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May 30, 2014

ZenFriend: A new meditation timer for iPhone

zenfriend1I’ve recently been trying out a new meditation timer app for iPhone. It’s very nicely designed and has a lot of promise. And it’s free today, and for the next two days.

The app is called ZenFriend, and it has a very clean and, well, friendly design scheme. The other app I use for timing meditations is the well-known Insight Timer, which I enjoy using, although I don’t like the faux-wood design. Skeuomorphism is so iOS6!

As you’ll see from the first screenshot, there’s a nice blurred-out background image, beautiful typography, and nice clean “buttons” for pausing or ending your sit.

website_02The interface …

Apr 22, 2014

“Fearless at Work” by Michael Carroll

fearless at workI jumped at the chance of reviewing ‘Fearless at Work’. A close workmate in my business died very suddenly before Christmas. She went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. I miss her. My workload has temporarily doubled and I’m practising the art of muddling through, with a brain befuddled by shock and grief. So I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of ‘Fearless at Work’ in engaging with this particular phase of life.

The stated aim of this book is to draw on Buddhist philosophy and the practice of mindfulness in helping readers to become more confident and open to possibility in their work lives. Michael Carroll is the founding …

Mar 28, 2014

“Sit With Less Pain” by Jean Erlbaum

Sit-With-Less-PainJean Erlbaum’s Sit With Less Pain is subtitled “Gentle Yoga for Meditators and Everyone Else.”

As most meditators know, finding a comfortable way to sit in meditation for long periods of time can be challenging. We can end up futzing around with our equipment, trying out different chairs, benches, and cushions, and constantly adjusting the height and tilt of our seat, and still find that we end up with sore shoulders, or a sore neck, or an aching back. Often the problem is that we’re expecting a body that lacks flexibility to be still for long periods.

Sit With Less Pain addresses that problem, offering us exercises to bring more flexibility to the …

Dec 30, 2013

“Meditation in the Wild: Buddhism’s Origin in the Heart of Nature,” Charles S. Fisher Ph.D.

Meditation in the Wild: Buddhism’s Origin in the Heart of Nature
Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Charles Fisher has poured decades of Buddhist practice, love of nature and scholarship into this work. He leads us on a journey down the centuries and through the jungles and mountain caves of Asia, following the trail of Buddhist practitioners who have lived and meditated in the wild. The quest takes us from the Buddha himself, discovering enlightenment while sitting at the foot of a tree, right through to the modern day. He homes in particularly on the Buddha’s early disciples, the forest hermits of China and Japan, and the Thai Forest tradition. …

Nov 27, 2013

“The Christmas Quiet Book” by Deborah Underwood & Renata Liwska

The Christmas Quiet Book is available from Amazon and Amazon.co.uk.
The Christmas Quiet Book is available from Amazon and Amazon.co.uk.
Shhhhh!! Let’s be very quiet while we review author Deborah Underwood and illustrator Renata Liwska’s The Christmas Quiet Book.

Are you sitting comfortably? Have you silenced all the alarms on your computer and phone? Have you closed all other windows or switched your browser to full screen mode? Have you taken three full breaths, closed your eyes, and spent a few minutes quietly listening to the world around you? No? OK, go do that now…

I adore Ms. Underwood’s books. So does my six-year-old daughter and, to a lesser extent, …

Nov 25, 2013

“The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime,” By Dharmachari Nagaraja

Buddha's Apprentice at Bedtime
Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Three years ago I walked into a bookstore in Vancouver, where I was doing a book launch, and literally the first book spine that caught my eye in the Buddhist book section was called Buddha at Bedtime. As the father of two young children I pulled it from the shelf with excitement, and was astonished to discover it had been written by an old friend of mine from my days in Glasgow.

Of course I got a copy of the book, and it’s been a bedtime fixture in our household ever since. Now comes a much-welcomed sequel, The Buddha’s

Sep 21, 2013

“Room to Breathe” — A documentary film about mindfulness in a troubled middle school

room to breathe dvdRoom to Breathe is a documentary about teaching mindfulness to students of the troubled Marina Middle School in San Francisco, which tops its district for disciplinary suspensions, and has overcrowded classrooms creating an environment in which it’s almost impossible for learning to take place. As assistant principal Anthony Braxton explains near the opening of the film, a significant number of students at Marina “don’t do school” — they don’t see school as being for them.

In the class of Seventh Grade teacher Tom Ehnle, we see kids who are unable to stay on task or to pay attention. They seem to be in a constant state of fidgeting, wrestling with …

Sep 03, 2013

“No Ordinary Apple,” by Sara Marlowe and Philip Pascuzzo

no ordinary apple

Title: No Ordinary Apple: A Story About Eating Mindfully
Author: Sara Marlowe, Philip Pascuzzo (illus.)
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
ISBN: 1-61429-076-8
Available from: Wisdom Publications, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

No Ordinary Apple is a variation on the famous “raisin exercise” that’s so popular in meditation classes. (If you’re not familiar with the raisin exercise it’s where we mindfully eat a single raisin, thoroughly exploring it with our senses.) But No Ordinary Apple is, of course, a children’s book — and a very welcome addition to the growing body of meditation resources for children.

The fruit is question is an apple rather than a raisin and the mindful eater of this apple is a young …

Aug 28, 2013

The Mayu Bench: A review

mayubenchessmall

Some months ago I was sent a Mayu Bench to try out and review, but somehow the review slipped off of my schedule.

Of the two benches pictured, mine is the tall one on the left. It’s a solid and stable meditation seat, and may be particularly suitable for people who find sitting on cushions or kneeling benches difficult. It allows you to sit much as you would on a chair, but with the advantage that the seat slopes forward, allowing you to have the spine upright without any effort. (Western chair design leaves much to be desired; the typical flat seat causes the pelvis to tilt backward, making it hard, …

Aug 27, 2013

“There Is No God and He Is Always with You,” by Brad Warner

no-godBrad Warner is an unconventional American Zen teacher, who seems sincerely to believe that he has found God, that God should be — or even is — an intrinsic part of Buddhist practice and realization, that others would benefit if they found God too, and who thinks that that believing in God might actually help us solve the world’s problems. He outlines all this in his latest book, There Is No God And He Is Always With You, in which he offers “straight talk about why this ‘godless religion’ [Zen Buddhism] has a lot to say about God.”

Some of the above will be as confounding for you as it was for me. …