A playful journey of reconnection and restoration
The Book of Love is now offered as a part of the Growing Humankindness community. You can learn more about the community in the link below.
"Keep me strong, fierce, loving, and able in this world. Remind me daily, that despite my imperfections, my heart remains, completely unruined." - Clarissa Pinkola Estes
You were born for connection, joy, purpose, and meaning. You came with a gift to offer to the village, to your community and to our greater world. You came with a good, strong heart.
But when we experience heartache, hardship, or pain, or when we struggle with something long term, like depression, illness, or painful compulsions, it's easy to feel like we're 'damaged goods' - like there's something wrong with us.
Our struggles can become the lens through which we see ourselves, coloring our perceptions and beliefs about who we are. We can lose our connection with ourselves and our hopes and dreams - our abiding goodness, capability, and trustworthiness.
We can begin to feel as if we don't matter, don't belong, or don't have a gift to offer to the world.
It's so painful. This disconnection from ourselves is often much more painful than the surface struggle itself - whether it's with food, illness, or trauma.
When we experience this disconnection, our hearts long to reconnect - to yearn and dream, to remember and speak our story, and to sing our song back to ourselves when we feel like we've forgotten it.
The song hasn't disappeared. It may feel covered over, muted, or like it's gotten out of tune. But it's still there.
One of the ways we can reconnect to our deepest selves - to the being that we are underneath any struggle, to our soul's song - is through story, myth, image, and symbol - all the juicy revelations and reverberations of soul.
Watch the video to learn more about creating a Book of Love to help you move through this time of 'birth' and healing, to what's being born in you.
You can also read Justine's story below.
I actually started my Book of Love ten years previously (not that I’d known then that it would work itself into a Book of Love per se). But I’d imagined that I’d wanted to do something with special symbols (objects) I’d been tucking away that had represented turning/decision points on my toiling, heartfelt journey of body image and dysphoria, and my love of beauty and femininity.
Typically, I’d photocopied a letter I’d written, printed a precious email I’d received, tucked away a special note or picture from one of my daughters, etc. When our Book of Love class began, I started getting a little bit intentional about putting a “book” of love together. I started looking at my ten-year collection (most all of my collected treasures were organized by date, and I was just waiting for that perfect “day/year” when they could be put together and seen).
But my collection filled boxes . . and boxes (I’m blushing as I admit this, both in gratitude and vulnerability at my inclination to collect . . and collect . .). I wondered where or how to begin, or rather, how to know what to select from my boxes when I realized my “book” was really a bookshelf, haha of love treasures.
The connection, creativity, sisterhood, and community I felt during our Book of Love group helped me see my “book” in an inspiriting light. Meanings Karly taught me were so therapeutic, enlightening, soothing, and hope-engendering for me.
Witnessing the other women in our group taking their courageous and vulnerable footsteps was beautiful to me, and lightened anxieties I was feeling about letting myself be. Stories Karly shared touched me deeply. She let stories have their way with us, and as she knew they would, they moved me.
Images and phrases Karly shared fed me, nourished me, and gently gifted me acceptance and perspective. Her descriptives included belonging, wholeness, homecoming, inner kingdom within us, and inner woman with an educated heart and inspired me more than I can express.
Through our books of love, Karly taught me how to acknowledge my sadnesses and to recognize my abilities to empathize with another’s disappointment. Sadnesses that have come from my experiences help me understand how others feel. She helped me see that we really do share a common humanity.
As I thought about the pieces in my boxes, I breathed in Karly’s invitation to explore love’s warm embrace and to see what [was] arising for me. Empathetic poetry she shared encouraged me to go to the limits of my longing, such as in this one from Rilke which invited me to ”. . Let everything happen to [me]: beauty and terror. Just keep going, no feeling is final . .” for there is beauty and blessing.
- Justine Bingham, U.S.
What The Book of Love is about
The Book of Love is a playful, art based class to reconnect to your essence: to your deeper story.
In this 6 week class, you’ll be crafting a journal of connection – using a blank book that you fill with images, stories, symbols and more – to create a Book of Love, a chronicle and witness to your soul’s story.
