As its subtitle suggests, this handsome little book is really an introduction to Buddhism for the general reader, and is not a discourse on the nature of meditation. Part One is "An Introduction to Buddhism" and Part Two, "An Introduction to Meditation." The question "What is Meditation?" is addressed on page 56, and the following answer given: "Meditation is the process of learning to work skillfully with the mind in a way that will lead by successive stages to tranquillity, insight, spontaneous purification and the total liberation from all negative states." As such, this very general definition will do just fine, although an understanding of what "total liberation from all negative states" might mean is something that comes only after a long practice. Additionally, as revealed in the next paragraph and on the following pages, there are "many different systems and methods of meditation," and the one "dealt with here" is called "Insight meditation." Incidentally, the last two words are the title of a book by Joseph Goldstein, who was one of author Rob Nairn's teachers.
Buddhist generally insist on adding "insight" to meditation because the process of Buddhism itself is predicated on insight into the human predicament leading to action toward liberation. What Buddhism says in a nutshell is that there is suffering, that there is a way out of the suffering, and this is what it is. So taught the Buddha nearly twenty-six hundred years ago. This book emphasizes the compassionate nature of Buddhism while giving a quick outline of the general principles of the religion, followed by an outline of the Buddha's teaching. In the section on meditation there are twenty or so pages to guide the reader into how it is done. As someone who has practiced meditation for many years, I can tell you that this method will work, but the important thing to understand about meditation is that it is a practice, an acquired skill that takes a while to learn. Once learned it can be let go of easily in the hustle and bustle of daily living, but once mastered and completely entered into, it becomes an essential part of our lives and transforms us.
While this book does not completely fulfill the promise of the title (meditation varies for every individual and indeed over time varies for each of us), nonetheless it is valuable as a clear, concise introduction to one of the great world religions.