"Meditation has more facets than the Kohinoor Diamond, so it takes a multiplicity of metaphors to comprehend it," writes Patrick Ophuls, a practitioner of Insight Meditation for more than 30 years and a former member of the U.S. Foreign Service. There have been so many books on this subject that it boggles the mind. Ophuls has done us all a favor by reframing meditation and the essentials of Buddhism in imaginative terms that are both appealing and edifying. Meditation, he says, is like spring-cleaning your heart and mind. That is no easy task given all the ways in which we have gunked them up:
"Since meditation is a natural state, there is nothing to develop, acquire, or cultivate. We need only let go of what blocks our primordial awareness and natural goodness. This is easier said than done, however, because our bodies and minds are polluted, contaminated, and defiled by the legacy of our past ignorance manifested as countless acts of greed, hatred, and delusion both in this lifetime and, so it seems, in many previous lifetimes as well."
Ophuls does an exemplary job explaining practice. He discusses mindfulness, metta (which he calls kindheartedness), and equanimity. He is convinced that the latter is the real goal and fruit of Buddhist practice. The author also has some wise things to say about the insanity of having high standards and great expectations, the value of contentment and simplicity, and the significance of letting go. We also like the following, which we decided couldn't be left out of a review of this book. (Note: we read it all.)
"Our bad habit is to skim the book of life looking for the juicy bits, because they are 'exciting' and 'special.' But the proper way is actually to read the full text, appreciating all of the story and all the characters, not just hitting the highlights and suffering through the rest. If we enjoy the moment-to-moment unfolding of life, the notion of having fun will not even enter our heads."