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lostinbassonSep 8, 2015

Spirit Rock up north has classes pretty regularly. I am actually a part-time meditation teacher in the East Bay if you want one-on-one lessons sometime. I'd also highly recommend the book Mindfulness in Plain English - this helped me down the road years ago and is available for free :)

ucsdrakeonJuly 8, 2015

I'm curious why you say that. Where did you get that reference from?

Looking through chdir's comment history, the only reference to a book regarding meditation and stress is Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana.

I'm interested in the book chdir's referring to as well.

orasisonDec 6, 2014

Meditate every day. Start with 2 minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes.

The book, "Mindfulness in Plain English" is a great place to start.

Good luck!

endlessvoid94onApr 30, 2009

I can recommend this book:


"Mindfulness in Plain English"

It's a great book that is easy to read and explains why and how.

die_sekteonJuly 31, 2010

I have "Mindfulness In Plain English" (http://www.kusala.org/udharma4/mpe.html) currently open. I'm not sure, but I think I've had this open for more than one week. Reading it should help me with concentration. This seems somewhat ironic.

jrwoodruffonFeb 19, 2016

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana has been a good start for me. It explains meditation, different flavors of mindfulness, as well as techniques and what to expect when you first start. I highly recommend it. http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-English-Bhante-Henepola-Gu...

ta12121onOct 13, 2012

There's nothing in this article that isn't said better elsewhere. I'd recommend the (free, online) Mindfulness in Plain English: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html (also available as a "real" book).

nabla9onAug 16, 2019

I did first six months Vipassana. Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana is absolute classic. https://www.vipassana.com/meditation/mindfulness_in_plain_en...

Then I traveled around a little bit and visited zen monastery and started to train there with a teacher.

hashberryonApr 9, 2015

Mindfulness In Plain English. An excellent book for anyone who wants to approach meditation in a rational, secular manner.

vidarhonApr 27, 2015

Perhaps the most popular book on vipassana style meditation in English is "Mindfulness in plain English", and uses the term "mindfulness" repeatedly. As does a large number of other English-language sources of information on Vipassana.

NoGravitasonOct 19, 2015

Take up meditation. The best techniques were developed historically by Buddhists, but you don't need to be Buddhist to benefit from them. [Mindfulness In Plain English][mpe] is a good introduction.

[mpe]: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

orasisonAug 8, 2016

Mindfulness in Plain English changed my life. You can read the PDF free here: http://www.wisdompubs.org/sites/default/files/preview/Mindfu...

argonzonJan 11, 2013

"Mindfulness in Plain English" is very concise but still touch tangentially interesting "why" questions.

orasisonOct 11, 2017

You could wait for the research to be conclusive, or you could dive in right now and radically improve your life.

I recommend starting with the free short book, Mindfulness In Plain English - http://www.wisdompubs.org/sites/default/files/preview/Mindfu...

yoronFeb 14, 2013

98% of Mindfulness in Plain English is great. Just ignore the parts where they talk about psychic powers. The description of vipassana technique is very well done.

I'd suggest starting with the book Unlearning Meditation instead of any particular traditional technique, but that's just me.

rk0567onDec 8, 2014

Mostly related to mind/happiness/consciousness.

+ Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion - Sam Harris

+ Free Will - Sam Harris

+ Mindfulness in Plain English - Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

edwinyzhonOct 6, 2014

"Mindfulness in Plain English" is real and original Zen Buddhism, highly recommended.

EstragononOct 5, 2014

This is a much better book than anything Watts wrote.

Ironically, at least among Western Mahayana teachers it's very hard to find such a coherent and pragmatic framework as the one described in "Mindfulness in Plain English."

matrixonJuly 8, 2015

You're probably right. The book I mentioned is the one I see most frequently recommended as a how-to guide to mindfulness. I have not read Mindfulness in Plain English, but judging by the title it sounds like a similar approach.

fernlyonOct 28, 2018

Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana[1] is a classic intro. Altho the free version at the link is called "rather dated" -- really, how "dated" can meditation instructions be? Anyway, I found that edition helpful.

[1] https://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

studentrobonMar 27, 2016

I haven't seen anyone mention meditation in this thread yet. I just want to throw that out there. It can help quiet and focus your mind. The book Mindfulness in Plain English is a good introduction.

orasisonOct 5, 2014

I would add the free, short, book "Mindfulness in Plain English". It changed my life.

Here is the PDF:


b6onFeb 19, 2016

That's interesting! It squares with what I've read in books like Mindfulness in Plain English -- that some desirable mental states are achieved when certain harmful habits of the mind are in abeyance.

philipkdonFeb 21, 2011

End of the article refers to a book Mindfulness in Plain English, which you can also read for free: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

elbastionAug 9, 2016

I very much enjoyed "Mindfulness in Plain English"

ZirconCodeonMay 9, 2013

For Vipassana Meditation I recommend "Mindfulness in Plain English". You can find it online. It's an incredibly good book to begin meditation at all.

itscompilingonDec 27, 2017

This gets asked all the time everywhere but I have to ask again, how do you get started?

I've tried a million different apps (even got a Headspace subscription for a while), read Mindfulness in Plain English along with a tonne of other guides on it but it just never seems to click for me.

tug0fwaronOct 9, 2020

... we have overdeveloped the material aspects of existence at the expense of the deeper emotional and spiritual aspects, and we are paying the price for that error.

- Mindfulness in Plain English

xtacyonDec 30, 2012

On a related note, I found this ebook ("Mindfulness in Plain English") an interesting read, clearing misconceptions about meditation and how it is related to mindfulness.


blunteonSep 22, 2019

It's not. I recommend Mindfulness in Plain English
By Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. It very directly lays out the benefits of Vipassana meditation, and it doesn't really involve any religion.

praptakonNov 17, 2010

Mindfulness in Plain English is also a good intro to Vipassana: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

By the way, if the goals of Vipassana seem too lofty, just try one of the breath observation exercises.

chdironNov 28, 2014

Either join a course or pick up a good book. I found this book immensely useful and simple to follow: "Mindfulness in Plain English" [1]

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain-English-Anniversary-...

metageekonJan 20, 2011

I don't have much patience for the claims that not thinking can yield profound insights; but I have found mediation techniques useful for simple relaxation.

I got the techniques from an ebook called "Mindfulness In Plain English":


juanreonAug 27, 2013

Mindfulness in Plain English is a readable and accessible introduction to meditation, available online at http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

dwconMar 5, 2014

Very good advice. For an excellent primer, I recommend Mindfulness in Plain English[1], which has been around for 20+ years and remains one the best and most recommended books. There is a little mystic stuff! but it's easily ignored.

1. http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html - links to buy, or scroll down to read first edition PDF for free.

SirDinosauronDec 26, 2012

i highly recommend all of these:
- "Cathedral and the Bazaar"
- "Buddhism Without Beliefs"
- "Mindfulness in Plain English"
- "Godel Escher Bach"
- "People's History of the United States"
- "Debian Administrator's Handbook"

pmoriartyonJan 23, 2020

While we're on the subject of meditation books, I can recommend Mindfulness in Plain English[1] and The Heart of Buddhist Meditation.[2]

[1] - https://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-English-Bhante-Henepola-G...

