Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reading The Self

I am having a lovely quiet morning and noticing the 2 stacks of books I have lying on the very deep window sill of my bedroom. I have often thought it would be fun to write a novel that consisted only of people's shopping lists, to do lists and the stacks of books left lying around the house. It would work in terms of characterization, but I'm not sure how action packed it would be. I suppose the "to do" list for each day could provide the action and movement, the climax, denouement and final resolution? Perhaps the difference between the "to do" list and what actually got stroked off at the end of the day would move it forward?

But I digress, as the mind so willingly loves to play and dart about. Here are my 2 stacks of books, piled near the bed, for reference, as books I hope to pick up again, as books partly read, none of these completely abandoned as yet
One stack contains: "No Time To Loose" by Pema Chodron on the bottom, meant for revisitng. On top of this sits David Sedaris', "Holiday On Ice" lent to me by a friend and partly read while I had the flu, hilarious is all I can say. On top of that is "Pipi Longstockings" by Astrid Lindgren, an old favourite of mine, Pipi is kind of my patron saint, in a strange way and I mean to do a post about the dharma of Pipi. Next up is Thich Nhat Hanh's "Peace Is Every Step", an early Dharma book of mine and well thumbed. I used to read the part about how to eat an orange to my daughter when she was young. I think this book is out because there's quite a buzz on the west coast about his August visit to Vancouver. And topping off the pile is "Light Comes Through" by Dzigar Kontrul Rinpoche, a delicious little book read a while back and there for leafing through when the urge strikes. You can never have too many books by your bed!

Pile number two has Jack Kornfield's "A Wise Heart" , revisited not too long ago as the meditation group I am now sitting with is associated with Spirit Rock, which Kornfield is part of. Next up is "True Perception" by Chogyam Trungpa. It's about art, but while there are some gems in it, I have always found him a hard read, so this one has been read in fits and starts, as my mother would have said. Next up is "All About Colour", by Janice Lindsay, a fascinating book about the history and psychology of colour. I read it at intervals. I love it but it is a bit of a dense read for me. Next up is a very old Dharma book of mine, set out because a friend recently mentioned it as the first Dharma book he read (on my recommendation). It's "Open Heart, Clear Mind by Thubten Chodron. And topping the stack is "Creative Authenticity" by Ian Roberts, read once quite greedily when first received and now waiting for a more contemplative pass through.

What's in your reading stack? On your "to do" list, either stroked off or still waiting? Can we know ourselves or others through these tidbits? Is there a self to know, that ever moving changing creature? Perhaps our lists can tell us about our longings, our aspirations, our inclinations or our state of mind at some point in time, like a little snap shot?


  1. I find people's book stacks wonderfully revealing about who they are, their ambitions, aspirations, dreams, as well as their guilty pleasures. I also have several books on the go. What's currently on the nightstand is "Women who Run with the Wolves", "The Sacred Scriptures", and a book about research and evaluation in the social services that I'm reading for work that I'd rather not have to get to at all.

    I'm thrilled with the list of books you shared above and look forward to looking into seeing which of them might be next on mine!

  2. “No Time to Lose” is also on the top of my ‘books to read when I’ve finished the current one’ pile. I get a little uneasy every time I look at it, as the title says it all. The current book is Robert Aitken’s “The Practice of Perfection”. As I just picked up a copy of his “Original Dwelling Place”, one of them is headed for the pile. Also on the pile are Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” and Katagiri’s “Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time”. I have a feeling that when my copy of James Ford’s “The Book of Mu” arrives, everything else will end up on the pile.

    On my ‘to do’ list are to finish the renovations on Salt Spring (ROTFL!), regularly visit and read the other dharma blogs (hi), and keep my own blog from wasting away from neglect. Which might not be too difficult if I didn’t have a job, a family and a practice to attend to and a compulsion to weave connections in the Twitter net. Thanks for asking. I enjoy your blog!

  3. I have a huge basket full of books waiting for me. I took a look at them yesterday after reading your post, but none of them interests me anymore... So they sit.

    I love your painting and the title of your post. Is this a new picture, or from an earlier collection? The colors are so vibrant and alive. It captures me. And the pose is of one who is "Reading the Self" - that inward gaze, listening to that still small voice within. The best read in town :)

  4. Spirit - yes, I forgot guilty pleasures. Several weeks ago I was devouring "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo" A friend lent it to me and I thought I would hate it but it ended up being a bit like crack, I couldn't put it down after I got into it!

