reviews – Wildmind Buddhist Meditation https://www.wildmind.org Explore Meditation Online Fri, 15 Dec 2017 19:09:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://static.wildmind.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-favicon-32x32.jpg reviews – Wildmind Buddhist Meditation https://www.wildmind.org 32 32 “Make Peace With Your Mind,” by Mark Coleman https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/make-peace-with-your-mind-by-mark-coleman https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/make-peace-with-your-mind-by-mark-coleman#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 22:23:07 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=36908
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Indiebound.

Mark Coleman is a senior meditation teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, as well as an executive coach and founder of the Mindfulness Institute. And he’s written a very rich, readable, and practical book on the practice of self-compassion.

Although we’ve never met, Coleman and I started our spiritual paths in similar places. Back in 1984, while I was throwing myself into Buddhist practice at the Glasgow Buddhist Center, Coleman was doing the same at the London Buddhist Center, both of which are part of the Triratna Buddhist Community. Our spiritual paths, even though they have diverged since then — I’m still practicing within Triratna while he

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Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Indiebound.

Mark Coleman is a senior meditation teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, as well as an executive coach and founder of the Mindfulness Institute. And he’s written a very rich, readable, and practical book on the practice of self-compassion.

Although we’ve never met, Coleman and I started our spiritual paths in similar places. Back in 1984, while I was throwing myself into Buddhist practice at the Glasgow Buddhist Center, Coleman was doing the same at the London Buddhist Center, both of which are part of the Triratna Buddhist Community. Our spiritual paths, even though they have diverged since then — I’m still practicing within Triratna while he embraced the Insight Meditation tradition — have also converged, in that we’re both deeply involved in the practice and teaching of self-compassion.

For both of us, there was an intense practical and personal need to do this. We were both angry young men, and full of self-hatred. We both now see the importance of compassion in this difficult world we find ourselves in — for ourselves and others.

The constant theme running through “Make Peace With Your Mind” is the “Inner Critic” — that all-too-familiar nagging voice that tells us over and over that we’ve messed up, that we’re not good enough, that things we did were idiotic, that we look bad in photographs, that people will judge us because we’re too fat, too skinny, too old, and so on.

Coleman explains over a number of chapters the problems that self-judgement causes in our lives, from the undermining comments we make about ourselves, to “imposter syndrome,” which causes very accomplished people to doubt their abilities. (No less than John Steinbeck wrote, “I am not a writer. I have been fooling myself and other people.” Wow!) He points out that self-judgement is universal. We all have this trait, and it’s a relief for many people to realize that they are not alone in suffering from self-criticism and doubt.

He helps us to understand the inner critic too, showing us that it has a role in protecting us from transgressing rules, or doing anything that might bring censure. “The problem,” as he points out, “is that it does not go away. It’s like a broken record, constantly repeating.” And this continues, sometimes, though our whole lives. We accumulate many such self-critical habits as we go through life. Each one has the function of protecting us, but the toll they take outweighs the benefits, and they can end up making our lives hell.

Coleman provides a lot of information about the inner critic, and it’s all useful. It’s a long time, however, until we get to the point where he explains how to work with our self-criticism.

We start with mindfulness, recognizing that our self-critical thoughts are indeed no more than thoughts and that we don’t have to take them seriously, practicing non-identification, and even learning to laugh at the inner critic’s antics.

Coleman also explains how to be kind to ourselves and stop treating ourselves as “the enemy,” and even to “befriend our own pain as much as we do with our loved ones.” This involves accepting and turning toward our pain, opening up to our vulnerability, and relating to our pain compassionately.

Toward the end of the book he takes us “beyond the critic” — beyond mere freedom from self-criticism, and into a positive appreciation of the good that is to be found in ourselves and others, and into a life in which peace and ease naturally arise.

