• Stephanie Phillips

5 books that will heal your heart and soul


Often, as a herbalist, you get asked questions that start with “What plant is good for... [Insert any ailment from broken bones to broken hearts]?”.

What I have been thinking about lately, is how healing books can be. Especially when it comes to the unsettling, and hard to label existential discomforts we sometimes pass through. So I thought I’d attempt to create a mini biblio-apothecary that people could turn to as a complementary act of self love, growth and healing.

Ailment: An unshakeable sense of loneliness

Cure: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This book is like wisdom being showered down on you. Every chapter transports you into new levels of awe and wonder. It is deeply humbling to be reminded that as humans we were last to arrive on this planet and have much to learn from plants and animals. Kimmerer writes in a poetry that will speak directly to your heart and fill it with meaning and connection to the world around you.

“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize, so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge or floating lazily on a pond, I could be doing the work of the world while being standing silent in the sun. The shadowy hemlocks and the waving grasses are spinning out sugar molecules and passing them onto hungry mouths and mandibles all the while watching the light dance on the water”

Ailment: A feeling that you are lost and have no idea how to get onto your true life path

Cure: The great work of your life by Stephen Cope

Cope layers biographical stories between the lessons offered by what might be the greatest teaching story of all: the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna teaches Arjuna about finding and manifesting your life's divine purpose, or dharma. Cope, while examining the life struggles faced by such visionaries as Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman, and Mohandas Gandhi, encourages readers to reject the modern idea that 'we can be anyone we want to be' and instead to discover and fully pursue their inner self's calling.

“How we spend our days,” says author Annie Dillard, “is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Once the mature Susan B. Anthony had fully organized her life around her dharma, she declared, as I have said, “Failure is impossible.” She had grasped the central principle: As long as you are living your dharma fully—unified!—you cannot fail. Indeed, you have already succeeded.”

Ailment: A painful existential feeling that your life is meaningless

Cure: The top ten things dead people want to tell you by Mike Dooley

Yes, I know this is a weird title but no, the book is not actually about mediums or dead people talking. MIke Dooley is a spiritual teacher who coined the idea that “thoughts become things” and created a lovely little email called Notes from the Universe which you can sign up to for daily doses of encouragement and perspective. This book will offer you some fresh perspective on how to get clear on what you want.

“You are not meant to bear that which you find unpleasant; you are meant to change it.”

“Nothing frees you like the truth, and nothing holds you back more than not knowing it. Knowledge is power; it heals what hurts, fills what’s empty, clears what’s confused, lightens what’s heavy, brings friends together, turns dust to gold, and raises the sun. A man or a woman tuned in and turned on to truth becomes an unstoppable”

Ailment: Adulting is sucking the life out of you

Cure: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Sometimes we need a break from the Tim Ferris and Tony Robbins flavor of spiritual discipline and just need someone to break down some life lessons for us in a digestible way that doesn’t take itself so seriously.

“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can't save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”

“The honey doesn't taste so good once it is being eaten; the goal doesn't mean so much once it is reached; the reward is no so rewarding once it has been given. If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won't have very much. But if we add up the spaces *between* the rewards, we'll come up with quite a bit. And if we add up the rewards *and* the spaces, then we'll have everything - every minute of the time that we spent.”

Ailment: Fear of Failure, Imposture Syndrome and paralyzing FOMO

Cure: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Tara distills Buddhist teachings down into such practical advice peppered with humor and self-deprecation. If you don’t fancy reading a whole book, tune into her podcast. Make it a habit and you will start to feel the benefits in no time.

“We are uncomfortable because everything in our life keeps changing -- our inner moods, our bodies, our work, the people we love, the world we live in. We can't hold on to anything -- a beautiful sunset, a sweet taste, an intimate moment with a lover, our very existence as the body/mind we call self -- because all things come and go. Lacking any permanent satisfaction, we continuously need another injection of fuel, stimulation, reassurance from loved ones, medicine, exercise, and meditation. We are continually driven to become something more, to experience something else.”

“Imperfection is not our personal problem - it is a natural part of existing.”

I would love to hear about the books that healed your soul, gave you healthy perspective, or helped you through a tough time of transition. Please get in touch: hello@thehumbleleaf.com

If you want more recipes and rituals to keep you healthy in a stressful world, please sign up to the monthly newsletter.

#books #existential #heart #soul #healing