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Burning the Midnight Oil: Illuminating Words for the Long Night's Journey Into Day

In Burning the Midnight Oil, Phil Cousineau has gathered an eclectic and electric collection of soulful prose, poems, and reflections from great thinkers throughout the ages. Whether beguiling readers with glorious poetry or consoling them with prayers from fellow restless souls, this book can relieve any insomniac's unease. From Annie Dillard to St. John of the Cross, Beethoven to The Song of Songs, this refreshingly insightful anthology soothes and inspires those who struggle--or thrive-- through the dark of the night. These "night thoughts" vividly illustrate Alfred North Whitehead's liberating description of "what we do without solitude" and also evoke Henry David Thoreau's reverie, "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."

The night writers in Cousineau's vesperal collection range from saints, poets, and shamans to astronomers and naturalists, and tell of ancient tales and shining passages from the most brilliant night owl writers of today. These poetic ponderances sing of the falling darkness, revel in dream-time, convey the ache of melancholy, conspire against sleeplessness, vanquish loneliness, contemplate the night sky, rhapsodize on love, and languorously greet the first rays of dawn. With a foreword by Jeff "The Dude" Dowd of The Big Lebowski lore, this book is the perfect companion for any lover of the late nights.

<> Listen to Phil Cousineau and Jeff Dowd on NPR's "Weekend Edition" with Scott Simon for Burning the Midnight Oil.

The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words and Their Origins

Phil Cousineau takes us on another tour of intriguing word origins with by exploring the colorful back stories of the few hundred words in The Painted Word. In this follow up to his popular book of word stories, Wordcatcher, Cousineau lures readers by his love of language and inspires them to be more daring and playful with words.

To untangle the knot of interlocking meanings of these painted words, logophile and mythologist Phil Cousineau begins each fascinating word entry with his own brief definition. He then fills it in with a tint of etymology and a splattering of quotes that show how the word is used, ending with a list of companion words. The words themselves range from commonplace — like biscuit, a twice-baked cake for Roman soldiers — to loanwords including chaparral, from the Basque shepherds who came to the American West; words from myths, such as hector; metamorphosis words, like silly, which evolved from holy to goofy in a mere thousand years; and words well worthy of revival, such as carrytale, a wandering storyteller. Whether old-fangled or brand new, all the words included in The Painted Word possess an ineffable quality that makes them luminous. Every reader will relish this beautifully illustrated book complete with dozens of gorgeous artworks by Gregg Chadwick. The Painted Word is the perfect gift for every book lover.

Wordcatcher: An Odyssey Into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words

Phil Cousineau is a "Wordcatcher," a lover and keeper of words and word stories. As he explains in his introduction: "In a word, this book of weird, wonderful and wild word stories is a game of catch. When I throw a baseball around with my son Jack it’s a game of give and take, each of us throwing the ball so the other can catch it. It’s an ordinary activity, but also a profound metaphor for life and for my relationship to words. If I see an amazing word thrown to me in a book, magazine, or movie—chicanery, bedswerver, lucubrate—I am thrilled, and I want to keep the game of language going by looking it up, writing it down, using it in a story, poem, script, or conversation. Call it the sport of a wordcatcher, playing catch with the ball of language that’s been thrown to me by all the writers and storytellers who came before me."

Beyond Forgiveness: Reflections on Atonement—Healing the Past, Making Amends, Restoring Balance in Our Lives and World

As indispensable as forgiveness has been to the healing process throughout history, there is another equally profound action that is needed for ultimate reconciliation, which Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, calls “the other side of the coin.” Turning over the coin of forgiveness, we discover atonement, the half-hidden, much-overlooked other half of the reconciliation process. Beyond Forgiveness shows how acts of atonement—making amends, providing restitution, restoring balance—can relieve us of the pain of the past and give us a hopeful future.

