Writers and other mortals function best from a state of inner calm. When we can breathe and are clear-headed, then we can be highly productive and creative. Meditation has a ridiculous number of benefits for mind, body, and spirit. And the advantage of the modern literature on meditation is that there is something for everyone.
Everywhere you go people are telling you that you should be meditating. But if you’re like many others, the prospect of sitting in silence with your eyes closed sounds dull or uncomfortable. So, if you self-identify as“fidgety,” or “easily distracted,” then you might like this book. Too busy to meditate? Can’t turn off your brain? Curious about mindfulness but more comfortable in the gym? Try this practical and at times funny book to turn things around.
[Or try a free version of the meditation app Insight Timer]
The other type of reader this book is intended for is the“skeptic,” meaning, an individual who doesn’t believe in the merits of meditation. This is a totally different issue. I once dated a supercilious Russian dude who told me, “I feel sorry for people who chant because they look like imbeciles.”Needless to say, we were mismatched as a couple! Chanting and meditation are activities I LOVE, and I can report first-hand that there are tons of benefits for brain and body.
Skeptics are people who wouldn’t be caught dead touching crystals. They can’t sense energy. Poor them. They just don’t get it.
In Harris’s book, written in collaboration with master meditation teacher Jeff Warren, the purpose was for them to road trip and figure out what’s stopping us from taking advantage of these powerful benefits and how to help us get out of our own way. The science is embedded. Dan Harris is a journalist, so he reports well.
Sharon Salzberg is the ideal meditation coach for the beginner. She’s a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, Vermont. She has thirty years of experience and has written some of the all-time best books on the subject of Buddhism (Lovingkindness). She presents the information in clear language that’s not fussy with strange jargon.
I picked this book for my top ten list because it is a 28-day program that treats meditation like exercise. Your meditation muscle gets stronger as you inaugurate the habit. This means that in a month you’ll be gaining the benefits of reduced blood pressure and stress, increased focus and alertness, better health, calmness, resilience.
Salzberg weaves students FAQs throughout. Gives instructions for twelve alternate meditation practices (something for everyone). It’s just another great book from a great teacher who’s a person I like.
Nobel Prize-winner Tenzen Gyatso, better known as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, has written numerous books on Buddhism that have been translated in the West. Perhaps the biggest gift he gives us is the gift of showing us a path to happiness.
In the Introduction he says there are two paths to happiness. Way 1 is through external means–the improvement of our circumstances: food, shelter, clothing, and so on. Way 2 is through internal means–moving beyond away from our anger and hatred. He asserts: “The essential objective of daily practice is to cultivate an attitude of compassion and calm. . .Trouble is bound to come, so cultivating the right attitude is crucial.”
Using the story of the Buddha’s awakening to dictate his contents, the Dalai Lama teaches basic disciplines needed to move through three stages of development of our minds. Practices to cultivate morality. Practices to cultivate focused concentration meditation. Practices to cultivate wisdom.
A great book for those who would establish grounded daily practice.
I had the sincere pleasure a few years ago of doing editorial work on the manuscript for the book Shift into Freedom. Loch Kelly, founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute in New York City, is a psychologist and meditation teacher who is a super clear teacher.
In his book he talks about the gradual path of awakening (and compares it to the sudden path–both are true possibilities), and he talks about experiences such as spiritual detox and spiritual bypass that are very real when awake awareness produces an effect on a human being. Fortunately for us, he has generously placed many videos on YouTube (view the one below, for instance), which correspond with teachings from his book. Loch has been initiated by leaders of many schools of meditation and spiritual practice. Their verification of his approach and his ability to teach is meaningful.
The late Gabrielle Roth was an incredible woman who saw energy embodied in the human form as rhythms. She marked how this paralleled emotional states, stages of development/maturation, and simply the tempo at which a day might land on you. Her 5Rhythms dance classes (now taught by her disciples) are opportunities to be fully embodied and present. In Sweat Your Prayers, this becomes a spiritual practice.
Ten years ago I had the privilege to interview her about her work for several hours, for a book on integrative medicine that I was writing. I also, on another occasion, had the privilege to dance beside her and see how deeply she went into herself to express and process her condition on that day–by which I mean whatever was up for her in her mind, in her heart, in her soul. This was evident in how she moved and carried herself, which that day was rather gently. But intensely. And we met a third time at the launch party for that book–we were outside on the sidewalk looking in through a window making a great escape–something we’d done spontaneously as individuals. We talked about how painful writing a book can be. And we promised to discuss it further, but never got the chance. I cannot recommend her beautiful writing highly enough–or her movement practice.
It can really crack your soul wide open.
Many years ago–in 1995–I was given a copy of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on how to meditate and laughed in delight at the title. So true! Truth usually makes me giggle.
When I dug into the book, I discovered morsels of wisdom. Morsels of insight that were small enough that I could wrap my untrained mind around them. Since then, whenever someone asks me what they should read to learn to meditate this is always one of the books I recommend.
Most authors of this ilk write several books and create a library. Kabat-Zinn’s other book way back when was Full Catastrophe Living. He comes by his views honestly from working with people wrestling with illness. He taught Medicine at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for decades. Being that I have always viewed my life as a process of staggering from one change to another, one drama to another, I value the simplicity of the way meditation is laid out.
Why do we need so much variety of practices? We don’t. Find one that works and keep doing it and let yourself be led. Surrender.
Twenty-first-century healers and musicians owe it to themselves and the world to develop comprehension of the transformational power of sound and music. From the effects of different drum rhythms on our brainwaves, to the positive impact of vibrational frequencies on the physical structure of our cells and organs, anyone who can hum or sing or clap or stamp their feet already has within their grasp some of the best medicine on Earth. Try toning if you have a headache!
Again, I am so proud to say I was the editor of this book, which has garnered advance praise from luminaries that include Grammy Award-winning recording artist Chaka Khan, spiritual teachers Marianne William and Michael Bernard Beckwith, shaman Renee Baribeau, and renowned flutist Wendy Luck, among others.
The power of sound and music has been familiar to ancient and indigenous healers in every culture around the world for millennia. This book explores that history and then gives detailed instructions. It also describes recent scientific research on healing cancer and awakening the vibrations in solid objects–and details how recording music tuned to certain frequencies changes people’s moods.
You can download a free song in MP3 from Flicka Rahn’s album Icaros: Chakra Landscapes here.
A classic book to help women put themselves front and center in their lives. To say no. To take time for self-care. This book combines inspiring quotes with short reflections that are encouraging and reassuring reminders to treat ourselves with loving kindness. It only takes a few minutes to bring wisdom into each day.
Organized as a calendar year, starting on January 1.
Frankly, I haven’t read this book cover to cover yet. But I was so drawn in BY the spiral on its cover that I had to add it to my list as aspirational reading material for the winter. The lunar calendar has thirteen moons, and Wild & Wise has 13 goddess-centered meditation practices to do on your own or in women’s circles.
The book is also organized by season, and we are in the season of darkness and making the inward journey now (it is December at this writing). preparing ourselves, like Mother Earth does, for springtime renewal. Multicultural, rather than mono-ethnic.
I look forward to reading this slowly and with deliberation.