Top 10 Books on meditation

Writers and other mortals function best from a state of inner calm. When we can breathe and are clear-headed, then we can be highly productive and creative. Meditation has a ridiculous number of benefits for mind, body, and spirit. And the advantage of the modern literature on meditation is that there is something for everyone.

1. Dan Harris, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

Everywhere you go people are telling you that you should be meditating. But if you’re like many others, the prospect of sitting in silence with your eyes closed sounds dull or uncomfortable. So, if you self-identify as“fidgety,” or “easily distracted,” then you might like this book. Too busy to meditate? Can’t turn off your brain? Curious about mindfulness but more comfortable in the gym? Try this practical and at times funny book to turn things around.

[Or try a free version of the meditation app Insight Timer]

The other type of reader this book is intended for is the“skeptic,” meaning, an individual who doesn’t believe in the merits of meditation. This is a totally different issue. I once dated a supercilious Russian dude who told me, “I feel sorry for people who chant because they look like imbeciles.”Needless to say, we were mismatched as a couple! Chanting and meditation are activities I LOVE, and I can report first-hand that there are tons of benefits for brain and body.

Skeptics are people who wouldn’t be caught dead touching crystals. They can’t sense energy. Poor them. They just don’t get it.

In Harris’s book, written in collaboration with master meditation teacher Jeff Warren, the purpose was for them to road trip and figure out what’s stopping us from taking advantage of these powerful benefits and how to help us get out of our own way. The science is embedded. Dan Harris is a journalist, so he reports well. 

2. Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness

Sharon Salzberg is the ideal meditation coach for the beginner. She’s a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, Vermont. She has thirty years of experience and has written some of the all-time best books on the subject of Buddhism (Lovingkindness). She presents the information in clear language that’s not fussy with strange jargon.

I picked this book for my top ten list because it is a 28-day program that treats meditation like exercise. Your meditation muscle gets stronger as you inaugurate the habit. This means that in a month you’ll be gaining the benefits of reduced blood pressure and stress, increased focus and alertness, better health, calmness, resilience.

Salzberg weaves students FAQs throughout. Gives instructions for twelve alternate meditation practices (something for everyone). It’s just another great book from a great teacher who’s a person I like.

3. Thich Nhat Hahn, The Miracle of Mindfulness

Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, who lives and works in Bordeaux, France, these days at the 4. Dalai Lama, How to Practice

Nobel Prize-winner Tenzen Gyatso, better known as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, has written numerous books on Buddhism that have been translated in the West. Perhaps the biggest gift he gives us is the gift of showing us a path to happiness.

In the Introduction he says there are two paths to happiness. Way 1 is through external means–the improvement of our circumstances: food, shelter, clothing, and so on. Way 2 is through internal means–moving beyond away from our anger and hatred. He asserts: “The essential objective of daily practice is to cultivate an attitude of compassion and calm. . .Trouble is bound to come, so cultivating the right attitude is crucial.”

Using the story of the Buddha’s awakening to dictate his contents, the Dalai Lama teaches basic disciplines needed to move through three stages of development of our minds. Practices to cultivate morality. Practices to cultivate focused concentration meditation. Practices to cultivate wisdom.

A great book for those who would establish grounded daily practice.

5. Loch Kelly, Shift into Freedom

I had the sincere pleasure a few years ago of doing editorial work on the manuscript for the book Shift into Freedom. Loch Kelly, founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute in New York City, is a psychologist and meditation teacher who is a super clear teacher.

In his book he talks about the gradual path of awakening (and compares it to the sudden path–both are true possibilities), and he talks about experiences such as spiritual detox and spiritual bypass that are very real when awake awareness produces an effect on a human being. Fortunately for us, he has generously placed many videos on YouTube (view the one below, for instance), which correspond with teachings from his book. Loch has been initiated by leaders of many schools of meditation and spiritual practice. Their verification of his approach and his ability to teach is meaningful.


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6. Gabrielle Roth, Sweat Your Prayers

The late Gabrielle Roth was an incredible woman who saw energy embodied in the human form as rhythms. She marked how this paralleled emotional states, stages of development/maturation, and simply the tempo at which a day might land on you. Her 5Rhythms dance classes (now taught by her disciples) are opportunities to be fully embodied and present. In Sweat Your Prayers, this becomes a spiritual practice.

