A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 16 April 2010

Books Which Change Your Life

I like to think of mindfulness simply as the art of conscious living. You don't have to be a Buddhist or a yogi to practice it. In fact, if you know anything about Buddhism, you will know that the most important point is to be yourself and not try to become anything that you are not already. Buddhism is fundamentally about being in touch with your own deepest nature and leting it flow out of you unimpeded. It has to do with waking up and seeing things as they are. In fact, the word 'Buddha' simply means one who has awakened to his or her true nature. JON KABAT-ZINN Wherever You Go, There You Are

That's the last of my quotes from Jon Kabat-Zinn. It's time to move on to other things. My recent readings of his books Coming To Our Senses and Wherever You Go, There You Are came at just the right time in my life and have affected me deeply. It's strange how sometimes exactly the right book is 'gifted' to us at exactly the right moment in our lives - a book which may quickly become a landmark book, influencing us, rescuing us, inspiring us in profound, often life-changing ways.

When I was in my late teens I read The Penguin Krishnamurti Reader and The Second Penguin Krishnamurti Reader and these books fired a life-long interest in Zen Buddhism and were mind-blowing for me at the time. They affected absolutely the way I thought and the way I lived. Other books which have done this to me are Thoreau's Walden, the novels of Hermann Hesse and John Fowles, and (this may surprise you) the novels of Henry Miller. I read all of these writers in my twenties.

I wonder how many of you have totemic books you read at a critical time in your lives - books which altered your mindset? The power of the written word can be truly astonishing.

Only that day dawns to which we are awake. THOREAU


George McHenry said...

A great little posting, Solitary Walker. Without the books of the authors you mention, my life, too, would far less rich. I read Henry Miller continuously, especially his essays and other non-fiction. If you haven't already read them, check out "The Wisdom of the Heart," "Reflections," "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird," and "Big Sur and the Oranges of Heironymus Bosch."

Timecheck said...

Apropos the sentiment of your blog, I stumbled across another with threads of common thought, though not at first glance. coldspliters.com

Grace said...

"Wherever You Go, There You Are" has been one of those books for me as well. Also books by Herman Hesse and Alice Walker. In high school I read the novel "Ishmael" and Klein's "No Logo" which definitely influence me to this day.

I have yet to read Henry Miller's work.

litehiker said...

Hermann Hesse's Siddharta and Steppenwolf. I gave up on the Glasperlenspiel - maybe I should go back to it thirty years on. Thomas Merton. Patrick Leigh-Fermor's A Time of Gifts is one I keep going back to.

The Solitary Walker said...

George - I don't know Miller's non-fiction as well as the fiction. (Though I don't really think of his 'notorious' 'Tropic Of Cancer', 'Nexus' etc as fiction, more like embellished autobiography!) I remember reading 'The Air-conditioned Nightmare' and 'The Books In My Life' a long time ago - the latter so exuberant and enthusuastic in its praise of his favourite literature (Dostoyevsky was high up there, I recall). Thanks for your recommendations. They're now on my list.

Thanks for the link, Timecheck.

Grace and Litehiker - Hesse seems to have been a youthful guide to many. (However, revisting him not long ago, I was slightly let down.) I've never managed to read 'The Glass Bead Game', too.
'Patrick Leigh Fermor' is just amazing. When on earth is that 3rd volume about his walk to Constantinople going to appear?