I’ve always loved summer reading lists. In school, I think they appealed to me because I had more time to absorb the books, and read at my own pace. The luxury of reading outdoors, sprawled over a blanket on the grass, propped against the cool bark of a tree, or reclined on a chaise at the town pool, more than compensated for the imposition of how to use my time. Looking back, I can see that those books affected me, too–the slower, more savored reading time gave each summer a particular tone, according to what I had picked up.
This past June, I enrolled in yoga teacher training. The course begins mid-September, and the program includes two prerequisite readings–A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose and Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study & Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. While I certainly have less time to sink my teeth into books than I did as a teenager on a break from school, I have greatly enjoyed returning to the practice of a summer reading list, so much so that I’ve included a few other books on my nightstand and in my Audible queue.
In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle details his vision for a “transformation of consciousness” that develops meaning through compassion and transcendence through the rejection of small-minded value systems. He highlights through many historical and spiritual examples that the foundation of global change is personal growth–an uplifting and powerful reminder to remember the significance of our own actions. I also recently read Better than Before, a fascinating and hilarious look at the science of our everyday habits, from happiness expert Gretchen Rubin. One of her Secrets of Adulthood, as explained in the book, is the maxim, “We can’t make people change, but when we change, others change.” For me, this provided a very grounded perspective on some of Tolle’s work. Changing ourselves is not always linear, nor does it often directly alter the course of others in the way we would like; yet, over time, our increased joy, patience, health, self-awareness, and so on, affects other people–and the butterfly effect of positive change takes hold. Additionally, in the area of personal transformation, I listened to Caroline Myss’ audiobook, Self Esteem: Your Fundamental Power. Since I spend at least 30 minutes in the car each weekday, I love to use audiobooks to create a benefit from this time. Myss’ wisdom on cultivating a robust sense of self hinges on her experiences as a renowned medical intuitive. Her enlightening lecture explains how when we honor ourselves, we are naturally empowered by the energetic field of the divine that flows through all beings, and we gain the ability to listen to our intuition with courage and grace.
Since reading all three books mentioned so far, I have regarded my beliefs and habits much more curiously–questioning, with as much objectivity as I can muster: How does this action/thought serve me? How does this action/thought affect others, or my subsequent behavior towards others? Is this action/thought in alignment with my highest principles? How will I feel about this action/thought tomorrow/in one month/in one year/in ten years? The process can be arduous, and I sometimes don’t like the answers I receive, but I am ultimately always grateful to hear the truth, even from myself.
Reading Inside the Yoga Sutras has also been incredibly rewarding, and I’m still working to finish the book at the close of August. I would highly recommend it to any yogi looking to enrich his or her practice. Even just a few pages a night can be very dense, and charge your next physical practice with awareness and meaning. Since the Sutras are a realm of study unto themselves, I plan to write future blog posts dedicated to exploring them, rather than doing them an injustice with an all-too-brief summary here!
Any books that have bolstered your yoga practice? Recommend them in a comment!