[2] - http://www.khamkoo.com/uploads/9/0/0/4/9004485/the_heart_of_...

fernlyonNov 28, 2014

The Mindfulness in Plain English book mentioned above, or the Insight Meditation Center talks linked below, are both without fake spirituality or mysticism.

nycthbrisonFeb 25, 2015

I had never heard of the Wisdom 2.0 conference before reading this article. It sounds like corporate bible camp.

If you've heard of that conference but not Mindfulness in Plain English, I'd recommend reading the latter. It's free to read online here: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

espeedonSep 8, 2012

Thanks for the Tolle quote. I have been working on this and just picked up a copy of "Mindfulness in Plain English." I'm trying to quite a noisy brain. When you don't unplug, you never clear your head, and this can build up anxiety.

leadership101onJan 1, 2020

Thank you for your comment @tug0fwar, I just bought Mindfulness in plain English by Henepola Gunaratana.

Are there any exercises that helped you?

deepaks4077onApr 15, 2018

For me, its key feature was that I found it more actionable than other sources that I'd found online. I prefer it to 'Mindfulness in Plain English'. However, to be fair, I haven't read the entire text, so I don't think that I can make a fair comparison.

Edit: The author of the book is Culadasa (Dr. John Yates, PhD), whose profile mentions that he was a neuroscience professor at one point in his life. I haven't verified this.

His profile: http://culadasa.com/about/

hoshonJan 1, 2014

Sure. The one where you observe things as they arise is called insight meditation, or vipassana. Other commenters have referenced this :-D If you are looking for a book, "Mindfulness in Plain English" does well, but for many folks, it is easier to learn when someone walks you through it. There are also 10 day Vipassana retreats that can jumpstart your practice. (It is easy to fool yourself into thinking you are being mindful when you are not).

eswatonNov 4, 2016

Check if there’s a Shambhala centre near you: http://shambhala.org/centres/find-shambhala-centre/

They offer free beginners meditation classes and group meditation sessions.

You can also continue doing what you’re doing and try many of the free meditation apps to soak up their material. Give Calm, Sounds True, 10% Happier and Insight Timer a try.

As for free books there’s Mindfulness In Plain English: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

studentrobonJune 13, 2016

Meditation/Mindfulness might lead you to some more insight on this subject. It teaches to observe pain when it comes up rather than ignore it. The book Mindfulness In Plain English is pretty good. Or, Tuesdays with Morrie. Observe emotion, then let it go.

To the scientific mind, mindfulness might seem hokey. I certainly thought so for years until I saw it promoted on HN with some scientific research backing its efficacy. Then I tried it and was impressed with the results.

ArrayListonMar 5, 2019

Vipassana Meditation - see Mindfulness in Plain English.

webnrrd2konJune 8, 2015

I've been meditating off and on for most of my life, and it's probably been the best thing I've done for myself. Reading is a good way to go for some, and the book Mindfulness in Plain English [1] is a place good start. His other books are really good, too. Especially "The Four Foundations of Mindfulness". There are many other good books about meditation, so feel free to look around. Spend some time at a book store and see what strikes you.

When I was starting out I especially liked Shinzen Young's [2] teaching style a lot. He's been meditating for a long time, taught math and comparative religions at a university, and he does an excellent job of presenting Eastern meditation in a way that an educated Westerner can understand.

There are a lot of resources available online, but you might try poking around in the Something's Happening [3] radio archives for KPFK. Tuesday and Thursday night they play talks from Alan Watts, Shinzen Young, and a lot of other people. Some of the talks are extremely hokey, full of New Age gibberish, but some of them are really good and it's a good way to get exposed to a range of teachers. Go to the archive page and search for "Something's Happening" and give it a try. There's also an Alan Watts program that good, too.

[1] http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html
[2] https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=shinzen+young
[3] http://archive.kpfk.org/

doodonFeb 25, 2015

Mindfulness in Plain English is what you are looking for. You can read online but there are OCR errors: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html - I'd recommend buying a copy.

EstragononNov 18, 2010

I've been working from Wake Up To Your Life[1] for most of the last decade. (Ten years in April.) Mostly-Tibetan practices, stripped of the iron-age cosmology and religiosity.

Seconding Mindfulness In Plain English, though.


murraybonDec 26, 2012

For the mind: Mindfulness in Plain English - Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

For the body: Born To Run - Chris McDougall

For fun: REAMDE - Neal Stephenson

For business: What The CEO Wants You To Know - Ram Charan

christensen_emconDec 29, 2012

Seconding Mindfulness in Plain English. I am a much healthier person today because of that book.

throwaway8732onOct 24, 2019

I kind of got this after a heavy meditation session 6 months ago after reading Mindfulness in Plain English and listening to Om (the band.)
Never seriously meditated before but after that I became pretty good at meditation and so depending on my mood and whether I meditated in the morning I slip into a meditative state right away when concentrating and see pretty small perceptual abnormalities.

I was seriously ready to kill myself back then so pretty small tradeoff.

studentrobonMar 17, 2016

Don't sweat it. I recommend the book Mindfulness in Plain English

EstragononApr 7, 2010

Watts is fun, but not very practical or informative. The anti-intellectual tendency of Zen makes it relatively difficult as field of self-study. All schools of Buddhism necessarily rely on teacher feedback, but the dependence in Zen is particularly acute.

The book I learned from is Wake Up To Your Life, by Ken McLeod. Mindfulness in Plain English is also excellent, and available for free online.

countersixteonDec 16, 2012

I've found "Mindfulness in Plain English" to be quite helpful. http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

dwconOct 8, 2016

As delluminatus says, Buddhism. Zen, Vipassana, and others teach concentration as a tool (not the end goal).

There are many, many books. See Mindfulness in Plain English[1] for a good one that's available to read free online.

1. http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html and more directly http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe1-4.html

ue_onNov 14, 2015

There's a great book called Mindfulness in Plain English, which I've been recommending for some time. It's direct, to the point, and addresses many topics such as distractions, pain during practice, exactly how to prepare, and of course what to do with your mind.

I think this is complete: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

But it's always nice to have something in paperback or Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-Plain-English-Anniversar...

The printed edition also has a nice afterword.

jeffnvonApr 9, 2015

Mindfulness in Plain English
by Bhante Gunaratana

imponJune 20, 2014

If you're reading books like that, might I also suggest Mindfulness in Plain English: http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain-English-Anniversary-...

I found it incredibly useful.

qaexlonFeb 21, 2010

Yes it has. It's pretty cool discovering something new, eh? What's more interesting is that these ideas are not really new. They are ancient. Check out "Mindfulness in Plain English" as an example.

If you want a modern book on how to consistently trigger this state, there is Josh Waitzkin, _Art of Learning_

espeedonJan 10, 2013

Read the book "Mindfulness in Plain English," by Bhante Gunaratana

robgibbonsonFeb 20, 2012

1. Buy the book "Mindfulness in Plain English"
2. ???
3. Profit!

alecstonFeb 25, 2021

> What/where are the results from those thousands years of mindfulness? If the practice has an impact surely we should be able to see some things at a society level, or at least in some individuals who are particularly good at it.

Oh man, I can't tell you how much it hurts me to hear this. But I get where you're coming from.

