Book Review: Focused And Fearless

This book is about states of mind called “The Jhanas” in Buddhist meditation. The jhanas are states of intense concentration. Shalia Catherine describes each of these mental states and suggests exercises that will eventually help in achieving these states.

Though many techniques exist for achieving the jhanas Catherine sticks to using meditation on breathing. This technique will be familiar to people who are interested in “insight meditation”. The meditation technique in the book is pretty much the same thing except in how distractions are dealt with. When doing meditation on breathing as “insight meditation” distractions are witnessed in mental silence (“mindfulness” – no mental verbalizations ). When doing meditation on breathing to increase concentration distractions are simply let go of.

Shalia writes very clearly. She explains what the jhanas are very well. She also explains the relationship of the jhanas to insight meditation and the relationship of the jhanas to Buddhist teachings very well. Most importantly she describes *how* insight meditation and meditation to deepen concentration support each other.

Though she gives many fascinating exercises in the book, the reader should not expect a step by step road map to achieving the jhanas. Instead what you will get is more like advice to travel “north east” instead of “due north” in your own journey and search. I don’t think this is a defect of the book, just the nature of the subject.

This book isn’t for beginning meditators. The reader who will get the most out of this book is a person who has worked with meditation on breathing for several years and who has an acquaintance with Theravada Buddhist teachings.

In a nutshell, this is an excellent book because the author really seems to know her subject and she presents her subject in a very clear, easy to understand manner.   You can watch a video of the author discussing her book here.

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