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Living a Conscious Life: Five Great Reference Books

by Ana L. Palles

Colorful Books We all have our own set of bookshelf must-haves. As I focus more and more on living a conscious life, I keep my set of essential reference books close at hand for quick lookups.   The dog-eared corners and worn spines show the wear and tear these books get on a daily basis.  Clients often pour over specific chapters and references at the end of their session taking notes that they review again later drawing more insight as integration settles in.

With so much out there, and with the variety of approaches on esoteric topics, how does one find solid and useful resources? The answer for me is to simply ask for suggestions from people we respect, such as our teachers, friends and health workers.

A friend recently asked which five books I would consider key for my bookcase. It didn't take long to give her my current top five picks.

    1. Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small
      by Ted Andrews

      Ted Andrews is a respected author, teacher and speaker. With an impressive background, he has written more than 30 books. Animal Speak is a best seller with well-researched information on a variety of animals be they birds, insects, big cats or dolphins. I use this book often, especially when I’ve had repeated or unusual encounters with an animal. The information and messages I receive from this book often help steer me through some of my ponderings.


  1. The Book of Stones: Who They Are & What They Teach
    by Robert Simmons, Naisha Ahsian

    One of the nice things about this book is that it has wonderful pictures of each stone discussed. While the Melody books are the bible for stone attributes, this book provides a wealth of perspective on the use of the various minerals and good combinations for amplifying or highlighting specific attributes. For example, I recently had a healing session where the practitioner, a Master Crystologist, used a big chunk of a black mineral between my ankles. I immediately felt soothed and grounded. When I asked her what it was, she told me it had been a chunk of black tourmaline. I have since acquired my own piece of black tourmaline and find it is wonderful for calming stress.

    Since we are often drawn to specific gemstones or minerals depending on what is happening for us at a given time, it is good to have a reference resource that sheds some light on the esoteric properties and how they might best be used. 

  2. In Your Dreams: The Ultimate Dream Dictionary
    by Mary Summer Rains

    This book was required as part of the Shamanic Certification Program and I was so glad that it was. While billed as a dream symbol interpretation book, we used it to assist us in decoding some of the messages in our shamanic journeys. It is very comprehensive with a huge variety of terms the author has included and cross referenced. It is one of the most referenced books in our home.

    As with everything, we use what makes sense for us. While, at times, some of the interpretations do not jive with my impression of what the symbol meant, in which case one goes with one’s own feel, it is nevertheless worthwhile to have access to these interpretations.

  3. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements
    by Phyllis A. Balch

    I picked up my first copy of this book while on a trip to my local organic food market. They had a customer copy next to the supplements as a quick reference resource. You could see that it got a lot of use since the page were mostly dog-eared and the cover had been mended a few times with a liberal use of tape.

    This book provides some very easy to understand and clear guidance on the use of nutrition, vitamins and herbs that assist with a variety of health conditions. The book is written by a medical doctor and a certified nutritional consultant and is a good resource when working on a wellness and healing program in conjunction with medical care as appropriate.

  4. Sacred Space
    by Denise Linn

    This book was a treasured find during one of my spontaneous shopping expeditions. Since the importance of setting up sacred space in one’s environment cannot be over emphasized, it is useful to have a reference resource that provides easy how to’s and tips on how best one can clear and set space. Many of Linn’s recommendations may trigger memories of old family traditions, or bits and pieces that you may have forgotten that you already knew. Intent is the key component in everything, so be aware of your surroundings, of your moods and consciously choose to prepare and set your space accordingly.

Additional Good Reads

The Expected One: A Novel (Magdalene Line)
by Kathleen McGowan

I sat in the Oakland airport the seat against the window bathed in a soft morning sunlight. I had plenty of time before my flight to Salt Lake City and was well armed with a cold bottle of water and a couple of books I had been in the course of reading. To my left and in the center of the broad aisle, perhaps about forty or fifty feet away, was a book seller kiosk. I didn’t need to buy another book, I had two with me and an entire bookshelf at home of backlogged volumes waiting for some free time. Yet, this white paperback with images I could barely make out from where I sat, caught my attention. Eventually I could no longer resist and asked my friend to watch over my bags while I strolled over and investigated.

The Expected One is a Magdalene story weaving parallel plots about the sacred feminine. There is good historical information which many find fascinating, and a sprinkling on the use of symbols in art pieces to communicate complex concepts. I found that I could barely put the book down, an experience shared by the two people to whom I subsequently lent the book.

The author’s afterword made this an even more compelling read for me. It is difficult to come out and state that one sees visions without opening up a can of worms, from challenges regarding one’s mental health to overall credibility, to possibly causing someone harm as a result of actions taken based on this information. Often, it’s much easier to simply say little about these things. I was glad that the author was open about her experience and motivation.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and women generally have their share of exposure to emotional experiences and paths to healing either directly or via their closest friends, which is perhaps why I found this book a wonderful read. The book is somewhat of a travelogue divided as it is into segments on Italy (the “eat” section), India (the spiritual “pray” segment), and Bali (the last stop for balancing and reentry into life and love).

Elizabeth Gilbert has a bright writing style, taking the reader easily along in the story with a good chuckle every few pages. I felt I was traveling along with one of my friends on my own adventure. It was easy to read and to relate to the deep, dark crisis of the soul moment that finally triggers action on her part to get off her duff and do something to start healing. Gilbert takes responsibility for finding that path back to herself, starting with the simplest step of all, enrolling for a class just for fun. The book is a reading pleasure and one that resonated with me on a variety of levels.