Art, story, poetry and creativity are powerful ways of supporting resilience - the new life that longs to rise in you, what lies underneath that painful sense of "something's wrong with me."
Through this creation and through sharing a space with others, you'll reconnect with your deepest self, soften shame, and embolden courage - supporting your healing journey with food or any other challenge. I'm honored to share Nina's story with you below.
Nina's story with The Book of Love
"I have such warm and positive feelings about my time in The Book of Love class. I keep my own Book of Love on my bookshelf and it is one of my most cherished possessions. It is still a work in progress and I enjoy revisiting it when the spirit moves me.
When I started the class I was completely shut down and in tremendous pain. I was still reeling from my divorce and the dismantling of my life and family as a result of that divorce. I was struggling to move forward in a positive way. I was lacking self-love and self-forgiveness.
The experience of examining life, purpose, and love was the beginning of a beautiful journey for me. It was my springboard to a positive outlook and ability to cherish myself. I'm not going to say I got there overnight, because I didn't.
But this class turned me in the right direction, took off my blindfold, and whispered words of encouragement in my ear as it pushed me off on my journey of self-love. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me, and I could see a whole new and different world in front of me. I stuck my head out of my dark cave because I was tired of being there, and this class showed me where to go next.
Two years later I'm still on that journey, but much closer to the finish line than ever before. Thank you for placing this class on my path. It was the perfect thing at the perfect time for me."
- Nina S., Silver Spring, Maryland, US
This playful class may be a good fit for you if:
- you're recovering from a food compulsion, illness, or difficult time
- you're in the midst of a life transition or grieving a loss
- you're yearning for healing and wholeness
- you're wanting something creative, expressive, and playful to support other kinds of healing work
- you love to play in the realm of soul
- or if you're longing for a greater sense of connection and intimacy with yourself, your heart, and with others
The Book of Love is a playful way to bridge places of separation, to reconnect with the story underneath the story. While this class can help you soften the shame of overeating or other overconsuming, it can also be used to care for any area in your life where you're feeling guilt, loss, sorrow or self blame.
In past classes, people have been very creative!
People have made their own 'books of love' to:
- say goodbye and thank you to a dying parent
- reconnect with a loved one after going through a challenging time
- say goodbye to a beloved home
- grieve and honor the ending of a marriage
- mourn the pain of an addiction or compulsion
- nurture the dream of writing a book
- deepen their courage through a health diagnosis
- heal a painful body image
- and bring compassion to the suffering of chronic illness
We love hearing all the ways people use this class to nurture their particular place of soul healing, and we look forward to witnessing your creation! You can read about Joanna's inspiring experience with The Book of Love below.
Today it’s my mother’s birthday, she would have turned 81. She passed away in August 2019 after a long struggle with cancer and my father followed her quite closely, he had dementia, passing away in February this year.
So it’s been an incredibly tough last few years, during which I’ve followed 3 of [Karly's] courses - Emerge (twice), The Book of Love and Align. All of these courses taught me so much - I feel like Karly is one of my ‘other mothers’! And in the words of Penny Harter’s poem, a line really resonates:
In the Zen tradition, When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Karly appeared when I was ready and in need of a different kind of support in my life.
We (me and my 4 siblings) have spent the last few months dealing with the family home and everything in it as we prepare it for sale - the family home for nearly all of my life - and as I was looking at all of the objects, books, fabrics and everything collected there over the years, I have thought about the Book of Love and how I might create a book of love out of this painful experience of saying goodbye to this very special family home.
Not long after the Book of Love course, I decided to make a scroll for my mother, while she was still alive (but deteriorating fast) to ‘talk’ to her about the things I value which she had given me. I found it hard to express this verbally with her so I decided to write and illustrate my thoughts (something which had come out of working on the Book of Love course.
Now that my mother has passed away, I think there is a second one I can make now - thinking of other aspects of her and her wisdom I can add and also perhaps the wisdoms I’ve gleaned from other mothers.
I am hugely grateful.
- Joanna, U.K.
Class details + how it works
As of 2023, The Book of Love is now offered as a part of The Growing Humankindness community.
