Reflections of a Year in Reading
As those who know me well can attest, I love to read. Like the house could be burning down but please just let me finish this chapter first love to read. With 2016 at a close and much confusion and uncertainty in the current morass, I have been reflecting on some of the best books I read last year on the practice of mindfulness and empathy, especially those that I am still pulling lessons from now to help me in my daily practice and daily existence.
Below are five of my favorite books that I read in 2016 on the areas of mindfulness and empathy.
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
One of the first book on meditation I ever read, pulled off the shelf at my aunt’s house over a dozen years ago during a Thanksgiving visit. I chose it with little intention beyond the desire to escape from the football game on television, but I was immediately transfixed. I went home and got my own copy, one which over a decade later I still pull down and reread often. For me, this book was a true awakening, and very accessible. I read it again in 2016, needing it like an old friend. And like an old friend, the book did not fail to revitalize me.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön
A particular useful book for today, Pema Chödrön has a unique and accessible voice into mindfulness and Buddhist practice. This book is a compilation of talks she gave in the 80s and 90s. And as the old saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. Her reflections on understanding pain, grief, and discomfort are as relevant today as they were then, if not more so.
Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within by Chade-Meng Tan
This book is a lovely read. It focuses mainly on Tan’s own practices and how we can incorporate that practice into our own lives to help us elevate the joy in our hearts. A perfect companion piece to Pema Chödrön. Tan’s book proves that the Buddha is often portrayed as laughing for a reason!
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Hochschild.
I am originally from the Midwest, and since relocating to Western Mass over ten years ago, every time my family and I traveled back to Michigan to visit, it became increasingly hard to ignore the crumbling down of the state’s middle class. That being said, I did not realize how far resentments within had metastasized until Trump won the state by a thin margin in November. This book was a very helpful read for me personally, as I tried to understand what had happened to the place I once called home and how to make sense of people who were now like strangers to me.
The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Sydney Smith
It only makes sense to add in this children’s book because I have two small kids myself and there is nothing I read more of than this genre these days. This book is not on the surface about mindfulness or empathy, but simply about a cat and a monk who work everyday in pursuit of their individual passions and take comfort in their companionship. Full disclaimer: my cat is not this cool. However, the story lends itself to conversations with your kids around concepts of mindfulness, purposefulness in our work, joy in daily tasks, and much more. Plus the pictures are beautiful!
No matter if you read any of the books mentioned above or find your own, reading up on mindfulness and empathy is a powerful way to understand and reflect on our current paradigms, and in my experience, a profound antidote to the divisiveness that currently threatens us.
[Photo credit: (cc) Justin Kern]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy is a freelance writer and digital communications specialist who has lived in Western Massachusetts for the last ten years. The mother of two young daughters, Amy is a frequenter of coffee shops and bookstores, and an avid hiker. She is a long-time student of mindfulness meditation, and loves nothing more than a good friend, a good book, or a good nap.