It's hard because with mindfulness and meditation there's nothing to sell and nothing to show for it. All you have is your own inner peace. And you can't just give it away, you have to teach how to get there, and it's a long and arduous process that most people just give up on.

So I guess what I'm saying is I take issue with "surely." It's not actually true. The practice has a major impact -- an earth-shattering, mind-expanding impact on one's life -- but because of the inability to "prove" it works or "make" someone do it, people tend to write it off.

If you're more interested in what mindfulness is about you can check out the book The Mind Illuminated. It's an alright book, written for the serious secular meditator, (even though the author isn't secular.) There's also Mindfulness in Plain English.

Here's to hoping that you're able to see past your skepticism and learn a little bit about these potentially life-changing tools. All the best man.

DennisPonDec 16, 2018

I suspect a better place to start is one of the excellent books on mindfulness meditation that's available now.

The Mind Illuminated by John Yates is the one I see recommended the most, and it's helped me tremendously. It goes through ten stages, from novice to very advanced. I'm still close to the beginning, but the instructions in the first several chapters have helped me make far more progress than I ever had before.

The Science of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young is also quite good, with more of an emphasis on insight rather than concentration meditation. There's also the classic Mindfulness in Plain English.

I do use one app. It lets me set a countdown timer, and plays a quiet gong when time is up. That's it.

vidarhonApr 10, 2019

If anything, I can't think of any aspect of mindfulness meditation that requires visualisation. You can do mindfulness meditation with open eyes - one of the popular introductory books (Mindfulness in Plain English) specifically describes mindfulness of breathing on the basis of focusing your vision towards the tip of your nose, and part of the reason is to maintain focus without being distracted by visual input.

Keeping the eyes half-open during meditation is a common way of preventing falling asleep.

I'm utterly unable to visualise for the most part except for one experience that was totally revelatory to me during meditation years ago, which I after learning about aphantasia realises must be what most people experience all the time.. But the inability to get my minds eye to work has never been a hindrance to my meditation as far as I can tell. If anything I do not get distracted by visuals, yet there are more than enough other distractions so I'm mostly happy about that during meditation.

studentrobonMay 31, 2016

I agree with any responses that say disconnect from everything in order to gain focus. Best for me, in my experience, has been meditation in a chair in the morning for 20 minutes before touching any device. I found the book Mindfulness in Plain English to be a good guide. It's freely available online in ebook format

studentrobonMar 27, 2016

Fair enough. Can I just say, you don't know for certain you're a huge bummer to all others. That is just your perspective. There are people who enjoy being around people who others consider a huge bummer.

I get that you don't like being around people yourself. But I know there are some who'd enjoy your company despite your own feeling. I don't have a magic solution for how to find such friends.

My only other suggestion, aside from speaking to a therapist, would be trying meditation. Taking a few deep breaths in a quiet space, sitting in a relaxed but upright position, and trying hard to think about nothing, or only your breath, for 20 minutes, can do wonders. It is harder than it sounds and can open your mind to a lot of possibilities that previously seemed impossible. I recommend the book Mindfulness in Plain English if you're interested to learn more. It's free and available online. You're as valuable as any other person on this planet. We're all equals. Once you believe that, you can do anything you set your mind to.

studentrobonApr 8, 2016

Maybe try changing some things up and see if you're more happy or less happy afterwards...

If I had a solid answer that worked for anyone I'd be rich! Many self-help books try. 7 Habits (Covey) and How to Win Friends & Influence People (Carnegie) are two I liked.

Ultimately the question is individual, so the answer is too. I'll just say, when you know, you know. If you don't know, keep looking. So long as you're on this earth you have a chance to answer that question and many interesting others. When you do, you'll look back and be glad you tried.

I'd also say that it's a lifelong process and it seems equally possible to lose yourself. For me I was not always aware of when I started slipping.

I started doing meditation recently and found it helps settle my thoughts and become aware of when my brain was thinking things I didn't want it to. The book Mindfulness in Plain English [1] was recommended to me, and I'm about halfway through it. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in becoming more aware of themselves and others.

[1] http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

starpilotonOct 12, 2012

I've read maybe a dozen books on vipassana meditation (the type usually posted to HN), zen, and mindfulness. The two best practical books on meditation I've read are:

1. The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh

2. Mindfulness in Plain English, Bhante Gunaratana. This one is free online, though the paid copy is a bit more edited for clarity.

My primary guide is 1. It's concise and provides just the right amount of breathing exercises to help me focus while I "sit." 2 is more comprehensive but I've found it a bit too scattered, with too many tools to help with breathing that I go in circles attempting different ones. Most people I think employ a couple and ignore the rest. 1 is much better written and just a more cohesive book than 2 IMO, but they're both great books and either one alone works well as a guide to meditating.

beatgammitonOct 30, 2018

Do you have any good suggestions for "the classics"? I've read "Siddhartha", "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", and I'm just about done with "Mindfulness in Plain English".

I'm pretty new to the whole idea of meditation, and I'm still a bit skeptical about it, but I'm willing to go all in for a few weeks to see how it goes.

I feel like reading will help me keep going. I've heard it's good, but I'm really not sure what the goal is, so perhaps further reading will help me "stay on the course" or whatever.

taylorlapeyreonMar 19, 2017

I found the app "Headspace" to be a good introduction to the process and concept.

After completing the first 10 guided sessions, I read most of "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Henepola Gunaratana. It was good for a deeper dive into Vipassana meditation in particular and did a good job of keeping the more religious overtones to a minimum. I definitely recommend it.

wanderingstanonNov 30, 2014

I'm by no means an expert, but "Mindfulness in Plain English" was the most helpful text in getting me started. There are several places to read it free online or download a PDF. E.g. http://www.mindfulvalley.org/files/books/mindfulness_plain_e...

To the original poster, I'm not so sure meditation would be the cure-all for all of the problems mentioned. I could see it helping with calming a mind overflowing with ancient "context". But the author indicated that this manifests more as slowness than with anxiety.

Broken_HippoonAug 9, 2016

I've tried meditation a few times, and finally found something that seems to work with my brain (I can explain but it doesn't answer your question). In the meantime, I tried reading a good deal and learning what I could, so here are the things that stand out for me.

Lots of folks enjoy "Mindfulness in Plain English", and it does a good job of explaining some things, and it got recommended to me over and over again.

For something more in-depth, check out "meditation for dummies". It is a decent introduction to meditation.

For a more realistic viewpoint on meditation, check out Sam Harris. He was pretty skeptical, and seems to not over-inflate the results though he's an obvious believer.

Lastly, I recommend watching Shinzen Young on Youtube. He was really more of a turning point for me, and gives a good deal of flexibility in methods.

hoshonDec 16, 2012

So ... mindfulness isn't something you achieve. Don't worry too much about trying to figure out what "mindfulness" is and how to "achieve" it. I'm answering it as if the question were, "Anyone have a guide on how to meditate without getting lost in stories?"

There are lots and lots of guides, books, teachings. Buddhist methods tend to be very popular because many practitioners want to teach it in service of humanity and will put up with a lot of things from students.

Here's a small one I wrote, and someone asked me to post it onto Quora: http://www.quora.com/Meditation/Whats-a-nice-little-cheat-sh...

