MINDFULNESS IN PLAIN ENGLISH
by Henepola Gunaratana
Mindfulness in Plain English is the foundation upon which all of my other book recommendations are built. Bhante G, as he is known to his followers, is a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk. His book is the ultimate distillate of the practice and philosophy of mindfulness. The book can be used to build a new mindfulness practice or refine an old one. I have yet to read a book that so clearly and succinctly sums up the complexities inherent to the practice of mindfulness.
THE UNTETHERED SOUL
by Michael Singer
Perhaps the most lucid discourse on the illusory nature of the Self, The Untethered Soul, provides a deceptively simple tour through our own mind. Singer provides very effective analogies that help the reader appreciate immensely complex concepts without resorting to wordy explanations. The concepts can sometimes seem redundant but this is only a result of Singer’s attempt to emphasize vital points that are too easily missed. The Untethered Soul teaches the reader to develop just enough distance from the Self to gain mastery over it as a separate and pliable entity.
THE JOY OF LIVING
by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
This is one of my favorite Buddhist texts. Mingyur (“Rinpoche” means “highly respected one” in Tibetan) is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who has a strong personal interest in science. In The Joy of Living, Mingyur discusses the science behind meditation and examines the metaphysical parallels between quantum mechanics and Buddhist philosophy. He also provides practical exercises for the reader to practice. The balance between esoteric and practical is invaluable. The writing is clear and concise and provides an enjoyable read.
LOVING WHAT IS: FOUR QUESTIONS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
by Byron Katie
Out of all the books that I have read I have returned to Byron Katie’s Loving What Is the most. Katie’s book provides a wonderfully practical framework for dealing with the incredible convolutions of our thoughts. My post The Opposite Game was inspired by the four questions and the turn around exercise contained within Loving What Is.
THE POWER OF NOW
by Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now was the book that opened the flood gates for my own self exploration. Tolle examines the plastic and ephemeral nature of the Self. The Power of Now draws from Taoism, Buddhism, Christian Mysticism, and many other traditions for inspiration. Tolle is a compelling writer who at times can be complex so persistence is key when beginning this book. The thesis made me question all that I had held as immutable truth. And with those questions I was set free to enjoy the Self as a playful and pliable creation rather than a rigid character structure. Tolle’s follow up A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose is also an excellent read.
TAO TE CHING
by Lao-Tzu translated by D.C. Lau
This is my favorite version of the famous Tao Te Ching (pronounced “dow de jing”). Lao Tzu (Tzu meaning “master” or “honored one” in Chinese) is said to have wrote these eighty-one verses around 600 BCE. The Tao Te Ching requires multiple readings to fully appreciate its almost infinite depth. Lao Tzu is able to connote profound philosophical concepts while retaining a wonderful sense of humor.
ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND
by Shunryu Suzuki
Shunryu Suzuki’s seminal book on Zen Buddhism is an excellent starting point for those new to the philosophy. Zen abolishes so many of the mental constructs that we are accustomed to relying on for the day to day understanding of life that relating Zen’s essence to a new reader can be very difficult. Suzuki has accomplished this task by using simple language and providing practical examples. He never mentions the concept of satori or other complex Zen components and instead tries to provide a glimpse of Zen for the initiated. For those more familiar with Zen Buddhism this book will provide page after page of hidden gems.