books

opening your mind : a workbook for self-discovery – Positivity Article

   Throughout the years of working on Positively Present, I’ve discovered that one of the most essential aspects of living a positive and present life is this: keeping an open mind. This sounds much easier than it is, so I created a digital workbook to explore what I believe are the necessary steps needed to truly view the world from an open-minded perspective. The workbook is thoughtfully divided into four key sections:  Defining Open-Mindedness: the term “open-minded” is much more…

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Leonard Michaels’s Playful and Poignant Meditations on the Enigma of Our Feline Companions and How They Reveal Us to Ourselves – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“A cat must have three different names,” T.S. Eliot proclaimed in the iconic verses that became the basis of one of the longest-running and most beloved Broadway musicals of all time. “You can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better,” Caroline Paul wrote generations later in her gorgeous memoir of finding the meaning of life through a lost cat. Between our longing for love, our urge to name what we barely understand, and…

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Amanda Palmer Reads Poet Jane Hirshfield’s Miniature Masterwork of Insistence, Persistence, and Compassionate Courage – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“When we come to it,” Maya Angelou beckoned in her stunning cosmic vision for humanity, “when the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate…” Then, she bent the mind in language to remind us, and only then will we have risen to our cosmic destiny — a destiny built on the discipline of never forgetting, never daring let ourselves forget, our shared cosmic belonging. “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.    Remember?” But we do forget,…

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Octavio Paz on Being Other, the Courage of Responsibility, the Meaning of Hope, and the Only Fruitful Portal to Change – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

I came to this country not having inherited its sins, not being afforded many of its rights, but eager to share — and having by now devoted my adult life to sharing — in its responsibilities, its atonements, its healing. I came alone, barely out of my adolescence, into a country not yet out of its adolescence — that developmental stage when the act of taking responsibility is most difficult, and the impulse toward evasion and escapism most intense. “I…

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The Illustrated Story of How a Little Boy Who Grew Up to Be a Trailblazing Astronaut Fought Segregation at the Public Library – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Knowledge sets us free… A great library is freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the sacredness of public libraries. “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be,” her contemporary James Baldwin — who had read his way from the Harlem public library to the literary pantheon — insisted in his courageous and countercultural perspective on freedom. Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950–January 28,…

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With Liberty and Justice for All. – Personal Development Article

Like so many, I’m heartbroken and outraged by the recent killing of George Floyd in Minnesota while in the custody of police officers, the most recent example in a long history of racial injustice, attacks, and accusations—such as Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky—and the pain and fear that’s being felt across the country. I often experience my “America feeling”—say, when I vote or when I look at the Statue of Liberty—and right now my America feeling…

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Prayer During A Pandemic – It Can Be Challenging! – Spiritual Article

Don’t know about you, but I’ve needed a lot of help with prayer during the Coronavirus pandemic. Practices that used to draw me closer to God suddenly were flat at a time I felt I needed God the most! Many other people are having this same experience: more time on their hands to slow down and consider their contemplative life with God, yet not feeling able to. And there could be many factors making this the case. What I share…

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Grammy Award-Winning Jazz Vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant Reads Audre Lorde’s Poignant Poem “The Bees” – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Bees hum the essential harmonics in the symphony of life — crucial pollinators responsible for our planet’s diversity, responsible for the flourishing of the entire food chain, responsible even for Earth’s resplendent colors. It is hardly a wonder that they have long moved poets, those essential harmonizers of human life, to rapture and reverie. Emily Dickinson reverenced “their velvet masonry,” Walt Whitman their “their perpetual rich mellow boom” and “great glistening swelling bodies,” and Ross Gay their murmured assurance, “saying…

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Edward Gorey’s Tender and Surprising Vintage Illustrated Allegory About the Meaning of True Love – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

Great loves, like great works of art, live at the crossing point of the improbable and the inevitable. That, at least, has been my experience, both as a scholar of history and as a private participant in the lives of the heart. Such loves come unbidden, without warning or presentiment, and that is their supreme insurance against the projectionist fantasy that so frequently disguises not-love — infatuation, obsession, jealousy, longing — as love. But when they do come, with all…

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What I Read This Month: May 2020 – Self Improvement Article

For three years now, every Monday morning, I’ve posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads. I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read. As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this…

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James Baldwin on Keeping the Light Alive Amid the Entropic Darkness of Being, Set to Music – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“Against this cosmic background the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change,” Rachel Carson wrote in her poetic, unexampled 1937 essay Undersea as she incubated the ideas that would awaken humanity’s ecological conscience. “There is grandeur in this view of life,” Darwin had written in the closing pages of On the Origin of Species in the middle of the previous century,…

