I picked up this book because I saw metta (or lovingkindness) meditation as a growth area of mine. I had been working on mindfulness meditation, which involves observing everything that arises (thoughts, moods, sounds, sensations in the body, anything that arises in consciousness). Although I’d done a bit of metta meditation and experienced the pleasant “expansive mind” that tends to happen after sending well-wishes to people, essentially praying for their good health and happiness, I wanted to learn the practice of metta in more detail. This book is the classic on metta meditation for English readers, and it’s easy to see why. Salzberg refers to Buddhists texts when outlining the benefits of metta, uses relevant anecdotes from her decades of meditation experience, and provides plenty of great meditation exercises for the reader to integrate into their practice. She also does an amazing job at tackling the different negative thinking patterns that can hinder people from developing true lovingkindness.
If you are interested in Buddhism or meditation, I could not recommend this book enough. I think this passage really captures the care of Salzberg’s writing. Here, she explains why it is beneficial to cultivate “skillful” states of mind:
“The integrity we develop along a spiritual path comes from being able to distinguish for ourselves the habits and influences in the mind which are skillful and lead to love and awareness, from those which are unskillful and reinforce our false sense of separation . . . Abandoning unskillful states that cause suffering is not something we do out of fear or of contempt from those states, or out of contempt for ourselves for having those states arise in the mind. Abandoning the unskillful states isn’t accomplished by angrily shoving or pushing away our habits of separation. Rather it comes as we learn to truly love ourselves and all beings, so that love provides the light by which we bear witness to those burdens, watching them simply fall away.”
The book outlines four Buddhist virtues, brahma-viharas (heavenly home in Pali):
- Metta (lovingkindness)
- Karuna (compassion)
- Mudita (sympathetic joy)
- Upekkha (equanimity)
Continue reading “Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg”
Syllabus (more to be added)
- On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche
- The Denial of Death by Ernst Becker
- The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
- Marriage, A History by Stephanie Coontz
- Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
- The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
- Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work by Michael P. Farrell
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- Figuring by Maria Popova (Released 2/5/2019)
- Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
- Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
- When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen
- Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
- The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
- Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein
- Interconnected by Karmapa
- Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzburg
Bolded books are ones I am currently starting off with. I finished Oceanic the other day, but as with all poetry books, it deserves a re-reading with a pen/highlighter. I will definitely update this with more texts as the months go on, but these 17 books seem to be enough ground to cover for now.
- Start budgeting and saving deliberately (either with an app or spreadsheet)
- Work out 4x a week
- Eat a home-cooked meal at least 1x every day (lunch or dinner), ideally twice
- Meditate daily
- Give thanks at least once a day
- Write every day, even if it’s just in my “one line a day” memory book
- Only check Instagram and Twitter twice a day — during moments when I would normally use them, listen to a podcast, read an article, meditate/be present, or write instead. Best to go on there only when I have something to say/share.
- Ask “Well, why not?” after saying or thinking “I wish I could…”
Around this time last year, I realized that I had read an abysmal number of books in 2017 — no more than 3, including books I was obligated to read for my English classes. Of course I hadn’t read 90% of what I’d been assigned for class, but who does?
Anyway, a year ago I made a commitment to read at least 20 books in 2018. 20 seemed like a good number; about one book every two weeks. If I counted poetry books in this (alongside novels and nonfiction books), I could easily read over one book each week.
Over the course of this year I discovered many problems with counting for the sake of counting. Namely that this whole “tracking” thing was supposed to measure my reading “output,” but it turns out I do a majority of my reading online — PDF articles linked on Canvas, journalistic articles, tweeted screenshots of poems. I continued counting despite this, and finished 23 books this year.
To me, there still seems to be something uniquely whole and cohesive about books. Here are seven that stayed with me long after I read them, in no particular order. They are a mix of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.
Continue reading “The most impactful books I read in 2018”