BOOKS I READ IN 2020

the video version of this post is available on THE DOJO CLUB®'s YouTube.

titles with a * next to them are my favorites and most recommended


RAM DASS, BE HERE NOW (1971)*

i found out about this one through STEVE JOBS’ biography. it was one of the most influential books in his early adult life. i also had a few friends who knew about it and recommended it. the appearance of it intrigued me a lot.


the book is about the importance of spirituality and its ability to keep one grounded.

it’s separated in four parts:


a mini autobiography of RICHARD ALPERT, a HARVARD professor who got turned on to the spiritual world through psilocybin and LSD by his friend and colleague TIMOTHY LEARY. he tells his story of taking a lot of psychedelics for around six years as a desperate attempt to hold on to the high that comes from them and still coming down despite all his efforts. eventually, he ends up going to INDIA, meeting his guru and becoming RAM DASS.


the second part is the core book. it lures you into the spiritual path through its beautiful writing and art style.


the third part details the practical steps that one can take if they choose to start their SADHANA (spiritual work). it talks about all the different parts of YOGA; it includes a few meditations, mantra suggestions, sleeping and eating advice, finding a community to support each other’s spiritual journeys, and so much more.


the fourth part contains a vast selection of book recommendations if you want to learn more about specific aspects of the spiritual journey.


i love this book. it’s what put me onto spirituality. the third part gave me all the info i needed to start the practice. most of the books that i end up reading the rest of the year are because of this one.


i’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in EASTERN philosophy and spirituality. if you wanna explore and practice meditation, mantra, yoga, devotion, etc., i think this book is a good place to start. also if you take psychedelics, the second part of this book is a good one to go through while tripping.


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

“this whole trip i’m talking about is fraught with paradox, the most exquisite paradox: AS SOON AS YOU GIVE IT ALL UP, YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL. how about that one? AS LONG AS YOU WANT POWER, YOU CAN’T HAVE IT. THE MINUTE YOU DON’T WANT POWER YOU’LL HAVE MORE THAN YOU EVER DREAMED OF.”




ECKHART TOLLE, A NEW EARTH: AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE (2008)

found this book at a thrift store (i can almost guarantee that you’ll find at least two copies of it in any VALUE VILLAGE you go to). i knew of THE POWER OF NOW so since this was from the same author, i thought “why not?”


the book is a follow-up of THE POWER OF NOW. ECKHART talks about the importance of being in the present moment and he argues that this ability to be fully mindful is essential to the betterment of the planet and of the human race.


i read it at a time where i really needed to hear the concepts which it explores. it calmed me down in a way and served me this reminder that the only reality in life is the present. it served as a great encouragement to practice mindfulness. it was also nice to hear ECKHART’s ideas on the positive impact one can have on the world just by being fully present in every moment.


i recommend this to anyone who finds themselves too lost in their thinking, especially thinking about the past or the future. a lot of it tends to just be ego-games and this book serves as a good explanation for why those thoughts should be taken more lightly. however, i would recommend ALAN WATTS’ THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY more than this one as they somewhat explore the same concept but WATTS’ is more concise.


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

"the modalities of awakened doing are ACCEPTANCE, ENJOYMENT and ENTHUSIASM. each one represents a certain vibrational frequency of consciousness. you need to be vigilant to make sure that one of them operates whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all—from the most simple task to the most complex. if you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others."




SHUNRYŪ SUZUKI, ZEN MIND, BEGINNER'S MIND: INFORMAL TALKS ON ZEN MEDITATION AND PRACTICE (1970)*

this was another one of the books mentioned in STEVE JOBS’ autobiography as one of the more influential in his life. ZEN also really intrigued me at the time, so i decided to pick up the book and give it a read.


this book serves as a pretty good introduction to SOTO ZEN practice. SUZUKI does a great job at describing not only the practical aspects but also the philosophy of ZEN BUDDHISM. it’s divided into three parts: (1) right practice, (2) right attitude, and (3) right understanding. each part is comprised of numerous chapters. the chapters are very short and precise in the idea being expressed, almost like a manifesto.


i really love this book. it’s definitely one of my favorites that i read this year (and of my favorites ever). i’ve read it about five to six times this year. it’s very light and straightforward. i’ve used it as a reminder to practice mindfulness and live simply. one of the main ideas behind the book is that of BEGINNER’s MIND. this has been the most important thing for me, personally. as kids, BEGINNER’S MIND is something which we fully embody. before we learn words and labels for everything, the world seems like such a vast and unlimited place, we’re constantly curious and we fearlessly try shit. this ethos is something we lose as we grow older and get more “used” to being human. we start to take things and people for granted, we completely limit our experience and get quite arrogant about what we think we know. in reality, everything we experience is completely beyond words and labels, as they never seem to precisely describe things. so you can only imagine what happens when you start to give more weight and value to words and labels over raw experience.


i recommend this to everyone. although it primarily explores concepts from ZEN BUDDHISM which some people may not be into or care about, i believe there is still a lot to learn when it comes to living simply and mindfully, and seeing the unlimited and abundant nature of the world. if you’re into ZEN, BUDDHISM or EASTERN PHILOSOPHY in general, this is definitely a book that you will enjoy reading.


