Meditation for Your Life: creating a plan that suits your style / Robert Butera
Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 336 p.
Here's one book I read while on my holidays: a look at various types of meditation, aimed at demystifying techniques and enabling the reader to find one that matches your own personality and preferences.
It's a basic intro to the idea that there are a variety of ways to meditate, and that some will suit your temperament more than others. He introduces the book by discussing 'myths' and expectations, then moves on to the steps to prepare for meditation: preparing your life for a meditation practice by reducing stressful behaviours, being aware of your thoughts, breathing, relaxation, good nutrition, and sensory mastery (ie: being conscious of the distractions of sound, smell, daydreams, etc.) Each of these areas has its own brief chapter with explanations and definitions, as well as specific examples to aid in each area. Next, he focuses on the 6 major types of meditation -- each of these is also dealt with thoroughly in its own chapter with further information in the resource section at the end of the book.
The 6 major types of meditation that he recognizes are:
1. Breath: awareness of the movement of the breath and thus energy throughout the body
2. Affirmations & Visualizations: just what it sounds like
3. Mantra: repetition of a sacred word or sound, ie: "om", or something from scripture, poetry or prayers
4. Devotion/Prayer/Intentionality: a receptive sort of listening, including contemplative prayer, mysticism and so forth
5. Mindfulness: uses concentration and awareness -- observation of the present moment, without judgement. Derived from Buddhist Insight meditation (vipassana)
6. Contemplative Inquiry: simple focus on one concept -- existential questions, koans etc
The final 60 pages or so delve into how to create and maintain a meditation practice once you've decided what appeals to you, along with many tips and suggestions gleaned from his experience.
I enjoyed the tone of the book; he provides copious amounts of solid information in a practical, down-to-earth way. He is open about the pros and cons of the practices and makes suggestion as to how to choose something which will be most likely to work for you. There is no dogmatic insistence on any particular method, rather, he illuminates and presents many options with the final goal being to encourage the inclusion of some kind of contemplative/meditative practice in your life.
I found it very well organized and encouraging, and a perfect book for someone in the early stages of exploration of this area. I feel like I've learned a lot, and more than that, am enthusiastic about exploring more deeply. Recommended highly!