Photo by Alison Anton

I hear it all the time, especially at the end of a class or workshop: how do I keep this going?

Daily practice, finding community, and doing a retreat come to mind. But how about books and movies?

For this list, I’ve skipped the many wonderful “How To” meditation/mindfulness books in favor of something a little more fun. Here, I’m interested less in how to be mindful than in what it looks like to live a life of practice. When we employ present moment awareness; when we cultivate kindness, compassion, and joy; when we turn toward the difficult in our lives with honesty and courage – what happens?

Here are a few gems that I’ve found supportive and enjoyable of late. For me, they are examples of practice in action.

Photo by Tom Hermans

Perfect Days
Film by Wim Wenders (fiction)
This beautiful, quiet film follows Hirayama as he cleans public toilets in Tokyo. He works with concentration bordering on reverence – mindfulness embodied. Well loved by audiences and critics alike, the film explores the rewards of a simple life and the revelations that can come when we really pay attention. In Japanese with subtitles.

The Book of Delights
Essays by Ross Gay
An all time favorite, this book by Ross Gay lives on my nightstand permanently.  An award-winning poet, Gay commits to writing a daily “essayette” about something delightful. The resulting collection is hilarious, scathing, honest, and vulnerable. It illuminates his experience as a Black man in America, a devoted gardener, a loving son, a passionate fan of pop music. Through this daily practice, he develops “a kind of delight radar.” Or maybe it’s more like a muscle, he says. “Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.” We readers reap the benefits.

Photo by Ricardo Tamayo

Dick Johnson Is Dead
Film by Kirsten Johnson (documentary)
“At once a celebration and a lament, simultaneously jubilant and ineffably sad, it’s a film worth sticking around to see.” -Guy Lodge, Variety. Indeed, this movie had me laughing and crying in quick succession, more than any other in recent memory. Documentary filmmaker Kirsten Johnson creates a bittersweet love letter to her father, Dick, who suffers from dementia. Squaring off with the inevitable, she stages possible ways he might die, inviting him to be the main actor. The two share a love of spectacle and black humor, and work together to confront the difficult, heart-opening truth of mortality.

Small Things Like These
Novella by Claire Keegan (fiction)
Set in small town Ireland in 1985, we follow Bill Furlong in the weeks leading up to Christmas. On his route delivering coal, he makes a discovery that forces him to reexamine his own beliefs and actions. It’s a powerful, beautifully written story of quiet heroism. I was moved by the way a simple reckoning – looking inward with that curiosity and discernment we cultivate in our practice – can motivate us to act in small ways that have a meaningful impact. A story of deep compassion and inner strength. And you can read it in an hour or two.

Photo by Seven Shooter

The Five Invitations
Non-fiction by Frank Ostaseski
After witnessing the deaths of three parents in two years, I trained to become a hospice volunteer. I wanted to learn about how to navigate this natural, inevitable, yet largely hidden (in my culture) stage of life. I craved more of the clarity and aliveness that comes from being close to death. In The Five Invitations, Frank Ostaseski shares his lifelong experience working with hospice and Buddhism to guide us toward a better death. His real focus, though, is our lives: knowing what we do about our inevitable deaths, how shall we live? With heart and humor, Ostaseski invites us into aliveness and presence.

What do you watch, read, listen to that inspires and supports your practice? Do you have treasures to share? Wishing you nourishing reading and watching!