My Four Favorite Meditation Books

Mindfulness meditation has changed me perhaps more than any other influence in my life. Here are four books whose wisdom I treasure.

Zen Rocks

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki is a collection of informal talks on mindfulness meditation as given to his students. Arranged into three sections, each lecture is from one to several pages long. The voice of Suzuki Roshi springs off the page, lively, humorous, gentle. Reading this book feels like having a conversation with a very good friend who gently explains, in immensely lucid terms, how simple the solution to every problem is and how to practice.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn is my second favorite book, and similarly to Suzuki’s, it plainly states that meditation is nothing complicated or special: it’s simply about being in the current moment, observing. Like Zen Mind, too, it is broken into many small thoughts that are a quick read, making it ideal to keep in a place where you can pick it up when you have 90 seconds and bring a little more awareness to the moment. And like Zen Mind, it gives eminently practical advice about the how.

Walden

Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, is the American classic on what it means to be alive. Although not really a book about mindfulness, it is nonetheless woven through with Henry David’s delightful experiences with mindfulness as he simply “enjoyed the bloom of the present moment.” I linked to Amazon, but if you can, go to a good used or antique bookstore and see if they have an old edition of it. By doing so, you might be able to find a printing that you can appreciate for the craft, which can give an extra dimension to the experience of reading it.

Tao-Te-Ching

Tao-Te-Ching, by Lao-Tzu and in a new translation by Stephen Mitchell, is a gift to humankind as significant as the Sermon on the Mount. Again, not strictly about mindfulness or how to practice, but the short chapters are as rich as any Zen koan. The translation is crucial: other translations I’ve read have done little for me, but if I had to choose one book to have on a desert island, this would certainly make the short list. This comes in a miniature edition that I have carried all over the world with me for years.

Bonus: Get Some Headspace

Get Some Headspace, by Andy Puddicombe, is the book that actually started my practice of mindfulness meditation as it is today. The Headspace website and mobile app also helped me establish my practice.

There are thousands of other books on meditation and mindfulness, many of them written by people who are perhaps studying mediation but not practicing it. I have read dozens of them. Many are good, but in my view, the above are the best.

If I were to buy only one, I’d start with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s. If I simply wanted to establish a mindfulness meditation practice, I’d start with the Headspace app or website, and then read Suzuki or Kabat-Zinn after a little while.

Above all: the advice I’d give myself is to simply practice.

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I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.


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