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My 3 Most Important Books

There are several books that I would consider to have been life-changing for me. Here are the 3 most powerful books I’ve ever read, and the lessons I learned from them.

3. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – by Deepak Chopra. I read this book in the mid 90’s, when life was pretty intense. It seemed like an easy-going self help book, UNTIL I got to the most shocking thing I’ve read in the last 20 years – a chapter called The Law of Detachment From Results. The very title of the chapter knocked me back in my chair. Detachment from Results? Un-American! We have to be driven to results, right? This chapter came right after The Law of Intention and Desire. When I read the two together, I got it: All your thoughts and actions must be in alignment with what you want to have happen, then when you have done everything you can do, whatever happens, happens. This allows me to be in the present, and greatly reduced my anxiety level. It is hard to do – I don’t say that following this is easy, but it is totally worth it. It is the serenity prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. When you can live this, you can have peace in your life.

2. Man’s Search For Meaning – by Viktor Frankl. Written in 1946, this book is the chronicle of Frankl’s experience in concentration camps. He was incredibly lucky, and went through absolute hell, losing most of his family. Frankl was a Psychiatrist, on par with Freud, and reopened his practice after the war, mostly counseling other victims, who were hard pressed to find meaning in their lives after the horrors of the holocaust. I read this book in the late 70’s, and it taught me forgiveness and tolerance of other’s foibles. Nobody is perfect, and it is a blessing to see everybody as perfect just the way they are. Learning to fully accept people as they are, warts and all, is one of the greatest gifts I have ever gotten. Again, this is hard to do, but I try every day to be better at it. I’ll never be perfect, but who is?

1. Tao Te Ching – by Lao Tzu. The basic philosophy (not religion) of Taoism. This book is about 2500 years old, and is attributed to an author that we don’t even know truly existed. It is 5000 Chinese Characters, 81 chapters, and you can read it in an hour. It is the most important book I’ve ever read. I own many translations, including a beautiful poetic one by Ursula LeGuin, but if you are just starting out, the Stephen Mitchell translation is good, even though scholars say it deviates from the original too much. The Tao teaches balance, the concept of Yin/Yang. You cannot understand beauty without understanding ugliness. You cannot understand good without evil. We can sometimes get as much done by doing no-thing as some-thing. The Tao is exquisitely simple – even simpler than Zen, but very hard to embody. I try to give a pocket copy of this book to everyone I know well, because it has brought so much comfort and meaning to me.

Well, there they are. Who am I to pontificate about these books? Just a seeker who found brilliant lights on the path along the way.