How to Hack an Academic Book

People are intimidated and off-put by academic books. This makes sense, because academic books usually are very boring (and even the best academic books out there have sections of really boring material). But scholarly texts are also like diamonds for your brain; they are relatively small and incredibly condensed forms of knowledge and new ways of thinking that are forged over decades by the pressure and heat of academic life.  If you are a person who enjoys learning new things and increasing your knowledge, it’s useful to know how to read an academic book efficiently, because, otherwise, you will probably get bogged down in all of the boring stuff. In this post I will show you how to hack academic books. By “hack,” I mean “an inelegant solution,” or “a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently.” These are techniques I learned and perfected in graduate school, where you are required to read and write a paper on at least one (if not two, three, four …


Hi lovely readers,
I finally launched my Patreon account! For patrons, I'll be posting "friend" links to medium posts, meaning you will be able to access my articles through the paywall without paying. I'll also be posting book excerpts and hopefully other fun things. Patreon is a way of supporting artists you like. In the olden days, artists would have "patrons," but now writers are expected to write for free. It's not sustainable. I expend a lot of emotional and actual labor in my writing, so if you enjoy what you read, please consider becoming a patron of mine!

Some more context on how we don't think artists are worth paying:

Joyful Renunciation

I was confused for a long time about renunciation. This is not entirely my fault. In the Buddhist monasteries where I ordained and practiced, renunciation was a physical, ritual, communal, and obligatory action. Every few days we shaved our heads to signify cutting off delusion. We lived as simply as possible and renounced worldly accomplishments by turning away from professions that made a lot of money. In many spiritual traditions throughout the world, internal renunciation is symbolized and catalyzed by physical acts: shaving the head, living in poverty, departing from family. The idea is to change your body in order to change your heart and mind.

The mistake I made along the way was believing that renunciation is supposed to hurt. And I've actually heard this message echoed in dharma centers in the West as well as Zen monasteries in Japan; at the end of retreats at Spirit Rock, for example, I've heard the instruction to donate an amount that "hurts."

But renuncia…

Cogs in the Machine

A few months ago a Buddhist magazine contacted me to ask if I would respond to a reader's question. The reader asked about having constant anxiety, and always feeling like she/he didn't do a good enough job.

When I was attempting to answer this question, I realized I already knew the "correct Buddhist answer," which is something akin to "feel what you're feeling, notice what's going on in your body," etc. etc. But when it comes to self-hatred, I want more help than that. So I took a risk and wrote a more creative response about self-hatred and work. The magazine didn't want to publish my response, so I'm publishing it below.

It's not a perfect response by any means. In fact, I would probably answer the question a different way if someone posed it to me again. I would write about radical self-acceptance. But it's interesting to consider what magazines and publishers consider worth publishing. What is attractive, commercial, sanitary,…

On Apologizing, Guilt, and Shame


Psychedelics and Healing

I wasn't going to write anything about Buddhism and psychedelics because I agree with what Brad Warner and James Ford wrote. I don't believe psychedelics are, or aid in, Buddhist practice.

Then I read the Lion's Roar article. At the end, someone is quoted as saying, "Its purpose is finite. The goal is to let go of that and be able to rely entirely on your own resources." When I read that I felt a wave of anger. It reminded me of being back in the monastery in Japan, when my community convinced me to go off of anti-depressants. They believed anti-depressants were harmful, and that Buddhist practice was about complete self-reliance. I believed them, and went off the medicine. And for a long time, I believed that I shouldn't need anyone or anything. Buddhism was about relying entirely on my own resources. I wrote a chapter in my book championing me own radical, self-reliance.

I regret that now.

Buddhism may or may not be about relying entirely on ones one resou…

So you want to practice in Japan? Part one million