3 books about mindfulness you have to read!
Let me just say it clear, right here at the beginning, that there is no such thing as “learning” mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a thing you can learn from a book. Mindfulness is a practice, a life long one. A life long awareness and willingness to come back to mindfulness practice in every present moment. If there could ever be a definition of mindfulness in words, it would be somewhere in those lines. So this is not about learning mindfulness. It is about getting interested in the concept and getting familiar with some basic ideas and tools one can use in the practice. Another note, as we progress, understanding the writing of some of the authors might require some prior practice or a at least an open heart, so the reader is able to allow and understand the teaching. So start practicing as you read. Mindfulness, presence, spirituality are experiential phenomenons, and thus only practice can give you the proof of the teaching of these books. Otherwise it might sound silly or even repulsive. These very humble, easy and so uncomplicated teachings may sound pretentious and even arrogant to the untrained mind. Trust me I’ve been there. The first (and only) book that I have (ever!) hated and literally thrown away is a book on happiness giving very similar teachings to these. So take a breath and give them a chance. Take another, deep breath, in and out. And another one. Voila. You have opened your mind (and heart!) to mindfulness.
Let’s get to it.
If you have never before been interested in mindfulness and are not familiar with any of the yogic concepts, and even you are but have missed this masterpiece for some reason, start here.
The Book. By Alan Watts. Or the Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. This might be the book you need to understand the need of mindfulness and just by that become a better human being. The only prior practice needed is just an open mind ready to hear some critics about the way we live life today.
“We” here refers mostly to privileged middle and upper class, mostly white people in the western world. This is the “we” closest to me. I say this with all the love and due respect for less privileged or else human beings that do not fit under the example. Other times “we” might refer to whole humanity. So take it loosely and if you feel you don’t fit in my description, then exempt yourself from it. (Be *mindful* of ego traps though… See what I did there?)
This book is all about recognizing and demystifying the Ego and Thy Self, daring to speak about Grace, Enlightenment, the Universe and other taboo topics (at that time, ’50 and ’60s). It dives deep into our day to day habits and how all that we take for granted, ignorant for the bigger picture, is turning our lives into a “rat-race” instead of the life of endless possibilities that awareness of the moment and mindfulness offer.
In author’s words: “The Book I am thinking about would not be religious in the usual sense, but it would have to discuss many things with which religions have been concerned—the universe and man’s place in it, the mysterious center of experience which we call “I myself,” the problems of life and love, pain and death, and the whole question of whether existence has meaning in any sense of the word.”
Alan Watts is a philosophy writer, theologist and Episcopal priest who went on studying eastern philosophy and popularizing Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism for western audience. If you can’t read all his books, then you can listen to his talks on youtube and maybe read this one. It starts straight with a hilarious take on evolution and it is very funny throughout. His humor is not missing in any of his works.
I’ll continue with the obvious choice. Tich nat Hahn’s – The miracle of mindfulness.
As the cover suggests, this is really the classical guide to mindfulness. Beautifully given by the great Zen-Master, Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist, this is the best introduction to the practice of mindfulness and meditation. It has such an easy and light flow that it is read in one sitting. The anecdotes and examples are so real and down to earth it makes this manual easily remembered and applied in every day human life.
The Miracle of Mindfulness teaches happiness and liberation of suffering through focus on the present moment and the situation at hand. It takes the practical part of Buddhism and turns it into a handbook for the modern human. It teaches acceptance, humility and simplicity at the core of the mindful practice, through applying mindfulness in the simple (and the complicated!) day to day activities).
Another book that is a must read and as the previous teaches the magic of the present moment, is Eckhart Tolle’s – The Power of Now.
This one should be thought in school. It should be the book (together with the previous two) that everyone has at home and teaches to their children. It is a guide on the human mind in a very direct, raw and easily understandable form.
I suggest the audiobook read from Eckhart Tolle himself. The way he reaches out to share his own personal experience with suffering for the first half of his life, and then lead you straight into the place of the Observer where you observe your mind through your thoughts and emotions is so healing, so powerful. Throughout he supports the reader into detaching oneself from one’s mind and habitual patterns of thinking. It is so liberating. So true!
In the same way this book then dives deeper into the topics of Being and Consciousness. It dismantles the Mind-Ego constructs and it points to the Feeling-Presence existence. It speaks to the modern human being about things we’ve forgotten basing our lives on the thinking mind. It is indeed the Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.
I’ll stop my list here. I planned at least seven (probably more) books in this list. Yet, as I went through I noticed I was missing female authors. This is not so because there are no female writers and philosophers on this topic, but because they are far less supported and put on these kind of lists. So I’ll have to correct my mistake and make room on this list for them. I will expand the list once I’ve found for myself, read and am ready to suggest more female writers. Until then some of the others will have to wait too. Then we can go deep in spirituality for real.
To end this list I planned the Spiritual Poems of Rumi and The Book of the Way by the Old Master (Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu). These are beautiful to read at any stage in the mindfulness practice. Though, they feel best and really resonate deep once the reader has prepared her garden (heart and mind) to allow, embrace and embody their teaching. With this I make a promise to come back with a wider and even more inclusive list. Until then