are filled with both wisdom and familiarity of the everyday - a delicious yet moving combination. He has a lot of books but I recommend his first collection to begin with.
24. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I really enjoyed this allegorical novel when I read it a few years ago. I loved the movie also and have a blog written about it over here on my creative writing blog. Here's a thought from it:
"So Pi and Richard Parker got me thinking about religion. The author got me thinking and that led to me to research his life a little and what struck me was hearing someone of his [secular] background say: Why not believe that the principal operating system of the universe is love and that when you are on your deathbed what does reason matter. Why not believe that someone transcendentally loves you."
Definitely a novel to encourage thought on the meaning of religion and where we find meaning in our lives.
25. The Happy Pear: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Food to Change Your Life by David and Stephen Flynn
In the small harbour town where I am from in Ireland, Greystones, there once was a small local fruit and veg shop. That was then bought by twin brothers who set up a small fruit and veg shop that sold smoothies to the locals. Fast forward to today, their brand, The Happy Pear (I love that pun) are now famous all over Ireland, if not, abroad also. I'm pretty sure Lisa Kudrow went there once! Love it or hate it, The Happy Pear has become an institution. I have their cookbook and use it weekly. I'm not the most enthusiastic cook to be honest, but what I love about their recipes is that you know you're eating healthy food, and, the quantities are huge! So cook something up over the weekend (the week before your period!) and it will do you for days as well as storing some in the freezer. How wonderful!
That's it from me for now. Thank you for reading all about the books that have meant so much to me over these last few years. Have you read any? In what way has it helped you?Do you have other books not on this list that are close to your heart? Please do share in the comments below!
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