Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola. Mindfulness in Plain English. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2002.
Reason read: During these crazy times I need to remember to breath; to be still. Read for me, myself, and moi.
The title of this book does not lie. Gunaratana offers a how-to for insight mindfulness in a straight-forward and easy-to-understand language. This is not the deeply didactic philosophy of mindfulness, but rather a deep dive into South and Southeast Asian Buddhism. The first order of business is to dispel the misconceptions surrounding mindfulness and meditation. For example, there is no magic to this vipassana style medication. You won’t levitate. Instead, you become grounded in morality, concentration, and wisdom. Speaking of concentration, you learn the concept of shallow concentration which seems contrary to successful mindfulness. In other words, you won’t lose yourself in mindfulness. Instead, you will train your mind to concentrate on a mental object, the breath being more convenient and ever-present. I am reminded of one of my favorite Natalie Merchant lyric from ‘Not in This Life,’ “Lately I’ve been satisfied by simple things like breathing in and breathing out.” Despite the easy language and thin volume, Mindfulness is a treasure trove of information.
As an aside, I have to laugh when Gunaratana advised not to sit in any one position for more than twenty minutes. Please! I can’t sit comfortably in any position for more than five, maybe ten minutes tops.
Quotes I loved, “Life seems a perpetual struggle, an enormous effort against staggering odds” (p 9), “What we face every day is unpredictable” (p 53), “Distraction cannot be seen as distraction unless there is some central focus to be distracted from” ( 77), and “Somewhere in the process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy” (p 82). Amen.
Author fact: Gunaratana was ordained as a monk at the age of twelve. Twelve! I shudder to think what I was doing at the age of twelve.
Book trivia: I can tell this book helped many people. My copy was dog-eared and heavily underlined.
Nancy said: Pearl said there was useful information in Mindfulness in Plain English. She goes on to say “Gunaratana’s book is much less theoretical, vis-a-vis Buddhist philosophy and psychology…but more practical and systematic in its presentation of technique” (Book Lust p 255).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zen Buddhism and Meditation” (p 255).
Carrington, Patricia. Freedom in Meditation. New York: Anchor Press, 1977.
Reason read: January is traditionally the month everyone tries to hit the reset button. Yoga and meditation are high on resolution lists. I’m reading Freedom in Meditation in honor of good intentions.
The very first thing I learned about meditation while reading Carrington’s book is that meditation is not just meditating on a mat in a near-dark room. It is not sitting quietly and emptying the mind while incense swirls about your ears. Consider the clinically standardized meditation taught in two sessions. Or the Benson method which has supposed health benefits like lowering blood pressure and even a lowering of metabolism. In truth, meditation success depends on the personality. But also true to every kind of meditation locale and atmosphere (vibe, if you will) are important. Every technique recommends having plants nearby, the burning of incense and candles, maybe even bell ringing, but above all else, calm and quiet. Meditation can be seen as a rebirth, a companion to hypnosis even. Carrington goes on to to talk about the science of meditation, the therapist’s opinion of meditation, and even the misuse of the practice which I found interesting.
Author fact: At the time of publication, Dr. Carrington was a clinical psychologist who taught at Princeton.
Book trivia: There are only two illustrations in Freedom in Meditation. Both are showing you what to do with your hands during meditation.
Nancy said: Pearl mentions Freedom in Meditation first in her list of zen books. She says it is “probably the best book written about meditation” for beginners (Book Lust p 255).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zen Buddhism and Meditation” (p 255).
I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.
- A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
- The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
- Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch
- ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn
- The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
- The Turk by Tom Standage
- ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett
Early Review Program for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg – not finished yet
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – not finished yet
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – not finished yet
I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
- A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
- The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
- Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
- Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.
So June went by lightning fast, as I expected. Had good shows with Imagine Dragons and Dead and Company. Spent quality time with family and friends. Ran next to nothing for miles. But, the books! Thanks to not running (still) and all the travel I was able to get a lot of reading done…
- Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson (EB & print)
- Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams (EB & print)
- Afterlife by Paul Monette (EB & print)
- Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (AB)
- Six Days of War by Michael Oren (print) – confessional: did not finish
- Cactus Eaters by Dan White (print)
- I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman (print)
- Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn (AB)
- Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
- Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame (EB & print)
- “Xingu” by Edith Wharton (EB)
- “Verlie I Say Unto You” by Alice Adams (EB)
- “Roses, Rhododendrons” by Alice Adams (EB)
- Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU by Julie Foudy
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness Meditation: Cultivating the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind. Read by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1995
Reason read: Jon Kabat-Zinn was born in the month of June. Read in his honor.
Maybe this doesn’t come out when reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work. Maybe one needs to listen to his books on audio because before now I never realized Jon Kabat-Zinn is really funny. Everything he talks about in Mindfulness Meditation makes perfect sense but it’s laced with humor I hadn’t noticed before. The other benefit to listening to Mindfulness Meditation is being able to hear the bells he rings during the practice.
Mindfulness Meditation is all about playing attention to world around you in minute detail. His prime example is to focus on eating just one raisin but don’t just throw it into your mouth. Really look at it. Get all five senses involved in looking at it, feeling it, smelling it, and even putting it in your ear to hear it crackle (I kid you not). Finally, when you put it in your mouth to taste it you savor it slowly, again paying attention to how it feels while you chew. Kabat-Zinn goes beyond the raisin and explains that meditation is not about emptying your mind to alleviate stress. It’s all about focusing the mind to transform the way you think and deal with life.
