Turning the Mind into an Ally
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
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Turning the Mind into an Ally* online

Turning the Mind into an Ally

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Riverhead Books
224 pages
January 2003
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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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.

© 2003 by Marie D. Jones for Curled Up With a Good Book

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