[Book Notes] Mindfulness in Plain English

Last month my brother Luke recommended I read “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana, a straightforward text that teaches Vipassana (Insight) Meditation. (That link goes to a PDF of the full book, by the way.)

It looked right up my alley, so I made it a focus for February, reading a chapter per day or two. To take the information in more slowly, I took notes by hand in my journal. I did this for myself, to be more intentional about the learning and to have a future reference.

Now that the notes exist, I’m sharing them below—in case anyone is looking for a refresher or is curious about this book. To see any page bigger, right click on the image and select “Open Image in New Tab.”

MIndfulness in Plain English Notes 1

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MIndfulness in Plain English Notes 8

I have been exploring the concepts of self and identity for a few years now, rejecting society’s boxy idea of a person’s identity because it’s actually all fluid, impossible to pin down. There’s so much more to these thoughts, and I’ve struggled lately to put any of it into words. I’ve been turning to poetry and beyond words to continue seeking/exploring, and in the past month everything seems to have shifted significantly—like things are clicking in new ways and I’m tapped into a new level.

This week books have found their way into my hands exactly when I needed them, confirming my search and explorations. Continuing on that path, the final chapter of “Mindfulness in Plain English,” which I read today, closes with a paragraph that begins:

Your whole view of self changes at this point. You begin to look upon yourself as if you were a newspaper photograph. When viewed with the naked eyes, the photograph you see is a definite image. When viewed through a magnifying glass, it all breaks down into an intricate configuration of dots. Similarly, under the penetrating gaze of mindfulness, the feeling of self, an ‘I’ or ‘being’ anything, loses its solidity and dissolves.

As someone who spends so much time in words, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a concept I’m unable to nail down, described in someone else’s words. The words are still limiting and incomplete, but it helps describe what I’ve been noticing.

More to come. Until then, just breathe.