Like a good friend, each of the following books has been a source of great inspiration, joy and support for me – offering guidance for my spiritual path, as well as for the more “mundane” (but no less important) aspects of living a meaningful and authentic human life. Several come from Taoist or Buddhist practitioners, and a couple from teachers who are decidedly nonsectarian in their approach. Regardless of their particular affiliation (or lack thereof), each of these authors support a truly ecumenical approach to spiritual awakening – honoring equally the Masters of all of the world’s Wisdom Traditions. It is my great pleasure now to share them with you!
A Thousand Names For Joy by Byron Katie. After several years of a deep depression, Byron Katie woke up to the fact that she didn’t have to believe her thoughts. This marked the beginning of what would, in subsequent years, become “The Work” that she now offers to people worldwide, as a simple tool to overcome suffering. In A Thousand Names For Joy, we get to know Byron Katie via her spontaneous commentaries on Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (Daode Jing) – the main scripture of Taoism. Katie is a self-proclaimed “lover of what is” – and it is this simple yet profound, direct and wonder-filled approach to living that we’re introduced to in this lovely book.
Taoist Yoga & Sexual Energy by Eric Yudelove. One of the first of the Chinese Taoist Masters to teach in North America was Mantak Chia - who subsequently founded the Universal-Tao Center, and has published dozens of books related to Taoist practice. One of Master Chia’s principle students is Eric Yudelove, who – in Taoist Yoga & Sexual Energy – has done a lovely job of presenting these teachings in a condensed and easily-accessible way. This is an Inner Alchemy practice manual, organized into a series of lessons for cultivating the Three Treasures of Jing (sexual energy), Qi (life-force energy), and Shen (spiritual energy). The practices offered here will support you in experiencing your subtle "inner body" – a portal to the Divine.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Like Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle underwent a period of profound, suicidal depression en route to his spiritual awakening. In the years immediately following this radical shift in consciousness, his life became characterized largely by what in Taoism is known as “aimless wandering” – moving through the world in a wholly spontaneous way, filled with a childlike wonder and playfulness, without any formal agenda whatsoever. At some point, people started to notice this man who seemed so effortlessly joyful, so relaxed and content and yet brimming with energy. This began Eckhart Tolle’s second “career” as a spiritual teacher. The Power Of Now offers – in simple nonsectarian language - the essence of his teaching. I refer to it almost daily – whenever I need a dose of clear-sighted sanity, gentle humor and deep compassion.
A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. This is Eckhart Tolle’s most recent book. Not surprisingly, A New Earth is just as fresh, insightful, and inspiring as is The Power of Now. One of my favorite parts of this new book is the discussion on “enlightened action.” According to Mr. Tolle, inhabitants of the “new earth” will constantly be vibrating with one of three attitudes: (1) acceptance - of situations which may not feel pleasing to us; (2) enjoyment - of each and every moment, supporting a deep contentment and ongoing pleasure in our lives; and (3) enthusiasm - a more focused, active and creative expression of our life-energy. Unlike many utopias, the vision offered here by Eckhart Tolle is rooted deeply in the wisdom of the world’s great spiritual traditions. As such, it has a “how-to” component that allows us to actually take steps, in each moment, toward manifesting this new world – now!
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. It was probably twenty years ago that I first read this book. Five years later, when I picked it up again, it was as though I were reading a completely different book. Such is the power of a spiritual classic such as Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – it meets you where you are. As your capacity to listen deepens, so does the depth of its teaching. This book is actually a compilation - by one of Roshi’s students - of a series of talks given by Shunryu Suzuki, and the flavor is distinctly conversational. Here is the heart-advice offered by a Zen Master to his most intimate disciples – filled with gentle humor, kindness and clarity. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." Enjoy!
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda. A literary as well as a spiritual classic, this little book has sold millions of copies, and been translated into dozens of languages. It’s the first-person rendering of the life of Paramahamsa Yogananda – one of the first, and most influential, of the great Indian Yogis to teach in North America. Yogananda is not only a spiritual Master, but also a great writer. With eloquence and humor, he narrates beautifully the events of his quite extraordinary life. En route, we’re introduced to saints and yogis and avatars, offered scientific explanations for various miracles, and given priveleged access to the innermost struggles and aspirations of a truly great Being.
It’s Up To You by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. The choice to align ourselves with reality, with sanity, is ours alone. Though a spiritual Master can offer support and guidance, it is each of us individually that must cultivate the kind of openness and effort that allows those blessings to actually assist us. This is one of the central teachings of It’s Up To You – a compilation of talks given by the Tibetan Master Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. For an introduction to the essential view of Buddhist practice, this little gem is second to none!
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