Category Archives: self-help

From Seeker to Finder: Discovering Everyday Happiness

seeker to finderFrom Seeker to Finder: Discovering Everyday Happiness
by George Kimeldorf
Published by Newlog Publishing
118 pages
Genre: self-help 
Thanks to the publisher for the preview
4 / 5


When I was twenty-five, I packed up my belongings into a U-Haul and moved four states away. No job, no friends, no prospects. Just an apartment (which I got by lying about a job I didn’t have) and the belief that I wasn’t going to be happy staying where I was. It was time for a change.

George Kimeldorf, who wrote this book when he was seventy, is all about making proactive changes in order to stop seeking happiness and actually finding it. I’d like to think he would applaud my move.

This is a self-help book focused not so much on twelve steps – or any steps, for that matter – but rather on making you think about happiness. What does it look like to you? Feel like? When will you know you’ve found it?

Kimeldorf offers a series of anecdotes, some from his life, some from other people’s, with the purpose of guiding you toward creating your own reality. What makes one person happy may not work for you; what works for you may not for another. In Kimeldorf’s mind, we are each entitled to the pursuit of our own happiness.

And so he provides a framework for us to change the way we think about happiness. It essentially comes down to one tenet: you have to actively pursue it and actively embrace it. He tells about actually practicing being happy, espousing that before too long, you won’t be practicing. You actually will be happy.

Is there anything new or earth shattering here? No. You’ve probably read quite a bit of this before, in other books. What Kimeldorf does so well, though, is pare everything down to their basic points. In telling us stories about his own seeking, he avoids the pitfalls of “first you do this, then you do that.” He leaves it up to us to figure out what will work and what won’t.

And along the way, we will stop seeking and start finding, and we will be happy.

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Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation
by Jack Forem
Published by Hay House
288 pages
Genre: self-help
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
5 / 5 cupcakes

When I used to think of meditation, I pictured a bunch of nehru jacket-wearing hippies playing sitars, smoking hookahs and sitting around campfires. But as I’ve gotten older, I have discovered how short sighted that vision was – and how necessary meditation is.

If you are a naysayer or if you think meditation is a waste of time, this is the book for you. It is more of a historical, “here’s why you need this” document than a how-to manual. At its conclusion, you are given resources if you wish to pursue meditation, which, rest assured, you will.

Jack Forem details the many, and surprisingly varied, benefits of TM. Primarily, its regular implementation will reduce stress. But think about it, before you scoff. Wouldn’t spending 15 to 20 minutes, sitting alone, focused on your breathing and on a positive mantra, help you feel calmer? More peaceful? If you can put your mind at rest, even if briefly, wouldn’t you enjoy it? Don’t we all need to take a break from the daily stress and strain of our lives? If you don’t think so, then come be me for a day.

But TM does more than just help us minimize stress.

It improves your physical health. Dr. Mehmet Oz says it helps your cardiovascular system, and Forem points to research detailing TM’s positive effect on healing.

TM also helps you get in touch with your creativity. Oprah offered it to her staffers, believing that TM opened them up to be their “authentic” selves. If this sounds like a bunch of hippie lingo, then how about research that proves TM’s ability to minimize the effects of ADHD and post traumatic stress? Forem provides both.

Like I said, you will not learn how to meditate, but you do learn why it is important. Forem touches on mantras and the like, but his focus here is on convincing the nonbelievers of the benefits of TM.

You will be sold. And you will find yourself pursuing some of the resources he includes.

And now I’m going to go discover a mantra.

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Beyond Sugar Shock

Beyond Sugar Shock: The Six-Week Plan to Break Free of Your Sugar Addiction & Get Slimmer, Sexier & Sweeter
by Connie Bennett
Publisher: Hay House
303 pages
ISBN: 1401931898
Available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

Can you live on five or six teaspoons of sugar PER DAY? Not per hour. Per DAY?

Well, if Connie Bennett and her anti-sugar crusaders have anything to say about it, you can and you will.

Sugar is bad for you. I think we all know that. We – or at least most Americans – consume too much sugar, which puts our health at great risk. And contrary to what we may believe, we do not need sugar to survive. Bennett tells us that we get all the glucose we need from stuff like vegetables, fruits, seeds, whole grains and nuts.

Does that sound like fun eating to anyone? Sure, I may not NEED sugar to survive, but believe me when I tell you that the people in my house are a whole lot happier when I’ve consumed some dark chocolate (preferably dark chocolate covered caramels, my FAVORITE, but please don’t tell Connie Bennett, because she undoubtedly will tell me how awful that is for me and how I have one foot in a cardiac arrest unit and the other on a banana peel).

But I digress.

Sugar can trigger – or at least encourage – cancer, weight gain, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis. We eat a lot of food with high fructose levels, and even I can admit that fructose is Bad. It is no mere coincidence that obesity rates rise in tandem with the amounts of fructose we consume.

