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The Book of Not Knowing: Exploring the True Nature of Self, Mind, and Consciousness Paperback – January 26, 2010

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The Book of Not Knowing: Exploring the True Nature of Self, Mind, and Consciousness + Zen Body-Being: An Enlightened Approach to Physical Skill, Grace, and Power + Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 600 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books (January 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556438575
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556438578
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“True innovators are, by definition, ahead of their time. Therefore, they remain largely unrecognized, except by a few. How many of us wish we had met Bruce Lee, sat in a session with Carl Jung, or walked around Walden Pond with Thoreau? Too late for that, but not too late to take notice of Peter Ralston. His creativity, commitment, and clarity shine through as he articulates higher principles based on direct experience and piercing insight. A caring teacher, he has been to the mountaintop and bathed in the spring of Being. His insights speak to us all.”
—Dan Millman, author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior

“This is one of those rare books that you can read again, and refer back to… 10 out of 10 on our Infinity Scale. This is a must have book for the serious spiritual seeker.”

About the Author

In 1975, Peter Ralston founded Cheng Hsin, a dogma-free approach to using direct experience in body/mind training, and two years later opened The Cheng Hsin School of Internal Martial Arts and Center for Ontological Research in Oakland, California. The first non-Asian ever to win the World Championship full-contact martial arts tournament, Ralston is author of Zen Body-Being, Cheng Hsin: Principles of Effortless Power, and other books.

Customer Reviews

Some things just can't be put to words, but this book is as close as it will ever get!
Its very dense but the deep ideas are able to be digested in nuggets making it a great book to peer into every day.
Mr. Reviewer
When things in your mind are scattered, your experience of reality will equally be scattered.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By VG on April 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
I truly don't know where to start with this. I've never read anything like it. Take that statement for what it's worth. I'm a college student and for the past five years I've had a drive to read everything under the sun as it relates to personal growth and what it means to "be" human. As the saying goes, we're human beings, we aren't "human doings." This is in a category of its own. It sounds funny and it is, but I could just feel becoming smarter as I read this book. So many "aha" moments just clicked into place. The book just feels *right.*
I can't describe this book as just something that adds more "stuff" to your head. This book is a pointer to experience. It's also an inspiration to be aware that a human being created something of such great value.
After all other readings I've done from psychology, leadership, eastern philosophy, you name it - this book becomes a unifying principle of everything. And it is immense. It isn't everyday that I say that something becomes a unifying principle for many other seemingly contradictory or paradoxical "realities." Yet this one somehow manages to do just that.

When you read a lot, when you experience a lot, you tend to let things just be scattered all over the place in your mind. When things in your mind are scattered, your experience of reality will equally be scattered. You will be like a leaf in the wind. And you will try to fight against any currents. This is a book that unifies everything together in a holistic manner that translates in direct experience. This book is not trying to convince you of anything, it does not, and cannot become a "belief." It is trying to SHOW you, NOW. After it has shown you, you are free to do what you like. It's a piercing expose of what it means to be human.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By kaveka on March 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I appreciate Mr. Ralston taking the time to write on such a complicated subject. It is evident that he knows (experientially) of what he speaks.

"The Book of Not Knowing" will be one of the books I reread ever year or so. It is a wealth of knowledge for the truth seeker. I say this more so because - even though getting through the details is gut wrenching to read at times - it filled in some knowledge gaps for me and affirmed parts of my own path over the last 50 years (self analysis, truth seeking, travels, meditations, etc.).

For what is sometimes a lonely path - truth seeking - it is nice to periodically have your experiences and insights independently validated. Thank you Peter!
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By C. Jensen on September 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
***** for subject matter
** for execution

The subject matter is tremendous. I've been interested in this sort of thing for a long time, but have never come across a book that deals with it, at least in any depth. Since I was a teenager I've had the notion that the only thing we know is that something is itself. I remember arguing the point with a friend, who wasn't really into that kind of thinking, so his eyes glazed over before we got anywhere. And so its gone most of my life.

So this book is about trying to get to a point where we can really experience ourselves--our true Being, as opposed to a concept of ourself (our conceptual self that is seemingly created by our beliefs/assumptions about everything). It deals with getting to the Truth, which in the end, involves a lot of honest indepth contemplation.

To experience this a bit, sit back, relax and comtemplate the follow: What are you? Not what you do in life, or how you're feeling right now, or what you're thinking, but just what are you basically. What is it that is thinking about this right now and where is it exactly? In your head? But is it really? How do you know? Feel that itch/pain in your ankle? Is that you, the pain in your ankle? If so, are you your ankle? Now stop thinking and just be aware of your ankle. Where is that awareness? Can you be aware of it or look at it? Awareness is like looking out of your eyes, you can't see it just like you can't see your eyes directly. So where is that awareness coming from exactly? It can't be coming from anything you can be aware of, can it? And so on.

So why two stars for execution.

1. Because the book is way too verbose.
2. There are far too few concrete examples when there could/should be many.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By William Talada on November 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book contains the deepest wisdom I've encountered in over 1200 books that I've read. The wisdom is so far beyond the clever mind that most people won't be able to "see" it. He is laying out a process for you to follow, which inherently requires leaps of insight from you. There is no other way, but he helps as much as one can.