This is not complete or comprehensive. It shows you the first door and you an get fairly far with it. By the time you gain some skill in it, you would be able to find other guides to continue on.

If you like the Buddhist tradition, there are books like "Mindfulness in Plain English", available for free. I also liked "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" but not everyone does, and it's considered fairly advanced. Advanced or not, the first couple chapters are worth reading. It too is also available for free online.

A method that is not of the Buddhist tradition (though influenced by it) is Dan Millman's "Way of the Peaceful Warrior." The book is written as a teaching story. If you want more of a step-by-step guide, Millman's "Everyday Enlightenment" will work.

ssijakonMay 17, 2018

If you don`t have "release" at home but feel like you are nagged there, then settle that first! I know my wife for 12 years (we are both 31y old), and we had ups and downs in our relationship. I know when we did not feel like we had support from each other at home, that that spilled out to every other sphere of our lives and we felt miserable. We grew out of that silliness, and are now living the most beautiful times of our lives. Yes, I don`t like my job either for X reasons (software engineer at gambling company), but love and understanding with her is keeping the balance up. Also, one other thing that helped is mindfulness. Just read "Mindfulness in plain English", it is such a wonderful book. Try to practice it both while sitting and meditating and in "real" life. One other thing that insta-leveled my mindfulness and made me more ok with bad/boring/sad things in life is ayahuasca but that is another story.

vidarhonNov 22, 2011

Most resources you find will have origins in Buddhism. Ignore it. I'm an atheist too, and while I can't speak to the link above, look up Mindfulness in Plain English for another source that, while written by a Buddhist, is pretty much an "instruction manual" where you can just ignore every mention of spirituality and Buddhism (there aren't many of them beyond giving some context in the introduction). While I groaned once or twice (a mention of levitation...), the spiritual/religious content in that one is light enough that it should be easily tolerable for all but the most rabid hardline atheists.

It's available for free at urbandharma.org (there's a direct link elsewhere in this thread, that I'm too lazy to look up) or you can get a hardcopy from Amazon.

studentrobonMar 25, 2016

This is so sad, yet also heart warming. It takes clarity of mind to discuss depression in an obituary. Most people will not mention it so openly as a cause of death, but it is common and accounted for 2.2% of deaths in 2014 (42,773) [1]. We don't have a clear solution that works for everyone. We suggest staying active, or visiting doctors who may or may not prescribe anti-depressants.

A powerful one I don't often hear suggested is meditation. The book Mindfulness in Plain English [2] is a good introduction. We can all benefit from pushing pause on our train of thoughts once in awhile.

[1] http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_...

[2] http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

arc_of_descentonJan 1, 2017

Thats how its marketed. But no, Vipassna is a form of meditation practice. There are many others.

And to be honest its not the real stuff. What are 10 days? You are going to learn absolutely nothing. Mediation is a 24 hours a day practice. And it takes a lot of time to just get used to it.

For example, in one form they only tell you to focus your mind on an object (like breathing, or your abdomen). In Vipassna, the idea is focus first, but the next step is to observe your thoughts (mindfullness). Observe, never reject, whatever it is. Happiness, Lust, Greediness, Anxiety. Observe, and let it go. The mind is a crazy machine. More precisely, our chattering monkey mind.

Please read this book if you haven't already. I can't recommend it enough. It has changed my life.

Mindfulness in Plain English - Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

webnrrd2konJuly 22, 2014

I'd like to second your opinion -- meditation has helped me tremendously in many ways, especially in, broadly speaking "getting me out of my own way".

I'd suggest starting with the book "Mindfulness in Plain English", available from free online. Another good book, available online, is "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha".

Also, try some audio talks from Jack Cornfield, Pema Chodron, Gil Frondal, Shinzen Young, or whoever seems to work for you. Listen to them when you go on a drive more than half an hour. But the important thing is to put in some time meditating.

samplonApr 15, 2018

I highly recommend the book Mindfulness in Plain English if you're interested in meditation.


It strips away a lot of the "woo woo" kooky stuff and clearly explains what meditation really "is". I just finished re-reading it, and must have highlighted every other sentence.

ivmonOct 17, 2016

Headspace is a classic Samadhi+Vipassana meditation wrapped into casual language. I used it a bit for a couple of years and it's a great intro into the practice before going guideless.

I also highly recommend "Mindfulness in plain English"[0], I wish I found it sooner.

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-English-Bhante-Henepola-G...

webnrrd2konFeb 24, 2015

Have you tried meditation? One way of looking at it is as a 2,000+ year old tradition of attention training. I highly recommend Googling "pragmatic Buddhism", "Mindfulness in Plain English", and "Mindsight" by Dan Siegel. But the most important thing is to spend a little time practicing every day.

It's not a fast or easy solution, but I've found meditation actually works.

bkudriaonJune 2, 2015


What The Buddha Taught: http://amzn.com/0802130313. A straightforward overview of the foundations of Buddhism.

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism: http://amzn.com/1570629579. In your journey, your ego will be tempted to claim your spirituality for itself. Don't let that happen.

Mindfulness In Plain English: http://amzn.com/0861719069. A classic introduction to meditation.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: http://amzn.com/1590308492. A mind-opening taste of Zen, and a classic. Read with your heart, not your brain.

Other recommended Zen authors: Seung Sahn. Taizan Maezumi. Brad Warner. The aforementioned Alan Watts.

Also, an invaluable online resource: http://www.accesstoinsight.org, especially essays by Thanissaro Bhikkhu: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/index....

There are also many fantastic essays on Tricycle: http://www.tricycle.com

Finally: reading about Buddhism is like reading about the most delicious food. It won't satisfy your hunger. It's mind-medicine - only for your mind. The only soul-medicine is sitting down every day on a cushion and looking at a white wall. (Or variations thereof.) You cannot reach enlightenment and save all beings from suffering by reading a book. Don't take my word for it - you have to see for yourself.

b6onDec 21, 2015

I'm very happy to see an article like this on HN. This is the type of stuff I'm very interested in lately.

The sources I've found most helpful so far are the books _Mindfulness in Plain English_ and _Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English_.

Very briefly, we pretty much already understand the concepts that will allow us to take control of our minds and see what's going on clearly, but those are concepts, when what is needed is experience. Meditative states help us gain experiential knowledge, and in the process, we rearrange the plumbing in the basements of our minds. For example, having thoroughly experienced impermanence in meditation, we naturally stop wanting to freeze time or cling to things.

I seem to like to make metaphors about fire. In one sense, I see these ideas as possibly helping put out a global wildfire that's been raging out of control since the beginning of mankind: people suffer, and, not knowing how to handle their suffering, harm themselves and others, and we respond in anger, when it would be better if we responded with compassion. In another sense, we want to get the fire of compassion lit, to get enough people to awaken that others can see that it's an attainable goal.

It's nothing less than jailbreaking our minds. We have a lot of evidence it's possible, just very difficult. But the more people are looking at it, the less subtle these ideas will seem, and the path will hopefully become more and more straightforward. I hope that someday, waking up the way the Buddha did will be a rite of passage for children.

johnthedebsonOct 12, 2012

The subject of meditation isn't all that important, the focus is. Breathing just happens to be a great subject: it's simple and repetitive, it's always with you, it's something you can feel (you're supposed to pay attention to the sensation), etc.

