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A helpful, de-mystifying and practical approach

I was delighted to receive this as a digital ARC from Singing Dragon. The fact that this book is published by them, almost guaranteed its excellence for me. Some publishers of books which fall into a loose ‘New Age’ category can be a little goofy, sensationalist and flaky for my tastes. Singing Dragon specialise in good writers in the field, knowledgeable in their various disciplines, excellent communicators

And so it is here.

Julian Daizan Skinner writes clearly about a subject which can be a challenging one for those of us unversed in the traditions and concepts of Zen Buddhism. You don’t need to have spent years on a spiritual path in order to understand what he explains. This author offers guidance for beginners in a meditation practice, without being so full of difficult and detailed instruction that the would-be meditator gets a headache from trying to remember too many bullet points.

we don’t need to particularly change ourselves into something else. We don’t have to go on painful courses of practice or force ourselves in any way. This is about acknowledging the truth of who we are , who we were and who we will always be

The author finds simple language, useful images to explain some complex concepts, and to offer routes by which the meditator may be able to glimmeringly grasp something as a signpost. It does not feel like something simplified and reduced to unlovely bare bones of ‘do this, do that’ either. More like being shown an open door to a room full of boundless fascination. You can stand outside the room, and look in, or you can choose to enter and really explore at depth, and journey onwards. Perhaps through further rooms whose doors are as yet unknown.

This book is inviting, simple, guiding the reader to explore this particular meditation practice in a built on way : an 8 week process of 25 minute sittings per day, plus a 5 minute journal keeping of what arises. There is also plenty of additional support offered, via the zenways website. This includes details of sitting groups, intensive 1 and 3 days meditation retreats, yoga trainings.

Even better, the book gives a password protected entry to the on site material – information and the guided meditations laid out in the text are available as audio downloads, and also a video of one of the meditations which involves specific movements to energise belly and legs linked with the breathing. This is useful for those who might prefer a guided session.

There is also plenty for those who might want to explore the subject more deeply – many cited texts, discourses on the philosophy and history of different approaches to Zen, so though this is, in essence, a practical guide, it offers more.

What really ‘got’ me about this excellent book, even more than its clarity in communication, is the kindness and compassion it radiated

Practical Zen: Meditation and Beyond Amazon UK
Practical Zen: Meditation and Beyond Amazon USA