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Book: The Gift of Loving Kindness

Book: The Gift of Loving Kindness
by Mary Brantley and Tesilya Hanauer
Review by Brian Schell,
New Harbinger Publications, 286 Pages, ISBN: 1-57224-562-X
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I’ve mentioned loving kindness meditation here on the Daily Buddhism quit often in my postings the past few weeks, and it may still not be clear what it’s all about. This book makes it clear as glass. The book is small (6‚Äùx6‚Äù), and as the title itself suggests, would make an excellent gift for someone interested in taking up a simple form of meditation for perhaps the first time. Although the introduction and explanatory pages mention Buddha a few times, the book is not religious and could be enjoyed by anyone of any faith.

The introductory section explains why the authors wrote the book, how to use the book, and basic instructions for both formal and informal loving kindness meditations. This takes around 44 pages, and is an interesting, fast read. The instructions on the formal meditation are clearly presented, and easy to follow and practice.

The book centers heavily on the ideas of generosity, forgiveness, and compassion. Towards others, of course, but starting with directing those concepts towards yourself. The book explains early on that it’s hard to direct loving kindness outwards towards others if your mind is filled with blame or self-hate. Therefore, the book focuses on directing loving kindness (generosity, compassion, and forgiveness) towards yourself first, and then expanding that mindfulness outward towards others.

The rest of the book is broken into four parts, consisting of exercises that expand or modify these basic instructions in simple, yet useful ways. Part one of the book consists of meditations of loving-kindness towards yourself, part two is about loving-kindness towards difficult emotions, part three covers loving-kindness towards others, and finally, part four involves loving-kindness towards the world. On the last few pages are some additional resources for further exploration.

The bulk of the pages are filled with 100 mindful practices that can be attempted in any order. Some are quite good, others are a little weak, but since you can pick and choose the ones that appeal to you, there’s plenty to work with. Each exercise is explained clearly and concisely, usually with only two or three paragraphs. Some of the ideas are a bit saccharine, but with a book on this subject, that’s nearly unavoidable.

Buddhism Level: Beginner. All Daily Buddhism readers should be able to understand all parts of this one. It has no jargon and requires no special background. It’s even fine for those who may be uncomfortable with Buddhism, yet interested in meditation.

It’s easy to do, it’s easy to understand. Send yourself a little gift of loving kindness, and you can learn to pass it on to the rest of the world.

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