natural awareness
relaxed presence, unfabricated, flowing, just as it is

 may all be healthy, happy, at ease in their body, at home in the world


People can lose their lives in libraries.
They ought to be warned.
~ Saul Bellow

read a little, practice a lot
resources for embodied energy

Reading list corresponding to Ken McLeod’s Wake Up To Your Life


Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu. The best written introduction to the mystery. Get the translation by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo; by letting the text speak for itself, they let the mystery arise.

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman. Spontaneous, energetic, joyful, profound, ineffable--mystery.

Relating to Spiritual Teachers: Building a Healthy Relationship by Alexander Berzin. Analyzes the psychological and spiritual dynamics of the student-teacher relationship.



The Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction by Richard Robinson, Willard Johnson, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu. The best single historical survey of Buddhist schools and cultures. 5th edition 2004.

Buddhism: A History, by Noble Ross Reat

Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen. Essential reference work for Theravada, Tibetan, Zen, and Pure Land terms. Shambhala’s Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion adds Hindu and Taoist terms.

Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh. Dramatic version of the Buddha's life.

Buddha Magga-vibhanga Sutta (An Analysis of the Path) and Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion) Theravada summaries of the eightfold path.

Refuge by Thanissaro Bhikkku

Refuge section of Unfettered Mind website by Ken McLeod.



- Aligned, Relaxed, Resilient and The Posture of Meditation. These two books by Will Johnson show why (and how) the body is the first foundation of mindfulness.

The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga) by Buddhaghosa. For a similar but briefer version see Upatissa’s Vimuttimagga.

The Path of Freedom (Vimuttimagga) by Upatissa. Classic meditation manual, briefer than Buddhaghosa’s Visuddimagga.

Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook by Ajahn Brahm.

A Lamp for the Path of Liberation: The Way to Cultivate the Profound Absorption of Tranquil Resting and Clear Insight by Dezhung Rinpoche.

Calm Abiding and Special Insight: Achieving Spiritual Transformation Through Meditation by Gedun Lodro. This is a revised edition of the earlier Walking Through Walls. Gedun Lodro’s approach is similar to Jam-yang-shay-ba’s classic Great Exposition of the Concentrations and Formless Absorptions. See also the teachings in Lati Rinbochay’s Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism.

Shamatha Meditation by Gen Lamrimpa.

Seeking the Heart of Wisdom by Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield.

The Path of Serenity and Insight by Henepola Gunaratana.

The Stages of Meditation (Bhavanakrama) by Kamalashila.

Discrimination of the Middle Way and the Extremes (Madhyantavibhanga) by Maitreya.

Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation by Larry Rosenberg. Instruction on the four foundations of mindfulness in the Anapanasati Sutra.

The Practice of Tranquility and Insight: A Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Meditation by Thrangu Rinpoche. Commentary on the 8th chapter of Jamgon Kongtrul's the Treasury of Knowledge. 2nd edition 1998.

In This Very Life by U Pandita. Review of the Theravada path of insight.

The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind by B. Alan Wallace.Detailed discussion and instruction on the nine stages of shamatha, natural settling, shamatha without an object, the four immeasurables, taking and sending, and lucid dreaming.

Balancing the Mind: A Tibetan Buddhist Approach to Refining Attention



The Hundred Verses of Advice: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on What Matters Most by Padampa Sangye and Dilgo Khyentse. Root text and commentary explore impermanence, karma, ethics, and practice.

Living in the Light of Death: On the Art of Being Truly Alive by Larry Rosenberg.

Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. Classic discussion of the psychology of the fear of death, including the construction of social reality.

Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga) by Buddhaghosa. Classic Theravada meditation manual that ncludes the reflection on death from eight points of view.

The Wheel of Life and Death: A Practical and Spiritual Guide by Philip Kapleau.  

Facing Death and Finding Hope. by Christine Longaker.  

Death is the Mother of Beauty by Ken McLeod. Essay connecting death and creativity.

Living in the Face of Death: The Tibetan Tradition by Glenn H. Mullin. Translates nine Tibetan texts.

Lessons from the Dying by Rodney Smith. Written by a vipassana teacher who worked in hospice.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.

Subjects for Contemplation (Upajjhatthana Sutta). Includes the five Theravada reflections on aging, illness, death, grief, and karma. Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.



The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception: A Commentary on the Three Visions by Deshung Rinpoche. 2nd ed, 2003.