This is a rich and comprehensive guide to the practice of self-compassion. It contains moving anecdotes and examples from the author’s own life and from the lives of others he has known in his capacity as a teacher. It’s particularly enriched by the inclusion of a practical guide at the end of each chapter. Even the more theoretical parts of the book conclude with us being asked to turn to our experience. And so my earlier comment that it takes a long time to get to the chapters on dealing with the inner critic should be tempered with an awareness that these practical guidelines foreshadow the later material, and give us plenty to do. The first chapter, for example, which is on the topic of recognizing how the brain can change and grow in response to our experiences, ends with suggestions to observe things in a public place that we dislike or like, and also to reflect on things in ourselves that we appreciate.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone suffering from self-criticism or self-esteem issues. It offers a rich and varied selection of tools for moving from self-hatred and the suffering it brings, to living more lightly, joyfully, and self-compassionately.

See also my own online course on self-compassion, starting Nov 1, 2017. It’s never too early to register!

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Join me on Insight Timer! https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/join-me-on-insight-timer https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/join-me-on-insight-timer#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 15:58:18 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=36281

bodhipaksa's Insight Timer profile

Most of the time when I meditate, I use the Insight Timer app on my iPhone. (It’s also available on Android). I use it to time my sits, and at the end, when it shows me how many people have been meditating with me (and sometimes that’s more than 5,000!) I say “Thank you for sitting with me” to some of the meditators using the app that live locally. It’s a great way to feel supported in your practice.

I’ve never used the guided meditations on the app, although I have contributed a few. Recently I was checking the stats that the app’s creators have made available, and was rather stunned.

At the moment by

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bodhipaksa's Insight Timer profile

Most of the time when I meditate, I use the Insight Timer app on my iPhone. (It’s also available on Android). I use it to time my sits, and at the end, when it shows me how many people have been meditating with me (and sometimes that’s more than 5,000!) I say “Thank you for sitting with me” to some of the meditators using the app that live locally. It’s a great way to feel supported in your practice.

I’ve never used the guided meditations on the app, although I have contributed a few. Recently I was checking the stats that the app’s creators have made available, and was rather stunned.

At the moment by guided meditations have been played 440,500 times by 115,500 meditators, who have cumulatively spent 164,000 hours listening to them. That’s almost 19 years! Wow! I’m grateful that the app developers have helped me reach such a wide audience.

There are loads of other teachers on the app as well.

If you don’t use the app, I’d highly recommend it. There are buttons below, linking you to the iPhone and Android versions.

Here’s a link to my profile, which shows you which guided meditations I’ve made available. And if you do give it a try, please do check out my meditations.


Get Insight Timer on Apple App Store


Get Insight Timer on Google Play Store

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Watch SIT, a short documentary https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/watch-sit-a-short-documentary https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/watch-sit-a-short-documentary#respond Sat, 03 Sep 2016 15:34:16 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=36248

SIT – Short Documentary Film from Yoko Okumura on Vimeo.

Chris Ruiz, one of the producers of SIT, a short documentary by Yoko Okumura, suggested that I might want to share this video. Yoko Okumura is the daughter of Shohaku Okumura, a Zen abbot and Eihei Dogen translator. Confounding stereotypes of Zen strictness, Shohaku is a really easy-going guy. Her brother, Masaki, lacks direction, and although he’d like to go to college to learn to cook, he’s perpetually “not ready” to take any concrete steps, seeming to have retreated into a world of video games and finding interaction with the world to be scary.

As Ruiz said to me, the documentary helps “dispel

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SIT – Short Documentary Film from Yoko Okumura on Vimeo.

Chris Ruiz, one of the producers of SIT, a short documentary by Yoko Okumura, suggested that I might want to share this video. Yoko Okumura is the daughter of Shohaku Okumura, a Zen abbot and Eihei Dogen translator. Confounding stereotypes of Zen strictness, Shohaku is a really easy-going guy. Her brother, Masaki, lacks direction, and although he’d like to go to college to learn to cook, he’s perpetually “not ready” to take any concrete steps, seeming to have retreated into a world of video games and finding interaction with the world to be scary.

