Books I read recently that I thoroughly enjoyed:
Crooked Cucumber by David Chadwick
A biography of Shunryu Suzuki, the author of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and the teacher that through that book led me to my core spiritual practice of meditation. Really sweet, funny, and accessible narrative shedding light on the perceptions of Soto Zen Buddhism in Japan and in America. Like all good books about spiritual figures, it doesn't hold back from revealing the figure's basic humanity and short-comings as well their great leadership, charisma, and wisdom.
Stalking Elijah by Rodger Kamenetz
I haven't prayed at all in about 8 or 9 years, but after reading this book I've started to pray during moments of intense feelings of unworthiness, sadness, uncertainty, and confusion. I've also offered a little prayer when I realize that I have made it through a time that seemed impassible and impenetrably difficult. Reading about the spiritual journey of a person that identified as secular and gradually started adopting spiritual practices was really useful to me. Learning, also, about the depth of Jewish mysticism and philosophy and its comparisons to Buddhism was really interesting. I am currently reading The Jew in the Lotus, also by this author. Enjoying it so far.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
When describing this book to a friend, I recommended it on the basis that it was such a good book that while I was reading it I felt impervious to any harm or suffering. The world was right because I knew I could go back to this book whenever I wanted to. The book follows the main character, a pharmaceutical researcher, on a journey to the Amazon to track down her old medical school teacher and find out about the death of her co-worker. The book is very fast-paced and includes lots of wonderful descriptions of the incredibly harsh beauty of the Amazon.
Zen Confidential: Confessions of a Wayward Monk by Shozan Jack Haubner
Honest, gritty, raw, and gross details of the life of a person that decides to practice Zen full-time and with 100% commitment. My biggest take-away from this book: it is easy for me to confuse a spiritual practice with a journey to become a "good person". To fit into some kind of vision of perfection imparted to me by all of the media I've consumed over the course of my life. Here
is a little essay introducing the book.
Currently unwinding? / re-negotiating? / discussing? a sweet but challenging relationship. It's been painful but also a good learning experience for me. I've felt proud so far of my part in this process. I trust that we will move forward as friends and musical collaborators no matter the outcome.
My current gym routine has been really rewarding. I've had more energy available to me and have needed less sleep than I usually do. My mood has been on the whole more elevated than usual. I try to do fit the following into my week as I can:
- Two 20 minute sessions on the stairclimber with a 10 minute walking treadmill warmup beforehand
- A plank held for 40 slow breaths
- Side planks held for 10 slow breaths
- Turkish get-ups
- 20 kettlebell high-pulls per side
- Two to three rounds of kettlebell clean and presses. Each round consists of four sets of 1, 2, 3, and 4 repettions each per side.
- Two rounds of pull-ups, palms out
- Five sets of incline bench dumbell presses, starting at 30 pounds and incrementing by five pounds each time to finish at 50 pounds
- Three sets of kettlebell goblet squats
- Unweighted leg lifts
- Foam roller and a 10 minute walking cooldown afterward
I think that the intense cardio of the stairclimber has been the most beneficial part of this routine. I do find dumbell presses to give me a certain sense of power, control, and emotional release, though.
I'm experimenting with meditating 40 minutes in the morning. Sitting a one-day retreat this weekend and reading Crooked Cucumber inspired me to increase my sitting time. So far I haven't felt much internal resistance to this increased time. When I tried to move from 25 to 30 minutes I would feel quite a bit of bodily tension during the final five minutes.