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Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Gorgeous Letter to Children About Reading, Amazement, and the Exhilaration of Discovering the Undiscovered – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

I remember the feeling of first seeing the Moon through the small handheld telescope my father had smuggled from East Germany — how ancient yet proximate it felt, how alive, as though I could glide my six-year-old finger over its rugged radiance — the feeling of electric astonishment at something so surprising yet so inevitable, something that seemed to have always been waiting there just for me to discover it. I remember next having that feeling nearly a decade later,…

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The Next Pick for the Happier Podcast Book Club: “The Dutch House: A Novel” by Ann Patchett. – Self Improvement Article

We’ve picked our next book for the Happier Podcast Book Club. Our next choice is a brilliant novel by Ann Patchett: The Dutch House. This novel has generated a tremendous amount of buzz and was an instant bestseller. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2019, and named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post, O: The…

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Elizabeth Gilbert Reads a Poignant Forgotten Poem About the Big Dipper and Our Cosmic Humanity – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

For as long as we have been raising enchanted eyes to the night sky — that is, for as long as we have been the conscious, curious, wonder-stricken animals recognizable as human — we have marveled at seven bright stars outlining the third largest constellation in the Northern hemisphere, and humanity’s most beloved one. Ursa Major — Latin for “the great she-bear” — has enraptured the human imagination since before we had the words to call it the Big Dipper…

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Jen Hatmaker: “Connection and Belonging Matter Almost More than Anything Else We Put Our Hands To.” – Happiness Article

Interview: Jen Hatmaker. Jen Hatmaker is a New York Times bestselling author, blogger, and sought-after speaker. She has written many books and hosts the podcast For the Love. (If you want to listen to the two of us in conversation, she interviewed me on For the Love here.) Jen and her husband, Brandon, are founders of the Legacy Collective, a giving community that granted more than a million dollars in its first year. The couple also pastors Austin New Church and lives on…

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Celeste Headlee: “If It’s a Habit that I Don’t Really Want to Do, I Need to Get It Done in the Morning.” – Personal Development Article

Interview: Celeste Headlee. Celeste Headlee is an award-winning journalist and the bestselling author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has anchored shows such as Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and The Takeaway. Her new book is Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. I couldn’t wait to talk to Celeste about happiness, habits, and productivity. Gretchen:…

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Kierkegaard on the Spiritual and Sensual Power of Music, the Essence of Genius, and the Key to a Timeless Work of Art – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“Without music life would be a mistake,” Nietzsche bellowed his unmistakable baritone of buoyant nihilism into the vast chorus of great thinkers extolling the singular power of music. A year before his birth, Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855) — another thinker of soaring lucidity, unafraid to plumb the darkest depths for the elemental truths — took up the subject in a portion of Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (public library) — the 1843 masterwork that furnished his insight…

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Lisel Mueller’s Tender Poem About the Lush, Unclassifiable Bond Between Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Among the handful of things I have learned about life with the calm, quiet clarity of elemental knowing is one that bears repeating: The human heart is an ancient beast that roars and purrs with the same passions, whatever labels we may give them. We are so anxious to classify and categorize, both nature and human nature. It is a beautiful impulse — to contain the infinite in the finite, to wrest order from the chaos — but it is…

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Natascha McElhone Reads Hermann Hesse’s 100-Year-Old Love Letter to Trees in a Virtual Mental Health Walk Through Kew Gardens – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

In the final years of his life, the great neurologist Oliver Sacks reflected on the physiological and psychological healing power of nature, observing that in forty years of medical practice, he had found only two types of non-pharmaceutical therapy helpful to his patients: music and gardens. It was in a garden, too, that Virginia Woolf, bedeviled by lifelong mental illness, found the consciousness-electrifying epiphany that enabled her to make some of humanity’s most transcendent art despite her private suffering. When…

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Rosanne Cash Reads Lisel Mueller’s Subtle Poem About Growing Out of Our Limiting Frames of Reference – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

We parse and move through reality as multidimensional creatures in a multidimensional world. The experience of dimensions, this living fact of spatiality, may be our most direct mathematical grasp of the universe — an understanding woven into our elemental sensemaking, into our language and our metaphors: We speak of our social circles, our love triangles, our spheres of influence, the depth of our feelings, the height of our intellect, the length of our lives. But we are also quite limited…

