Quotes from the Book
This book is for people who are trying to get unstuck from patterns of behavior or belief that keep them from change. It’s for folks who want to stimulate their intuition, so it can guide them, and who want to live richly while they follow a spiritual path. And it’s for those who want to become kinder towards themselves and others. I hope you are among them.
Truth up front: I have no magic formula, step-by-step guide, or guarantee of anything except greater self-awareness. Believe me, if I had The Answer, I’d be shouting it out loud, along with the disclaimer that it might be total bull. Anything I have to offer comes from a lifetime of trying to make my own life happier and from decades of helping folks through life’s tangles, as Helen and as Your Jewish Fairy Godmother. What’s here comes from changing—eagerly or after lots of stumbling and resistance—to become happier myself. It comes from every new beginning and every vow made and broken, and made and broken yet again a thousand times. It comes from books, teachers, friends, movies, and lots of quietude, plus many hints whispered and shouted from the world of the unseen. Some of that guidance I was smart enough to listen to. Some I accepted only after clunking my head repeatedly against my karmic homework.
Life is complicated. No one gets it right all the time. We’re all trying to excel at some things while we survive so many others. We alternate between rampant pride at what we’re best at, and uneasiness around what we’re not. Mostly, our plates are full just getting through our days and years. Our stories are the unifying thread. They’re how we define ourselves, how we explain ourselves to others, and how we organize our way of seeing the world and our place in it. In our time together we will unpack the old stories and create new ones to guide us to a better future. This work is harder in the beginning. Once you engage you’ll start to feel changes. Then you’ll have more energy and excitement about the process. I’m asking you to use skills that might be rusty. They include honesty and self-reflection, and they’ll guide you towards courage and curiosity. If you feel resistance, push even just a little more. You’ll surprise yourself in the best of ways.
Before we tackle change, we’ll look at our emotional innards. I’ll share tools from my emotional and spiritual toolkit, drawn from traditions I’ve studied and practiced. I pull from a wide range of sources because I’m eclectic. Also, because what works for one situation may be useless in another, and what works in some phases of life may be inaccessible or stall out in a different cycle. Use what resonates for you.
We’ll spend time in the messy middle and on the happier other side. We’ll talk about what holds us back or pulls us forward, and what makes us feel brave or small. We’ll look at our patterns of self-sabotage, searching for the sweet spots where happiness comes with less drama and pain. We’ll need to visit places we buried deep, got burned by, or tried to leap over. I want us to clean out those dark and crumbly places, toss old baggage, and lighten our psyches. If your path is like mine, you’ll appreciate your hard-won knowing more now than when you were hurting. We’ll wrestle with personal lessons: love, generosity, and caring, all mixed up with wanting, striving, and hurting. If it works, we’ll find new direction and oomph. Then we’ll look at our collective homework: how to make a sweeter, more peaceful world. Along the way we’ll talk about heart and soul, what makes us cranky or sad, and how much we cherish gifts like friendship and chocolate.
First, we’ll snuggle up by the fire with some tea or brandy and get to know one another. We’ll share stories about who we’ve been, and dream up better ones about who we long to become. As we do this work together we’ll learn to trust ourselves more, because the true and future us’s are headed somewhere new. We’ll remember how strong we really are, get good at things we haven’t tried yet, and generally come away feeling lighter, clearer, and happier. That’s my goal. It may show up differently in you.
I’m indifferent to the specifics of your beliefs and practices. I care only that you’re committed to becoming a better person. Some people I love have very different spiritual languages from mine, but we all agree on the importance of compassion, acceptance, and trust. That’s the bottom line here. If you’re more focused on material things, there are better places to get a boost. This book is for the messy gardener. The one who appreciates invasive perennials and shaggy borders. For whom the joyous fecundity of nature is an invitation to get lost, wander, and play. It’s for folks who see awe and wonder as a natural state, and want to find it again.
This book comes from everything I’ve integrated on my life journey. The author voice is a mix of Your Jewish Fairy Godmother Helen, the one who helps people move their lives forward, and just me Helen, down here in the weeds with everyone else, trying to get my messy life right. There are occasional touches of rabbi Godmother, mystical Helen (Kabbalah and more), the part of me who lusts for brownies, and the one who’s happiest sitting with a book or my journal. Like Oregon weather, I move fluidly from one tone to the next, with this unifying thread: I care most that you and I and all of us become kinder, happier, and more peaceful together.
This book is my half of our conversation. I’ll offer ruminations, insights, and questions. Your half is doing a lot of soul-searching. I ask only that you not abstain. Not be indifferent, hurried, or bored. If the words stop getting in, come back when they call you, when your answers ask to be born, and when your curiosity hungers for greater self-knowing.
Liking whom you see in the mirror is both a great beginning and a great goal. This work is not always easy. But even with uncomfortable, hard, or scary moments, I hope you’ll become better at forgiving the pain of old wounds and at avoiding new ones. If you wrestle with this work, you’ll discover new resources to make the life changes you want. I’m making a map and hoping my karma road intersects with yours. In the universe of souls our connections are clear and bright. In our human-hood they can get tangled. Like the pilgrimage stories I used to love, we’ll discover more on the journey than we can envision now. I can’t promise enlightenment or even a cure for insomnia. But I’m betting these words can help speed you on your path and soften the rockiness along the way.
Deeply liking yourself is like first embracing your beloved after a long time of wanting, taking pleasure in the unveiling, until you’re both a little more naked than you thought you’d be. But you’re ready, and it feels good, and it opens so many doors. Your biggest commitment is staying open: inviting knowing to thunk into place so you can move forward sure-footed and clear. Then we’ll do it again. Because after the stuff, there’s always more stuff.
I hope you’ll join me. Take good care either way—