I must confess that this is not a book that I would usually pick up to read, and I must give myself a pat for finishing it, even if it took me 6 weeks. Recommended by a fellow classmate in my MOOC class on Buddhism and Modern Psychology to help us understand how mindfulness affects human psychology, it nevertheless was beneficial as a reference text for my 6 weeks course.
Mindfulness is a current worldwide phenomenon practice to allay stress and while it is secular, the origin was started from Buddhism. As hinted by the cover, this book on Mindfulness is based on the teaching of Buddhism. This does not mean it is not suitable for a non-Buddhist, as I am not one, but the author does make many reference to the teaching and quotations from the suttas, although he tries to balance it also with quotes and examples from other religions.
The reason I found the book useful, as it elaborates on the teachings that I was taught in class, namely the Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, and the non-self. I had probably read these teachings before but until Prof Wright taught the class, I could not really grasp the concept. Thus, although my classmate felt this book was simple and easy to understand, a person without basic Buddhist knowledge may not quite get it.
The purpose of this book is to teach mindfulness with the aim of awakening, or liberation from suffering as taught by the Buddha 2500 years ago. So, if you want to practise mindfulness for the sole purpose of daily living, you might still find this book useful, but rather tedious to follow, as this book assumes the readers to have experience in meditation retreats as many examples are taken from such scenarios.
What I like about Buddhism and why I don’t consider it a religion, is highlighted often enough by the author, that none of the Buddha’s teaching requires blind belief. The investigation is always to “come and see” – to investigate and examine for ourselves whether the teachings accord with reality and are conducive to our welfare and happiness.
Mindfulness practice requires cultivating awareness in the most mundane of tasks, and is best practised during meditation. One has to be mindful of breathing, posture, activities, characteristics, feelings and mind. Much contemplation is required internally and externally as we note the arising and passing of thoughts, discomforts, and other experience. There is mental noting of these experiences as we sit in meditation. We are warned of the five hindrances to our practice, and I immediately identified my major one as sloth and torpor.
After taking us through our mindful practice, the author tries to integrate Buddhist’s teaching into it so as to point us to the right path towards liberation and awakening. After reading this book, I wonder if lay people will find Buddhism difficult to practise. Much depends on the individual, and great discipline is required. For the road to the liberation of suffering can only be paved by oneself. The Buddha is but a teacher, and not some divinity that makes promises that relies on blind faith.