Beginner’s mind From the journal Lion’s Roar (formerly Shambala Sun), a list of short, useful posts from their pages on the basics of Buddhism.
Books about the methods of meditation practice are a lot like books about yoga practice or the craft of writing . There are so many good ones, I can’t help but buy a new one every time I’m at a good bookstore. Then I sit and read about a new set of techniques rather than deepen my practice of ones I already know. A few recommended for the disciplines of writing and yoga can be found elsewhere on this site.
I have found these guides to mindfulness practice useful:
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Mindfulness in Plain English. Just as advertised. This book is a great introduction to vipassana (insight) meditation. Step by step, it discusses what meditation is and isn’t, how to do it, how to deal with the inevitable distractions. Without any religiosity, it discusses the goals of ending suffering and finding peace, both individually and for others. In other words, meditation is not just to relieve stress and lower your blood pressure, but to gain insight into oneself and compassion for others.
Kabat-Zinn, John. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Open anywhere and go. No prior experience or knowledge necessary. Nice little book to have on your nightstand.
Nisker, Wes. Buddha’s Nature: A Practical Guide to Discovering Your Place in the Cosmos. An unpretentious, thought-provoking book with a sense of humor. Nisker takes the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, the Great Discourse on Establishing Awareness, which teaches the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. As Nisker says; “The Buddhist and scientific maps of mind and cognition are strikingly similar.” Using the Buddha’s belief that awareness begins with the body, he takes each of the four foundations–breath, sensation, feeling-emotion, and consciousness–and discusses each from the standpoint of biology, evolution, physics. It’s fun to read, full of interesting facts and ideas. Each chapter has easy-to-follow instructions on some essential Buddhist meditation practices. My copy of it is well-thumbed.
Of course, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds or thousands of other books written by practitioners such as Pema Chödrön and Jack Kornfield, more by John Kabat-Zinn, and many others, too many to go into here.
But I would like to mention a book by Stephen Batchelor for those interested in mindfulness and decidedly not interested in Buddhism steeped in religious trappings. Down to earth. Solid. Interesting to read.
Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening. “The Buddha was not a mystic. His awakening was not a shattering insight into the mysteries of God…he spoke of having discovered complete freedom of heart and mind from the compulsions of craving…”
Like the Buddha himself, this book dispenses with metaphysics. Whenever he was asked about life after death or the origin and end of the universe, he remained silent. He refrained from the endless speculation and hairsplitting many of his contemporaries engaged in concerning the duality of body and mind. Jargon-free, plain English guide to the Middle Way between asceticism and sensuality.