Once a year or so, the community goes through the class materials together, as a cohort - although you're also welcome to take it at any time as a community member, or pair up with a buddy.
Each week you'll explore a theme for The Book of Love. For each of these modules, you'll have an audio to listen to, a story or meditation, and prompts to create pages in your book. You'll do this at home, on your own.
When we offer The Book of Love as a community class, we'll also meet on zoom for creative, playful webinars.
During the webinars, we'll split our time between creating in our books, asking questions, and sharing. These are playful, light, warm and fun!
Group support in the Growing Humankindness community
In the Growing Humankindness Community, we have a private group forum where you can share pages of your book, ask questions, share insights, and connect with others.
We've prepared a beautiful, welcoming oasis for you: a private, quiet, calm, ad free space where you can share and connect with your classmates without the noise, distraction, and privacy concerns of Facebook.
Our group space makes it easy for you to get to know other members in the community, share your experiences, nurture your need for connection, rest in a supportive environment, and perhaps make a new friend.
You can access the course materials and the group forum, all in one place. You can also download the Mighty Networks app so you can access the course easily on your phone.
Take a peek below!
The course curriculum
Here's more about what's included in The Book of Love:
Module 1: Walking the road home: welcoming, belonging, and wholeness
"To be human is to belong. Belonging is a circle that embraces everything ." - John O' Donohue
In this module, you'll reconnect with your heart, explore what home and belonging mean to you, and create a space of welcome for those parts of yourself that have been unloved, unfriended, or outcast.
This module is especially helpful if you feel disconnected from yourself, if you long for greater tenderness, or feel like you've 'fallen off' your path.
Module 2: Love's warm embrace: opening to connection, community, and holding
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it - and to embrace them." - Rumi
In this module, you'll be widening and deepening the circle of love that surrounds you. You'll reconnect with those places where you have known connection and belonging, and you'll gently connect to those tender places that have not known love but who long to be seen, to receive support and care, and to receive love.
This module is especially helpful if you have a hard time asking for help or receiving love from others.
Module 3: Singing your song back to you: grieving what was lost, listening for the deeper story, and touching ground
"Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground." - Oscar Wilde
In this module you'll create a space for grief to flow, seek out those talismans and reminders - who am I underneath these changing and ebbing waves? - and release shame and blame for your human journey. You'll reflect on how 'the voice of separation' shows up in your life and how to listen to the deeper story - the voice of connection.
This module is especially helpful if you need support for the grieving process, if you feel like you've been emotionally stuck, blocked or frozen, or conversely, if you've felt emotionally overwhelmed.
Module 4: Creativity and courage: nourishing the greening, the new life that longs to be born
"Good people, most royal greening verdancy, rooted in the sun, you shine with radiant light." - Hildegard of Bingen
In this module you'll be exploring your yearnings - the desires that lay within your heart - and your creative urges - the new life that longs to be born. You'll dance with the metaphors of seeds and seedlings, dragons and treasures, and courage and courting.
This module is especially helpful if you want to reconnect with your passions and desires, if you feel disconnected from your sense of purpose, or you feel like your struggles have kept you from connecting with others in sharing your gifts.
Module 5: Beauty and blessing: we enter dancing, we were born for joy
"I believed I wanted to be a poet, but deep down, I wanted to be a poem." - Jaime Gil de Biedma
In this module, you'll be a lover and finder of beauty, gratitude, praise and joy, opening to the blessing that your own birth and being offers to our world as well as the blessings that you have received from others.
This module is especially helpful if you feel disconnected from the beauty of life, if you feel worn down by your challenges, or if you're wanting to reconnect with the everyday sacredness of life.
My journey through the Book of Love
My name is Karly Randolph Pitman, the midwife of The Book of Love. This class is dear to me, as my journey through multiple eating disorders, anxiety and depression left me caught in collapse, isolation and shame.
Food has been the primary way I've cared for my vulnerability. I'd ping pong between depression, overeating, and self harshness, hating myself for soothing myself in food, shaming myself for feeling overwhelmed - yet powerless to stop.
I longed to be more gentle with myself, for the balm of compassion, and for the warmth of connection. This yearning led me on a path that eventually became Growing Humankindness. (More about me.)