As Ruiz said to me, the documentary helps “dispel myths about the traditionalism, closed-mindedness, and rigidness attributed to Asian families.”

It’s a very short documentary, and slow moving. It’s rather interesting and surprising, though.

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Mindful eating with the “Sati Tala” — so sane it seems crazy https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/mindful-eating-with-the-sati-tala-so-sane-it-seems-crazy https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/mindful-eating-with-the-sati-tala-so-sane-it-seems-crazy#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:36:24 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=36107

sati tala

The other day I got an email from a couple in Israel who are launching a new mindfulness product. It’s one of those things that is possibly just crazy enough (or sane enough — I can’t tell) to really take off.

Basically, it’s a tool for mindful eating. What’s the tool? Well, you are, along with one other person, the Sati Tala eating surface, and two simple seats. What this means is that you and your eating partner become part of the table as you sit on the seats and rest the surface of the Sati Tala on the laps. (Sati Tala is Pali for “mindfulness surface.”)

What this means is that you’re physically connected

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sati tala

The other day I got an email from a couple in Israel who are launching a new mindfulness product. It’s one of those things that is possibly just crazy enough (or sane enough — I can’t tell) to really take off.

Basically, it’s a tool for mindful eating. What’s the tool? Well, you are, along with one other person, the Sati Tala eating surface, and two simple seats. What this means is that you and your eating partner become part of the table as you sit on the seats and rest the surface of the Sati Tala on the laps. (Sati Tala is Pali for “mindfulness surface.”)

What this means is that you’re physically connected as you eat, which seems rather lovely and even romantic. It’s also more difficult to jump up and start doing something else, since doing so requires the cooperation of both people. And so you’re more likely to stay put and just focus on your meal.

On the other hand, if you do have to get up (to answer the door or a call of nature) dinner’s pretty much over until you return, and I can imagine that if you have a fidgety partner things could get ugly.

Still, this is the kind of thing I can imagine becoming a crazy amongst Hollywood celebrities!

Tany and Sagie, who came up with the idea, are launching a Kickstarter fundraiser, which you can read about on their website.

There’s also a video where you can see the Sati Tala in action:

P.S. I haven’t tried this product, have no connection with the company, and don’t benefit in any way by bringing it to your attention!

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The Mayu Seat: A Review https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/the-mayu-seat-a-review https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/the-mayu-seat-a-review#respond Fri, 01 Jul 2016 13:17:07 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=35956

mayuA week or two ago I was sent a new meditation seat to try out. It’s the Mayu Seat, developed by Cierra and Sean McNamara of the Mayu Meditation Co-op in Denver.

It’s not your typical fold-it-up-and-stick-it-under-your-arm type of meditation seat — but that’s for a reason. It can be used by people who lack the flexibility to sit in either a cross-legged or kneeling posture, and who normally rely on folding chairs, dining chairs, office chairs, and any number of barely suitable seating arrangements.

It’s very attractive, being made from birch plywood. It’s not, as I’ve suggested, something you’re going to habitually carry around with you, but it does fold down if you need

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mayuA week or two ago I was sent a new meditation seat to try out. It’s the Mayu Seat, developed by Cierra and Sean McNamara of the Mayu Meditation Co-op in Denver.

It’s not your typical fold-it-up-and-stick-it-under-your-arm type of meditation seat — but that’s for a reason. It can be used by people who lack the flexibility to sit in either a cross-legged or kneeling posture, and who normally rely on folding chairs, dining chairs, office chairs, and any number of barely suitable seating arrangements.

It’s very attractive, being made from birch plywood. It’s not, as I’ve suggested, something you’re going to habitually carry around with you, but it does fold down if you need to throw it in the back of your car or stash it away someplace. The plus side of its weight is that it feels solid to sit on.

