A Beautiful Anarchy: When the Life Creative Becomes the Life Created
Author: David duChemin

This book was probably the single most important one that encouraged me and us to finally take the leap and manifest our family year abroad. In many ways it is a small and simple book. Yet, I found reading A Beautiful Anarchy to be profound and life changing, in part due to the bold creative invitation David deChemin offers his readers, and in part due to the perfect timing of reading his book. Through encountering this book, I was gently challenged again and again to risk, create, feel my fear and doubt, risk again, create, and ultimately trust the creative process to grow me and transform my life. David deChemin strikes me as a sincere, creative, courageous, and humble adventurer. He is living the qualities he encourages his readers to stretch into. One of the key themes deChemin writes about which especially impacted me is the connection between an intentionally nurtured creativity and living a creative life. That is, the more one consistently waters and grows creativity the more this process is mirrored in living a creative life. In A Beautiful Anarchy deChemin invites us “to live a life of unapologetic, passionate, daring creation.” This is how the life creative becomes the life created.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Author: Greg McKeown

I love this book. It was pivotal for both me and my husband as we read it just after we sold our expansive house and did a major downsize to a tiny rental cottage. Greg McKeown’s Essentailism helped me make sense of why we were letting go of so much and the potential benefits of having less and doing less. Through Essentialism I was reminded how to pause before I accept an invitation, and the importance of creating unstructured time in my life so that I could think, create, and prioritize the vital few from the trivial many. I was encouraged to practice graceful no’s in response to the many wonderful invitations that life brings, and to bring the element of play back into my life as a support for creativity and pleasure. This clearly makes me a happier and better parent. McKeown has a whole section on the importance of sleep, citing examples of some of the best violinists and how they sleep nearly 9 hours a night plus a daily afternoon nap. Reading Essentialism a few years before we set out on our journey helped bring things into focus: how do we want to spend our time; what can we let go of so that we can focus more on what’s important; can we allow for more rest to support our discernment and creativity; what is most essential to our family?

Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More
Author: Courtney Carver

As the backdrop to Soulful Simplicity, Courtney Carver tells her story with grounded tenderness of her sense that her body rejected an over-full lifestyle resulting in the painful diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Yet, in the end, she declares that MS saved her, catalyzing a whole new way of simplified living. Carver’s writing is clear and compassionate, outlining ways to pay attention to one’s wake up calls, changes that are pulling on one’s heart, and health awareness guidance that addresses sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Carver weaves together a tapestry of elements to create a simple and soulful life: simplify one’s space, listen to one’s heart, get your financial affairs in order, sleep more, eat greens, discover what you believe, take a walk. One life-changing element that I attribute to reading Soulful Simplicity is Carver’s suggestion to eat daily greens, in particular a green morning smoothie. Of course we know daily greens are essential, yet, it was the way Carver suggested this as a significant element in creating a good life that touched me and changed my morning ritual (now to include a delicious kale, avocado, minty drink) from that day forward. There is much nourishment to be found in Soulful Simplicity.

The Little Book of Prayers: A Collection of Prayers from Around the World and Across Time
Edited by David Schiller

I originally bought this book on a whim thinking it would travel well, without high expectations that it might be rich in substance. However, I was mistaken. While this book can be read from cover to cover, it lends itself to simply opening up to a page and reading. There are a wide variety of prayers included in this book — favorite mystics such as Saints John Chrysostom and Therese of Lisieux; a variety of Native American, African, Celtic, and Hindu prayers; philosophical pieces from Kierkegard and poems by e.e. cummings; excerpts from the Koran and the Bible; and lyrics from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. This Little Book of Prayers is a book of discovery and is especially child-friendly. My daughters enjoy flipping through the pages and in the process, are exposed to sacred traditions of which they may never have known before. Meaningful family conversations are inspired by these works: Mom, who is Sitting Bull? or What does Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha mean? While this is not meant to be a children’s book, it could function as a sort of Introduction to World Religions for children. It travels well and can be brought on sacred hikes, tucked into a picnic basket, and is perfect to be kept on one’s nightstand. The Little Book of Prayers is heart-opening.

Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) — and Companion CD
Author: Eline Snel; Forward by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Originally published in Dutch, this wonderful little book, Sitting Still Like a Frog also includes a companion CD to walk you through a variety of mindfulness exercises. My daughters especially enjoy the exercises described on the CD and find the reader’s friendly voice inviting. This is more than a book on sitting meditation as it includes meaningful insight and practical tools for working with anxiety and stormy emotions; relaxation techniques for falling asleep at night; suggestions for parenting with greater mindfulness; strategies for developing one’s attention muscle; and a section on the cultivation of virtuous qualities such as patience, trust, and kindness. One way a family could work with this book and CD may go something like this: Everyone sit comfortably yet alertly in your living room; read a few small excerpts from the book related to the topic to be practiced; then play an exercise from the CD (which is usually about 10 minutes long); after the exercise go around and have each person share about their experience. The whole process should take about an hour. Sitting Still Like a Frog is an instruction book about how to navigate strong emotions, stay present in one’s body, and practice kindness. It is a book about how to be a good human being.