Book Review:
How to Meditate

The book, How to Meditate, provides an excellent introduction to meditation. Written by Pema Chödrön, an American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun, this guide to meditation is relatively short (175 pages), straightforward and easy to read.

Subtitled A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind, it is indeed practical. Chödrön presents a full set of instructions that can be used by anyone interested in starting a meditation practice. She emphasizes that you don’t need to go on a retreat or buy special supplies to start. She writes, “you can begin anywhere, in any room, at any time of day. You simply begin. You start where you are.”

Like many meditation instructors, Chödrön suggests using one’s breath as an object of meditation. She mentions that an “excellent reason” for focusing on your breath is “because it’s impermanent. It’s always changing; it’s always flowing; it’s not a stable thing.” She also provides suggestions on how you might sit and how you might position your hands. One unusual suggestion she has is to keep your eyes open during meditation. My guess is that, for many beginning meditators, having their eyes open would make it harder to meditate, because of all of the possible visual distractions. But one can certainly try meditating with open eyes per her instructions, and choose to close them if it turns out that visual stimuli are too distracting.

One question that often comes up in connection with meditation involves how much time to devote to it. Chödrön recommends that a beginner spend 20 minutes meditating each day. But she indicates that just 10 minutes a day can be beneficial. If you can find at least 10 minutes a day to devote to meditation and would like some guidance as to how to go about it, How to Meditate is a terrific place to start.

See more features from the September 2014 issue