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This Unknown Book Recommended by Ryan Holiday Will Help You Through Difficult Phases of Your Life

‘Phosphorescence’ will teach you how to create your own light in the dark

This Unknown Book Recommended by Ryan Holiday Will Help You Through Difficult Phases of Your Life

This book hit me right in the center of my heart.

It laid bare many things I desire so deeply and profoundly.

The book, ‘Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark’ is a memoir by Julia Baird that was published in 2021. Being a recent book, it has yet to receive the acclaim that it truly deserves.

When I picked up this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had read the introduction online.

Something about glowing, eh?

But what this book offers is far more than just ‘glowing’. To get a taste of it, keep reading!

The Power of Awe and Wonder

The replacement of depression medication.

Julia takes us along on her early morning swims in Sydney. She goes on these swims daily, accompanied by her swim group. They encounter cuttlefish, whales, and sharks.

These swimmers are filled with awe and wonder daily as they encounter the vast chilly ocean and its inhabitants.

“The awe found in daily swims does bring a sense of connection, as does the companionship.”

This does something major.

Their mental and physical health improves through these regular swims. Some have come off depression medication. These experiences are not anecdotal. They are backed by research and science.

The farther we are from nature, the more the psychological ailments befall our kind.

The feeling of ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ is your ticket to a happy healthy life.

“Something happens when you dive into a world where clocks don’t tick and inboxes don’t ping.”

The lesson for us is not only to seek ‘awe and wonder’ ourselves but to teach our kids to do the same. You might not be able to go for early morning ocean swims but you can still seek wonder all around you.

“Children understand awe and wonder as naturally as breathing.”

The Power of Green and Blue

Humans are hurting themselves.


We are far away from nature and live in concrete jungles.

This is a peril that haunts me. Sure I try to spend time in nature by going to the park, just like the author found solace in the Central Park in New York.

I still feel like there is still something missing. Going to the park is not enough.

The author tells us about ‘shinrin yoku’.

‘Shinrin yoku’ or ‘forest bathing’ is a Japanese technique. In this, the participants are taken into the jungle and taught to connect to trees and nature through touch, sight, and sound.

“…forest bathing is a kind of preventative medicine that involves immersing yourself in nature while engaging all the senses…”

The book covers a host of different studies done on the importance of regular exposure to nature.

The people who spend time in nature are happier. Their cardiovascular health is better. They have less cravings for unhealthy food and cigarettes.

“In short: when we are exposed to sunlight, trees, water or even just a view of green leaves, we become happier, healthier and stronger.”

The author also tells us about yūgen. Yūgen means ‘an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too big and powerful for words’

This feeling is so profound that people chase storms just to experience it. The same is experienced by astronauts when they see the ever-fading earth turning into a small dot that can be covered by their thumb.

“When you shrink, your ability to see somehow sharpens.”

How can you shrink and experience yūgen?

Gaze at the blue of the vast sky or the fading green horizon at the edge of the field.

Even if you are not able to do it daily, find time weekly. Experience nature and the universe. And uplift your health and spirit as a result.

The Power of Silence

What do Aboriginal Australians do differently?

The author travels to attend an Aboriginal ceremony. Parts of this ceremony require silence and the participants are asked to avoid too much questioning. They are meant to observe and feel.

The indigenous of the land know how to connect to it and honor it, Julia says.

“The real joy of silence is not about blocking out the noise, but reconnecting with, or listening to, the land.”

Julia tells us about Sara Maitland’s quest.

Sara Maitland, a British author spent forty days in an isolated house in search of silence. After her experience, she felt her senses were heightened. Food tasted yummier, and the sounds of nature were clearer.

She also experienced joy and happiness.

“She also experienced great happiness, felt connected with the cosmos, was exhilarated by the risk and peril in what she was doing, and discovered a fierce joy, or bliss.”

All of us can’t do what Sara did.

We have emails to respond to, children to feed, and birthday parties to attend.

Where can we find the elixir of stillness?

In tiny moments throughout our day. For example, breaks in between our work, an early walk in the park, and the times after midnight.

“…we need to reach for those tiny drops of stillness.”

The Power of Doing the Work

History is not made by the leader standing in front of the flashing cameras.

It is made up of many people who worked hard to bring about change. However small their effort was, it mattered.

“Walls don’t fall at the blast of a single trumpet, and nor do tyrants, but only after a long, slow symphony that only becomes audible when it reaches a crescendo.”

