On the clearance shelf of a used-book store in Austin Texas last month I found a copy of Eknath Easwaran's Meditation, a mystical yet strangely practical little tome. Easwaran's approach is that of Focus, in the taxonomy of Paul Wilson's Finding the Quiet characterization of mindfulness practices. The book's introduction offers appealing arguments for building up one's mental muscles via training the mind to think more effectively. Easwaran offers the possibility of radical self-improvement and echoes Marcus Aurelius:
It is no small thing to compose a sonnet or write a perceptive novel; we are indebted to the great composers and writers who have given us beauty and insight into human nature. But I am most moved by the beauty of the perfectly crafted life, where every bit of selfishness has been carved away and what is thought, felt, said, and done are brought into harmony.
The "Eight-Point Program for Translating Spiritual Ideals into Daily Life" occupies the remainder of the book, in eight chapters:
Easwaran is eclectic; he uses Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other faiths in his teachings. I expected to dislike this book, for many reasons. Yet every time the author seems about to drown in fuzzy thinking, he pops back to the surface with a ferociously practical example, a hilariously apt anecdote, an uncannily accurate diagnosis. Meditation is fascinating, powerful, and perhaps helpful. Not bad for a $1 remaindered paperback.