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Book Review Beth Gibbs: Enlighten Up! Finding Clarity, Contentment, and Resilience in a Complicated World
It’s written ad nauseam, though it does bear repeating: the true purpose of yoga is not to wear cute leggings or to get “six-pack abs,” but to unite the body, mind, and spirit in a way that brings an incomparable feeling of bliss. This idea might make the average person picture a monk in a Lotus Pose, someone who has renounced the concerns and trappings of the busy, conflict-ridden world—and the concurrent belief that finding bliss could never be attainable for them.
In her book Enlighten Up! Finding Clarity, Contentment, and Resilience in a Complicated World, Beth Gibbs has news for that person: through attainable shifts in perspective and behavior, created with the help of simple steps and tools, finding one’s bliss is possible. Getting closer to experiencing happiness regularly, in a contented and joyful life, is indeed feasible. Gibb’s writing is full of wisdom, but at the same time, it is incredibly accessible and just plain fun.
Gibbs formatted the text with five sections, one for each of our yoga sheaths, or koshas: physical, energetic, mental/emotional, intuitive (witness), and finally, bliss. Gibbs explains these metaphorical sheaths in the book’s introduction. She shares nine steps to “enlighten[ing] up!” yoga’s koshas in the subsequent five sections.
Gibbs demonstrates the rationale behind these steps through themed chapters, brought to life with demonstrative and entertaining personal anecdotes. She offers straightforward exercises in clear language to enact each step as she wraps it up. These exercises include breath work, gentle poses, mindfulness exercises, and other ways to build awareness—such as her “icon tour,” to build awareness of the items in one’s home that have personal resonance.
The yoga philosophy and broader themes Gibbs explores through this structure are incredibly nuanced and also gargantuan. She has an incredible amount of life experience backing up that exploration. She manages to organize her writing so that her life experiences and yogic philosophy are wholly relatable.
For example, she tells a story about how experiencing severe pain led her to greater awareness of her body’s messages and needs. From there, she gained a greater understanding of what was needed to change her life as a whole. Many yogis will find this process familiar. In another example, she describes how getting an initially unwanted haircut from a friend led her to something that was uniquely her, something she’d searched for her whole life. She learned how being open to change and following one’s authentic expression can be incredibly freeing and empowering.
Of course, she doesn’t tell her whole life story. But with her straightforward yet vivid writing style, reading her various personal stories feels like watching a movie with different scenes from her life. These scenes illustrate the teachings she’s offering with a high level of relatability and humanness.
Gibbs shows her welcoming humanity through her anecdotes, accessible language, and the warmth of spirit that shines through her writing. The beautiful poems she shares bring us further into her mind, heart, and soul and offer another avenue into the themes that she builds.
Gibbs’ friendly, accessible writing makes finding your bliss feel more attainable because she seems so human and approachable. If she can achieve it, there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why you can’t as well. Gibbs is honest about how she’s personally had to grow and is still growing, sending a message that it doesn’t take perfection to reach a state of contentment.
Augmenting that relatability is the commonplace nature of the themes Gibbs shares. She demonstrates that the way we relate to even mundane things in our lives, such as the stuff in our homes and how we communicate daily, can have a notable impact on our ability (or inability) to feel more joyful and more ease.
Practice and Bliss Just Might Come
The nine-step process that Gibbs details could be a remarkably transformational one. Yet, it also appears that you don’t have to consciously put every one of the nine steps into action to find a positive change in your life. Just like with yoga practice, even if every pose doesn’t work for you, some do, and they can make a difference.
The number of practical tips and deep insights might feel like a lot to the average reader. Enlighten Up! might be the type of book you’ll want to read slowly, taking time to contemplate and practice before moving on to the next section. It’s the kind of book that might inspire readers to highlight gems and make notes in the margins.
Whether you’re a lifelong yoga practitioner or you’ve never stepped onto a mat or sat on a meditation cushion, Beth Gibbs’ Enlighten Up! Finding Clarity, Contentment, and Resilience in a Complicated World offers practical tools for finding your bliss. Happiness doesn’t require a monastic life or decades of rigorous study; instead, Gibbs describes how a more contented, joyful life is possible for you too—yes, you.
Beth Gibbs, MA, is a certified yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists and a faculty member at the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy. She holds a masters’ degree in Yoga Therapy and Mind/Body Health from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is the author of Ogi Bogi, The Elephant Yogi, a therapeutic yoga book for children, and a Yoga Nidra MP3, Release, Relax and Let Go. Beth is an experienced workshop leader and public speaker. She blogs at bethgibbs.com
Kathryn Boland is an RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans - all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!