Self-help books! I love them! I buy them! I devour them!
As I read them this I get this ecstatic feeling, which I suspect has something to do with glimpsing a life that I could be living if I followed the book’s suggestions.
It can sometimes take me months to finish a book. I have a problem you see. When I get to the word in the book that says “Exercise”, which appear regularly spaced through most self-help books, I can’t continue with the book until I have done the exercise.
My house is littered with partially read self-help books. You’ll find them piled up in the dining room, the TV room, next to my bed, in the coaching room and in my study. If you cared to open some of those books at the bookmark you would be surprised, had you not read the above paragraph , that the bookmarks all mark a page with the word “Exercise” on it.
Still, there are many times that I do manage to do the exercises, to make some changes in my life and learn a new way of being in the world.
Those precious achievements build the ecstasy of self-help books for me.
There have, however, been a few times in my life where following the advice of self-help books has not resulted in ecstasy and has somewhat backfired on me.
1. One night meditating…
One of the lessons I have gleaned from self-help books, magazines and courses I have been on is this: meditating daily has enormous benefits in your life.
I try! Really hard! It’s not easy for me. My mind is a very busy one, and emptying it is nigh impossible. I find that guided meditations work better for me.
A few weeks ago I came back from a Toastmasters meeting. I don’t sleep well after these meetings – my mind is just too active and I lie there restlessly preparing my next speech.
This particular evening, my husband was out and I knew he would only be back around 11pm. I decided this was a great opportunity to listen to a guided meditation in bed. I have one especially for having good night’s sleep. I needed that.
I hopped into bed, earphones on and settled down. This was bliss. This was ecstasy! This was …
Suddenly I was aware of a heavy weight on top of me. What was it? I opened my eyes.
There was a face. I screamed.
The face screamed back at me.
“What are you doing?” I asked my astonished, wide-eyed husband.
“Kissing you hello. What are you doing?”
“Meditating”, I giggled as we collapsed in a hysterical heap.
That meditation didn’t work so well for me and the ecstasy disappeared just like that!
2. A simple enough exercise…
Years ago I read a book by John Demartini‘s “How to make a Hell of a Profit and still get to Heaven.” The book was brimming with ideas around the energy of money and how to attract money into your life. It was also full of those dreaded exercises.
Some of the things were easy to do, so I went for it, picturing the ecstasy of having more in my bank account.
“Like attracts like”, says Demartini.
So I kept plenty of cash in my wallet. The idea was that cash attracts cash. I also opened that special savings account he suggested.
Another suggestion was to keep a check in my wallet depicting the amount I would like to have. That seemed pretty harmless, don’t you think?
I sat down and wrote a check in my name for a million rands. Cool! – and in my wallet it stayed. Mostly I forgot it was there and hopefully it was working its ecstatic magic.
A few months later I experienced an armed robbery at my home. What a dreadful day that was. Somehow we made it through the day and finally fell into bed. Neither of us slept well, tossing, turning and worrying.
Suddenly I sat up.
“Oh no!”, I said. (The actual words I used were a bit stronger than that.)
“What?” asked my bleary eyed husband.
“The check for a million rand was in my purse!”, I said.
“WHAT?” he roared also sitting up.
I had omitted to tell him what I had done at the time; after all it may have made me look a bit silly! I told him the story. He’d read the book so he understood.
Then he said, “You’ll have to cancel the check”. I didn’t like the sound of those words.
The next morning I dialled the bank.
“I’d like to cancel a check.”
“Certainly ma’am. What is the number of the check?”
I told her.
“And what was the amount?” she asked.
Swallowing hard, I said, “One million rand”.
There was dead silence on the other end of the line. For an extended period.
Eventually she squeaked back, “Mrs Long do you have an overdraft facility?”
I replied, “No and I had better tell you the whole story.”
I told her about the book and what I had done. We shared a laugh or two – all at my expense.
I could just picture her turning to her colleagues and saying, “You’ll never guess what I just heard!”
To add insult to injury I was charged R50 to cancel that check.
That was one self-help moment that weighed heavy on me. I have still not been brave enough to write another check. That idea has been banked with the other few that have not quite worked that well.
I still buy them! I still devour them! I still read them until I see the word “Exercise”.
I do, however, reflect a little more carefully and considerately before I embark on implementing a new set of ideas!
I went to a bookstore
and asked the saleswoman,
“Where’s the self-help section?”
She said if she told me,
it would defeat the purpose.
Photo from Flickr