“Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness,” by Sharon Salzberg

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book cover Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

A friend tells me that many years ago Sharon Salzberg was very dismissive of the metta bhavana — or development of lovingkindness — meditation practice. Now her name is virtually synonymous with it.

This was her first book on the topic and it’s a good one. Assuming that my friend is an accurate source, whatever Salzberg was doing in the period between seeing lovingkindness practice as somehow inferior to vipassana (insight meditation) and her current embrace of it worked.

In this inspirational book on how to cultivate true happiness in ourselves and genuine compassion for others, by one of America’s foremost Buddhist teachers. Sharon Salzberg, a meditation teacher and the founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts, focuses on the Metta Bhavana practice (also taught on Wildmind). This practice emphasizes the development of a loving and compassionate heart.

The book is clearly written, very practical and full of exercises, and is also full of a wealth of anecdotes. The only drawback to a book of this sort is that it’s impossible to remember all the instructions given in any one exercise, and yet opening your eyes during a meditation, finding your place on the page, and then reading a few more sentences in order to progress is not a very convenient approach. The reader would be advised to purchase a guided meditation CD in order to put the metta bhavana into practice, and to use the book as background reading.

For this reason the book will probably be best appreciated by those who have some experience with meditation already, but anyone can appreciate the way it takes a practice often considered mystical and turns it into a means of creating joy.

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