I recently read Mindfulness in Plain English and really enjoyed it. If you're looking for an explanation and how-to (but not necessarily data to back it up), it's a great book.

Edit: Regarding cats specifically, breathing does not demand your attention (the way cats do) and it does not leave on a whim once it has received your attention (the way cats do). It's up to you, and only you, to focus and continue focusing.

inovicaonOct 5, 2010

Absolutely agree with you. This seems like an excuse for a blog post rather than something that he was actively seeking to truly learn. I'm sure if he'd even read a decent book on it that he would have benefited much more. For anyone reading these comments who is interested in meditation, check out these two free books:

Happy To Burn - http://www.sankhara.com.au/shop/products/displayFree.html

Mindfulness in Plain English - http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

I found these to be very useful as I started exploring meditation. I also found a yoga teacher that also taught meditation - enough to make a difference in my life, both working and outside of work.

sophcwonMar 6, 2015

Doing a meditation retreat is actually a great way to get into meditation. I did a 5 day retreat having almost no experience beforehand, and it was a huge, huge help to me. Getting into meditation is hard, as it takes a long time to see real results, whereas with a retreat, you will definitely see results after a few days, which really helped motivate me to keep going. I'd also highly recommend the book Mindfulness In Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. Very straightforward guide to meditation for people who haven't done it before.

webnrrd2konSep 8, 2013

I heartily agree -- I went through a really bad depression and found that regular meditation and exercise made a tremendous difference, far more than medication.

Just a few quick notes: Aerobic exercise helped me more than strength training, so, if you're depressed, I'd recommend running, swimming, and/or bicycling.

Diet has been very important, too. Everyone is different, but I find a mostly vegetarian diet, low on processed foods, to be the best for me overall.

I think meditation helped the most. It's been a tremendously useful skill that has helped me in many areas of my life. I found Vipassana and Zen-style meditation, as

Check out Mindfulness in Plain English (http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html) (the author has a series of books, all are really good), and Mastering the Core Teaching of the Buddah (http://integrateddaniel.info/book/).

sh1mmeronFeb 22, 2011

One thing that threw me a little when I read Mindfulness in Plain English the first time was how they describe following your breathing in Vipassana.

There are a number of methods people use including the one mentioned in the book, observing the breath at the nostrils, and any of them are ok. I personally find the chest and throat works best for me.

Another thing I found hugely helpful getting started (other than finding a sangha) was getting a sense of body. When you start to sit just feel your body, is it heavy, energetic, etc. Feel places your body is touching, the floor, the chair, etc and then slowly focus in on your breath.

A final piece of advice, try not to meditate on pain if you can help it. When you first start out sitting will probably hurt (that doesn't mean you should fidget or ignore it). However meditating on pain is actually pretty easy. You'll quickly realise that it makes everything else harder to meditate on because it is extremely intense so you less sensitive to other things. The solution is to spend a little time making sure you are sitting right or spending some session in seated meditation.

Contact details are on my profile. Feel free to ask me any questions. I've been practicing Theravada and Vipassana for a while.

ziggysakonJune 29, 2015

I tried calm and it was okay. I actually read the book 'Mindfulness in Plain English' and worked from there. I use no technology in my sessions - I feel like it helps when I'm completely disconnected. As a tip, remember this: Most of the time the greatest benefit from meditation is the act of trying to meditate. You can fail miserably and it still can work wonders on your mental health.

vidarhonJune 28, 2017

Try to practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness in Plain English [1] is a good resource. For starters it is relaxing in itself, and will teach you to relax faster, but if you practice with eyes clothes in a chair or on a couch instead of sitting in a traditional pose, and you're actually in need of sleep, it's easy to drift off unless you actively try not to.

The book has a number of pieces of advice to avoid sleeping - if your aim is to nap rather than meditate, just do the opposite. E.g. part of the point of a traditional meditation pose is to create alertness (sit up straight, lift your head etc.) in part to avoid falling asleep.

Sometimes I want to stay awake and pay attention to pose etc. Sometimes I like to use the breathing etc. to have a quick nap, and instead will sit in a relaxed position, rest my head. I find it's made a big difference in how quickly I fall asleep - I now associate certain positions with "fall asleep ASAP" and certain positions with "clear your mind and stay focused", and automatically fall into certain patterns when I prepare accordingly.

[1] http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

vidarhonDec 30, 2012

That one is great. Especially worth recommending in a place like this where I'd expect more people than average would prefer a resource that isn't full of religious stuff one might not agree with.

I loved it, as while this book was written by a Buddhist monk, apart from an odd reference here and there, the book is a "manual" first and foremost. It describes the mechanics of mindfulness meditation, rather than the Buddhist spiritual basis for it. It doesn't make any promises of supernatural results, and in general is a reasonably painless read for atheists or people who otherwise don't share the authors beliefs. The only mentions of Buddhism is for historical context.

In a similar vein, I'd recommend Gil Fronsdal's "Introduction to meditation" series of podcasts: http://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1762/

They're a great companion to Mindfulness in Plain English, and they're also largely religion free and no-nonsense.

chdironJuly 8, 2015

1. "Mindfulness in Plain English" - Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Really liked it & easy to follow.

2. "Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life" - Thich Nhat Hanh. Also good, but found it a bit repetitive. Maybe because I'd already gone through the first one.

Edit: My advice is to read the book so that you enjoy it. After a little bit of practice, you'll find that when you want to sleep, just meditate a little bit. The mind will feel lighter and you will automatically drift to sleep. Don't force yourself to shut off your mind, let it happen gradually. Observe yourself when you drift away. In short, cherish the process, don't take it as an exercise.

0xCMPonJan 13, 2015

I bought "Mindfulness in Plain English" and I've read it a few times. In the couple times I've meditated for at most 20 minutes I got some amazing experiences and insights that, I don't would be an exaggeration to say, changed my life and how I viewed other people, things, and events in my life.

That said, even though I've always wanted to give my self a time and place where I could really "break the barrier" to meditating more often, I'm not so sure I'd do some thing like that after this...

mbrownnyconAug 7, 2015

I'm surprised by the lack of philosophy writings mentioned here.

I'm averse to sociopathic and manipulative teachings such as my book-by-its-cover judgement of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and the like.

Instead, I began my journey several years ago reading through "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Guranatana. More recently I began frequenting the Farnam Street blog, being turned onto reading "The Obstacle is the Way," by Ryan Holiday, which lead me to "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, and I'll be picking up "Letters from a Stoic" as soon as I'm done with "The Kingdom of God Is Within You" by Tolstoy (having never read Tolstoy's non-fiction writing previous to "A Letter to a Hindu," which was posted to Hacker News a few weeks ago).

I would say that the most powerful book I've read is Meditations. The perspective the book holds is that you are a person, and people are pre-wired to do good for society and for other people (as entities); that this is innate in you, and you MUST use this to do good. It is a book focused on resilience in the face of circumstances, people and things that people do that aren't good.

krrrhonMay 22, 2016

5 minutes does have an effect. A lot of the published research uses a dose of 20 minutes a day, and it can be a struggle to work up to that, but it is a good goal. In a 20 minute session it can be common for me to feel distracted and fidgety for most of it, but get a few glimpses or a minute or two of detachment from the "monkey mind", and it has a big impact on the rest of the day, and a compounding impact over time.

