Reading life

Books I've Been Reading in February

IMG_1495This month has been all about mindfulness in the another30something household.

The Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle‘s The Power of Now has been on my reading list for a long while.  I think I first tried to read it about three years ago; I’m not quite sure why I stopped reading it back then but I was inspired to pick it up again after listening to a podcast by Jess Lively (if you don’t know The Lively Show, I highly recommend it to help you “add a little extra intention to your everyday”).  The Power of Now is often cited as being one of the best books to read on spirituality.  Eckhart Tolle starts by describing how he achieved enlightenment during an incredibly difficult time of his life.

The key premise is the importance of living in the present moment rather than getting lost in the past or the future.  Tolle says that our emotional problems are a result of identifying with the mind, losing sight of our pure state of Being; the mind, or ego, reinforces its identity by thinking about the past or future.

There were a couple of ideas that particularly resonated with me.  First is the concept that just by becoming aware of what’s going on inside your mind – becoming a witness to it – you start to identify less with your egoic mind and more with your inner Being.  By observing what is happening, you can start to accept what is, without judgement; it’s this judgement, or resistance, that causes us pain.  That’s not to say that you can’t then chose to do something to alter or improve your situation but you can chose to do that in a way that doesn’t cause you additional pain.  Finally, Tolle states – quite forcefully – that there are no problems in the present moment.  There are challenges that you may need to face in the future but, right here and Now, there can be no problems.  This reminds of me some great advice from a very wise friend of mine who delegates to her future self when things seem too difficult – I love this technique when I think I can’t handle something, I just tell myself that future me will be all over this because she rocks!

Tolle uses a question and answer style of writing along with symbols to indicate points where the reader can take a break to reflect on the previous passage, which I really loved.  He deals with some very deep philosophical issues in a way that’s largely easy to digest.  I suspect it’s going to be one of those books I come back to a few times, taking what I need from it each time.  I have really enjoyed it but I’m not sure I would recommend it to someone completely new to concepts of mindfulness; some of the ideas are quite difficult to get your head around if you haven’t come across them before.  This is definitely more of a philosophical rather than practical book!

This Is Happening

I have also been reading a great book for anyone looking to learn a little more about mindfulness as part of daily life.  This is Happening by Rohan Gunatillake was my Rebel Book Club read this month and a great one!  Rohan is the creator of the buddhify app and comes from a technology and innovation background but has also been practicing mindfulness and meditation for the last ten years or so.

Rohan argues that mindfulness shouldn’t just be reserved for a formal meditation practice.  In our busy lives, we find it difficult to carve out time to sit and meditate so we need to introduce its principles and practices into our everyday lives.  He wants us to be able to use technology to support mindfulness whatever we’re doing, rather it being something we need to switch off from – something that is increasingly difficult in our modern, inter-connected lives.

This is a really practical book, written in a very down-to-earth and relatable manner.  Each chapter focuses on a core concept of mindfulness, which Rohan explores and then suggests a core technique and several smaller practices you can do anywhere.  I was reading this on the tube on my commute a lot and was able to follow many of the mindfulness techniques in the middle of a packed Underground carriage – interestingly, this is how Rohan, a management consultant back then, first hit on the idea of being able to be mindful on the move.

I found the sheer number of techniques and practices hard to keep track off and a little overwhelming.  However, it’s a great book to be able to dip in and out of and try different techniques to see what works for you.  I have a couple of favourites that I am now using regularly.  One is using street signs or traffic lights – I particularly focus on red traffic lights – as a reminder to check in with yourself and reconnect with the present moment.  The other is a ‘shooting kinds’ technique where you view the passing world like a video game; rather than ‘shooting’ the other players, you ‘zap’ them with a kind thought.  It’s a great way of bringing some extra compassion into your mind.

How to Have a Good Day

Or as I prefer to call it…how to make sure you’re having better days more of the time (but that is way less catchy!).  I am completely in love with Caroline Webb right now and I am loving this book!  It’s the perfect mix of scientific research, practical tips and philosophy for me.  I was a third of the way in the first couple of hours of picking the book up; I’ve not quite finished it yet so the full low-down will come next month but it’s quickly becoming one of my favourites – I’ve been recommending it to so many people!

Coming up next month….

As I write, the Rebels are still voting for March’s book but it’s looking likely that The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer will be our next read.  Still on my bookshelf are Drive by Daniel H. Pink and Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.  I’ve got some time away planned over the next month so hopefully lots of time to get some serious reading in!  Let me know what you thought of any of these books or send me a recommendation.

May your life be filled with love and light xx

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