You may think that this book doesn’t belong here. After all our blog is about dating and relationships. However, I would argue that how we approach life in general and how much we act on autopilot of our programming has a lot to do in how we choose our partners and behave in relationships. A book about a tool that helps us to think before we do, is a tool that has its place on this blog.
Robert Wright’s book “Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment” is a much more down to earth book than the title suggests. Wright is also a very reasonable guy himself and has an amazingly dry sense of humor. He describes the perks of meditation from his point of view, which is that of an evolutionary psychologist. In his book he compares the ancient knowledge with what we know from science. As we are animals (just deal with it), we are ruled by natural selection. This means that most of the things we do have to do with how we’re programmed to perform. Natural selection’s goal is to make us reproduce, this is not a human goal most of the time (even if someone wants kids they don’t want to have kids all the time either). I touched upon this topic in my posts about pragmatism in love and rethinking romanticism, where I explained that butterflies don’t seem to be much more than our body yet again tricking us into reproduction. For the same reasons we are programmed to choose our kin above strangers, to label people and put them into us vs them categories and even to gossip. All these mechanisms were valid tools of survival in the hunter-gatherer society but they don’t serve us in the modern world. Meditation is a tool to undo some of such useless programming. I will not get into any more detail because a) Wright has already written a book about it and b) in his book he actually does a great job at explaining things.
Someone could say that the book isn’t a good manual for meditation but the fact is no manual is really needed. Maybe like me you’ve spent a lot of money on meditation courses, guided meditation CDs and other devices. They may help you but the truth is they usually just make you procrastinate. The simplest guide to meditation is: sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breath, when your thoughts appear don’t follow them but keep focusing on your breath, repeat it for at least 20 minutes every day. Ta-dam! Here, I saved you some money. The book serves a different purpose, however, and this is to help to popularize meditation as it is a very helpful device in living better and just becoming a nicer human being. Of course, there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. People are scared that it will change them, deprive them of feelings and other things. Wright answers to all of these concerns in a knowledgeable manner of someone who not only studied the subject theoretically but is also a regular, yet not heavy, meditator.
I recommend this book to anyone, really. As meditation is challenging in the beginning and often counter-intuitive as it’s not a part of the Western cultural heritage, it’s good to read a book that explains in a (not overly) scientific manner the benefits of meditation. I can only tell you that it’s really worth it. I may be still far away from being the person I’d like to be but both myself and my relationships have significantly benefited from my meditation practice.