Sharon’s new book, The Power of Meditation: a 28-day Programme for Real Happiness, is intended as an introductory guide for meditators.
The book has a clear, well-defined structure. After a brief introduction about the general benefits of meditation, there are four sections, each representing a week in the programme. For the first week, the focus is on breathing. In the second week, the beginner is encouraged to work with mindfulness of body. The third week has recommendations for mindfulness of feelings and emotions, and the fourth week concentrates on loving-kindness meditation. The reader is asked gradually to increase the time given to practice, so that by the end of the 28 days there should be six sittings per week, of at least twenty minutes duration. The last part of the book deals with keeping the practice going in the long term.
As this description suggests, Sharon Salzberg has written a very practical handbook. Her style is lucid and easy to follow. She includes many anecdotes about, and quotations from, students and colleagues. They illustrate the kinds of problems that all meditators face, and the realistic rewards that they may expect. For each of the four main sections, covering the weeks of the programme, there is a series of answers to frequently asked questions: many of these will strike a chord with anyone who has meditation experience. Included in the book is also a very useful CD, with nine tracks where Sharon guides the listener through the kinds of practice described in the book.
The book would make an admirable gift for anyone who is just beginning meditation practice, but it is a worthwhile read for all of us, experienced or otherwise. You won’t find discussions of the Buddhist scriptures here: indeed, the book explicitly states (on page 14) that the techniques can be used within any faith tradition, or in an entirely secular way. The focus is always on practice rather than philosophy. The work is accessible and readable, but at the same time not over-simplified. Sharon is quite open about all the pitfalls we face, and about the way in which consequences and outcomes are not always exactly what we expect. For example, on page 181, she quotes a meditator who still feels inadequate during the sitting period itself, but whose life and character has been transformed in a very positive way.
Am I biased in favour of this book by the fact that Sharon refers to London Insight in her Resource Guide, and by the fact that she has taught two extremely successful and popular weekend retreats for us? Maybe. But all the same, you are unlikely to regret buying and reading it. The power to inspire and instruct with complete clarity and honesty has to be valued wherever we find it. My recommendation is whole-hearted.
The book is published by Hay House, 28th July 2011, ISBN 978-1-84850-499-8. UK recommended price £10.99
Review by Anthea West
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