The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving
Embracing the Power of Paradox in Your Life
Honor Yourself Reading Group Guide
with quotes, questions and topics for discussion and self-reflection
Create your own "Honor Yourself" book club to discuss Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, bring it to your existing reading group, or use this guide as a springboard for self-discovery and honing the inner art of giving and receiving in your life. You can take as many weeks as you like to discuss the book, using all the questions, picking your favorites, or making up your own.
I am happy to arrange a phone call with your book group as my schedule permits. Contact Patricia.
Note: In addition to or in lieu of the questions below, you can also use the practical "Keys to the Balancing Act" that are sprinkled throughout Honor Yourself as a basis for discussion and reflection.
Honor Yourself Quotes, Questions, and Topics for Discussion:
1. Chapter 1: The Play of Paradox
A central theme of this book is getting back into balance by learning to recognize and embrace the paradoxes in our lives. “A paradox involves two elements, truths, principles, or perspectives that seem contradictory but are both true” (p. 6). Pages 5, 6, and 7 give some examples of paradoxes. We all feel the pull of paradox in our lives as we try to perform the balancing act in oh so many ways. What are some of the paradoxes or competing tensions that you are dealing with in your life right now?
2. Chapter 2: Seeking Balance
One of the essential ideas in Honor Yourself is that we cannot honor ourselves or others unless we are first honest with ourselves and others. Honoring yourself, says Patricia Spadaro “asks you to become conscious of what you need, right now, inside and out…. One of the reasons you may not take specific actions to fill your own needs is simply that you don’t really know yourself at the most basic level. You don’t know how you really feel and what you really need.”
That seems like a simple task but one many of us manage to ignore or sidestep. Are you in touch with what you feel and need on a daily basis? What can you do to increase your self-knowledge of that and then act on it in healthy ways?
3. Keys to the Balancing Act (pp. 23-27)
Review and apply the keys under “Watch for the Warning Signs” and “Seven Steps for Staying in Balance.” Discuss any special insights you had from using these tools.
4. Chapter 3: Setting Boundaries
Chapter 3 talks about the importance of drawing healthy boundaries. It explores the myth (the half-truth) that sacrificing for others is always the right thing to do. “Sacrificing for others can hold them back, and it can hold us back” (p. 35). Have you ever experienced that in your life? If so, how has your urge to sacrifice on behalf of others held them and/or you back? What did you learn from that situation?
5. Keys to the Balancing Act (pp. 45-48)
Take the “Litmus Test” to see how good you are at drawing necessary boundaries. Experiment with one or more of the “Seven Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries.” What did you experience when you applied these techniques?
6. Chapter 4: Accepting Support and Flying Solo
This chapter exposes the myth that “if I can’t do it on my own, something’s wrong with me” and explores the truth that seeking support can be a sign of strength. At the same time, it talks about the need for self-reliance and creating space between partners, even in the most intimate relationships. Right now in your life, do you feel that you are in balance in terms of how much support you give others versus how much support you allow yourself to receive? Do you think you have achieved a good balance between togetherness and independence in your key relationships, whether at home, at work, or with friends?
You can use the questions on pp. 61-62 under “Is It Time to Seek Support or Stand on Your Own?” to clarify which part of the paradox (seeking support or flying solo) needs your attention and to help you chart your next steps. In addition to the suggestions in that section, share other steps you have used to strike a balance between depending on others and relying on yourself.
7. Chapter 5: Better than Bigger
“One of the most significant gifts we can give in this modern, busy time of ours is our time. With so many demands placed upon us, we often find ourselves talking or listening to someone who needs us while we are also driving, watching TV, answering our cell phones, text messaging, making dinner, going through a stack of mail, or taking in everything else going on around us. We’re only half there. We’re only half giving. It’s impossible to be fully giving unless we are giving our full attention….A famous Zen master said it this way: ‘When walking, just walk. When sitting, just sit. But above all, don’t wobble!’ ” (pp. 73-74)
Multitasking has become a way of life for many of us. Do you think that having your attention divided is compromising the quality of your relationships?
8. Chapter 6: What and When Do We Give?
In this chapter, Patricia Spadaro reminds us that we are always giving in one way or another: “Whether we realize it or not, we are teaching all the time….There are people in your life you are meant to teach as well as those you are meant to learn from. Your attitude, your words, your behavior, your actions—all these set the example for someone. Whether you are standing at a bus stop, attending a meeting, picking up your children from school, or waiting in a long line of impatient caffeine aficionados at Starbucks, you are teaching and you are giving” (pp. 78, 79).
Think about what happened in your life yesterday or in the last week. What did you teach others by your example? What did you learn from others through their example?
9. Chapter 7: The Magic of Flow
While explaining the idea of creating flow in our lives, the author tells the story of a challenging time in her life when she found herself cutting back and letting go—from cleaning out closets to ruthlessly pulling weeds from her garden to cutting her hair shorter (p. 91). “Those physical actions,” she writes, “were just the outer manifestation of what was taking place within me—clearing out the old and getting rid of clutter so I could see more clearly and make room for new growth.” Have you ever had a similar experience? In what ways did you create a vacuum to invite the flow of new experiences into your life?
10. Keys to the Balancing Act (pp. 92-94)
These “Six Tools for Giving from the Heart” offer some ideas for helping you “create more authentic and intimate connections as you practice giving creatively, wisely, and from the heart.” Try using one or more of these tools and discuss what experiences you had when you did. Do you have any tools you would add to this list?
