Debut author Sazima’s work as a practicing psychiatrist in San Jose, California, often brought him into contact with people who wanted to be “collaborators in their treatment.” He and his colleagues noticed that several patients seemed stuck in a cycle of poor health. However, after the author established a class on the basics of breath control and meditation, some patients quickly showed improvement, he says. Sazima goes on to recommend these same methods to his readers, offering a series of painless, jargon-free introductions to their basic tenets. His overviews present clear instructions and explanations, as when he urges the reader to concentrate, during meditation sessions, on the simple beating of one’s heart: “The stilling of activity to allow witness of the heart beating,” he writes, “can itself bring great calm, even literally allowing that beat to gently rock the body at rest.” In addition to these general approaches, Sazima also provides a steady thread of simple encouragements aimed specifically at beginners who might be frustrated by minimal initial progress: “The overall trajectory for just about everybody…is of overall improvement.” The combination of Sazima’s expertise and upbeat spirit make his book an inviting reading experience. It also uses helpful photos, graphs,and illustrations to make its points, and Sazima makes the inspired decision to often adopt a carefree, joking tone; he knows that his subject may be intimidating to newcomers, and his occasional wisecracks (such as the chapter title “You’d Better Sit Down for This: A Few Preparatory Words on, uh, Sitting”) effectively work to defuse that reaction. At the same time, he makes it clear throughout his book that the key enemy of meditation is distraction and that regaining the power to focus is of great value.
An insightful and demystifying look at mindfulness practice.