This rich and powerful book includes 15 thoughtful contributions by high-profile thinkers and activists including Huston Smith, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Azim Khamisa, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Jacob Needleman, Michael Nagler, James O’Dea, Arun Gandhi, Kate Dahlstedt, Ed Tick, Richard J. Meyer, and more. Atonement is put forward as a process that we must all learn to practice—from individuals to nations—if we are to heal our wounds and move forward.

“If we harbor thoughts of violence or hatred, or seek revenge or retribution, we are contributing to the wounding of the world; if we transform those thoughts into forgiveness and compassion, and then move beyond them to actually make amends or restitution, we are contributing to the healing of the world. This timely, powerful and compassionate book helps show us the way.”
—Deepak Chopra

The Oldest Story in the World

This book is a brooding, daring, idiosyncratic exploration of the secret strength of storytelling, in which Phil Cousineau addresses the central theme which runs through all of his work, the transportive power of words. Written as a mosaic of meditations, this lyrical book ranges from a twelve-thousand-year-old Aboriginal tale, to a mystical Viking story, a venerable myth from the Seneca, and a modern parable from contemporary world of house painters in San Francisco. Wrapped around the marvels he has collected from around the world are Cousineau's own edgy ruminations, which illuminate the irrepressible impulse for storytelling.

Stoking the Creative Fires: Nine Ways to Rekindle Passion and Imagination

Based on twenty years of teaching, Phil Cousineau's Stoking the Creative Fires will guide you on your creative journey.

~ What are you on fire about now?
~ Where does your fiery urge to create come from?
~ What do you do to rekindle the inner flame of creativity when it is nearly extinguished by despair or fear?
~ And what are you doing to pass on the torch of your inspiration?

These questions are at the heart of one of the greatest human mysteries of all—creativity. "Creativity is as natural as breathing," he writes. "To create is to grow, which in turn makes us feel vitally alive."


In this book, Cousineau explores many different types of creativity, from painting and writing to photography and movies, and more; its use in psychological practice, its role in community life, the cultivation of work habits, the use of dreams and role of mentors, the dreaded creative block, the myth of genius, and the spiritual side of art. His goal is to demystify the creative process by revealing how every project is a creative journey that can be completed—if we keep moving with tenacity, humility, and heart. "Inspiration is a flash of fire in the human soul," writes Cousineau. "There is a force within you that breathes divine fire and brings your work to life. Honor it at all costs."


Stoking the Creative Fires offers a multitude of stories, ideas, and exercises drawn from historical and contemporary figures, artists of all kinds, and lessons from Cousineau's own experience—giving people the tools they need to rekindle passion in all areas of their lives and the inspiration they need to live passionately and creatively.


Phil Cousineau gives readers the tools they need to alleviate burnout and rekindle creative passion in their lives. Based on many years of teaching, Cousineau offers a multitude of stories, ideas, and exercises drawn from historical and contemporary figures, artists of all kinds, and from his own experience, to inspire readers on ways to live a passionate and creative life.

"An energetic Renaissance man is an ideal guide for this richly developed examination of creativity! Cousineau makes the most of four decades of freelance writing and film work, and reflections from 30 years of teaching creativity in various forms. Three questions lie at the foundation of this exciting journey: "What kind of mark do you want to make? What kind of contribution do you want to make? Why do you do what you do and not something else?" The paperback is organized into three sections on Inspiration, Perspiration, and Realization with a final piece on Recommended Reading and Viewing.

"Inspiration is a flash of fire in the human soul," writes Cousineau about this mysterious quality which animates our creativity. He goes on to say "there is a force within you that breathes divine fire and brings your work to life. Honor it at all costs. It is your imagination." —Spirituality and Practice


Honored as one of the "Best Spiritual Books of 2008," Spirituality and Practice Book Awards

Night Train: Poems

An unflinching collection of narrative poems ranging from the humorous to the spiritual, the philosophical to the historical. (Sisyphus Press)

"How few writers realize the gift of the complete freedom of speech and the colossal spiritual gift of poetry. Phil Cousineau's new poems here are ingenious, wondrous, and delightful. Night Train has stunning glimpses of the world and a cosmic planet citizen appeal."

