Mindfulness meditation

My brother, who has been practicing mindfulness meditation for a while now, recently shared these links with me. I have been enjoying them a lot:

  1. Jon Kabat-Zinn giving an Introduction to mindfulness meditation at a Google Talk (Video, 2007)
  2. Gil Fronsdal gives a great 6 week intruductory course (6 audio files to stream or download, 2007)
At the same time, I found this very interesting article warning about the 17 Ways Mindfulness Meditation Can Cause You Emotional Harm. It’s interesting to me, because I find so many parallels with just about any spiritual tradition, including The 10 Day (Goenka) Vipassana Retreat I wrote about recently. Luckily, I have found the links posted above to be very balanced, healthy and a helpful way to prevent you from falling into these common pitfalls.

Influences on my spiritual path

Early on during the Vipassana retreat, I was flooded with memories of all the things I had done, people I had learned from, books I had read and hours spent in prayer and meditation. I had pretty much ignored and forgotten this part of myself for many years. After the retreat, I decided to write it down, to make a list. I am posting it here, in more or less chronological order, hoping it will give an idea of “where I’m coming from”.

UPDATE: I have continued to add to this list as time goes by.

Books (that left a lasting impression):

  • Carlos Castaneda
  • Jostein Gaarder: Sophie’s World
  • Alice Miller: The Drama of the Gifted Child
  • Hermann Hesse: Narziss und Goldmund, Siddhartha
  • Varous books on dream interpretations
  • Thorwald Dethlefsen, Rüdiger Dahlke: Krankheit als Weg, Krankheit als Sprache der Seele
  • M. Scott Peck: The Road Less Travelled
  • Dan Millman: Way of the Peaceful Warrior
  • Rudolf Steiner: Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten, Philosophie der Freiheit
  • Sogyal Rinpoche: The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying
  • Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist
  • James Redfield: The Celestine Prophecy
  • C.S.Lewis: various of his Christian non-fiction books
  • G.K.Chesterton: Orthodoxy
  • Charles Williams: The Descent of the Dove
  • Theresa of Avila
  • St John of the Cross
  • Seraphim Rose
  • Various Lives of eastern and western Saints:
    • St Anthony of the desert
    • St Ignatius
    • St Francis Xavier
    • St Seraphim of Sarov
  • Franz Jalics: Lernen wir beten, Contemplative Retreat (I can highly recommend all but the 10th and last step of this meditation method)
  • Max Velmans: Understanding Consciousness
  • Neale Donald Walsh: Conversations with God
  • Rudolf Steiner: Autobiography and  most of his books and lectures on Christian topics
  • Byron Katie’s “work”
  • The Sedona Method
  • Nisargadatta Maharaj: I Am That

Silent Retreats:

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The 10 Day (Goenka) Vipassana Retreat – A Warning

This summer, my girlfriend and I took part in a 10 day silent Vipassana retreat. The flavor taught by S.N. Goenka. We both went there naively upon friends’ recommendations, not knowing much about the course. One friend told us “you’ll feel great afterwards, it will relieve you of all your suffering”. This turned out not to be true for either of us. In order to spare you the discomfort and disappointment we experienced in this retreat, I wrote down in condensed form a couple of thoughts and experiences for you to consider before signing up.

After arrival you are told multiple times that you may not leave in the middle of the course. You are asked to take various vows together with the other students on the first night. You are told you are in a prison and not your own master for the next 10 days. You are asked to follow all of the teachers instructions and add nothing to it. You may not leave the small course grounds, i.e. may not take a walk in the forest, may not get anything from your car, may not exercise … You are asked to stop taking all non prescription medicine and stop any previous spiritual practices during the course. I slept an average of 5h per night (instead of normally 7) and ate about a third as much as normal (no hunger).

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