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LIFE 101: Tools for a Meaningful Life Recommended Resources

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In our gateway LifeWorks course, LIFE 101: Tools for a Meaningful Life, we explore foundational human capacities, such as courage, compassion, resilience, gratitude, resilience, imagination, and others listed below. We believe that developing these capacities gives us the best chance for living authentically, and for creating strong communities within a just society. 

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Below is a list of resources related to these themes which support this view from the multiple perspectives of researchers, psychologists, social justice leaders, artists, contemplatives, and writers. We have also included materials from diverse voices that situate these themes in specific cultural and historical contexts. To the right of this list are recommended anthologies, books, podcasts, and websites with a host of additional resources that you may find useful.

Alert

(S)  indicates titles that are available as electronic resources through Stanford University Libraries. Some of these may also be available through other institutions. 

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Presence

General and Introductory Information

  1. UC Berkeley Greater Good Magazine, "Which Mindfulness Skills Can Benefit You?" (article)
  2. Jon Kabat Zinn, “What is Mindfulness?” and “9 Attitudes” (videos)
  3. Spring Washam, “Blooming in the Mood” and “Your Tree of Life” from A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any Moment (book chapters). Also see: Spring Washam’s website.
  4. Sister Dang Nghiem, “Interbeing” from Mindfulness as Medicine (book chapter)
  5. Positive Psychology.com, "Meditation Techniques For Beginners To Learn" (article)

Research and Scholarship

  1. Clinical Psychology Review, “Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies" (article)
  2. Matthieu Ricard, Antoine Lutz, Richard Davidson,  “Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits” (article)
  3. Alan Wallace, “Directed Attention” and “Tamed Attention” from The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Mind (book chapters)
  4. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, “Beginner’s Mind” from From Mindfulness to Heartfulness: Transforming Self and Society with Compassion (book chapter) (S)
  5. Daniel Siegel, “The Basic Wheel of Awareness” from Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence (book chapter). (S)

Art and Literature

  1. Rumi, “The Guest House” (poem)
  2. Joy Harjo, “Praise the Rain” (poem)      
  3. Joy Harjo, “Eagle Poem” (poem)
  4. Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric” (poem)
  5. Marina Abramovic, The Artist is Present (performance and film) (S)

Courage and Authenticity 

General and Introductory Information

  1. Thich Nhat Hanh, “Saying Hello” and “Looking Deeply” from No Mud, No Lotus (book chapters)
  2. Pema Chödrön, “Intimacy with Fear” from When Things Fall Apart (book chapter). Also see: Pema Chödrön in conversation with Oprah Winfrey on SuperSoul Sunday (video)
  3. Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from I am Your Sister (book chapter). Also see: “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” (audio excerpt) and Interview with Audre Lorde from 1982 (audio).
  4. Gil Fronsdale, “Intolerance to Suffering” and “Fear” from The Issue at Hand (book chapters) 

Research and Scholarship

  1. Daniel Putman, “The Philosophical Roots of the Concept of Courage” from The Psychology of Courage: Modern Research on an Ancient Virtue (book chapter)
  2. Daniel Siegel, “Making Sense of Our Lives: Attachment and the Storytelling Brain” from Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation (book chapter) (S)
  3. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, “Authenticity” from From Mindfulness to Heartfulness: Transforming Self and Society with Compassion (book chapter) (S)
  4. Richard Katz and Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, “The Experience of Vulnerability” from Synergy, Healing, and Empowerment: Insights from Cultural Diversity (book chapter)

Art and Literature

  1. William Stafford, “For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid” (poem)
  2. Mary Oliver, “The Journey” (poem)
  3. Denice Frohman, “Borders” (spoken word performance)
  4. Claudia Rankine, “Some years there exists a wanting to escape” excerpt from Citizen (poem)
  5. Leo Tolstoy, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”
  6. Tobias Wolff,  “Bullet in the Brain” in The New Yorker (short story)
  7. “The Quail’s Song” from Doorways to The Soul, edited by Elisa Pearmain (tale)
  8. Rainer Maria Rilke, “Sometimes A Man Stands Up” (poem)

