Books for Body, Mind, Soul

The Chinese Year of the Serpent begins on the new moon of February 9, 2013. As the serpent is a symbol of healing and rebirth, it’s an ideal time to benefit from the transformative aspects of various ‘medicines.’ Laughter, it’s been said, is one of the best.

Nanaimo’s Judy Millar writes and performs funny librarian stories about oddball characters. Now she has a collection of them in Beaver Bluff: The Librarian Stories (Brannen Publishing, 2012, $10.99). For the purpose of humour, human foibles are amplified with very entertaining results.

It takes a clever mind and great skill to write humour. Judy has done it in the wacky world of Beaver County, ‘somewhere in the Great Pacific Northwest.’

Check out Judy’s website to read her blog, see a You Tube performance and order her book:

In Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi (New World Library, 2012, $17.50), Brian Leaf uses humour to tell his story summarized in the sub-title: ‘My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm my ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness.’

Brian was suffering from a variety of anxiety-related maladies in 1989 when he ‘stumbled into’ an elective yoga course in college. Since then he has studied yoga at the Kripalu Center, visited yoga studios around the U.S., and consulted Ayurvedic physicians, and swamis.

The book is a light-hearted, honest approach to Brian’s journey to wellness. It’s very conversational in tone and along with the ‘misadventures’ is some very wise advice.

‘Ten minutes of deep relaxation five times a day would change anyone’s life, whether or not he or she suffered from colitis,’ Brian says.

His chapter on anger is an honest one and points out he was angry because he had never advocated for himself.

He also realized that feeling good about his work was absolutely necessary.

Rather than serve the world by assessing what the world needs, he thinks, instead, ‘we serve the world best by responding to our heart’s call.’

Amrita Sondhi, Ayurvedic chef and author of The Tastes of Ayurveda, (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012, $26.95) definitely feels good about her work. You can tell by the delightful stories she shares with the all-vegetarian recipes in this gorgeous cookbook.

Amrita’s kitchen sounds like a magical place where she creates flavourful recipes that nurture and fortify the body, mind and spirit.

Many of the recipes have been shared in community such as Summer Beach Salad. Garlic scapes from her friend Pauline’s garden were added to mixed greens, cauliflower, asparagus and red bell peppers for a ‘beach potluck dinner’ on Bowen Island where Amrita lives.

Poets’ Split Pea Soup was made to inspire a poetry writing and reading evening. ‘Lemon juice and cilantro really bring out the flavors of the vegetables and split peas,’ Amrita says.

The Ayurvedic diet is based on the concept of three ‘doshas’: Vata (air), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (earth). A questionnaire will help you determine your primary dosha. You’ll also find yoga postures for the doshas. Amrita teaches three yoga classes a week and is ‘sustained and energized’ by her continual practice of yoga and her Ayurvedic diet.

It sounds as if writing is also one of Amrita’s wellness practices, as it is mine. Writers deny silence. That’s what the writers in Hidden Lives: Coming Out on Mental Illness edited by Lenore Rowntree and Andrew Boden (Brindle & Glass, 2012, $24.95), have done.

Every essay in this collection is a courageous look into lives affected by mental illness. And all of them begin with inviting first sentences that entice you into wanting to know more. Thank goodness for that because the more we learn about the effects of mental health issues, the more we dispel the myths surrounding them.

There is evidence of love in these essays. The writers love their sister, father or son despite the many heartbreaks and challenges that love was heir to. It’s so gratifying to know the authors are sharing their experiences in the world to help end the stigma, to let others know they’re not alone and ‘help lift the veil of mystery’ as Lenore Rowntree said in the introduction.

Mary Ann Moore is a Nanaimo poet and writer who leads weekly women’s writing circles called Writing Life.