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In a culture where external stimuli are constantly clawing for one’s attention, blocking out and settling in is an act of rebellion. Staying grounded and less reactive in the face of difficult thoughts and emotions? That’s the stuff. And meditation is a way to learn how to do that.
Don’t know where to start? Meditation books can help, both for those new to mindfulness or those looking to go deeper into their practice. It may seem counterintuitive — the goal during meditation is to quiet the mind — but that doesn’t mean one can’t explore the practice intellectually. Curiosity can fuel consistency, which is key in a fresh ritual like this one.
What the Experts Say
SPY had a chat with both Dr. Jenelle Kim, a doctor of Chinese medicine and a mindfulness and meditation teacher, and Ellie Smith, an expert yoga instructor, to find out what to look for when it comes to the best meditation books.
An important starting point is finding one that fits the right level of experience. “Choose a book that is clear and easy to understand,” says Kim, “with explanations and instructions that are accessible for beginners as well as more experienced meditators.”
Kim recommends doing a little research on authors before choosing a new meditation book, since there are many different backgrounds that lead to this type of work. Finding an author and teacher whose values match up with the reader’s is essential — whether that’s a specific religious perspective or a particular cultural or philosophical tradition — since meditation and spiritual work can be challenging.
Frequently Asked Questions About Meditation Books
When should you read a meditation book?
Whenever you’re actually going to focus. There’s no point trying to fit it in between meetings at work, for example, but the toilet offers a quiet space for all things.
When shouldn’t you read a meditation book?
While meditating. Seriously, that’s not the kind of dual-wielding anyone should do.
How many meditation books should you own?
The simple answer is as many as you want to own. Knowledge about meditation can be gleaned from a lot of different sources, so having more books means more chances for it to click properly. However, avoid reading yourself to death on the subject. The best way to learn is to try it, stay consistent, perhaps get a little frustrated, and keep it up.
Stress Less, Accomplish More – Emily Fletcher
Why We Chose It: It comes expert-recommended.
Made For: People with debilitating stress.
This book makes meditation practical and applicable for the modern professional who may just see the practice as a wellness hack. It frames it as a method for performing better, rather than just calming down, which inherently makes it more accessible.
Smith also recommended this book personally. “This book was pivotal in my meditation practice as it removed all the noise around exactly how to meditate,” she says. “It is incredibly informative, easily actionable, and best of all, suitable for any level.”
Practical Meditation For Beginners – Benjamin W. Decker
Why We Chose It: Beginners are the most likely to read up on meditation, and this book is perfect for them.
Made For: It’s in the title.
Practical Meditation for Beginners is an immensely straightforward exploration of meditation — why people might want to pursue it and ways to get used to it. It goes into detail on ten different approaches to the practice, meaning it’ll likely have at least one that’ll mesh well with everyone. It’s a perfect first step for those who don’t like to jump into anything without reading up on it first.
Zen Meditation For Beginners – Bonnie Myotai Treace
Why We Chose It: Meditation is an inherently spiritual affair, and this book dives straight into the heart of what zen truly means and how it can be applied to a modern, contemporary life.
Made For: Beginners who are interested in the spiritual side of meditation in addition to the discipline of sitting cross-legged.
Finding a state of zen — essentially a calm acceptance of the tribulations of the external world — and working towards enlightenment have historically been the goals of meditation. This book not only explores meditation’s origins but makes them accessible to understand and implement through easy-to-follow rituals.
The Daily Meditation Book of Healing – Worthy Stokes
Why We Chose It: This book is a good one for those looking to overcome trauma and anxiety or who are seeking out meditation as a way of healing.
Made For: Those who are exploring meditation as a method for recovering or healing.
Meditation can be incredibly powerful as a tool, alongside therapy, for overcoming unpleasant life experiences. That’s the central focus of this book. Stokes, the author, has overcome a lot of unpleasantness in their own life, and she shares how she’s used meditation as a means for healing in the hopes of helping others do the same.
Moments of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Hanh
Why We Chose It: This book is full of inspiration and quotes to draw from before meditation.
Made For: More experienced practitioners who need a burst of inspiration for their practice.
This book serves as equal parts inspiration, thanks to quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned zen and mindfulness teacher and author, and actionable self-help with a journal. It has a mix of things to meditate upon, as well as journal pages to help the user look inward with more efficiency.
How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends With Your Mind – Pema Chödrön
Why We Chose It: This is another excellent book for beginners looking to build their mindfulness and meditation practice from the ground up.
Made For: Beginners who want a bit more help, both mentally and physically, as it discusses posture and mindfulness.
Pema Chödrön, a Tibetan-Buddhist ordained nun and current teacher at the Gampo Abbey Buddhist temple in Canada, takes some of the most transcendental topics in meditation and makes them much less intimidating. This book goes into great detail on how to meditate and manage emotions, as well as providing specifics on which postures can help stimulate a worthwhile practice.
Mindfulness in Plain English – Bhante Henepola Guaratana
Why We Chose It: This book has remained a tried and true classic in the meditation space for nearly 30 years.
Made For: People who want to study a classic guide to meditation.
This book, which was published nearly 30 years ago, is a classic read for budding meditation teachers across the country because of its straightforward examination of meditation combined with instruction that emphasizes dealing with distraction — a common challenge for new and seasoned meditators alike.
Reading is how many folks first learn to digest new information, and meditation doesn’t have to be any different. It can be learned experientially, but learning about where it comes from and why it can work may instill a deeper sense of purpose that can help with staying consistent.