I think the easiest way to try mindfulness meditation out is the headspace app, but there are a lot of different styles if that doesn't appeal to you. Most mindfulness-oriented meditation taught in the west today won't demand a set of beliefs and compatible with a secular rationalist perspective on the world.

There is definitely technique; it's quite different from just daydreaming or following every thought that enters your mind. You will typically have something to focus on, usually the breath is used to start, but it varies by tradition. The idea is to have something neutral that you can pay attention to so that you can begin to observe the thoughts that arise in your mind without reacting to them. There's a popular free book available online in various formats called Mindfulness in Plain English that lays out the basics of Vipassana style meditation, if you want a decent primer. The retreat I mentioned was offered by dhamma.org aka the Goenka school.

Feel free to message me if you have any questions I might be able to answer.

studentrobonMar 29, 2016

> Look at his frikken tree of knowledge model

I know you're venting but you're a little off topic and hard to follow. It sounds like you have a bone to pick with this author. This sub-thread began with "warmfuzzykitten" lamenting the HN comments and now you're discussing other work by the author.

Venting is totally fine and useful. There are some other techniques for releasing frustration that are more effective. Meditation, for example, can teach you to cast aside thoughts on which you do not wish to dwell. The book Mindfulness in Plain English is a good introduction. I'm not telling you what to do, because it would be a waste of my energy. You'll make up your own mind regardless. I'm just sharing a strategy that's worked for me, alongside other things. That's what people do. We share stories, whether about good times or bad.

OxrylyonJune 25, 2010

The article describes the basics of vipassana (insight) meditation. The same description applies to zazen, the meditation practice in Zen. I believe it is actually the basis for all meditative practice.

You can layer on certain guided thoughts (like mantras and chants), but meditative practice is more powerful the simpler it is. You must strip away as much as possible -- to just sit and bring the body, breath, and mind into sync using breath focus and an aware non-judgmental mind. There are many books written on the subject; I can personally recommend Mindfulness in Plain English (free version at http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html).

Meditation of this form is key to transforming your entire life. It is the gateway or pathway you can use to find and accept your true self and see yourself and your life for what it is. It is how you truly see that you cannot escape the present moment and that you have the full ability to choose how you relate to it. Sogyal Rinpoche says it better than I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tIBYxed16s.

rodrigtwonMar 24, 2013

There is definitely a lot of "orientalism" surrounding Buddhist practices. And yet, there are other ways to approach meditation. I entered meditation the same way I entered running: I saw people around me doing running and enjoying it, thought I would see if I enjoyed it too, did a little research, asked some questions, and tried it out. And yet running isn't for everyone.

If you were ever to try meditation, you sound like you might get the most out of Mindfulness in Plain English. The author presents meditation as a practice which serves a philosophy. The philosophy is that as a species we suffer from our emotional attachments to the outcomes of events, to the objects around us, etc. In geek parlance, we have stress responses that were appropriate in our evolutionary environment but are unadaptive to modern life. Meditation is a practice that helps us override these stress responses, and for many people meditation is a better tool than attempting to override those stress responses with thoughts. And even if you don't consider yourself particularly stressed, a Buddhist might suggest that overriding those responses can help remove the weight of attachment from your decision making process and make you into a more rational person.

kozikowonDec 15, 2013

If you don't have access to meditation center book "Mindfulness in plain english" seems like not newagey introduction to the subject.
It describes Vipassana. It's almost like Zazen, but slightly different. In my understanding Zazen is Mahayana buddhism version of Vipassana, which comes from Theravada buddhism, but I am just a begginer so I can be horribly wrong.

I started meditating recently after reading MIPE. I'll try to find a teacher as soon as I can.
What got hooked me up was some research that it improves cognitive performance: http://www.gwern.net/docs/dnb/2010-zeidan.pdf .
There's some evidence that long term meditation changes structure of the brain and improves mood and attention outside of meditation practice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_activity_and_meditation#C... .
This post seems like good encouragement as well: http://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/38947/is-prac... .

One thing which I notice the most is increased ability to deal with distractions and staying focused on boring subjects . It is essentially what one practices during meditation. Dealing with distractions is very important skill for programmer: http://blog.ninlabs.com/2013/01/programmer-interrupted/ . What's more it's kind of skill, that is hard to develop without active practice. I can't think of better way of developing it than meditation.

bjterryonFeb 14, 2018

I have seen other people who have this conception of meditation, but I am not sure it paints the whole picture. Among the different schools of meditation there are both those that tend to "suppress thoughts" and those that simply observe whatever arises.

In the first category I would put techniques which teach you to focus on a meditation object, most often the breath or a mantra. If someone says "mindfulness meditation" I generally think they are referring to this kind of meditation, and examplars can be found in books like Mindfulness in Plain English or The Mind Illuminated (even though there are also both quite different approaches to meditation, one being focused on "insight" first and the other based on "concentration" first). They don't teach you to suppress thoughts, but they teach you to focus on a particular thing and IGNORE thought, which has the effect, long term, of causing those thoughts not to arise.

But there are also schools that focus on "open awareness" or "just sitting" styles of meditation. This is very common teaching in Zen Buddhism but is also practiced in some schools Tibetan Buddhism, at least in Dzogchen. This, I think, is what you are referring to; where you sit and observe at a mental distance whatever thoughts arise. Eventually, this also causes thoughts to arrive much less frequently.

If you are referring to the research literature, however, I think mindfulness generally refers to the first kind. As with everything, the borders blur together.

vidarhonNov 28, 2019

My impression is that most people promoting mindfulness are often keen to avoid the association to Buddhism or at least downplay it, not exploit it, to avoid a resistance to picking up a religious practice.

Gil Fronsdal in his "Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation" jokingly talk about how organizations holding courses in "Mindfulness based stress deduction" carefully avoid the "B-word", and then go on to give a pratical introduction that barely mentions Buddhism.

Quite a bit of mindfulness meditation material has been published by Buddhist monks and teachers that have taken care to stress their utility as methods separated from the Buddhist tradition. Fronsdal's courses is one example. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English is another popular example that takes great care to explain its position in Buddhist practice and then promptly point out that his book is a practical guide to the meditation practice, not a guide to the spiritual aspects, and mostly ignores Buddhism from then on.

When talking about mindfulness in a secularised form, we are usually talking specifically about mindfulness based meditation, not the other aspects, or at least to a lesser extent other aspects. To me that was what made it palatable, as I'd had a casual interest for a long time, but found spiritually focused descriptions very off-putting.

nandreevonOct 6, 2014

Great description. I have been trying to meditate lately (it's not easy) and already experience occasional moments during which I "zoom out" of life, e.g. catch myself becoming aware of what I'm doing. This leads to (short) moments of bliss and sheer wonder.

Everything is simple during those moments.

I encourage anyone to try meditation. While I was always interested in the subject, it was not until I read Mindfulness in Plain English (referenced above) that I started taking it seriously.

nabla9onDec 19, 2019

> In orthodox Buddhism, like that in Sri Lanka, the path to understanding Buddhism is uncontroversial, difficult but uncontroversial.

