Two authors. Two books. Lets do this.
Again, this first book is not a book for everyone. But if you’re interested in understanding how to better deal with anxiety, stress, or how to better deal with that tightness that you get in your chest every time you begin to worry, then this is the book for you. I feel like a broken record anytime I go to speak about meditation so I very rarely like to talk about it unless someone is interested, but the reason that you can’t get me to shut up about it is because it’s probably one of the biggest positive driving forces in my life. Now don’t think that because this book is about Buddhism you now have to become a Buddhist. I think that the best part of the Buddhist practice is that there’s not a whole lot of dogma involved. When you get past all the complex jargon that is usually associated with Buddhism let alone religion, it’s pretty simple. Here’s the problem with people. Here’s why we experience this problem. Here’s how to fix this problem. Try it out for yourself and see if it works. Boom. Buddhism for dummies. But if there’s any rabbit hole worth going down, the rabbit hole of Buddhism should be the one. Why you ask? Because that rabbit hole is no more than those four steps and those four steps can very much significantly impact you’re life for the better.
Now just to tie in those four steps or Four Noble Truths as they’re referred to in Buddhism I’m going to go on a quick side tangent. The First Noble Truth: realizing that everyone suffers, physically or mentally. The Second Noble Truth: understanding that suffering comes from craving alongside ignorance. Craving things that can never fully fulfill you (pleasure, material objects, status), and then an ignorance for not being able to see the world exactly as it is. As Stephen Batchelor puts it, “As with anguish, letting go begins with understanding: a calm and clear acceptance of what is happening….Letting go of craving is not rejecting it but allowing it to be itself: a contingent state of mind that once arisen will pass away.” The First and Second Noble Truths describe the problem with us flawed humans, whereas the Third and Fourth Noble Truths are resolutions on how we can start to work on that folly. The Third Noble Truth: the cessation of suffering by removing desire and ignorance. And The Fourth Noble Truth: the path to the end of suffering, its resolution through the steps of the EightFold Path.
Did you need to know all of that? Not entirely. But there’s definitely merit behind it.
As for the book, it does get pretty in depth with Buddhism, but what I appreciate about it is that it does so in an elegant way. Stephen Batchelor is an extremely well written dude and does a solid job of breaking down the principles of Buddhism in a way that’s somewhat easily digestible.
Now, if you have zero desire to learn about the teachings of Buddhism but meditation is still peaking your interest, then this next book is probably the approach you should take. 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I actually wrote a step by step guide on how to meditate a while back where I included a slight recap of this book, but for the sake of this blog I’ll talk about it again and at the end I’ll leave the link to “Getting Still” if you want to check out more about meditation. The wit and skepticism that Dan uses throughout the book make it an easy and enjoyable read. Dan brings a very honest approach to meditation as someone who use to be a skeptic and that’s why I think so many people gravitate towards him. He doesn’t go over the deep end with mediation saying that it’s the end all be all. Quite the opposite. He believes that at the end of the day, meditation can make you 10% happier. That’s his ‘shtick’ as he likes to call it. Awesome book. Awesome dude. Definitely recommend this one or you can checkout his podcast.
Buddhism Without Beliefs:
Standouts: “Focused awareness is difficult not because we are inept at some spiritual technology but because it threatens our sense of who we are. The apparently unthreatening act of settling the mind on the breath and observing what is occurring in the body and the mind exposes a contradiction between the sort of person we wish to be and the kind of person we are.”
“The greatest threat to compassion is the temptation to succumb to fantasies of moral superiority.”
Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning more about Buddhism. Anyone interested in learning about meditation. Anyone working on trying to be less of a piece of shit.
Standouts: : “Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”
“That notion really struck me: until we look directly at our minds we don’t really know “what our lives are about.” “It’s amazing” I said, “because everything we experience in this world goes through one filter-our minds-and we spend very little time bothering to see how it works.”
Recommended for: All the skeptics out there hating on meditation. Anyone who thinks that meditation “won’t work for them.” Anyone looking for a good laugh. Anyone who’s experienced a crippling anxiety attack.
Getting Still – https://justinalito.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/getting-still/