Doing the Hard Things: Top 10 Book Titles About Meditation

Lodro Rinzler
5 min readMay 28, 2024


This piece originally appeared on Lodro’s Substack: The Laundry

Every few years I’m asked to recommend my top however-many books on meditation, meaning books that give you specific meditation instruction. However, what I’ve always wanted to write is the top ten book titles that are about meditation, meaning what the experience of meditating is like.

Without further ado, here are the top ten (fictional) titles for your meditation experience, in no particular order:

1. Is Everyone Mad at Me?

Yes! Likely, at least, right? I mean, they haven’t texted you back in two days so it’s clear that they are mad at you about something you did, even if you don’t know what it could be. Better to focus your attention on what horrible thing you might have done than imagine that they might just have a lot going on in their life and…oops they just texted you they had a family emergency…okay onto the next thing.

2. Why Did I Say That Thing?

I can’t believe I said that thing. We were at dinner and everyone was having a great time then I brought up that thing and there was (I think) an awkward pause and in that awkward pause it was clear everyone was re-evaluating their friendship with me and I should probably apologize because they are thinking about what I said just as much as I am, right?

3. Sex!

Sex I had in the past! Hypothetical sex I may have in the future! Sex! Sex!!!

4. The Breath

Oh yeah. The breath. That’s what I have been meaning to focus on. Okay. Back to the breath then.

5. I Will Live in a Cardboard Box

I did something wrong at work and everyone knows it and it’s a much bigger deal than I initially thought and I’m sure my boss is going to want to talk to me about it and then I’ll get a bad evaluation and then I’ll get fired and then in this economy no one will hire me and then I will live in a cardboard box down by the river.

6. This Isn’t Working

Meditation: not for me it turns out. I should be experiencing peace in its many forms yet all I seem to be doing is thinking about all of the above. It’s not that meditation is hard, right? It must be something wrong with me that it just doesn’t work. This is a good reason for me to stop doing it instead of considering that, in fact, learning any new skill takes time and it’s a while before noticeable effects turn up.

7. The Real Thing I Should Be Doing

Here is my checklist of things I will do the moment this damn timer goes off: laundry, vacuum the rug, send that email, text my friend, figure out dinner plans, vacuum the rug. Did I say that one already? Let me organize this list by order of priority.

8. Actually I’M Angry At THEM

You know what? It’s shitty what they did and here’s how that person let me down. The next time I see them I’m going to give them the cold shoulder. No. I’m going to tell them that they are a jerk. No! I’m going to tell everyone else that they are a jerk.

9. The Breath, Revisited

Wait a minute. Let me come back to the breath just for a moment here. Huh. This is actually sort of nice. There’s some…space. I can relax, I guess? Yeah. I’ll just try and relax for a moment.

10. One More Thing

Oh shoot. Did I leave the oven on?

I offer this list for anyone who might feel like actually, meditation is just too hard, with the good news caveat: it’s hard on everyone.

Sometimes meditation can feel like 95% thoughts and 5% being with the breath. Over time, however, that ratio adjusts: we’re 90% lost in thought while on the cushion and 10% fully present, then 85/15 and so on.

When I joined a CrossFit gym five years ago I noticed a slogan they frequently used: “We do hard things.”

“Yikes,” I thought, “No thank you. There are enough hard things in my life.”

And yet, because I found a welcoming environment and good training, I leaned into the hard things. I sweated bullets and was exhausted at dinner. I routinely woke up sore for weeks after hard workouts. But the hard things became less hard over time. These days, I relish the hard things we do there as I know I’m progressing in a positive direction.

The same goes for meditation. In my experience, developing a daily meditation practice was a long road. Granted, I was in my teens and naturally a bit distracted, but it did take me a long time to get consistent with meditation and to realize that just because meditation was hard that didn’t mean I was doing it wrong.

That’s the thing I see over and over again when I work with meditation students who are in the first year(s) of practice: they think that because meditation isn’t always easy, there must be a fault on their end. That’s simply not the case.

The list above? It’s not necessarily my top ten meditation experiences…it’s just about everyone’s.

Similar to the gym, when we find a welcoming environment and good training, meditation feels less hard over time. It’s not that the thoughts we have during meditation go away; it’s that the volume of them naturally gets dialed down so it becomes easier to recognize them and return to the breath.

As mentioned in the list above, when we do find the breath and rest, even for a moment, we realize that this sense of peace is the very thing we desired when we signed up. Now it’s just a process of stabilizing that experience.

So if you are feeling like meditation is hard? You’re right. But all too often the hard things in life — be it a long-term relationship, buying a house or raising a child — are the things that ultimately feel the most rewarding.

The title of our Substack, The Laundry, comes from the old Zen proverb, “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” We typically focus on what comes after the meditation experience, but I hope you’ll permit me breaking form this one time to talk about the ecstasy, which is those seemingly fleeting moments of presence found in meditation.

During those times of rest, we realize our thoughts are not as solid as we may have initially suspected and that this sense of peace is always available to us, if we can put the majority of those books down for a moment.

This piece originally appeared on Lodro’s Substack: The Laundry. For more of his recent writing, check out The Laundry today.

Lodro Rinzler is the award-winning author of 7 books including The Buddha Walks into a Bar and Take Back Your Mind: Buddhist Advice for Anxious Times. He has taught meditation for 20 years in the Buddhist tradition, is the co-founder of MNDFL meditation studios and travels frequently for his books, having spoken across the world at conferences, universities, and businesses as diverse as Google, Harvard University and the White House. Named one of 50 Innovators Shaping the Future of Wellness by SONIMA, Rinzler’s work has been featured in The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, FOX, CBS, and NBC. He lives in upstate New York with his wife Adreanna, daughter Ruby, and a menagerie of small animals.



Lodro Rinzler

Lodro Rinzler is author of “The Buddha Walks into a Bar,” “Love Hurts” and a handful of other fun books on meditation | Co-Founder of MNDFL.