After reading Yuval Harari’s books on the history and future of mankind, I got inspired to read on Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness (or as I’d like to call it, mind control!). There were plenty of material on the subject at my library’s book shelves (oh boy the Dalai Lama has taken over here) but decided to read the following books:
- Buddhism: Plain and simple by Steve Hagen
- Start here now: An open-hearted guide to the path and practice of meditation by Susan Piver
- How to wake up: A Buddhist-inspired guide to navigating joy and sorrow by Toni Bernhard
Buddhism: Plain and simple
In short, I like this book because as the title suggests it explains Buddhism in plain and simple language. Hagen uses relevant analogies and examples from his life to describe concepts such as enlightenment, awareness and awakening; and just to let life be which are keys to happiness and a peaceful life. It’s a great starting point if you want to know more about the Buddhist philosophy and practice.
It’s an easy-to-read book because of Hagen’s non-academic and conversational style of writing but I did find one thing that frustrated and yet fascinated me. He gives us an exercise to illustrate the difference between seeing/awakening/enlightenment and having a belief/idea or a concept. So he shows us this image (see below) supposedly of a familiar object. For the life of me, I could not guess what it was and even when I found out what the answer was – I still couldn’t see it!! I felt hopeless and frustrated. It was only when a friend pointed out that I actually saw the ‘animal’! Now all I see is that ‘animal’! Have you guessed it?
Did my mind feel relaxed after I saw what it was? I did feel happy and relieved…and I guess yeah relaxed because I didn’t feel frustrated anymore! How did you feel when you found out? So is this what enlightenment is about? Not feeling frustrated? Not knowing about something and then knowing? I think it’s just a realization isn’t it? Anyways, just read the book – it’s enlightening!
Start Here Now
This is a meditation book and Piver gives her readers some practical advice and know-how on starting a meditation practice. She also has a conversational style and has a wicked sense of humour. I’ve yet to follow her meditation teachings – maybe this weekend!
Meditation as Piver explains is simply “substituting your discursive thoughts to another object of attention”; and by discursive she means the part of your mind that is always saying something like this:
What is she talking about I’ll never be able to meditate Missy has been meditating for like six years and she is still an ass Maybe I should really, really do this every day Uh-oh I forgot to buy orange juice God I hope I don’t get cancer I should really lose [gain] 5 kilograms If only I hadn’t said to that to him sixteen years ago…. (p. 15)
…sounds like a lot like my brain! As I said I’ll start the practice this weekend…
How To Wake Up
I didn’t like this book much. I struggled reading it. Yes it had Buddhist thoughts and philosophies but Bernhard just talked about herself! It looked interesting when I flicked through it but boy little did I know (by the way once I start reading a book I am committed to finishing it) that it’s about a whiny woman who kept referring to her illness and daily experiences to explain Buddhism and how it helps her get through life. For example, she was enjoying her grand daughter’s birthday party but when she found out that the couple she enjoys talking to wasn’t coming to the kiddie party but to the later adult party – she got all sad because she won’t be able to make it! Oh please, how is that a problem or a sad thing? Anyway, she uses Buddhist teachings to help her be fine with the situation. OMG drama queen!
Oh I suppose she’s ok and I’m glad to know that she uses Buddha’s teachings to make her life easier but once in a while I just roll my eyes. Read this at your own peril!