Five Books to Begin Your Meditation Practice
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Admit it: Learning how to meditate should be on your list of resolutions for 2018.
With the growing awareness of the many benefits of mindfulness — enhanced emotional well-being, improved concentration and the reduction of stress and anxiety — more people are turning to meditation. As a longtime meditator and now in training to become a meditation and compassion teacher, I find myself returning to certain books as part of my daily practice. Here are a few of my favorites, offering a range of voices, experiences and perspectives from which to learn. All are accessible to beginners and can also deepen the practice of experienced meditators.
Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967, Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen master and peace activist whose many books teach “the art of mindful living.” This classic demonstrates how everyday activities — such as washing dishes, sitting in traffic, or cutting carrots — can serve as opportunities to practice mindfulness, and in turn, achieve deep peace.
A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage and Wisdom in Any Moment by Spring Washam
Washam is a well-known meditation teacher and co-founder of the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California. To illustrate how to deal with one’s emotions and global suffering, Washam draws on her spiritual journey and the experiences of people from around the world. Poignant, wise and down-to-earth, A Fierce Heart is a welcome addition to the canon of mindfulness texts from a pioneer in bringing mindfulness practices to diverse communities.
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein
Based on Joseph Goldstein’s 40 years of teaching insight and loving-kindness retreats, this book is a comprehensive reference covering the basic foundations, including mindfulness of body, mindfulness of feelings and mindfulness of the mind. This detailed resource explores the roots of insight meditation while teaching its practical application.
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chödrön
Using slogans such as “Be grateful to everyone” and “Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment,” Start Where You Are is a kindhearted and practical guide to using one’s painful experiences to develop compassion, fearlessness and joy. Chödrön is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun who has written several well-loved books on mindfulness practices to awaken compassion and wisdom.
A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives by Thupten Jinpa
I first read A Fearless Heart in the Compassion Cultivation Training program developed by Thupten Jinpa, a former monk and the principal English translator to the Dalai Lama for nearly 30 years. Jinpa’s A Fearless Heart provides practices to cultivate compassion and loving-kindness as well as philosophical and scientific perspectives on the benefits of an active compassion practice. Jinpa emphasizes that compassion is an innate trait that can be strengthened in everyone, allowing each of us to approach life with kindness and an aspiration to relieve suffering.