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

“in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”




RAM DASS, THE ONLY DANCE THERE IS: TALKS AT THE MENNINGER FOUNDATION (1970)

after reading BE HERE NOW, i got really got into RAM DASS’ work. i listened to his lectures regularly and eventually wanted to read more of his material. i had looked up his name in the CARLETON library and this is one of the books that came up.


this book is composed of two transcribed talks given by RAM DASS to a group of psychotherapists. the talks were given a year before the release of BE HERE NOW, so a lot of it is RAM DASS describing his introduction to the concepts he learned from his first trip to INDIA. he attempts to create a bridge between the modern system of psychotherapy of the WEST and the ancient YOGA system of the EAST. he details the limitations of western methods and how the eastern practices fix those limitations. he introduces and explains the idea of non-dualism, something mostly foreign to us in the WEST. dualistic thinking is the source of our constantly feeling unfulfilled despite all the methods we try to fix our problems.


this was a very comforting book to read. it gave me a lot of insights into the practical side of YOGA. it was interesting to read about RAM DASS’s experiences in INDIA as a YOGA student and the insanely intense training that he went through. i really enjoyed this book. it felt like i was getting a warm hug at times. RAM DASS was a very great, gentle speaker and it really shows in this book.


i’d recommend it to anyone that is into EASTERN spirituality and philosophy. if you’re into psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, this book explores just this but from a non-dualistic perspective. this is also a cool book to read if you wanna get into the more far-out concepts from YOGA and HINDUISM.


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

“i realize that the only thing you have to offer to another human being, ever, is your own state of being.”




PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI (1946)*

i learned of this book from reading STEVE JOBS’ biography. this book is one he read every year until his death. it is also his parting gift, as he made sure that everyone who attended his funeral would receive a copy of the book. this made me want to find out what about it was so important to him that made him read it so much.


the book is about PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA’s life, from his childhood to his death. it’s about his spiritual journey and the many monks, saints, and gurus he met along the way. there are conversations here with famous spiritual figures of both the EAST and the WEST like Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Luther Burbank, the Catholic stigmatist Therese Neumann, and others. in the process of writing about his life, YOGANANDA creates a great introduction to the science of YOGA. he has often been referred to as the father of YOGA in the WEST, the one who popularized the ancient practice’s principles the most.


this was a very far-out book that challenged mt beliefs what i thought was real. i enjoyed learning about crazy things like the astral and causal realms, and the beings who reside in those realms. being someone who was raised in the WEST, conditioned to only believe in what i can see and in things that are logical and rational, this book really made me second-guess those “rational tendencies”. maybe there is more to the world than we can see. could it be that science is just discovering things about the world that ancient monks have known for thousands of years? this was a fascinating read. i see why JOBS found it so valuable since a big part of the book scientifically explains concepts that have been westernized, like THE LAW OF ATTRACTION. my favorite chapter, THE LAW OF MIRACLES, shows how your ability to materialize things, whether it’s a new body, objects, buildings, whatever it is, depends entirely on how much faith you have in the universe, GOD, yourself (all different words for the same thing).


i’d recommend this to anyone who is into far-out EASTERN thought and philosophy. if you wanna learn more about spirituality down to the other realms and other dimensions beyond this one, this one's for you. i have to warn you though: you have to go into this with a very very open mind because it gets suuuuper far-out. it’s a very empowering experience because you realize how much more power you actually have, and that it’s really up to you whether or not you wanna use it. how much faith do you have in yourself? how much can you surrender to the universe?


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

“you may control a mad elephant;

you may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;

ride the lion and play with the cobra;

by alchemy you may learn your livelihood;

you may wander through the universe incognito;

make vassals of the gods;

be ever youthful;

you may walk in water and live in fire;

but control of the mind is better and more difficult.”




