Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Sources to Ponder: Developing a Meditation Collection

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Sources to Ponder: Developing a Meditation Collection

Article excerpt

Meditation practices date back thousands of years to the forest-dwelling rishis of Asia who viewed it as a way to achieve spiritual growth leading to enlightenment. Meditation has today become an increasingly popular practice in mainstream western culture. News media continually churn out stories about the latest scientific results showing the physical, mental, and social benefits of meditating. Celebrities and athletes from the Beatles to David Lynch to LeBron James talk about how meditation has influenced their life and work. Meditation is practiced in corporations and boardrooms and is used in military training programs. Meditation has become commodified and commercialized, with meditation studios springing up in major cities, books about meditation hitting bestseller lists, and Silicon Valley engineers producing meditation apps by the dozens.

With all the attention being paid to meditation, library users will want to know more about what meditation is, the different kinds of practices, and how it can benefit them. There are various traditions and schools of meditation that emphasize concentration, while others emphasize a more open approach known as choiceless awareness. The objects of concentration can vary widely as well as the frequency and length of practice. Some traditions utilize frequent brief meditations of twenty minutes or so and others recommend longer durations. There are traditions of meditation, like Tibetan Buddhism, with rich and colorful pantheons of gods and goddesses and others, like Zen, that are stripped of most religious trappings and can have a more secular feel.

There are thousands of books that have been written about meditation, both popular and scholarly. The works included in this column are a small number of the many titles available. These titles were chosen because they were written by well-regarded authors, researchers, and teachers in the meditation community. Undoubtedly there are other worthy titles that may have been left out, as it is simply not possible to include everything. Some of these titles may no longer be in print but should be available in the used book market for librarians looking to build a collection in this area. There is an important experiential aspect to meditation, and books can be supplemented with recordings available through web resources that offer talks, lectures, and guided meditations by experienced and knowledgeable teachers. These audiovisual resources provide a useful adjunct to books, and they can enhance and accelerate the learning process for anyone trying to understand meditation and develop a practice.


With the exception of bibliographies and handbooks, there are relatively few reference works that have been written about meditation.

Brown, Kirk Warren, J. David Creswell, and Richard M. Ryan, eds. Handbook of Mindfulness: Theory, Research, and Practice. New York: Guilford, 2016 (ISBN: 978-1-4625-2593-5).

In the last century, scientists have begun studying meditation practices and subjecting them to the experimental method. Common to all of them is mindfulness. This handbook looks at how scientists have been studying mindfulness in the lab and in the clinic. Research on the neurobiological aspects of meditation, as well as cognitive and emotional benefits, are covered. There are also chapters on using mindfulness to reduce stress and improve positive functioning and its role in the treatment of psychological disorders.

Masuda, Akihiko, and William T. O'Donohue. Handbook of Zen, Mindfulness, and Behavioral Health. Switzerland: Springer International, 2017 (ISBN: 978-3-319545-95-0. E-book available through SpringerLink).

Although this is a scholarly work, it includes basic instructions in Zen meditation such as posture and the use of koans and mondo (an exchange between a Zen teacher and disciple). The book looks at psychological aspects of meditation such as desire and attachment, the role of self and personality, quieting the mind, and the role of forgiveness in supporting equanimity and healing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.