There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books written and published about
the benefits of meditation, but Turning the Mind Into An Ally by Sakyong
Mipham goes one step further than most, offering an empowering teaching
based upon using meditation to overcome the wild mind and turn it into
something we can work wonders with.
As the director of Shambhala International, a worldwide organization of
meditation and retreat centers, Mipham is not only a renowned Tibetan
Buddhist teacher but also one of the most highly respected incarnate
lamas of Tibet. Now he can add "wonderful writer" to his resume, for this is
his first book and quite an impressive debut.
The book offers, in fresh and straightforward language, an array of
teachings centered on traditional Tibetan Buddhism with a touch of modern
Western thought thrown in. We learn the basics of mindfulness and using
sitting meditation to "tame the windhorse," the force of life
itself that often controls us instead of the other way around. Quieting the mind and centering ourselves in meditation, we can not only
ride the windhorse but actually master the art of directing the energy of
life towards our goals of peace, serenity and health, inside and out.
I rarely finish books that talk about Buddhist thought and practice because
they often get so waterlogged in explanation and history. This book does
neither, carrying throughout a lightness that helps the reader understand the
profound teachings being conveyed. Mipham not only has a great grasp of
Western thought and culture, he has a great sense of playfulness and humor
in presenting his teachings, and it definitely made this reader "get it" all
the more efficiently.
Using a lot of horse-and rider-imagery, which helps the reader visualize the
sometimes complex philosophies behind karma, samsara, the wheel of suffering
and the Shamatha practice the author follows, Mipham proceeds to teach us a
system that can bring peace and balance to our minds, and to our lives. He
instructs us in how to meditate, the correct posture and breathing, what to
expect and not expect, how to tame the wild mind and bring our focus back to
the present, and so much more. He offers us the nine stages of training the
mind, including how to place our minds on our breath to help us control our
scattered thoughts, as well as how to become focused on one point until we
feel a complete fluidity in our state of awareness. All of this is based
upon ancient Buddhist practices, but Mipham makes it sound and feel current,
new and totally understandable to even us noisy, busy Western seekers with
the attention spans of tse-tse flies.
There is also a helpful appendix with basics for breathing and posture, and
some resources for further pursuit of study. Turning the Mind into an Ally is not a textbook on
meditation, or the last book to be written on the subject, but in my vast
reading experience it is one of the most hands-on and accessible books Išve
come across, and it provides an excellent introduction to a spiritual teaching
system that can work for anyone seeking more harmony, balance and wisdom. We
all have minds; why not make them our allies instead of our saboteurs,
enemies and antagonists? That is the goal behind this wonderful addition to
any spiritual thinker's library.