With a few minutes to kill before the day starts, I go to Amazon to post a review of Paul Brunton’s very excellent “Notebook 4” on meditation (which I have recently been re-reading) … only to realize that I was there ALREADY once at that Amazon page back in 2006 when I had posted a review of his book.
So, I am now reading my own review that I (?) wrote in 2006. That’s 7 years ago – there is not an atom in my body now that I had in 2006. No, I didn’t write this – not the “I” that I right now am.
So, I read on Amazon: “13 or 14 people” have “found this review useful” – for whatever that means. Not too bad, I think. Do I (today) find this review useful – the review that I (7 years ago) wrote? Maybe, maybe not.
So, here I am, reviewing a review – and thinking to myself: that’s how we so often are: self is always in a process of self-review… That is, until you escape this cognitively recursive self-consciousness by breaking the orbit and climbing up to a higher Self. Some call it “soul,” some call it “metacognitive distance.” Some call it the “original face.” I no longer have a name for it: I just know it when I see it – and I know that this “it” is both me and not-me, that it is both you and not-you, that is both everything and nothing.
That’s the thing with reading meditation books – they put you on a circular track that keeps bringing you back to something ineffable.
Here’s my original review of Paul Brunton’s book:
“The Notebooks of Paul Brunton” – as stated in the editors’ introduction – is a compilation of insights by a teacher of meditation that was reserved for posthumous publication. While the fact that these writings were reserved for posthumous publication might seem intriguing and/or ominous, I have found this particular element of this compilation very meaningful.
As a student of meditation, I have certainly witnessed my own ever changing understanding of what meditation is and have learned to remain preferably silent or, if necessary, highly tentative about sharing the ever-evolving personal definition of meditation.
While I am not entirely sure what P.B.’s motivations for reserving the publication of these notes about meditation posthumously were, I’d like to think that, perhaps, P.B. was remaining tentative, maybe, holding off to sign off on his final understanding of meditation until the last possible deadline.
The compilation itself is a thorough summary of personal, empirically- and anecdotally-validated insights about meditation practice, sub-divided into a convenient organization of contents.
The insights are presented as laconic aphorisms which are easy to digest and ponder, and are numbered for easy reference. Introspections are nuanced and phenomenologically face-valid. Perhaps, the only limitations of this volume is its occasional redundancy, which, for some, might be reframed as useful repetition.
As a psychologist, I have used some of P.B.’s observations about the dynamics of the mind in the context of meta-cognitive training for anxiety disorders. For example, such observations as “the so-called normal mind is in a state of constant agitation…” and “as the mind relaxes, the number of thoughts is reduced, the attentiveness to them is increased” (P.B., Fundamentals, p. 131) have been handy quotations with clients. In sum, the book is a valuable resource for a secular or a non-secular student of meditation.”