With seven digital editions available, I’ve been thinking about recommendations – How do I answer the question, “Iain what should I read first? And what next?” and how does that fit with other authors.
Here is my current answer.
The first book to read is Natural Awakening, and the second book is Breathing. Natural Awakening is a gentle introduction to spiritual life and meditation. It’s really good. After this gentle introduction it’s time for detailed meditation instruction and Breathing provides that.
The third book is Growth and Unfolding, and I can’t praise this book enough. It’s the key book if you’re exploring the life of a practitioner. It speaks to the practitioners journey – What are our motivations and aspiration? How do we encourage conditions to support this aspiration? What are the details of exploring and growing? And preparing for the great mystery of union. My main characterization of this book is that it’s for “Instructors of Beginners”. Very much like Bhante G’s Mindfulness in Plain English, it’s a deep book and takes time to fully understand. It’s worth the effort.
My favorite exercize is the Four Efforts – determine what is unwholesome in your life, work to remove that, determine what is wholesome in your life, and work to encourage that.
Once one is comfortable with being in practitioner-land it makes sense that you’d want a prayer book and Daily Puja is that book.
A tricky part of meditation is that retreat-style walking practices rarely work at home. In Walking in Wisdom Tarchin develops “Forest Walking” and this style of walking can be done at home. In-a-nutshell this book is a treasure and can be read by all. It can stand-alone.
The next book is Foundations of Mindfulness: A Manual for Meditators and it’s amazing! Some of you may say, “Wait a minute, that is a deep book, … it’s not for everyone.” Well, that is true, and I’m commenting from the perspective of a practitioner of 15 years with dozens of retreats attended. It’s amazing! Andy McIntosh wrote a beautiful review for Wangapeka Newsphere recently.
And then True Refuge takes us on to the next stage of a practitioners journey. I often thought “Refuge is a monk thing” and was far into my future. Well Tarchin differs, and that future is now. He asks us to explore what we take refuge in and to be honest about that. It’s a great exploration and this book is noted in Pema Chodron’s 2019 book Welcoming the Unwelcome.
“His advice is to call it what it is … put your hands together and say, ‘I take refuge in Netflix’”
Next Steps and Other Authors
The next steps for a practitioner can be Refuge and Foundation Work. For this we can look towards our founding teacher, Namgyal Rinpoche’s, book “Body, Speech, and Mind”. We can also look towards young Tibetan teachers of Kagyu lineage, for example, This Precious Life by Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, Not For Happiness by Dzongsar Jamyang Khentse Rinpoche, and Turning Confusion into Clarity by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. And there is a tremendous body of work by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. And Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg is a core practitioner read.
Parting Note – Meditation Science
As a practitioner I like to keep abreast of scientific research on meditation and Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson is well worth a read.
The main take away from the science is “Get on your cushion and sit some more” <smile>