Susan Piver is an author and meditation teacher whose books include New York Times best seller The Hard Questions, How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, and The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. Trained in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, she leads workshops and retreats around the United States.
Creating Quiet Mind was one of the most wonderful experiences of my professional life. The idea for the project came when I was still a very new Buddhist meditation practitioner. I would tell my friends and family about how the practice was changing my life, and I could see their interest was piqued. If they wanted to check out meditation, where could they start? I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to explain the differences between the meditation styles they were most likely to encounter. Where was a newbie to start?
Very few people have the inclination (or the time) to read individual books about the various meditation styles, compare and contrast them, and then visit their local centers before making a choice. Quiet Mind was my effort to create the easiest possible introduction to these ancient practices—and to the great teachers who offer them.
The key objective in this project was to give readers an experience of these practices, not just a historic or academic overview. I wanted people to have a chance to try out these different styles and see what resonated with them. The teachers who contributed to this project wrote an introductory essay to their practice, but the accompanying audio CD is not merely a reading of this essay; it is them giving meditation instruction and practicing with the reader.
By the end of this short, simple book, readers have a chance to learn a little about different styles, actually try them out, and then, hopefully, feel equipped to seek additional experience based on the confidence of personal resonance with a particular teacher or teaching.
After receiving my very first meditation instruction (in 1994), I asked my instructor to recommend a book or two to help me gain additional insight into the practice. Without hesitation, he suggested Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Now, as a meditation instructor myself, I make the same suggestions, as well as Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham. If I could fully comprehend even a single chapter of one of these books, I would probably be enlightened! That is how pithy, brilliant, cutting, and kind they each are.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind stands as one of the best books ever written about the practice of meditation. Although I don’t practice zazen, I find that every word also applies to my own practice (within a Tibetan Buddhist lineage) because Suzuki Roshi cuts through cultural forms to reveal the heart essence of meditation practice. How does one begin a meditation practice? What is the correct posture? What is the point of meditation altogether? Does it even have one? This book answers these questions in a way that is both bracing and expansive. Thank you, Suzuki Roshi.
Turning the Mind into an Ally
by Sakyong Mipham
I also recommend Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham. I swear, I am not recommending this book because Sakyong Mipham is my teacher and I love him. I am recommending it because it is one of the best books ever written about Buddhist meditation. It is so direct. It is so warm. It is so clear. I have read it many times and it never ceases to shower me with insight and help me navigate around those (numerous) moments when I find myself “turning the mind into an alibi.”
Turning the Mind into an Ally gives ultraclear instruction in how to begin and then stabilize a meditation practice. It points out the obstacles one might encounter and how to dissolve them. It offers an introduction to key Buddhist principles that underlie meditation practice. Beyond all of this, it goes on to describe how to bring the benefits of meditation practice forward into every aspect of your life. If you've ever thought, “Hey, Buddhism sounds cool; now what?”, this book is the “what.” It teaches you how to live these concepts by making friends with your own mind so that it can be a source of power as you navigate the ups and downs of your world.
This unique book-and-audio program brings together some of the country's most beloved meditation teachers. Each contributor presents a short written teaching along with an audio recording of a guided practice. Quiet Mind features:
Sakyong Mipham on shamatha, the practice of tranquillity
In this modern spiritual classic, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa highlights the commonest pitfall to which every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see… Read More