So after Bennett scares you to death (or “into action,” as she puts it), she gets down to the good stuff: what do we do now? She acknowledges that for some of us, the mental hurdle is as tough as the physical, as she points out that there is “no lasting comfort” in comfort foods. Sigh. But they taste so GOOD, Connie Barrett.

She lays out five stages of sugar freedom:

  1. Trapped in Sugar Denial: where most of us are, because we refuse to admit how much sugar we consume
  2. Scary or Humiliating Wake-Up Call: “something horrible, frightening, awkward, or embarrassing” that causes us to break free from the sugar shackles
  3. The Negative Abyss: in which we alternate between the 10 Stages of Sugar Complaints – anger, defiance, resistance, resentment, guilt, self-blame, self-pity, self-hate, self-criticism, and why me?
  4. Insecurity and Self-Doubt: can we succeed? Can we be free at last?
  5. You’re On Your Way: we are filled with curiosity, we accept our sugarless fate, we have self-pride, and we are determined, confident and committed to being sugar-free.
The good news is that Connie Barrett is not a sadistic task master. She does give us weekends off, limiting us to four main steps per week during the first three weeks of our new lives. She is big on motivation, giving us little pep talks about how great we’re doing and how fabulous we look and feel. Like a lot of self-help practitioners, she also has us write down all sorts of affirmations and responses, and she peppers her book with testimony from former sugar addicts, including HLN correspondent Jane Velez Mitchell. 
Some of her tips include dreaming up a music playlist for yourself (I’m sorry, but that seems kind of silly to me; then again, I skipped this step entirely, so maybe I owe Connie Barrett an apology). She also provides a template for writing down your daily sugar intake – what time did you eat it? Why? How did you feel before and after, both physically and mentally? That was far more helpful for me than the playlist thing. I knew I was an emotional eater, but seeing it written down in my handwriting was sobering, to say the least. 
The problem with this book, though, is that you do not get to substantive help until page 100 or so. Up until then, Bennett’s advice and guidelines are typical for any weight loss book out there. When she gives you tips on sugar substitutes, though, that’s helpful. Going cold turkey won’t work for all of us. She exposes hidden sugars in some of the stuff we eat, and she also provides exercise tips. 
As far as true, nuts and bolts help, though, I was disappointed in this book. So much of it pushes meditation and gratitude journals. That’s all fine and good, but, to quote Elaine in Seinfeld when discussing The English Patient, give me something I can use. Around page 140 or so, she does give more explicit eating guidelines, focusing on the benefits of protein. Haven’t we read that somewhere before? Oh, hi, Dr. Atkins.
Most of this book is common sense and offers nothing that I haven’t already heard or read. Maybe for some people, focusing solely on the detrimental effects of sugar is what it will take to start their path to a “slimmer, sexier and sweeter” them. But I felt like I’d read all this before.

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Ecstasy is Necessary

No, this is not a Hot Romance Novel … at least in the traditional sense.

Instead, Barbara Carrellas delivers Ecstasy is Necessary as a sort of guide to discovering your own path to ecstasy. This is a very individual journey. Yes, you can have a partner. Heck, you can have more than one. But that person is irrelevant if you don’t understand yourself. You will not achieve fully realized ecstasy in an intimate relationship until you know your own needs, desires and fantasies.

Carrellas is a new agey kind of girl who tells us about her 18 piercings. If you think this sounds weird or that she would be too weird to take seriously, allow me to say that I am about as new age as a ’72 Buick LeSabre, and I could relate to a lot o what she has to say.

This isn’t so much a how-to book as an exploration. Carrellas gives you exercises, and you need a journal for recording them. She also gives you a lot to think about. How do you define ecstasy? What are your fantasies? What secretly kinky thing have you wanted to do but haven’t? And why haven’t you?

The biggest message in Ecstasy is Necessary isn’t the title, but rather that ecstasy is a journey, and you have to know yourself in order to successfully traverse it. My idea of ecstasy may be different from yours, and that’s okay. As Carrellas puts it, “Ecstasy is available through so many avenues! I point this out to clients when they claim that joy, pleasure, or ecstasy is not possibile in their lives because, for some reason, sex is not available to them. Yes, orgasm and sex are hugely important, and for many people sex and orgasm are either the easiest or the only ways they know to access an ecstatic experience. But ecstatic experiences are available in a myriad of other ways.” You need to figure out what ways are YOUR ways to ecstasy.

One of the journal “prompts” she gives you is to write down sensual “elements” that make you feel safe, centered and special. Carrellas is big on safety and centeredness as pathways to ecstasy. She also stresses communication. All of this self-exploration is worthless if you can’t explain your needs to your partner. For instance, when she guides you through determining an “erotic risk” that you would like to take, you must be able to communicate those desire with your partner.

In these days of Fifty Shades of Grey making BDSM a coffee break discussion, Barbara Carrellas’ guide arrives at an opportune moment. If you think that your sensual life needs a little boost, this is a non-threatening guide to getting you on the right path.

Published by Hay House and available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

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