The 5 Best Mindfulness and Meditation Related Things from This Year

This year brought a lot of changes in my meditation practice as it has shifted from never-miss daily formal sittings, to one of more informal techniques and a constant awareness of awareness. Literally anything can be an exercise in mindfulness once you have a solid foundation, and opportunities for meditation are everywhere.

This isn’t an excuse not to practice. It is a way to incorporate your practice into every moment of your life.

Here are the 5 resources that stood out to me this year.

Sam Harris. I understand that he is not the popular with everyone, but there are very few people who can articulate the principles and practice of a mindful lifestyle better than he can. I am not sure there are many more articulate people anywhere in our popular consciousness if I am honest. Here are a few of his contributions:

His podcast, Waking Up with Sam Harris #4: The Path and the Goal – A Conversation with Joseph Goldstein, and the follow-up #15 – Questions Along the Path. The first two podcasts on his feed are useful as well – Mindfulness Meditation and Looking for the Self, respectively.

His book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar. This and the next are both from the Tibetan tradition of Dzogchen, which I like very much once I strip away a lot of the more elaborate belief structures.

Flight of the Garuda. Remember, there is a lot to strip away here.

These short videos from The School of Life (everything they do is pretty great).

Burke on the Sublime

Wu Wei

The Love of Rocks

The Mind Illuminated. It would be difficult to find a more complete guide to meditation and mindfulness than this book, it feels like a full Masters level class in itself.

Not from this year, but my teacher’s book is always worth mentioning. This was my first real introduction to this world, and is one I still refer back to. A great first step if you want to learn more:

Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation by Sarah McLean.

There are so, so many resources for mindfulness and meditation right now. This is good, but also means there is a lot of garbage.

Sift everything you hear and read, including anything I recommend.

Have a great day.

The 5 Best Documentaries I Watched This Year

This was super easy, except for narrowing it down.

I like documentaries a lot. I think it is really cool to be allowed inside these little pockets of life around the world.

Literally everything is interesting if you will let it be.

Anyway, my 5 documentaries. This year.

Welcome to Leith. This blew me away. I usually watch things in 4-7 sittings, but I watched this the whole way through all at once. And right when I was headed to bed also. White Separatists/Supremacists (real ones, not the way we are calling everyone who disagrees with us that right now) move into a small town with the intent of moving more and more people in to take over legally. The town, understandably, pushes back and it all hits the fan. Super fascinating people involved.

Happy People: A Year in The Taiga. I watch this over and over. Trappers who live in Siberia and what their lives are like. So cool to see how they live and how they survive. Werner Herzog is my favorite filmmaker.

Afghanistan: The Great Game. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to watch this, but I found it to be incredibly absorbing. I left with a tremendous respect for Afghanistan and the lengths its people will go to to be free. A very cool history.

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru. I don’t care what people say about Tony Robbins, I dig the guy. I don’t fall in line with everything he says, but I think his desire to help others live fuller and happier lives is legit. Plus, he helped me feel a lot better about how I talk to people.

Planet Earth: The Complete Collection. We live on an amazing planet, everyone should watch this.

Just like the other two, tell me about the good documentaries you saw this year.

I will go watch them.

The 5 Best Movies I Watched This Year

I had a hard time coming up with 5 movies I watched at all, and an even harder time picking 5 I saw for the first time this year.

I tend to re-watch movies I have already seen rather than risk an hour and a half on something new.

I am really bad about getting halfway through a movie and quitting.

The blog about documentaries. tomorrow will be better.

Most of the time, I  just have television shows I have seen multiple times on in the background so I can work on stuff. Looking through my Netflix history I saw The Office, Parks and Rec, The Inbetweeners, My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, Breaking Bad, Peaky Blinders and It’s Always Sunny (twice this year alone), but very few movies.

So anyway, the best of sparse offerings.

Rams. I got to watch this while I was tube feeding my cat. More on that in a few days. I have no idea why, but this movie was completely engrossing. It may have something to do with being a close depiction of how I would like to live.

Mad Max: Fury Road. Blood and steel and fire and trucks. If that doesn’t grab you, this may not be for you. Also, Tom hardy is my favorite actor.

