Buddha’s Book of Meditation

Buddha's Book of MeditationThe following songs and guided meditations are designed to accompany the book, Buddha’s Book of Meditation (March 2015, Tarcher/Penguin). Each chapter in that book describes and clarifies the meaning of one of these exercises. For best results, they should be practiced while reading that book.

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Guided meditations

Practice songs

We carry a lot of baggage from our childhood, and sometimes this gets in the way. “The inner child in us is still alive. And the little child in us, in you all, may still have wounds within” says Thich Nhat Hanh. If those wounds are too painful, or the baggage too heavy, we may go to a psychotherapist for help.

But what to do about the baggage we also carry from those 2.5 million years we spent as cavemen and cavewomen? So far, no system of psychotherapy offers to cure the “caveman syndrome”—it is not in the DSM, the diagnostic manual. Yet, the caveman is still alive in us, and it rears its ugly head only too often in our rapes, murders, and bullying. It is there in our “sports” where men bash each other up, often wounding or giving each other incurable concussions. It is there in our cars—the TV cartoon show, The Flintstones parodied that with great success. It is there in our wars, nuclear bombs, torture chambers and waterboarding. And it is there in our board rooms. The veneer of civilization is thin—it is the lipstick on a cat, the beast is still there underneath.

And our evolutionary baggage reaches still further, to our time as apes and other animals. Thich Nhat Hanh describes Buddha’s awakening as the realization that all his previous lives were alive in him at the present time. They were not merely history (by the way, according to the current classification system, we are apes).

Buddha’s Book of Meditation offers mindfulness as a complement to our physical evolution, and as an effective counterweight to our evolutionary urges. With mindfulness we recognize all the urges that surge in us, and we learn to breathe and smile at them, instead of acting them out. Mindfulness is presented as a support for loving relationships, for happiness, and for personal and world peace—it is an essential practice for all of us. Otherwise, the negativity bias of our brain prevents us from fully appreciating all the beauty that is around us. This book offers exercises, mantras, and guided meditations for driving its message home—mindfulness needs to be a habit if it is to be effective in transforming our everyday lives, and it takes practice to form new habits.

Sample passages

From the NOTES TO THE READER:

Self-regulation, better relationships, and developing a compassionate heart are significant benefits of meditation; in this book, they are given the importance that they deserve.

We recognize now that the role of the brain in guiding our life has its downside as well as its many benefits. I use the word brainfulness to describe an attitude of unexamined bondage to the biases and priorities of this organ, and suggest that mindfulness is an effective counterweight to it.

Practice material is integrated into every chapterand to make practice sessions more enjoyable, many of the exercises are songs that you can download and use as “mindfulness mantras” to inspire and guide your practice. The message of this book is empowering; whether you would like to be more positive, more peaceful, less anxious, or angry less often, you can change in ways that you desire.

The brain is plaster, you are the sculptor, and mindfulness meditation is the tool.

It is my fervent wish that this book will be useful to meditation students and teachers and to those in the helping professions who want to use meditation with their clients.

 

Embodied wisdom

Do you remember the time when you were learning to drive?

The rules of traffic are pretty simple, but an intellectual knowledge of driving a car is different from the feeling you get when you slip behind the wheel. Now, your body needs to drive the car as well as your brain; your feet, your hands, your eyes and ears need to be coordinated with your thoughts. When you think left turn, your body must execute the maneuver smoothly.

Embodying peace is also quite an apprenticeship.

You can read about peace in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh in relatively short time.

But consistently embodying peace as you walk, eat, and do the dishes every day is another matter. And speaking peacefully, under provocation in an argument, under stress in front of a group, or when you feel anger takes a whole lot more than an intellectual understanding of peace.

Relax.

People spend eight weeks in a stress reduction course to teach that one word to their bodies. And some come back for a second session.