November 1, 2014

Breath by Breath


This is the second manual on Anapanasati that I highly recommend. Larry Rosenberg has a beautiful way with words, and can make our English stretch to encompass the depth of Pali.


In any meditation class, one of the first things one learns is the importance of breathing. For Larry Rosenberg, a seasoned instructor of insight meditation, the breath is everything. And he’s not in bad company since the Buddha himself delivered a sutra on the subject. Rosenberg’s Breath by Breath is an elaboration on this short classic but couched in familiar language, liberally spiced with anecdotes from Rosenberg’s decades of practice and teaching. It’s Rosenberg’s earthy humor and patient instruction that make him such a popular teacher and that make Breath by Breath a rewarding read. He takes the beginning student from the wandering "doggy mind" to becoming a chicken, along the way getting a teacher’s bite and sitting like a frog. For the hurried and harried, he includes a nutshell, two-step version of the sutra’s 16-step practice (appended in the full text of the sutra). More of a coach than a disciplinarian, Rosenberg takes a see-what-happens attitude. "You don’t make liberation happen," he says. "To contemplate breathing is to contemplate life itself." –Brian Bruya

Ulf Wolf