RYUHO OKAWA, THE LAWS OF THE SUN: ONE SOURCE, ONE PLANET, ONE PEOPLE (1987)

i was at the bookstore—in the spirituality section—i saw the cover and thought it was interesting, so i bought it.


it’s not a super memorable book, so i don’t really remember what it’s about. i think it’s just one of those basic books which state that the world needs spirituality more than ever. he also gives a pretty interesting and far-out version of the creation of the universe, describing how events from other dimensions led to the creation of this third one that we humans currently live in. he describes, in detail, twelve dimensions on top of ours and also informs the reader of the purpose of each dimension and the types of beings that reside in them.


i liked reading about the far-out stuff, like the dimensions and the wild beings from each one. i liked the story of the creation of all those dimensions, including ours. i just felt like this information wasn’t too useful for figuring out how to best navigate this third dimension that i’m in now. yeah, it’s cool to learn and entertain the possibility of the existence of 12 other dimensions, but how does it help me be a better human being? i guess his goal was to make the point that there is more to us than we think and that we are more united than we think, but that’s a point that is at the source of any spiritual book. i got quite bored with reading it towards the end cause it felt too vague.


i wouldn’t really recommend this book. if you wanna learn far-out stuff that is actually useful, read AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI. as cool as some of the stuff in this book are, as a whole, it’s nothing crazy.


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

“the essence of love is giving. to love is to share what GOD has given to us with others, rather than just keeping it to ourselves.”




CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA, CUTTING THROUGH SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM (1973)

this is another one of the books that STEVE JOBS had read that piqued my interest.


this book essentially tackles a common obstacle in one’s spiritual journey: SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM. this term refers to when we turn spirituality into self-improvement, which is completely not the point. there isn’t a thing that the ego cannot attach itself to, so when you start to make “progress” in your spiritual practice, the ego will just adapt to it and use it as a means to further reinforce its existence, you just develop a spiritual ego. this is the opposite of the point of spiritual work as the “goal” of it is to let go of ego, not to improve it. TRUNGPA mentions this in the book and warns the reader of the potential pitfalls that they may face in their spiritual journey.


i read this book at a time when i was starting to make spirituality a part of my personality. i was turning it into a “thing”, and my ego was enjoying the benefits that came with the practice. i was deep in spiritual materialism and lucky for me, i noticed it pretty quickly and picked up this book as a means to learn how to prevent it from happening. the first half of the book was very useful in making me realize that spiritual practice is nothing more than getting rid of all the bullshit that we add on top of our vanilla experience. it’s not about improving in a literal sense, it’s not about adding more stuff onto our experience and personality, it’s about freeing ourselves from the illusions that we’ve fallen victim to, and that really is nothing special. the “benefits” of spiritual practice are nothing special. there is NOTHING to gain from spiritual practice. the book got pretty boring towards the end, cause what i looking for from it was in the first half and the second talks about far-out stuff that i didn’t care to learn about.


i’d recommend this to anyone getting into spirituality. it’s important to remember as you’re picking up spiritual practices, that spirituality is nothing special. everyone is going through a spiritual journey, and awakening is just becoming aware of this fact. a lot of times, when people awaken, they start to look down on those who aren’t. they start to brand themselves as spiritual people and make the whole thing a thing, but it really isn’t that special. the book describes why this may be the biggest obstacle in your spiritual journey and how to avoid it from happening. if you wanna save your money, i recommend listening to ALAN WATTS’ lecture titled MIND OVER MIND, in which he addresses the paradox of self-improvement.


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

“as long as a person is involved with warfare, trying to defend or attack, then his action is not sacred; it is mundane, dualistic, a battlefield situation.”




ALAN WATTS, THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY: A MESSAGE FOR AN AGE OF ANXIETY (1951)*

i first learned about this from THE ATARAXY PODCAST #025. eventually, i decided to get it after listening to a lot of ALAN WATTS’ lectures and wanting to read his books.


this book explores anxiety and the reason why it is such a potent part of the modern human experience. our rational mind has been incredibly beneficial, but it also has the huge downside of being aware of the past and especially the unlimited unknown that is the future. our constant striving for security causes us to hold on to things, whether it’s physical things or philosophical ideas. we’re constantly looking for something to make us feel safe in the face of the unknown. ALAN WATTS points out in this book, that this insecurity and anxiety will continue to exist as long as you continue to fight it by striving for security. he argues that being entirely mindful of the present moment — the only thing that actually exists — without interpreting, is the key to relieving you of your anxiety and feelings of insecurity.

the paradox goes like this: accepting that you have no control and giving up trying to get it is the greatest and most straight-forward way to gain all of the control.

it’s hilarious.


i absolutely love this book. i can see it being something that i re-read quite often, as it serves as a great reminder of the importance of being mindful and living fully in the present moment. this book came at a time where there was a lot of dissonance in me, mentally, and it reminded me that this dissonance came from my constant running away from the now. being lost in your thoughts about how things should or could be is a complete waste of time and energy, the source of your suffering. this book very simplistically reminded me of the importance of letting go and riding the wave of life; being fully open to any experience that may come to me, and letting go of the experiences once they’re gone. such a good book. it’s very straight-to-the-point, and ALAN makes sure that every word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter in there is as concise and simple as possible.


i recommend this to everyone. it doesn’t matter if you’re into philosophy or spirituality, this book will be of big help to you. if you already practice mindfulness, this book can serve as a great, gentle reminder when you fall off the practice. these days, everybody “has” anxiety, and niggas is always worried about something, i think it’s important that we remind ourselves to let go of the stories we create in our minds sometimes.


