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Book review

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening
Read date: Jan 2019

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the longest-running programmes on radio in the UK is a thing called Desert Island Discs, where the guest picks eight records (remember them?) that would be the eight they’d be happy to be stuck on a desert island with. In addition to the vinyl, you get to pick a book to be your companion on the island with for your years of solitude – The Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare are already there, to save you the bother (perhaps left by a previous inhabitant?).

Well, now I know. This is my Desert Island Book. It is an astonishing work, which works through a deceptively simple Buddhist text (the Satipatthana Sutta), using its discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness as a map to many many teachings and approaches to meditation. The depth and wisdom is extraordinary, and although it’s not necessarily going to be easy for a beginner, it has pretty much everything in there.

Think of it as a kit: all the parts are there, all clearly labelled. You just have to do the work of putting them together, finding which bit is going to solve the problem you’re currently facing, and applying it in the right way. There is broad guidance, but basically everyone is going to need to find their own path, because in all honesty we are all going to hit different sets of problems in different orders. But it’s all in there.

Don’t pick this up as your introduction to meditation – but if you want to take your practice further than the app you bought yourself on January 1st last year and stopped using regularly by about March, and if you’re prepared to do the work, then this is a truly profound guide for you. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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