Who would have thought that when people all over the world were shouting "Happy New Year 2020!" while gazing at the lustrous skies filled with fireworks on January 1st, the next thing we face is a prolonged pandemic of COVID-19. As the whole world is working altogether to fight the invisible enemy, it is undeniable that this pandemic affects everyone in various ways, while simultaneously, everyone has a different reaction to what we are experiencing. COVID-19 pandemic makes us realize that once again, we cannot always control the phenomenons that occur, but we can control what we do about it.
Nevertheless, it can be difficult to attain, if we are unable to understand our needs and wants because we are not really attuned to our own thoughts and feelings. Since we spend a lot of time by staying at home, we inevitably become the longest and most loyal companion for our own. Therefore, we can take this opportunity to discover the unseen parts of ourselves and become more aware of what we truly think and feel, without being ashamed or in denial about it.
These 5 thought-provoking and inspiring books will allow you to be contemplative about the things that may have been overlooked and help you get to know yourself better.
1. An Oasis in Time by Marilyn Paul
The routine that we perform before the quarantine can feel like a long list that we must achieve in order to live a satisfying life. Hence, when the pandemic occurs, there are a number of activities that previously became our bucket list, now delayed to be done, and even failed to obtain. For people who base their worth on their accomplishments, this can be unsettling and even frustrating.
Rather than blaming the situation we are currently in, this book encourages us to tune in with our "unmet needs" which are small things that can also bring us contentment, such as taking a hot bath, watching our favorite movies and smelling fresh flowers. It also reminds us of the importance of celebrating small wins, like successfully planting new seeds in the garden or rearranging bookshelves. Furthermore, as the title suggested, An Oasis in Time assures us that it is okay to take a break once in a while because if we do not refuel, we will run on empty.
At the end of the day, we must be able to interpret every action that we took and say, "Today was a day well-lived!" instead of merely ticking everything off the task list.
2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
This book is a collection of reflections by Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and a stoic philosopher. His words of wisdom invite us to focus on, and direct our energy to, what really matters. What happens in the external realm cannot affect us unless we allow them to, and we always have a choice in dealing with various situations. Below are some highlights from the book:
"The soul as a sphere in equilibrium: Not grasping at things beyond it or retreating inward. Not fragmenting outward, not sinking back on itself, but ablaze with light and looking at the truth, without and within."
"To the world: Your harmony is mine. Whatever time you choose is the right time. Not late, not early."
"Your ability to control your thoughts - treat it with respect. It is all that protects your mind from false perceptions - false to your nature, and that of all rational beings. It is what makes thoughtfulness possible, and affection for other people, and submission to the divine."
Moreover, as we go through constant transitions in life, it is necessary to be patient with our own transformation and to always have faith towards ourselves, because often times it is not the case of "not" but the "not yet".
3. The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim
By being classified into 8 chapters which are Rest, Mindfulness, Passion, Relationship, Love, Life, The Future and Spirituality, this particular book that was written by a Buddhist monk serves as a complete guide to the problems that we often encounter in everyday life.
The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down is a gentle reminder to refrain from negativity, in order to cultivate positivity in our life. For reality, in essence, is experienced to the state of one's mind. Therefore, what our mind focuses on, becomes our world.
Here are some of the interesting takeaways from the book:
"When a deep, honest conversation makes us feel connected to someone, we become very happy. The same deep connection with ourselves is possible by wholly accepting who we are and realizing the enlightened nature of ourselves. This, too, is a source of incomparable happiness and freedom."
"When you try to understand something, it is often most effective to set aside your preconceptions and observe it quietly so that the object of your examination reveals what needs to be understood. Instead of diving into the muddy water of your emotion as a way to conquer it, you should observe it from the outside and let it settle down and transform on it is own."
The meaningful messages conveyed by Haemin Sunim could be a breath of fresh air for those who are currently feeling distressed.
4. ...And Wisdom Comes Quietly by Helen Exley
This book consists of quotes by various philosophers, authors and great thinkers. It radiates so much warmth and tenderness, and acts as a reminder on how to stay calm and collected when we are confronted with the burdens and challenges of the world. This is the type of book that makes you introspective, willing to preserve your inner peace and acknowledge that after all, the world is full of beauty only when the heart is full of love.
Some of my most favorite quotes from this book are:
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
"Ultimately we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world."
- Etty Hillesum (1914 - 1943)
5. Ikigai by Yukari Mitsuhashi
Ikigai which means the value of life, is a culture that the Japanese holds dearly. This book explores on a broader and more comprehensive concept of Ikigai, rather than the common understanding of it as a mere intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.
This book explains that Ikigai is not only relating to career, but holistically, about the joy that is found in everyday life and what we believe will result in a fulfilling life as a whole.
Discovering Ikigai might be a challenging and lengthy journey for some, but the author emphasized that finding Ikigai is more like strolling slowly in your own neighbourhood rather than embarking on an unknown adventure.