Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Books I Didn't Know I Owned: The Beginner's Guide To Insight Meditation

Title: The Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation Authors: Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith Library Journal Review: Weisman, founder of the Dhamma Dena Meditation Center, and Smith, the author on Buddhist subjects, offer a skillfully written book as a companion to Smith's Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism (LJ 3/1/00). This book addresses the practices of the Vipassana (Insight Meditation) tradition of Buddhism, and it not only treats sitting and walking meditation within that tradition rather fully but also reviews the basic tenets of Buddhism and provides guidance about selecting teachers and retreat centers. Rating: 4/4 stars Available: Print and Kindle

I first read this book ten years ago when I was a freshman in college. I took a class on Consciousness and Meditation because I thought I liked philosophy, the professor was a nice guy, and there was a really beautiful boy in the class named Chris who had brown eyes and a great smile. Since I was 19 at the time, and I didn't know much at all about pain and suffering, the book didn't really stick with me. Also, it turned out that I hated philosophy, and I especially didn't like the teacher, who I got into long arguments with, but that's a story for another time. I honestly thought this books was gone forever, and when I found it on my bookshelf the other day, I immediately thought "I should read this." A book about insight meditation doesn't have much to do with writing at first glance, but I felt like it was a very informative and in some ways enlightening read. I already blogged about how I think it'll help me and others with writing, but I found it a very helpful book in general. First, it's very engaging. The authors know what they're talking about, and their profound happiness, their balance, their peace of mind and lovingkindness resonates through each word and on every page. I wanted to trust them and follow their guidance because each chapter was offered as a gift, not a command. The authors provide a good deal of information about the practice, the teachings of Buddha, the history of Buddhism, as well as their own advice about readings, retreats, and finding teachers. But the book never seems like it has too much information. I wasn't overwhelmed by the introduction into a new belief system with its own history and culture. Straightforward but concise, each chapter is easy to consume and digest. Having said all of that, I feel like I should read the book two or three more times. And this is just a beginner's guide, so there's obviously a great deal of information they didn't cover. If you're interested in learning more about Buddhism or meditation, I highly recommend it.

Join me next time when I'll review another book I didn't know I owned, Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence

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