11/12/2012 05:36 EST | Updated 01/12/2013 05:12 EST

How Books Have Shaped my Life

Flickr: SparkFunElectronics

Growing up I always had my nose in a book. I loved reading, enjoying the way the stories would allow me to learn, glimpse into another world and sometimes escape my own. I've also found comfort and words of wisdom in the pages of some of the books I have read. I wonder if writers ever learn what an impact their thoughts and reflections have on their readers?

I ask this question because of the passing last week of Susan Jeffers, probably best known for her best-selling book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, a book that sits proudly in my library. But it was one of her other books, that had a profound impact on me.

I was staying with my mother at the time, helping her recuperate and recover from her mastectomy. Early on she slept a lot, so I had time to read, and I picked up End the Struggle and Dance with Life. In it Susan talks about having breast cancer, so it seemed an appropriate read at the time but it was her words "When we focus on abundance, our life feels abundant; when we focus on lack, our life feels lacking. It is simply a matter of focus." that have always stayed with me.

How true they are. We spend much of our lives bemoaning our lot, wanting more, seeking change, completely ignoring all that we already have in our lives that is beautiful, meaningful and that truly matters. Life is short, and when we focus on what we don't have, we detract from being in the now, being present in our daily lives.

As I reflected on the wisdom of Susan's words, I realized that there are other books that have also caused me to stop and think. One is Tuesdays with Morrie, another classic in my opinion. Morrie, who is learning to live as he dies, shares that death is the end of a life, not a relationship. What a comforting thought. No one can take away the memories you have of times with a loved one.

For Joan Anderson, it was actually time away from a loved one that caused her to make changes in her life. In A Walk on the Beach, she tells the story of when she decided to take a year's sabbatical from her marriage, and what she learned about herself. As a middle-aged woman, she had devoted years to raising her children and fostering her marriage, but she felt as a result that she'd lost herself and her true essence.

On the beach she meets an older woman who becomes her mentor. They form a deep friendship through which she learns that she was spending too much time in her head, and needed to get on with living her life, rather than looking at it from the outside in. We can all probably think of friends who overthink what to do. In fact it probably revolves back to fear; fear of making the wrong decision.

While it was Joan's story that resonated with me, it was Oriah Mountain Dreamer's words in The Invitation that struck a chord. When she talks about not caring about where you live, what you do or who you studied with, it is like she is peeling away the onionskin to get to the real you.

Sadly so often we wear masks and are too quick to make judgements on other people based on external factors, not stopping to look at what is inside the person. But Oriah doesn't care. She wants to know "what sustains you from the inside, when all else falls away," and "if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments." Big questions.

All four books have a similar message -- to be true to yourself and live your life to the fullest. We can get so caught up in the minutia of day to day living, that we forget to give thanks for what we have. As Susan Jeffers said "It's not that beauty doesn't exist in our world, it's that we seldom seem to notice."

My thanks go to Susan Jeffers for her wisdom, her words and her courage to put pen to paper to share her innermost thoughts with the rest of us.

What about you? What books have brought meaning to your life?

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