This is a book review of the book No nonsense meditation by Steven Laureys. I read it in the context of a personal literature review project on the topic of productivity and well being.

How I read

I read this book almost in its entirety but I did skim a few parts and skipped a chapter.

Description and opinion

I read this book because I was looking for a meditation manual that wouldn't fuse its instructions with a complete life philosophy or religion. That was not what this book is or tries to be. Instead, the bulk of the pages is spent defending and justifying the benefits and non-religious status of meditation. Answering to attacks I did not care about. I wouldn't say this is a good popular science book either. It lacks structure and the argumentation is at times quite shoddy. Some rigor and subsection titles would have been a great help. Yet, it might very well be the best book to read in terms of popular science on meditation done by someone with the right background. At least, I do not know of a better one.

Note that this book was written by a neuroscience researcher who spoke to a couple of very knowledgeable meditation masters and has himself done a lot of meditation.

Main takes

  • Loving kindness and mindful meditation are easy to learn (at least the basic) and can be great sources of calm, happiness, and focus.
  • Some meditation masters can do some impressive things when monitored with modern brain imaging techniques. They can have a lot of control on the results in ways most people have no control at all.

Recommendation

While this book isn't necessarily a time waster I would advise to read it only if either of the following is true.

  1. You feel meditation is a bit ridiculous or pointless and want to give a scientist a chance to convince you.
  2. You are curious about the interesting abilities displayed by meditation masters that can be described without any vocabulary or concepts specific to meditation or Buddhist practices. For example, some show an abnormal ability to handle pain.

The book contains testimonies I did not especially like. If you want to skip them you should know they always conclude chapters. Hence you can skip to the beginning of the next chapter.

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This sounds like a more serious take on “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” which I really enjoyed.

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