In a previous post I discussed the idea of a transformational path where you train your mind to help bring out the best version of yourself. Meditation is one of the main techniques for this, but there are what Eknath Easwaran refers to as “allied disciplines” that can support your efforts. I’ll cover some of these in detail from time to time. Today I wanted to discuss the concept of inspirational reading and my experience with it.
Disciplines like meditation require effort, and planning to fit in the time for them. It helps to stay inspired about how this can help you. I’ve read various books on meditation which are inspirational. But it is more common to find ones that are instructional. To make sure I have something to read daily to keep me motivated, I turn to sources that have daily offerings. For religious people there are various daily devotionals, and there are also ones for people in recovery like those from Hazelden. There is useful wisdom in 12-step type programs for everyone, whether or not they have an issue like substance abuse. I once attended a 12-step meeting after I’d left the job that was the follow-on to the start-up I’d been involved in. I was pretty burned out at the time. So I introduced myself “Hi I’m Rich, and I’m in recovery from a high-stress Silicon Valley lifestyle”. This prompted a good laugh but I was warmly welcomed.
One source that has worked well for me is Easwaran’s own Words to Live By which has inspirational offerings specific to meditation. I find you can just keep reusing it. By the time July 27, 2021 roles around today’s topic will be fresh again.
Another good source for me is Daily Word from Unity. Unity is a branch of Christianity but also believes there is a core truth (the perennial philosophy) behind all religions. Daily words readings are very positive and often start off my day in a good mood.
For those who are “allergic” to readings with religious themes, some of the books from Hazelden might work well, or things like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of books. It is also easy to find lots of inspirational quotes from Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh online, just google “inspirational quotes by thich nhat hanh”. His writings require no religious belief, just the belief it is possible to bring out the best version of yourself.
Avoid “Many Small Holes”
One pitfall to avoid is reading too many instructional books related to meditation. There are various valid paths out there, and it’s not a bad idea to shop around at first until you find something that’s a good fit for you. But teachers warn about hopping around too much, at some point you have to pick one and stick to it. The analogy often used is about digging for a well, getting frustrated when you get down a few feet because you haven’t found water yet, and starting over in a different spot. This will lead to a lot of shallow holes in your field but never reaching the groundwater. I relate it also to exercise. For decades I’d been established in running as my go-to fitness activity until hip arthritis took that option away. I went through a frustrating period of dabbling in many alternative activities, and did not get a good consistent program going again until I settled on biking and hiking as my main ones.