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on December 21, 2010
I usually spend some time discussing meditation with several of my Psychology classes, and the more interested students often ask for additional information (readings, audio tapes, etc.). I usually reply that there are a number of good resources available, but I finally found one that I can enthusiastically recommend without reservation. Sharon Salzberg's book describes everything from meditation (breathing, walking, body scanning, even drinking tea) to mindfulness (emotions, dealing with thoughts and feelings via recognition, acceptance, investigation and nonidentification) to loving-kindness meditation (cultivating compassion and true happiness, paying attention to ourselves and others with interest and care). She introduces a 28-day guided program of 20 minute meditation sessions. There is an extended discussion of the benefits of meditation. The book also comes with a CD with four guided meditations, which is among the best I've listened to. The book is what I've come to expect from Salzberg. Highly recommended!
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on January 20, 2011
Sharon's writing in this book is just like her teaching style and though I'm not finished with the book, I can tell this will give me yet another layer of understanding to my practice.

I want to comment on the Kindle format, however. When it starts, you're allegedly 7% of the way through the book. Often there's one letter on a line (the first line of a chapter) and there are references to page numbers throughout the writing, which are not findable on the Kindle. There are also a number of instances where the left margin is an inch or two from the left side of the frame. I've read many books on Kindle and this one seems to have the strangest formatting problems.
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on March 28, 2011
This winter has been the hardest winter of my life. I'm a newly made single-mom of a beautiful baby boy. I met Sharon Salzberg in the fall while seeing John of God. She was the most peace-filled and generous person I had ever encountered. So when I saw that she had a book released shortly after, I got it right away. It has been the single tool I have needed to make it through this painful and dark winter. I could not suggest this book more. It helped to remind me of the deepest aspects of my self that remain unbroken despite heartbreak and loneliness. And it provided me with all the pragmatic meditation tools I needed to make it through the anxiety and extreme upset that kept knocking on my door on the coldest days. Spring's arrival feels like an epic triumph for me- and this little red book of real happiness was the faithful companion that saw me through the darkest season of my soul. Thank you Sharon from the depths of my heart for this gift.
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on October 12, 2011
In her book, Real Happiness, The Power of Meditation, Sharon Salzberg quotes Pablo Neruda's poem Keeping Quiet:

"...If we were were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
...Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive."

What a beautiful thought. Neruda's "sadness", to me, is depression, the depression that underlies our restlessness, anxiety, agitation, the constant mental and physical movement and the hungry ghosts living within us that can never be satisfied. But how to be still when everything around us is moving as well as everything within?

Salzberg's gentle book offers meditation exercises that will meet us where we are. A companion CD with Salzberg guiding the reader through a variety of meditations is included.

I can't say why or how, but meditation works. Salzberg explains it best when she writes about breathing meditation:

"We become aware of a calm, stable center that can steady us even when our lives are in upheaval. The better you get at concentrating your attention on the chosen object, the breath, the deeper the stillness and calm you feel. As you mind withdraws from obsessive thinking, fruitless worry, and self recrimination, you feel a sense of refuge. You have a safe place to go, and it's within."

Learning to meditate doesn't take a lifetime. It takes practice. One step. One emotion. One breath. At a time.
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on January 26, 2011
For anyone who thinks they just can't sit still or quiet their mind long enough to meditate, think again! This book and its companion CD, with easy to follow meditations, is a fool proof guide. With everything from personal anecdotes to scientific studies, Real Happiness provides easy access to a practice that doesn't require anything more than our ability to just breathe. In her signature style, Sharon explains what meditation really is, and how we can all benefit from it. Even those with life-long meditation practices will enjoy the ease of Sharon's voice and instruction.
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on February 7, 2012
Format looks excellent on my Kindle. Works just like other books, plus the audio can be downloaded from links in the Kindle edition. Great, very useful book!
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on April 24, 2013
This book seems to have been written for beginners, ie. people new to meditation. For those people, much of this book will appear unfocused and confusing. (The very first section, explaining why meditation is beneficial, may be useful to them, however.)

First problem: Salzberg throws in numerous types of meditation. For a beginner, the first 28 days (and past that) should be focused on simply being with the breath. Learning how to exist in the moment. This is not a process that can be truly experienced immediately. (28 days is a very short amount of time!!) But rather than suggesting this most basic and essential of meditation techniques alone until the person become familiar and comfortable with it, Salzberg piles on a dozen or so other techniques as options. In doing so, she creates a bit of a garbled mess.

Second problem: Salzberg recommends doing 2 twenty-minute meditation sessions the first week, then adding additional twenty-minute days in weeks thereafter. There are two issues with this method. A little every day is far more useful than longer periods with less frequency. (Greater frequency makes it easier to get into a rhythm.) And twenty minutes may seem like a long time to a newbie, who could become easily discouraged with the monkey mind. A much more useful and non-demoralizing plan would be to start with, say, five to ten minute sessions every day for the first week, then increasing the time per session another five to ten minutes each subsequent week.

Third problem: The cover of the book promises the impossible. If you are not particularly happy, 28 days of meditating will not make you happy. It certainly will start you on the path in that direction!! But true happiness takes much longer to achieve. The Buddha himself pursued true happiness (enlightenment) for years before achieving it.

Fourth problem: The book should have been article length. Not nearly enough content for a book. And, in trying to stretch the content, Salzberg commits the first problem.

All in all, I would not recommend this book for a beginner. Nor would I recommend it for experienced meditation practitioners, because for them it would be far too basic/simplistic.
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on December 15, 2011
This is the single best book I have found for beginners. I have been studying and practicing meditation for about two years. This book has been the most helpful among all the books I have read (about ten), and a tremendously valuable supplement to the classes I have taken. It is the book I return to when I feel my meditation practice getting off track. Sharon Salzberg's instructions and metaphors are clear and practical and they reflect the expertise she has acquired in the decades she has spent teaching people mindfulness and meditation. Her tone is compassionate and down-to-earth, and she includes instructions for people with disabilities, anxiety, and other issues. The CD's are a wonderful source of support for beginners. I recommend this book highly.
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on February 19, 2011
I've read a few meditation books and listened to tapes and CDs. This is the best I've found and would recommend it highly. Sharon Salzberg keeps it simple and lowers the anxiety temperature regarding distraction, inattention, etc. It's modestly priced and includes a sample CD, which is what you need instead of six CDs and a "jump through these hoops" approach. Namaste!
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on January 18, 2016
I've been mediating for about 4 months and with encouraging results. I had had Salzberg and LovingKindness specifically recommended to me to help with some existential issues I've been dealing with and can honestly say in such a short time that I have a new and healthier perspective on a number of things. Sharon has a good non-religiousness about this stuff that allows agnostic/anesthetists like myself to try it and see the benefits. She writes well and I am enjoying the greater overview of the subject matter. I like what she has to say and how she puts it.

I was very excited to being this, am enjoying but find some areas for improvement. I think the vocal tone on Sharon's narration is not as nice as the many talks of her's that I have listened to on Dharma Seed. It feels a little rushed like she is just getting through the page. Maybe there was no one in the room when she read this and she didn't achieve the same empathic, human connection that she seems to strike in her lectures

Also, as a beginner, I really like the 'guided medications with pauses'. These are narrated meditation, where you listen and follow direction/advice for the duration of your session. I find that this audio version is kind of jangly and has distracting additions - it actually interrupts my focus to follow some of the stuff she adds (which is counter to the intent of the breathing meditation). Instead I rely on ones I downloaded (for free) from UCLA medication center. These are so soothing my kids listen to them to get to sleep.
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