Compassion and Empathy

General and Introductory Information

  1. Greater Good Science Center, "What is Empathy?” and "What is Compassion?" (article)
  2. Thupten Jinpa, “The Best Kept Secret of Happiness: Compassion” from A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives (book chapter)
  3. Martin Luther King, Jr. “A Tough Mind and Tender Heart” from Strength to Love (book chapter)
  4. John Gottman, “Avoiding the Four Horsemen in Relationship” (article)
  5. Kristin Neff and Dan Harris, “Kryptonite for the Inner Critic” (audio)
  6. Shauna Shapiro, “Want to Change Your Life? Try Self-Compassion” (article)
  7. Paul Ekman, “Is Global Compassion Achievable?” from Moving Toward Global Compassion (book chapter)

Research and Scholarship

  1. Robert Sapolsky, “Feeling Someone Else’s Pain, Understanding Someone Else’s Pain, Alleviating Someone Else’s Pain” from Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (book chapter) (S)
  2. Jamil Zaki, “Choosing Empathy” from The War for Kindness (book chapter) (S)
  3. Paul Bloom, “The Politics of Empathy” from Against Empathy (book chapter)
  4. Dacher Keltner, “The Compassionate Instinct” (article)
  5. John A. Powell, “Lessons from Suffering: How Social Justice Informs Spirituality” from Racing to Justice: Transforming our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive society  (book chapter) (S)

Art and Literature

  1. Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness” (poem). Also see: Naomi Shihab Nye, reciting “Kindness” (video).
  2. Derek Walcott, “Love after Love” (poem)
  3. Galway Kinnell, “Saint Francis and the Sow” (poem)

Gratitude

General and Introductory Information

  1. UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center "What is Gratitude?”, "Why Practice it?”, and "How do I Cultivate it?” (articles and videos)                                               
  2. Harvard Health Beat, “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier” (article)
  3. David Steindl-Rast, “Are You Thankful or are You Grateful?” (video)
  4. David Steindl-Rast, “Want to be Happy? Be Grateful” and “A Good Day” (videos)
  5. Louis Schwartz, "Gratitude" (TedX Talk)
  6. David Cooperrider, “What is Appreciative Inquiry?” (article)
  7. PositivePsychology.com, “What is Gratitude and Why is it So Important?” (article)       
  8. Psychology Today, "Gratitude" (article)
  9. Lee Lipsenthal, “Living and Dying Outside the Box” from Enjoy Every Sandwich (book chapter)

Research and Scholarship

  1. Robert Emmons, “What Gets in the Way of Gratitude” (article). Also see: "Four lessons I have Learned about Gratitude" (video) and Create A Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks (book)        
  2. Gregg Krech, “Gratitude and the Practice of Attention and Reflection in Everyday Life” from Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection (book chapter)
  3. David DeSteno, “Gratitude is About the Future, Not the Past” from Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride (book chapter)

Art and Literature

  1. Jane Kenyon, “Otherwise” (poem)
  2. Ross Gay, “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” (poem)
  3. Ross Gay, “Tending Joy and Practicing Delight” from On Being (podcast)

Forgiveness

General and Introductory Information   

  1. PositivePsychology.com "What is Forgiveness and What Are the Benefits?" (article)
  2. Psychology Today, "How Do You Forgive Even When It Feels Impossible?" (article)
  3. The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, “Forgiveness: Freeing Ourselves from the Past” from The Book of Joy (book chapter)
  4. bell hooks, “Community: Loving Communion” from All About Love (book chapter)
  5. Spring Washam, “Free Your Heart” from A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any Moment (book chapter). Also see: Spring Washam’s website.
  6. Mayo Clinic Healthy LifeStyle, "Letting go of Grudges and Bitterness" (article)

Research and Scholarship

  1. Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) “Research on the Science of Forgiveness
  2. Fredric Luskin, Forgive For Good (book). Also see: Fredric Luskin, "Nine Steps to Forgiveness" (article) .
  3. Robert Enright, The Forgiveness Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love (book)
  4. Harvard Health, "The Power of Forgiveness" (article)

Art and Literature

  1. John Viscount, "Admissions" (video)
  2. Mary Oliver, “The Settlement” (poem)
  3. Kabir, “I don’t know what sort of a God we have been talking about” (poem)

