Resources for you

This page is divided into three sections all focused on resources that can help with personal well being and happiness. This page is for you and your own journey. I am referencing resources that I have personally found helpful and to help you get an idea of what they are like, I have indicated the level which I think the resources are appropriate for, the topic covered and given my opinion of why the resource is worth checking out. I have read all of these books so am speaking from personal opinion (unless otherwise indicated).

1. Resources on secular mindfulness

2. Resources on Buddhism

3. Resources on learning and personal development in general

4. Resources on mindfulness/comtemplative practice and the environment

1. Resources on Mindfulness


Subscriptions/Networks

Books

TOP RECOMMENDATION:

‘Mindfulness – a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world’, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Level: Beginners

Topic: Practical guide to doing the 8 week mindfulness based cognitive therapy course with CD

Why read: This is the book I used to do my first 8 week programme. It has clear chapters at the beginning which set the context and then one chapter to read for each week of the 8 MBCT course explaining the meditation for that week. It comes with a CD which has short meditations to follow. It is an excellent introduction to mindfulness and really one of its kind.

‘Mindfulness in Plain English’, by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Level: Beginners/Intermediate

Topic: Explains what meditation is; explains insight meditation

Why read: This book completely changed my understanding of what meditation is and what it is for. If it wasn’t for this book, I would have continued to misunderstand meditation. I used to recommend reading this before doing a course, however, I reread this book recently and realised it is more ‘intermediate’ than I remembered and is specifically focused on insight meditation. I therefore recommend this book if you are the sort of person who likes to understand things, the theory, the rationale and perhaps already have an interest in meditation.

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Naht Hanh

Level: Beginners/Intermediate or above

Topic: Explanation of meditation and stories about how mindfulness can help enjoy life

Why read: Thich Naht Hanh has a gentleness about his writing that is unique. He offers small stories and simple lessons in being mindful and the benefits this can bring to life. He also writes about some more challenging Buddhist concepts which may at first be difficult to get ones head around. However, it is a short book and there is something in there for everyone. For me, my favourite chapter was chapter seven where he shares a story written by Tolstoy. This story in itself about the importance of being present is enough of a reason to read the book.

‘Full Catatrophe Living’, by Jon Kabat Zinn

Level: I recommend for those who have done some reading/practice already and are interested in how the mindfulness based stress reduction course was developed.

Topic: Explanation of the 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme.

Why read: It is very detailed and thorough. It has some excellent chapters at the end about work stress, role stress and time stress.

Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine by Saki Santorelli

Level: Intermediate

Topic: Mindfulness specifically in the context of a medical context

Why read: This book gives an insight into engaging in mindfulness within a clinical setting. It basically works through the authors experience of teaching an 8 week course, with stories about the individuals going through the course and their progress as well as chapters about core elements of mindfulness. I found I appreciated more how mindfulness based stress reduction can help people suffering from an illness or pain. I find Saki Santorelli’s writing style to be quite dense, ‘flowery’, poetic, descriptive. This didn’t suit me personally but he is clearly an authority in his field and if you like this style of writing then this is a rich and insightful book.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, Z. Segal, M. Williams, J Teasdale

Level: For those who are more experienced in mindfulness

Topic: This book explains how the mindfulness based cognitive therapy 8 week course came to fruition and why the course is run the way it is. The start of the book gives a really interesting insight into depression and why people with depression often relapse. It then goes on to talk through various approaches to helping people including working with mindfulness. This may be of interest to those who either have or are suffering from depression and/or those who go through difficult/low times and find it difficult to get out of those states. This book is often used as a reference point for teachers of mindfulness. It is often dipped into rather than read all the way through.

‘The Mindfulness Revolution’, edited by Barry Boyce

Level: All (though if you already know what mindfulness is you might get more out of it)

Topic: Collection of chapters by different writers on a wide range of mindfulness themes – including mindful eating, mindful parenting, mindfulness in general

Why read: It is a diverse book covering lots of topics and shows the many ways in which mindfulness can be applied to different aspects of life. It will deepen and widen your understanding of mindfulness.


Websites

http://www.mindful.org

http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/how-to-meditate.aspx

http://www.bemindful.co.uk/

http://oxfordmindfulness.org/learn/

http://breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/

http://presentmomentmindfulness.com/

Videos

Jon Kabat Zinn – Coming to Our Senses, 57 mins. This video may seem from the start to be slightly old fashioned music and images, but don’t be put off. Once Jon Kabat Zinn starts talking (which takes a few minutes as there is an introduction by someone else) – it is a captivating, succinct and poignant summary of mindfulness and particularly ‘coming to our senses’. Well worth a watch if you have any interest in mindfulness.