After reading the memoirs of Bhante Henepola Gunaratana (the author of Mindfulness in Plain English) I get the impression that Sri Lankan Buddhism was degraded into pointless rote learning and empty rituals. When Bhante G. became a monk in 1940's monks didn't even practice meditation.

When religion becomes so ingrained into culture like it has in Asia, it seems that it becomes just empty conservative power structure, not different form Catholic Church in the west.

Sri Lanka and Burma have supremacist monks who advocate hate. Western Buddhists go to Burma and Asia to train with those few meditation teachers who know their stuff and learn from them while most Asians just see Buddhism as cultural tradition.

ArubisonOct 8, 2009

I got a lot of mileage out of a post by Dan Benjamin a few months ago: http://hivelogic.com/articles/how-to-start-a-meditation-prac...

As the URL (and title) implies, it provides you with a good starting point. I'd floundered for quite a while reading up on theory, which is nice but has nothing on actual practice.

In particular, he linked (and now, so will I) to the online text of Mindfulness In Plain English at http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html, which is both pragmatic and convincing.

Those two links finally got me started on the meditation practice I'd intended to try for years, and I've stuck to it without breaks longer than a day or two.

fredoliveiraonJan 2, 2017

Everyone keeps recommending Mindfulness in Plain English, including people I have a deep admiration from. But I went into it thinking it'd be a no-bs exploration of meditation and closed the book once the author mentioned how some meditators experienced "talking to their ancestors".

I'm sure that you can be objective and cut through that type of statement but meh, I couldn't do it. Maybe I'll try again at some point but that one really put me off.

hoshonFeb 14, 2013

As @yor said, Mindfulness in Plain English is good. You can find a copy free at: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

I never heard of Unlearning Meditation but I do know that there were a lot of things I thought I knew about meditation and it was ... not exactly like that. Anne Wise's book, High Performance Mind gets into some of the technical details. I like Daniel Ingram's book, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha but a lot of people don't. It's not exactly a beginner's book, but it's something to keep in mind if you ever start getting some weird experiences that you have difficulty framing.

I say vipassana to mean the specific practice of experiencing reality, every little bit. It's not the only modality, and you'll find this particular practice in other traditions (and I mean, in Western traditions as well. There's not much you can tack on to "experience reality").

I have also been (slowly) translating the Tao Te Ching from the perspective that it is a book to guide you in your practice, not necessarily a book stating a philosophy. For example, the famous "The journey of a thousand miles begin with the first step" when put into this context actually means, let go of the thought/emotion/sensation at the beginning rather than when it becomes a full-blown train wreck that you have to ride out.

I'm a bit stuck with the translation because I'm hitting the parts that resemble more of a trip with psychedelics, and the audience was originally intended for people who may not have those experiences. Having said that, I noticed that Brian Browne Walker's translation is in that particular spirit.

Sometimes, just sitting there and getting in touch with reality is difficult. So there are other practices that can lead up to doing this. If you are still interested in this, but find Mindfulness in Plain English intimidating, I suggest Dan Millman's The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and followup with his Everyday Enlightenment.

apostateonSep 26, 2013

Mindfulness meditation[1] is an old but very effective way of training the mind to recognize distractions. I agree with the article that the opportunities for distraction are at an all-time high, but the human brain has not changed much in the last few millenia, and the problem of being distracted is almost certainly as old as the first time a person desired to contemplate something. To someone who wishes to devote a significant portion of their day to contemplation (e.g. a Buddhist monk), any distraction can be a setback, and the so-called "monkey mind"[2] is awfully persistent.

Being able to recognize that you are being pulled away from your object of focus is the essential first step to reduce both the frequency and length of distractions. This is one of the goals of mindfulness meditation. Personally, I have found that the simple act of being able to catch myself in the midst of a distraction has improved my ability to focus.

After spending time practicing mindfulness, I have developed a wonderful skill of being able to "switch off" a racing mind and pull myself back down to the task at hand (or to simply pull myself out of an anxious state of mind and into a pleasant one). Importantly, practicing this during 15 minutes of daily meditation has enabled me to do this during any of the other ~1000 waking minutes of each day. The first time I noticed myself do this "automatically" outside of meditation, I was amazed that I was able to cultivate such a skill.

If you are interested in a good primer on mindfulness and how to actually go about meditation, I recommend Mindfulness in Plain English.[3] I recommend it whenever the subject comes up and I'm sure very few people read it, but it had enough of an effect on me that I would not want others to miss out.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_of_breathing

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_monkey

[3] http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/mindfulness_in_plain_english....

vidarhonAug 11, 2014

99% might have connotations like that to it, but that doesn't prevent large healthcare groups etc. from using it. E.g. Kaiser Permanente offers courses in "Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction", and so there is plenty of non-religious training material available for mindfulness meditation.

Even some of the best introductory resources on mindfulness meditation from Buddhist sources are refreshingly free of "religious-mystical-woo", or careful to separate the woo from the practice. E.g. my of my two favourite introductory resources, one (Gil Fronsdal's podcasts "Introduction to Meditation") specifically jokes about "the 'B'-word" and mentions buddhism just barely for context, and the book Mindfulness in Plain English mentions Buddhist traditions only for historical context.

As an uncompromising atheist and skeptic, this is the reason I ended up with mindfulness meditation over alternatives.

ssamulionFeb 22, 2011

To quote the book (Mindfulness in Plain English) that was earlier recommended in this thread and in the article:

"Meditation is not some mindless formula which gives automatic and predictable results. You can never really predict exactly what will come up in any particular session. It is an investigation and experiment and an adventure every time. In fact, this is so true that when you do reach a feeling of predictability and sameness in your practice, you use that as an indicator. It means that you have gotten off the track somewhere and you are headed for stagnation."

I can't really know if this is the reason why you felt like you had hit a rut - Just had to leave this comment for your consideration :)

vidarhonJune 28, 2013

I'd suggest you just read some of the free material and/or listen to some of the podcasts available first.

I've left these two URL's in a couple of other comments - take a look at my other comments in this thread for more explanation. But these are gentle, non-preachy and non-strong-arm-y introductions:

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html (Mindfulness in Plain English; free e-book, or you can get the printed version of Amazon)

http://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1762/ (Introduction to Meditation; MP3 recordings of a course held by Gil Fronsdal)

I share your scepticism. I'm a lifelong atheists, and though long fascinated by meditation, what kept me away for the longest time was the religious / spiritual baggage that comes with a lot of the teaching resources.

studentrobonJune 13, 2016

I suggest mindfulness meditation. 20 minutes a day of trying to focus on nothing can help get your brain back in order. It may seem odd that the cure for the inability to concentrate might be concentrating on something as basic as your breath. It worked for me. Mindfulness in Plain English is a good book to get started is and free online.

david_bonJan 11, 2013

Mindfulness in Plain English is good - there is some weird stuff in it (something about levitation) but it is a very minor part and the rest is solid. It's free:

If you need more guidance get the MBSR/MBCT (I did the latter) book + audio tracks from Jon Kabat-Zinn - it takes all the buddhism out and teaches just meditation and mindfulness (and little bits of yoga).

MiPE was the first book I got, but the guidance of 'sit down, listen and follow this program' really helped me get on my butt.

