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Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English: An Introductory guide to Deeper States of Meditation Paperback – 8 Sep 2009
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"A straightforward and pragmatic guide to deepening levels of concentration and insight. This book is a joy to read and a great gift to us all." (Joseph Goldstein, author of A Heart Full of Peace)
"Bhante Gunaratana has done it again! There is practical logic and an almost startling common sense to the explainations that lead the reader smoothly through the various stages of meditative concentration." (Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery)
"Elegant and profound." (Matthew Flickstein, author of The Meditator's Atlas and The Meditator's Workbook)
"Thoroughly grounded in the core teachings of the Buddhist path, this is a simple and clear introduction that will make these tools an accessible element in every meditator's practice. A welcome addition!" (Shaila Catherine, author of Focused and Fearless)
"Straight-forward and valuable." (Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith)
"Excellent and highly recommended." (Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx)
"Bhante Gunaratana writes with such clarity that we are drawn in to taste stillness and joy even as we read. An inspiring book!" (Guy Armstrong, senior teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center)
"It's been nearly two decades since the bestselling Mindfulness in Plain English was published, and this new book is a classic in the making. It shows us that having faith in the Buddha, and applying a healthy striving with sincerity and energy, will guide us towards wisdom. This does seem so achievable, as the author gives us the theory, piece by piece and voila! Mindfulness in perfect balance. Of course we have to get rid of some hindrances along the way but the goal is worth it." (Mandala)
"Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English is written in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand style that clearly seems based on the author's personal experience. Bhante Gunaratana offers a clear sense of the experience of moving from ordinary distracted mind to a strong state of concentration leading to the stages of awakening." (Inquiring Mind)
About the Author
Bhante Gunaratana was ordained at the age of twelve as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, earned his PhD in philosophy from The American University, and has led meditation retreats, taught Buddhism, and lectured widely throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the president of the Bhavana Society in High View, West Virginia, where he lives.
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It took a lot of persistence before the jhana states began to work for me. The honest answer: two and a half years of off-and-on practice. If you add up only the months that I actually practiced meditation regularly, it was around a year's worth of steady practice. All that persistence, the slow-but-steady work of talking myself into meditating instead of procrastinating, staying on the cushion for the whole time period instead of leaving once I got bored, all the times I began my practice anew after I'd let it slip away... it was all so worth it.
How was all that hard work worth it to me? I'll let the numbers explain it: Since I've been meditating regularly, I've been able to cut my dose of ADHD medication in half. In other words, this jhana meditation helps me focus more easily during the day while taking LESS focus medicine! And, crucial to this review, the Beyond Mindfulness book (together with one other book, Who Is My Self by Ayya Khema) has made it possible for me to get to jhana. "Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond" by Ajahn Brahm simply didn't work for me. At all. "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" by Daniel Ingram explained what the jhanas were, but it didn't help me DO them. And Catherine Shaila's "Focused and Fearless" book was a great pleasure to read, full of interesting exercises, but those exercises didn't bring me any closer to jhana. Why buy a book about jhana if you're just going to read about them, without experiencing them? Only this book and Ayya Khema's book helped me develop access to the jhanas.
One more note about the benefits of jhana meditation. Odd, random good things have happened to my mind, aside from the improved focus. For example, I don't dislike mowing the grass anymore. It's become an enjoyable form of exercise, whereas it used to seem like a bunch of boring, sweaty, dirty work. Also, the increased mental clarity makes me notice when others are being manipulative. Salespeople just don't have the sort of influence over me that they used to, and I've let some negative people out of my life because I can now see past their facades of niceness. Part of this may just be growing up, but if that's the case, I've never grown up so much in such a short period of time.
Also, I have way more patience for my and others' mistakes now. My mind is just plain nicer than it used to be. Why would I be upset that some other person isn't making me happy? I can go sit down to meditate at any time and have extraordinary joy flooding my mind within 20 minutes, and then have the excitement and rush of joy slowly fade into a calm, satisfying feeling of peace over the next 20 minutes. That's a pretty significant realization, and it's the sort of thing "advanced" meditators talk about all the time. I'm not "advanced" by any means, but if these are the benefits of my "intermediate" meditation practice, I can't wait to see what will happen when I'm "advanced"!
So that's why I like jhana. Why do I like the book? Because unlike most of the others, this one actually showed me how to do jhana, even despite my learning disability. But a word of caution: no meditation book will ever do the work for you, just like no physical fitness book will exercise for you. It just shows you how to use your practice time effectively. So if you're willing to put in the hours to learn about deeper forms of meditation than simple mindfulness, if you want to go Beyond Mindfulness, this book is a great choice!
All books talk about meditation itself and that you naturally progress into Jhanas but very few gives any practical advice about how to accentuate the progression if possible.
I would have liked to hear the authors experience as he crossed those landmarks in his progression rather than pure theoretical statistic of different people experiences.
For more depth, I found Beyond Mindfulness by the same author to be more of what I was looking for. He take the time to explain what you might experience when you access concentration, access jhana, etc. I'm experiencing different things while meditating these days and was wondering if I was in jhana or not. Now I understand that it is access concentration, the stage just before entering jhana.
Of the two, Beyond mindfulness was more in depth and if you're looking for something that explains what to expect and to notice the signs, this one is more for you as I found for me =)