That’s the question I found myself pondering recently, after yet another book-inspired light-bulb moment that prompted me to consider books and magazine articles that have proved to be significant ‘milestones’ in my life, and how they have come to be in my hands.
I have been an avid reader all my life. You could say that books are my ‘go to’ resource or therapy, whether for information or inspiration, education or entertainment. But there have been some, especially over the last 30 years or so, that just stand out as having helped to shape and develop my life (both business and personal) and my spiritual journey.
The early 1990s found me running my own PR business and, keen to make the business a success, I had become somewhat of a self-development/business development book ‘junkie’. Wandering around a large book shop, looking for yet another such book, I remembered a television programme about a Scottish motivational speaker, and had a vague recollection that his name was Jack Black. I looked more closely at the shelves and, yes, there it was – MindStore by Jack Black. What I read within its pages about goal setting and personal development really struck a chord in me – perhaps because I’m a bit of a rebel at heart. Black suggests that the old received wisdom of SMART goal setting doesn’t work because it’s too restrictive and small – thinking big stretches the imagination and powers the dream. He teaches a visualisation technique that helps motivate the dream. One thing I read in particular really blew me away – Black says ‘Never ask HOW?’ He explains that if the dream/goal is big enough and you want it enough the ‘how’ will manifest itself. (Much in the same way that if you want a red BMW, then you start seeing them everywhere.) I had always struggled with the fact that when I told people about things I wanted to do (or, in some cases, not do), I was always asked why? and how? It made me squirm because I couldn’t explain – I just knew in my gut that it was right for me. So, over the years, for the benefit of others, I had learned to fabricate ‘reasons’ that supported my gut feel. Now, here I was being told I didn’t have to do that. At last, I had ‘permission’ to go with my own flow. I embraced it wholeheartedly. I attended several MindStore personal and business development courses over the next few years and use the goal setting and other techniques I learned to this day.
I’m not quite sure when the shift from purely personal and business development onto a more holistic and spiritual path actually occurred, although I had always believed in natural remedies and alternative therapies and I had developed a fascination with crystals, feng shui, pendulum dowsing and holistic therapies. I think it probably received a major nudge forward around the time of my 60th birthday, when I was given a gift voucher for a reflexology treatment, which led to my continuing with regular treatments and also to delving deeper into matters holistic and spiritual. My reading and visits to holistic fairs now reflected this newly deepened interest.
Fast-forward several years: I came across a magazine article by Anna-Louise Haigh about face-reading, which I found fascinating. Then followed a series of synchronicities: I discovered that she is based in Harrogate and that she would be at an up-coming holistic fair that I had already planned to attend giving mini face-readings. I had my face-reading and picked up some flyers, one of which was for a weekend retreat in Glastonbury, exactly what I had been looking for. A few months later Anna-Louise was the speaker at a local Mind Body Spirit group, and I asked her to put me on her waiting list for the retreat. Thus began a series of retreats, workshops and courses (including Face Reading), which further enhanced my meditation/visualisation techniques and my spiritual development. I made lasting bonds with several fellow ‘retreaters’ and am privileged to have found a good friend in Anna-Louise.
I grew to feel comfortable in my own skin and with just being ‘who I am’, and I began to work on shifting from a work/life balance to more of a life/work balance. I had a particular desire to spend more time painting and do more freelance writing for magazines.
Two years ago, Every Breath You Take by Rose Elliot was brought to my attention. I had seen reviews of this book in other magazines and then it popped up in Cygnus Review. When something keeps ‘popping up’ at me in this way (or it may include personal recommendations), I tend to take it as a signal/message that I need to read it. As always, the timing was perfect. I had just started to read it when my husband was rushed to hospital with a perforated ulcer and internal bleeding. He was subsequently in hospital for four and half weeks, followed by four weeks in rehabilitation. Reading this book during the long waiting periods while he was undergoing various procedures and while taking coffee breaks during visiting, and using the Buddhist mindful breathing techniques described really helped me to stay calm during this challenging period. In fact, it was so successful that on one occasion when my husband unexpectedly required another procedure, he told the nurses there was no need to ring me, I would be coming in that afternoon, and ‘anyway, nothing fazes her’!
Finally, we come to the book that triggered this whole musing about how books come to us at the right time; and this one took a whole lot longer to ‘break through’. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron has been in my consciousness for over 20 years but I had generally felt that it was ‘not for me’. Then, in December last year, finding myself time rich and cash poor after a magazine I was writing for decided to take all their features writing in-house, I wondered if now was the time to put the spotlight on my desire to pursue art and writing. Suddenly, The Artist’s Way started ‘popping up’ all over the place. Still not convinced it was the right book for me, I decided to get it from the library. I read it straight through – and then I bought my own copy! The aim of the book is to help people overcome their creative blocks. I wasn’t so much blocked as in need of a change of perception – a ‘mind-shift’, if you will; so it was not until Chapter Five that I started getting those light-bulb moments – ‘OMG! that’s what I do!’ In short, what this book has done for me is helped me give myself ‘permission’ to raise my artwork and unpaid writing up to ‘day job’ status, rather than just a ‘nice to do’ activity. As a result, I’ve started painting again and I’m paying more attention to my writing and the collection of blogs I set up at the end of last year.
The mind-shift I’ve been working towards is now actually under way. I suddenly realised that what the Universe has been doing is not giving me less and less cash to manage on but clearing more and more space in time so that I have no more excuses/reasons not to paint and write. But it took a book that I had ignored for over 20 years to open my eyes.
If you come across a book that seems to be trying to attract your attention in some way, I encourage you to be guided by your intuition and explore it further. It may hold just the message, inspiration or guidance you need at that moment; or it may simply give you a break from the more mundane aspects of day-to-day living by entertaining you for an hour or two. You can always ‘try before you buy’ by visiting your local library; it’s like a great free bookshop – only you don’t get to keep the book! If the book is telling you it’s a ‘must have’, then you are more than likely to find it in Cygnus Review’s extensive catalogue.
Brenda Hodgson is a freelance features writer and runs her own PR business, Blackwood Communications (email@example.com). She has had paintings selected for several local Open Art Exhibitions over the past few years, and her artwork, which is inspired by ideas that come through meditation, visualisation, music and dreams, is featured on her Facebook Page HeartArt by Brenda. Brenda also writes three blogs – Brenda’s Bubble, The Butterfly’s Blog and Fairytales, Fantasies & Fables – which she has put together in a collection on Facebook at Brenda’s Little Box of Blogs.
You can also contribute to the Cygnus blog! Click here to learn more about how you can share your experiences with the Cygnus Community just like Brenda!