08/28/2014 11:13 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Islands of Safety, Part 2: Libraries and Books


Last year I got to spend a few moments talking about books and libraries with author, storyteller, humorist, and radio personality, Garrison Keillor. He was visiting our local library to speak at its 125th anniversary and shared a thought that libraries and 'actual' books seemed, sadly, on the way out. That could be true elsewhere, I told him, but not here and not with my family. Our beautiful, up to date and well managed library is a community hub with lots of daily traffic and my children are there at least once a week.

Of course, if you're a book lover you know what it's like to disappear into book, to find yourself transported, even in a public space like a bus, plane or waiting room. But what if it were more? What if we could use books and libraries to help us maneuver this 'Inconsistent Sea' mentioned in last week's installment?

According to a study done at Emory University by neuroscientist Gregory Berns:
"We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else's shoes in a figurative sense. Now we're seeing that something may also be happening biologically."

The effects of being 'transported' into a book can last, according to Berns's study, at least five days after reading. It follows that you can shift your experience and prepare yourself for the day, and possibly several, by reading something empowering, inspiring or up-lifting.

Further, if you subscribe to the Maharishi Effect, group meditation "is able to increase coherence and decrease stress in the collective consciousness of a society, thus improving something referred to as "informal social control," which reduces criminal acts". So how about people reading and satisfying intellectual curiosity all under one roof?

Maybe there's a very practical and real reason to plan cities with houses of worship, cultural centers, meditation rooms and libraries at their centers. This 'centering' could produce happier, healthier communities.

I have found sanctuary in libraries my whole life, and there is sanctuary there now, from the war, from the storms of our families and our own minds. Libraries are like mountains or meadows or creeks: sacred space. So this afternoon, I'll walk to the library. -- Anne Lamott

At least on your own you could plan for your 'trip' across the Inconsistent Sea today or this week by carefully choosing what you read. You could, like I do, plan your day to include at least a half hour of reading every morning. I use the morning to read text books, articles, etc. that inform as well as inspire: books on my field of leadership, coaching and management. This gets me ready to meet my clients and bring them my best efforts.

Or it might help to remind yourself in the middle of a crazy, life-in-your-face week that a trip to the library can change your whole mood and the hushed semi-silence and respectful calm it brings might offer you the change in perspective you need, the recharging of your batteries that you long for.

This week I challenge you, and I almost can't help myself here, to 'check out' your local library. And why not set aside time to read a book and help 'calm the waters' of this Inconsistent Sea?