—Antler, author of Factory and Last Words, winner of the Walt Whitman Award

The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred

“Thinking of those who intend to embark on a journey with a deep purpose, Cousineau explores why travelers plan trips and then, upon getting to their destination, have a sense of unfulfilled expectation. Cousineau suggests that this disappointment results from the way travelers engage with the place, not the site itself. Stories, anecdotes, quotes, vignettes, and practical suggestions from travelers and pilgrims throughout history create a guide to building a personal journey by learning to slow down and linger, savor, and absorb each stage from the first strands of desire to travel through the journey to the return. To help the reader get involved, Cousineau includes a series of meditations and imagination exercises.” —Library Journal

“Cousineau shares details of his inspirational vision of travel, which is that every trip should be thought of as a pilgrimage, or "soulful travel." [He says] it is possible to "transform even the most ordinary trip into a sacred journey"; and by "sacred," he means a personal value or ideal that is held close to one's heart and mind and thus elevates the consciousness. . . . Cousineau describes the "common rites" of a classic pilgrimage as adhered to through the ages, and in the process he suggests ways in which a contemporary traveler can ensure that a trip is a pilgrimage, a life-changing ritual that entails "a deepening of focus, keen preparation, attention to the path below our feet, and respect for the destination at hand." Seeking answers to one's own existence? Cousineau guarantees that the pilgrimage approach is the right path for obtaining those answers.” —Booklist

"Centuries of travel lore suggest that when we no longer know where to turn our real journey has begun," writes author Phil Cousineau. "At that crossroads moment, a voice calls to our pilgrim soul." Many have embarked upon a pilgrimage, but few have understood its mysteries and possibilities as well as Phil Cousineau does. On one level this is a highly useful guidebook packed with great ideas for enlightened traveling--tape recording local voices, music, and sounds; asking contemplative questions to waitresses and bookstore owners; lighting a traveling candle every morning; making an offering to the local deity. But most compelling is Cousineau's ability to expertly map the interior landscape of a pilgrimage--the sights that lead to insights and the borders that lead to breakthroughs as we trek the exterior landscape of our planet.  —Gail Hudson, Spirituality Editor, Amazon

Geared toward modern-day pilgrims looking for inspiration and a few spiritual tools for the road, this book combines stories, myths, parables and quotes from famous travelers of the past to help them focus on the purpose and intention at every stage of their journey. —Theodore Roszak, San Francisco Chronicle


More than 175,000 copies sold!
Benjamin Franklin Award Winner

The Book of Roads

This captivating book of Cousineau’s travel stories and reflections illuminates 25 years of adventures on the road. (Sisyphus Press)

"Cousineau surges from place to place like a happy corpuscle in the world's bloodstream. No road escapes him, whether spiritual, virtual or real, and he describes scenery along the way with wisdom, humor and undimmed enthusiasm going back to childhood wonder. Read this book." —Mort Rosenblum, author of The Secret Life of the Seine

"Phil Cousineau's beautifully written The Book of Roads...fine, true current carries fragrances and faces, landscapes and stories, rooms carved out of rock and the sudden jolt of perception sharp as a sail-driven wagon wheel covering hitherto untraveled ground." —Jane Hirshfield, author of The Lives of the Heart

A Seat at the Table

In this collection of illuminating conversations, renowned historian of world religions Huston Smith invites ten influential American Indian spiritual and political leaders to talk about their five-hundred-year struggle for religious freedom. (Edited and with a Preface by Phil Cousineau, with assistance from Gary Rhine)

"A valuable and insightful book about a too long overlooked topic - the right of Native American people to have their sacred sites and practices honored and protected. Let's hope it gets read far and wide, enough to bring about a real shift in policy and consciousness."