    David - Your SS{ property! Today marks our first yr as SSI residents. Well come for a visit sometime! You must sit with Eshu. I sat with the Soto grp when I lived in Victoria. Will have to check out some of the volumes on your reading list too. A friend had mentioned the Karen Armstrong one a while back. This is a nice reminder to check it out.

    MeANderi - interesting that your basket no longer interests you. Things are really moving and changing for you, it seems!

    Thanks for the kind comment on the art. This is an old painting, but this is just a small portion of it. Interesting, I chose it on a whim and as you say when it uploaded, it seemed right for the post. Just a tiny instance on working from an inner place.

  5. Actually I sit with Eshin, because I work in Vancouver during the week and commute home to Victoria on the weekends and get over to SSI as often as I can, which isn't nearly often enough. Congrats on a year in Shangri-La!

  6. Oh! the stacks of books . . . I have more than a few unread books sitting around. Most of them in the Buddhist category. A manifestation of hungry, craving mind that ignores wisdom's call to not jump at the next enticing title. The truth is, it can take a very long time before even just one line from a Sutta sinks in.

  7. Marguerite - This brought a smile to my face - "The truth is, it can take a very long time before even just one line from a Sutta sinks in." So true!

  8. oi oi the books, the lists...I love them both so very much.
    I share some of the titles you've listed along with, like the Spirit that moves me, Women Who Run...
    Not too long ago I was asked by a poet friend to guesstimate the number of books that I live with by counting them off in 3' segments...I have something like 37 yards of books...eeks.
    Many art, many dharma, many much beauty.

    Your image with this post is the picture of peace for my eye....thank you '-)

  9. love this Carole...currently stacked next to my bed is: The Force of Kindness, Healing of Soul, Healing of Body, Anam Cara, To Bless the Space Between Us, How To Be Sick, A Happy Marriage (for my book group, haven't started it yet), The Mindful Woman, Siddur Sim Shalom, Meditations With Meister Ekhart, The Heretic's Daughter, Cutting For Stone, When Things Fall Apart...ok that's an interesting assortment.

  10. merci - 37 yds of books, wow. You could build a bunkie out of them! Art, Dharma, and garden books, doesn't get any better.

    Laura- that is an eclectic list! I'm gonna have to google a few of those titles. The Force of Kindness, To Bless the Space Between Us particularly call to me. I've already gathered a Karen Armstrong one from David's list.

  11. Two of the books I'm reading were written by solitary walkers, one "The places in between" by Rory Stewart (walking across Afghanistan in 2002), the other "To a mountain in Tibet" (2011) by Colin Thubron who walked through Nepal into Tibet to circumambulate Mt. Kailas, "the most sacred of the world's mountains -- holy to one fifth of the earth's population." No surprises here: I revel in solitary walks and plan to go to euopre once more this fall, walking along the Camino de Santiago, vowing never to arrive in Compostela.


  12. Oh I'm craving a good book! Reading Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide now and scanning God's Brain on my Kindle. I've promised myself a week of sofa slouching and chai with book once these travels are over in 3 weeks!


  13. Peter - love the sound of these books, especially the one on Nepal and Tibet. Though none were on my window sill, some of my favourite type of reading is first hand travel (especially if the author has a sense of humour) Looking forward to following your walk!

    Genju - I think you do need a week of books & chai on the couch! You are still a blur on the landscape! Wishing you that delicious reward at the end of your travels.

  14. I do think a person's stack of books by their bedside or around the studio says a lot about the person's nature, likes, interests. I have a stack by my bed and it is a mixture of nonfiction and memoirs. My stack in my studio is art related- mixture of books on artists and books on design.. and don't forget that cup of tea!

  15. ZDS, I usually refrain from multiple comments but can't resist... got let out of stir early today (only started at 7AM!). We hit a little bookstore on the island... oh my! Bought five used books.... The neatest ones: An Altar in the World-a geography of faith by Barbara Brown Taylor and Zen & the taming of the bull by Walpola Rahula.

    Genju on the landscape

  16. layers - ah yes, she of impeccable organization, perfect sense that books have their appropriate home. And yes what better than some wonderful tea!

    Genju - I think you must be teleporting! And what island is that?? Good finds. Sounds like an inspired haul of treasures!

  17. We were in Prince Edward County on the Bay of Quinte. I always thought it was an island but apparently not... a teensy strip of land attaches it to the mainland making it a peninsula... so much less romantic given the artists, good food, vinyards, and just plain stunning views.