Engagement and Relationships

General and Introductory Information

  1. Grace Lee Boggs, “These are the times that try our souls” (text of speech)
  2. Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal: Grace Lee Boggs (video)
  3. Joan Halifax, “Engagement” from Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet (book chapter)
  4. Spring Washam, “A Dream is Born” from  A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any Moment (book chapter). Also see: Spring Washam’s website.
  5. bell hooks, “Living by a Love Ethic” from  All About Love (book chapter). Also see: C-SPAN video of bell hooks discussing All About Love.
  6. Angel Kyodo Williams, “Awakening the Warrior-Spirit” from Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace (book chapter)
  7. Martin Luther King, “On Being a Good Neighbor” and “Loving Your Enemies” from Strength to Love (book chapters)
  8. David Brooks, “The Summoned Life” from The Road to Character  (book chapter) (S)

Research and Scholarship

  1. Robert Sapolsky, “Us Versus Them” from Behave (S) (book)
  2. Rhonda Magee, “Seeing Implicit Bias” from The Inner Work of Racial Justice (book chapter). Also see: Rhonda Magee’s website.
  3. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, “Connectedness” from From Mindfulness to Heartfulness: Transforming Self and Society with Compassion  (book chapter) (S)
  4. Marshall Rosenberg, “Giving from the Heart” and “Communication that Blocks Compassion” from Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (book chapters)

Art and Literature

Cherrie Moraga, Heroes and Saints (play script) (S)

Creativity and Imagination

General and Introductory Information

  1. Twyla Tharpe, “Your Creative DNA” from The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life (book chapter) (S)
  2. Ruth King, “Artistry: Cultural Medicine” from Mindful of Race (book chapter). Also see: Ruth King’s website.
  3. The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity Across the Domains (book) (S)
  4. Rebecca J. M. Gottlieb et. al, “Imagination is the Seed of Creativity” in The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity (2019), 2nd edition (book chapter)
  5. Rollo May, “The Delphic Oracle as Therapist” from The Courage to Create (book chapter)
  6. Greg Levoy, “The Portals of Art” from Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life (book chapter)
  7. Keith Johnstone, “Spontaneity” from Impro for Storytellers (book chapter)
  8. Ted DesMaisons, Introduction to Playful Mindfulness (book chapter). Also see: Ted DesMaisons, “Improvisation and Mindfulness “from the Diversity and Spirituality podcast (audio)
  9. Dr. Madan Kataria,  Laughter Yoga (TedMed Talk) 

Research and Scholarship

  1. Jim Davies, “Imagination: What It Is” from Imagination: The Science of Your Mind’s Greatest Power (book chapter). Also see: watch Jim Davies TedX Talk, “The Science of Imagination.
  2. Nancy Andreasen, “What Creates the Creative Brain?” from The Creative Brain: The Science of Genius (book chapter)
  3. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Enhancing Personal Creativity” from Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention (book chapter)
  4. Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, “Intuition” and “Sensitivity” from Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (book chapters)

Art and Literature

  1. Michael Meade, “The Nature of Genius” (video)
  2. Alok Vaid-Menon, NBC News Clip “Beyond the Binary” (video)
  3. Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning (film)
  4. Mira Nair, The Laughing Club of India (film) (S)

Resilience

General and Introductory Information

  1. Joan Halifax, Standing at The Edge (book). Also see: Joan Halifax, “Finding Buoyancy Amidst Despair” from On Being (podcast)
  2. Cheryl Strayed, “The Black Arc of It” from Tiny Beautiful Things (book)
  3. Fatima Doman, “No Mud, No Lotus: Boosting Resilience When Life is Tough” (article)
  4. Carol Dweck, “The Power of Believing that You Can Improve” (TED Talk)
  5. Amy Cuddy, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are”(TED Talk)        
  6. Angela Duckworth, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” and “Can Perseverance Be Taught?” (TedX Talks)
  7. Deborah Tull, “Sustaining Ourselves as Change Agents” from Relational Mindfulness: A Handbook for Deepening Our Connection with Ourselves, Each Other, and the Planet (book chapter)
  8. Oliver Burkeman, “The Museum of Failures: The Case for Embracing Your Errors” from Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (book chapter) 

