Matthieu Ricard, also known as “the happiest man on Earth”, is a French-born molecular biologist and meditation practitioner, who spent 40 years studying with spiritual masters in India and Nepal. He is also Dalai-Lamas French translator. Such a background allows him to have a deep insight into meditation as a practice aimed at cultivating and developing human qualities, and speak from own experience about the benefits of meditation.
In his book Why Meditate: Working with Thoughts and Emotions, Ricard tackles the very essence of meditation, bringing the ancient wisdom of the East to the western people. In simple words, he explains the basics of meditation, and explores specific techniques to work with one’s mind. Reading Why Meditate you will learn what is meditation, and what it isn’t. The goal of meditation is to get rid of automatic, mechanical thought patterns which eventually lead to human suffering, manifestations of which are depression, anxiety, obsessions, agitation. It is achieved by developing full awareness of one’s mental states and thoughts in the first place, and later, through altruistic love and compassion.
As written in the book, in the absence of a spiritual master, written text serves as the best guide on the path to enlightenment within the Buddhist tradition. In Why Meditate, Ricard gives guidelines on how to meditate concerning proper posture, favorable conditions, frequency. You will also learn how to end a meditation to make its beneficial effect last. What really surprised me is that Ricard actually provides specific topics to meditate upon, depending on our level of spiritual growth and concentration achieved. It’s almost as if we had our own spiritual master guiding us through meditation. The use of simple, melifluous language filled with vivid similes makes it a very pleasant lecture.
The book includes a free CD, in which Matthieu Ricard explains the basics of meditation.
Whom Is This Book For?
I definitely recommend this book to all people who would to initiate in meditation, but have no idea where to start from, or if it makes any sense at all. Why Meditate opened my eyes. If depression and anxiety are results of distortion of our experience of the world, Ricard provides us with thorough instructions how to fix it in order to achieve inner peace and happiness. Even though it’s not a typical “how to get rid of depression and anxiety” book, I am convinced that any depression or anxiety sufferer will greatly benefit from it, if only dedicates to meditation as little as 20 minutes a day.
Having already started practicing meditation accordingly with the guidelines provided, only after a couple of days I can notice considerable changes in my mindset and a slight shift in my perception of the reality. Considerable changes will take time. Learning meditation requires practice, as any other skill.
If any of you refuses to meditate because of his Christian beliefs, he also should read this book. There is nothing in meditation that contradicts Christian doctrine. On the contrary, if the ultimate goal of meditation is liberating all beings from suffering through altruistic love and compassion, how is this different from Jesus’s teachings? The truth is meditation is a spiritual practice that doesn’t interfere with any religion.
My Rating: 5/5
I believe this book is capable of changing one’s life, as it’s already started changing mine. Ricard teaches with elegant simplicity and humility how anybody can apply meditation to grow spiritually and heal emotionally. It’s definitely a book one will get back to many times. Spiritual growth is a process with ups and downs, as any other. But once you learn the basic techniques, activate your senses, learn to be present in everything you’re doing, and to dissolve negative thoughts and emotions, life will have a completely different meaning.
My conclusion is that, if patients suffering from mental disorders used meditation instead of medication, world would be a better place.
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Why Meditate: Working With Thoughts And Emotions