There is a widespread misunderstanding and intentional defamation of people who fall into the loose knit category of “nightstand spiritual seekers”. I didn’t even know of such a category until the late 1990s. That’s when I discovered that I could be considered, by some, as a “Nightstand Buddhist”.
Those who dismiss us, think of us as so called spiritual seekers who have had terrible experiences with Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. The critics have correctly observed that Nightstand Buddhists have issues with the rituals and dogmas of the Abrahamic Desert theologies of Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths. They fail to note that many of us nightstand spiritual seekers were completely alienated by the lack of open hearted acceptance of us for one reason or another. We were expected to change and conform to a narrow set of mores in order to be accepted into a community. Others of us simply outgrew the mythical trappings and paradigms of their birth religion. There was a gnawing hunger for reality without fairy tales.
In the middle of a particularly boring sermon at my family’s church, at around the age of 15, I vowed to find out the raw, unvarnished truth. I promised not to fall into any self-deception nor cults.
On the way, I picked up the habit of reading books about a very wide variety of spirituality, religions, and philosophies. Studying and putting into trial practice has been my method. One effective way of staying on the path of discovery, has been to keep books near my bedside. The ones that I re-read for inspiration and depth are physically located on my nightstand. The books, themselves, are in and out of storage according to what I need at the time.
After many years of very careful study and comparison, I finally took refuge in the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism. On the side, I practice Dzogchen, which is often called a Tibetan form of Zen. So, I’m not just a casual, drifting seeker, bouncing around from one chic spirituality to the next as the critics might accuse.
That said, I don’t restrict myself to only one type of reading material at night. At the time of this writing I’m reviewing a few favorite books. (I have many favorites.) *The Ecstasy Of Enlightenment* with commentary by Thomas Cleary is a good study of a particularly non-sectarian style of Tantra. The book by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is a good distillation of the heart of Shambhala wisdom. These are intense re-reads so they’ll be away from the bedside for quite awhile. They’ve graduated to being studied again at my regular reading spot outside the bedroom.
The mainstays of bedtime reading are books that contain short passages that can be absorbed or contemplated in just a few minutes. This plan is best for those of us who are physically sleepy and ready for rest when we climb into bed.
The tome by Epictetus, *The Art Of Living* is full of ethical wisdom. Epictetus was an ex-slave who lived during the late period of the Roman Empire. He lifted himself as a freedman to founding a very influential school of Stoic philosophy. His passages are exceedingly pragmatic and highly practical to anyone, anywhere at all.
If I sense that I can stay awake for a few extra minutes, I like to pick up a collection of essays by Jiddu Krishnamurti. His writings cut right to the core of living. There is no B.S. with Krishnamurti. You are compelled to stop deluding yourself. You yearn to strip away myths and preconceived ideas. Oddly enough, this hardcore pragmatism makes for some perceptive dreaming during sleep itself. If you are finally ready to see yourself for who you really are, I highly recommend Krishnamurti’s teachings. Be warned, his words are not for the faint of heart nor for anyone simply wishing for a redefinition of their comfort zone.
This is just a small sample of material a person might have as a “nightstand seeker”. It’s just a tiny peek inside the sustenance I take in just before nodding off to sleep each night. I hope you found some of this post to be of help to you.
The Blue Jay of Happiness finds the greatest happiness in simple, pragmatic action.