2. Resources on Buddhism and Insight Meditation


Retreats, Websites


If you are interested in doing a vipassana (insight) meditation course then here is the key website to search for courses and read more about it:

www.dhamma.org

I have also written several blog posts about my preparation for and experience of doing a 10 day silent mediation in Thailand (see the Vipassana link on the ‘Mind Bloggling’ page).


Books


Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom by Joseph Goldstein

Level: Beginners or Intermediate

Topic: Explains insight meditation, explains some Buddhist concepts and there are some meditation practices in the book

Why read: This is a clear and engaging book about insight meditation. I read it before doing a 10 day vipassana (insight) meditation retreat and it gave me some grounding. The chapters are quite short which makes it very readable. There are sections explaining the path (dhamma), the role of teachers, explanations about different emotions and how to work through them, karma, lovingkindness.

Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction by Damien Keown

Level: Beginners

Topic: An introduction to Buddhism

Why read: This gives a really concise explanation of key elements of Buddhism and is easy to read. Not all of the concepts are easy to get your head around if new to Buddhism but this is a good place to start.

The Foundations of Buddhism by Rupert Gethin

Level: Beginners/Intermediate

Topic: An introduction to Buddhism – with additional detail and explanations to the book above

Why read: This book complimented the book above really well. It gives more detail and is clear, engaging and though academic, has a very digestible style.

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Naht Hanh

Level: Beginners/Intermediate or above

Topic: Explanation of meditation and stories about how mindfulness can help enjoy life

Why read: Thich Naht Hanh has a gentleness about his writing that is unique. He offers small stories and simple lessons in being mindful and the benefits this can bring to life. He also writes about some more challenging Buddhist concepts which may at first be difficult to get ones head around. However, it is a short book and there is something in there for everyone. For me, my favourite chapter was chapter seven where he shares a story written by Tolstoy. This story in itself about the importance of being present is enough of a reason to read the book.

The Art of Power by Thich Naht Hanh

Level: Beginners/Intermediate or above

Topic: Explanation of how to deal with the corrosive nature of what we call ‘power’; how to create a happy, healthy, insightful society, free from fear of not having power and the fear of losing power.

Why read: Personally, this is my favourite book so far by Thich Naht Hanh. Short, easy to read and yet dense with wisdom. Power can be such a compelling and consuming force and Thay, as TNH he is known, explains what real power is. It is an inspiring, thought provoking read which I have no doubt I will reread many times. I highly recommend this book – especially if you are new to Buddhism or to Thay’s writing.

Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction by Damien Keown

Level: This is a beginners guide to ethics but I would say you will understand more of it if you are already have an understanding of buddhism more generally.

Topic: Ethical issues and Buddhist stance/position or lack thereof about them

Why read: This is a fascinating, very short, and easy to read book covering many common ethical issues such as animals and the environment, sexuality, suicide and euthanasia and cloning. The book often compares christianity and buddhism so that we have some sense of comparison. I found it interesting because it talks about how buddhism is applied to current issues.

Websites and Audio


http://www.dhamma.org/en/art.shtml
http://secularbuddhism.org/category/podcasts/

There are many talks (112) by John Peacock – a buddhist scholar on dharmaseed.org – there is also a Dharma Seed App on the Apple App Store (listed under iPhone only) that gives easy access to these talks – he’s listed under J in the teachers section of the App

3. Resources on personal development and well being (general)

I have read many books which fall into this broad category so this is a real mix!


Books

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Level: All

Topic: The book is about emotional intelligence which is about self awareness, managing self, managing emotions, self motivation, social skills, relating to others etc. The book talks about how important it is parenting, education, the workplace, relationships and general emotional well being.

Why read: It is clear from reading this book that emotional intelligence is really important – even more so than IQ arguably. The book explains emotions and emotional management from a neuroscientific perspective too which is interesting. It talks about emotions like anger, worrying, depression, happiness and studies that have been done on these emotions. It is a little old now but it is still interesting and persuasive. I have done a blog post summarising the main points from the book (click on ’emotional intelligence’).

‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle

Level: Depends…this is quite a ‘full on’ book, easy to read but might be hard to digest for those not used to reading about the mind, mindfulness, thoughts etc. It is intense and profound. I loved it.

Topic: The mind – how it works, understanding and separating from the mind, being in the now

Why read: This is a powerful book that is quite provocative and challenging about the mind. I read this book twice before I really understood mindfulness and it played a role in giving me a foundation in mindfulness. I would recommend it.

