21 lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari (Jonathan Cape books, London)
This is the third of Harari’s trilogy of books about how the human race got here (‘Sapiens’), where we might be heading (‘Homo Deus’), and now this book which suggests what we need, therefore, to think very very carefully about as we shape our future. Harari is a meditator in the Vipassana tradition and, indeed, lesson 21 is meditation but the insights throughout are rich with references to what we become aware of through practice. Reading it gives me new impetus to persevere with both meditation and teaching meditation as he gives such a powerful sense of how important such things are for the future of the human race. Sapiens was also brilliant, though I have not read Homo Deus.
RESOURCES EXPLORING SILENCE
Silence is an intriguing thing in our noisy world. Here are two things I have read recently with different ways of engaging with it.
Silence in the age of noise – Erling Kagge
- This little book is written by a Norwegian explorer who was the first person to travel alone to all three ‘poles’ of the earth: North, South and Everest. And here are 33 reflections on the idea of silence many of which are inspired by his experience of very long periods of outer silence. I found it quietly inspiring.
Quiet 25 – a group journey into silence – Matt Freer & Tina Jeffries
- This booklet contains notes to lead a five week group course exploring silence. Written by key leaders in the Quiet Garden movement it is very practical and very gentle suggesting ways to build silence into your day starting with 5 minutes and building up to 25. Available through the Quiet Garden web-site: https://quietgarden.org/2017/quiet25-course/
MY FAVOURITE BOOK ON MINDFULNESS
There are rather a lot of books on Mindfulness these days, some good and some not so and some not even really about mindfulness. So far my all-time favourite is: Mindfulness – 25 ways to live in the moment through art by Christophe Andre.
Andre is a medical psychiatrist based in Paris who teaches mindfulness and who is also a deeply thoughtful man. This is not a systematic explanation of mindfulness or a course but, as it says on the cover, a series of beautiful reflections of living mindfully using 25 very different pieces of art as his starting point for each reflection. I found it a delight to read. It lifted my spirit and gave me hope each time I turned to it and I found myself thanking my wife for giving it to me for my birthday over and over again.
Mindfulness, of course, is seeking to release us from the kind of over-thinking which is no longer serving us but the irony is that we can so easily get caught up in over-thinking about mindfulness and then get bogged down again. This will always be a danger when anyone starts to write about mindfulness. But this is exactly why I loved this book so much – because it did not fall into this trap. There is a lightness and a sense of poetry throughout. And if you love art (or even if you don’t) it will be just the book to dip into regularly or from time to time to inspire your on-going practice.
Garn Farm, a.k.a. ‘Warmth and Wonder’
- A beautifully converted self-catering barn on the welsh borders
Garn farm is currently one of my favourite places to go for a short or long self-catering break. I have spent time here writing, in semi retreat, on a short weekend break and with groups. The owners, Matt & Polly who live in the farmhouse next door not only have a very simple gift for hospitality but a very strong sense of their connection with the land they own and its context. So when you come here for retreat or holiday everything speaks to you about this connection. Their dream is to create a space where people can come and not only be refreshed through ‘getting away’ but also be inspired through reconnecting with nature. The barn itself sits on the side of a hill with stunning views across the valley. You can take short walks all around their land and pass the various livestock they keep. Or you can take a short drive to any number of beautiful walking spots nearby. Highly recommended – do visit their web-site.