Ten years ago I had the privilege to interview her about her work for several hours, for a book on integrative medicine that I was writing. I also, on another occasion, had the privilege to dance beside her and see how deeply she went into herself to express and process her condition on that day–by which I mean whatever was up for her in her mind, in her heart, in her soul. This was evident in how she moved and carried herself, which that day was rather gently. But intensely. And we met a third time at the launch party for that book–we were outside on the sidewalk looking in through a window making a great escape–something we’d done spontaneously as individuals. We talked about how painful writing a book can be. And we promised to discuss it further, but never got the chance. I cannot recommend her beautiful writing highly enough–or her movement practice.

It can really crack your soul wide open.

7. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are

Many years ago–in 1995–I was given a copy of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on how to meditate and laughed in delight at the title. So true! Truth usually makes me giggle.

When I dug into the book, I discovered morsels of wisdom. Morsels of insight that were small enough that I could wrap my untrained mind around them. Since then, whenever someone asks me what they should read to learn to meditate this is always one of the books I recommend.

Most authors of this ilk write several books and create a library. Kabat-Zinn’s other book way back when was Full Catastrophe Living. He comes by his views honestly from working with people wrestling with illness. He taught Medicine at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for decades. Being that I have always viewed my life as a process of staggering from one change to another, one drama to another, I value the simplicity of the way meditation is laid out.

Why do we need so much variety of practices? We don’t. Find one that works and keep doing it and let yourself be led. Surrender.

8. Flicka Rahn and Tammy McCrary, The Transformational Power of Sound and Music

Twenty-first-century healers and musicians owe it to themselves and the world to develop comprehension of the transformational power of sound and music. From the effects of different drum rhythms on our brainwaves, to the positive impact of vibrational frequencies on the physical structure of our cells and organs, anyone who can hum or sing or clap or stamp their feet already has within their grasp some of the best medicine on Earth. Try toning if you have a headache!

Again, I am so proud to say I was the editor of this book, which has garnered advance praise from luminaries that include Grammy Award-winning recording artist Chaka Khan, spiritual teachers Marianne William and Michael Bernard Beckwith, shaman Renee Baribeau, and renowned flutist Wendy Luck, among others.

The power of sound and music has been familiar to ancient and indigenous healers in every culture around the world for millennia. This book explores that history and then gives detailed instructions. It also describes recent scientific research on healing cancer and awakening the vibrations in solid objects–and details how recording music tuned to certain frequencies changes people’s moods.

You can download a free song  in MP3 from Flicka Rahn’s album Icaros: Chakra Landscapes here.

9. Anne Wilson Schaef, Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much

A classic book to help women put themselves front and center in their lives. To say no. To take time for self-care. This book combines inspiring quotes with short reflections that are encouraging and reassuring  reminders to treat ourselves with loving kindness. It only takes a few minutes to bring wisdom into each day.

Organized as a calendar year, starting on January 1.

10. Amy Bammel Wilding, Wild & Wise

Frankly, I haven’t read this book cover to cover yet. But I was so drawn in BY the spiral on its cover that I had to add it to my list as  aspirational reading material for the winter. The lunar calendar has thirteen moons, and Wild & Wise has 13 goddess-centered meditation practices to do on your own or in women’s circles.

The book is also organized by season, and we are in the season of darkness and making the inward journey now (it is December at this writing). preparing ourselves, like Mother Earth does, for springtime renewal. Multicultural, rather than mono-ethnic.

I look forward to reading this slowly and with deliberation.

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Top 10 Books on Holiday Entertaining

This December I’ve decided to introduce a weekly book roundup to the blog, showcasing books in various categories I deem relevant.

As we’re already immersed in the eight days of Hanukkah (this year it came early, running from December 2-10), I’m skipping ahead a couple of weeks to the needs of the home entertainer for Christmas and then NewYear’s Eve parties. Truth is, though, that many of these books could be (and should be) cracked open throughout the year. Getting together with friends and family–and feeding them–is such a massive demonstration of love, you’re really to be admired for taking it on, you home cook, you. These books are for you!

