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no self bedThis weekend I joined my fellow Shambhala Buddhists for our regular book club. Every 4 to 6 weeks, we take a book which has a Buddhist tone: its not always a Dharma book - as we often take more mainstream psychology books (as I have written about previously) or even novels. I enjoyed our latest selection, Robert Wright’s book “Why Buddhism is true”, as it blends the very latest in neuroscience and psychology, and relates these to descriptions of meditation found in the original Buddhist texts.

I became a practicing Buddhist during this “the mindfulness revolution”, so I have not known a time when meditation and its effects wasn’t being researched by scientists. Although I come from a background in the natural scientists, I haven’t needed the reports from peer-reviewed journals to tell me that meditation works (or as Wright says why Buddhism is “true”). What I have appreciated about Buddhism and its practices is its empiricism: I am not asked by the Buddhist texts to believe a theory or rely on logic, but rather to observe my experience directly. I do this on the cushion as I meditate, and I (try to!) to do this in everyday life and when I am in the therapy room with my clients.

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5 books

 

Continuing the ‘five things’ theme that I started last week, in this post I wanted to share five books that have touched me and changed my way of thinking. I wouldn’t say these are my ‘top five’ reads ever, but more ones that have triggered a way of thinking or have shifted my life in some way. For each book, I provide you with a link - so that you can find out a little more about the text and the author.

 

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Last week, I used Portia Nelson’s poem “Autobiography in 5 chapters” to illustrate the therapeutic journey. What I didn’t share was my personal interaction with that piece. I went to a coaching conference in London (I think it was in 2008) and one of the speakers read out the poem - it touched me, it opened something up in me. And, just a couple of months later, I started working with the reader of that poem: a psychotherapist from the psychosynthesis tradition.

At the weekend, I was listening to an interview with Claudio Naranjo - a man who is becoming a big influence in my personal, professional and spiritual lives - and he used an expression from Gregory Bateson: that all our thoughts and reflections come from, with, and through stories. I shared last week’s poem because of its impact on me, the story behind my meeting the poem is why I hold the poem so dear. That therapist encouraged me toward the transpersonal path - and that path became meditation and then Buddhism. If I hadn’t heard the poem, if I hadn’t been so inspired, where would I be now?

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