I seem to always have about three books on the go, and a massive queue on the Kindle waiting for the time when I can just read for weeks on end. I generally read non fiction, and for the last four or five years have really been immersing myself in books that keep me connected to my yogic intentions. I read a meme on Facebook recently that what you read 5 years ago is what you are going to be doing now, and in my experience, that's pretty true.
About 5 years ago I started reading the Ramayana and Mahabharata to help me with the underpinnings of my novel Dogs of India. I was interested in Hinduism and the Sanskrit epics, but these books totally captured me - the drama, the narrative and the underlying themes that were written forever ago, but are so relevant today.
From there I went to the Bhagavad Gita, which is a subset of the Mahabharata, and started reading commentaries by many authors on its text. Most people are familiar with the As It Is version by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the ISKCON movement, which is a totally in depth comprehensive Sanskrit to English version. I also really love the Mahatma Gandhi commentary, and two others, one by HD Goswami, and another by Eknath Eswaran. There is something 'lived in' about these writers that contextualise the Gita in the lived experience that makes it so accessible. In that vein is the beautiful journey through the Gita by American writer, teacher and spiritual leader Ram Dass, called Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita, beautiful as a book and also as an audiobook.
Ram Dass has featured heavily on my reading list in the past couple of years, as we share Neem Karoli Baba as a guru (Ram Dass as the original author of Be Here Now introduced the west to NKB or Maharaji and was the link to many people meeting our teacher) Many of the contemporary spiritual (and business) movements key figures met Maharajji in India in the late 60's early 70's through Ram Dass including kirtaneer Krishna Das, Buddhist writer and speaker Sharon Saltzberg, psychologist and writer Daniel Goleman (who wrote Emotional Intelligence) and Steve Jobs, Apple Founder. So unsurprisingly i've also read a lot of texts about Maharajji by his original devotees, both Indian and Western, and gone down some lovely literary rabbit holes following the writings of their influences, including some beautiful texts about Buddhist monks Munindra and Dipa Ma who were contemporaries of Maharajji and also teachers of many of his devotees.
Throw into the mix a handful of texts on yoga, the yoga sutras and some of the luminaries of yoga like BKS Iyengar, and I realised that somewhere along the line i've been filling my brain almost exclusively with these style of books for five years. (There is a peppering of books on startups and digital strategy, which keep my bhakti business brain keen.) Add to that a musical diet of only kirtan music and mantra chanting, I can attest to the subtle impact that this kind of mono topical focus has had on who I am, and where my interests lie in all aspects of my life today.
That level of intense and sustained neural programming means that I tend to construct my own lived experience in the framework of the spiritual. My guru has a very simple approach to divinity - feed everyone, love everyone, serve everyone and remember God. In his teachings it wasn't any more complicated than this, life was simply about service as bhakti yogis and that was the main game, and everything else was either advancing that practice as part of your bhakti, or it would eventually drift away as it didn't serve you.
This year my immersion experience in the ashram accelerated my own yogic practice off the charts. Again, not necessarily intended, but the absolute result of spending so many days living as a yogi and keeping, as MC Yogi would say, my mind on the mantra and the mantra on my mind has further shifted my intention and my purpose in life.
What are you reading? And what does your five year plan look like? Let me know in the comments.
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, do-er, talker, eater, chef, explorer, yogi, kirtaneer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, advised hundreds of start-ups on how to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages. She is currently the Strategic Marketing Lead for Global Edtech Startup Prosper Education. Her new book, The Good Hustle, is coming out in February 2018