Let Go and Lean into Kindness with These Books and Podcasts

Musicians, journalists, and meditation teachers talk about finding resilience through connection, and building bridges in unlikely places.

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Songs are Only Half the Story
Jewel (Blue Rider)

Many of us have heard bits of the extraordinary story behind singer/songwriter Jewel, who came to national attention in 1995 with the multiplatinum album Pieces of You: She was raised on an Alaskan homestead, and spent her childhood singing in bars with the family band before she left home at 15. When she was discovered in a San Diego coffeehouse four years later, she was living out of her car.

In Never Broken, she unflinchingly relays the whole tale: the remarkable but unstable upbringing, poverty and struggling to fit with other kids, putting herself through performing arts high school, homelessness, sudden fame, heartbreaking betrayal, and redefining herself as an artist again and again. It’s a real page-turner. But what’s particularly interesting is the revelation that she relied on mindfulness to help her through.

Of course, back then she didn’t call it mindfulness. No one did. But, realizing she was on her way to being “a statistic,” as she says, she began crafting a lifeline—reading physics and philosophy; and using meditation, visualization, gratitude, and journaling to watch and question her thoughts and choose where to direct them.

It’s the goal of writing this book, and the website she launched with it, she says, to share these practices with anyone who needs them, particularly young people who are struggling. “If they can help you to get where you are going in less time and with less pain than it took me, then this book will have been worth writing,” she shares.

“This is an invitation to question your life and, should you desire, to find the courage to erase the lines that imprison you and to reimagine a better you,” she writes. “Be the architect of your dreams.”


Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body
Jessamyn Stanley (Workman)

Most people feel awkward during their first yoga class. For Jessamyn Stanley, being the largest woman in the studio only compounded this. Fast forward a few years, and Stanley is an Instagram sensation for chronicling how a “big, black, and beautiful African Queen” can be as yogic as the idealized (and grossly misleading) representation portrayed in women’s magazines. With Every Body Yoga, Stanley, now a certified teacher, takes that a step further. This book—a solid mixture of pose and sequencing instruction, introduction to the history and philosophy of the practice, and beginner’s tips to help you feel slightly less awkward when you start out—also tells Stanley’s story of how falling in love with yoga helped her fall in love with herself. Not only is this an inspiration for anyone who has ever felt different or has struggled with self-image, it’s an absolute testament to what yoga, at its core, is really all about.


Be a Positive Force for Change
Melanie Salvatore-August (Yellow Pear)

Fierce Kindness is an uplifting mash-up of mindfulness skills and “positive thinking” power statements (“Turn a problem into a possibility;” “Be bold and bloom”) that feel a bit like they came off a Lululemon bag.

While there’s no deep learning in Fierce Kindness, there is much to like. Author Melanie Salvatore-August, a yoga teacher (and Lululemon ambassador), is earnest in her “fierce” desire to remind us that we have say over how we interact with the world. And she provides some nice tips to help shift your focus, take mindful moments throughout your day, and investigate your thoughts with curiosity and kindness.

4 Podcasts on Connection


Episode: “The Silver Dollar”
Daryl Davis is a musician with a deep interest in racism. In this episode, he talks about interviewing and befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan—including one who would become the organization’s Imperial Wizard—and the remarkable transformation that their contact brought about.


Episode: “#215: Krista Tippett”
Tippett, host of radio show and podcast On Being and author of Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, talks about her journalistic life, the art of the interview and listening, and the state of spiritual coverage. “Good journalists in newsrooms hold themselves to primitive standards when they’re covering religious ideas and people,” she says. “They’re sloppy and simplistic in a way that they would never be with a political or economic person or idea. I mean they get facts wrong. They generalize. Because they don’t take it seriously, and they don’t know how to take it seriously.”


Episode: “Nobel laureate Derek Walcott on voice, place, and finding home”
Eleanor Wachtel’s 2006 conversation with the Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott, who died in March at the age of 87. Walcott was known for poetry that bridged cultures and traditions, making links between his Caribbean and European heritage.


Episode: “Mental Clutter”
In episode 19, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus talk about the connection between physical clutter and mental clutter. “What is the best way to declutter your mind?” they ask. “Are there meditation practices to focus and clear your mind?”

This article appeared in the August 2017 issue of Mindful magazine.


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