The Magnanimous Heart:  Compassion and Love, Loss and Grief, Joy and Liberation, Narayan Helen Liebenson 2018

I was drawn to this book in my continuing exploration of meditation and mindfulness because Liebenson was my earliest teacher at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center and also during my five day silent retreat in Barre, MA in 2017.  I was not disappointed.  This is not a ‘how to’ book, but a deep exploration of the power of stillness, steadiness, calm and serenity in enabling one to achieve the “bare experience” of one’s inner life independent of the transient and empty conditions of the moment and without the continuous narrative that we overlay on our real time existence.  When one can overcome the assessing, measuring, and comparing that our minds endlessly distract us with and accept, non-reject, and non-identify with those conditions, one is capable of the compassion and loving kindness that allow us to overcome the inevitable losses in life.  A new concept for me were the Five Recollections that are part of the daily routine prescribed by the Buddha in one of the Suttas:  aging is unavoidable, illness is unavoidable, death is unavoidable, I will eventually be separated from all that I hold dear, and the only true belongings are my actions at the present moment.  The daily confrontation and meditation on those recollections prepares one for the inevitable losses in life, the ‘constant squeeze’ and enables one, as best as possible, to face loss with equanimity and strength.  This is a beautiful book which I would especially recommend to someone facing loss and grief.