12 Mindful Books and 3 Podcasts to Tune into Self-Compassion

Whether it’s learning to eschew the extremes of self-judgments or waking up your sense of wonder, each of these books and podcasts can give you the tools to thrive right now.

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1. Expansive Leadership

Cultivating Mindfulness to Lead Self and Others in a Changing World

Latha Poonamallee, PhD • Routledge

We live in a world that’s diverse, complex, and constantly changing, and with all those changes comes a call to shift our leadership styles. Expansive leadership, as Dr. Latha Poonamallee explains, “is an invitation to explore how to be a leader in an expansive, inclusive, robust, and resilient way.” As Chair of Faculty of Management and University Fellow at the New School in New York City, Poonamallee can help leaders usher in this new era of change with kindness, self-reflection, curiosity, and mindfulness. 

While there are a lot of leadership books out today, Poonamallee successfully uses various guides and exercises to differentiate hers from the rest. This 28-day journey, filled with daily journal prompts, meditations, and a reminder to “be kind and cultivate a curious mind,” allows you to create space for deep reflection and gives you the tools to enact change in yourself and your teams. 

Think mindfulness could benefit your organization, but you’re not sure where to start? Poonamallee demystifies the role of mindfulness in leadership and provides a layered approach to how you can become an effective leader and build inclusive organizations. An expansive approach to mindfulness, she says, guides us toward treating those around us with kindness and respect. 

So whether you already see yourself as a leader in an organization or your personal life, or are looking to become one, you will find ways here to embrace change and transformation. While Poonamallee jokes that the book wrote itself, it’s clear that her honesty, diligent research, and thoughtful prompts make this book a great addition to any bookshelf. – OL

2. Five Good Minutes of Mindfulness

Reduce Stress, Reset, and Find Peace Right Now

Jeffrey Brantley • New Harbinger

In five minutes you can brew a cup of tea, solve a Wordle (on good days), or do one of the 100 practices from Five Good Minutes of Mindfulness. Whether you choose tea, Wordle, or a mindfulness practice, there’s no right way to spend five minutes. But thinking about what you can do in that time puts this collection of practices into perspective. It’s accessible no matter the level of your mindfulness practice. All you need is a few minutes to establish presence through mindful breathing, set your intention, and do the exercise you’ve chosen from the book. From slowing down to gratitude to connection, there’s a five-minute practice for every day, mood, or situation. – KR

3. Peace is a Practice

An Invitation to Breathe Deep and Find a New Rhythm for Life

Morgan Harper Nichols • Zondervan Books

Even if all around us seems to be falling apart, says Harper Nichols—an artist, musician, and author of four books—we have the power to dip into peace. Because, she writes, “Peace is the river in the desert, not on the other side of it.” She relates her own struggles, including her autism diagnosis at 31, from a worldview rooted in both her Christian perspective and in simply being human, with the countless joys and chal- lenges we share. This compassionate, refreshing, and down-to-earth book guides us through myriad practices to cultivate peace amid challenges. A few examples: Work with your light and shadows; awaken empathy; allow yourself to rest, and to trust; share your story; and “let go into love.” – AT

4. The Modern Loss Handbook

An Interactive Guide to Moving Through Grief and Building Your Resilience

Rebecca Soffer • Running Press

Rebecca Soffer wants you to think like a crab (OK, hear her out.) “They don’t try to follow any particular trajectory. They change course when something isn’t working for them—and decide pretty quickly when it isn’t,” Soffer writes. She proposes that the same applies to grief. Being able to adapt and weave your grief into your life takes time and some discomfort. That’s where The Modern Loss Handbook comes in. It’s a journal, task manager, and memorial rolled into one delightfully illustrated space to honor your grief. You’re guided through prompts, mindfulness practices, and tips to help you stay connected to yourself, connected to the world, and connected to the person who died (referred to as “your person”). How you use the handbook is up to you. You can follow the exercises, remember, feel, mess up, try again, or as Soffer writes, you can toss the book across the room if you so choose. – KR

5. Gutsy

Mindfulness Practices for Everyday Bravery

Dr. Leah Katz • Broadleaf Books

While many of us might not be quick to label ourselves as brave, in this book, Dr. Leah Katz lets us know that under all of the societal expectations, self-doubt, and fear lies an endless capacity to be brave. Filled with self-affirming reminders, humor, and honesty, Gutsy reads like a conversation with an old friend. Throughout various chapters, Katz touches on real-life issues such as relationships, pain, and body image to remind us of the moments of bravery we show in our personal, everyday battles. 

Dr. Katz draws on her Jewish faith and culture, as well as her expertise as a psychologist, and shares her own fears to help us acknowledge that there is bravery in honesty, self-care, gratitude. And if you’re looking for a reminder of your inner strength and worthiness, there is also bravery in simply picking up this book. – OL

6. What Happens in Mindfulness

Inner Awakening and Embodied Cognition

John Teasdale • Guilford

In the early ’90s, John Teasdale, a ground-breaking psychology researcher at Oxford University, along with Zindel Seigel, of the University of Toronto, and Mark Williams, also of Oxford, developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. MBCT has proved to be not simply a complement to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but a beneficial program in its own right, widely practiced and subjected to ongoing research. Teasdale, now retired, has produced his magnum opus in What Happens in Mindfulness, an ambitious book that makes an important contribution to the scientific understanding undergirding the mindfulness movement. 

