Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mindfulness in Plain English

Hi everyone,

As you might know, I've been practicing vinyasa yoga for years at Tranquil Space. I may always be a beginner- to mid-level yoga student, but the benefits of practice are immense. Aside from improving physical strength, flexibility, and balance, yoga permits me to indulge amid a busy schedule. I stop thinking about the stressors of my day – what's happened so far and what's left on my to-do list. Yoga invites a calm focus on only the present moment. By the end of class, no matter how difficult, I typically feel refreshed and energized.

If I made the effort, meditation could be a worthwhile extension of my yoga practice. Years ago, I tried meditation once and hated it. I couldn't sit still or stop thinking about what else I could be doing. I expected instantaneous enlightenment but felt no different. I thought I was wasting my time. Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana made me feel better about that experience because, apparently, I hit all the common reactions of a beginning meditator. Now, I have a great manual that can help me with my second attempt at meditation.

Mindfulness in Plain English defines meditation, and serves as a how-to guide to the practice of vipassana-style meditation in particular. Vipassana means "insight" and focuses on awareness of what's happening as it happens. The advice and tools offered in this book should be useful for improving my meditation practice and dealing with the problems and distractions that hinder it. Now, I just have to get back to mediation class and try again.

My dad, who doesn't practice yoga or meditation, read Mindfulness in Plain English and bought copies of it for my sister and me. I can guess why he liked it so much: its title is true. This book explains mindfulness, a crucial ingredient for meditation, in plain English. Some people consider yoga and meditation too New Agey and spiritual, but this book brings everything down to Earth. Even if you don't participate in either practice, this book is a quick read that delivers common sense ideas everyone can relate to and use:
  • Be nice to people and they'll be nice back.
  • When engaging with another person, think about what it might be like to be in his or her shoes before reacting.
  • Remember that staying angry about anything is unhealthy.
  • Practice loving friendliness; it is always the better alternative. 
These ideas sound simple, but practicing them in real life can be difficult. How are you supposed to be nice to a person who just insulted you? Why would you want to be friendly to one of your enemies? This book will show you that new perspective without sounding preachy or mystic.

Like yoga, meditation and mindfulness are lifelong practices, and Mindfulness in Plain English serves as a reminder to try it and keep at it. It will not be easy and may take years to achieve but, like yoga, the benefits are immense. Are you still skeptical? Whether you attempt vipassana-style meditation as recommended in these pages, this little book has big ideas that could make you a happier, better person. Isn't that what everyone wants?


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