How The Book of Love was born
Then a few years ago, while watching Call the Midwife, a favorite TV show, I heard a quote from Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century mystic:
“God hugs you. You're encircled by the arms of the mystery of God. You shine so finely it surpasses understanding.”
As I heard these words, tears streamed down my face. That winter, I'd settled into the familiar arms of depression, and this was the compassion I needed. I knew I wanted to write down this quote so I could read it, often. So I started creating a book. (See pages from my book on the left.)
I bought a leather bound journal and pasted the quote onto the first page. Then I began filling it with poems, bird feathers, leaves, seeds, quotes, cards, photos, and art – whatever moved me and asked to be enfolded into her pages.
I named her “The Book of Love.” As I filled my book’s pages, I felt something shifting inside: a heightened insight into my own being, like shining a warm light into a dark room.
In this warmth, I felt myself softening. Through my book, I could touch my pain with kindness. Page by page, my book gave me soft eyes to see myself, grace for my journey, and a space for grief and joy.
From a book to a class
As I continued to create my book, I began sharing this practice and my Book of Love in my group classes. I also began to wonder: would other people want to create a book, too?
So in 2018, I created the inaugural Book of Love class, offering it to a group of 26 soulful women.
They, too found healing, strength, and compassion in creating their books. They found celebration, and courage, and joy. (You can read some of their stories throughout this page.)
And now, here in 2021, with the changes and challenges in our world – racial injustice, a pandemic, the cries of our earth, the pain of isolation and social distancing – I felt called to offer this class again.
It feels like a gentle way to nourish a more compassionate and connected world, starting with our own selves.
If you feel moved to join us for this year's Book of Love class, we'd be honored to gather you into the group that's forming, to gather you into our hearth.
The most important thing
When we're in the middle of our struggles it's easy to collapse into self criticism or overdoing, striving to 'fix the self.' These attempts to 'work on ourselves' can be exhausting, especially if we're sensitive, conscientious and caring.
Often, we try so hard to 'fix ourselves' because we think it's the only way to eradicate our pain or to ease the anxiety of our shame. In Western culture, most of our models are about thinking our way to healing. But it doesn't work - it often feels like pouring water onto concrete, wondering why it doesn't soak into the soil and lead to new blooms.
While there's a time and place for inner work, overdoing it leaves us feeling frustrated, depleted and anxious. And if it's missing the 'holding,' the relational companioning that heals, it feels awful, stuck in the head. It doesn't integrate into our being.
Rather than more inner work, our souls may be crying out for exploration and creativity, warm companioning, and psychological rest.
One of the most beautiful and tender ways we can give ourselves this holding is through self compassion.
Self compassion helps us 'meet the edges of our suffering' with softness and strength, with wisdom and an attuned response. It nurtures a deeper acceptance of ourselves, where our wounds and experiences become more neutral, without pride or shame: something we care for, and something we may need help for, but not something we feel driven to eliminate.
The Book of Love was created with these ideas in mind - to create a holding space for your story, and a holding space for the compassion that will arise to meet it (and in fact, that already does.)
While The Book of Love is a class, and a class with 'course materials,' it's meant to be restful, not work - playful, creative and expressive.
It's a soulful approach to healing that trusts the healing power of creation, symbol and story - a natural companion to other types of healing work like therapy, contemplative and spiritual practices, trauma therapy, meditation, body based practices like yoga, dancing, or martial arts, and somatic practices.
I think of The Book of Love akin to 'soul book making,' a codex of the inner realms. And even though this class will be creative, you do not have to be an artist or think of yourself as creative to join the class - just willing to play.
Christy's story, which I'm honored to share with you below, is an example of this book of soul.
I wanted to tell you a little more about the importance of your Book of Love class. My quiet daughter Beth, 16, is my 3rd daughter. My 2nd daughter has had a very difficult road these past five years. She’s been the loudest as far as needs in our family.
Beth has been my quiet daughter. She has had to navigate her path many times on her own because of the crisis that arose. It’s been so difficult to communicate and build a deeper relationship with her because of anger she holds with regard to feelings of abandonment.
