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Mindfulness in Plain English

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  8,033 Ratings  ·  499 Reviews
“A masterpiece.”
—Jon Kabat-Zinn

With over a quarter of a million copies sold, Mindfulness in Plain English is one of the most influential books in the burgeoning field of mindfulness and a timeless classic introduction to meditation. This is a book that people read, love, and share - a book that people talk about, write about, reflect on, and return to over and over again.
ebook, Revised, Expanded, 224 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Wisdom Publications (first published January 25th 1992)
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May 13, 2011 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I expected an exceptional guide to meditation and was surprised to find the book also contained strong, clearly articulated reasons for cultivating mindfulness. This is the best, most concise book on the subject I've read to date. The directness with which ideas are expressed may be startling for some, but the rationale for practice offered throughout is solid. I think it will appeal to any rational person, whether they subscribe to a particular religion or have no faith at all. This is an excel ...more
Sep 25, 2016 snow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still know that the best way to understand mindfulness and meditation is just by the very act of meditation itself, yet reading this book gave the great understanding of Buddha's teaching. In Vietnam, Buddhism is combined folklore with Confucian and Taoist teachings making this faith somehow vague despite the fact that most of Vietnameses identify themselves as a Buddist. Thank to the beautifully written books as this one that Buddism and mindfulness become understandable for those who in need.
No review, just quotes. Each of the following paragraphs are direct quotes, in the order they are found in the text. The book is freely available online.

We have taken a flowing vortex of thought, feeling and sensation and we have solidified that into a mental construct. Then we have stuck a label onto it, 'me'. And forever after, we treat it as if it were a static and enduring entity. We view it as a thing separate from all other things. We pinch ourselves off from the rest of that process of et
Darryl Knudsen
Jan 05, 2008 Darryl Knudsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even those who don't plan to engage in Buddhist meditation will benefit from his descriptions of the many distractions (mental and physical) that we create for ourselves and which make it more difficult to lead aware lives full of compassion for those around us.

Excellent overview of Vipassana meditation and why it's worth your time. Also an excellent articulation of the need and benefits of cultivating "loving friendliness" toward yourself, those you love, strangers, and even eventually toward
Mar 12, 2015 kaśyap rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Guide to vipassana meditation for a complete beginner. A clear and readable text. Would recommend to anyone who is looking to begin practicing meditation and don't want to get bogged down by theoretical and ritualistic stuff.
David Katzman
Sep 22, 2008 David Katzman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with some experience meditating looking to explore further
I’m an armchair Buddhist. Meaning, I like to think about being Buddhist more than actually practicing. But I certainly have deep appreciation for much of Buddhist thought, and I occasionally meditate, and I want to do so more frequently. I almost joined a Zen Buddhist Temple about a mile away from where I live. Still thinking about doing so. Oddly enough, the Art Director who designed Death by Zamboni with me quit his job to become a monk there. I think I drove him crazy because I was so demandi ...more
 “We are simply not paying enough attention to notice that we are not paying attention.”

I have a meticulous system for taking notes when I read, but it didn’t work with Mindfulness in Plain English. Underlining 90% of the book doesn’t help highlight the most important lessons. This is the best book on mindfulness and meditation that I’ve read to date.

I read this book as a meditation refresher several years after I started meditating. I expected to take away a few tips on how to breathe better,
Apr 17, 2014 Tiffany rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This was a book club pick and I tried my best to approach it with an open mind. I have studied several Buddhist texts in the past and this one is one of the best I've seen at simplifying the idea of Buddhist transcendence or enlightenment for the layman. I can see how this book would be a great resource for people looking to learn the "secrets of meditation", the author himself states there are no secrets all that's required is a willingness to try and focus. In general people are searching for ...more
Bart Everson
Dec 07, 2011 Bart Everson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in meditation
Hard to evaluate this book, because I've never read anything quite like it.

It is a basic meditation manual. It does not attempt to cover a broad range of approaches. Rather it's focused on one specific type, namely mindfulness meditation, also known as Vipassana or insight meditation. The author is coming from a Theravāda Buddhist tradition. However, as the title implies, the material is given a straightforward presentation with minimal metaphysical baggage.

