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Unlearning Meditation: What to Do When the Instructions Get In the Way Paperback – July 6, 2010
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“A radically illuminating book for practitioners to newly understand their meditation through loving interest in what is actually going on, beyond any instruction or ideal.”—Jack Kornfield, author of The Wise Heart
“A wise, practical, and radical book that sheds new and wondrous light on dharma in the West.”—Joan Halifax Roshi, author of Being with Dying
“Jason Siff is one of the most distinctive and engaging voices of the emerging Buddhist culture in the West.”—Stephen Batchelor, author of Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
“Siff frees meditators from their own expectations, and ultimately, any guilt about not following the rules. With a gentle style that’s encouraging, wise, and even playful at times, Siff provides a very useful guide for those who want to meditate, but need to ‘unlearn’ in order to move forward. He blends his Eastern and Western experience to give the work spiritual rigor and grounding, while still appealing to a broad audience. Readers don’t need to be Buddhist, or even familiar with its philosophical concepts, to benefit from Siff’s clearly articulated, thoughtful advice.”—ForeWord Reviews
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
This, Siff proposes, means "unlearning" meditation practices that stress silencing the voices and emotions within us. For a meditator facing inevitable impasses, he shows how "transformative conceptualization" can draw us patiently to examine "mental constructs" as a way towards non-conceptual understanding. This challenges the norm that such a non-conceptual realization comes only when the seeker has attained the goal of a purer sense-experience. This can be a tricky "concept" to comprehend, admittedly.
Siff takes his time in a couple-hundred pages to relate his own evolution from Tibetan and especially Vipassana training into a more fluid, open-ended direction. While grounded in the Theravada traditions, and using a lot of the samatha (calming)-vipassana (discerning) as the foundation for his path, he advises the meditator not to become attached to any one form, if that form becomes too "grounded" so as to discourage the seeker, or ossify the spirit. To me, this seems like a commonsense, slightly but subtly radical, existential attitude I like. He returns, softly, to the Pali texts, as does Batchelor, to revive the force of the earlier Buddha's impact, one concentrating upon ethical action and not dogmatic codification.Read more ›
WHO IS IT FOR?
Although beginners will surely find a great deal of value and interest in here, it is geared more towards those who have tried meditation techniques and, for one reason or another, found them difficult to continue, or unrewarding. I suppose that pretty much includes everyone who has ever tried meditating :) The writing is generally pretty clear, though there are sections that will be a little easier to grasp quickly if you have read other books on meditation, such as Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Shambhala Library) (one of my favorites). My feeling is that in some places the author was writing with books like this in mind.
WHAT'S THE MESSAGE?
Don't be a slave to the system. It's OK if you don't get much out of following your breath (or whatever practice you are having trouble with). You are not failing at it. He stresses that the meditation practices are there for you, and if they don't suit you, don't keep trying harder and harder to follow the "rules" and get it "right." Try another approach. What I took away from this book is the message that I should trust myself to adapt the practices to suit me.Read more ›
Disclaimer: for the past 5 years I've been a student of Jason's. He's not the only teacher from whom I learn, but he has become the principal one since I discovered his "Unlearning Meditation" workshop at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies 5 years ago (4 years before the book came out). At that time I had run up against a wall, feeling that I was "failing" at meditation because of my inability--after 35 years of trying in one way or another--to attain sustained periods of thought-free concentration. I had internalized this goal from instructions in various forms of meditation--from Transcendental Meditation to several schools of Buddhism--that pointed to getting "lost in thought" as a sign that one's attention had wandered, and should be brought back to, say, a mantra, or the breath.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author has original thoughts about mediation, and offers a mediation practice which is significantly different than others I've heard of. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Eric Albertson
Great book! It was suggested by a friend and I have not been disappointed.Published 21 months ago by Share Dewees
SO unique, love the perspective...has made me WANT to meditate more, be less strenously hard on myself!Published 22 months ago by Toadwoman
This is an excellent book. I think it is really helpful in giving us fresh perspectives on our meditation practice, showing clearly how we can be unnecessarily rigid, dogmatic,... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Peter King
It's good as far as he goes, but one is left with the impression that he didn't quite have enough material for a full book and so padded it with example after example. Read morePublished on November 27, 2013 by Craig Bergland
A wonderful book which clarifies many aspects of the meditative experience. It will be helpful for beginners as well as long term meditators. Love it!Published on July 2, 2013 by Mr. Robert P. Kaczan
Very interesting perspective on meditation. I am interested in applying it to my practice and exploring it's benefits. Read morePublished on October 9, 2012 by Richard Steinberg
Siff relates his own evolution from Tibetan and especially Vipassana training into a more fluid, open-ended direction which he calls Recollective Awareness Training. Read morePublished on September 25, 2012 by Joyce