So, time for some truth. I listened to this in the car on the way up to Maine. It is only two cds long so it took me no time at all.
Author fact: Maybe I have already mentioned this, but JKZ is associated with the University of Massachusetts.
Nancy said: Nancy includes Kabat-Zinn because “he advocates the techniques of Vipnassana meditation to help lower stress, reduce anxiety, and deal less frantically with the everyday world” (Book Lust p 110).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Help Yourself” (p 109).
June is going to go by lightning fast. For starters, there is a concert in Bangor, Maine that I cannot wait for! Then, a concert at home. After that, a week later, an art show reception for my talented sister’s work. Then, a vacation with my best friend (Maine for the third weekend in a row). I will have many opportunities to read. Hence, the huge list:
- Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson – in honor of the first month of boating weather (EB & print).
- Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams – June is short story month (EB & print).
- Afterlife by Paul Monette – in honor of gay and lesbian pride month (EB & print).
- Jar City by Arnaldur Andridason – National Icelandic Day is in June (AB).
- Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Middle East by Michael B. Oren – the Six Day War started in June.
- Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself by Dan White – June is national hiking month.
- I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman – in honor of Gallman’s birth month.
- Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn – in honor of Zinn’s birth month.
- Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
- Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame – to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go, There You Are: mindfulness and meditation in everyday life. Read by Jon Kabat-Zinn. California: Renaissance Media, 1994.
Reason read: Mindfulness around the holidays is good to have! I’m starting early.
If you are reading Wherever You Go just to say you have read Wherever You Go (like I am) this will take you no time at all. Sometimes a page is as short as a paragraph or just a couple of sentences. But, if you are looking for mindfulness it is best to read this book slowly. Let each section sink in and be sure to savor each line. It is a basic introduction to Buddhist meditation without of mumbo jumbo.
As an aside, I thought this went well to follow MindValley creator Vishen Lakhiani’s book Code of the Extraordinary Mind.
Lines I really like,
“best to meditate…” Whoops. Scratch that. No part of Wherever You Go may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever. No favorite quotes for this review.
Author fact: Kabat-Zinn is the founder and director or the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
Book trivia: this didn’t come with my copy of Wherever You Go, but Zinn mentions a series of mindfulness meditation practice tapes that are to be used in conjunction with the book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Help Yourself” (p 110).
November was a stressful month. The injury that sidelined me for the last half marathon of the season continued to plague me & myself but I pushed through it – ran 70 miles for the month. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this here but…back on January I was a dumbass and agreed to a 1000k challenge. By November 1st I had 267k left to go. I’m now down to 151k. Almost 100 miles. But enough of that. It stresses me out to even think about it.
Here are the books finished for November:
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. I thought of this as a short story because it’s less than 100 pages long.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
- The City and the City by China Mieville (AB)
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – confessional: I knew that a fictional political book might bore the crap out of me but what I didn’t expect was outright disgust after the election. I couldn’t stomach the contents of Advise and Consent.
- Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. (AB)
- Love Songs From a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill
- Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles
- Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen
- Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn (audio and print)
- Baby Doctor by Perri Klass
- The Fifties by David Halberstam
Postscript: it came in too late for me to mention here, but I DID get that Early Review book that I was pining for. I’ll review it next month.
I am trying to move into this month without cracking up or breaking down. I’ve lost the run temporarily and even a small interruption sets me back. You know it is with a mental stability that isn’t quite that solid. I don’t want to say anything more than that.
Here are the books. Nonfiction first:
- Living Poor: a Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of the month Ecuador’s civil war for independence ended.
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn – (AB) in honor of the holidays and how much they can stress you out. I’m reading this and listening to it on audio.
- The Fifties by David Halberstam – in honor of finishing what I said I would.
- Baby Doctor by Perri Klass – in honor of National Health Month.
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton – in honor of National Education Week. This should take me a lunch break to read.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – in honor of Gaiman’s birth month.
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – in honor of November being an election month (and is it ever!).
- Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright – (EAB = electronic audio book) to continue the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.
- A Toast To Tomorrow by Manning Coles – to continue the series started in October in honor of Octoberfest.
- Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill – to END the series started in May in honor of Rocket Day.
Beck, Charlotte Joko. Everyday Zen: Love and Work. San Francisco: Haper Collins, 1989.
I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the reading of this book. I think I couldn’t figure out what was bugging me until I realized the reading required more than just my brain. It asked my heart and soul, my beliefs and convictions to get involved. It became a religious thing and that was something I really struggled with in order to read Beck’s book. I admit it – I am a person wrestling with and for a belief. If that bothers you, stop reading right here. I am searching for self-acceptance for what I believe and, ultimately, do NOT have faith in.
I found it insteresting that Beck put the word love in the title of her book because in the chapter specifically on love she states, “love is a word not often mentioned in Buddhist texts. And the love (compassion) they talk about is not an emotion…” (p 71). I had an interesting time coming to terms with that concept.
The other quotes that I took to heart are:
“…the storms of life eventually hit them more lightly. If we can accept things just the way they are we’re not going to be gratly upset by anything. And if we do become upset it’s over more quickly” (p 13).
“We can’t love something we need” (p 39).
“Other people are not me” (p 68).
“Not all problems are as tough as these, but less demanding ones may still send us up the wall with worry” (p 99).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Zen Buddhism And Meditation” (p 255).