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Home > A Happier Me > Off the bookshelf

Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!
by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

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About the Author

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is the originator of The Enchanted Self. She has been a positive psychologist in private practice and licensed in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts since 1981. Her book, The Enchanted Self, A Positive Therapy, was published in 1997 by Harwood Academic Publishers and is now in its second printing. She has recently published her second book on the concept of enchantment: Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!

The magic of the human spirit, with its capacity for survival, growth and joy, has always intrigued Dr. Holstein. As years went by and her practice grew, she longed to explore adult development even further--specifically how to overcome obstacles and bring pleasure into one’s life while living a life of meaning and purpose.

She began to document certain steps necessary for enchantment which is the concept she now teaches. Her research on women (not in her practice) initially focused around the negative messages that these women had received in childhood from their families and environment. However, she soon discovered that there was a magical capacity within these women to reinvent themselves in adulthood even with childhood experiences of internalized negative messages.

Dr. Holstein is committed to bringing the world the keys to enchantment and believes that no one should be denied hope or a joyful life. Yes, enchantment takes work, but no more work than living a life without hope, repeating negative thoughts and habits that lead to a life that feels less than inspiring.

Dr. Holstein speaks regularly on radio programs around the country, and appears on television in New York and New Jersey. Her inspiring audio files can be found on the web at places like Ladybug Live. She also gives lectures, seminars, and retreats on the concepts of enchantment and is currently in private practice in Long Branch, New Jersey with her husband, Dr. Russell M. Holstein.


Read the review by Susan Wittig Albert at the Story Circle Journal web site.

"Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!" is filled with inspirational, heart-warming stories that are just the thing for the therapist's waiting room, or to recommend as homework for a client who wants to work on the healing process outside of the therapy hour. "Recipes" is a marvelous little book that can be used as a self-help guide or as an enhancement to psychotherapy.
- Lucinda M. Seares, Psy. D., Private Practice, Freehold, New Jersey

"This heartwarming collection of stories reminds us that we have only to look at what's right in front of us to experience life's most beautiful and sacred moments. Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU! offers the reader inspiration and a hands-on opportunity to explore the uniqueness of one's own life, ultimately realizing that being you is the most fabulous adventure of all!"
- Jennifer Read Hawthorne, author of A Second Chicken Soup for the Women's Soul, 101 More Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Women

"Dr. Barbara Holstein's new book, Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!, is an inspirational book of beautifully told stories followed by journaling activities, that encourage hope, optimism and well being. Pick up the book when you could use a little jolt of human warmth and positivity and guaranteed, you will smile and your heart will feel gladdened. This book reminds us all to recognize the opportunities that come our way daily to bring more pleasure and joy into our own lives and into the lives of others.."
- Dr. Stella Resnick, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles and Ojai, California and the author of The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings & How to Let Go and Be Happy

"If you are ready for a great collection of inspiring motivational stories that will mentor you as they inspire, start reading Recipes for Enchantment. The stories stimulate while the follow up gives us a chance to process and grow. And if you're a therapist or coach, you'll love the great material RECIPES offers for your clients to work on as they work with you. Recipes for Enchantment captures the spirit of mentoring.
-Ben Dean, Ph. D., Founder & CEO of Mentor Coach™

"The wonder of these stories and the journaling activities that follow is they help you realize real happiness comes from following your dreams. Recipes for Enchantment provides the formula for doing this. One of its secret ingredients is that it works with what you have inside of yourself, helping you get out there and life a life of enchantment."
- Jean Cirillo Ph. D., Staff Psychologist, Jennie Jones Show, Private Practice, Long Island, New York

Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU is the latest book by author/psychologist Barbara Becker Holstein. Recipes is a delicious assortment of inspirational stories designed to make us examine our lives and feel and remember what is most important to us. Recipes is the practical application of the more theoretical book The Enchanted Self which enchanted us a few years ago. In Recipes for Enchantment Barbara Becker Holstein continues to provide us with a fresh view of human potential, and opportunities to apply her positive philosophy and techniques for personal replenishment. Recipes is everything a cookbook should be, short, easy to read, helpful and practical. Anyone can pick up the book and start reading at any point and become touched to the point of tears at the simple, powerful stories. In this collection of stories important life lesson such as "Believing", "Loving", "Saving" and "Sharing" are exemplified. The reader, who could be you, the therapist, or one of your patients in therapy, is asked to try to apply the lesson of each story to his or her own life. The book can be read in one of two ways. Firstly, it can be skimmed and tasted, and enjoyed for the glimpses into the simpler past lives of those whose stories were shared. Secondly, the reader can become actively involved with the book, trying out the exercises suggested at the end of each story. Just going through these exercises can lead to genuine self-help and a renewed appreciation of one’s own specialness and worth in this sometimes hard and cruel world.

My favorite story in the book is called "Believing - Joey Figures it Out". This story is about Joey, a very sick little boy who seems to give up hope on himself until his school sends a teacher to the hospital to work with him on his lessons. From that point on, Joey began to make a remarkable recovery which can not be explained by medical science. The story demonstrates the critical power of hope and faith in a person’s life. We must always be able to look forward to something, especially if we are in pain. A kind action by a single person can be like a small stone tossed into a pond, with ever widening ramifications.

Recipes for Enchantment is reminiscent of the "return to simplicity" movement often heard these days in this era of abundance. We are no longer in a time of economic crisis, as Mary Pipher stated in The Shelter of Each Other - Rebuilding our Families, but we are in a "crisis of meaning". Now we have the "poverty of consumerism, which means we never have enough". The stories in Recipes for Enchantment take us back to those values we really hold dear, such as family traditions, concern and respect for each other and nurturing each other. Memories of special dinners and recipes lovingly prepared by grandmas are carefully described. The reader is asked to recall similar life memories, and think about enchanted moments when they have reached out and shared with others like the characters in the stories. Dr. Holstein’s philosophy is similar to that of Mary Pipher . Both writers emphasize the importance of powerful connections with family and friends which sustain us through our lives. Despite all of the success and wealth we now know, we still may feel that something is missing, that we no longer know our next-door neighbors, and need to make appointments to see family members. We are all busy, rushing from place to place, with all of the accessories of success, yet we feel an emptiness, and a longing for the simpler days when we could talk to each other more easily and had more time to smell our flowers. This is why books like Recipes for Enchantment are as sweet as a fresh breeze or bread baking in Grandma’s kitchen. Try it! You’ll like it!" It may be used as a wonderful supplement to suggest to clients, or for therapists who may feel weighed down and in need of some uplifting and rejuvenating themselves.

Recipes for Enchantment 1st Books Library, 2001, 174 pages paper, $14.95 or $10.00 plus $4.00 shipping at www.enchantedself.com
- Reviewed by Lucinda M. Seares-Monica, Psy. D., in Division 42 magazine for the American Psychological Association, Fall 2001


One beautiful Wednesday morning, I drove from my home in suburban New Jersey to Borough Park in Brooklyn, a densely populated Jewish neighborhood. Men in long beards, little boys with side curls, and women wearing long, dignified skirts and wigs filled the streets. On a street of small grocery stores and plain row houses with well-kept gardens, I found Toby's house. She stood at the top of a long staircase, and seemed delighted to see me--a warm , friendly woman without a hint of make-up. Her hair was covered with a kerchief and she wore a housedress that looked like a bathrobe, the kind my grandmother used to wear. She also looked five months pregnant. I later discovered that she had 10 children--the oldest, 22, was already married--but only one was currently at home, a little girl, about two and a half, who clung to her mommy's apron strings.

Toby ushered me into her clean, but by American standards, barren kitchen. There were no photographs or magnets on the refrigerator, no paintings or wallpaper of fruit and vegetables, no radio or television–in fact, no appliances at all. It was as simple a kitchen as I had ever seen. Yet the old stove was already warm. I immediately felt a sense of peacefulness as if the whole apartment was radiating positive energy. The windows were open and even the Brooklyn air smelled fresh. Children's voices and traffic noises wafted up from the street, combining to create a silence that somehow felt sacred.

