What's the greatest book concerning the art of meditation?






I am an extremely anxious person by nature, and I feel that if I don’t learn a natural and healthy way to control my nerves, not only will I live in a shell my whole life, but potentially go to the grave earlier.
Can anyone recommend me a meditation book that will knock my socks off?


  1. Books by HH the Dalai Lama are very helpful indeed.
    As I am a long-time Buddhist practicioner I was compelled to aid a request to describe and explain what meditation is all about, I wrote a ‘manual’ for single-pointed meditation, as follows (it’s rather detailed). This is what meditation consists of:
    “The most effective meditations I find require pre-planning. I suggest you find a beautiful natural spot where you won’t be disturbed- for example a mountain, a cave, by a river, a cliff, a beach or of course, beneath a tree. The time doesn’t matter really, though I have heard that the Dalai Lama prefers to meditate at Dawn.
    Wear loose, comfortable clothes, drink only water for the days before and during and the less you eat, the better (so long as you don’t totally starve yourself)- especially avoid meat. Just before you prepare to start, have a cool shower or something first, go to the toilet, blow your nose, and turn off that phone!
    Make sure you are mentally ready, not tired or feeling excessive emotion/excitement, as these can be big obsticles to your session.
    Begin by burning a stick of incense and saying a prayer to the Buddhas and innumerable Bodhisattvas, requesting for the meditation to be fruitful, and for all positive karma to be dedicated to the attainment of enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
    Find a position which is comfortable for you- I find that half-lotus is best for beginners and full lotus for the advanced, place your upright hands softly on your lap, right hand resting upon the left, and gently press your thumbs together, which forms a beautiful lotus shape (your spirit is preparing to rise from the muddy depths and flower into its full potential).
    Move about for a while until you find your most comfortable, settled position, then straighten your back as upright as you can (without stress/force)- this will keep your mind alert and awake: it’s important that you maintain a good posture, and you should check it every now and then. Raise your head as though you were balancing a book on top of it, and pull your chin slightly in and down towards your neck. Put your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
    Now prepare your breath- breathe in deep through your nose so it goes right down to your stomach, and then breathe out through your mouth, this will slow your breath (at a pace that suits you). Allow your eyelids to lower almost all the way and start counting your breathes, contemplating like so:
    “Breathing in…1…Breathing out…2…Breathing in…3…Breathing out…4…” and so on until you reach 10, and then start over. It is natural to become distracted, so when distracting thoughts come, become aware of them, let them go and start over again from 1. I suggest you do this for around 20-30 minutes before you begin the actual meditation (this may seem like meditation, but it isn’t).
    Then stop counting your breathes, just focus on the natural sensation, contemplating like so:
    “Breathing in…I know I am breathing in….Breathing out…I know I am breathing out….”
    “Breathing in deeper… I know I am breathing in…Breathing out slower…I know I am breathing out….”
    I must emphacise that you shouldn’t be controlling or forcing your breaths, they should be naturally occuring.
    If you continue this for another 30-60 minutes you will feel very calm and focused.
    When the time is right, stop thinking…
    Focus on the sole sensation of the air moving inside and outside of you. Your breath may even seem to stop altogether when you get deep into this point.
    If you continue this practice, hopefully you will attain your first Dhyana in time. It is not easy, and if you do not right away- please don’t feel disheartened, keep practicing. I promise you it will be worth it, the first Dhyana is a life-changing experience, it is not unlike a beautiful calm wave of timeless euphoria, where all forms of negativity have been purged from ones mind; it lasts for hours, if not days, and it brings other benefits which will certainly transcend the meditation session- such as the wisdom of discernment.
    When you finish, be very gentle with yourself and move very slowly, have a light stretch and don’t try standing up right away. It’s likely that you will have lost most of the sensations in your body.
    I strongly recommend that you read up on the 4 Dhyanas so you will know what to expect when they are attained:
    * The first Dhyana level which is accomplished in this way has five features: conception, discernment, joy, physical wellbeing and Samadhi.
    * The second Dhyana, which is even more peaceful, has four features: the perfect clarity in which conception and discernment have been relinquished, joy, physical wellbeing and Samadhi.
    * The third Dhyana, which is more peaceful still, has five features: equanimity in which the concept of joy has been abandoned, mindfulness, watchful awareness, physical wellbeing and Samadhi.
    * The fourth Dhyana, which is called the ultimate dhyana because it is yet more peaceful, has four features: the neutral sensation in which the sensation of physical wellbeing has been abandoned, mindfulness, the mental formation of equanimity.
    This is everything you need to know- it is the path the Buddha walked himself, I pray it serves you and others well.”

  2. The very nature of a book on meditation would be antithetical to the notion of “knocking your socks off”. Perhaps you should just read a book on meditation instead of requiring that it be a blockbuster. And you wonder why you’re anxious…

  3. Books are an excellent way to window-shop, but do keep in mind that the best way (I think the ONLY way) is to find a teacher. If you try to learn to meditate from a book (or any text and not a teacher), you will have a very hard time knowing if you’re doing it right, and you will also lose the powerful influence of having someone to guide you (and possibly fellow students to support you) – which is usually what socks go for.
    Also, immersing yourself for one day in one good meditation seminar/retreat/even lecture might actually knock your socks off, as opposed to most of the books I know. Meditation centers are everywhere, and most of them have free activities just to give you a chance to get a taste.
    theopengateway.org has a list of a few books (though they all discuss the philosophy more than the method – you can get the gist from them and see if they spark an interest to go learn), and also some good links to actual schools and teachers.

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