My saving grace during this pandemic has been my long time meditation practice. Along with my personal practice, I have been able to engage in daily online group meditation with like minded folks around the world. Don’t worry, I’m not about to proselytize on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, but I will suggest some wonderful, accessible books on the subject.
Although I’ve had many opportunities to learn about meditation over the years, it didn’t really stick for me until I began to read Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings and subsequently studied mediation with a teacher from his sangha. One of his best, and most engaging books is Peace Is Every Step. Here’s what none other than the Dalai Lama has to say about in the introduction:
Peace Is Every Step is a guidebook for a journey in exactly this direction. Thich Nhat Hanh begins by teaching mindfulness of breathing and awareness of the small acts of our daily lives, then shows us how to use the benefits of mindful-ness and concentration to transform and heal difficult psychological states. Finally he shows us the connection between personal, inner peace and peace on Earth. This is a very worthwhile book. It can change individual lives and the life of our society.
If you’re interested in checking out this beautiful book, you can read it for free here online.
The books below are also excellent introductions to mindfulness and meditation from a range of perspectives. I am especially inclined towards the valuable and groundbreaking work of Jon Kabat-Zinn who is probably more instrumental in bring an approachable, secular version of meditation to the West than any other teacher.
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life is his inspiring, often poetic, introduction to meditation, what he calls “the process by which we go about deepening our attention and awareness, refining them, and putting them to greater practical use in our lives.”
After he suffered an on-air panic attack in 2004, ABC News anchor Dan Harris began to meditate. Since then, the self-described “evangelist” for the practice has written a bestselling book, launched a weekly podcast and created the popular 10 Percent Happier app. During the pandemic, Harris has also been hosting a daily short meditation session with some of North America’s best meditation teachers live from his NYC apartment. In January 2016, Harris and meditation teacher Jeff Warren took an 11-day cross-country trip to spread the meditation gospel. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book recounts that journey, in an entertaining story of their interactions with new and experienced meditators and simple guide for anyone new to meditation, or just interested in learning more.
If you have dipped your toes into the meditation waters before, but don’t have a regular practice, any book by the beloved teacher Pema Chödrön is highly recommended. Her book How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind describes the basics of mindfulness meditation, as well guidance about working with difficult emotions and incorporating sounds, sights and bodily sensations into one’s practice.