That might sound dry. It's not. The w
Dec 05, 2012 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
Probably one of the most practical, nuts-and-bolts guides to meditation practice I've read. The author is writing from the perspective of the vipassana tradition, but what is unique about this book is that it primarily stays away from the spiritual side of Buddhism. It's focus is almost entirely on the technique, problems, and solutions of mindfulness meditation. Of all the books I've read on Buddhism, this is the first I've come across like that. It is valuable information particularly to someo ...more
Viet Hung Nguyen
Must read for beginner meditators

This is more than the 3rd times I re-read this great book, after 3 years practicing meditation. Each time I read it, each time I learn more out of it. Certainly, I will re-read if after more meditation. If there is only one book to suggest for beginner meditators on the practice side, no doubt that I would pick this one.
Dec 04, 2013 K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
No problems with the message(s) in this book, but the tone was not for me. The use of the second person combined with absolute statements struck me the wrong way, as did the repeated concept that every problem you have can be solved (or at least ameliorated) by meditation -- and that if it isn't, the solution is still meditation.
Despite having and constantly trying to deepen a daily meditation practice for years, I hadn't read this book. Since I'm slowly in the process of trying to reintegrate vipassana into my existing meditation practice—one rooted in the Kundalini yogic tradition—I found this book the be an invaluable resource, not only as a reintroduction of sorts to vipassana (insight meditation), but also perhaps reminding me why I've always preferred vipassana practice to zazen ("just sitting").

For those new to m
Jan 17, 2017 Kouver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great exposition of not only meditation but also of how to practice mindfulness throughout everyday life. (Also a great intro to Vipassana meditation.)
Daniel Clausen
Sep 16, 2013 Daniel Clausen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One review wrote about this book "An odd mix: kept switching back and forth between pragmatic-sounding approaches to meditation and kinda out-there metaphysical/philosphical tangents. Felt repetitive, but that could have just been the attempt to put this material in "plain English"."

This sums up my impression of the book.

In some ways, the book was a perfection introduction to meditation; but in the end, I was glad once I was done to write my own summary that amounted to three pages.

For me, thre
I don't really want to review this, so this is really just a few brief notes I wanted to share. I liked this well enough and found it useful enough to buy a copy for my physical book library. When I first began reading it, and its description of meditation, I was beginning to think that this may be impossible for me, but reading it further, he shared an old metaphor of meditation as taming a wild elephant, with your mind being the wild elephant, stamping and trying to get away with all its might ...more
Feb 10, 2008 Ren rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly one of the more retarded books I've read in some time. Despite what the title would have you believe, rather than simply explaining the Vipaâsyanåa meditation technique the author feels he has to go on and on about suffering, talk about how superior he is (in a humble way), and how much clearer everything will be once you achieve this intangible state of being.

Oh but wait, you can't want to achieve this state. Woops! I get the whole Buddhist thing but you can lay something out with out
Apr 03, 2014 Jacopo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forse il miglior manuale per chi vuole avvicinarsi alla pratica della meditazione, anche se alcuni concetti li si comprende solo con l'esperienza diretta. Il pericolo rimane sempre quello di crearsi uno schema mentale su come svolgere determinate attività, invece di limitarsi a svolgerle e toccare con mano la materia, ma è inevitabile quando si cerca di comunicare a parole un'esperienza.
Feb 25, 2014 Kevan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mindfulness has been a topic that has continually appeared in my periphery (Wisdom 2.0 conference, Whil app, Time magazine cover, various web articles) that I wanted to explore its actual meaning and practice, rather than relying on my own assumptions and inference.
So, this book was helpful, interesting, simple.

I've never read a book where the author spends such time defining the scope of what he will and will not cover. If you're wondering: Buddhist Vipassana meditation.

In the end, I don't bel
Catherine Austen
Jun 22, 2011 Catherine Austen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was feeling overwhelmed and not really present in my life so I thought I'd try this book. I took a mindfulness workshop ages ago, and I've read several other books since, but I've never incorporated the practice into my life for more than a few weeks at a time. I always let it slide, return to old habits, then run back to mindfulness in desperation when I'm overwhelmed. This book might change that pattern for me. I borrowed it from the library a couple of months ago. It's a very good introduct ...more
Mark Bao
Apr 26, 2013 Mark Bao rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: beginners to meditation
This is an excellent introduction to mindfulness meditation. I'm impressed by the rational treatment given to meditation and the simple language used; it's mostly about meditation itself and rarely has "spiritual" stuff harm the message. It made me go from kind-of meditating to really starting to meditate the right way (watching thoughts, returning to the breath), how to deal with distractions, meditating in real life, and what mindfulness really means.
Jul 18, 2009 Clif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book, both in the message it conveys and in the way it conveys it.