Welcome to the Holiday Entertaining round up.

1. Cooks Illustrated, All Time Best Holiday Entertaining

Cook’s Illustrated knows a thing or two about putting together a fool proof meal, and since they test all of their recipes, this is a go-to book if you’re having guests for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, for instance, and have no idea where to begin this holiday season.

In this book, they’ve taken their over 20 years of testing experience and put together 75 delicious recipes that are sure to give you confidence in the kitchen during this stressful time of year. Whether you’re putting together a small celebration or a feast for your entire extended family and friends, there’s a chapter devoted to each delectable course, ensuring you create the perfect meal. And with recipes that include Roasted Cauliflower Gratin, Boneless Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding, Chocolate Truffles, and Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake, I’ll be waiting for my invite!

2. Shelly Westerhausen, Platters and Boards: Beautiful, Casual Spreads for Every Occasion

They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I dare you to look at this book and not want to open it immediately! Author and food blogger Shelly Westerhausen gives you all the tools, tips, and tricks to create an incredible spread to impress both meat lovers and vegetarians alike. If you like finger food, you’ll be in heaven.

I particularly like this book because while it’s a great resource for planning your next Christmas party, it’s not exclusively focused on the holiday season. There’s a great chart that offers suggestions for every occasion. You’ll be using these ideas all year long.

Sweet and savory platters are featured.

3. Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion

My next selection is for all the grain-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free food lovers out there. In 2018, there are more people with food allergies and dietary restrictions than every before, whether for health reasons or personal choice. But just because your diet’s changed doesn’t mean you need to restrict your ability to enjoy delicious comfort food.

Danielle Walker transforms classic recipes and menus for twelve occasions throughout the year,including birthday cakes, finger foods, and even classics like peach cobbler and corn bread, using alternative ingredients that you’ll feel confident serving at your next event no matter who is in attendance. And everyone can eat up.

4. Elisabet der Nederlanden, Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten an invite to a cookie exchange, gotten really excited, responded that you’ll be there, and then realized you now have to make the cookies. Next time, all you’ll need is this book. It covers everything cookie, from baking to decorating, and offers 50 recipes that are sure to make your sweet tooth tingle.

Here are Martha Stewart’s instructions for “Hosting a Cookie Swap

5. Christmas Entertaining (Williams-Sonoma)

Food isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when entertaining during the holidays. Hosts spend hours planning, cooking, and decorating. This book by the posh kitchenware and home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma serves as a guide and gives you everything you need, from complete menus and decorating ideas, to ideas for welcoming your guests into your home with style and ease.

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6. Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook: For the Best Christmas Ever

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Oliver for years. It never hurts to have a charming guy show you a better way to eat, America, right? His school lunch movement was impressive. Beyond that, he really knows how to cook! And this book contains all the classic dishes you need for the big day and beyond,as well as loads of delicious recipes for edible gifts, party food, and new ways to love those leftovers.

And thanks, Jamie, for designing recipes whenever possible to cook in the oven at the same temperature for kitchen efficiency. That’s really helpful and lets us hang out in the living room with the people we love while the meal is doing what it needs to do in the oven.

Roasting, baking, stirring, basting, frosting. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Get Jamie’s list of essential kitchen equipment here on Oprah Winfrey’s blog (favorite things, anyone?)

7. Mary Giuliani, The Cocktail Party: Eat Drink Play Recover

The Cocktail Party looks like a bible.The plain white cover with gold lettering let’s you know the best information is inside. And the subtitle stenciled on there, “Eat. Drink. Play.Recover,” offers a clue that the author know whereof she speaks. Famous New York caterer Mary Giuliani’s core philosophy is “simple yet special.”