There are no illusions in the book...which tells me he awakened a long time ago and matured into a very clean enlightenment through inquiry and direct experience instead of through some training program. He is also highly intelligent and highly aware of the process and how to explain it.

Every belief that must be overcome is addressed by him using several cutting edge NLP techniques and mind lines (sleight of mouth). He frees you from your own brainwashing by offering more liberating beliefs, over and over, until you can eventually enter not-knowing.

I've been trying to write a book similar to this and struggling. I'm simply amazed at how well he has handled such a difficult topic. Save this book for last, when you are ready to awaken.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

About Peter Ralston

Peter Ralston works with people to authentically expand and deepen their "consciousness," and to become more real, honest, and effective human beings. He facilitates people in understanding their own selves and minds, and in becoming increasingly conscious of the nature of perception, experience, and existence, and the nature of "being." He also does this through teaching people about their bodies and how to be most effective in its use, as well as teaching them the Art of Effortless Power -- a large scope internal martial art using an effortless power to "play" with others, deepening an understanding of effective interaction using such principles as joining, complementing, leading, and so forth to create masterful interactive skills.

Ralston's Consciousness Background:

Peter Ralston is one of the founders of the consciousness movement that began in the San Francisco Bay Area -- the birthplace for much of the personal growth work generated in the late Sixties and early Seventies. It was here that organizations such as Actualizations, EST, Gestalt, NLP, and many, many others sprang up -- a vast range of studies from spiritual and New Age approaches to human transformation, to psychic development, new paradigms in psychology, bodywork, health, and more. Although the pursuits were diverse, the overall spirit was one of breaking free from old ways of thinking and creating more powerful ways to live.

Peter Ralston was fortunate to study with the top facilitators of this groundbreaking era in human potential. He worked for Stewart Emery in Actualizations and helped Werner Erhard create a fundamental shift in his work from EST to developing the Forum. Peter spent thousands of hours in Zen contemplation and has participated in dozens of intensives with Charles Berner, the founder of the Enlightenment Intensive.

After powerful enlightenment experiences of his own in the early 70's, and maturing in his work through further study with other teachers, in 1977 Ralston opened his own teaching center in Berkeley, California. Coming directly from the source of the emerging personal growth movement, Ralston's work at The Cheng Hsin School for Ontological Research contributed a powerful new direction, pressing for a deeper level of honesty and a more authentic approach. In both mind work and martial arts, his approach has always been to lead students away from what is merely believed, and toward a powerful personal experience of discovering for themselves what is true.

Ralston has been doing his Consciousness work for decades, facilitating the staff of Lifesprings and of Tony Robbins NLP trainings, as well as workshops for Esalen, Self Actualizations, Empowerment, and many others across the US. Although many know him for his creation of the Art of Effortless Power, and as the author of The Principles of Effortless Power, and Zen Body-Being, he is also the creator of the Empowerment Institute, and the author of Ancient Wisdom, New Spirit, Reflections of Being, and his newest and most powerful work, The Book of Not Knowing.

Ralston is an inspired teacher, electrifying his students as he leads them to experience new insights and breakthroughs, transforming their views of themselves and their experience of life.

Peter Ralston Martial History:

Peter Ralston was born in San Francisco but raised primarily in Asia. He began studying martial arts at the age of 9 in Singapore. By the age of 20 he had black belts in Judo, Jujitsu, and Karate, had been Sumo champion at his high school in Japan, Judo and fencing champion at UC Berkeley, and had demonstrated proficiency in Kempo, Ch'uan Fa, and Northern Sil Lum Kung Fu. A growing interest in the "internal" martial arts lead him to study T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Hsing I Ch'uan, and Pa Kua Chang.

Ralston has pursued this endeavor with a passionate determination for more than 40 years. He sought out and studied with the world's most demonstrably skilled teachers, broadening his study with such arts as Aikido, Japanese and Chinese fencing, western boxing, Muay Thai (Thai boxing), and new levels of his own investigations into all of these arts. His exceptional commitment (often practicing for more than eight to ten hours a day) and depth of study, along with his intense meditation and open inquiry have led Ralston to profound levels of skill and understanding.

Consistent with Zen studies, his investigation into martial arts also came to include a questioning of reality. Long periods of intense contemplation resulted in many enlightenment experiences regarding the nature of self and reality which greatly influenced his study.

To communicate his understanding, in 1975 Ralston founded the Cheng Hsin School. In 1977 he opened a center called The Cheng Hsin School of Internal Martial Arts and Center for Ontological Research in Oakland, California. Intent on revealing the depth and power of this work, in 1978 he became the first non-Asian ever to win the World Championship full-contact martial arts tournament held in the Republic of China.

Ralston's main focus in his teaching has been to uncover and communicate the principles behind any subject matter; frequently it is about being effortlessly effective. His main focus in his facilitation work is to uncover the truth of things, to break through assumptions and beliefs, and to assist others in having a direct, authentic, and experiential increase in Consciousness. He is a highly trained and insightful facilitator, freely and openly teaching what he has learned from years of insight and direct experience.