An artful, straightforward tome on meditation.

Teaching meditation involves describing practices and states of mind which are typically difficult to pinpoint in clear language, but Belgard skillfully shares the meditation experience with readers.

The text is divided into two main sections–the first focuses on theory while the second concerns the practice of meditation. Each chapter begins with an icon of an iris, representing New Orleans’ Blue Iris Sangha meditation group, of which Belgard is a cofounder. The author draws attention to major concepts by placing them beside the face of a meditating Buddha, thereby setting them apart from other text. Throughout, Belgard uses stories from his years of teaching meditation to exemplify ideas and support his points. The author focused on helping students learn to forgo self-centered thought patterns in exchange for breath-centered consciousness. This process, according to the author, moves students toward a state of equanimity which allows them experience compassion and understanding. Belgard brings a modern reality to the art of meditation by focusing on essential motivations rather being a stickler regarding proper form, even remarking, "Today the Buddha might sit in a chair to meditate (especially if his joints were as sore as mine have been recently)." His contemporary and occasionally humorous writing style makes the text approachable and likely to be embraced by a wide audience. The latter half of the book includes useful exercises for novices to attempt. Belgard designed these exercises in order to bring students closer to understanding the interconnected nature of reality. Fortunately, he communicates his instructions in a writing style both simple and elegant.

An artful, straightforward tome on meditation.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2008

ISBN: 1419691864

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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