Shinzen Young is on the front-edge of living meditation teachers. He’s responsible for leading the first neuromodulation meditation retreat, and teaches in a super geeky, systematic way that attracts a lot of people into meditation practice that might not otherwise have found guidance.
He underwent a traditional Shingon initiation ritual - essentially 100 days of sitting in an igloo, dumping cold water on your self, fasting, and remaining in silence.
“When I completed the hundred-day training, it was the spring of a new year, and I had a new self. I had entered the crucible (or should I say cryostat?) of the traditional Shingon training and had come out a different person. From that time on, I was able to consciously experience the taste of high concentration whenever I wanted to. One hundred days subtracted from my life were really a very small price to pay in order to live a totally different kind of life.”
The book is his basic spiel on meditation. How he discovered it, what he understands it to be, how he prefers to conceptualize and engage with it.
His approach is creative, which is refreshing in a time when meditative platitude are sweeping up teachers left and right.
For example, he finds our cultural tango with meditation is getting too caught up on the calming aspects, the relaxation, and forgetting the samatha component, the clarifying, deconstructive engagement with experience.
“One way to think about meditation is as a dialectical interplay between a calming-concentrating aspect (samatha) and a clarifying-dissecting aspect (vipassana)…When I tell people that I teach meditation, their usual response is to tell me how much they need to calm down, relax…Very seldom do they tell me how much they need to gain discriminating power or analyze the sensory components of their experience.”