by Danny Penman

Finished on
Author’s site
Publisher’s site

This is a beautiful, short introduction to mindfulness meditation. It’s poetic and a bit whimsical, done with a very gentle touch. It covers the essentials, and there are a set of guided meditations on Penman’s website for you to follow along with.

I think it would serve well as a first introduction to mindfulness meditation for a general audience, by which I mean anyone not put off by the title, which is entirely fair for the content of the book. (And which is fine! But I feel the more, er, straightforward-inclined might be deterred — the shoebox part for instance.)

Penman was co-author with Mark Williams on Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, and I wonder if that’s more down to earth. (I have a copy but haven’t read it yet. It’s a similar length to The Mindful Way through Depression, which Williams co-authored previously, which is very good, gentle but straightforward.)

There’s also a weird thing about Marx and Engels on p86, where Penman uses the “all that is solid melts into air” phrase from the Communist Manifesto, and follows with:

Apologies to Marx and Engels (they’d probably think meditation is a ‘capitalist running-dog conspiracy’. It isn’t, in case you were wondering.)

Previously, I’d written more about how this was wrong-headed given Marx and Engels’s openness to scientific discovery (and the “running-dog” phrase is not even one of theirs). I ditched that because, on reflection, it came across as unkind. This throwaway line I think is just a reflection of the deep anti-communist trend in Britain’s modern mainstream intellectual culture. (I do think it’s particularly mindless of Penman to include it, and odd enough that it’s sparked me to write this!)