Cocktails and “Snacktivities,” meaning food stations, like DIY grilled cheese? OK, Mary, I’m listening. I get the feeling you’re going to make me laugh with your whimsical ideas and at the same time help me out by providing me some themes I can use. Themes like:

  • Christmas: Mini Grilled Cheese with Fontina and OTTO Black Truffle Honey, Baked Italian Mini Doughnuts, and Italian Eggnog
  • New Year’s Eve: Banana Pancake Bites, Mini Kale and Fontina Breakfast Pies, and Champagne Jell-O
  • Game Day: MACO (Mac and Cheese Taco) with Guacamole, Banoffee Cream Pie in a Mug, and Beergaritas
  • AwardsSeason: Chicken Satay, Edamame Dumplings, and Easiest Champagne Drink Ever
  •  Cinco deMayo: Spicy Pigs, Sweet Quesadilla Bites, and Grapefruit-Jalapeño Margaritas

Features include a party calculator for figuring expenses, advice for a party closet so you’re always ready if friends drop by. Granted, my NY apartment may be small, and most of my closet space is full of 20 years’worth of old crap I’ve been meaning to sort through and clean out with the help of books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I love the idea of having friends spontaneously visit.

8. Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos, and Jorge Pineda, Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe: Celebratory Menus and Recipes from New York’s Premier Plant-Based Restaurant

I met Joy and her business partner and significant other,Bart, owners of the famed New York establishments 9. Christmas with Southern Living 2018:Inspired Ideas for Holiday Cooking and Decorating

For over three decades, Christmas with Southern Living has been the most dependable, comprehensive, and up-to-date guide to the holidays. Christmas with Southern Living 2018 brings an inspired new lineup of creative ways to decorate,entertain, and make gifts for the holidays. Festive menus and décor ideas,along with more than 100 brand-new recipes crafted by the professionals of The South’s Most Trusted Kitchen ensure success and wow factor at every turn. Also included are dozens of kitchen tips and entertaining ideas to take the pressure off the host. A special gifts-from-the-kitchen section includes simple but fun recipes for shareable foods, along with packing and storage information. Over 200 vibrant photographs inspire, showcasing unique holiday decorations–including table settings, wreaths, trees, centerpieces, and mantels–making Christmas with Southern Living 2018 the only guide you need to make the holidays memorable and spectacular.

10. Maggie Battista, Food Gift Love: More than 100 Recipes to Make, Wrap, and Share

My choice for the crafty foodie and DIYer is Food Gift Love by blogger Maggie Battista.  Small-batch,hand-crafted foods make truly great, highly appreciated gifts. The book offers 100 memorable, edible gift ideas with simple, delicious recipes, detailed wrapping instructions, and stunning photography. Recipes to show your love include simple homemade infused salts and sugars; instant-gratification gifts,like fresh ricotta and flavored butters; jams, pickles, and vinaigrettes; and irresistible cookies, desserts, savories, and spirits that will impress fellow food fans.

Inspiration for cooks, food-lovers, and DIY fans.

So, that’s it for now, my friends. Eat hearty. Love open heartedly. I’ve got to go because I think I just put on ten pounds in my imagination.

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Essential Oils for FOCUS (during Tax Season!)

Watch Laura Rubinstein and I discuss three invigorating recipes for keeping focused, clearing brain fog, staying sharp on the job or in school, and getting important tasks done–like completing your taxes in a timely manner. If you have ADHD, or just feel like it by 2 PM every day, then you will want to know the secrets and benefits of essential oils, especially the three recipe blends posted down below the video.

Now, I should add that these are either good in a water diffuser with about a cup of water OR you could blend them with a carrier oil, like fractionated coconut, and then apply a small amount to the back of your neck from time to time. (I explain more about this in the video.)

The basics recommend oils for focus are:
Clary Sage
Juniper Berry




• 4 drops juniper berry essential oil
• 3 drops rosemary essential oil
• 3 drops clary sage essential oil

• 6 drops eucalyptus
• 2 drops peppermint
• 5 drops basil

• 1 drop basil
• 2 drops rosemary
• 2 drops cypress

Contact me if you’d like to get an enrollment kit for a wholesale membership and save 25% on your purchases for the next year.


And remember, you can self-regulate your moods and mentality!

EXCLUSIVE: First Interview with CC Webster, Author of So, That Happened

CC Webster is a hoot! We always laugh when we talk. Even so, I am moved by her story of her year from diagnosis to remission from cancer, which occurred between age 29 and age 30.

This book is her answer to the question, What does it mean to be one of the lucky ones that survive cancer?

