Really Good BOOKS

“This is part of the commitment to Truth, the first dimension of Dharma. Right action has two dimensions: effort and direction. Before applying any effort, we need to be sure about our direction.”

I often get asked in my classes about books that I’ve found particularly helpful or inspirational. I’m currently reading Eastern Body, Western Mind by Andodea Judith which I highly recommend but haven’t finished yet! Here’s a short list of some of my favourites, a list which is to be continued in another post further along the line!

A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield

This book is a jaw dropping delight from American teacher and practioner in the vipassana lineage of Theravadan Buddhism. It reads as a pragmatic approach to beginning and maintaining a spiritual practice. Kornfield shares a colourful wealth of experience in the Buddhist tradition, and communicates a down-to-earth and realistic approach to using Eastern spiritual practices for helping to deal with the stresses of the western world. The book uncovers the numerous benefits of vipassana meditation and mindfulness and is filled with wonderful philosophical musings from Kornfield and quotes from many of his inspirational teachers. He also expands on his ideas with accounts from his own personal journey, alongside anecdotes and stories from the practice and realisations of others who he has taught or given guidance to.

There are passages in this book that literally left me open mouthed. There are beautifully explained concepts and ideas that continue to float around in my mind all the time, including passages I have since memorised, and endless inspiration in the form of meditations you can include in your own practice. In this book Kornfield presents a clear path of internal discovery and growth for anyone ready to start the journey. Whether you are struggling to deal with the nuances of every day life, coping with grieving, working with trauma or battling feelings of low self-worth, there are empowering support and ideas in book that will help you on your way.

Yoga of the Subtle Body by Tias Little

I whole heartedly believe that anyone with an interest in yoga should have this book on their shelf. Tias Little is a lifelong practitioner of yoga, a powerful storyteller and an anatomical genius. He carefully maps out the body, finding anatomical reference points for the psycho-spiritual ideas that yoga requires us to take a punt on. He gives us tangible insight into the subtle and energetic workings of the body, ways to access them and helps put them into context. His extensive anatomical knowledge and clear explanations are brought to life with the help of poetically written mythology, and yoga philosophy. He also touches on Traditional Chinese Medicine/meridians and includes practical exercises that incorporate asana, mediation, mantra and mudra. With a lot of information to absorb, it’s definitely a book to keep going back to, and the broad spectrum of concepts he introduces open the way for more curiosity in your own practice. This book will keep you going for years to come!

The Book of Dharma by Simon Haas

This is a short, straight forward book that outlines a simple and pragmatic approach to living your life with intention, altering perceptions and understanding the basics rules of dharma. Dharma as traditionally taught to monarchs in India to help them become moral, successful, compassionate leaders. This life-changing wisdom passed down through generations via ancient Sanskrit texts is brought together wonderfully and clearly by Haas. He introduces ideas such as: the undiscovered self and our ability to shape our perceptual world by realising we are immensely powerful beings; the three laws of perception and how we create meaning in our world through our own perceptions; and lastly the idea of unintelligent design which discusses the theory that “when we derive our identity from what is changeable, the result is fear.” The latter concept also highlights the importance of self-worth and self-acceptance over self-esteem, an idea that I think is both powerful and unbelievably helpful.

The Heart of Yoga: Developing Personal Practice by T.K.V Desikachar

I think this was the first book I ever bought when I wanted to know more about yoga philosophy. The book reads a little like a work book, and is simple and matter of fact. At the end of each chapter there is an interview style question and answer section that expands on the previous points raised. T.K.V Desikachar was the son of Krishnamacharya (often referred to as “the father of modern yoga”) and is widely regarded as one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th Century. Desikachar was hugely influential in bringing yoga to the west, teaching people from many different cultural and religious backgrounds. He helped to promote yoga (the origins and traditions of which are rooted in Hindu culture, practices and belief systems) as a system that can be practiced by all beings, regardless of their religious or cultural background.

This book was also my first encounter with Samkhya philosophy, ideas of how the world began and our place within it, and how this is engrained in yoga. He includes a simple introduction to Purusha and Prakriti and the relationship between these two cosmic forces (I’ll translate simply to consciousness and matter.) For me this acted as a stepping stone towards a rabbit hole of Eastern philosophy I’m not sure I’ll ever hop out of.

“Our Soul is Purusha, everything else is Prakriti.
"Purusha is absent in a corpse, all that is left is Prakriti". - TKV Desikachar.

Mary Cooke