The Reading Session

By Leo Babauta

Let’s spend a minute or two talking about the reading session — what happens when you’ve picked a book to read and it’s time to sit down and actually read.

What’s it like? Well, you’ve probably read a bunch before in your life, so you don’t need my help here … but I thought it might be useful to talk about what I do anyway.

For me, the reading session starts with an intention: I decide it’s time to read, and have an intention of sitting there with my book for a little while with no other distractions. Without this intention, the reading session often doesn’t happen.

This intention can be done in many ways, but the most important thing is that you are making a small commitment to yourself to sit still and read for a bit … and the next most important thing is the feeling you have in your heart when you make this intention. Are you feeling dread? Or do you feel happy about this? Is it an act of dullness or joy?

Once you’ve made the intention, get your book (or Kindle) and close all distractions and go to your reading place. I’m hoping it’s a comfortable place that you’ll enjoy.

For this month’s reading habit, I’ve been using an iPhone app called Read More — basically, it has a timer and you tell it what page you started and stopped at, and it logs your reading for each session. It’s not necessary, but you might look at the clock and note your starting and ending page numbers. Logging your sessions and progress can be a nice thing.

So I start my timer, then I find my place in my book. I try to quickly lose myself in the world of the book. We can be easily distracted by the timer, the things around us, things we need to do, things we’re curious about that aren’t in the book, etc. But if I lose myself in the world of the book, all that fades away.

How do you lose yourself in the book? By putting your mind in the scene, visualizing it, being there. Feel the feeling of the main character. Put yourself in his or her heart.

As I read, I often get distracted. This is a mindfulness practice — getting distracted, noticing that, and then going back to the book and losing yourself there. Again and again.

When you notice the urge to go check something, pause. Don’t follow the urge. Go back to the book.

When you have the urge to stop reading (it will happen), pause. Don’t get up. Go back to reading. Do this a few times before actually getting up. It’s good practice, to learn to sit still for a bit.

Most of all, enjoy the book! Books are amazing things, transporting us to new worlds, inventions of the author’s imagination, putting us in the minds of other humans. That’s magic, and we should be grateful for the chance to sit with this book for a bit.

When I’m done, I log it in the app, and feel good about doing my habit. I suggest you share your progress with your group, or on social media if you’re not in a group, or with your spouse or close friends if you’d prefer.

With each reading session, practice and improve: setting your intention, clearing distractions, losing yourself in the world of the book, noticing your urges but not following them, and loving the experience of doing the habit.