—Bonnie Raitt

"Phil Cousineau has created a fine companion book to accompany the important film he and Gary Rhine have made in defense of the religious traditions of Native Americans. [Native Americans] are recognized the world over as keepers of a vital piece of the Creator's original orders, and yet they are regarded as little more than squatters at home. This book features impressive interviews, beautiful illustrations, and gives a voice to the voiceless."

—Peter Coyote

The Blue Museum: Poems

"Phil Cousineau has long been a powerful presence in the Bay Area literary scene ... whose influence has been noted by a great many other major poets of his generation, including Antler and Jane Hirshfield. The Blue Museum comprising poems from his entire life's work, is a book readers will be unlikely to forget. [It] contains the whole story of one man's life, the way poets seldom do it any more — the way Wordsworth or Whitman did it, say, or William Carlos Williams, or even, more recently Charles Olson ... At times [his] epiphanies are dazzling... [He] is equally adept at the sort of short-lined, concise, clear-eyed appreciations of nature perfected by Gary Snyder ... exquisite lyrics about the harmony between man, woman, and unborn child ... and the most beautiful ode to Van Gogh I have ever read..." —San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"The Blue Museum is like a trumpet sounding to restore our sense of wonder, and it costs nothing less than your soul..." —R.B. Morris

The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games

Invoking the original spirit of the Olympics, Cousineau writes about the passionate display of excellence in mind, body, and soul all in one spectacular festival. Despite corruption, this ideal is as vital today as it was when the Games began nearly 3,000 years ago. Cousineau weaves together myths and fables with modern anecdotes to emphasize the transcendent element that uplifts athlete, trainer, and spectator alike. Themes include the philosopher coach, the festival dramas of ceremony and ritual, and the curious devotion of fans and fanatics.

"The Olympic Odyssey is a passionate study of the ecstatic dimension of the ancient and modern Games and a fiery synthesis of mythology, religion, and sports history. In this timely book, Cousineau issues a bold challenge to athletes, coaches, and fans to revive the transformative vision at the heart of the Olympic ideal—the celebration and exercise of body, mind, and spirit alike." —Michael Murphy, Chairman and Co-founder, Esalen Institute, author of Golf in the Kingdom

Selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee and given to every American athlete competing in the 2004 Olympics. 

Phil Cousineau and Huston Smith enjoy a moment in the sun after a weekend seminar on THE WAY THINGS ARE at Esalen Institute.

The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life

"Readers will find themselves ravenously eavesdropping on captivating discussions...dialogues that are timeless. Cousineau's stunning preface is worth the price of admission alone." —Publishers Weekly

The 23 interviews and essays in this volume offer a uniquely personal perspective on Huston Smith's own spiritual journey and a window into his wide-ranging reflections on the nature and importance of the religious quest. Readers will find eminent and beloved religion scholar Smith conversing with some of the world's most influential personalities and religious thinkers, from journalist Bill Moyers to religion scholar Philip Novak, and recounting his personal experiences with such luminaries as Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, Daisetz Suzuki, Ram Dass, and the Dalai Lama.

The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work

The man behind the myth is lovingly revealed in this collection of interviews with the late Joseph Campbell. Using Campbell's vision for the "hero's journey," Phil Cousineau organized these interviews so that they reflect Campbell's own chronological life quest. He begins with "The Call to Adventure," in which Campbell speaks to his fascination with Native American myth as a child, and moves through "The Road of Trials" (his years in college and as a young professor at Sarah Lawrence) and the "Meeting with the Goddess" (referring to meeting his wife of 50 years, the modern dancer Jean Erdman). (Harper & Row 1990; U.S. & U.K., Element Books editions, 1999; Hardcover with New Preface, New World Library, 2003)

