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Adam Khan (Seattle, WA USA)
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The Book of Meditation:  The Complete Guide to Modern Meditation
The Book of Meditation: The Complete Guide to Modern Meditation
by Patricia Carrington
Edition: Paperback

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced look at meditation., 22 Oct. 2003
In this book, Carrington answered most of the unanswered questions I had about meditation. I’ve been reading about and practicing meditation for 25 years now, and I had some questions lurking in the back of my mind like: Are some mantras really better than others? Is it possible to meditate too much? (And if so, how much is too much?) Is there any scientific evidence that meditation makes you more creative? Can it make you less productive? Carrington answers these questions and many more in The Book of Meditation. And her answers are not derived from tradition or what her teachers told her, but from compelling evidence and controlled experiments.
And yet she doesn’t dismiss tradition as long as it hasn’t been proven wrong in experiments. For example, in some traditions, certain mantras are considered dangerous for beginners. There have been no experiments to find out if this is true or not, so she removed those from her list of recommended mantras in her How To Meditate Kit. Her approach is balanced and reasonable.
Carrington is not only a researcher but also a psychotherapist and many of her illustrations are patients she has treated, giving a real-live feel to the points she’s making. Her examples are interesting and illustrate her points well.
Half a chapter was devoted to one excellent example: The New York Telephone Company. Gilbeart Collings, the NYTC medical director, asked Carrington to find out if meditation would reduce employee stress. The first test was on 160 employees and lasted five and a half months. Stress-related physical symptoms dropped dramatically. That’s why the company offered the program to the whole company.
They eventually taught almost 5000 employees of the NYTC to meditate. Thousands of these meditators were interviewed about the changes taking place in their lives. They felt less tension. Their irritability and hostility dropped dramatically, and so did feelings of anxiety. People reported feeling more tolerant and patient and less distressed by everyday frustrations. The meditators said they were listening better, feeling more open, acting and feeling kinder toward others, and in general being more like the person they’ve always wanted to be, at work and at home. This matches what I have found to be true in my own life, but it’s great to hear it verified by others.
I really liked her chapter, Why Does Meditation Work? That is the exact wording of a question I typed into Google, which is how I found her book. The chapter looks at several explanations of how the various effects of meditation converge to produce such powerful benefits.
I’m the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, which is not about meditation, but I can tell you that meditation (taught the way Carrington teaches it) may be the most important self-help stuff you can practice. It works. And this is the best book on meditation I’ve ever read.


The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World
The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World
by Guy Claxton
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buddhism without Asian adornments., 16 Sept. 2003
If you're looking for a book that clearly explains Buddhism without the trappings -- robes, lotus postures, beliefs about reincarnation, talk of cherry blossoms -- The Heart of Buddhism is the book for you. Guy Claxton is an intelligent writer and the writing is compact, condensed; he says a lot in every paragraph. And the writing is straightforward and easy to follow. If reincarnation exists and if Buddha was reincarnated in some modern, English-speaking country, how would he communicate his message? I think it would be very much the way Claxton has done it in this book.
Claxton clearly explains how our own general agitation and unease and even our self-centeredness has come about -- how it is really inevitable given our approach -- and how it can be alleviated. An interesting idea I got from this book is that a third of our unhappiness is caused by external circumstances. Two thirds is self-created, and that's what Buddhism is designed to cure.
Why is Buddhism becoming more popular? Claxton wrote, 'It is THE 'religion' for a secular age, concerning itself centrally with improving the quality of everyday life, requiring no adherence to obscure or magical beliefs, and offering a penetrating analysis of the condition -- or lack of it -- that we find ourselves in, as well as a powerful and proven set of specific techniques for increasing happiness, kindliness and peace in people's lives.'
He goes on: 'Buddhism is really a deep do-it-yourself kit of ideas and practices for changing in the directions that most people would like: more openness, less defensiveness; more tolerance, less irritation; more ease, less worry; more generosity, less selfishness; more naturalness, less self-consciousness; more equanimity, less frustration.'
In this book you get a thorough understanding of the Four Noble Truths (written from an understanding of their meaning rather than translating an Asian understanding into English), a clear explanation of the Noble Eightfold Path and the Five Precepts. Claxton describes the different forms of Buddhist meditation and how they work. There is a great chapter near the end of the book on the benefits of Buddhist practice.
On page 168 is a spreadsheet showing a 'brand comparison' of the five most popular kinds of Buddhism (Zen, Tibetan, etc.) which rates each for its emphasis on ten different things like 'moral discipline' and 'reverence for lineage.'
Buddhism is self-help at its finest. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I can tell you this with authority: Buddhism is one of the finest set of practical self-help tools available on the planet, and Claxton clearly explains how these tools can be used by Westerners. I recommend it highly.


