Matthew Flickstein has been a practicing psychotherapist and insight meditation teacher for more than 24 years. He is the founder and resident teacher of the Forest Way Insight Meditation Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, which specializes in long-term retreats for lay practitioners.

In the foreword, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana states: "The path of purification is the basis of a happy life. Following the path of purification, however, is not a 'quick fix.' It takes much effort, but the result is worth it." Flickstein lays out a cogent overview of Buddhist teachings about the seven stages of purification to achieve spiritual liberation. The title refers to a question the author once asked the Korean Zen master Seung Sahn: "What are you thinking as you twirl those beads in your hand?" The answer was swift but enigmatic, "You'll understand what I am thinking when you can swallow the River Ganges."

Flickstein begins with purification of virtue, which is obtained by "abstaining from unskillful speech and conduct, adhering to the principles of right livelihood, using our material goods wisely, and guarding our sense doors." Through the development of concentration, the meditator can achieve purification of mind. Other practices discussed are insight training, mindfulness of the mind and body, choiceless awareness, and focus on impermanence and selflessness. The journey of awakening described here is built upon the strong foundation of practice.