This week’s Friday Favourites is my favourite book that teaches a skill and I have chosen The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa et al.
What it sets out to do is, through a series of different meditation techniques it enables the student to pass through various stages of competence. It starts at the complete beginner stage and goes up to stage ten (which is I think comparable with stream entry).
The thing that is different here to other mediation books is the combination of the two main types of meditation. That being concentration meditation where you focus on one unchanging subject and insight mediation where the focus of attention is on whatever presents itself which is supposed to bring insights into the nature of being. Normally these two disciplines are taught separately and are thought to be mutually exclusive but this book attempts to combine them and I think it succeeds.
Unlike many meditation books this book is very much grounded in the modern life of busy western people, and although there is the background in Buddhist teachings most of the details are contained in the extensive footnotes so it is not off-putting for a beginner but they are detailed enough that experienced mediators can gain lots from this book too.
This book differs from other mediation books as it does not just give one meditation technique but gives many depending on the stage that the mediator is at, from simple breath meditation to complex body scans (which reminded me of Vipassanā as taught by S. N. Goenka) and personally I found this very helpful indeed.
I also found the theories and models explaining how the human mind work very useful especially the differences between attention (what you are focusing on) and peripheral awareness (everything else that your senses detect) and how these two interact in daily life and how to use them during meditation. This is not something I had seen in other books on the subject.
Anyway if you are new to the whole idea of meditation and don’t know how to start or an experienced mediator there is a lot to gain from this book and I recommend it highly.
Buy this book on Wordery
This book has three authors firstly John Yates (PhD) otherwise known as Culadasa who has had a meditation practice for many years both in the Tibetan and Theralvada traditions . He also has a background in neurosciences and has taught the subject. He runs a meditation retreat centre with his wife in Arizona. The second author is Matthew Immergut (PhD) who is a professor of Sociology he is a longtime mediator and a student of Culadasa. The third and final author is a man called Jeremy Graves who is another student of Culadasa’s.