Reviewing Mindfulness in Plain English ( It’s Sunday )

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana is a great “HowTo” meditate book. It is thorough, answers most “newbie questions”, answers questions “newbies” should ask, and has a good sense of humour. It is by far the best “HowTo” meditate book I’ve read. This book seems to be available everywhere. I got mine at the library. A quick Google search will turn up free .pdf and .epub downloads. This of course begs the question, “How come it took me ten years to find it?”

The simple description of Vipassana (breathing) meditation as the development of two skills concentration (following the breath) and mindfulness (noticing when you’ve lost the breath) is very useful. I particularly liked the section on Loving Kindness (page 99–106). This topic is easy to understand on the surface, but it is difficult to understand at the practice level. It is covered very well here. Also I always get confused with the buddhist use of the word Liberation. I always leave thinking What am I being liberated from? On page 158 Bhante G says

This does not mean, however, that you will instantly attain Liberation ( freedom from all human weaknesses)….

That said my sense of this book is “Wow this is a lot of information!” no wonder it’s highly recommended that one only do this work with a monk. No wonder it took me so long ( a decade) to be able to do this. There are ups and downs. The Difficulties and Distractions chapters are so practical, meaningful, and useful. But they also bring some serious “doubt” into my mind. I keep asking myself the question “I don’t know if I’d have done this if I’d read the Difficulties section.” ( It’s like a sports book having a section on “common injuries in our sport”. It’s good to know what you’re getting into, but do you really want to know that most pro athletes have many surgical scars? ) Thus my sense of this book is that it’s really for people aspiring to be “teachers”, to remember what it was like back at the beginning and for “newbies” to see the worth and seek out a “teacher”. That just my sense.

The best part of this book is Chapter 15 Meditation in Everyday Life where Bhante G says that real life is the game and that ones practice (meditation practice) is just that “practice for real life”. Get on with living! Meditation is a skill that will help you live, it will help you get out into the raw, real, exciting world, it’s not a skill that helps you hide from our world.