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Wake Up to Your Life:
Discovering the Buddhist Path of Attention
by Ken McLeod; Harper San Francisco; Hardcover - 464 pages (March 20, 2001)
review by Tom Lane, special to Enlightenment.Com
Ken McLeods book Wake Up to Your Life, recently published by HarperSanFrancisco, sets forth a complete sequence of Buddhist meditation practices in a manner clearly aimed at contemporary westerners. Indeed, the book represents an important step in the transmission of Buddhist teaching to the West.
The author has been practicing and teaching Buddhist meditation for thirty years. His early training involved two traditional three-year retreats in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism under the supervision of the late Kalu Rinpoche, one of the key figures in opening Tibetan teachings to western students in the postwar years.
McLeod, while respectful of tradition, is an iconoclast who believes that the essence of the teachings is best conveyed through the terminology and imagery of the culture in which they are being taught. He is considered a maverick in some circles, as were many of the Buddhist teachers of the past from whom he draws his inspiration.
The core of the book is instruction in and commentary on several series of interrelated meditation practices. These begin with the basic cultivation of attention, continue with visualizations and reflective meditations involving familiar images drawn from daily life, and then in the final chapters detail more advanced "pure awareness" practices. Along the way, the work provides both a comprehensive and practical survey of Buddhist meditation and thought.
The basic premise here is that the habit patterns that make up our personalities prevent us from experiencing lifes mystery, including our own true nature. These habit patterns can be dissolved through the power of attention, which can in turn be cultivated through meditation both in formal practice and "on-the-fly" in everyday life. The author takes care at every turn to emphasize both the challenges and benefits of the cultivation of attention through the meditative path.
Those who are discovering these practices for the first time will find them presented in a clear and relevant manner. Those who are already Buddhist practitioners will find familiar topics refracted through an original, fresh, and sometimes startling perspective. The book can be enthusiastically recommended to all those who wish to wake up to their lives.
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