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Meditation is a vast field, offering many methods and approaches, and it can be difficult to know where to begin and how to make meditation an integral part of our life. Bob Sharples has written a book that will surely help.
Meditation and Relaxation begins by asking the fundamental question, “Why meditate?” Why, indeed? Meditation, especially meditation based on relaxation, is helpful for those who struggle with difficult life problems or chronic pain and other health concerns. But there is much more. Meditation can open our heart, awaken and transform our minds.
The potential for meditation to improve our life experience is presented with a dose of realism. Meditation will call for discipline, regularity, and commitment. In addition, suggestions are given about practicing with a teacher or a group, making time for practice, what location is best, posture, and what type of practice to try.
The instructions in this book are encouraging and empowering. Sharples says we must make the practices our own, finding our own imagery and symbols for the visual practices, and selecting the most meaningful wording as we guide ourselves through meditation.
Sharples has included ten guided exercises and meditations: guiding our focus to the breath; mindfulness of the body, feelings, emotions, and the mind; the four immeasurables; and a contemplation on life and death. These may get us started with meditation, but have a depth that experienced meditators will also appreciate.
Many methods for healing are described, and an awareness of the body-mind connection is present throughout. Sharples clearly understands how the body and mind “speak’” to each other, and the author’s background in working with cancer patients and their families is evident.
For its guidance and kind encouragement this book should have a place on many meditators’ bookshelves.
Amala is the director of Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, NH, where she teaches meditation. She has an interest in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and has completed the MBSR practicum at UMass Medical Center.