Research and Scholarship

  1. Linda Graham, “What Resilience is and How We Rewire Our Brains to Recover It” and “Losing and Recovering our Equilibrium” from Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-being (book chapters) (S)
  2. UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, “Five Science-Backed Strategies to Build Resilience” (article)
  3. PositivePsychology.com, 5 Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset Using Grit and Resilience (article)

Art and Literature

  1. Wendell Berry, “The Sycamore” (poem)
  2. Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” (poem)
  3. Adrienne Rich, “I Refuse to Become a Seeker for Cures” (poem)
  4. Rumi, “Song of the Reed” (poem)

Awe

General and Introductory Information

  1. Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt, “Approaching Awe, a Moral, Spiritual, and Aesthetic Emotion” (article)
  2. Richard Rohr, “The Practice of Awe and Wonder” (audio)
  3. Guy Reid, “Overview” (aka The Overview Effect) (video)
  4. David Steindl-Rast, “Art and the Sacred” (article)

Research and Scholarship

  1. Dacher Keltner, “Why Awe is Such an Important Emotion” (video)
  2. Lani Shiota, “How Awe Transforms the Body and Mind” (video)
  3. Edward Bonner, “The Role of Awe in Psychotherapy: Perspectives from Transpersonal Psychology” from Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy (book chapter)
  4. Melanie Rudd, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Jennifer Aaker, “Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being” (article)
  5. John O’Donohue, “Wonder” from Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World (book chapter)

Art and Literature

  1. Rainer Maria Rilke, “I Live My Life in Growing Orbits” (poem)
  2. Antonio Machado, “Is My Soul Asleep?” (poem)
  3. R. W. Emerson, “The Over-Soul” In Essays: First and Second Series (book chapter) (S)
  4. W. S. Merwin “West Wall” (poem)
  5. Sohem Patel, “Mixed with always:”  (audio poem)
  6. W. H. Auden, “Making, Knowing, and Judging” in The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays (book chapter) (S)

General Recommended Resources 

Literature

  1. Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning  (S)
  2. Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud No Lotus
  3. James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (S)
  4. Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha (S)
  5. Doorways to the Soul, edited by Elisa Pearmain (book of tales)
  6. The Desert Fathers, translated by Helen Waddell (book) (S)
  7. The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures, edited by Robert Bly (book of poetry)
  8. The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks (book of poetry)
  9. Kirk Schneider, Awakening to Awe: Personal Stories of Profound Transformation (book)

Websites

  1. UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center
  2. UC Berkeley Greater Good Magazine
  3. UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center
  4. Contemplative Sciences Center at UVA
  5. UPENN Authentic Happiness
  6. VIA Institute on Character
  7. University of Michigan Center for Positive Organizations
  8. UPENN Positive Psychology Center
  9. Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University
  10. Positive Psychology Resource
  11. Kristen Neff, Self-Compassion
  12. Plum Village
  13. Center For Healthy Minds
  14. Yoqi.com (for information and instructional videos on qigong and yoga)
  15. Qigong for Vitality (for information and instructional videos on qigong)

Podcasts

  1. Science of Happiness Learn research-tested strategies for cultivating a happier life. Hosted by award-winning UC Berkeley psychologist, Dacher Keltner, Ph.D.
  2. Ten Percent Happier ABC news anchor Dan Harris hosts this podcast featuring scientists, meditation teachers, and celebrities, for discussions that show that the mind is trainable, through the cultivation of mental traits such as happiness, generosity, and compassion.
  3. On Being A weekly public radio show that explores what it means to be human, hosted by Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, Krista Tippet
  4. Tara Brach This podcast addresses the value of mindfulness meditation and self-compassion in relieving emotional suffering, serving spiritual awakening and bringing healing to our world. Hosted by internationally renowned meditation teacher, Tara Brach, Ph.D.
  5. Mind and Life Institute The Mind & Life podcast addresses fundamental questions that arise through bridging science and contemplative wisdom.
  6. UVA’s Contemplative Sciences Center This podcast features talks and meditations from UVA’s Contemplative Sciences Center which seeks to advance the study and application of human flourishing at all levels of education.
Tree roots on the ground. Credit: iSIRIPONG / iStock