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Provides an important nutrient if you have a difficult goal., 16 Sept. 2003
This is a fun little book. But more than that, this book is an excellent resource to browse frequently if you are trying to accomplish a challenging goal. As the researcher, Martin Seligman, has shown, what determines whether you give up after a setback or try again is how permanent you think the setback is. Browsing this book, you see example after example of people who went on to succeed after experiencing setbacks. You see that your setback might not be permanent. This puts the fight back in you. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I can tell you that reading Mr. Green's book really works. The more times you try, the more likely you will succeed, and this book will inspire you to try again.


Triumph over Fear
Triumph over Fear
by Jerilyn Ross
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.08

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a woman who has been there., 30 Aug. 2003
This review is from: Triumph over Fear (Paperback)
I've read a lot of books on anxiety, and this is the best. Ross once suffered from an anxiety disorder herself and tried to find treatment, only to be told it was in her head. A lot has been learned about anxiety disorders even in the last ten years, and Ross knows all about it. She not only tells you about the treatment available through therapists (with contact information and resources at the back of the book) but if you want to do it yourself, the book is full of practical advice. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I can tell you without any hesitation that Triumph Over Fear is self-help stuff at its best. I highly recommend this book. Buy one for yourself and share one with a friend or family member who may suffer without realizing help is available.


The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
by The Dalai Lama
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

151 of 167 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of East and West., 29 Aug. 2003
Here is a surprisingly good book, written by a psychiatrist who interviewed the Dalai Lama many times. The book is a combination of narrative by the author and extended quotes of the Dalai Lama's answers. And Cutler asks some good questions.
Sometimes the Dalai Lama's answers seem simple. Part of it is the language. English is obviously not his first language, so he uses almost nothing but ordinary, everyday English -- no jargon, no technical terms, no psychiatric lingo. And yet he obviously has a profound grasp of human nature. Another reason his answers sound simple is because they are rooted in practicality. He isn't trying to explain how things are, he's trying to describe what you can DO to become happier. Descriptions of actions are much simpler and more concrete than explanations.
I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I found the psychiatrist's orientation and the Dalai Lama's practicality combined to make some excellent self-help. I've tried many of the Dalai Lama's suggestions and they really work. One of his suggestions is to think about the similarities between you and other people -- specifically that they want to be happy, just like you do, and they also suffer, just like you do. I know it sounds almost too basic, but when I've actually thought about that while talking to someone, I feel noticeably closer to the person, and that feeling of closeness is relaxing, soothing, calming, and very pleasant. That feeling of closeness increases my happiness.
The Art of Happiness is an excellent book and I recommend it highly.


Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life
Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life
by Barbara G. Markway
Edition: Hardcover

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up-to-date, practical information., 29 Aug. 2003
A tremendous amount of research has been done on anxiety disorders in the last fifteen years. Researchers have discovered a lot about what causes it and what can be done about it, and in this book you'll find the latest information.
Social anxiety disorder is most common anxiety disorder and the third most common psychiatric disorder over all (behind depression and alcoholism). If it's so common, why haven't we heard much about it? Because the nature of the problem keeps it hidden. “Can you see a movie-of-the-week,” says psychologist Thomas Richards, “about a very shy person who rarely leaves the house except to go to work, who has no friends, and is afraid of answering the door at times?” Who would watch a movie like that? The authors of Painfully Shy said that after their first book (Dying of Embarrassment) was published, a television talk show called them and said, “We want you on our show if you can bring several articulate, outgoing social phobics with you.” What the heck were they thinking? Social anxiety disorder doesn't get much coverage because anyone with the problem is trying to avoid the public eye.
But this book brings social anxiety into the light. Anxious thoughts and feelings CAN be managed successfully, and this book will show you how. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and if you want practical, helpful advice that will really work to overcome your shyness, I highly recommend Painfully Shy.