11. Chapter 8: Eyes Wide Open
This chapter talks about the paradoxical teaching of the sages that we should be as “harmless as doves” but also as “wise as serpents” when it comes to how we let others treat us. “Being open and kind does not mean we should put ourselves in harm’s way,” Patricia Spadaro explains. She also talks about a powerful way to deal with situations where we need to draw the line: honesty delivered with love.
Have you ever found yourself identifying with the myth that she points out in this chapter: “In order to be loving, I must embrace everything that comes my way with open arms.” Is there a situation in your life right now where you need to move beyond that myth to this transformative belief: “At times, the most loving thing I can do is say no and move out of the way.”
12. Chapter 9: Being Honest about Your Feelings
This chapter explores the myth that “giving in to my feelings means I am weak” and shows how important it is to embrace the truth that “my feelings serve a purpose and can help guide me if I choose to listen to them.” The author tells about a rude awakening she had to this truth in her own life. Have you ever ignored your feelings and had to pay the price? What lessons did you learn?
13. Keys to the Balancing Act (pp. 122-124)
Experiment with the emotional inventory “Facing Your Feelings” as well as the steps under “Check Your Vital Signs and Honor the Feedback,” which provide a technique that can help you listen to your intuitive feelings instead of pushing them away.
14. Chapter 10: When the Way Comes to an End
The author compares endings in our lives to graduation ceremonies: “Graduations not only signal the end of an era but also celebrate the beginning of a new one. That’s why they are called ‘commencement’ exercises. When you experience an ending of any sort, think of it in the same way—as a commencement ceremony. Life is a schoolroom and, in many cases, our endings are actually graduations and promotions, although they may at first feel like just the opposite. Most of the time, endings come because we have learned one lesson and are ready for the next, or we have exhausted the possibilities that a situation has to offer and we need a change of scene to bring new opportunities. Endings are not only natural but necessary. When one appears in your life, you can be sure it has a purpose” (pp. 129-30).
Looking back at some of the endings in your life, can you identify any of them as new beginnings that, although difficult to accept at the time, had an important purpose?
15. Chapter 11: Put Down the Load and Fly
This chapter talks about forgiving as an important form of giving—not only to others but, as importantly, to ourselves. “Ultimately, forgiveness is another way of honoring yourself,” says Patricia Spadaro. “By forgiving, you are affirming that you are greater than what others think of you or do to you” (p. 145).
She goes on to say: “The opportunity to forgive, then, is just that—a stunning opportunity for you. Will you allow another’s immature behavior to define you now and forever? Will you let the incident forever define the person who hurt you? Will you decide to keep carrying the load, or will you put down your burden, honor the ending, and let yourself fly?” (p. 146)
Have you ever had an experience in your life where you were challenged to view forgiveness as an opportunity to free yourself? How did you deal with it?
16. Chapter 12: Your Inborn Note
Chapter 12 covers several issues that surround what creates meaning in our lives and how we contribute to that meaning. One of these issues has to do with whether or not we savor the present moment—the little pieces that make up the big picture. The author asks us to consider embracing the paradox of both focusing on the big picture of our long-range goals as well as staying alert to what’s happening right now. She tells the story (p. 164) of the two seekers who had different experiences and goals as they climbed the mountaintop to study with their teacher. Can you relate to this story? Have you ever been so fixated on the goal line that you missed the beauty of the present moment?
17. Chapter 13: Walk in Your Own Shoes at Your Own Pace
As she explores the idea that we must seek our own answers and shape our own lives, the author surfaces one of the stumbling blocks to doing that: adopting our own personal idol. “We usually think of an idol as a person, but we can adopt many kinds of idols. An idol can be anything outside of you—whether a person, group, organization, possession, or belief system—that you have assigned the power and responsibility to make you happy.” She gives some very down-to-earth examples, including from her own life (read pp. 173-174), then says, “Few of us are without our idols…Idols, in whatever form they come, are a dangerous distraction. The more we believe that they have superior powers, the less we believe in our own innate powers.”
Using her definition of an “idol,” think about what kind of idols you may have in your life. To get clarity around this issue, ask yourself the questions on p. 177 under “Am I waiting for something outside of me to make things ‘perfect.’ ”
18. Keys to the Balancing Act (pp. 176-178)
Answer the questions under “Honoring Your Own Voice” and discuss the answers.
19. Chapter 14: Ever More Magnificent
Chapter 14 discusses the core issue of not feeling “good enough” and measuring ourselves against the impossible standard of human perfection. It includes several quotes and stories from the sages around this issue. Pick a quote or story that especially inspires you and share why.
20. Keys to the Balancing Act (pp. 199-201)
The “Seven Strategies to Keep Voting for Yourself” were designed to help you “to honor your inner radiance and to keep voting for yourself no matter what is happening around you.” Pick one (or more) of the strategies that appeal to you and discuss what happened when you applied it in your life.
21. Chapter 15: Broadening Your Vision of the Possible
In this chapter, Patricia tells the story of a young boy who went from getting straight As in school to failing all his classes, “from total obedience to total rebellion” because his parents had very set expectations of how their son’s life should unfold. She says that, without realizing it, they “had left their son no room to breathe—no room to figure out what he liked and what he wanted. They had created a time bomb; their son had to explode, and with enough force, to break out of the mold and discover himself” (p. 211).
Have you ever had a similar experience in your own life, where you felt that your inner voice was being stifled, or do know you know someone who experienced that? What did you learn from that experience that you can apply to your own life now?
Keep in touch and sign up for our free newsletter: