"...but, you know – that's for everybody..."
Interviewed by Rick Kleffel
Dean Sluyter ("slighter") had me sold on his approach by virtue of the great writing in 'Natural Meditation: A Guide to Effortless Meditative Practice.' That said, one never knows if the writer in person will live up to a persona in prose. I'll let the listeners decide. I'm guessing that you'll find Sluyter as did I, as delightfully unpretentious in person as he is on the page.
A big part of this is the man's voice, which is to say that he moonlights as a reader for audio books and to me is a real ringer for someone on NPR, though I can't quite put my finger on who. And as we spoke, I began to wonder if he wasn't to a large degree just replicating his vocal technique in prose.
This is not something you could do deliberately, and if it seems like there's a bit of woo in what I'm saying that's sort of true. But you can hear this, as we did, in the middle of the interview, when I had him read a bit of the book, one of the funnier stories he tells. Hearing him read his writing and listening to him speak... not so different.
I discussed with him both the writing process for the book and the content itself, and in the course of the conversation, we spiraled outward to talk about his sense of humor and his other works. There's one I'm going to mention right here and now; after you pick up this one, 'Natural Meditation,' check out 'Cinema Nirvana.' In addition to moonlighting as an audio book reader, Sluyter's a film reviewer. In 'Cinema Nirvana' he look at a batch of classic movies for enlightenment teachings, no Ghandi's allowed. The result is a series of great, thought-provoking reviews that will make you want to watch your favorites (Casablanca to Memento) with new eyes.
And new eyes on the world is what reading is all about; Sluyter gets that and offers readers just what is needed.
We're all supposed to be meditating now. For some of us, the effect of that statement is to make us ever less inclined to do so. There's always been for me a certain sense of self-importance attached to meditation. It's as if the exaltation ascribed to the practice is somehow conferred upon the practitioner. Meditation has always been the province of the somehow special, and never a simple tool that anyone can use.
Dean Sluyter ("slighter") aims to change all that, and manages to pull it off with excellent writing and a low-key prose approach in 'Natural Meditation: A Guide to Effortless Meditative Practice.' Exaltation is fine and well, but here's a practical how-to that uses humor to gnaw away at the usual ecstatic religious overtones. It's expertly organized, eminently readable, and engagingly re-readable. Sluyter makes it clear that meditation, like basic exercise, is no big deal, other than in its beneficial effects. This is, as a chapter title tells us, "Meditation for the rest of us."
Early and often, Sluyter's smart sense of humor undercuts the usual serious tone of such tomes. The short chapters are easily read. This isn't to say that Sluyter is a total cut-up. He manages to craft a teaching persona that feels wise, but he doesn't wear that wisdom on his sleeve. The bottom line is that 'Natural Meditation' is easy and fun to read, even if you have no intention of trying to meditate. And in the world of counter-intuitive rebellion against what we're generally told to do, the upshot is that he makes you feel as if a) you can do this and b) it'll be fun, and c) it'll bring you something you both want and need whether you know it or not.
Sluyter breaks up his book into three sort-of sections. He'll give you a "Meditating on..." section that offers a straightforward how-to. He offers "Fine Print" sections that have details, Q&A'S and other hints to helping move things along. And there are segue chapters with stories for and conversations with the reader. Sluyter pours himself into the picture. He comes off as the sort of friendly presence you'd want if you got some bad news, or wanted to share some good news.
For all his underselling, Sluyter is a master of what he does. He may offer you a photo of himself in the "hammock pose" (apparently snoozing in the sun), but he damn sure knows all the technical variants of meditation, and one has the sense that were he inclined, he could with great skill pull off a more remote and lofty tone. The fact that he chooses not to makes the work all the more effective and powerful.
There's a good chance that you've been told at some time or another in your life that you "should try meditation." If your natural response conjures up something like Peter Sellers in The Party, that is, an absurdly pretentious twit charging Wylie coyote-like over a cliff ... but some part of you thought, well, that would be good but for – then this is the book for you. It's fun to read, and you might just find that it's a lot easier to think for yourself than you ever suspected.