If you want to start meditating; if you want to calm your mind, body and heart; or if you are going through a hard time – a bad break-up, the loss of a job, the death of someone close to you, or simply feeling anxious, sad or hopeless, you may find these suggestions helpful.
These recommendations arise from 30 years of experience as a bookseller; 25 years of reading, meditating and retreat, under the direction of an experienced teacher and 20 years of teaching meditation. Many of these books have a Buddhist slant, however they are written in a way that most people can benefit.
My advice is, to use what works, and discard the rest. Hopefully you will find the tools here that can help you to keep your balance in the midst of difficulty, live well, unfold fully and cultivate a good heart.
Read ONE of these seven titles to help you calm your mind, keep your balance and to see more clearly. They are all highly recommended.
A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield is a wonderful book for people who are spiritual but not religious. It is a playful introduction to the spiritual journey written by a psychotherapist and a great buddhist teacher. It is easy to read with lots of stories, poetry and heart.
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom by Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield is a comprehensive introduction to the buddhist view, and meditation. This is an essential primer to the path, and one of my personal favourites.
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn is intended for people who are atheist, agnostic or humanist , and value reason and science. It is a no nonsense book about working with the hard stuff. Jon has taken the buddhist teachings and stripped them of all their cultural trappings, for the modern, secular reader.
Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh is definitely buddhist but so simple and lovely that most people will enjoy it. He is a Zen monk and a poet who writes about mindfulness in everyday life. Miracle of Mindfulness will change your experience of doing the dishes forever.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche is a great introduction to Tibetan buddhist meditation. It is filled with lots of stories, meditation instruction and magic. It is more about living than dying.
The Centering Prayer by Basil Pennington is a solid book about Christian meditation. It combines the best of Eastern Christian spiritual exercises with practical suggestions for overcoming the problems that discourage modern people from a deeper spiritual life.
The Mindful Way through Depression by Mark Williams is a book and CD set that offers a scientifically and psychologically based meditative approach for those wrestling with anxiety and depression.
Guided Meditation: Six Essential Practices to Cultivate Love, Awareness, and Wisdom by Jack Kornfield is a wonderful guided audio introduction to basic sitting, lovingkindness and forgiveness, a visualization exercise for overcoming difficulties, gratitude and “mind like sky”.
Consider practising the meditation Seeing Clearly, before or after your lovingkindness practice, from 2-3 to 10-15 minutes, everyday.
Read Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. This will provide you with best instructions for strengthening the essential heart qualities of lovingkindness, joy and compassion.
Start practising a brief joy meditation in the morning for two minutes and a brief joy meditation in the evening, for two or three minutes.
When you finish reading the book, start performing a brief lovingkindness or a full lovingkindness meditation, everyday. Do this anywhere from a couple minutes, to 10-15 minutes or when you have time.
If you are going through an overwhelmingly difficult time, read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.
If you are wrestling with self-esteem issues, read Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
A few other suggestions:
Find someone to talk to, preferably 2-3 people. Maybe find a therapist or a support group.
Start a journal and record your experiences, especially your dreams.
Eat good food. (Read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.)
Drink lots of water.
Walk or exercise a little bit everyday.
Be an advocate for yourself. Keep researching and trying things until you are healed.
Healed doesn’t necessarily mean all your problems or ailments will be gone but you are okay.
Never give up!