Julia shares her treasured memories of activism when she was young. She tried to make the church allow female priestesses.

Her work resides in a box that goes with her on every move.

“In my years of attending local churches I had been told that theology was immutable, ahistorical, and had been engraved on a tablet and passed down by God … a woman should not have authority over a man — meant that, for all time, women should not be priests.”

As someone who had her traditional-to-spiritual transition, I can relate to Julia and her desire for progressiveness in religious institutions.

I admire her perseverance and the most important lesson she gives. Our efforts matter.

The Power of Acceptance

The solution to being ugly.

In the second part of the book, Julia discusses selfies, Instagram, filters, botox, and the desire to be perfect…

“Perhaps it is time for all of us to trumpet — or at least not try to mask — our imperfections.”

The Australian author, Robert Hoge was born with a facial tumor and deformities. He went on to write a book called ‘Ugly’.

The message Julia gives us through his story and others is simple. We are not perfect and that’s okay. Standards of beauty exist. That cannot be denied. But there is more to a human than the aesthetics of their face and body.

In short… I am ugly. So what?

“People who are vain are usually more interested in what people around them think of them than who the people around them actually are.”

The author urges us to rid ourselves of vanity.

Recently, I was talking to a couple of friends and I shared something with them. I said I have felt something interesting about the friends I have made in life. They like to have deep discussions, are ready for back and forth of ideas, and have a certain outlook on life.

My friends are not ‘vain’.

I couldn’t put my finger on what joins the people whom I am friends with. They all are from different backgrounds.

“And women who are not vain enjoy a freedom others don’t.”

Julia helped me figure it out. My friends are not ‘vain’.

Sure some of them like to dress up more than others. But they are not obsessed with appearances, whether their own or that of others.

“Vanity, for the most part, can lead to a great deal of unhappiness — and is unnerving to be around.”

In the backdrop of women being told to age a certain way, look a certain way, or wear certain types of clothes, the author writes a letter to her daughter.

There is a lot to share from the letter but I’ll just share 3 points.

  1. Demand respect (and give it)

  2. Use your brain

  3. Find friends

In my discussions with those who were not happy with my progressive approach to religion, there always has been an interesting argument from my side.

I say… God gave me a brain to think. And I’ll use it. Julia tells her daughter to use her brain as well.

One of the beautiful lines from her letter is:

“There are a million ways to be a woman: find your own and revel in it.”

The Power of Friendship

Without human connection, we are nothing.

The author tells us about her strong and fast friends who carried her through her cancer diagnosis and three subsequent major surgeries.

They looked after her kids, and her dog, made her food and most of all, held her hand when life felt like it was slipping away.

“Meeting wonderful people is luck; keeping them in your life takes thought, care, forgiveness and devotion.”

We also meet Julia’s childhood friend in this book. We learn of their adventures as young tweens and teens. The restrictions imposed by the church, the breakaways, and the search for thrill and joy.

“Friendship is an art and a gift, and some people are brilliant at it.”

Again, the research is clear. The happiest people in old age are those with the most healthy and meaningful relationships.


I didn’t know that I’d relate so much to what is written in this book.

I marvel at the power of words which can thread together thoughts and ideas into books. These books are like letters from the writers to the world.

The author tells us about the diagnosis, remission, and reemergence (twice) of her ovarian cancer.

Through her dark times, what carried her through was all that she has relayed to us in her book. Awe, wonder, nature, purpose, and friends, helped her find her inner glow. And we can do the same.

This book laid bare my desire to be free in nature, to find stillness and peace, to commit myself to a purpose, to build a world where women are cherished and respected as much as men, and to hold the religious authorities accountable.

All my life, I have felt like someone from the countryside who is trapped in a city, a misfit. I want to go to the mountains, camp in the forest, and swim in the ocean like Julia.

I have a strong desire to experience awe and wonder.

I haven’t had the chance to realize my goals to the fullest extent. But, I know this… I look with awe at every wonder from nature. The mini frogs hopping about after rain, the brightly colored bug, and the bird on my balcony.

“Wonder prompts us to ask questions of each other and the world.”

Reading this book, I have been able to label my cravings. I have a strong desire to experience awe and wonder.

While I look for my ideal experiences of living in a forest or near green fields, I’ll keep appreciating nature in whatever form or quantity I encounter.

And I welcome you to do the same.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

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