Writings of Kalu Rinpoche by Kalu Rinpoche. Traditional Tibetan description of six realms.

The Wisdom of Imperfection: The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life by Rob Preece. Discussion of the parallels and differences between the Buddhist spiritual path and psychological growth from a Western perspective.



Six realms

Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos. Chogyam Trungpa relates the six realms to the bardos.

Treasury of Precious Qualities: A Commentary on the Root Text of Jigme Lingpa by Longchen Yeshe Dorje (Kangyur Rinpoche). Padmakara Translation Group.

Five elements

Spectrum of Ecstasy: The Five Wisdom Emotions According to Vajrayana Buddhism by Ngakpa Chogyam Khandro Dechen. Discussion of five elements practice. Previously published as Rainbow of Liberated Energy.

The Five Wisdoms Energies: A Buddhist Way of Understanding Personalities, Emotions, and Relationships by Irini Rockwell. The five elements as taught in Shambhala’s Maitri Space Awareness program.

Magic Dance by Thinley Norbu. Poetic description of the five elements.



Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. Perhasp the best single introduction to the brahma-viharas, in deceptively simple language.

Mudita: The Buddha's Teaching on Unselfish Joy: Four Essays by Nyanaponika Thera, Natasha Jackson, C.F. Knight, and L.R. Oates. Buddhist Publication Society, The Wheel Publication No. 170.

The Four Immeasurables: Practices to Open the Heart by Alan Wallace. 3rd edition 2010.

The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology by Lorne Ladner.

The Art and Practice of Compassion and Empathy by Margot Lasher. Quotes and exercises.

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman. Classic poetic expression of kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.

How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment by Uchiyama Roshi. Dogen’s root text Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions for the Zen Cook) with commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi.



Eight Thoughts of Great Individuals by Kalu Rinpoche. Translated by Ken McLeod.

Peacock in the Poison Grove: Two Buddhist Texts on Training the Mind with commentary by Geshe Lhundub Sopa. Translations of and commentaries on two classic Kadampa texts, the Wheel-Weapon and the Poison-Destroying Peacock.

The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva: A Summary of How an Awakening Being Behaves by Tog-me Zong-po, translated by Ken McLeod.

A Passage from Solitude: A Modern Commentary on Tibetan Buddhist Mind Training by Alan Wallace.

Buddhism with an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind-Training by Alan Wallace.



Contemplating Reality by Andy Karr. Practical insight exercises based on the often-obscured philosophical traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Work with these creatively, again and again, over time.

Clarifying the Natural State: A Principal Guidance Manual for Mahamudra by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal.

Lamp of Mahamudra by Tsele Natsok Rangdrol. Pointing out instructions, published in Heart Lamp, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang.

Mahamudra Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance by Wangchuk Dorje the Ninth Karmapa. Pointing out instructions covering preliminaries, shamatha, vipashyana, and enhancements, with commentary by Beru Khyentze Rinpoche. Translated by Alexander Berzon.

 The Heart of Awareness. Vedanta poem of insight and presence, the Ashtavakra Gita, translated by Thomas Byrom.

Piercing the Autumn Sky: A Guide to Discovering the Natural Freedom of Mind by Peter Barth.



Mahamudra root texts

Heart Lamp by Tsele Natsok Rangdrol. Two essential texts: Lamp of Mahamudra  and The Heart of the Matter translated by Erik Pema Kunsang.

Cultivating the Empty Field by Hongzhi Zhenjue. A 12th century ancestor of Dogen gives sparkling descriptions of presence, where stability and clarity are integrated and phenomena are unrestricted. Translated by Taigen Daniel Leighton and Yi Wu.

Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu is uncompromising. For humane and humorous stories of the implications of Lao Tzu’s insights, read Chuang Tzu.

Masters of Mahamudra: Songs and Histories of the Eighty-Four Buddhist Siddhas. Adaptation and commentary by Keith Dowman. A shorter version, with paintings by Robert Beer, was published as Masters of Enchantment: The Lives and Legends of the Mahasiddhas.

Natural Perfection: Lonchenpa's Radical Dzogchen. Verses from Longchenpa’s Treasury of Natural Perfection (Gnas lugs mdzod), translated by Keith Dowman. Published earlier as Old Man Basking in the Sun.

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman. The 19th century American poet’s spontaneous celebration of presence and compassion.