Teasdale notes that as mindfulness practices expand their reach, it becomes increasingly valuable to understand the efficacy of mindfulness through secular views and models, not to replace religious ideologies, but rather to use within contexts such as psychologists’ study of the mind and clinicians’ concerns with healing patients. 

The model he relies on was employed in the development of MBCT: Interactive Cognitive Subsystems (ICS), a framework for understanding mental activity “firmly rooted in cognitive science and in what we currently know about how our minds work.” ICS departs sharply from earlier approaches that treated the mind as a kind of disembodied “symbol-processing computer.” ICS emphasizes embodiment. 

The interplay between two kinds of knowing—conceptual and holistic-intuitive—is the book’s driving force. “We try to achieve happiness,” Teasdale writes, “using the problem-solving strategies of conceptual knowing, rather than experience the happiness of wholeness linked to holistic-intuitive knowing.” Part one examines the pursuit of happiness through these two ways of knowing, illustrating the value of enhancing the oft-ignored holistic way of knowing. Part two investigates mindfulness practice to try to understand how and why it works. Part three explores how far the practice can go, helping us transcend duality and separateness, discover intrinsic joy, and unlock compassion and our capacity to live in a state of flow. – BB

7. How to Break Up With Your Friends

Finding Meaning, Connection, and Boundaries in Modern Friendships

Erin Falconer • Sounds True

“The truth is, I chose this title to get your attention,” Erin Falconer admits in the first lines of the introduction to How to Break Up With Your Friends. Compassionately cutting friends loose is only a part of Falconer’s deep dive into the meaning, importance, practice, and ritual of nourishing friendships. Don’t worry, you’ll get what you initially chose the book for (in Chapter 9), but first Falconer outlines how to be a good friend (to yourself, too). By the time you turn the last page, you’ll understand that “so much of friendship really is about you: who you are, what you need, and what you can give.” Through a refreshing mix of anecdotes from Falconer’s life and the lives of other women she interviewed, and expert advice, you’ll learn how to evaluate whether a friendship is serving you in its current form and how you can take the steps to strengthen a relationship–or ultimately break up with your friend. Falconer is honest in her thoughts on friendship and how you can “bring the fullest human being possible into relationships.” Taking a look inward to assess what you expect from your friendships doesn’t necessarily come easy but simple “homework” assignments at the end of chapters make the workload lighter. The work you put into one friendship may not match the work you put into another. It’s the circumstances that can make dynamics tricky, but Falconer acknowledges that and offers her voice to remind you that you’re not alone. – KR

8. Life, Part Two

Seven Keys to Awakening With Purpose and Joy As You Age

David Chernikoff • Shambhala

Chernikoff—a longtime meditation teacher and counselor, and a former director of conscious aging program Sageing International—shares this insightful vision of what it means to become a wise elder. Dispelling the notion that aging inevitably saps us of meaning and joy, he deems our later years our spiritual prime: “The chal- lenges inherent in the aging process,” writes Chernikoff, “can become a direct pathway to the actualization of our best human qualities—wisdom, joy, compassion, generosity, loving-kindness, and equanimity.” He then maps that path, drawing from many wisdom traditions as he illuminates seven core principles for growing older: Embracing the Mystery, Choosing a Vision, Awakening Intuition, Committing to Inner Work, Suffering Effectively, Serving from the Heart, and Celebrating the Journey. It all adds up to a compassionate, harmonious work, lighting the way to connection and purpose as hallmarks of this part of life. – AT

9. The Extraordinary Gift of Being Ordinary 

Finding Happiness Right Where You Are

Dr. Ronald D. Siegel • Guilford

Am I doing this right? Will people like it? …like me? Questions like this plague most of us every day. If they don’t, we may be a narcissist, sure we are the greatest! How do we break free and discover a middle way between withering self-examination and unjustified over-confidence? Siegel, a longtime meditator and clinical psychologist, explores “how we humans evolved to be so preoccupied with evaluating ourselves, why we can’t win at this game, and what we each might do about it.” Findings: Our brains are preoccupied with assessing social rank and likability (primal survival concerns); as circumstances change, we keep moving the yardsticks out of our reach; and the good news is that we can give up the game, with a mindfulness toolkit that can interrupt our endless search for greater self-esteem. His diagnoses and prescriptions are delivered with humor, care, and lots of stories. It’s a helpful message that goes down easy. – BB

10. Who Is Wellness For? 

An Examination of Wellness Culture and Who It Leaves Behind

Fariha Róisín • Harper Wave

In her third book, Fariha Róisín considers that uncomfortable question, who gets to be well? Her answer, conveying the breadth of true wellness and the depth of interconnectedness, is visionary: Either wellness must be for everyone, or it is for no one. “It deeply concerns me that whiteness and capitalism have co-opted wellness, relegating caring for oneself as a privilege when wellness should be for all,” she writes. “How can we be individually well if we aren’t well collectively?” 

