Books about meditation seem to be increasingly directed toward a broad audience, as meditation and mindfulness have become an everyday goal for many people. We are learning, through research, that we don’t have to be experts to incorporate some meditation techniques in our lives — that we can use mindfulness to reduce stress. And that is a wonderful thing.
Meditation Made Easy is one of these books. Author Preston Bentley provides a little history, describes meditation, and gets us started. Bentley includes 62 meditation exercises as well as a section that works like a cookbook for better health — a cookbook that includes not just recipes, but notes on how to enjoy the process. He addresses mundane activities that can suddenly have a calming effect once we approach them more mindfully.
A book like this has value to both new and experienced meditators. Those who have read other books and practiced meditation will find it interesting to read through the exercises. Some of these will be familiar, but others may be new. As for newcomers, certain of the breathing exercises may be especially helpful.
And for those readers new to meditation, the book also clears up misconceptions about the practice. Bentley is clear in his descriptions: Nothing is mystical.
The line between meditation and mindfulness is a fuzzy one, however, and opinions and definitions vary. In simple terms, one could say that meditation is setting aside time to focus on something good for yourself — like exercise or prayer or breathing — whereas mindfulness is being more aware, much more aware, of everything going on around you and in you. The two combine in mindfulness meditation, in which one meditates and also focuses that meditation on the thoughts, feelings, and sensations of the moment.
In his book, Bentley emphasizes the potential meditative moments within the mundane — urging us, for instance, to change the way we consider taking a shower. He encourages us to notice and appreciate all of the sensations we feel while taking one; we can note the feeling of stepping into it, for example, then the feeling of the water and soap. We can try to ignore distracting thoughts and just be “in the moment.”
Similarly, Bentley asks us to, as he puts it, create a calm kitchen. Here, we are to play soft and relaxing music and recall pleasant kitchen memories from childhood or other times. (In fact, we may have experienced some of these “meditations” in the past without realizing it even qualified as meditation!)
Bentley is gentle to his readers. He does not push us, but wants us to see how there is value in whatever degree of meditation or mindfulness we can muster. His book takes away the mystery and threat of trying something new, so that readers can ease themselves into a practice, even if it has previously seemed too hard.
Meditation Made Easy: More Than 50 Exercises for Peace, Relaxation, and Mindfulness
Adams Media, January 2015
Hardcover, 160 pages