A practical debut introduction to meditation for beginning and intermediate students.
Olson notes that the nuances and variations of beginning yoga practice are numerous, even at early stages. In this book, he offers tools that will be particularly helpful to those who are just starting out; he calls the book a “map,” inspired by the teachings of Rāja form of yoga and the Buddhist concept of shamatha—a calmness of mind. The book includes extensive guides to posture, breathing, and concentration; in the latter case, the author specifically deals with dhāranā, an oft-misunderstood concept of internal focus. The book also addresses obstacles in the mindfulness journey, ranging from small impediments, such as teeth clenching, chest breathing, and auditory or visual distractions, to larger conflicts, such as “cognitive loops” and disruptive thoughts. In addition, Olson details the fine distinctions between mindfulness and active observation. He offers counting and breathing practices, ways to limit one’s senses, and mantras. Other sections touch on maintaining a good diet and getting adequate sleep, and the philosophy of vairagya, or nonattachment to worldly things. The most notable aspect of Olson’s debut, however, is its usage of the dense language of yoga, as it explains its terms and normalizes their concepts for readers. Key concepts, such as dhāranā, mantras, and meditation objects, are introduced early and then revisited, which effectively stresses their importance. The book has short, easily accessible chapters, and robust end matter featuring notes, citations, a glossary, and bibliography, which makes the text easy to revisit. Black-and-white photos of other teachers and practitioners add a visual flavor of India and Nepal to the lessons.
A helpful resource for overcoming meditation obstacles.