Róisín brings the perspectives of a queer Muslim woman who is part of the Bangladeshi diaspora, now living in New York. In courageous and richly insightful prose, and weaving in quotations from dozens of experts and teachers, she explores how “wellness” is constructed by unjust social and economic systems. She also reflects frankly on her own traumas: abuse by her mother, white supremacy, chronic illness. Her own healing, she says, was a catalyst for the book’s themes: “Starting with an inquiry into my own wellness inevitably meant that I had to expand to think of other people’s, too.” 

Part 1, Journey to the Mind, looks at attitudes toward meditation and intuition. Róisín discusses epistemicide (the destruction of knowledge) as key to colonialism, with visible impacts on Western interpretations of meditation that often erase its original contexts. “If you meditate,” she wants us to ask ourselves, “why do you do it?” Part 2, Journey to the Body, explores the physiology of trauma, dysmorphia, white appropriation of yoga, and chronic illness. Part 3, On Self-Care (“a chance to choose myself again and again”), also investigates self-harm, esoteric traditions, and sexuality, referencing wisdom from bell hooks and Audre Lorde: “There is an inherent radicality to caring for yourself when you come from a lineage of oppressed people.” Lastly, in Introduction to Justice, she probes the need for economic degrowth, healing friendships, and a relationship of gratitude and reciprocity with the Earth. “There is sacredness here, there always was,” she says. “It’s about seeing it with fresh eyes and remembering everything can be a teaching.” – AT

11. Wonder Seeker

52 Ways to Wake Up Your Creativity and Find Your Joy

Andrea Scher • Harper Design

Author Andrea Scher seeks to remind us of magic—that source of wonder that is abundant in our surroundings, ourselves, and our connections with one another, if only we turn our attention to it. “Here’s what I know: our capacity for wonder and delight is also the gateway to our joy,” she writes. 

This volume is a guidebook to levity, creativity, and delight in a time when it feels so needed. Scher skillfully navigates the reality that life is sometimes heavy, emotions are sometimes difficult, and we sometimes just don’t feel joyful, especially lately, and that’s OK. She offers space for reflection with prompts and offers personal stories in and around the main feature, which is a collection of ways to connect with ourselves, one another, and a sense of awe. If you could use a little help to fall back in love with the goodness that surrounds us despite everything else, this book is for you. – AWC

12. Freedom From Health Anxiety

Understand and Overcome Obsessive Worry about Your Health or Someone Else’s and Find Peace of Mind

Karen Lynn Cassiday • New Harbinger

The paradox of health anxiety is that we risk spending our healthiest moments worrying about losing physical health instead of enjoying it, writes author Karen Cassiday. We may unintentionally sacrifice our mental health in our worry and striving to get ahead of any possible threat. “Your real dilemma is not whether or not you have, or will get, a terrible illness,” she tells us. “It’s how you’ll live well in the life that you have been given.” In this book, she helps us face our fear and determine what “living well” looks like for us. This is the beginning of building new habits and neural pathways that help us shift focus to the positive and be present with what’s here now. Anecdotes, reminders, guided meditations, and therapeutic exercises add up to a well-rounded and practical guide for people who struggle with a chronic fear of illness, death, and dying. – AWC

3 Mindfulness Podcasts to Listen to Right Now

1. Mindset Mastery

Episode: “How Mindfulness and Self Reflection Can Change the World with Saundra Davis”

Money is seldom the meaningful aspect of financial goals, says podcast guest Saundra Davis, a financial coach and mindfulness teacher. It’s about what the money can buy, and for many it adds up to peace of mind, freedom, or legacy. Her refreshing perspective takes into account the deeply emotional nature of financial planning, and therefore, the responsibility of financial coaches like herself—and not only for people who are wealthy. She offers a candid account of her personal experience with poverty and her journey into the world of finance. “Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you’re broken,” Davis says. – AWC

2. Wild With Sarah Wilson

Episode: “Johann Hari: THIS is why you’re finding the world too much”

If you haven’t yet delved into Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus, let yourself be convinced by this highly engaging episode. Host Sarah Wilson probes some of the book’s salient topics, including why it matters that we read differently on a page versus on a screen; the real productivity cost of believing our brains can multitask; and the combo of personal and systemic shifts needed in order to truly attend to what Hari describes as the “unprecedented tripwires and trapdoors” we now face as a species. From climate chaos to political upheavals, he says, “If we lose our greatest superpower, our attention, at the moment of our greatest crisis, that’s going to be a real problem.” – AT

3. Life Kit

Episode: “Mindfulness 101 with Jon Kabat-Zinn”

It may be an understatement to say that mindfulness is a hot topic—but with all the information out there, it might actually feel more difficult to learn the basics. Enter Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), who helps us cut through all the noise and explains mindfulness in a way that’s approachable and backed by science. In this engaging 20-minute conversation with host Shereen Marisol Meraji, Kabat-Zinn highlights the importance of awareness in a mindfulness practice, dispels some of the common misconceptions about mindfulness, and shares a breath-based meditation practice for beginners. – OL

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