Voices of Insight: Teachers of Buddhism in the West Share Their Wisdom, Stories and Experiences of Insight Meditation
Voices of Insight: Teachers of Buddhism in the West Share Their Wisdom, Stories and Experiences of Insight Meditation
by Sharon Salzburg
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buddhism as it is practiced in the United States., 29 Aug. 2003
Each chapter of Voices of Insight is written by a different author, and almost all of them were born and raised in the United States. Then they trained and became ordained and legitimate lamas, abbots, Zen masters, and Buddhist teachers in India, Thailand, Japan, etc., and came back to the U.S. to teach. Buddhism is different in every country and in every historical period, and in this book we can see what modern American Buddhism is like. I think you're going to like it. I am not British, but I believe this book would be equally interesting to you.
Voices of Insight is also a good Buddhist primer. One author tells the history of Siddhartha Gotama Buddha and explains important basic ideas like nirvana and samsara. Another author covers the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Joseph Goldstein's chapter on the science and art of meditation explains what meditation is for and what you should be doing when you're meditating more clearly than anything I've ever come across, and all by itself makes the book worth getting.
This book is helpful. It will help you develop your practice. It is not merely interesting and educational; it is practical. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, so I'm sort of an expert on applicable information. Voices of Insight is not only illuminating and enjoyable to read, it is thoroughly applicable.


After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
by Jack Kornfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What happens after awakening?, 29 Aug. 2003
Zen stories and Buddhist tales all seem to end with someone becoming enlightened. What happens after that? You never find out. You get the impression that they live in bliss and happiness forever after, and yet you know somehow that can’t be true. Jack Kornfield interviewed a lot of people who have awakened, most of them highly accomplished teachers and abbots and lamas, most of them born and raised in the West (but trained in the East), and you get to hear them tell you what life is like after enlightenment. I thought an enlightened person never got angry or afraid or sad. I didn’t even realize I held such perfectionistic misconceptions until I noticed this book shattering them.
After the Ecstasy is generously sprinkled with the actual words, sometimes half a page or a page long, of people who have been meditating 15, 30, even 40 years. You’ll find out what brought them to the meditative path to begin with, and what they’ve learned along the way. It’s fascinating.
There are lots of good anecdotes in this book; interesting and illuminating anecdotes (most of them are true stories). In many Buddhist and Zen books, you read the same stories again and again in different books, but here you find fresh stories, some ancient, some modern, and all very good.
Jack Kornfield is first and foremost a meditation teacher, so woven throughout the book is plenty of good coaching. The meditative path is difficult, and good teaching is vital. I’m the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, so I’ve specialized in knowing the difference between teachings that help and those that are merely interesting. In After the Ecstasy, you’ll find interesting reading material AND coaching that will truly help you in your practice.


Five Classic Meditations
Five Classic Meditations
by S. Young
Edition: Audio Cassette

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective training for an important skill., 29 Aug. 2003
Audiotapes are a great way to learn meditation. Much better than a book. All you have to do is close your eyes and follow instructions. I’ve listened to many meditation-training tapes and Shinzen Young’s is my favorite because you learn not only WHAT to do, but WHY you’re doing it and what you can expect for results. And he makes everything clear and simple.
Although Young has had extensive training in Buddhist meditation in Japan, he is a born-American and can speak to our needs as Westerners in a modern society. He has successfully stripped away the merely ornamental aspects of meditation and delivers only the essential and fundamental.
Shinzen Young has not only been trained in Buddhist practices in the East, but is an accomplished scholar and successful businessman in the West. He has a practical mind and a lucid way of teaching...If you would like to learn to meditate, or if you want to deepen your practice, Five Classic Meditations contains the kind of teaching that can really help.


Experience of Insight
Experience of Insight
by Joseph Goldstein
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and understandable Buddhism., 29 Aug. 2003
This review is from: Experience of Insight (Paperback)
If you’ve ever been perplexed or baffled by books on Buddhism — especially books on Zen Buddhism — your perplexity will vanish when you read this book. The Experience of Insight is a well-edited transcription of many talks given to participants over the course of a one-month meditation retreat. The teachings are largely coaching for meditation. During the retreat, these short talks were small pockets of coaching between large stretches of silence and meditation. That may be why the information comes across so clearly and so usefully.
You’ll learn, probably with more understanding than you’ve ever had before, the Buddhist fundamentals: The Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the seven factors of enlightenment, etc. But they are explained in a way that makes their relevance and importance to your practice perfectly clear. I’m the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I’ve specialized in knowing the difference between information that merely sounds great and instruction that actually helps, and Joseph Goldstein manages to deliver teachings that will really help you in your meditation practice. He will inspire you, encourage you, and teach you good technique. If you meditate and would like support for your practice, The Experience of Insight is the best you will find.


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