Toby showed me a giant dishpan in which a batch of challah dough was already rising. She explained that we would need another batch and asked if I wanted to do this by hand or by electric mixer. I chose the hand method. I was craving to get my hands into the dough. Toby said that many women prefer using the mixer, which is easier. However, her radiant face indicated her implicit approval of my choice.

She then produced another giant dishpan and told me to combine five cups of sifted flour, a cup of oil, five egg yolks, and salt. The leavening yeast was left to rise in another dish. After a while, when she told me to mix the ingredients together, I plunged my hands into the redolent mass feeling as if I were a girl again, playing in a sandbox. I didn't stop mushing until Toby told me to roll the dough into a giant ball and place it on her countertop. It was time to knead.

What a transforming experience! I felt as if God's feminine side whispered in my ear, "You have a wonderful task to do and it involves working this dough to the point of pure pleasure." For half an hour I pressed, rolled, pushed, pulled, squeezed, turned and lifted the dough as hard as I could. Toby, an instinctive teacher, praised my kneading technique and the strength of my hands. I found myself talking about my grandmother and the homemade challah she made when I was young. My hands, it seemed, had been inherited from a long line of women empowered by a sacred undertaking.

When my hands and arms grew tired, Toby encouraged me to rest and have a snack–delicious marble cake, creamy cheesecake, and homemade coffee ice cream–all handmade from the egg whites left over from her challah baking.

After our snack, we returned to our baking. Toby produced a bowl in which the challah had already risen. That's when I realized that the batch I had fashioned would be presented to Toby's next student–a woman I didn't know but to whom I was giving something very special, just as a stranger had bequeathed her kneading bowl to me.

I cut my new dough into six pieces, which I then rolled into long, thin strips. Toby showed me how to braid them. I tried to follow her as she spoke: "Bring these two strips close together and then bring this one under them and then it goes up over the right." Or did she say left? "Then the other goes down, and then you start all over."

I loved braiding the dough. After all the loaves were shaped, we made some miniature loaves with the leftover dough. Everything went into the oven. Toby invited me to visit the neighborhood while the bread baked, so I shopped. The time flew by. When I returned, about an hour later, I found Toby walking down the steps from her house with big gray plastic garbage bags in her hand, filled with the fruit of our labor. She placed the bags in the passenger and back seats of my car. We hugged and kissed each other. She told me to come back any time for my next lesson.

The aroma filled the car. I had enough challah to last at least a month. Toby climbed the stairs back to her family, and I began driving toward the Verrazano Bridge. It was rush hour, but I was calm. I felt as if I had accomplished something special, a feeling I hadn't had for years, perhaps not since I was a girl and learned how to skip or ride my bike. The scent of the challah and the memory of its baking replenished me. I had a restorative sense of a job well done.

How Can You Relate To This Story?

One of the core ingredients for a Recipe for Enchantment lies in the doing.

Sometimes this doing happens privately, even within one's own mind such as meditating. Sometimes it happens between people in ways that are refreshing such as playing together or visiting. There is also a concept of 'doing good deeds'. When we are doing in the service of others, often a host of positive emotions take place. The person doing the action can feel happy, uplifted, wanted, special and certainly the person who is the recipient of the 'doing' can feel joyful, contented, special, involved, loved.

Think for a moment about when you have been 'doing' in a way that either enriches your life or someone else’s. Don’t be shy–the hardest part of this may be giving yourself credit where credit is due. Have you helped someone out? Been there in a special way for a friend? Have you taken good care of yourself? Been your own best friend by an action you took–be it a pampering bath or finally divorcing an abusive spouse? Share some of your 'doings' here.

On the other hand have you felt good when someone gave to you by 'doing'? Perhaps a teacher gave time and extra tutoring that made all the difference? Or a friend had a meal waiting when you got home from the hospital? Share what the person did and how it made you feel.

Last modified: December 16, 2002

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