I never push my way of devotion or any other religious practice on anyone. But I do try to keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities to help. By this I don’t mean I will go up to someone and say “you look like you need my spiritual advice.” But I try to NOT be aloof to people who are in their own way asking for help. I think it goes back to a few years back when my cousin asked me for a good Nhat Thich Hanh book. Not being a Buddhist, I was familiar with his name but not his work. I don’t know if it was one of those “I’m a Hindu, which is not the same thing as a Buddhist, come on!” kind of things or if I was just taken aback at being asked my opinion, but I think my response to the request was a little bit..well aloof. My cousin later died. I don’t harbor guilt but I do know I could have been more helpful. Even if just finding out why she was looking into the subject, and maybe offering information on an author that I did know more about, knowing full well and making it perfectly clear that I am no expert.
Last week a co-worker noted a book I was reading, “The Science of Being and the Art of Living” by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. She asked me if it was good an whether I could recommend any books about how and why to meditate. Though three years removed from my cousin’s death, I immediately recognized this as an opportunity to help. I responded with a resounding yes. I was also pleased that she asked if yoga and meditation were the same thing. I immediately sent her an email explaining that some of the books I may recommend would include a heavy element of specific spirituality, namely Hinduism, but that it was in no way my intention to impose my beliefs upon her. She understood. It was nice that though a Christian, she was interested in taking a look at the Essential Self from a pluralist point of view. Hopefully she will see yoga as a science which is applicable to anyone, its principles universally applicable.
Upon examining my own bookshelf that night, I recognized that I had pretty much no books on how to meditate but rather books that gave the reader things to meditate upon which would of course have them meditating before they really had to worry about how to do it. I never coul bother much myself with books on how to meditate, or guided meditations, as it were. It is entirely experiential and I found that reading about what you should be experiencing and then running along and trying to create that feeling was pointless.
Anyway, I took a copy of “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle to this person. Because two people I know have already told me verbatim that it “changed my life”. Though I don’t know that it did that for me, it was a book of incredible depth yet I followed every word. That is a big deal, trust me. And it is a book that is probably the most universal of any on the subject, lacking the “vocabulary words” associated directly with Hinduism that many of my books contain. And, as I discussed above, it was a book that gives the reader plenty to meditate on. It didn’t tell me to, it just had me doing so automatically.
The rest is up to the person I lent the book to, but of the books I own I thought “A New Earth” was the one that gave my friend the best opportunity to see her life in a new light. Because there are thousands of books out there that tell you how to meditate and defining the meditative experience that don’t open up a single door for the yogi. Again that responsibility rests on the shoulders of the reader in the long run. But Tolle does an incredible job of guiding the reader without telling them what to see or what they should be experiencing.
Incidentally, what are your favorite books on How To Meditate or Why To Meditate?
Aum Hara Sadashivaya
Aum Hari Narayanaya.