She’s been very angry and closed off for a long time as well as struggling with depression herself. She’s felt isolated from friendships and like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. She’s been lonely and feeling very hopeless.
When I heard about your class I thought of it for me but then when I really settled in I felt like we needed to do it together. After extending the invitation to Beth she said she’d think about it. I showed her your video clip and she said she’d be willing to do it.
The time we spent together watching the videos, listening to the readings, and recordings was priceless. We shared memories and learned about ways that we feel loved. We still work on our books together when we have free time in the evenings and many times it’s initiated by Beth.
She is seeking out and reading poetry now as well as finding moments to share with me good things that have happened to her throughout the day. We have a point of connection now that is based on love and not crisis or drama. I have learned so much about her and she is more open to hearing good things from me as well. It’s truly beautiful.
And her follow up story:
Last year was an extremely painful year, and at times I was hanging on by a thread. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled out my book and felt the universe speaking to me through it, telling me that I have so many good things in my life to hang on too and not to fall into the darkness...
The Book of Love, on more than one occasion, kept me rooted in Love. Thank you for this beautiful space that you created almost as a foreshadowing of what was to come and what I needed to anchor me in my life. It’s also tremendously helped my daughter and I stay focused on the good that’s all around us.
Gentleness and compassion have been areas that have been growing in me for years now. Crisis has a way of either drawing that out or hardening. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to you for helping me create safe spaces to continue to allow the softening and beauty to unfold.
- Christy S., U.S.
Frequently asked questions
How long do I have access to the course materials?
As the class is a part of the Growing Humankindness community, you'll have access to the course materials in Mighty Networks as long as you're a member of the Growing Humankindness community.
How much time should I set aside for the class?
Plan on 90 minutes for the weekly webinars, another hour or so for the course materials, and another hour to play with your book in creation – or more if you feel inspired to do so! But if you choose to do more it's because you want to – something you feel inspired to do, not a should you feel like you have to do.
I've taken other classes with Karly. How is this class different?
This class explores many of the themes of growing humankindness – self compassion, mindfulness, befriending the self, and embracing wholeness.
But it does so in a slightly different way. It's more interactive than our other classes, and there's less focus on learning and a greater focus on expression, the power of story and creativity. This class is intentionally designed to be playful, nourishing, and creative – a gentle and subtle way of entering the soul's sacred ground.
How do I know if this class is right for me?
A good question! If you enjoy reflecting upon your experience, becoming more intimate with your inner life, playing with creativity, and have the spaciousness to play with the class materials, this class can be a good fit. You do not have to be an artist or think of yourself as creative to join the class!
Can this class heal trauma?
Trauma can be so tender, and we have so much empathy for the ways trauma impacts your relationship with yourself. While this course brings support and understanding and can be a companion for healing, it's not designed to specifically heal trauma. The Book of Love can be a helpful companion for your healing journey, but in my experience, trauma needs more support for healing.
What if I'm unhappy with the class? Do you offer refunds?
We want you to get the help you need, and we want you to find the right fit for your needs, whether that's with us or with someone else. If you have any questions if this class is right for you, please reach out. We're here to help!
As this class is a part of The Growing Humankindness community, our refund policy for the class is the same as the community.
Membership in the community is month to month. There are no refunds for past dues but you can cancel at any time.
A closing blessing for you
When we tell our food stories, our stories of loss, and our stories of compulsion, often the first layer of telling is of shame, frustration, or separation.
But underneath this surface telling there is so much tenderness; beauty, courage and strength.
Whether or not you choose to join us for The Book of Love, I hope you keep a keen ear trained to this deeper story, and to trust it.
May each tender soft spot – those fontanels of your being – be cradled in remembrance and wondering. And may you trust the way the soul is guiding you into descent, into your deeper story.
Our journeys may arise through some uncomfortable messengers – grief, fear, anger, and sadness. And no matter what form our telling takes, when we touch our stories and our wounds directly, when we dress and tend them like something beloved, we come to a new understanding.
We realize that our wounds are not what we think they are – and that neither are we.
To the sacred ground under your feet, and to the deeper story that lives within you, Karly