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SECULAR MEDITATION

32 Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, and Joy — A Guide from the Humanist Community at Harvard

Many avoid meditation because of its religious trappings. But as bestselling atheist Sam Harris has recently written (in Waking Up), meditation is an age-old secular practice with numerous scientifically verified physical and psychological benefits. As longtime meditation teacher Rick Heller here shows, meditation’s benefits extend beyond the personal to enrich relationships with others, with community, and with the world. Step-by-step instructions, personal stories, and provocative questions teach empathy for others, stress reduction and inner peace, and the kind of in-the-moment living that fosters appreciation for life and resilience in the face of adversity. Heller simplifies what is often found mysterious — “If you have ever loved or even liked another person,” he writes, “you have the prerequisites for learning kindness meditation” — and invites all to partake in “awe and wonder at the rich experience of being alive.”

Endorsements

“An ideal introduction for those new to the practice, as well as a valuable compendium offering fresh perspectives for seasoned meditators.” “Grounded in solid research on the brain and physical and mental health — and full of practical ideas and methods — this friendly, down-to-earth guide is a wonderful resource for both beginners and longtime meditators.”
— Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain

“Everyone, regardless of views or beliefs, can develop happiness and wisdom. In Secular Meditation, Rick Heller and the Humanist Community at Harvard offer a straightforward way for nonreligious people to connect with their inner capabilities for compassion and clarity.”
— Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness

“An ideal introduction for those new to the practice, as well as a valuable compendium offering fresh perspectives for seasoned meditators.”
— Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism Without Beliefs and After Buddhism

"This book is an ideal guide for those who want to study meditation and mindfulness but are put off by the focus on Buddhism or religion in general."
Library Journal (starred review)

“In simple, accessible language, Secular Meditation introduces practices that profoundly transform our hearts and consciousness. Through a rich weave of stories, teachings, meditations, and inquiry, this book offers trustworthy guidance on the journey of awakening.”
— Tara Brach, Ph.D., author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge

“This book — at once simple and profound — is a joy to read. Rick Heller manages to capture the essence of traditional Buddhist practices and translate them into a no-nonsense secular format. His suggestions for practice are straightforward and can be easily incorporated into daily life.”
— Kristin Neff, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Self-Compassion

“This book has the potential to benefit many people. Rick has a light and yet substantial style that makes his writing lovely and approachable. He is clearly practicing what he is writing about, which makes for an authentic and sincere offering to this world. ”
— Narayan Helen Liebenson, guiding teacher at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center and the Insight Meditation Society

Secular Meditation is a clear and generous adaptation of Buddhist and other practices for the humanist community. It is a great book for people who believe that the human mind can be trained just as the body can but who are uncomfortable with any supernatural claims. It is simple and accessible, opening doors to generosity, clarity, and joyfulness in this life.”
— James Ishmael Ford, author of If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break

“Rick Heller combines his secular humanist worldview with his expertise in guiding weekly meditation sessions, producing a unique reference work that’s approachable, practical, and based firmly in the natural world. This book fills a gap in the current literature: a workable guide to meditation in theory and practice for a secular audience.”
— Ted Meissner, founder of the Secular Buddhist Association and host of the Secular Buddhist podcast

“Rick Heller’s book represents a milestone in the emergence of a truly naturalistic form of contemplative practice. It will do much to help more people find happiness in life.”
— Daniel Strain, executive director of the Spiritual Naturalist Society

“I can’t say for sure, but we may be seeing the beginning of a major revolution. This revolution is in some ways a natural next step from the Scientific Revolution that occurred about five hundred years ago and the Neolithic Revolution that occurred many millennia before that. Ever since the Neolithic, human spirituality has tended to center on a literal interpretation of organized myth. The Scientific Revolution decentered those myths. So is humanity now left without a source of deep meaning and moral compass? Perhaps not. The Mindfulness Revolution offers a totally new direction: industrial-strength psycho-spiritual growth based on industrial-strength attentional skills — concentration power, sensory clarity, and equanimity. This book offers a rich banquet, inviting you to taste many flavors of mindfulness.”
— Shinzen Young, director of Vipassana Support International

Secular Meditation is a wonderfully practical book grounded in the latest neuroscience. Rick Heller shows readers how one can mindfully learn to love others and be loved by others. It provides a step-by-step guide for anyone who wants to live a happy life.”
— Paul J. Zak, PhD, author of The Moral Molecule

Secular Meditation by Rick Heller is a wonderful door-opener for people who are interested in the benefits and how-to of meditation and mindfulness practices but who are skeptical about the religious sources. Heller, the meditation teacher for the Humanist Community at Harvard, has collected thirty-two practices that will have something for every curious reader. His style is warm and engaging, with great stories sprinkled in, and he pulls the reader into trying out attention and kindness practices from all different angles to find their right fit.”
— Christiane Wolf, MD, PhD, coauthor of A Clinician’s Guide to Teaching Mindfulness