Welcome to my last article of the year 2020. Wow. Wherever you are this year will have left its mark on you I’m sure.
This year has symbolised in so many ways the art of seeing clearly. Beginning with bush fires here in Australia showing up the effects of climate change for us so that we cannot ignore them. Holding a mirror to us to reflect back all of the ways that we have been living way out of our means.
This year has shown up deep injustices, the reliance we have on our economic and health systems, and the discomfort that we feel reverberating around the globe when those systems come under pressure.
And throughout all of these changes I have found more than ever that my own practice has supported me to not only endure the hardships of evacuations, cancelled classes & retreats, grief and rage about injustice, and deep uncertainty about the future, but I have been able to see the silver linings in so much of this.
I have had more moments of gratitude and expansive love than ever this year. I have savoured the quietness. I have been deeply grateful for my own circumstances. I have been able to see the opportunity in bringing injustices and systemic inequalities into more people’s awareness.
I am reflecting on this year and one that taught me much. More than ever how powerful the ancient teachings of yoga and meditation really are. How when we get still and listen to the rhythms of nature we can see things for what they are.
Just as the word ‘vipassana’ in Sanskrit means to see clearly, or to have insight, this has been a year of insight. It might not always have been pretty but the truth isn’t always hey?
I strongly feel that the teachings of this year require the action they deserve as we move into 2021.
You may think that Yoga and Meditation are only inward focused but this is not the case. In most of the Yogic texts this practice is about how we act in the world. We act with courage, integrity, awareness and love to meet these truths that have been uncovered.
The words Sovereignty and Responsibility have come up for me as we transition into the new year ahead.
This is our time to take the information we have uncovered and to step into our own individual and collective sovereign power to make the change that we want to see in the world. To truly be it. This is where our integrity and courage will shine through.
Yet we do this always with a deep sense of responsibility, for our own self-care and the care of our global community and the earth we live on. Rampant individualism and growth for growth’s sake has been shown for what it is. We step into our power but we also take responsibility through acting with deep awareness and love. If we make mistakes, and we will, we say sorry, if others make mistakes we forgive them.
I am very much hopeful for the next few years. I don’t think magically as we move into the new year things will get easier. In fact I think we are just at the beginning of a big and messy shift into a new way of being. They happen often. As humans we have been through these shifts many times before, it’s just perhaps not in a way where we are so globally connected through media and trade and travel.
Let’s just say it feels like it is going to be interesting. I have no idea what it will look like and you know, that’s ok. This year more than anything has taught me that is ok. Uncertainty is ok. We can do this!
And so, I wanted to share with you my top reads for 2020. Books, podcasts and study have been a key focus for me this year particularly those times when my reduced teaching schedule opened up more space for this.
These books have added to the inspiration and motivation to practice and have really shaped the way I see the world this year. I hope they inspire you.
MY TOP TEN BOOKS FOR 2020!
- Revolution of the Soul – Seane Corne
I may have read this in 2019 but I thought it deserved a mention. Seane is an international well-known Yoga teacher and co-founder of the organisation ‘Off the Mat Into the World”. This book is her story journeying from trauma to healing through the power of Yoga. From gritty New York nightclubs to Ashrams in India, this book is a powerful call to “Ignore the story and see the soul” and really to see the goodness in people and teachings in places that you wouldn’t imagine. A perfect book to start the year.
- Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe
I recommend this book (and its companion Young Dark Emu) to anyone living in Australia. It tells this country’s true colonial history, from the perspective of disproving the idea that Australia’s original people had no complex systems of life and culture. Through First Nation’s knowledge and the journals of the first British explorers, Pascoe paints a picture of this diverse land mass, made up of different countries with agriculture, aquaculture, art, language, law and fire management. There is so much we can all learn from more sustainable ways of living and so much that needs to be done to spread this message and reconcile our history.
- Radical Compassion – Tara brach
I loved this book! I have read Tara’s other books and am studying with her too and wondered if there would be much more to gain from this but there absolutely was. Tara expands on the mindfulness practice of RAIN through story, experience, reflection and ancient wisdom teachings. There are so many amazing meditations and reflection questions in this book that really bring it to life. Those that have studied mindfulness with me know how much passion I have for the RAIN technique and the way it can help us to meet the world with equanimity and compassion.
- Mindful of Race – Ruth King
This book was one of many addressing systems of inequality on the reading list for the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program. Ruth King has a wonderful way of talking about how our mindfulness practice can help us to do the work necessary to address imbalances of power, specifically related to race. She basically argues that racism is an inside job and in order to address it in our outer world, we need to look at where we are holding biases in our own minds and hearts. Filled with stories, ideas and practices this book inspires us to do better and to create a culture of care.
