I’m two reviews behind — last week’s didn’t get done, AND this week’s didn’t get done. Oh, well, it was a busy week. Facebook did one of those memories for me this morning which was quite delightful. A couple of years ago I was finding real joy in my tai chi practice. It touches nicely on the subject of the current review, How to Meditate. Prior book reviews can be found herePrior book reviews can be found here.
How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind
by Pema Chödrön
Sounds True, published 2013
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62203-048-4 (Kindle edition)
Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist meditation teacher and Buddhist nun: a New Yorker by birth, she is now the director of the Ganpo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada. She was the first ordained American Tibetan Buddhist nun in the Vajrayana tradition.
This book is a practical guide to meditation. I’m currently using Headspace.com (Thanks Gordon!) as a tool for practicing my own meditation skills, and I’ve worked up from 10 minutes a day to twenty (it helps to be self-employed). Still, although Andy from Headspace and Chödrön have very different takes on meditation, the one was a useful complement to the other.
The book is arranged in several sections: the first section lays out some reasons why we might want to take up the practice of meditation. The second section lays out the basics of meditation practice: how to sit, how to breathe, how to act or not act, react or not react, to the things that are happening in the mind. For Chödrön, the mind is a wild and untamed thing — Andy doesn’t use quite that language, but it’s close — and the thing that we do when we meditate is train the mind to accept and work with certain realities. A trained mind doesn’t not-woolgather, for example (though this isn’t one of hers), but it does notice that it’s day-dreaming and returns to a more alert and aware state.
The later sections of the book introduce themes for meditation — scents, tastes, memories. Throughout the book, there is an emphasis on experiencing and understanding what is. I enjoyed the read a great deal, but I appreciated the constant return in Chödrön’s writings to the idea of experience being the teacher, rather than herself, or another Buddhist teacher. At the core of any meditation practice is the idea that we should sit and breathe; and that all of the more-advanced understandings of ourselves and of the world emerge from this most basic of practices. It’s a point of view that I’m growing to understand and appreciate.
I don’t have much else to say about the book, other than that I enjoyed it, and I look forward to returning to it eventually.