How to Meditate

How to Meditate – A Practical Guide to Making Friends with your Mind
by Pema Chodron

Although I have been meditating for over 20 years,  I am always looking for ways to keep my practice fresh. I found Pema’s previous book, When Things Fall Apart, really helpful so I believed there could be some useful ideas for me to play with while I bought this book with me on my annual restful summer vacation, especially since I wanted see if I can break myself from that bad habit of negative thinking.

PEMA describes that meditating helps nurture five qualities:  clear awareness, deepened understanding of yourself, gradual arising of courage, the ability to become awake to our lives, and my favorite as she calls, “no big deal” – the ability to become flexible to the present moment. She believes you can gain benefits of meditation – whether you meditate for 5 minutes or an hour a day – and the book’s chapters provide the underlying reasoning and simple exercises to help you nurture these five qualities. As she explains, to experience life fully, we need to acknowledge and accept all our emotions and all part of ourselves – even the embarrassing parts ranging from jealousy to rage to self-pity.  Meditation provides an opportunity to free ourselves from labels and has helped me realize I can change a pessimistic thinking pattern if I lean into it in a compassionate manner. For example, while on grand jury duty, I took time to meditate for 10 minutes at the end of each day in order to have a more sympathetic mindset for myself or the people I indicted.

From practical advice such as how to sit, where to place your hands, and why she believes it is better to keep your eyes open (which I found surprising, as I have tended to close my eyes), this book is suitable for novices as well as experienced meditators, and one you can continue to read and re-read while trying out new exercises.  Happy meditating!


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