- Me & White Supremacy – Layla F. Saad
After reading Mindful of Race and then seeing the events unfold in the US regarding the death in custody of George Floyd and the spread of protests around the world, I felt called to do more work, to lean in to this awakening. I also listened to Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility (worth an honourable mention too) and the next step was to work through Me & White Supremacy by Layla Saad. This is a book for those who identify as white to do the hard work of looking at our own biases and privilege and it takes commitment and care. You work through 28 days of teachings and journal reflections to uncover things like white saviourism, centring, appropriation, colour blindness and apathy. I highly recommend doing this work, it is powerful stuff, even if you think you have done the anti-racism work already.
- Breath – James Nestor
This book came out at the same time as I was enrolled in an in depth pranayama and mythology teacher training course. This is such a great book for anyone interested in how the breath can be a powerful tool to affect health, autoimmune conditions, sleep, energy, ability to overcome discomfort and so much more. Journalist James Nestor takes us on a journey of his own personal exploration of the breath, through practices originating from India and Tibet but found in labs, yoga centres, orthodontic surgeries around the world. This is a book that is so accessible and inspiring to make the breath practices, that we as Yogins know are so powerful, available to more people.
- See No Stranger – Valarie Kaur
This is another book that I devoured within a few days. This is Kaur’s story of growing up as a Sikh woman in the US. I was mesmerised by her descriptions of the Sikh culture and faith with its backbone of care and community and justice. This made it all the more heart wrenching to hear the tales of her family and friends’ experiences post-9/11 America. Kaur talks about spiritual practice, social justice activism and personal burnout with a deep message to really see the goodness in all people. To stop and wonder about their story, even if they are currently directing fear and hate towards you. There is deep hope in this book that if we can remember to bring awareness to each moment and encounter we have, if we can look after our own self-care and if we can lean in to do the difficult work that is required in the world, we can really make it a better place. It starts with each of us and how we relate to each other in times of difficulty. Such important messages for this time.
- Period Queen – Lucy Peach
This book was recommended by my lovely friend, local doula, Kirstie May. I highly recommend it too for anyone that has or will have a menstrual cycle and for anyone who lives with, loves or works with someone who has, or will have, a menstrual cycle. It’s definitely for all the women but it’s also for the men, the dad’s, the partners, the brothers. Lucy is funny, she is also a comedian and musician and the book is really entertaining. She outlines the four stages of the menstrual cycle and talks about them as having different super powers. She outlines how we can work to our strengths within these stages and what happens when we find ourselves out of balance. This is a feminist book at a time when the powerful feminine needs some serious reclaiming.
- Witch – Lisa LIster
This book called to me after reading Period Queen. It’s a little more ‘out-there’ in terms of that fierce reclaiming of the powerful feminine and I loved it. The word ‘witch’ often brings such negative connotations and this book is again a powerful reclaiming of this craft. This is most definitely a book for all the powerful women out there who are looking for inspiration to gather the natural energy we all hold within us and around us. I’m often drawn to the stories of witches and fascinated by the ways we can use our words, herbs, oils, Tarot, moon cycles, seasonal energies and meditation to gain insight and affect our and others’ energy. I realised that all these practices that we find through yoga, meditation, ancient sacred wisdom teachings are part of who we all are as connected to the powerful divine feminine energy of creation.
- Embrace Yoga’s Roots – Susanna Barkataki
Finally, this book came out towards the end of the year and draws together much of the study I have been doing the last couple of years around deepening my own understanding of yoga and its roots, addressing systemic racism and inequality both within yoga communities and the wider one and, taking our practice of yoga into the world as social justice activism. Susanna starts by discussing the areas that have caused us to become separate through colonisation – specifically looking at the ways that Indian culture has been dismissed or appropriated within yoga and spiritual community. She addresses internal and structural biases, spiritual bypassing and more and looks at ways we can reconnect with the roots of yoga as unity and create a more integral, ethical practice that honours the roots of the ancient system of Yoga. This book should be a part of any Yoga teacher training and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in taking their practice of Yoga to a deeper level!
Well those are my ten recommended books for the year and I’d also like to give a quick mention to some of the teachers and other sources of inspiration for me in this transformational year.
Uma Spender – Breathe (pranayama courses) and Breath of the Heart Teacher Training
Yoga for Humankind – Trauma informed Yoga and Yoga & Social Justice training
Global Sisterhood with Kylie Bertuch – New Moon Sister Circles
Jack Kornfield & Tara Brach – Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training
Amy McDonald – Yoga & Story + Business Coaching
I urge you to check them out.
I hope you find something here to inspire you on your journey! Let me know what you decide to read in the comments or share your own favourite inspiration!
Much love, Em xxx