The problem with most conventional chairs you see people using to meditate on is that they have flat seats. When you sit on a flat surface, the hips tilt back, and the spine ends up leaning against the back of the chair. This isn’t ideal for meditating, since you want to have the spine erect. Now you can adapt a regular seat to have a forward tilt by putting a wedge cushion on it or by putting blocks or books under the back legs. That works pretty well. But chairs also have the drawback that the height isn’t adjustable. People who are tall end up having to tuck their legs under the seat or have them sticking out in front of them. Both of those things affect the basic posture. Short people are left with their legs dangling or have to put their feet on a cushion.

The Mayu Seat at its second-lowest setting can be used with a kneeling posture.
The Mayu Seat at its second-lowest setting can be used with a kneeling posture.
The Mayu seat, by contrast, has a variable height, and is angled. The seat fits into precut angled slots at one of seven heights. I’m six feet, and the highest setting worked for me. Very low settings are suitable for sitting in a kneeling position, while the lowest can be used for sitting cross-legged.

It’s very comfortable. I’ve even used it for working at my desk, so if you’re thinking of having one of these in your home, bear in mind that you don’t just have to use it for meditating. There’s one caveat, though, which is that the Mayu Seat doesn’t come with a cushion, and naked plywood gets pretty painful after a while. I’ve been using the KindKushion, which is non-slip. Just about any foam would work, though, as would a folded towel or blanket. Hopefully Sean and Cierra will find a suitable cushion supplier.

It only takes a moment to shift the seat from one height of slot to another, which makes this seat perfect for any situation where a variety of people might want to use it — such as a meditation center. I’d go as far as to say that every meditation center should have a few Mayu Seats!

At $199, it’s not an inexpensive option, but looked at as a life-time investment in meditative comfort, that’s not much at all. Many people with a committed meditation practice and a need to find effective and comfortable seating will find the Mayu Seat ideal.

You can learn more about the Mayu Seat (or order one) at https://www.mayuseat.com/

Dimensions

Seat: 24.9″ x 11″
Rear Frame: 23.6″ tall x 24″ wide
Shortest Seat Height: 3″ at the back
Tallest Seat Height: 22″ at the back
Weight: 13.3 lbs

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“Don’t Be A Jerk,” by Brad Warner https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/dont-be-a-jerk-by-brad-warner https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/dont-be-a-jerk-by-brad-warner#respond Thu, 30 Jun 2016 19:15:09 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=36017
Don't Be A Jerk, by Brad Warner
Available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and independent local bookstores.
“Don’t Be A Jerk” is a kind of summary-plus-commentary on the 13th century Japanese Zen teacher Dõgen’s Shōbōgenzō, or “Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.” If that statement has you yawning, then let me add that it’s written by Brad Warner, who is a witty, engaging, and quirky author. “Don’t Be A Jerk” is stimulating, informative, and entertaining.

But let’s start with why this book is necessary.

First, Dõgen is a spiritual/philosophical genius. Just recently, on National Public Radio’s website, Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester and self-described “evangelist of science,” described Dōgen as “the

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Don't Be A Jerk, by Brad Warner
Available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and independent local bookstores.
“Don’t Be A Jerk” is a kind of summary-plus-commentary on the 13th century Japanese Zen teacher Dõgen’s Shōbōgenzō, or “Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.” If that statement has you yawning, then let me add that it’s written by Brad Warner, who is a witty, engaging, and quirky author. “Don’t Be A Jerk” is stimulating, informative, and entertaining.

But let’s start with why this book is necessary.

First, Dõgen is a spiritual/philosophical genius. Just recently, on National Public Radio’s website, Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester and self-described “evangelist of science,” described Dōgen as “the greatest philosopher you’ve never heard of,” and argued that he should be ranked in the pantheon alongside Heidegger and Husserl. But you may have come across his name before without realizing it, since there was a character named after him on the cult TV show “Lost.”

Second, Dõgen’s masterwork, the aforementioned Shōbōgenzō, is humungous, often difficult to translate, and sometimes difficult to read. This is one of the reasons why I’ve only ever dipped into it, despite finding it fascinating.

