Nov 10 2017

The Mindful Manager’s Reading List

This space is devoted to thinking about thinking or, put a little differently, minding the mind.

What is Minding?

I sometimes prefer “minding” to “mindful” because the latter implies a mind that is already full, where “minding” suggests the active cultivation of a mind that is open to new ideas, spacious, and evolving.

Whereas “Do you mind!” is an expression of exasperation, “Do you mind?”, as a question, can be a polite way of asking someone if she thinks about thinking, which can be a loaded question.

Thinking about thinking is only helpful if it helps you to stop thinking—at least the “stuck in your head, listening to your own story” kind of thinking that makes you absent in your own life and in the lives of the people around you instead of present for life.

The helpful kind of thinking also considers how thinking can be thought of more intelligently. I’ve learned from so many people who have learned to think intelligently, to mind the mind, that I wanted to point to some of their ideas in this space, which I will update regularly.

If you’re a present person, a mindfulness devotee, you probably won’t find much new here. But everyone follows a different trail, and a short walk down someone else’s path can increase one’s own awareness of, and appreciation for, what a beautiful walk it can be.

The Mindful Manager’s Reading (Listening) List

The traditions of mindfulness date back thousands of years, and we’re fortunate to live in a time where its practices have become more mainstream, accessible, and practicable with respect to day-to-day living. We certainly need the help.

Especially helpful is the inclusion of mindfulness into Western health, a movement spurred by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979. It was there that I sought out Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction after my wife’s first cancer diagnosis. It changed my life, and I’ve been practicing “practicing” ever since—meditation, yoga, and the like.

But, like many hyper-rationals, I had to convince myself that mindfulness was a real thing, and I have the bookshelf, Kindle and Audible libraries, and course syllabi to prove it. The irony, of course, is that mindful presence has to be experienced to be understood—at a level far below conceptual thought. But there are ways to make yourself more open to becoming and remaining present when life happens.

Here’s my first offering on what a very few of the best have to teach for those wishing to understand the core premises of mindfulness—a foundation you’ll need before trying to apply its principles in already complex work situations. In subsequent posts, I’ll comment on other works, as well as the widening spectrum of on-line courses and resources that are thankfully becoming available.

Coming to Our Senses, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness
Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D.

This is the “If you’re only going to read one book” book. As mentioned, Dr. Kabat-Zinn has done more to mainstream mindfulness practice in the United States, at least, than just about anyone else. He offers a helpful grounding in why most of us are the way we are most of the time—unaware of what’s happening around us, caught up in our own regretful past or fearful future. It discusses the philosophy, practice, and poetry of presence in an easy to consume work of great impact and eloquence.

Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman

If you need a reason to distrust your mind, which helps immeasurably in becoming more mindful, this is an essential book. As Nobel laureate Kahneman writes: “Most impressions and thoughts arise in your conscious experience without your knowing how they got there…As we navigate our lives, we normally allow ourselves to be guided by impressions and feelings, and the confidence we have in our intuitive beliefs and preferences is usually justified. But not always. We are often confident even when we are wrong.” He draws on decades of work in cognitive and social psychology and, while not always an easy read, this book is well worth the effort, which is why it was a New York Times best seller in 2012.

Mindsight, The New Science of Personal Transformation
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

Our ability to know our minds—why and how we think the way we do—provides the necessary context for the presence we seek through mindfulness. A core tenet of mindfulness is that we are not our thoughts. Dr. Siegel brings a clinician’s sensibility, experience, and casework to his discussion of why this is true and how well-being can come from bringing greater attention to how we think. His frameworks and examples are clear and compelling, and the book is a fast and interesting read.

The Power of Now, A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Eckhart Tolle

Don’t be put off by the New Age title. This now old-ish book is very down-to-earth and offers practical advice to start becoming more present immediately. Like many mindful aspirants around the world, I am a big fan of Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher who, for a few decades now, has been talking about the dangers of our analytical minds and the importance of overcoming our “egoic” natures, which make becoming present so challenging.

This book will not suit everyone’s tastes. You have to have experienced some existential stress to fully appreciate many of its precepts. But it’s clearly written and convincingly argued, and you can tuck it into the back of your mind for when the heavy stuff hits. It had a profound impact on me at a time when I was open to its teachings.

The audio version of the book, read by Eckhart, is a fun listen, once you get used to his distinctive voice and direct style of address. He’s written many other excellent books since The Power of Now came out in 1999, but, for me, it is, as yet, the clearest distillation of his wisdom.

The Path of Emancipation
Thich Nhat Hanh

Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, has been hosting mindfulness retreats for decades, writing prolifically on “the present moment” and the ways to fully experience this. This book shares talks from a 21-day mindfulness retreat in the spring of 1998. Pick up this or any of his other works (Peace in Every Step, The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now) and you’ll experience directly the life and wisdom of someone who has lived in the freedom of mindfulness.
Founder: Tami Simon

I included this well-curated and well-run web portal because it publishes more than 500 titles about meditation, health, healing, and psychology. In addition, there is bite-size, free content that provides an easy introduction to the many practices of mindfulness and personal growth.

I’m a great fan of the Great Courses, which offers some introductory instruction on mindfulness, including: Practicing Mindfulness, An Introduction to Meditation, by Mark. W. Muesse, and The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-based Path to Well-Being, by Ronald D. Siegel.

If you think any of these materials are helpful, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you. If you mind any of these materials, then I wouldn’t think of hearing from you. Joking! (Don’t mind me.)