We’re finally here. 100 reviews of the greatest books I’ve ever read.
We’ve hit a critical shifting point in this blog. While before I was simply rehashing and reviewing things I’ve read in the past, now it’s time to look towards the future. Everything I review here will now be something I’m reading in REAL TIME along my journey. You’ll be able to see exactly what ideas I’m exploring at how these ideas will be useful to you.
Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve gone over since the beginning:
When this blog started out, I was very interested in ideas related to the external results. We covered the mastery process, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the subconscious mind and many other models all in an effort to get you the “things” you want. You learned how to eat healthy, make money, get girls and everything else in order to crush it in life.
From there, we moved into achieving internal results. We made a distinction between external success and fulfillment and how to live a high EMOTIONAL quality of life. There is where questions of meaning, spirituality and philosophy began to play a higher role. We talked a lot about the Self and Enlightenment and even looked at the nature of human knowledge itself.
The fact that my blog progressed in this way is not an accident. On one level, I chose this trajectory because it’s extremely difficult to get someone to care about internal results when their external results are still lacking, even if internal is really what they needed. So I believe in giving people want they want.
But on another level, I chose to write the blog this way because these are simply the ideas that interested me at the time. My life has changed a lot since I started writing. And I want to use this post to update you guys on what is happening in my world so you have a context for my writing.
But first, we have to go back. Back to how everything started.
WHERE I WAS
Before this blog started, I entered a phase where I became very interested in deep, existential questions. I had always been something of a truth-seeker, and no truth seemed more important than the questions I was wrestling with.
It started off with me really questioning “does God exist?” for my first time in my life. I had been raised Catholic and always had doubts, but it wasn’t in till I was around 20 that I really examined this question. I read all sorts of religious and atheistic texts, absorbing both sides as much as I could. I debated with anyone who would indulge me to the point of being obnoxious.
Then, after around a year of this hardcore searching, I was done. Any desire to keep examining the question of God’s existence was gone. I had my answer, which was that there was no reason to believe in God. At this point, I became a very scientifically minded person, assuming that science would be the only way the deep mysteries of the universe would be revealed.
After a few years of this, my perspective began to change again. I read a book called Waking Up by Sam Harris which made me realize that I had dismissed spirituality far too easily. Harris was one of the people who was very influential in my “there is no God” phase, and so I respected his opinion.
I kept looking into spirituality and this strange thing called Enlightenment. The more I learned, the more it made sense to me. I discovered that Enlightenment meant direct “truth-realization” about what reality itself IS, and I had never had been someone who could stand not knowing truth.
Around half a year ago, this desire for truth multiplied in intensity. I went from “interested” to “obsessed”. I even began neglecting my friends and career. Reading and writing for hours and days on end, it seemed like there was no end in sight to my search and questioning. A good number of books on this blog came from this time period
I was on edge. Emotions like frustration, confusion and anger ran high. Something was boiling inside me, and it needed to get out.
Then, without warning, one day it all popped.
I had a series of deep existential realizations which left me floored. Literally. I could not physically move for hours after this happen because any sense of personal will was gone. But there was this immediate sense that this was the end of my seeking. Whatever had been boiling up had boiled over. I was done, and there was a strong sense of satisfaction.
The nature of these realizations are hard to communicate because they seem to transcend language. When I say realization, I don’t mean “read something out of a book” or “had an intellectual understanding”. I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried. But I could taste it. I could feel it living in my skin.
Depression came after. At the time, it felt like I couldn’t bear the truth of my own realizations. This depression, this pain, is without a doubt the worst thing I’d ever experienced. It felt like I was dying and begged for it to stop. My entire world had been flipped upside down in what seemed like a second.
I knew something significant had happen to me, but I didn’t know what. So I didn’t tell anyone about it. I’d never had a serious emotional problem like this in my life, and it seemed too weird that suddenly I would fall into a kind of depression like this. Part of me wondered if I had just gone insane.
My mother saw what had happened to me and asked that I started seeing a therapist (who randomly turned out to be a Buddhist) and slowly I began to piece my everyday life back together. I just wanted to put the whole thing behind me and focus on normal life.
As normalcy returned, I started to get the urge to write again. I always liked writing but now for whatever reason I really had a desire to share. And so this blog was born. I had no idea where it was really going but it felt right to do.
My focus was on external results as I tried to stabilize my life again, and so that’s what I wrote about. Writing about deeper existential questions and internal results was still too painful. Like I said, I just wanted to put it behind me.
Meanwhile, my therapist continued to blow my mind. Not only did he understand my situation, I got the distinct impression that he understood it at a far deeper level than I did, like a person with a PhD in mathematics talking to someone only starting to learn Algebra. I shared with him my realizations and he followed along, even making points I never considered.
Slowly, I became more comfortable blogging about the deeper questions in life. I decided to go on a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat because of the great things I had heard. I wasn’t really sure what I would get out of the trip, but I always follow my instincts.
I had a lot of time to think over the retreat and naturally I began to try and figure out what had happened that made me fall into such a depression. What were these realizations I had? How and why had this happened to me?
As I pieced together the puzzle, the answer seemed to only come out one way: spiritual awakening.
For someone who considers spirituality to mean “never ending bliss”, it might seem strange that I would call this pain and depression a spiritual experience. You might not want to admit that pain isn’t always the “bad guy”. But I would challenge you on those assumptions.
When I got back from the retreat, I shared with my therapist my new theory on what had happened. He confirmed that he had assumed from the beginning that I had a spiritual awakening and simply waited for me to figure it out on my own. Never once did he forcibly push me towards this conclusion, instead waiting for things unfold on their own. He possesses tremendous equanimity, flow and non-attachment and it’s been a pleasure to watch him work. I have tremendous gratitude for ever meeting him.
So what do I mean when I say spiritual awakening or spiritual experience? Well, it can mean different things for different people. If you’ve been following along with my blog, you probably have a clue.
Some people have an experience like this and they became what is considered “enlightened”. However that’s extremely rare. For most people, including myself, an experience like this is only the start. You are not Enlightened, but rather you’ve had a glimpse of something that can’t be unseen. It’s a paradigm shift that will likely take years to fully process and mature.
WHERE AM I NOW
It’s fitting that as I’ve been forced to ask myself “what direction do I want to take this blog?” that I’ve come to this conclusion about the event that started it all. The most natural thing seems to be an increasing in depth exploration of spiritual ideas and the process of awakening as I move through the process myself. I have not lost my desire for knowledge in this area.
However, I will continue posting book reviews on a variety of subjects. Because the truth is that while spirituality has become very important to me, it’s not the only thing. The external world still exists and demands living. My desire to create a tremendous life is not gone, even though it has transformed.
If my entire life though has been a build up to this awakening experience, what comes next? How does the movie unfold? The answer isn’t clear but I light up when think about it. And I know this blog will certainly play an important role in whatever is to come. I love living and this insane ride that we’re all on.
So thank you for following my journey. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with many of you directly and I continue to be in awe of the quality of people who are attracted to this blog. I know these words and these books will transform your life as they have mine. There are no coincidences, and the fact you’re here reading this means you were meant to read it.
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Jed McKenna:
“This is it. Not some other time, not some other place. Right here. Right now. I am standing at the exact center of infinity and I see beauty and perfection and absolute delight everywhere and in every thing. The touch of the slightest breeze, the sight of a single star through cloudswept skies, the howls of coyote pups in the distance, and the sheer glory of it all is enough to tear me to shreds. And all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.”