Brad Warner’s task has been to make the Shōbōgenzō more accessible, by condensing and paraphrasing its teachings in a more easily digested form, along the lines of Mark Russell’s “God Is Disappointed In You,” which is a summary of the Bible.

Brad Warner strikes me as a good person to undertake this task. He loves the Shōbōgenzō and has been steeped in it, both as a text and as a guide to his own spiritual practice, for decades. He has a good sense of what people need to know in terms of practice. For the most part he writes well, and always entertainingly. The very title, with its colorful use of the word “jerk,” gives a sense of his playfulness. There are also plenty of pop-culture references to Twinkies, Star Wars, Dustin Hoffman, etc. Dōgen’s insulting terms for people with inferior spiritual understanding are rendered as dimwits, jackasses, dumb-bums, bullshitters, etc. This makes “Don’t Be A Jerk” a fun read.

As far as I can tell (not being well-versed in Dōgen’s writing), Warner has done a good job. He provides context for Dōgen’s teachings in the introductory parts of the chapters, and in the chapter conclusions he presents his own understanding of them. He often shows us what actually Dōgen said (or what various people think he said — sometimes he’s hard to fathom him) so that you know what the 13th century Japanese original of “beer and doritos” is, for example. Many times he gives the Japanese characters, and a word-by-word translation.

Often Warner gives little biographical accounts of his own history with the text. So you learn a bit about the author, and various scholars and practitioners he’s encountered over the years. There’s also some history given of the text — not just how Dōgen came to write it, but how it’s been regarded in Japan (at one time it was banned!) and how it’s come to be translated into English.

I learned a lot about Dōgen’s teachings from “Don’t Be A Jerk.” The Dharmic content is very varied because Dōgen’s writings are varied. He wrote the 95 chapters of the Shōbōgenzō over a long period of time, and for differing audiences. Sometimes he deals with the minutiae of monastic behavior, so that there’s a chapter on “Zen and the Art of Wiping Your Butt” (literally this is about going to the toilet as a spiritual practice) and another on monastic rules. Sometimes he deals with social issues like women’s equality (“Was Dōgen the First Buddhist Feminist”). And many of the chapters, of course, deal with deep spiritual issues, like how you’re already enlightened but aren’t really, and how time and existence are inseparable.

You’ll probably have picked up that I’m a fan of this book. It’s spiritually and philosophically interesting to read, and it’s also fun. Many people might well read it, and then go off and try their hand at understanding the Shõbogenzo. Others may think, “OK, I know a bit about Dōgen now,” and that’s fine too.

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ZenFriend meditation app on Android https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/zenfriend-meditation-app-on-android https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/zenfriend-meditation-app-on-android#respond Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:50:19 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=32326

zenfriendLast year I gave a good review to a meditation timer app for the iPhone called ZenFriend. It’s a very attractive app with a clean and simply layout. I much prefer the look compared to the Insight Timer, which is the other main application I use.

I just heard today that the app is now also available for Android devices through the Google Play Store. It’s currently free. I’d recommend heading over and downloading it.

The app not only allows you to time your sessions, but also includes meditation instructions from a variety of teachers, and it includes a meditation log and statistics to help you track and maintain your meditation habit.

According to

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zenfriendLast year I gave a good review to a meditation timer app for the iPhone called ZenFriend. It’s a very attractive app with a clean and simply layout. I much prefer the look compared to the Insight Timer, which is the other main application I use.

I just heard today that the app is now also available for Android devices through the Google Play Store. It’s currently free. I’d recommend heading over and downloading it.

The app not only allows you to time your sessions, but also includes meditation instructions from a variety of teachers, and it includes a meditation log and statistics to help you track and maintain your meditation habit.

According to the app developer the iPhone version has been downloaded by almost 20,000 people. Cool!

(This isn’t an affiliate post and the review doesn’t benefit us financially in any way; I just want to let you know about a good app!)

