I’m often asked to recommend books, teachers, centers etc so I have compiled a list of my faves and included them here. My background is in Buddhist meditation so this list has a bias towards that. Not because I think it’s superior in any way- I don’t- but simply because its what I know best. However, all the world traditions have meditative/contemplative traditions that are very rich and worth working with if you feel more inclined to something closer to home. There is lots of information on the internet and I have provided a few links here
If you are interested in mindfulness pure and simple then John Kabat Zinn is the man for you. He pioneered what’s now become known as secular mindfulness (ie it has nothing to do with Buddhism, which is the tradition Kabat Zinn distilled the technique from or any other religion)
He developed the now famous eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses and the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy courses.
These are very well-designed courses that you have to attend once a week for 90 minutes to 2 hours over eight weeks and commit to regular home practice. They are an extremely good introduction to mindfulness. Highly recommended
There are plenty of his talks and guided meditations on YouTube. He also has several very good books out, the most well-known of which is Full Catastrophe Living
His British counterpart Mark Williams has a great book called Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World which includes guided meditations
Pema Chodron: She’s an American lady who ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun many years ago and has a monastery in Canada.
Her teachings are really accessible, very urban and really easy to relate to. My favourite book of hers is the Wisdom of No Escape
Tara Brach. Is an American meditation teacher and psychotherapist. She gives beautiful talks and guided meditations. https://www.tarabrach.com
Joseph Goldstein: Co-founded Spirit Rock and IMS in Massachusetts. His talks are very Buddhist. He has a genius for taking very technical points and making them easy to understand
Mooji. Mooji teaches in the non- dual tradition of Papaji and Ramana Maharshi. He has loads of stuff on Youtube as well as his own website. He is immensely likable and keeps it really simple
Centres and Courses:
There are loads of places around now where you can learn different types of meditation
The ones I know are Buddhist based although you do not have to have any interest in Buddhism to attend their courses, just an interest in meditation
Triratna have centres all over the UK and beyond. They run lots of courses and are big on bringing mindfulness into everyday life so have a variety of classes that involve for instance mindfulness and painting
They also run retreats
Check them out at https://thebuddhistcentre.com/
For those of you who are London Based there is the excellent Shambala center in Clapham. They run regular classes: shambhala.org.uk
Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist center in Bermondsey, Southeast London, is one of my favorite places. It has big meditation halls, regular classes, therapy rooms, a library, bookshop, and a lovely café, http://london.samye.org/
Amaravati Buddhist monastery is run in the Thai forest tradition. Its in a beautiful setting near Berkhampstead. They run retreats taught by lay people as well as the monks and nuns. They have regular classes and talks on Sundays: https: //www.amaravati.org
London Insight organize day and weekend courses with teachers from all over the world but mainly from Gaia House (see below): https://www.londoninsight.org
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses: these are eight-week-long courses with 90 minutes to hours a week teacher-led sessions and a commitment to 45 minutes practice a day. They are very well structured. Highly recommended. If you want to find a teacher in your area then go to https://www.mindfulness-network.org/
If you are serious about meditation there is no substitute for immersing yourself in a silent retreat of at least a couple of days, preferably seven or more days.
Gaia House in Devon is one of the biggest retreat centers in Europe. They run retreats in many traditions. You can also go there on personal retreat or a work retreat. It’s in a beautiful part of Devon and has a very nurturing feel to it: https://gaiahouse.co.uk/
10 day Vipassana courses. Mindfulness is taken from Buddhist Vipassana meditation. The famous Indian teacher Sri S N Goenka has centres all over the world which have a rolling programme of immersive 10 day vipassana retreats. These are not for the faint of heart, but well worth a try if you feel up to it and have the time. There is a large centre near Hereford
For anyone interested in spiritual practices Jack Kornfield’s book A Path with Heart is a must read. It covers pretty much everything you can expect from a practice, whether its mindfulness meditation, Sufi dancing, or Christian contemplation what to look for in a teacher or a community and so on
Kornfield was a Buddhist monk in the 60s and helped set up Spirit rock meditation center in California.
He is extremely knowledgeable about all practices and writes beautifully
The Myth of Freedom by Chogyam Trungpa. Trungpa was a controversial Tibetan lama who helped to set up Samye Dzong meditation centre and monastery in Scotland and the Boulder institute in Colorado USA.
This book is one of the best books on meditation around. Very accessible. Very urban. He taught Pema Chodron
Any of Eckhart Tolle‘s books are strongly recommended, especially The Power of Now. Again he writes in a very clear and accessible way
I Am that. Teachings by Sr Nisargadatta Maharaj who was a fully enlightened Jnani who lived in Mumbai. If you want an insight into the workings of an enlightened mind this is a must read (it’s not a cover to cover kind of book. Just read a few ages at a time)
There are some great interviews online with teachers and people who have had awakenings. Check out Conscious TV, Buddha At The Gas Pump and London Real. They are all free and have some really great content
Philosophers Notes. This is a website set up by Brian Johnson which gives synopses of all the great spiritual classics as well as most of the great self-development books ever written. There have been a lot of imitators but this really is the best. Brian just shines with enthusiasm and integrity. He is very ideologically driven: he just wants the world to be a happier place! Highly recommended
Some Words of Caution:
Sometimes when we first start practicing mindfulness things can seem to get worse rather than better. This is because we have started to shine the bright light of awareness into our minds and are highlighting issues that we may have suppressed or avoided for a long time.
This is quite common and a normal response. With the practice of acceptance and letting go, we come to a better place with these issues and we will start to experience a greater sense of confidence in dealing with the difficulties of life.
However, for this reason, it is always better to practice with a teacher than on your own if possible.
If you are experiencing, or have experienced in the last 12 months, strong mental health issues, e.g. prolonged depression or anxiety, bipolar disorder etc this practice might not be suitable for you right now. It doesn’t mean you should never do it but it would be best to discuss it first with a mental health care professional.
If you are concerned about yourself or anyone else contact your GP or MIND (https://www.mind.org.uk