Tuesday, April 10, 2012

David Fontana's "Learn to Meditate": Book Review

I admired this author's "Discover Zen" primer (see my review), so this meditation guide makes a suitable companion volume. It shares the uncluttered look of its illustrations and its twenty-three exercises interspersed with short, accessible chapters on basics fit the needs of an introduction. Dr. Fontana emphasizes the need to understand meditation not as escape, magic, or detachment from the world, but as a method to incorporate it within our consciousness so as to alter for the better our behavior and our actions.

It moves slowly from definitions to practice, and then adds some cultural and religious contexts. Being a New Age-oriented volume, it does not cover Christian traditions, however, although Kabbalah gets a couple of pages and Eastern approaches many. This does detract slightly from its ecumenical usefulness, but its emphasis on the East is unsurprising given the author's outlook. He focuses on overcoming stereotypes and misconceptions, and he is unfailingly encouraging. Don't expect a learned investigation, for as with other books in this series, the aim is to invite a beginner to try out basic concepts.

A previous reviewer lamented its lack of depth regarding breath-awareness, but this is covered on pp. 64-5 if in passing, following two pages on "Concentration and Breath" which briefly (all the subjects within gain short treatment) survey this. Fontana prefers to give a more suggestive rather than in-depth direction in all the contents. He keeps the tone of a gentle teacher rather than a fussy scholar, so this light touch does not dissuade the beginner likely coming here to find out more. (Amazon US 2-18-12)

1 comment:

Bren Murphy said...

Hi John, great work you are doing here!
Tara Brach Free Meditation