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“When the Anger Ogre Visits,” by Andrée Salom https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/when-the-anger-ogre-visits-by-andree-salom https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/when-the-anger-ogre-visits-by-andree-salom#respond Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:16:31 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=30881

anger ogreSome weeks ago I read this book with my kids (a six-year-old boy and an almost-eight-year-old girl) several times now, and they enjoyed both the story and the images. But the book became especially relevant recently when my son developed the habit of kicking and punching his sister. That’s a phase a lot of kids go through, but it’s especially worrisome because he’s taking karate classes, and at some point he’s going to be able to do some serious harm.

So last night, when my son was getting mad, we picked up the book again, and read through it. he wanted to read the book out loud himself, and he was able to do so

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anger ogreSome weeks ago I read this book with my kids (a six-year-old boy and an almost-eight-year-old girl) several times now, and they enjoyed both the story and the images. But the book became especially relevant recently when my son developed the habit of kicking and punching his sister. That’s a phase a lot of kids go through, but it’s especially worrisome because he’s taking karate classes, and at some point he’s going to be able to do some serious harm.

So last night, when my son was getting mad, we picked up the book again, and read through it. he wanted to read the book out loud himself, and he was able to do so with only a little help. Daddy was proud!

After he’d finished with the reading we talked about some of the things we can do to calm down our anger when it pays a visit.

  • We can breathe slowly and deeply.
  • We can use our imaginations to picture ourselves floating and relaxing on the sea.
  • We can relax the body.
  • We can listen to the sound of our breathing.

Salom reminds the child that “As you pay attention, the Ogre will change form,” and in fact we see the red, swollen ogre deflating like a balloon and his contorted face dissolving into a smile as he becomes “friendly, gentle, and warm.”

“Next time it comes a-knocking, you’ll know just what to do. Invite the Anger Ogre to relax and breathe with you.

By the time we’d finished reading the book, my son was calm again. Success!

Title: “When the Anger Ogre Visits”
Author: Andrée Salom
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
ISBN: 9781614291664
Publication date: April 2015
Available from: Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

I’d highly recommend “When the Anger Ogre Visits.” The content is generally very practical, and the illustrations (by Ivette Salom) are colorful and entertaining. The one piece of advice for relating to the Anger Ogre that I think could have been clearer is this:

“If the Anger Ogre is still swollen, tense, and hot,
Offer it some honey of the sweetest kind you’ve got.”

This is a nice image, but we’re left guessing what it actually means. My own guess would be that the child thinks of something positive (perhaps a calm scene or a friendly face) but I’m sure other people will interpret this differently, that some will take the metaphor literally, and that yet others will be confused about what’s being suggested. The rest of the book, though, is crystal clear.

“When the Anger Ogre Visits” was pitched perfectly for my two kids. I’d imagine it would work with children from about three to eight or nine years old.

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“The Zen Programmer” by Christian Grobmeier https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/the-zen-programmer-by-christian-grobmeier https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/the-zen-programmer-by-christian-grobmeier#respond Tue, 23 Sep 2014 08:12:53 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=30150

zenprogrammerPerhaps you are a programmer, or you work in the software industry. If you are reading this blog, it’s pretty sure that you have some interest in meditation or buddhism. If these statements are true for you, then it’s also quite likely that you’ve heard of Christian Grobmeier, his blog, and his 10 Rules of Zen Programming. His book The Zen Programmer, which has grown out of his programming, his blog and his practice, is a personal story of burnout and recovery. It describes the kind of mistakes we can make in our programming careers, their consequences, and how we can find a new way of doing our jobs that does not require us

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zenprogrammerPerhaps you are a programmer, or you work in the software industry. If you are reading this blog, it’s pretty sure that you have some interest in meditation or buddhism. If these statements are true for you, then it’s also quite likely that you’ve heard of Christian Grobmeier, his blog, and his 10 Rules of Zen Programming. His book The Zen Programmer, which has grown out of his programming, his blog and his practice, is a personal story of burnout and recovery. It describes the kind of mistakes we can make in our programming careers, their consequences, and how we can find a new way of doing our jobs that does not require us to pay with our peace of mind.