Edit: I can't find the levitation part in MiPE - but there was _something_

hoshonApr 24, 2012

How to beat the triggers? Mindfulness (insight) meditation.

(1) When the urge comes, observe the urge as it rises and goes away.

(2) Do not avoid the experience. It will feel like it sucks because it does. There is no magic pill to avoid the experience.

(3) Things come and go, nothing is permanent. This urge will eventually pass.

(4) If you want to take this further: try to discern the physical sensation making up the "urge" with the "mental echo".

(5) It is important not to try to "beat" these triggers. That's a form of avoidance and rejection and will only make the urges stronger. People usually give into the urge to make the feeling of suffering go away; if you accept and experience the suffering for what it is, you break out of the dopamanine/gollumization loop.

For (4), as you know, your neurons do not fire continuously. It's an analog pulse that decays after the peak. The sensations and urges you have feel like they are continuous because you experience other things that fills in the gap. This filler is the "mental echo".

It is possible to develop enough skill in perception to distinguish between the physical sensation and the filler gap. When you can perceive this, you can see how experiences like these "urges" are actually sequences, melodies, and rhythms of sensate pulses that when combined with the mental echo, you normally recognize as a particular "urge" (or thought, or feeling).

Usually, recognizing these component parts as they happen is enough. You can still choose to go with the urge, or you can ... not.

For more information:

- Mindfulness in Plain English. http://bit.ly/mindfulness-in-plain-english

- Mastering the Core Teachings of Buddha: A Surprisingly Hardcore Book of Dharma. http://bit.ly/hardcore-dharma

- The Pomodoro technique accidentally has the features for creating a time-boxed mindfulness meditation as you work. The essential components are all in the first chapter of that book.

keechamonApr 1, 2013

I just wanted to say thanks for this book recommendation - "Mindfulness in Plain English". Learning and starting some basic meditation was one of my New Years Resolutions, but I didn't really know where to get started (even though I've been exposed to meditation before). I bought this book and it is a great practical guide.

vidarhonMar 20, 2017

> I read most of "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Henepola Gunaratana. It was good for a deeper dive into Vipassana meditation in particular and did a good job of keeping the more religious overtones to a minimum. I definitely recommend it.

It was the book I started with, and I just wanted to second this. As a lifelong skeptic by nature, finding a book that introduced meditation without the "woo" made all the difference.

For more of the same, look up the podcasts by Gil Fronsdal and Audiodharma. Like with Mindfulness in Plain English, it comes from a Buddhist starting point but he goes to the same length to keep the religious parts out of it.

pmoriartyonJuly 12, 2020

Yes, teachers and meditation retreats could be helpful. But just bear in mind that there are lot of different ones, and they're not interchangeable. I'd suggest you do a lot of research and talk to some people you respect and trust who've been to the retreat/teacher you're contemplating.

Also, I can recommend a couple of books: The Heart of Buddhist Meditation and Mindfulness in Plain English.

kranneronNov 28, 2014

Walking meditation e.g. as described in 'Mindfulness in Plain English' is slow and deliberate, and I don't think one can get much physical benefit out of it.

I'm no expert but I think concentration is only part of the picture. This can be concentration on the breath, or concentration on a physical activity as you describe it. The other part is using the highly developed concentration state for the actual (mindfulness) meditation, which is pretty hard if you're moving around, at least for a beginner.

I'm talking about Vipassana practice, which is all I know about. As you say there are many forms of meditation.

edit: I used the word 'deliberate'. I should say seemingly deliberate. To be exact, it's not about deliberation or thinking at all.

severonJan 20, 2011

I've a little bit periodically over the past few years.
The most I've ever done is 20m at a time, but every day.

I've had the same reservations as you, is it doing any good, how can I tell? It is trivially easy to be wrong.

I do like something I see in the people who are more advanced practioners and I keep being drawn back to it.

My latest thinking is that since I can not for the moment find anything longterm to measure, I'll do it for the immediate enjoyment I get directly from the session - from physically relaxing if nothing else. This has now made my sessions very short, just a few minutes at a time before I stop enjoying it.

I'll add another recomendation for "Mindfulness in Plain English", I like it a lot. I'm slowly consuming it, reading a few paragraphs before each meditation session.

userchrisonDec 16, 2018

Why do you seem them as a crutch/why do you see what they practice as "not meditation"?

For perspective, when trying meditation at first, I did it without the use of any technology- I read "Mindfulness in Plain English" and some other articles and books, and attempted meditating based on what I learned there (with mixed periods of success).

And then at some point later, I tried headspace to see what the hype was about. I found both paths helpful and effective- after all, the guided mediations in headspace largely just reflected the same things that the books had taught me. I don't have a headspace subscription and wouldn't get one, but I don't see it as significantly different than an audiobook version of some of the material I had read about in order to understand how to meditate. And maybe you could make the argument that people should just do that instead (listen to audiobooks, since the cost would be much lower). Do you see something fundamentally different?

zzzbraonJune 2, 2015

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and Mindfulness in Plain English are excellent texts.

However I recommend that the single best thing you can do early on, either to figure out if this is anything your interested in or to actually get to the matter of the thing, which is to say to appreciate the practice of it, is to visit a zen center and take some sort of intro to zazen. It wasn't until I tried zazen that I felt I really 'got' what all the thinking is about.

I also found this article on Nietzsche and what impact the lineage of Buddhist thinking had on his thought (and by extension, Freud, who is widely speculated to have taken a lot of his ideas about the unconscious from Nietzsche) to be instrumental in deepening my understanding of Buddhism: http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol1/god_is_dead.html

vidarhonNov 28, 2019

I don't think most people care that much about whether or not it has anything to do with Buddhism, and if anything a lot of the people "selling" mindfulness try to avoid the link, because it scares off a lot of people that don't want a religious practice (or don't want one associated with a religion other than "theirs").

I practice mindfulness, but I would never consider myself a buddhist - it took a "secularised" text to get me to pick it up (Mindfulness in Plain English; it's written by a buddhist monk, but makes clear from the beginning that it's a practical guide rather than a guide to the Buddhist spiritual background for mindfulness).

jongraehlonMar 25, 2013

I dislike "Mindfulness in Plain English". I have not spent more than a few hours trying any specific technique it advocates, so it's really the writing and reasoning I recommend against.

I reviewed the author's claims in some depth a couple years ago:




I think, before adopting a regimen, we ought to ask ourselves: is there evidence that the advocates of it arrived at it by a reasonable process? Or, if they didn't, are the benefits (compared to alternatives) compelling enough to override the risk of your spending time making an assessment and making an error in the direction of credulity? (see http://lesswrong.com/lw/19m/privileging_the_hypothesis/ )

TeMPOraLonApr 27, 2013

Thanks for your advice and reassuring references. I actually stumbled upon mindfulness meditation several times on HN, and after first being repelled, I ended up up reading "Mindfulness In Plain English" recently, and now I'm about to start practicing it.

Basically, I got fed up with this state and decided to solve it once and for all. I've managed to make some progress on it and I feel better/more productive at work now, so I have high hopes it'll get even better. Mindfulness is what I'm trying now, and the next book to read is "Feeling Good" (similarly, heavily recommended on HN), a basic Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy book.

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