Mindfulness in Plain English, Bhanta Gunaratana 2011

Another fine addition to my meditation readings, Gunaratana has written a practical ‘how to’ book about mindfulness, concentration, and meditation.  In places, it is a bit too ethereal as in his promise that with the awareness that comes with bare attention, one can achieve a “sense of reality that is more real than anything you have ever experienced.”  After meditating for more than 5 years, I’m pretty sure I haven’t gotten there, but it may be because of the five hindrances—desire, doubt, aversion, restlessness, and lethargy, all of which I’m pretty good at.  On the other hand, this book did offer some concrete and useful images and suggestions.  I liked his analogy of the hyperactive, constantly interrupting mind to a cup of muddy water which clouds one’s ability to see reality and one’s own nature clearly.  Sitting, concentrating, meditating allow the mud to settle and the clear water then enhances one’s awareness of self and world. Another useful suggestion was to start the meditation session with Metta meditation rather than end with Metta.  The idea is to use this very positive meditation technique to get one ‘settled’ before moving to the serious business of concentrating.  Finally, I found insightful his discussion of the difference between the awareness of pure perception (bare attention) and the add-ons that we place on top of those perceptions.  By naming objects and attributing characteristics to them we distance ourselves from truly experiencing our own life and world. This book is worth reading for those who want to dive deeper into meditation.

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