This is not a very polished book from a stylistic point of view. The English can be a little quirky as the writer is a fluent but non-native speaker. I personally enjoyed hearing Grobmeier’s German cadences coming through the pages. The unexpected turns of phrase can even act as mindfulness bells to the reader. But for all that, the book does flow. It has direction and it engages from start to finish. All this without losing its sense of being a collection of blog entries. In part this is down to Grobmeier’s unpretentious language and his straightforward message. I imagine his writing technique is informed by the famously sparse nature of Zen aesthetics.

It will raise a smirk, or perhaps roll some eyes, to suggest that programmers live a dangerous life! We don’t fight fires (at least not real ones) or deal with armed sociopaths every day (though perhaps a few unarmed ones). But every occupation has its hazards, and software development is no different. Programmers work in abstractions. Not the standard everyday abstractions that we all lean on to navigate this world – but another layer again. In order to code, we push abstractions beyond a point that is normal, healthy and useful in everyday life. And because we do it all day every day, we are in danger of living further away from direct experience than most people. Grobmeier points out the various stresses and strains involved in working at the software coalface every day. Although most or all of them are common to other professions, he frames them in a way that software developers can recognise. And then he explains how these factors can lead to burnout.

After a few introductory chapters explaining what the author means by Zen Programming, the body of the book contains a great number of sections with high-minded titles but very practical content. Titles like Egoless Programming, You Cannot Separate Your Mind from Your Body and Karma Code might seem to indicate self-indulgent philosophical conjecture, but instead each of these headings is followed by some very simple advice that can be put into practice by anyone. Egoless Programming, for example, points out the difficulties of doing code reviews, and points out how much easier and more enjoyable this process would be if we could avoid identifying ourselves with the code we produce.  Karma Code points out the dangers of hiring ‘brilliant jerks’ – something every developer (except perhaps ‘brilliant jerks’!) can relate to.

The book closes with a section that reiterates Grobmeier’s original post on the 10 Rule of a Zen Programmer. The ‘rules’ combine productivity advice of the kind you will find elsewhere (Focus, Keep a Clear Mind), tips on how to stay mentally healthy when practicing software development (There Is No Career Goal, There is No Boss) and some salutary warnings on how not to be a pain in the ass for your colleagues (Shut Up, There Is Nothing Special). Each one has value and they complement and balance each other nicely.

Zen Programming can be practiced without becoming a buddhist, or learning the bamboo flute, as the rules stand up to secular scrutiny and are accessible. I believe that the more developers who grasp Grobmeier’s message and put it into action, the happier and more productive our work environments will become. And for this reason, among others, I recommend this book.

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ZenFriend: A new meditation timer for iPhone https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/zen-friend https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/zen-friend#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 11:00:34 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=29945

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 for selecting the length of your sit, whether there are stages,

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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 for selecting the length of your sit, whether there are stages, and the kinds of bells used for the start, finish, and intervals (if any) is relatively easy to use. There’s a choice of four bells: one called “outside,” a standard meditation bowl, a Tibetan-style chime, and a Zen-style woodblock. You can create “presets” with your most common combinations of length and number of stages. In case you think the status bar at the top clutters the look, this disappears when the app is running, leaving you with a clean and undistracting screen.

The timer keeps stats that can let you know how many sits and what length of time you’ve meditated in the last 30 days and since you’ve started using the app.

As with the Insight Timer, you can connect with friends and see how many other people are using the timer. ZenFriend isn’t as fully featured in this regard — there’s no map for example — but you can take that simplicity as a lack or as a welcome feature, depending on your taste. Since the app’s new there aren’t as many people using it as you’ll find on the Insight Timer.

You can set the app to remind you to meditate at particular times. This doesn’t have to be the same time every day.

So this is a nice alternative to the Insight Timer, especially if you like simplicity of design. And it’s free on the iTunes store for three days. I’d suggest getting it now and trying it out.

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