“Equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha.” ~ Jack Kerouac,
There are books that are great.
There are books worth re-reading.
There are books that change lives and open minds.
Then, in a category all to themselves, there are books I wish everyone on Earth would read. I wrote a list of them last year. And today, I’m inspired to do so again.
I’ve read these four books in the recent past and each and every one has had a major paradigm-shifting effect on my consciousness.
May this list be of benefit!
1. The Sacred Ego: Making Peace with Ourselves and Our World by Jalaja Bonheim
This book arrived in my life as if by miracle. It was a Saturday morning; we were packing and getting ready for a week on the beach in Belize. The author contacted me through my website to offer me a copy of her recently released book. Sure, I replied. Thanks!
I read it over the course of the next few weeks. (I didn’t get to read as much as I’d hoped during the beach trip due to the precedence that playing with my toddler daughter took over peaceful reading in the hammock.) As soon as I finished, I immediately started re-reading.
The Sacred Ego is a clearly-written, essential read for all conscious global citizens. Its name comes from the way in which Jalaja views the ego, which in contrast with so much New-Age literature is that the ego can be difficult and cause us challenges in life, and for this reason, it is actually sacred and worthy of our appreciation and honor.
Jalaja’s concise anecdotes and her perspective come from her experience as a relational educator who leads circles internationally, notably with women in Palestine and Israel. She compassionately illuminates where we currently stand as humankind (in crisis), yet she tells us how each of us can support the unprecedented transformation of the collective consciousness happening in the world today. Her work also features an appendix with loads of simple yet powerful journaling and meditative exercises.
Seriously, drop everything and read this book!
2. Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village Community
“You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout and to grow.”
This book is a stunning, practical, and helpful guide for anyone interested in introducing children to mindfulness and meditation. Written by the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and members of his sangha, it evolved out of his work with children at Plum Village Community. Written for both parents and educators, each chapter offers gems covering topics such as mindful breathing, meditation, compassion, nature, suffering, healing, aging and death. It also incorporates stories, sample activities, and guided meditations and includes an audio CD with songs and guided meditations.
I use the pebble meditation every day with my fifth grade students. We collected four pebbles each on the first day of classes, representing a flower, a mountain, still water, and space. We breathe each morning, first thing, connecting with our inner flower, mountain, still water and space. It is a beautiful thing.
More than anything, we allow them to be who they are. If they are bored, they learn to practice being in the present.
“Breathing in, I’m bored. Breathing out, it’s okay to be bored.”
“Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I relax and touch joy.”
“The sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha within, because there is a Buddha within every one of us.”
3. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
I carried a slightly battered paperback copy of this book around with me from house to house, city to city, country to country and never read it until finally swallowing it whole back in May of this year. This is a book that you can immerse yourself in. A few favorite passages:
“The closer you get to real matter, rock air fire and wood, boy, the more spiritual the world is.”
“Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that cramp they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new fancy cars, certain hair oils and deodorants and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume.”
“What does it mean that I am in this endless universe, thinking that I’m a man sitting under the stars on the terrace of the earth, but actually empty and awake throughout the emptiness and awakedness of everything? It means that I’m empty and awake, that I know I’m empty and awake, and that there’s no difference between me and anything else.”
4. Yoga of Heart by Mark Whitwell
I first came across Mark Whitwell’s work as a yoga teacher and karma yoga organization leader a few years ago. His teachings resonated with me, especially with regard to the fact that the teachings of yoga are freely available and should be accessible to all. I then forgot all about him until last month, when I stumbled upon an interview with him and was inspired to finally read his book, Yoga of Heart.
Mark teaches from his lifelong relationship with the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya and is committed to communicating the timeless yoga principles as they were taught to him. He seeks to put back what has been been left out of western yoga education and practice, popularized by Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois’ Ashtanga yoga lineages. According to Mark, “asana is hatha yoga, the union of all opposites, and hatha yoga is non-dual tantra, our direct absorption in the nurturing source.” Brilliant book by an authentic teacher of actual yoga!
“You are fully loved, you are fully able, you are perfectly capable the way you are.”
“In movement there is balance. In balance there is movement. Yoga is all about balance. Within and without. Above, below. Front, back. Male, female. In, out.”
“Yoga is not a means to get somewhere as if you were not somewhere already. It is your direct and intimate participation with Life.”
What amazing books have you been reading lately?
Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Glen Noble/Unsplash