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What I Read This Month: April 2020 – Personal Development Article

For three years now, every Monday morning, I’ve posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads. I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read. As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this…

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Astronaut Leland Melvin Reads Pablo Neruda’s Love Letter to Earth’s Forests – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Today, for some, a universe will vanish,” Jane Hirshfield writes in her stunning poem about the death of a tree a quarter millennium after William Blake observed in his most passionate letter that how we see a tree is how we see the world, and in the act of seeing we reveal what we are: “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way,” he…

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Physicist Brian Greene on Mortality, Our Search for Meaning, and the Most Important Fact of the Universe – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in letter to his grief-stricken friend, the Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, in 1923 — the year he published, after a decade of work, his miraculous Duino Elegies. Nearly a century after Rilke’s death, the theoretical physicist and mathematician Brian Greene — who is reading and reflecting on the ninth of Rilke’s ten…

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Bethany Saltman: “I Never Could Have Guessed Just How Right I Was About Happiness When I Was 18.” – Happiness Article

Interview: Bethany Saltman. Bethany Saltman is an author, award-winning editor, and researcher. Her work has appeared in places such as the New Yorker, New York Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Parents, Town & Country, and many others. Bethany also serves as a bestselling book partner and in-demand mindfulness mentor, helping writers and entrepreneurs at all stages of the creative process envision and execute their projects, including book proposals, content development, Big Ideas, messaging, and the like. Her new book is Strange Situation:…

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Jen Gotch: “I Think the Connection of Success to Busyness Is Dangerous.” – Self Improvement Article

Interview: Jen Gotch. I couldn’t wait to talk to Jen about happiness, habits, and creativity. Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative? Jen: Dancing—usually by myself. I’m not incredibly good at it, but when I’m dancing, it sure feels like I am and that’s enough to make me happy. I dance when I am feeling bad, I dance when I am feeling good. Even if only for a minute.…

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Mary Shelley on What Makes Life Worth Living and Nature’s Beauty as a Lifeline to Regaining Sanity – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Half a century before Walt Whitman considered what makes life worth living when a paralytic stroke boughed him to the ground of being, Mary Shelley (August 30, 1797–February 1, 1851) placed that question at the beating heart of The Last Man (free ebook | public library) — the 1826 novel she wrote in the bleakest period of her life: after the deaths of three of her children, two by widespread infectious diseases that science has since contained; after the love…

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Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Astronomer and Poet Rebecca Elson’s Stunning Cosmic Salve for Our Creaturely Tremblings of Heart – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

It is our biological wiring to exist — and then not; it is our psychological wiring to spend our lives running from this elemental fact on the hamster wheel of busyness and the hedonic treadmill of achievement, running from the disquieting knowledge that the atoms huddling for a cosmic blink around the shadow of a self will one day disband and return to the “aloof stars” that made them. If we still ourselves for a moment, or are bestilled by…

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An Illustrated 1896 Manifesto for the Universal Splendors of the Bicycle as an Instrument of Self-Reliance, a Training Machine for Living with Uncertainty, and a Portal to Joy – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

After the first progenitor of the modern bicycle — a seat atop two in-line metal wheels without gears, chain, tires, or pedals even, to be straddled and propelled Flintstones-style with strides pushing off the ground, dubbed the “running machine” — made its debut in the early nineteenth century, novelty-enthusiastic riders struggling to balance the contraption began migrating from the carriage-rutted streets to the smoother sidewalks, bolting past startled pedestrians. The proto-bicycle was soon banned in Germany, England, and America as…

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Deborah Gruenfeld: “A Mantra You Can Say to Yourself Before Taking the Stage: ‘I’m Glad to Be Here, and I Know What I Know.’” – Personal Development Article

Interview: Deborah Gruenfeld. Deborah Gruenfeld is a leading social psychologist and the Joseph McDonald chaired professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In her work, she examines the way people are transformed by the organizations and social structures in which they work. Gruenfeld’s award-winning research on power, influence, and group dynamics has been featured in many scholarly journals as well as in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. She’s co-founder and…

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Newton, the Plague, and How Quarantine Fomented the Greatest Leap in Science – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

In the 1650s, the penumbra of plague slowly began eclipsing Europe. Italy fell first, soon Spain, then Germany, then Holland. From across the slender cell wall of the Channel, England watched and trembled, then cautiously relaxed — for about a decade, some divine will seemed to be shielding the country. But the world was already worshipping at the altar of commerce and the forces of globalization had already been set into motion — with England’s economy relying heavily on trade,…

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