To teach is an honor. To practice what you teach is rare. Personal growth pioneer Jen Louden is rare on many counts. Through her Teach Now program, Jen has led the pack in elevating the vocation of teaching in this new digital world.
Jen’s first book The Woman’s Comfort Book launched her into personal growth fame, and now she is recognized worldwide as an exuberant, heartful, and insightful teacher and author. Her book The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year (also good for men!) recently came out in an updated edition with an app.
In this week’s Books That Matter feature, we find out the books that have shaped Jen’s wisdom, the book she’s writing (it involves witches!), and a bit of wisdom about choice.
What one book most took off the top of your head (Dickinson on poetry) or was “the axe for the frozen sea within” you (Kafka) or otherwise just changed something profound within you? What did it do for you? Maybe a book that lit you up as a child or that turned you on as a young adult or last week that salved some pain or turned your thinking upside-down.
Be Here Now by Ram Dass. I read it when I was 12. I stole it from my sister after she left for college, along with The Electric KoolAid Acid Test, Lenny Bruce and Watership Down. It was the early 70’s.
Be Here Now formed me in an essential way. It gave a shape to the spiritual questions I had asked for as long as I could remember and helped me know that my yearning to be fully alive wasn’t weird but precious. Ram Dass introduced me to meditation, yoga and witness consciousness. I remember thinking, “Am I allowed to read this?” and “How could stuff like this be in a book you can just pick up and read?!” The power of books never ceases to amaze me.
What one detail do you still recall from that book?
The drawings of yoga asanas. I can still feel myself reading the book, putting it down on the white shag carpet in my sister’s now empty bedroom, then trying a pose. I instantly loved up-dog. I still do.
The book I imagine living inside of is the novel I will someday finish.
It’s about a school for middle aged witches who are fighting the evil empire of busyness. I keep seeing the treehouse campus tucked among the ancient sequoias.
The one book I have most often re-read is _____?
Pema Chodron’s because she says everything there is to say about being awake and in perfectly lucid prose.
I will read anything written by____
J.K. Rowling. I even read A Casual Vacancy in which all the characters are Dursleys.
Survey: Roughly what % of books do you read digitally versus in paper? (What’s your preferred reader?)
I worship paper. I read digitally only when I have to or when I’m traveling. I hate the digital experience because it feels unreal. The feeling of being wrapped in the world of a book happens for me much more pleasurably and completely when I can hold and feel that tactile weight. It’s a deeper commitment and a richer relationship.
In a sentence or two, what’s your forecast for the future of publishing?
Digital will rule for news, gossip & genre books, continuing to disrupt and eliminate paper; books as artifacts and things of beauty will continue to gain prominence; mainstream publishing will continue to be a hot mess until publishers understand what smart authors have known for years – cultivate relationships by offering real value that leads to buying a book; build an email list; brand yourself with care. It’s such a shame because publishers could have figured this out a long time ago if they would just listen.
Which book would you want every teacher and student and stuck person to read? Why?
Mindset by Carol Dweck because she absolutely nails what gets in our way when it comes to learning. It’s so simple what she has discovered but so profound. I wish I had read it when I was in 7th grade and failing math.
The little-known book I most relish and champion is_______?
The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long. One of the best writing books written for experienced writers.
The one thing I hope most readers of The Life Organizer would take away is
you are the only one who can shape and direct your life, and the choice to do so happens many times a day. Pay attention to those tiny daily moments of choice – there is where your life is shaped. Choose with love.