Introduction to What Helps

Cover for What Helps borderHere’s the full introduction to my new book, What Helps: Sixty Slogans to Live By.


This book is a love letter.

I don’t know you, but I can make a few guesses about you. You were born with a fallible human body, to two parents who did their best but occasionally (or often) got it spectacularly wrong. Each morning you wake up and face a day full of things-that-need-doing and responsibilities that pull you in different directions. You are in relationships that are variously disappointing, nourishing, agonising, inspiring, monotonous, wildly unpredictable, and all the rest. Sometimes you wonder what it’s all for. You have a long list of fears, and some hope. You have a limited amount of life left.

This book is a love letter to you. Lorna Crozier says that “the books that readers cherish make them feel less alone.” I want you to find solace here. I want you to feel hugged. I also want to extend some invitations, offer some insights, and introduce some new possibilities – possibilities which might take you into uncomfortable territory. I’ll do this because I want to see your shoulders relaxing, your chin lifting, and your heart softening. I want to hear you laugh. I want to see you doing the things you really want to do. I want you to be kinder to others, and kinder to yourself. I want you to want to write love letters.

This book is also a love letter to myself. I have been learning, little by little, to look after myself over the past thirty years. I’m still a work-in-progress, as we all are, but I do it much better these days. This book is where I will remind myself of all the things I’ve learnt. We tend to have short memories when it comes to this kind of learning.

The title of this book came to me one morning as I was sitting in meditation in our shrine room. I live on the ground floor of the Buddhist temple I run with my husband, and so I have a very short commute to morning meditation. As I sat and let the busy work-thoughts subside, two words floated towards me through the waking-up fog – What Helps. They didn’t have a question mark on the end. They were presented to me as an invitation.

Of course, I’m not the first one to have shared any of the wisdom in this book. I have been offered so many glittering wisdom-jewels; by people who’ve cared about me, through books, as a result of horrible situations, through nature and elsewhere. Some slipped through my fingers many times before I learnt how to grasp them. Some are still slipping through. The wonderful thing about these jewels is that they self-replicate, and when you give them away your own jewel shines even more strongly. In these pages I’ll do my best to transmit the essence of all I’ve received so far. Hopefully you’ll get to keep one or two beauties. Maybe they’ll be smooth and lapis lazuli blue, or maybe they’ll be the swirled iridescence of mother-of-pearl.

I have received so many gifts. Here they are. Please – take whatever is useful, and pass them on.


If you’d like to read the first slogan, here it is.

If you know someone who’s struggling, or if you want to be kind to yourself, here are the links

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