I was recently on a panel about Integrative Medicine at USC, and afterwards, a young man came up and earnestly asked how he could learn more about mindfulness and meditation.  He had been advised to learn it and he had no idea how to best do that. He asked for books or recordings.  I asked him to email me because I’d probably want to write down some titles and it was more than I could do at that time.  This is what I ended up writing to him, but

I invite anyone who reads this to PLEASE ADD books, recordings, references to any teacher or teaching that would be your first answer if someone asked you how to learn about mindfulness.  Then we will have a beautiful resource here.

 Hi [John]

“Okay, so there are many ways to explore mindfulness – and, as we said after the panel, having a live teacher  whom you respect is absolutely invaluable.  That’s who will be able to guide you specifically.

And, as I mentioned during the panel discussion, I am trained in a very specific, wildly in-depth and scientific system of mindfulness called the Unified Mindfulness system developed by Shinzen Young.  I spoke about a few of the research studies that are using this system.  There is nothing else like it and I believe the world will start to wake up to that – especially as his book just came out a few months ago.

For more information on the UNIFIED MINDFULNESS system:
  • BOOK:  “The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works” – this is his latest formulation – includes the information from the old CD recordings and adds what he has developed in the 20 years since that.
  • CD/Audio Recording: “The Science of Enlightenment”  this was done around 1996 and has changed people’s lives.  It gives an idea of what meditation is and how mindfulness stands compared to all forms of spirituality and science.  It will have many guided meditations on there that are pretty cool.  He doesn’t teach in that way any more, but this is a classic.  Shinzen simply recorded it all live for students in a studio and then it was beautifully edited together by Michael Taft – who also edited his book.  
  • LIVE PHONE WEEKEND RETREAT: http://homepracticeprogram.com/ (and yes, that’s a photo of my sitting in front of Shinzen) This is offered once a month, and is the best opportunity to have direct contact with Shinzen.  He leads them himself – unless people like me need to do it while he is on retreat. You would be amazed how effective a phone retreat is.  Just get a headset and sit down to meditate and a voice comes in and guides you.  It brings the habit and experience of qualitymeditation into your home.
  • BOOK: Natural Pain Relief  (old title = Breakthough Pain: This also has changed people’s lives and is the book I mentioned on the panel with the CD in the back.  When I give it, I often will say that it’s for emotional as well as physical pain.
  • UNIFIED MINDFULNESS TRAINING PROGRAM – On March 6, we will be unveiling a video training program – designed to train people to do this system – and to be able to communicate it to others.  It’s a PHASE I of a teacher training program, but they made it accessible to those who didn’t want to teach and just wanted to be trained in this system in a linear, sequential, organized way.  I think it will probably l be the best, most organized training in this system out there. I will be adding a link to sign up for it here after it’s unveiled on March 6.
GOOD CLASSIC BOOKS (my favorites) about meditation – by some of the greatest teachers:
  • A Gradual Awakening (Stephen Levine)  This book is a classic and has been around for decades.  It probably introduced more people to mindfulness than any other book.  Stephen also wrote another book “One Year to Live” where he and his wife lived a year as if it was their last (since we never know when our last year will be.)  He was a bit of a specialist on the dying process.
  • The Miracle of Mindfulness (Thich Nhat Hahn)  This is another classic.  Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese monk who was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize by Martin Luther King, Jr.  Back in the 60’s during the “anti-war” protests, this young Vietnamese monk wanted people to know the the Vietnamese were suffering and began the “pro-peace” movement.  He is now at the end of his life, but I would say he is our living Ghandi.  Seeing him in person is about being in the presence of a spacious peacefulness.
  • WhenThings Fall Apart (Pema Chodren)  I adore Pema Chodren – and there is a wonderful PBS series where Bill Moyer interviewed her – probably now available on YouTube. She is an American woman who had an enlightenment experience when her husband left her and she then became a Buddhist nun.  She speaks practically and with a gentle love.  She comes from a totally different Buddhist tradition than mindfulness, but I always recommend this book when people are going through difficult times – along with Shinzen’s.  I’ve met her and have heard her speak many times.  She’s a jewel.

RECENT BOOKS by great teachers who are friends of mine:

  • The Buddha’s Brain (Rick Hanson & Richard Mendiez)  – You’ll love this.  It’s about the science of how our brain is wired and how we can change the wiring by using our mind.  “Use the mind to change the brain to change the mind.”  It’s great – and they are talking about mindfulness.  I met Rick Hanson and he agreed for me to interview him but he’s up north and I haven’t been back up there.  They have a lovely AUDIO/CD called “MEDITATIONS to CHANGE THE BRAIN” that I highly recommend.  I like them both a lot.  Rick is a neuro-psychologist and Richard is a neurologist.  I like to call them the “Car Guys of the Brain.”  Rick had no idea what I was referring to, but if you’ve ever listened to the “Car Guys” in NPR, you’ll totally get what I’m saying.
  • The Mindful Brain (Dan Siegel)  He’s at UCLA and started the MARC (Mindful Awareness Research Center) program with Diana Winston.  He has several books you might want to check out – but he also goes into the development of the brain.  He comes from the psychological perspective but really presents some interesting information with a lot of insight.
  • The Mind Illuminated  (Culadasa)  Culadasa is a dear friend and a teacher who speaks from an enlightened perspective.  He taught neuroscience for many years. He is very much into hardcore concentration practices, so his meditations will require a commitment, but there will be a payoff. He knows what he’s talking about. 
  • Right Concentration  (Leigh Brasington)  Leigh is a dear friend and one of the authorities on the sutta jhanas, or deep absorption states.  I haven’t finished this yet, but it’s on my shelf.  He finally wrote what he knew down and many celebrated.  He’s a wonderful story teller, so I’m assuming this book will reflect that. I have Youtube interviews with him on my YouTube channel.
  • Shift into Freedom  (Loch Kelly)  Loch is a good friend and he’s got a whole different way to go.   He was just in town this last weekend and I did a video interview with him that will go up on my Youtube channel in the next couple of weeks.  You might want to see that.  He works in a different tradition – where one acknowledges an “awakeness” that is already there.  He really invites people to move immediately into a space of freedom – that I think is quite lovely.  You still need to log in meditation time to develop the skills I talked about – concentration, equanimity and sensory clarity – but Loch’s stuff (which is a combination of Vedanta and Mahamudra with his unique approach) is great for a shift of perspective.
You can also check out YouTube:
Oh, and I forgot to include recordings of my guided meditations
A meditation that I usually start people with is something I call the “10 Minute Chill”:  http://mindfulnessarts.org/10MIN_CHILL.html
There are other guided meditations on my YouTube and my website:  http://mindfulnessarts.org/blog/
And I am also one of many good teachers on the INSIGHT TIMER app.
I will also be one of the Unifed Mindfulness trainers on the new BRIGHT MIND app – which will be available in the next week or two. That one will consist of 10 minute meditations to address every issue – the categories I picked were “Stress Management” and “Relaxation”.  Each teacher had to create six 10 minute meditations on that topic as a ‘mini-program’.I think it will be awesome.
Okay, that should be plenty for now.
Let me know what you find that you can relate to or works best for you.  I would be most interested to know.
All the best,

Categories : Mindfulness
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