by Naomi Ozaniec McGraw-Hill, 1997 Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Feb 27th 2007
Teach Yourself Meditation has under 200 pages, and is divided into twelve chapters. The chapters have titles such as "establishing: the integrated life," "being: the creative response," and "changing: the flow of life." On the first page of each chapter are the main learning goals, so for the three chapters mentioned, the aims are to learn "about the six root delusions, the practice of mindfulness, and about Zen koans," "to discover your creativity through meditation, to see with the mind's eye, and about the symbolism of the mandala," and "the natural rhythms of time, and to understand about impermanence." The book aims to set out some basic elements of eastern philosophy insofar as it aims to improve people's lives. Each chapter contains exercises for the reader to help them become able to meditate, and the book encourages the reader to keep a journal of his or her meditation practice.
Ozanic takes the position that meditation is a spiritual practice and he often turns to the mystical elements of meditation and comparing it to other mystical traditions, including Christianity, Kabala, astrology, and ancient Greek thought. He explains ideas such as the Tibetan Wheel of Life, the Rose of the West, the Metta Sutta, and the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. He is very supportive of Eastern philosophy and often compares it favorably to Western approaches.
The book contains very little information about the author, Naomi Ozaniec. Since he refers to his wife at one point, I assume he is male. The back cover says that he has written on many aspects of esoteric philosophy. His writing style is straightforward and often casual in tone. He uses many quotations from classic texts and other books about Eastern philosophy, as well as from some authors of popular psychology and philosophy such as John Gray and M. Scott-Peck. There are some drawings to illustrate his points. The index is short and rather unhelpful.
Since I'm not an expert on Eastern philosophy, I am not able to assess the accuracy of Ozaniec's characterization of meditation. What he writes looks familiar and similar to other expositions of this material. Teach Yourself Meditation may be useful to some readers as an introduction to this area, and it is possible that readers may learn how to meditate through reading the book. I found the book rather scattered in its exposition, simplistic in its criticisms of Western traditions, and brief in its explanations. While it has exercises about how to meditate, the emphasis is on the ideas behind eastern philosophy, with little discussion of how to cope with the frustrations that go with meditation. The book might be most useful when used in conjunction with a meditation class and as a stepping stone to more advanced reading.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.