on 10 February 2014
Adeline van Waning's book "The less dust, the more trust" is a unique journey into mindfulness and awareness, into consciousness and the essence of what it is to be human. She tells the story of her participation in The Shamatha Project retreat (2007), embracing three months of concentration-calm meditations and scientific research into what happens to mind, thought and emotions, in a group of persons practising Buddhist meditation for many hours a day. She addresses the current research outcomes of this unique ongoing project, and adds more recent considerations.
The book is written from a contemplative and scientific point of view, and includes many personal elements about life during the Shamatha Project retreat. The author shares her reflections with many diary fragments about what she experienced, thought and felt. Every chapter offers a guided meditation in a way that the reader can `join in being on retreat,' for a direct experience into the themes the author addresses. The book makes meditation a very real and interesting activity, and shows that it - far from being an escape - provides a key to getting more familiarity with and control over one's emotions and thoughts, and to leading a more fulfilling life.
The author discusses important elements of Buddhist meditation like observing one's thoughts and emotions without getting involved in them, and tells her first-hand experiences. When increasingly she could let go of habitual attachment to self, she could feel that not she did things but that things happened through her, resulting in experiences of spaciousness and openness, with feelings of subtle lightness and joy. She noticed how sometimes there was the sense of transcending her physical senses and yet experiencing everything around her more clearly. She achieved a sense of freedom, of not being bound by beliefs, convictions and expectations. Also, she describes a heightened sense of presence in the world. The author addresses a sense of `breaking the barriers of anxiety,' getting in touch with a deeper trust, beyond the `dust' of attachments and conditionings. She tells with great honesty about the obstacles she encountered during the project retreat: how the meditations sometimes led to doubts, frustrations, and how she dealt with them. Underlying the upheavals in her mind, as she notices, increasingly there was a gentle joy.
As a professional psychiatrist Adeline van Waning is able to clearly outline some differences and similarities between Western psychology and Buddhist psychology. In later chapters the book presents insights and experiences from the wisest of Tibetan masters, with views that offer concrete advice for Western readers. These presentations increase the accessibility of Buddhist meditation for the Western mind.
The book is a tour the force that explains many aspects of Buddhist meditation and the benefits of Shamatha for the mind, both in a theoretical and in a practical way. "The less dust, the more trust" can be helpful for anyone who practices a type of Buddhist meditation, and will appeal to the most critical and scientifically-minded readers.
on 25 May 2014
This book is a rare find. While many have written on practising meditation from an experiental perspective, and some others have written from the scientific, Adeline van Waning has the benefit of both viewpoints. As a daily meditator, in a sense I need no proof of what I myself experience, and the ample benefits it brings me cannot be quantified. As a great work of art cannot be adequately measured by the size of the canvas or the colours employed, just so with the mysteries of meditation. But no matter its limitations, if scientific appraisal serves to bring meditation to a wider audience, then so much the better. Adeline van Waning brings not only academic nous to bear, but also the simplicity and sincerity of a spiritual aspirant, inviting the reader to participate in her journey of self-discovery and intellectual research in a very tangible way. This is an important work.