Books you shouldn’t waste your time with

Here are a few books that I’ve read that really don’t bring much to the table in terms of Self-Actualization.

So I’ll keep this short and sweet.

 

  1. The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt

I haven’t actually read this one, but I know from a few book summaries what this book discusses: how to be happy.

It says happiness comes from having a goal and striving to attain that goal.

That may be helpful advice for some people, but it’s not what happiness actually is. Maybe in our materialistic Western culture, but that’s definitely not the case in just about every spiritual tradition around the world.

Seriously, when has that strategy ever worked for you?

True happiness = reality – expectations.

The trick is embodying this principle 😉

 

2. Follow Your Calling, Alexander Teetz

This is a little-known book about life purpose. It has everything you can think of on a mental plane: values, goals, strengths, the whole sh’bang.

But it has no mention of intuition, or of the limits of just thinking about what your Life Purpose could be, rather than going out and DOING something to find it.

 

3. The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, P.D. Ouspensky

The kind of psychology that Ouspensky talks about in his work is the “psychology of man’s possible evolution,” as opposed to traditional psychology.

We must understand that Ouspensky was one of the first to write about spirituality and non-duality in the West.

And that’s exactly what it feels like. Almost like he’s still trying to figure it out, and presenting it in a very structured way. It feels like a college thesis.

He does give an interesting definition of psychology: the study of lies.

Not a dumb remark when you think about it. It could mean the lies we tell ourselves, our own self-deceptions, and the lies we tell others.

Ouspensky argues that psychology is actually an ancient practice, as old as philosophy, and that present-day psycho-analysis isn’t really true psychology. One of the reasons is because it denies the existence of consciousness.

However, I don’t think it’s a very helpful book on the how-to of spirituality. Just a lot of theory in a strangely-worded way. Not super helpful.

 

4. Gut Feelings, Gerd Gigerenzer

Just…no.

It’s not really a book about gut feelings, but how our minds make split-second decisions like catching a baseball.

 

5. The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander

Very unoriginal. No new gems.

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Meditation: the #1 Habit for Personal Growth

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: meditation is the one greatest practice you can have in order to grow yourself.

For those of you already doing it, great. The rest, get started.

There are TONS of reasons to meditate, some spiritual, some health-related, and some just benefits that anyone would want.

  1. Less stress
  2. Increased levels of happiness: it’s a direct consequence from the first benefit.
  3. Scientifically proven to increase productivity and creativity
  4. Scientifically proven to improve brain function and health
  5. Better sleep
  6. More access to feelings and intuitions
  7. Distinction between thinking and awareness: this is HUGE. Too many people live life in their heads, and try to change themselves through THOUGHT. This doesn’t work. You have to become more MINDFUL in your everyday life. Meditation will assist you in this.
  8. Getting rid of addictions as a result of being more mindful
  9. Less dependent on thought, are more able to be critical of your thoughts
  10. Slowing down thought process, will be less likely to be inundated with negative thoughts and emotions.
  11. Able to be happy by doing absolutely nothing
  12. Allowing what is
  13. Better able to do deep work (contemplation, Self-Inquiry…)
  14. Enlightenment

If that didn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

What is meditation anyway? There are literally hundreds of ways to meditate. What’s the real essence of meditation.

It can be defined in lots of ways, but basically it’s:
–   relaxation of the mind

  • letting go
  • surrendering
  • letting go of control
  • (slowly) dissolving the ego
  • seeing there is no meditator
  • distinguishing between awareness and thinking
  • what is
  • allowing what is

All these things basically point to one thing: surrendering control, which is the whole point of spirituality.

What’s the best meditation technique? You can try out multiple ones over the course of a few weeks and see what you like, but I strongly recommend the Do Nothing technique.

It’s simple: you do nothing. Just let go of control and relax.

Here’s a guided meditation from actualized.org that works SUPER well. It is a good one to get started with because it is very peaceful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LscnZCzdak&t=1204s

Personally, I started meditating over a year ago (not with that guided meditation). I know everyone says that meditation is all about blissing out and being peaceful.

Do not be deceived.

The first year or so will be hard. You’ll be confused, you’ll wanna quit, you won’t be seeing any results from it.

That’s OK. Just stick with it.

It was really only recently (in the last few months) that meditation has become a real joy for me, where I can sit and expect to get at least of few moments of peace and relaxation.

So there you have it. Start today. Even if it’s only 20 minutes a day. Everyone has 20 minutes in their day. Then bump it up.

I’d like to finish with a great quote from Marcus Aurelius that drives home the importance of meditation:

“Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.”

– Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Even outside of a religious context like Buddhism where meditation is central, ancient sages still recognized the importance it held.

Big Mind, Big Heart, Dennis Genpo Merzel

This is a very original spiritual book.

In this book, Zen Master Dennis Merzel combines two teachings: Zen Buddhism and Voice Dialogue Therapy, from traditional psychology. He does this in order to effectively help us pass through the “gateless gate.”

Voice dialogue is where the therapist asks to speak to one “part” or “personality” of the patient, usually fear, the damaged one, the victim… He lets that part of him express itself so that you can accept it.

Here, Merzel takes Voice Dialogue therapy and uses it to speak to the “voices” of the non-dual: the Way, Big Mind, Big Heart… He allows each voice to say what it has to say.

Now, this seems like a rather ridiculous way to practice spirituality. But it seems to work for most people.

In the version I bought, the book came with a CD. One of the tracks is a recording of him performing the Big Mind method on the interviewer, and she immediately recognized what she was. If you listen along and do what he says, it works.
The book is divided into four parts: one where he discusses the method. He says that if you try to find the voice he asks for, it won’t work. You have to let it surface. As soon as you try, it’s over.

The next three parts all deal with different aspects of the psyche: the first with the dual mind, dealing with voices like Fear, the Damaged One, Desire. The next deals with the non-dual mind: Big Mind, Big Heart, Integrated Free-Functioning Human Being… Finally he deals with integrating the dual and non-dual minds, because this is where a lot of people tend to get stuck: they hang out in the non-dual and don’t hold anything from the dual world as having any significance. This part speaks to Supreme Wisdom, Intention, and Zazen Mind to name a few.

He also gives tips for how to meditate: exactly how to sit, etc. And the meditation that comes on the CD is ver nice: it consists simply in asking to let the Non-Seeking Non-Grasping Mind present itself.

It works. You can try it right now. (Watch out: don’t seek or grasp the Non-Seeking Non-Grasping Mind!)

I’ve started to use this in my regular meditation practice if my mind is particularly noisy.

So the big question: does this process at all work?

I’ve concluded (for myself anyway) that it will let you realize what you are through asking to speak to Big Mind. And that is great because it allows the masses (us) to bypass years of spiritual seeking.

BUT. I don’t think this process works well for clearing up. Clearing up is the process that happens after the initial awakening that “clears up” all your neuroses and allows you to embody what you’ve realized.

The best resource I’ve found for post-awakening work is Adyashanti’s “The End of Your World” (book review coming soon!)

But Big Mind Big Heart is an interesting read, and iI did find it helpful in that it addresses all aspects of awakening and the spiritual process: what you are, compassion, mindful interaction…

Favorite quote:

“We have many words to try to grasp the ungraspable, because grasping obviously requires two things – that which is being grasped and one who is going the grasping – and reality is no two, not dual. It’s not graspable.”

The Verdict:

Definitely a new breakthrough way to look at and practice spirituality. I’m still not convinced it is useful for clearing up.