Saturday, September 6, 2014

Meditation AND Mindfulness for Dummies review

Starting this week a small series on meditation

In order to solve some issues  I have, I decided to take up meditation. I had already read and enjoyed Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, but felt I needed more step by step instruction. To sift through the mounds of books on the subject, I established that the book I'd read had to:

  • Be Western oriented. I knew that the techniques had already been distilled for Western consumption. I did not want to learn any Eastern philosophy to practice, if I could help it. Thus, it also had to have:
  • No oblique language. Hand me clear, precise concepts and instructions. No mumbo jumbo. Straight forward lingo for me. Thank you very much.
  • Cover the basics and offer alternative approaches for me to try or adapt.
  • Address mindfulness. Felt that I needed this, so it had to be in there too.

source:; taken by Jon SullivanLooking around I almost settled for Mindfulness: an 8 week plan… by Williams et al. and the Mindfulness Solution by Siegel.  While considering these and others, Meditation for Dummies by Bodian made its way into the list. Whittling down the choices by comparing the contents, Bodian's finally beat all the other contenders despite being the most expensive of my choices. It delivered.

It is chockful of goodies and with it one is unlikely to need anything else for many many months. Starts with general aspects such as the different meditation traditions, the benefits of and research on meditation and so on. Meditation instruction doesn't start until chapter 6 but the author encourages the reader to jump around if she feels like it. Practical aspects, such as what to where and where to sit, are explored and troubleshooting section for more challenging problems. Chapter 14 is a godsend as it recaps the material and offers suggestions to build one's own practice.  In the Dummies tradition, it has a Further Steps section towards the end for even further exploration.

The book's meditation style leans towards Buddhism, but offers plenty of meditation alternatives from different traditions for one to try if one feels like it. Some Jewish and Christian meditation is in there as well.  An added bonus is that the author has a psychotherapy day job, sothats a bonus as I feel he writes with experience.

When I placed Meditation In the shopping cart, I was also recommended to also check out another Dummies book, Mindfulness for Dummies (2010 edition) by Alidina. Did so, and saw that it also covered my requirements and gave another look to about the same topics. Decided to  bite the bullet, get these two and draw from both. I was astounded  that it were Dummies books, two of them, who trounced the competition.

Mindfulness for also is is quite agnostic and doesn't try to get you adopt any spiritual beliefs. It even warns against joining cults and stuff (unless you want to). Both are good, but Bodian's has an edge over Alidina's. Now, there's nothing wrong with Alidina, only that it is more constrained in its scope. If Mindfulness is the only one you can get, that's fine as it's oriented to beginners as well and covers about the same material, but I kinda felt it as a second course. My original plan of reading them both concurrently didn't pan out as despite their similarity, in my experience they don't quite reinforce each other. Better stick with one at the time, and if possible, make that Meditation.

Both 4 stars
(Both print books include meditation Cds which I've skipped for now)
(Despite their apparent agnosticism, If you are a Catholic, some, perhaps all, meditation practices might be harmful to you spiritual life. Check out Women of Grace or read what Sue Brinkmann has to say by googling her)

More next time


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