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A Book Review of “The Mindful Geek: Secular Meditation for Smart Skeptics”
I just finished “The Mindful Geek: Secular Meditation for Smart Skeptics”(^a) and I found it to be both useful and enjoyable.
I first heard about Michael Taft’s book in David McRaney’s excellent You Are Not So Smart podcast – episode 061. I enjoyed the episode and Taft’s approach to mindfulness and meditation.
I’ve been a big fan of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books. When I read one of his books I typically feel that peace and clarity are within reach, but as soon as I put the book away I feel like I just experienced a magician’s puff of smoke. Or perhaps it’s more along the lines of the “then a miracle occurs” cartoon. Of course, this is likely more of a failing of mine than of TNH’s books.
Taft’s approach to mindfulness and meditation as a technology is quite refreshing. He approaches this technology in a somewhat computer sciencey way without being dry and boring. He alternates between an explanation of the how/why of meditation/mindfulness and the actual doing of it through specific practices. The meditation algorithm chapter is amazing, and it has an explanation with a flowchart…a FLOWCHART. This excites my geeky heart to no end.
Then there’s the “Reach Out with Your Feelings” chapter that really reaches into emotions – what they mean and how they can help. This is especially helpful for those of us that live more in our heads than in our hearts. Additionally, this chapter begins with a reference to Star Wars (so how could it not be full of awesome?):
It’s time for the Rebel Alliance to make their desperate attack on the Death Star. As Luke Skywalker rolls his X-wing fighter in toward the canyon-like surface of the battle station, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi speaks right into his head.
Of course at the end of the day meditation is all about doing rather than conceptually thinking about it. Taft hammers this home through the step-by-step directions for various meditation techniques. Not only that – but he also explains the reason for the specific practices. For each of these practices, he also has a guided audio track (a 5-minute version and a 30-minute version) at https://themindfulgeek.com/guided/. The audio is far from perfect, but that’s ok with me since it’s a guide for doing meditation and it reflects the imperfection of my practice. After all, the guided recordings are not the key; the key is to sit one’s butt down for a minimum of 10 minutes a day.
There are few books that I re-read, but this is one of the few that I will go back to.
You might find Taft’s book and approach useful if:
- You are someone that lives more in your head.
- You are looking to learn/practice mindfulness/meditation without any religious or philosophical dressing.
Some Suggestions for the Practice
Some additional resources that may be useful in regards to a meditation practice:
- At the beginning of this year I tested various meditation apps on the iPhone in terms of the teaching of meditation practice and cost (Mindfulness Daily, Headspace, and Calm). I was planning to write an epic post about these apps but in case I never get to it – here are my conclusions:
- Mindfulness Daily is the winner because it thoroughly teaches you meditation over 21 days and it does not demand a recurring subscription (unlike the other apps). It also provides various daily reminders to snap you out of the daily chatter of your mind.
- On a daily basis I ended up using the GoodReader app to play Taft’s guided audio track followed by a 5 minute bell timer (below) GoodReader is an amazing app that is truly a Swiss Army knife for all kinds of media (whether reading/writing to PDFs, listening to audio, and so on). It is worth every penny.
- Blissfully simple audio timers with a bell at the beginning and end: http://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com/zen-meditation-timer.html
Episode 82 of the Asian Efficiency podcast had an interview with an interesting guy (Dr. Andrew Hill) who in turn had a very nice (i.e. simple) way to practice meditation. You can find his practice on this page.
I initially wrote this article with the intent of just a book review. It ended up being a bit more than I expected.
Contact me via Twitter (@eli4d) if:
- You’ve read the book and have ideas/opinions about it.
- You found a great, simple, and effective approach to meditation (URLs to specifics would be very useful).
- You want to say ‘hello’ 🙂 .