My Major Influences (and a Reading List)

Nothing you will find on this blog is particularly original or innovative.  Everything is just a synthesis of various mentors, influences and teachings.  Today, I’ll present the key influences that have shaped me as a person, as well as my approach to teaching and coaching.

Note: I’ve put a link to any book that is available free online.

1. Theravadan Buddhism / Insight Meditation / Vipassana / Mindfulness

The insights and tools of this tradition underly all my work.  They are extremely powerful for uncovering inner freedom and finding fulfillment right here right now.  Here’s a few of my favorite teachers and some of their key works.  In particular, I couldn’t possibly describe how profoundly my main teacher, Sayadaw U Tejaniya, has shaped my mind.  Instead, I’ll just say the rabbit hole is deep!

2. Robert Augustus Masters

Robert Augustus Masters, a psycho-spiritual therapist and teacher, offers a profound synthesis of Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practice.  He teaches us how to become intimate with the entirety of our being, exploring the shadows and the light, the emotional cognitive & somatic, all the while staying grounded in mindfulness and connecting deeply with others.  I’ve done some personal work with him, and found him to walk the walk.

  • Knowing your Shadow: Becoming Intimate with all that You Are (audio)
  • Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide for Connecting with the Power of your Emotions.  The first fifty pages of this book are some of my favorite reading of all time, by any author.

3. Zen Buddhism

Theravadan Buddhism gives clear and articulate answers, allowing our minds to stop questioning and release into awareness.  Zen is the opposite: it gives poetic and contradictory answers so as to confuse the mind into not trying to figure it out, allowing a release into awareness.  Zen has given me a great counter-point in my practice, and I’ve greatly benefited from its earthy and compassionate pull out of the mind and into this moment.

4. Dr. Andrew Weil

Andrew Weil brilliantly and pragmatically weaves together Eastern and Western medicine and, more generally, approaches to well-being.  His recommendations on how to live a balanced and happy life have had enormous impacts on me.

  • Spontaneous Happiness
  • Healthy Sleep (short audio)
  • Breathing: The Master Key to Self-Healing (short audio)

5. Adyashanti

Adyashanti teaches non-dual spirituality, which is very similar to the Advaita Vedanta approach of Ramana Maharishi, and the teachings of Eckhart Tolle.  It gets to the core of spirituality very simply and directly.  I’ve personally found Adyashanti to be the clearest and simplest explainer of the group.  Any seeker or meditator would benefit a lot from these teachings.

  • Adyashanti — The Way of Liberation
  • Adyashanti — The End of Your World.  Good to listen to after you’ve had some insight.
  • Ramana Maharishi — Collected Works.  Though, all his books essentially say the same few things, so you can likely find plenty of free online resources.
  • Michael A. Singer — The Untethered Soul.  The first few chapters give one of the best explanations of awareness that I’ve ever encountered.

6. Yoga

Yoga was my gateway practice.  I initially started practicing because it was accessible, and I knew it had more to offer than just stretching.  The teachings of Richard Freeman have easily been the most powerful for me, as they combine the depth and integrity of classical yoga with a modern understanding.

  • Richard Freeman — The Mirror of Yoga (book) or The Yoga Matrix (audio)
  • Michael Stone — A Guide to Yoga Philosophy for the Contemporary Practitioner
  • I’d recommend the Radhakrishna translation of the Bhagavad Gita and the Edwin Bryant translation of the Yoga Sutras, though I found it was difficult to truly grasp their significance until I had a teacher to put it all in context.  If you want to dive in, find a study group!

7.  Honorable Mention

All of these are loosely connected to one of the previous categories, and are all worth checking out:

  • Bhante Gunaratana — Mindfulness in Plain English The first chapter offers one of the best answers to “why bother meditating” that I’ve encountered.
  • Bhikkhu Analayo — Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization.  The best book on the most important Buddhist meditation text (intermediate-level read).
  • Byron Katie — Loving What Is.  This brief PDF summarizes the essence of the book.
  • Bhikku Bodhi — In the Buddha’s Words.  The standard intro to the oldest Buddhist Scriptures.
  • Ram Dass – Be Here Now
  • Alan Watts — The Book on the Taboo of Being Who You Are
  • Anthony de Mello — The Way to Love
  • Marshall Rosenberg — Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life
  • Brene Brown — The Power of Vulnerability (audio series)
  • Lao Tzu — Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell Translation)
  • Sharon Salzberg — Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
  • B. Alan Wallace — The Attention Revolution
  • Sam Harris — Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion
  • The Dalai Lama — The Art of Happiness.  This was the first spiritual book I read, and is really great for the total beginner to Eastern spirituality.