Hard to imagine one book so content rich about such a subject as vast as meditation, but nearly lifelong meditator, professor and practicing Quaker Patricia Monaghan and ecologist, author and yoga instructor who has studied world religions Eleanor G. Viereck have compiled a comprehensive manual to this ancient art. It is called Meditation: The Complete Guide which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in this newly revised edition. They set the stage for the reader’s journey by defining what meditation is and what it is not. The first thing they indicate is that it is indeed a practice in which people are encouraged to engage. There is no one size fits all modality here. They then shine the light on the idea that meditation is about fully being in the now. It is not, according to the authors; relaxation or self hypnosis. It is a portable tool that is not unique to any one religion AND it is not sacrilegious. The authors view nature as a cathedral in which to engage in practice and enchance its power.
The book invites the reader to sample from a veritable buffet, including “hesychasm”, (chapter 20) otherwise known as The Jesus Prayer which encourages stillness, brush painting (chapter 14) that brings with it the opportunity to allow meditation to create works of art, and candle meditation (chapter 25) which spans many traditions. One of my favorites is the use of prayer beads (chapter 29), since I use a japa mala to count my blessings, chant a mantra or acknowledge meaningful people in my life by running their names and faces through my mind. Metta or lovingkindness meditation (chapter 10) is a backdrop, it seems for all other styles.
It could literally take a lifetime to engage in these various practices, as described in the book, but what a life well lived it would be.