- Paula Cristina Azevedo
My Favorite Books on Meditation and Mindfulness
I thought this week I would share with you a list of books about mindfulness that you might want to add to your own library. The books I’m going to share with you are books that have helped me in my own journey through the world on mindfulness and meditation. By no means is this a complete list of books, but rather a short list of books that have had an impact on my practice. These books are a great starting point for those interested in mindfulness and mediation, but maybe just don’t know where to start. All of the books I list are also great for those who have been practicing mindfulness for a while, but want a refresher or need to rejuvenate their practice.
The first book I want to share with you is called, Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana, a Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk and founder of the the Bhavana Society located in High View, West Virginia. If you want a simple and quick understanding of mindfulness this is the book for you. Though this book is written by a Buddhist monk, it doesn’t read like a religious text and those who are of a different religion or non-religious can gain a lot from this book. Gunaratana grounded perspective of mindfulness and meditation makes the practice accessible. He first helps the reader understand what meditation is and debunks many of the myths associated with meditation and mindfulness. He then provides practical tips on how to start and maintain a meditation practice, including how to work with common distractions during meditation such as, physical pain, drowsiness, discomfort, and so many others. Even though the book is an easy read it doesn’t mean you won’t have powerful “aha!” moments. For instance, I remember the first time I read this book and came across the passage, “We must never forget, however, that seated meditation itself is not the game. It’s the practice. The game in which those basic skills are to be applied is the rest of one’s experiential existence” (p.151). The light bulb turned on in my head as I realized that I had been viewing my meditation practice in a limiting way. This book is one to keep in your library and revisit when you need inspiration in your practice. Every time I re-read it I have a new insight on the practice.
For those of you who want to get a deeper look into mindfulness and every technique you could possibly imagine you may be interested in getting Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book is a little over 700 pages, but it is worth its weight in gold. Kabat-Zinn, founder of the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program, which has been used in medical centers worldwide, makes meditation and mindfulness very accessible to people who know very little or nothing about the practice. This book is very practical and you can immediately start implementing the practices he writes about. He goes into great detail about each practice and describes beautifully what the intent of the practice and the science behind it. He weaves in stories from patients and makes the practice come alive. This is an especially helpful book for people who are constantly under a lot of stress and/or have high anxiety, because he delves deeply about the causes of stress and how to use meditation and mindfulness in order to recognize what stress really is and how to live with the everyday stressors and anxieties that arise in our lives. This is the best and most in depth book about mediation that I’ve ever come across.
Of course many of you are also interested in incorporating mindfulness practices in your own classroom and Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness in and out of the Classroom by Meena Srinivasan is a great book for teachers. Srinivasan is a passionate and accomplished educator. She has been involved in various endeavors related to mindfulness education and has really supported the development of these two worlds, education and mindfulness, to come together in a practical way. Her book is divided into three sections: 1) Practicing mindfulness, 2) Sharing mindfulness, and 3) Curriculum for mindful teachers. She breaks down for the reader how to develop your own practice first. She weaves in her own journey and describes how her practice “helped reawaken the light inside myself and I came to see how mindfulness, this kind awareness of what’s happening in the present moment inside of us and around us, can be a powerful tool to promote well-being in my entire school community” (p. 21). She then delves into how she incorporated mindfulness into her own teaching practices. She is honest with the reader about her own struggles and missteps in the process. Finally, Srinivasan provides detailed and well-structured mindfulness curriculum that teachers can easily incorporate throughout the school year. This book was written with great love for students, education and deep understanding of how mindfulness can change teachers and students lives.
Finally, A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh presents his best known meditation practice developed specifically for children. Hanh’s playfulness and light-hearted approach to mindfulness is refreshing. The book provides clear and simple ways to explain meditation practice while also engaging children to fully participate in the practice. The genius of this book is the simplicity of the practice. The practice incorporates a tactile approach to mindfulness and allows children (and adults) to be creative. In addition, this book provides opportunities for children to write and draw in the book and allowing them to develop and own their own meditation practice. The calming artwork also adds an element of ease for all involved in the practice. This book isn’t just for children, it can be just as insightful for adults and teens.
I hope you found this short list of books that I highly recommend helpful. These are wonderful books to add to you library no matter where you are in your meditation and mindfulness journey.