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Keep calm and read on: book hopes to bust meditation myths

Harvard alumni gather research from meditators around the world, which suggests that mindfulness, not expensive tools or medicines, is needed to benefit from the practice.

health Updated: Sep 30, 2017 21:33 IST
Rythma Kaul
Yoga, fitness and a healthy lifestyle - they’re all connected. But many benefits of meditation have been exaggerated. So whom to trust? A new book has some answers
Yoga, fitness and a healthy lifestyle - they’re all connected. But many benefits of meditation have been exaggerated. So whom to trust? A new book has some answers(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Science of Meditation
  • Author: Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Price: Rs 699 (paperback)

More than forty years ago, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, friends at Harvard, argued about the benefits of meditation. Today, they have authored a book that promises to put to rest misconceptions around the practice.

The authors base their arguments on cutting-edge-research from meditators across the world. Their findings suggest that you do not need medicines or expensive tools to practice selflessness, equanimity, love and compassion. The book aims to redesign your neural circuitry in the simplest way possible; it’s all about training your mind.

The narrative is gripping. The book begins by talking about September 11, 2001 attack in the US. Steve Z, a lieutenant colonel working in the Pentagon, has had a near-death experience after a passenger jet smashes into the building near his office. Even as the plane’s fuselage explodes, he survives, protected by the debris.

He does, however, suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, and ends up at the psychotherapist’s office. “She led him, very gently, to try mindfulness,” the book says. “Mindfulness, he recalls, ‘gave me something I could do to help feel more calm, less stressed, not be so reactive’.”

The authors write that tales like Steve’s offer encouraging news about meditation. “We have been meditators all our adult lives, and, like Steve, know for ourselves that the practice has countless benefits.”

The authors also make an honest admission. “Our scientific backgrounds give us pause, too. Not everything chalked up to meditation’s magic actually stands up to rigorous tests. And so we have set out to make clear what works and what does not.”

The book chalks out two paths, a deep one and a wide one. Both are governed by their own principles. It is for the reader to choose which path to take.

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