Creed. I had very low expectations going in, but I ended up loving this one. It’s the standard Rocky movie for sure, but also an effective restart to keep the series going. Barbara cried. A lot.

Dope. So much fun. A good kid gets caught up in drug trouble, all set to a 90’s hip-hop soundtrack. Has a remarkably good heart to it.

World of Tomorrow. Terrifying and beautiful, all in 16 minutes.

What are the best movies you saw this year?

For real give me some ideas.

It should not be this difficult to come up with 5 in 12 months.

The 5 Best Books I Read This Year

I used to really enjoy all the year-end wrap up stuff on TV, but I have gotten to be so far out of the loop over the last few years that I don’t even try anymore.

So, I’ve decided to make my own lists. Today, since they are my favorite thing, books.

I’ve been super fortunate with good books this year, so it was hard for me to narrow it down to 5. Here’s what I got though. I even included links because I am an internet genius now.

1) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. This wasn’t just my favorite book this year, but one of the best books I have ever read. I see it being something I go back to again and again, probably every few years. A fascinating look at the origins of humanity and the forces that drove us to where we are now. I can assume some people will criticize it as being overly Functionalistic, but this does not necessarily compromise the book in my opinion.

2) The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. Encountering Stoicism has been amazing for me, if for nothing else than suddenly giving me a name and established framework for the shift in thinking that changed everything for me about 5 years ago. Beyond this, a philosophy this old has plenty of reading and study to catch up on. I like Holiday’s take on it, it seems to be the most accessible and applicable presentation we currently have.

3) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Despite a descent into some pretty heavy-handed preachiness in the final section, this book is an amazing read, and possibly one of the more ambitious books I’ve ever read. I don’t want to say too much about the plot itself, because discovering it as you go is one of the best parts, and is something that will drive you to read much longer than you should.

4) Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. If you’ve read this blog or looked at my website, this isn’t a surprise. The personal journal of the most powerful man in the world, and someone people regarded as a living God. Surprisingly honest and humble for all that.

5) Hard-Core: A Life of My Own by Harley Flanagan. I actually blogged about this here. Go read that if you want to. Or, just buy this book.

Honorable Mentions

I lied, here are some more.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

On Writing by Stephen King

Blood Meridian by Cormack McCarthy

Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca the Younger

• The Buddha and the Borderline by Kierra Van Gelder

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham

There, I’m done.

Leave a comment and tell me about some books I should read next year.

Other People Part 6

“What if both people in the movie picking situation are adamant about seeing the other’s movie?”

So sometimes other people are nice, and we’ll wrap up with that.

Here’s me being honest: this is probably the hardest part about dealing with other people for me.

I don’t mind difficult people.

I kind of like them.

I struggle allowing other people to do things for me. I don’t really like letting them acquiesce and give me my way by letting me pick the movie or the restaurant or whatever.

Learning to accept kindness from others is one of the central parts of being in relationship, and it is odd that so many of us have a hard time with it.

It may also be odd that there are plenty of people who are perfectly okay with only receiving kindness and rarely returning it, but we’re ending on a positive note.

So, take a moment and think of something nice you’ve done for someone else. Picture the look on their face, maybe the excitement they showed. Remember what that was like for you, how good it felt to offer that to someone else.

This is what you are stealing from other people if you cannot accept kindness or sacrifice from them.

There is a further element in all of this though, one that may be even more important.

There is no way around the fact that doing things for others puts us in the driver’s seat of the relationship, especially if it involves listening when they need us to, or helping with deeper issues and struggles.

There’s a reason counselors cannot be friends with clients immediately after termination of the counseling relationship. Information has been shared in one direction for the duration of their relationship and this creates a problematic dynamic in that one person knows a lot more about the other.

Think about this in terms of not letting others help us with things or not letting them in on what we are struggling with, while listening to their problems and struggles. It creates the same imbalance, only without the formal boundaries and structures that make a therapeutic relationship valuable. It can also create a sort of debt that shifts the way the relationship plays out. Many people do this on purpose.

Ask yourself why you struggle to accept kindness from others.

Is it a pride thing, a power thing or a lack of worthiness maybe? Maybe you just aren’t used to it. Whatever the reason, let the people you love do nice things for you.

Then shut up and pick your movie.