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Formats
Ebook Details
  • 07/2019
  • 9781543967333 (paper) 9781543967333
  • 275 pages
  • $$24
Lyle Olson
Author
The Meditation Process: Raja Yoga and Buddhist Shamatha
Lyle Olson, author
The Meditation Process is a practical study of concentration meditation for intermediate and beginning meditators. Based on many years of wide personal experience and research, this is a close look at what the meditator actually does. Concise, practical suggestions are given for questions about posture, breathing, dealing with thoughts, brain hemisphere functions, establishing one-pointed mind, turning mind inward, relaxation, non-attachment, lifestyle, mantra use, awareness, and obstacles found in all forms of meditation. For the serious student, the stages of meditation common to Raja Yoga and Buddhist Shamatha are seen as a process leading to one-pointed mind. Many professional photos give a sense of reality to the contemplative lifestyle as seen in India and Nepal.
Reviews
Olson packs plenty of fodder for the intermediate meditator into this detailed, expansive guide to the practical and esoteric aspects of sitting meditation, which draws somewhat haphazardly on both Buddhist Shamatha and Raja yoga traditions. He covers positioning the body, balancing the breath, approaching meditation seriously without trying too hard, and overcoming obstacles to progression. He also clarifies terminology and includes both his own experiences and the words of others to help the reader recognize what successful meditation feels like. The somewhat abrupt conclusion succinctly lays out the end goals of the practice, including mindfulness and the impartial witnessing of one’s experience.

The level of detail will be very useful to those readers already deeply engaged in a meditation practice. Olson successfully bridges the gap between too-basic suggestions for beginners and less grounded, more opaque advanced guidance. When he offers hands-on advice, he distills complex ideas to concrete steps well, as in his discussions of the benefits of a kneeling posture and the use of mantras, his sample breathing exercises, and his analysis of the metaphor of treating passing thoughts as birds flying into the room. He gently but firmly contradicts methods that he views as unhelpful or less ideal. And he shows refreshing humility when discussing advanced states of meditation that he has not yet attained.

The inclusion of unlabeled, seemingly random photos of East and South Asian people has an unfortunate Orientalist air. The quotes from teachers and experts aren’t well integrated into the text, and Olson rarely explains who these authorities are or why he’s chosen to quote them. The dense language (including a slew of foreign-language terms) and stream-of-thought structure could frustrate novices, but Olson’s work will resonate with seasoned practitioners and help advanced beginners take their next steps. This hefty, detailed guide is a useful, if sometimes dense, exploration of every step of building a meditation practice rooted in multiple traditions.

Takeaway: Experienced meditators struggling with plateaus or looking for a comprehensive, detailed consideration of process will savor this hefty guide to building a meditation practice.

Great for fans of Pema Chödrön, Chögyam Trungpa.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: B-

Formats
Ebook Details
  • 07/2019
  • 9781543967333 (paper) 9781543967333
  • 275 pages
  • $$24

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