I've read about the benefits of meditation. I even halfheartedly tried doing it. I was always a little leery because of the Buddhist association and the idea of emptying my mind just did not sit well with me. I knew I could never sit still for an hour either. I guess I was a fidgety skeptic.
Harris clarifies a few misconceptions right away. It doesn't have to include the Buddhist flavor nor did I have to empty my mind nor did I have to sit on the floor cross legged nor did I have to meditate for a long period to see benefits. Harris describes this meditation as focusing the mind rather than emptying it. There are a variety of mindful meditation techniques described in the book and many of them are just a few minutes long. One can increase the time as skills increase. I was disappointed that Jeff, Harris's meditation guru, did bring up Buddhist ideas from time to time. Books on Buddhism are listed in the resources list.
What I liked most about this book is the variety of meditation techniques offered. Harris realizes meditation is not a one size fits all. For an outdoor nature lover like me there are walking meditations. There are very short meditations one can do while waiting in line at the grocery store. I can develop a sort of relaxed enjoyment of life at any place and any time, experiencing mindfulness.
I also liked the way Harris describes mindfulness. It's being able to see what is happening in my head at any moment. Rather than being carried away by anger, I can recognize the emotion and begin to investigate why it is there and what I can do with it. And that is a big reward of mindful meditation. I don't have to be held captive by my intense emotions. I can also become aware of habits that I was previously unaware of.
What I didn't like about the book was Harris's folksy story telling way of presenting the material. I feel like I know him and the people around him much better than I wanted to. I understand his technique of introducing readers to meditation practices through the experiences they had on the bus tour. I just got really tired of it.
I do recommend this book to people who know there are benefits to being mindful and meditation but just thought they would never be able to do it. You'll find good techniques for a variety of ways to meditate. You'll learn much about Harris too, especially his own struggles with meditation as a reality check.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Dan Harris is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and the co-anchor of ABC's Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America.
Jeff Warren is an award-winning writer, meditation instructor, and founder of the Consciousness Explorers Club.
Carlye Adler is an award-winning journalist and co-author of many books.
Spiegel & Grau, 304 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.