If you learned that there was a simple safe activity you could do for 20 minutes a day to help a friend in need, would you do it?
Of course, most of us will respond positively and eagerly at that; yet spending that same 20 mins to help ourselves however seems to make us uncomfortable, we worry that we are egocentric and self-indulgent; but helping ourselves is helping our friends – Real Happiness – Pg 199.
(BOOK REVIEW) REAL HAPPINESS: A 28-DAY PROGRAMME TO CONNECT WITH THE POWER OF MEDITATION|| SHARON SALZBERG|| HAY HOUSE || GREAT BRITAIN|| 221 PAGES
Real Happiness introduces us to the practice of meditation by providing a great foundation that helps us appreciate the relevance the practice. The author also dispels some of the myths that are associated with meditation.
As the sub-title indicates, the goal is to get you to harness the power of meditation by actually meditating without sabotaging yourself and weighing yourself down trying to keep up with all the popular assumptions of what a good meditation practice should entail.
The book is written in 3 main parts; the first part introduces the concept of meditation and its importance; the second part delves into the meditation practice – split into 4 weeks, with a new form of meditation technique explored in each week; the last part focuses on suggestions on how to keep the meditation practice going.
Each week, a new type of meditation is explored and the chapter ends with a frequently asked questions section to address questions that new meditators may have.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a way to recognize your thoughts, to observe and understand them and to relate to them more skillfully.
Meditation is to the mind what Exercise is to the body.
The book discusses three forms of meditation based on three major outcomes derived from meditating. They are;
Concentration: This is the focus of the 1st week – training the mind to pay attention and letting go of internal and external distractions using breathing.
Mindfulness Meditation: This was split into 2 – Mindfulness and the body; Mindfulness and Emotions – and done over 2 weeks. Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what’s happening, how we interpret what is happening, and how that affects what is actually happening.
Lovingkindness Meditation: this is epicenter of the 4th week. Lovingkindness teaches you how to ‘love’. How to love yourself and others through increased awareness and compassion towards others.
What meditation is NOT?
- Meditation is not a religion.
- It does not require special skills or background – if you can breathe you can meditate.
- Meditation is not an attempt to stop thinking or only think positive thoughts.
As part of my commitment to paying extra attention to my mental health during the mandatory lock-down, I decided to read Sharon Salzberg’s book to help me start meditating as a way to keep the calm up there.
I had tried meditating sometime in 2017 about twice a week for almost 3 months (according to the Insights Meditation App log which I resumed) and even though I cannot remember much of the 2017 experience I can tell that there is a huge difference.
The difference between 2017 and 2020, apart from me being a different person mentally, emotionally and older by 3 years is the fact that, I now truly understand the basics and benefits of the meditation practice from reading this book before starting over. With the help of this book, I have successfully achieved my first major milestone of meditating for 30 consecutive days, whilst also reaping the benefits of better attention, mindfulness and loving kindness.
I understand now, that it is not just about the pose – in fact I have taken more pictures with this pose than I have actually used it in meditation; it’s more about the concept of starting over and over for as many times as is necessary. It is about paying attention to my thoughts enough to know what I am thinking, when I am thinking it and what I am feeling when I am feeling it; not just getting lost in thoughts. It is about forgiving myself every time I get distracted during my practice.
The amazing thing is the fact that this doesn’t end with the meditation practice, it permeates through me as a person and impacts how I respond to other unrelated things or just other people in general. I catch myself being a little more patient when I am upset, or just paying more attention to my day.
If you are ready to start a meditation practice, you should grab a copy of the book to firm up your foundation.