In our conversation, you’ll find out how CC and I met seated side by side in a café downtown in New York City in a “divinely orchestrated” moment, what it was like to take the hardest thing she’d ever endured and turn it into a source of creative expression, and hopefully a source of inspiration for others, how readers are responding to the descriptions and truths she reveals, what its like to lay bare for the world one’s greatest vulnerabilities and to draw strength from them.

So, That Happened, is funny, touching, and honest, and it is a light in the darkness. You are not alone.

Visit CC’s website:

Interview with Debbra Lupien, Author of Akasha Unleashed: The Missing Manual to You

Join me for a delightful conversation with the Answer Diva, Debbra Lupien, author of the new international best-selling book Akasha Unleashed: The Missing Manual to You. I took this opportunity to ask questions about the Records: What are they? Why should we be interested in “reading” them? What’s it like to experience the Records? How do they help us find our purpose? And more.

Right in the middle, Debbra surprised me with some information she offered about my soul purpose. I hadn’t expected it. But it felt very affirming and “right” on a professional level. You’ll have to read the book to learn how you can reduce the dissonance between your ego self and your higher self and soul. And once you do, your plans could come to fruition more rapidly and in ways that delight you.

Buy the book on Amazon:

Interview with Lori Ann King, Author of Come Back Strong

Lori Ann King joins me in this insightful interview to discuss her new book release COME BACK STRONG: BALANCED WELLNESS AFTER SURGICAL MENOPAUSE, which is a holistic look at preparation for and recovery from surgery. She shares what to do moving forward to feel great and lead a purposeful and active life as a woman. Some 600,000 women per year in the United States have this intense and transformative experience, and as an athlete, wellness coach, and someone who has been through it herself, Lori Ann has tons of tips to share.

Visit her website: and sign up to get her excellent free reports.

You may buy the book and Amazon here:

Interview with Courtney Marchesani, Author of The Fifth Chamber

It was my pleasure today to speak with the writer of a seductive new novel of erotica that dares to look into the shadows of a woman’s life. Courtney Marchesani speaks so eloquently about the creative journey that led to the writing of the book, the formation of her central character and plot, and how writing the book was a part of a larger process of discovery and healing for her.

Visit Courtney’s website to learn more about her work in other areas. In addition to creativity and self-expressions, she’s quite the expert on herbs/plants and healing.

Find her on Ask for a free one-hour integrative health consultation!

Interview: Lucy Quigley, Author of You Are Worthy: A Personal Story of Recovery and Hope

New York University college student Lucy Quigley, in recovery from an eating disorder, wrote an eloquent book to encourage other young women and men to seek treatment if they are experiencing compulsions related to food: including anorexia, binge eating, purging. Her message is simple: You deserve love, happiness, and attention.

You can purchase copies of Lucy’s book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, and elsewhere.

Please visit her website:

The Writer’s Book of Inspiration


The Writer’s Book of Inspiration: Quotes on Writing and the Literary Life

Selected and Edited by Stephanie Gunning

Buy the Paperback Book on Amazon

Funny, perceptive, and practical—this compendium of memorable quotations from our favorite writers and great literary figures shows us that, as word smiths, we are not alone in how or why we choose to meet the challenge of the blank page. Despite the fact that writing is an often sloppy and sometimes frustrating process, it is also an exhilarating, joyful, entertaining, and even noble, endeavor, which, if done honestly and practiced faithfully, ultimately reveals every aspect of the human condition. Here you will find encouragement, advice, and motivation, along with belly laughs. A gift for everyone who writes, or longs to, THE WRITER’S BOOK OF INSPIRATION reads like the conversation at a gathering of old, close friends.

Inspiring Art Book Uplifts & Affirms Our Potential

My friend, Bahamian author and painter Tina Klonaris-Robinson has just published her first art book. She’s become an “accidental” painter in her forties, drawn to the canvas as a form of meditation. As a result, special energy is imbued in every one of her works of art. They’re healing paintings filled with angels and sea creatures. Natural. Innocent. They sort of remind me of the Aboriginal art of Australia because they have so many dots in them. I keep telling her I see the dots as cells alive with energy. It is my honor to be her editor and consultant. She’s changing lives with her work.

Visit her website:

Follow her on Facebook:


Book editing and publishing