MEMORABLE QUOTES:

“to remain stable is to refrain from trying to separate yourself from a pain because you know that you cannot. running away from fear is fear, fighting pain is pain, trying to be brave is being scared. if the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. the thinker has no other form than his thought. there is no escape.”


“the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. to hold your breath is to lose your breath. a society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”


“if we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.”


*i could quote almost everything from this book, it’s a banger from start to finish.




ANZAN HOSHIN, THE STRAIGHT PATH: ZEN TEACHINGS ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF MINDFULNESS (1994)

this book is about ZEN practice, the foundations of mindfulness. it’s about the straight path, the path of experiencing our lives as it is right now, in every moment. there are some instructions in there on how to practice ZAZEN (seated meditation) and KINHIN (walking meditation). there is also some commentary of the SATIPATTHANA SUTTA, and DOGEN zenji’s FUKANZAZENGI.


i enjoyed this book quite a lot. it’s very light, short and sweet. i learned a lot about the pillars of mindfulness and the importance of the practice of mindfulness. i don’t have much else to say about it, it’s a very simple and straight-forward book. it’s pretty funny too at times. i also liked the Q&A sections.


i’d recommend it to any who is into ZEN BUDDHISM and ZEN PRACTICE. this book breaks down mindfulness in a way that allows you to understand it and to start practicing right now. by the way, this book is by the roshi of the WHITE WIND ZEN CENTRE based in OTTAWA!


“when we sit, we pay attention to our experience of the moment. we want to use everything that we can to help us to do that and we also want to make things very simple.”


“we could say that Zen is a path, but what path could there be? Ttere is just this moment, just this breathing in and breathing out. we never really go anywhere because we are always right here.”




DAVID GOGGINS, CAN’T HURT ME: MASTER YOUR MIND AND DEFY THE ODDS (2018)

i came across DAVID GOGGINS through one of his interviews on YOUTUBE, and he completely captivated me. i felt like he was calling me out for the bitch that i am, and i really needed to be called out at that time. i ended up listening to every single one of his interviews and eventually bought the audiobook.


the book is GOGGINS’ very dark autobiography. he tells the story of growing up with an abusive father who would constantly beat his mom, brother, and himself every chance he got, and the toll this took on him physically and mentally. he talks about carrying this trauma with him despite successfully escaping with his mom from the grip of his dad. from there, he describes in detail, his transformation from being a person with the lowest self-esteem possible, someone who started life at rock-bottom, to the person he is today, a former NAVY SEAL, a marathon runner, a complete savage who no longer runs away from life, but faces it fully.


this book came to me at a time when i really needed to hear its message. i’ve struggled with self-esteem for a long time in my life and hadn't really taken the actual steps to overcome it. i’ve made it a habit to seek comfort and instant-gratification. this book made me look at myself and see how much of a bitch that i am, but more importantly, it made me realize that suffocating and destroying that inner-bitch is entirely in my control. it’s about whether or not i’m willing to put myself in uncomfortable situations and overcome them. it’s about trying to do things that seem impossible to me from where i’m standing. although he did this for himself through extreme physical exercise and challenges, his message isn’t for you to try to accomplish the same feats as him. he encouraged me to find out how to push myself beyond my limitations in my own way. he made me understand that through work ethic, i can take control of myself and my mind, and earn my own respect by constantly doing what i think is impossible. i love this book and i love GOGGINS. i’m forever in debt to him since he got me off my ass at a time when i was getting way too comfortable with mediocrity.


i would recommend it to anyone who feels like life is beating their ass. this book and GOGGINS, in general, is not about physical exercise and breaking pull-up and marathon records. reading it myself, the message i got from it is that life is difficult and it will throw you in the most uncomfortable and terrible situations whether you want it to or not (you learn this by the time you're a teenager). if you don’t want to constantly feel powerless in the face of life, then it is your responsibility to put yourself in uncomfortable situations (smartly and strategically, don’t do anything too dangerous) and overcome them so that you have the necessary mental strength required to handle the bullshit that life will throw at you. it’s about mental strength. so if you feel like you aren’t mentally strong enough to handle life, this book may be of help to you.


MEMORABLE QUOTE:

“our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. there’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. if you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.”


“it won’t always go your way, so you can’t get trapped in this idea that just because you’ve imagined a possibility for yourself that you somehow deserve it. your entitled mind is dead weight. cut it loose. don’t focus on what you think you deserve. take aim on what you are willing to earn!”