"For Campbell fans, The Hero's Journey will provide hours of amusement and edification. For those who have heard of Campbell and wonder what all the fuss is about, there's no better introduction to the man and his ideas." —San Francisco Chronicle

Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern Times

Honored as one of "The Best Spiritual Books of the Year," Once and Future Myths draws on history, movies, pop culture, and Phil Cousineau's own life experience -- as he shows how myths are timeless stories that continue to shape and affect our lives. By taking us on a unique path to personal growth through a deep examination of our lives, Cousineau shows how we are all living out the myths that have been a part of humanity through the ages. (Conari Press)

"A fascinating introduction to the power of myth." —Booklist

"Cousineau is a meaning maker par excellence in this wide-ranging and creative probe of the ways in which myths unspool in our daily lives and contemporary culture." —Spirituality & Heath, "Best Spiritual Books of the Year"

Soul: An Archaeology

A captivating, multidimensional collection of writings on the soul--from creation myths to beat poetry, religion to rock-n-roll.

"An audacious but rewarding anthology of poetry, song, fairy tale, meditation, reminiscence, disputation and confession....inspiring, often mind-blowing and sometimes even a little scary....Cousineau offers a bracing and yet somehow intoxicating brew intended to revive us and fortify us." —Los Angeles Times

"A treasure trove of writings on 'the language, lore and imagery of the soul.'" —Publishers Weekly

"Few writers approach the problem of soul with anything close to nuance. But Phil Cousineau's Soul: An Archaeology deserves honorable mention... the book is charming for its intelligence and playful eclecticism." —Utne Reader


Winner of the National Association of Independent Publishers' Fallot Literary Award

"Deadlines comes as a surprise....superb: a new genre, in fact, combining the pleasures of list-making with that of last-minute eaves-dropping." —Alberto Manguel

"In the manner of Rilke, Cousineau's poem, Deadlines, plumbs verbal depths for the magic of words to heal the heart." —Jung Institute Journal

"A hauntingly beautiful book that escapes all the categories; a prayer binding together the life and death of a father and son..." —Sam Keen

Coincidence or Destiny?

The prickling anticipation of a call seconds before the phone rings, the chance meeting that opens a career path, the eerie realization of a loved one's death half a world away...Across the boundaries of time and culture, people have experienced synchronicities that can reveal a hidden order to seemingy randam events and offer a glimpse of their destiny. Cousineau shares more than 80 stories of coincidence --from ordinary individuals as well as well-known scholars such as Larry Dossey and Huston Smith--each story demonstrates how meaningful coincidence can profoundly change and guide our lives. (Foreword by Robert A. Johnson; Previously published as Soul Moments)

"See with the 'eyes of the heart,' as the Sufis would say, rather than dissect it. Cousineau has put together a collection that does just that." —Common Boundary

"Cousineau defines synchronicity as "an inexplicable but profoundly meaningful coincidence that stirs the soul and offers a guiding glimpse of one's destiny." ...[His] poetic and profound reveries between each of the chapters honor the sweet anarchy of the moment, the sly winks of fate, the sudden discovery of meaning, and the shiver that runs through the soul when the world "strangifies." —Spirituality and Health

Fungoes and Fastballs

Phil Cousineau, a longtime fan, player, and coach of baseball, combines his humorous sketches with baseball haiku--short, punchy poems that celebrate the marvelous moments that are at the heart of this American pastime.

In the grand tradition of Basho, Kerouac, and Dan Quisenberry, this playful collection of baseball haiku was lovingly penned by Cousineau, a lifelong Tigers fan and current San Francisco Giants enthusiast.

The Soul of the World

This little book, a "pocket cathedral," is filled with inspiring passages and evocative photography by Eric Lawton. 

"Books like this could revive the art of prayer in this secular age." —The Express

"What Cousineau's work ultimately does is create a new awareness of time, as well as document our fascination with its passing... Each day becomes a universe in itself... this small gem of a book is like a week in another world.." —Palm Beach Post