Rachael’s reading list – books for a reflective holiday season

Rachael’s reading list – books for a reflective holiday season

A lot of people have asked for books I’d recommend. Here is a reading list about time and space, and what to do when you have them. You may be surprised at how much reading about travel in India, or diving into children’s books, impacts the way you work.

To read about adventure and finding space for yourself in the midst of craziness, try
Holy Cow by Sara McDonald
In the midst of a temporary but wild life in New Delhi journalist Sara McDonald finds time for what she calls a “brain enema”. It comes in the form of a silent meditation retreat. For ten days there is no talking, no communication, not even glances for ten days.

When I first read Holy Cow I couldn’t fathom even a day of silence. But, five years later, I found myself at a silent Buddhist retreat. It was just before I left Australia for England to work out what I should do with the rest of my life. The silence, I thought, would help prepare me to be open to whatever would come my way.

If complete silence – or the opposite, a trip to India – feel out of your reach right now, Holy Cow will put ideas into your head. It’s a great holiday read, and a curious revelation of how westerners respond to Indian culture when thrown into a packed inner city train in rush hour.

To consider what peace and quiet mean to you, sip tea quietly over
A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland
For me a retreat into silence is to meditate and clear my mind. For my boyfriend, however, it’s a chance to get important creative work done. Sara Maitland had a strong desire to spend time alone in her 40s, when family life was behind her. To help her understand how to best do it, she researches the different reasons people have sought silence throughout history. Sara uncovers two main, and somewhat opposing, reasons for retreating – creative expression and religious or ascetic silence.

Informed by history and with herself as the experiment Maitland will draw you into the experience of being alone in a desert, or on a windy mountain, wondering if the voices you hear are real, or simply the sound of the wind.

To reclaim your inner artist, dedicate three months to
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
If retreating in the holidays is about making space for things you don’t seem to have time for anymore, Julia Cameron’s book in the form a twelve-week self-guided course will help you rediscover your creative self. Daily and weekly exercises infuse your life with writing, painting or whatever medium the muses speak to you in.

Cameron’s reflective questions on your relationship with money, time and work will challenge you to consider why you really want to make art.

To take time out to think about how your brain works feel smarter with
Your Brain at Work by David Rock
To make a habit like meditation stick, knowing the science can help. David Rock writes in layman’s language about the mechanics of the brain, with plenty of stories about overcoming distraction and increasing concentration. It’s primarily focussed on transforming the way you work but a good one for the beginner neurologist’s toolbox.

For a magical adventure about time and kindness, you can’t go past
Momo by Michael Ende (author of The Never-ending Story)
Momo sets off with her good friend Cassiopeia the turtle to discover where time comes from. I loved this as a grownup. You’ll no doubt have a friend who reminds you of Momo.

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