The Art of Meditation by Matthieu Ricard

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I discovered this little book while doing some research at work. Although the author is a Buddhist monk I think he does a good job of keeping this book open to anyone who has an interest in deepening their understanding of meditation. There were so many moments in this book where the author explained things that I had heard before but in a way that somehow made the concepts so much clearer and therefore made me feel like I was much more likely to be able to apply them successfully.

In terms of  meditation and being able to change the way that we  view our attitude  to things, he says:  “Understanding that the essential nature of consciousness is neutral permits us to understand that it is possible to change our mental universe.” (Loc 117) Later on in the book he talks  about  this neutrality being the centre of mindfulness.  The ultimate aim is for there not to be any judgement around the tasks we do anymore,  instead, there is just a task that we are doing and an open mindful approach to it. Something which I think will take me years to master.

Even though he does talk about posture in a very specific way and there are some diagrams which would be considered far from inclusive,  he also talks about changing your posture in accordance with your mood, or  taking a moment to change it when you are uncomfortable rather than being in unnecessary pain. These concessions help do away with any  resistance that was initially caused by his very specific instructions.

He  uses very strong imagery throughout the book which I found both helpful and oddly comforting. For example, when talking about turbulent thought processes he uses the image of a very  strong waterfall gradually going through its journey to become a calm ocean. I find this a good image to focus on, especially when I have a busy meditation, as I can get demoralised when my mind does not want to be calm. Focusing on this image helps to remind me that it is all part of the practice.

When he talks about body scans he uses more detail than I have seen in previous books and by using small details such as fingernails and other body parts that don’t normally get included I thought that this would help me create stronger visualisations when I’m trying to do body scans although  I acknowledge that some people might find the extra detail off-putting.

There was a lot of emphasis put on changing  your mindset and making an effort to care more about other people rather than yourself. This was very much put in the context of it being better for your own well-being to think this way rather than just for the good of humanity. Suggesting this idea is interesting, because the loving kindness meditations can often seem contrived or forced, so putting them in a wider perspective in this way could be helpful.

There are also many ideas for practical meditation on many different aspects of mindfulness,  with inspiration from different texts to go along with each meditation, so there are many ideas about how to develop practice.

The Habit of Happiness Ted Talk by Matthieu Ricard Click on the link if you would like to watch a Ted Talk given by Matthieu Ricard on the ideas surrounding meditation wellbeing and happiness

I was using the Kindle Edition but it is available from bookshops and libraries or Click the Link to go to The Book Depository

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*This blog was mostly typed with speech recognition software, please forgive any mistakes or oddnesses that have slipped through my proofreading process. Thank you.

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