Book & Product Reviews · Philosophy

The Daily Stoic

 

The Daily Stoic

Overview

The Daily Stoic written by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman provides a quote for each day of the year, by one of the great stoics. Along with each quote is an analysis by the authors, which is useful in gaining a better understanding of what the stoic was trying to convey. The vast majority of the stoic quotes in this book come from Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca. The authors not only cite who the quote came from, but also the source such as a book or letters, and each month has a theme such as awareness, problem solving, or duty. Just to give you an example, I am writing this book review on March 15th and the quote for that day is:

Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.14

Now that’s a quote that Eckhart Tolle would have been proud to have written.

What did I like about this book?

I really enjoy starting my day with a quote from one of the great stoic philosophers and this book provides that dose of wisdom and inspiration to reflect on. I happen to have the hard copy version of the book and it is a very good example of what a book should be, with each day fitting on individual pages, and excellent print quality. I even enjoy the commentary provided by the authors; it is generally spot on and adds to the experience. I don’t have any criticisms regarding this book, so let’s just skip the What I didn’t like about this book section.

Recommendation

How can you not like a book that you can read everyday, year after year, and is so incredibly inspirational. I love this book so much that it inspired me to purchase Marcus Aurelius Meditations, Seneca Letters from a Stoic, and The Complete Works of Epictetus. I highly recommend this book for anyone that has any interest in philosophy or wants to learn more about the stoics. Purchase it today, I mean now, don’t procrastinate, this is likely to be one of those top 10 books you ever read.

Namaste

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The Daily Stoic

Book & Product Reviews · Philosophy

The Lectures (1 Theory and Practice of Zazen) by Philip Kapleau

In my last post I mentioned that I was reading a fascinating book called the Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau.  I mentioned the practice of zazen which is arguably a very prescriptive form of meditation. As my reading has progressed the author is covering lectures given by his master Yasuntani-roshi starting with 1 Theory and Practice of Zazen. It should be noted that even the Buddha Shakyamuni devoted himself exclusively to zazen for six years before attaining enlightenment. Now he was the Buddha so for the rest of us your time may vary, and yes for most of us could be considerably longer. However with that said there is no average time frame and one should not feel any sense of urgency as the journey is as important as the goal.

In this lecture Yasuntani-roshi goes further into some of the details around the practice of zazen; here are a few points made during the lecture:

  • Work on creating a base when sitting full lotus (see picture), half lotus, or quarter lotus sitting positions are preferred. However there are other sitting positions that will provide a good base such as the Burmese posture (see picture below) or traditional Japanese knelling posture (see picture below).
  • Notice the back must be erect and straight, the eyes open, and the hands will typically be held with the right hand underneath the thumbs touching.
  • Yasuntani-roshi recommends sitting no more than 30 – 40 minutes at a time, otherwise the mind will lose its sharpness. Beginners should start with 5 – 10 minutes until they become comfortable. I started out with about 10 minutes, and now can sit for 20 minutes or so after several weeks of gradually adding time. It was not something I did in any systematic fashion, instead it just naturally became easier to sit for longer periods of time as the frequency of sitting increased. The more you sit and meditate the more you look forward to it, and the easier it becomes to sit for longer periods of time.
Burmese sitting position
Burmese sitting position

full lotus

full lotus

 

As zazen is the key element to Zen Buddhism it is very exacting. It is worth studying to make sure you are approaching it correctly.

Japanese sitting position
Japanese sitting position

Namaste!