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.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B-