Monday, April 16, 2012
Don't Give Up Until You Do: From Mindfulness to Realization on the Buddhist Path by Fred H. Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It feels somewhat wrong to give a star rating to a book which is basically one man's description of his spiritual experience - so I want to make it very clear that I'm not making any attempt to judge Meyer's spiritual path here. All I can do is reflect back my experience in reading this book as it is presented.
And this is a particularly difficult case, as Meyer himself says (quite early on) that "another test of realization is how well one can understand the writings of acknowledged teachers of the path." I'd say this applies here, too: there are many passages that make little sense to me, but I'm sure would have more meaning if you've already gone through the experiences he's describing.
This books is made up of a series of very short essays, and reads a bit like a blog or diary. There isn't much evidence of the entries being edited for order or to reduce duplication, which gives a stream-of-consciousness feel to the whole thing. Meyer narrates his anecdotes with humour and compassion, combining what he views as essential advice, along with illustrative examples from his own life.
I would have liked to see more explanation on some points, particularly on the fascinating question of returning to "normal" life postmeditation. For instance, Meyer is married and enjoys horse racing, neither of which I would naturally associate with fulfillment of the Buddhist path (from my limited understanding of it, anyway). How do Meyer's wife and son feel about his renunciation of love? How does riding horses in a dangerous sport fit in with not inflicting suffering? One of the advantages of such a personal narrative is that it would have been entirely natural to include more about this sort of thing, and I would have liked to read it.
Overall, this was an interesting if sometimes confusing read, which I would recommend if you're interested in getting a "sense" of one man's personal insight along the Buddhist path - but for an introduction to Buddhist thinking, I'd suggest starting elsewhere.
Buy Don't Give Up Until You Do on Amazon