If you stripped away the religious encrustation that has built up around the teachings of the Buddha, you would have a simple plan for life and Gunaratana shows the way by defining the purpose of meditation with a goal of insight.

The concept of the individual as a substantial thing and the endless pursuit of gain and avoidance of loss to the ego sentence us to misery. Through careful use of the mind, it is poss
Daniel Roy
Nov 01, 2012 Daniel Roy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daniel by: /r/meditation
I'm not experienced at meditation, so I'm not particularly qualified to comment on the quality of the advice given in this book. What I can talk about is my impressions of the book, the clarity of its instructions, and its relevance to my own desire to start meditating.

With that in mind, I found this book excellent. It fully fulfills its promise of clear, straightforward advice on Vipassana meditation. There's no fluff here, no religious flights of fancy. This is a hands-on, practical book on me
Jose Hernandez
May 10, 2014 Jose Hernandez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of us have preconceived notions of what meditation is. When we think of the word meditation we often think of Buddhist monks with shaved heads and flowing robes living in self-inflicted solitude in some far off temple in the middle of a desolate jungle mountain-top, or maybe of long-haired hippies attempting to evoke a transcendental intoxication of oneness with the universe. We may, also, possibly think that meditation is a relaxation technique, a trance like stupor, an escape from reality ...more
Aug 23, 2015 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a clear introduction and description of Vipassana mediation. It describes what mediation is, what it is not, how it should be done, what to expect and how mindfulness can be achieved. The book talks about focusing on your breath and allow our mind to clear. The analogy used is a cup of muddy water. When the cup is allowed to rest, the mud settles to the bottom and we can see things more clearly. The ultimate goal is mindfulness that we can apply in our everyday lives and come to the ...more
Oct 27, 2016 Rupinder rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vipassana-Novices
Since this is not a 'book' based in fiction or non-fiction genres, it is a bit unfair to give any rating to this work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. So the real merit of this book can be judged by somebody who actively meditates, since this is essentially a manual for Vipassana Meditation.

I am yet to try out Vipassana, but I am pretty eager after reading this book. IMHO, the book can be pared to at least half its length if the author were not so verbose. And as you can expect from a
A useful read, but a little repetitive in some places (e.g. a definition of “mindfulness” that was thousands of words long but was so abstract that it managed to say very little) and light in content in others (e.g. what to actually do and focus on during a meditation session).

I was also little turned off by how mystical it got in a few places. For example, a passage in the opening chapter instructs the reader not to worry about it too much if they accidentally stumble across images from past li
Jeremy Allan
Aug 29, 2010 Jeremy Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite my reluctance to admit reading what might seem like "self-help" books to others, I am happy to have read this in public and to post my thoughts on it here. I chose it because I am interested in Buddhist meditation but have wanted to approach it on my own, from a secular perspective. This book provides a solid primer on the practice, both in technique and theory, without overdoing the religious element. There are moments when this book feels slightly redundant and where the organizational ...more
Apr 17, 2014 Myla rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-picks
I'm sure for those who want to learn exactly how to meditate this is probably a five star book. I can tell the author is a highly respected, well known expert on the subject and I must admit a bit of what I learned about meditating was interesting-ish, but he lost me quite quick with his talk about how horrible humans are and how you're supposed to think, but don't think, etc. I feel as if he was trying to reap the benefits of the Holy Ghost without actually praying to God and asking for that co ...more
Apr 21, 2013 Guilhem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very down to earth, believable, simple, true to self and devoid of folkloric terms from the Buddhist culture which tend to put me off when it comes to that topic. (Unfortunately). But this book is full of humor, seducing and only downside (which may not be a downside in the long run) is the final part which went a bit overboard about compassion and loving kindness.
Overall, not only recommended but perhaps vital piece of reading in one's life, especially at times when everything seems to go haywi
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Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the founding abbot of the Bhavana Society. Born in rural Sri Lanka, he has been a monk since age 12 and took full ordination at age 20 in 1947. He came to the United States in 1968. “Bhante G” (as he is fondly called by his students) has written a number of books, including the now-classic meditation manual Mindfulness In Plain English and its companion Eight Mindful ...more
More about Henepola Gunaratana...

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“Deeply buried in the mind, there lies a mechanism that accepts what the mind experiences as beautiful and pleasant and rejects those experiences that are perceived as ugly and painful. This mechanism gives rise to those states of mind that we are training ourselves to avoid-- things like greed, lust, hatred, aversion, and jealousy.” 11 likes
“The irony of it is that real peace comes only when you stop chasing it—another Catch-22.” 9 likes
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