The best books for inspiration…just when you need it most

Olivia H. Miller Author Of Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide to Over 100 Yoga Poses and Meditations
By Olivia H. Miller

Who am I?

I strive to inspire others through my writing, yoga card decks, and workshops; therefore, I’m passionate about finding inspiration and passing it on to others. For me discovering a dose of wise counsel or learning how someone else endured and overcame challenging times is a lifeline…especially when I feel hopelessly stuck. These 5 books are a balm for the soul, quieting the negative self-talk long enough to clear a path to joy, optimism, and creativity. I hope these recommendations bring the same sense of inspiration for you…just when you need it most! 

I wrote...

Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide to Over 100 Yoga Poses and Meditations

By Olivia H. Miller, Nicole Kauffman (illustrator),

Book cover of Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide to Over 100 Yoga Poses and Meditations

What is my book about?

Have you ever opened a yoga book intending to do yoga only to end up reading about yoga instead of actually practicing? That’s where Essential Yoga comes in. Designed to get you on the mat, this reference guide features over 100 hatha yoga poses, breathing exercises, and meditations. Detailed illustrations accompany concise, bulleted instructions and descriptions of the many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of a regular yoga practice. The interactive book, featuring a lay-flat binding for ease of use, also includes 6 classic yoga routines, 10 yoga sessions, and 48 mini-sequences geared to supporting specific activities and/or alleviating various health conditions. Whether new to yoga or a long-time practitioner, Essential Yoga helps users prevent injury and keep their practice interesting and alive!

The books I picked & why

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Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Book cover of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Why this book?

This slender book is my “bible” for inspiration as well as mindfulness. (One can’t go wrong with a book that includes a foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama!) The first essay, “Twenty-four Brand-New Hours,” reminds me that each day affords an opportunity to bring “peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.” Thich Nhat Hanh, described in the introduction as “a cross between a cloud, a snail and a piece of heavy machinery—a true religious presence,” humbly offers simple ways to be present in the moment (the only moment we have, btw!). “We are very good at preparing to live,” the author reminds us, “but not very good at living.” The essays in Peace Is Every Step inspire me to breathe more, think less, wake up, and feel alive.   

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Why this book?

Reading Big Magic is like sitting with a wise, trusted, loving friend whose very presence is an inspiration. Throughout the book Elizabeth Gilbert generously shares her personal experiences dealing with fear, setbacks, obstacles, and self-doubt. Hell, if none other than the author of Eat Pray Love struggles—and ultimately overcomes—fear, negativity, and self-sabotage, I’m comforted and inspired to open myself up to what Gilbert describes as “the hunt to uncover jewels the universe buries deep within us…and then stands back to see if we can find them.” This, she says, is creative living. Thanks, Liz, I needed that. ☺

How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy)

By Julia Cameron,

Book cover of How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy)

Why this book?

This wise and wonderful little book humorously holds up a mirror to the self-sabotaging techniques that can snap a fledgling idea right off the vine. (Procrastination, anyone?) Each page features “advice,” along with hilarious illustrations, on how not to be creative, and has me ROTFLMAO with recognition. Here are some faves: “Smoke a lot of dope for inspiration. Forget why it’s called dope. Forget your inspirations.” “Compare your work to the masterworks of the great masters.” “The minute you have an idea, ask yourself: How much cold, hard cash is it worth?” “Take seriously every negative thing anyone says.” (To wit, “That ain’t art, sister.”) With a wink and the perfect amount of reverse psychology, this whimsical book skillfully catapults me out of a creative funk!  

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

By Michael A. Singer,

Book cover of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Why this book?

Chapter 2, “Your Inner Roommate,” could have been titled “Read this, Olivia!” When you realize the voice in your head will never be content, Michael Singer explains, is when you begin to grow. That voice (the “inner roommate”) is always talking, and mostly the talk is negative, an effective joy and inspiration killer. We’re chained to this lunatic until, with awareness, we take a step back and acknowledge how destructive it is. The topper for me is this question: “How would you feel if someone outside really started talking to you the way your inner voice does?” I wouldn’t put up with that person for long, and who would? From that perspective, it’s easier (although not easy) to let the roomie blab away, knowing I need not pay attention!

The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle: The Viking Runes

By Ralph H. Blum,

Book cover of The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle: The Viking Runes

Why this book?

This is a favorite resource when I feel stuck, confused, or at a crossroads. Time to seek guidance from the universe! I’ve always been a sucker for the synchronicity of messages from “beyond”—tarot cards, angel cards, the I Ching, etc. Asking a big question, choosing a rune and reading its corresponding message unfailingly provides clarity and inspiration. In fact, I just selected a rune: Inguz, symbolizing new beginnings. Here is a portion of the message: “…Inguz counsels preparation. Being centered and grounded, freeing yourself from all unwanted influences, and seeing the humor, you are indeed prepared to open yourself to the Will of Heaven, and can await your deliverance with calm certainty.” 

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