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The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science Paperback – October 6, 2015
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I should start out by saying that I'm not a Buddhist, and quite frankly have developed a degree of skepticism and disappointment for all religions of the world. In saying that I'm not an atheist by any means, but really a seeker of the ultimate universal truth. Culadasa (and team) are able to guide the reader through a very thoughtful process of how to understand your own consciousness, where one's actual understanding of truth are compiled. Indeed, I've taken college level classes on neuroscience, and heard more than once that we know where all the components of your mind are located (emotions, memory, anger, happiness, etc.), but consciousness has no actual locus. This book takes you on a journey in the attempt to understand what that means, and ultimately provides one of the best articulations I have ever read on describing the conscious mind.
How can doing something so simple, like paying attention to one thing (i.e. breathing) for an extended period of time be so profound? How can this process cause so much turmoil as your entire belief system is turned upside down? And finally, how does this result in answering some of the deepest questions that have swirled around in your mind from as long as you can remember? As I began a practice of meditation using techniques outlined in the book, there were questions and thoughts that were followed by more questions and thoughts. I was (and still am) amazed at how thoroughly everything is addressed in complete detail. In fact, I went through something quite traumatic that's referred to as "The Dark Night of the Soul". It's ultimately caused when you come to the realization your whole concept of self is something fabricated in the mind. I went through a crisis of sorts, as the ego tried to hang onto its tenuous moorings in consensus reality. In letting go of the ego so to speak, and beginning the process of unifying the many components of the mind into one cohesive process has brought about an inner peace with clarity and focus like I've never had before. I'm convinced that this is just the beginning of something more profound as the journey unfolds.
I originally had just the Kindle version, but now went out and bought a hard copy for my coffee table in the meditation area. It's a book that gets opened just about every day. As mentioned, I'm now almost finished with the second cover-to-cover reading. I've actually created a document to outline the key points of the book. There are a number of lists, levels, and other important points that really need to be committed to memory. The book is organized using side notes, diagrams, and key points in offsets. It's suffice to say that the important points, are indeed *important* to remember.
If your looking for a treatise on mindfulness, or life changing guidebook to help you with the quest for truth, then I wholeheartedly recommend the knowledge in this book as the means to get you there.
For a newcomer to meditation this book is the best possible introduction as well as a lifelong companion. For someone with an established practice, be it in the Theravadin, Tibetan or Zen tradition (or for that matter secular mindfulness or non-Buddhist contemplative approaches) The MInd Illuminated is a treasure trove of encouragement and clarification of key points in practice that no other book I'm aware of addresses. It comes as close as any book possibly can to having not just a teacher but a living meditation master with personal experience of every step of the path into your home.
While grounded in decades of obviously very serious and intensive practice and study of Buddhism this book uses the absolute minimum number of foreign words and defines them precisely. Someone with a purely secular interest in meditation will have no problem with the content, while devoted adherents of particular contemplative paths will feel supported. The tone throughout is kind, warm, clear and encouraging.
Anyone who's practiced meditation for years knows that motivation for practice often waxes and wanes, and that it's all-too-easy to run into dead ends that seem impossible to overcome, to stagnate in one's practice, or to stop sitting altogether out of frustration or fear. Culadasa anticipates all of this, starting with a chapter titled “Establishing a Practice” that in and of itself is worth the price of the book, and following up with dozens of pith instructions that seem to address even the subtlest mistakes in practice, obviously born from a combination of deep realization and extensive experience coaching meditators ranging from beginner to very advanced.
My only regret about this book is that it wasn't published decades ago!
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