‘Practicing the Power of Now’, by Eckhart Tolle

Confession – I haven’t read this yet but if you like the Power of Now then this is probably worth a read.

‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle

Level: All – easier to read and digest than ‘Power of Now’

Topic: Culture, society and the mind

Why read: This is a much easier read and covers a more diverse range of topics. It doesn’t explore the mind to the same degree as Power of Now but covers a lot of interesting topics about society.

Journey into Power‘ by Baron Baptiste

Level: All

Topic: This a practical guide to a version of yoga called Power Vinyasa Flow and it includes chapters about mindful eating and meditation. It has photos and descriptions of how to do yoga postures and information about the different series of postures and how to combine them.

Why read: Baron Baptiste gives a clear explanation of what yoga is all about. He helps to ensure that you engage with yoga as a mental as well as a physical practice. Having set the context of what yoga is for and the transformative effect it can have on your health and well being, he gives clear guidance on how to do each pose. There are photos and a quick summary at the end of the various yoga series which you can follow. I have had this book for at least 10 years and read it maybe 6 or 7 times!


Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann

Level: All with a keen interest in the mind. He is an economist and this book is rich in studies, research and examples.

Topic: This book is basically about bias in our minds. It describes two ‘systems’ of thinking – one which is fast and heavily reliant on intuitions, snap judgements, easy problems and decisions and the other is slow thinking which requires our rational minds to work things out. The book talks through some fascinating psychological studies on things like decision making, happiness, different types of biases. It talks about statistics and how we often don’t pay enough attention to them. It is very digestible way and makes a compelling case about why we shouldn’t rely too heavily on our instincts (especially if statistics are giving us a conflicting view).

Why read: It makes you realise that there is much more to our minds than we think. It is filled with interesting insights and I have found it relevant to both my work and to my personal life.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown

Level: Anyone – whether interested in parenting, management, relationships or just for yourself

Topic: This book is based on a wealth of research about what helps people connect, feel a sense of belonging and worthiness. It talks a lot about vulnerability and shame and how we deal with those emotions. She talks through research that suggests that we are increasingly living in an age where we don’t feel like we are _____ enough (fill in the gaps) and due to this, this generation (in the US) has become the most medicated, obese, debt ridden and addicted in history. She gives lots of examples, including quite entertaining personal ones, about how people successfully deal with feelings of shame and vulnerability and how this leads to healthier relationships, more creativity, a sense of belonging.

Why read: She is an excellent, engaging writer. The book sounds like it is about a ‘heavy’ topic but you can’t help reading and nodding along – realising that most of this stuff applies to you. I highly recommend. I read it in 2-3 days. I have done blog posts about her and her book.

Quiet by Susan Cain

Level: Anyone – but it is longer and more dense than Brene Brown

Topic: This book is about introverts and extroverts. The general theme of the book is that we live in a world now that heralds ‘extroverts’, their qualities and their preferences in higher regard than introverts. Schools, the workplace are moving towards open plan offices, pods, group work etc and social skills are highly desirable as we are encouraged to hone our skills in public speaking, presenting, socialising, working together. She argues – compellingly – that introverts have a lot of important qualities and that these should not be dismissed and should be catered for. Many great writers, artists, scientists are introverts. She also argues that this drive towards ‘extrovert-ising’ is damaging because group think can mean we make the wrong decisions, it can dampen creativity and it can mean we don’t learn what we need at the speed that is right for us.

Why read: This book helped me understand myself better and also made me think about how this should be taken into account in the workplace. We should be acknowledging and catering for different types of people.

Websites


http://www.eomega.org/

This is a website of an organisation based in New York that do trainings, workshops, retreats and online learning on a range of things from leadership/work, relationships, post traumatic stress, sustainable living.

Videos


Dan Gilbert – The Surprising Science of Happiness (TED talk)

Matthieu Ricard on Happiness (TED talk)

4. Resources on Mindfulness and the Envt

Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown

Level: Beginners or Intermediate

Videos: 

Check out Naomi Klein’s response to my question (at 1hr 15 mins and 15 seconds) about the inherent issues that underpin capitalism and consumption which she alludes to in her book ‘This Changes Everything’. http://www.climateoutreach.org.uk/past-events/

 I mention the ‘Mindfulness and Climate Action’ series which One Earth Sangha is running for 5 weeks and is an opportunity to explore the connection between the two.

You can listen to the recordings here and read the background paper:

http://www.oneearthsangha.org/programs/mindfulness-and-climate-action/archive/

#