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What's On The Bookshelf?

When it comes to spring cleaning, we could start by dusting our bookshelves. What better way to connect to who we are and where we’re going? This windy March, three of New York’s most beloved teachers revisited their own collections to remember favorite characters and the plots that inspired spiritual thought long after the last page. Come along for this literary journey.

Author: Barbara Ehrenreich

Year published: 2001

Genre: Non-fiction

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Years ago, I was completely moved when reading this book. I was in a transition towards permanently altering my artistic medium and creating a large body of artwork that was also greatly inspired in part by Nickel and Dimed. Barbara Ehrenreich writes about her undercover work in the most common minimum wage jobs. She worked in chain establishments as a cleaning lady, a salesperson in retail, and in the food service industry. Ehrenreich learned to navigate the hoops and pitfalls that these workers manage and survive daily while not making enough to care for themselves and their families. I grew passionately inspired by this valiant and heartbreaking book as it cites and champions the resilience of the human condition and the resolve of human beings to “do what they have to” and “what they can to show up for work with dignity even in less than dignified situations.” As a society, we have to do better to see, acknowledge, value and honor the efforts of others (as well as our own). Ms. Ehrenreich’s words have stayed with me and my work ever since:

  • “When someone works for less pay than she can live on…she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply.”

  • “They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for.”

  • “They live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect.”

Title: General Manager, Integral Yoga Institute of New York

Author: Swami Satchidananda Year published: 1987 Genre: Spirituality

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To begin each day with time for meditation and hatha yoga is a gift. And then to conclude my practice by reading the day’s wisdom from Sri Swami Satchidananda is to gain wisdom and insight on the spiritual path. I’ve been reading this book for 20 years and each time I find the readings fresh. Most amazingly, they seem to offer specific guidance for whatever challenges and pleasures I might be facing.

Title: Owner of Jennifer Brilliant Yoga Studio

Author: Ruth Ozeki

Year published: 2013

Genre: Fiction

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This wonderful novel takes place in Tokyo and Canada, across many years, and several generations. It’s about a 16-year-old girl who is going through a painful time in her life and the beautiful relationship she has with her 104-year-old Zen Buddhist nun grandmother.

Spiritual teachings fill the pages of this book. One scene that has stuck with me was when the young girl was being taught by her grandmother to work out her emotions using a stick to hit the waves of the ocean.

The author, Ruth Ozeki, is a Zen Buddhist priest and I was very lucky to meet her at a book group meeting where she spoke about her novel. It was great to hear her intelligent insights and the honest openness she shared about her creative process. One aspect she talked about that was interesting to me was how this novelist came to include herself and her husband as characters in her own book.

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