Lisa (Harmonybites)'s Reviews > The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
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Jan 17, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, philosophy, reference, religion, self-help, spirituality, ultimate-reading-list
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
Recommended for: Everyone
Read on January 17, 2012 , read count: 1

The subtitle is "an introduction to the practice of meditation." That's a bit misleading. This is a lot more than a value-free manual. The introduction tells us this the main text was originally a long letter from Thich Nhat Hanh to a fellow Buddhist monk in Vietnam in the midst of the war in 1975. Hanh, exiled from Vietnam, worked against the war and was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Translated into English under his supervision by a friend, you can't sever this from its Buddhist context. There's a lot about Buddhist philosophy here--even a discussion about such issues at the "naive" depiction of the faith in Hesse's Siddharta. The last chapter consists of a "Selection of Buddhist Sutras" (which I found impenetrable). The writing is lucid, but even though written in deceptively simple language, a lot of the concepts are pretty sophisticated and I think take repeated reading to really understand. Mind you, this isn't an introduction to Buddhism per se. This isn't the place to find an overview of the religion and the focus is on meditation and "mindfulness."

Hanh's concept of meditation and mindfulness doesn't necessarily mean what you do in a lotus position while going "ohm." He means by it living in the moment and fully alert even as you drink tea or wash dishes. "Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life." Not that he doesn't see a place for more formal meditation, and he provides several practical exercises, particularly focusing on the breath. "Our breath is the bridge from out body to our mind... it alone is the tool which can bring them both together."

My introduction to meditation actually was in the mandatory Religion class in my Catholic high school. I remember feeling silly as we were directed to go "ohm." Later I'd be reintroduced to the practice when I took Yoga classes. I remember feeling frustrated as I was told to clear my mind of all thought--which I thought impossible. So it was interesting and useful that it's not what Hanh directs. He says rather when you have thoughts during meditation, you acknowledge the thought--or feeling. "The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes in the front corridor."

It's an interesting and useful book if you're curious about meditation and Buddhism, written clearly and succinctly--the main text of the book is only about a hundred pages. Although to get much out of it means reading with mindfulness--repeatedly, slowly, taking notes--and practicing the exercises. And in that regard, I think it does help to do it with others rather than just try to work through the book by yourself.
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05/03/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Srayliji (new)

Srayliji Nicely written and thoughtful review!

Lisa (Harmonybites) Srayliji wrote: "Nicely written and thoughtful review!"

Thanks--I recently read another book on meditation,
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Thich Nhat Hanh's book was clearer, more thought-provoking and with more practical advice at a third of the length.

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