587 of 605 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have both this book and Kabat-Zinn's other, "Wherever You Go, There You Are." That one is more of a general intro to mindfulness (i.e, concentrating on your breathing as a way to clear your mind and reach a deeper level) meditation. It's written in a more aphoristic style: short and sweet, lots of quotes from Thoreau and various gurus, "try this" exercises at the end of each short chapter. A book you mull over, read in bits, inbetween the recommended practice.
This one is more wordy, a description of what goes on at the Massachusetts General Hospital Pain Reduction Clinic, where Kabat-Zinn uses a combination of (physical) yoga, mindfulness meditation, and something called the "full body scan" (lying down and concentrating on different parts of the body at a time) to help people with serious, stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, back pain, migraines and cancer.
There are instructions on how to do the above; statistical information on how well this program works; descriptions of the types of illnesses they deal with; lots of case studies of typical patients; and some general conclusions that the very insightful Kabat-Zinn has drawn from his work. I hate pop psychology but that's not what's delivered here - these are very real insights, not facile at all, on the damaging stresses of modern life and concrete advice on how to cope with them in such a way as to not get sick.
He says, for instance, that "your pain is not you" - that you can and should separate yourself from the pain, and from the negative feedback voice ("I'm never going to get better," for example) that makes things worse.
They do recommend (as I do, and as I see another reviewer does) that you buy the tapes listed in the back of the book to help you with your program. But you can use the book without them: it just takes more willpower and concentration.
As far as personal testimony is concerned, I haven't had to use this program to help me cope with any serious illnesses, thank goodness. But (like most women in their post-childbearing years) I do have a lot of miscellaneous aches and pains which I do deal with much better using the techniques in this book. I have not yet had time to make the recommended commitment for optimal results (45 minutes per day, 6 days a week) - I just use the techniques (which include, for instance, imagining that you are breathing in and out of the painful part of your body - it's hard to describe, but it works!) when I feel headachy or in pain, and medicine either doesn't help or isn't possible to take because of stomach upset.
What I'm saying is, this book is valuable even if you don't have a serious, chronic illness.
Besides, it really is preferable to use these techniques BEFORE you get sick, rather than after.
And they do give the advantages of regular meditation, too: a sense of deeper understanding of yourself, a sense of wonder, etc. (so hard to describe without sounding silly).
289 of 300 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2002
I read this book and did not like it. I found it described a life I did not want to know about so I put the book aside having skipped a number of the chapters. Six months later when my wife was admitted to the ER with severe headaches I remembered the central message in this book.
The message is clear and simple, the "bad" times in life are as valid an experience as the "good" be there, be aware,accept,don't wish for better times, don't run away from catastrophe. I was aware and present for the next three weeks, the most important three weeks of my life. I felt so lucky that I had read this book. It could be a lot shorter and more focused but the central message is invaluable.
165 of 176 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 1998
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read this book eight years ago and I found it to be so valuable that I read it again two years later. To this day, I continue to reference certain chapters from time to time and eight years after first reading it, I continue to practice the techniques I learned from the book.
Grounded in scientific research, Jon Kabat-Zinn explores the connections between mind and body to the point where there is no longer any obvious division between the two. This book offers the reader access to a new way of living that is rooted in mindfulness. The instructions offered are easy to understand. This book is primarily intended for those facing chronic or terminal illness or emotional pain, but it can really benefit a far more general audience - those who want to live their lives more fully.
132 of 141 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2001
I've read over a dozen books on anxiety, relaxation, and stress. This book has a totally different approach.Instead of giving specific tips to handle anxiety attacks, it uses a philosophical type of approach which is extremely helpful in combatting stress in the long run. The main activity that is taught is meditation and mindfulness through breathing, sitting, or walking, along with a body scan and yoga exercises. They recommend an 8 week commitment to the exercises. But the last half of the book is even more helpful, with discussions on how to see yourself and your problems differently--to feel in control and a master of the events around you. My anxiety level has gone down tremendously after just reading the book and not beginning the meditation yet. This book is a must for anyone having a hard time facing life's normal circumstances or who sees life pessimistically. And it is even more vital for anyone who is facing health problems and is feeling depressed because of them. This man's approach will be a comfort to me for years to come.
98 of 104 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2001
This is one of the three most powerful books I have read in my ten year effort to rid myself of depression and chronic back pain. The other two were "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Dr. Joseph Murphy and "Healing Back Pain" by Dr. Sarno. As a testament to all of these books, I am now almost completely free of both of these tiresome life-robbers: mental and physical pain. I have never been able to sit down and meditate, but this book taught me to reach a meditative state using the walking meditation, and recently I have started using the body scan while running - it is a superb way to combine exercise and meditation. I received a lot of inspiration from the case studies used in this book, also. The style in which it is written is intelligent, warm, compassionate and friendly. I recommend the book highly. If you are tired of being sick, and are ready to make a commitment to help yourself, this book is essential. I can not stress enough the importance that NUTRITION and EXERCISE have played in my own recovery, but mindfulness and relaxation are crucial as well. I use mindfulness every day now that I have learned the techniques presented in this book. I think anyone who is looking for a better way to live needs to read this book.
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 1997
A remarkable, accessible, entertaining and enlightening work on mindfulness meditation (Zen). Chapter 2 describing 7 attitudinal factors (non-judging, patience, beginner's mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go) is key and indispensible to development of mindfulness meditation technique. I frequently recommend it to patients in my neurology and headache clinic. It can open up a whole new outlook on life for anyone
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2000
This book is a miraculous vehicle for learning to live in the moment. Everyone has their story and life goes on. Learning to live and notice each moment while the story is happening, without being consummed by it, alows us to separate out the tragedies of everyday life and to get through them. This book is about becoming a survivor. My friends look at me and want to know what I have done. I tell them, I've done the book and the training and integrated them into my daily life. Bravo J.K-Z
156 of 179 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2005
The book if filled with thoughtful insight into how to live in peace. Yet, much of this insight is buried in 625 or so pages of distracting verbiage-it's not distilled. A reader with limited time and attention (me and, maybe, you) gets his train of thought derailed in Mr. Kabat-Zinn's personal life and the details of how he founded his stress reduction clinic at U of Mass. This static interferes with effective assimilation of his important points.
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 1999
The simple principle of mindfulness can change your life- it did mine. Jon Kabat-Zinn does a wonderful job of explaining mindfulness and teaching you how it can help you deal with stress, pain and illness. Read it, buy it, live it!
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
An excellent guidebook for facing the worst things in life. The best book I know of for those facing overwhelming problems & disasters & catastrophes -- which is almost everyone, sooner or later. Especially if you're facing serious physical problems & illnesses, but also for anyone in an equally terrible states for any reason. Condensed wisdom on how to live, and live a basically good and meaningful life, in the midst of the worst things happening to you.
This is one of those extremely rare books that I think everyone would benefit from reading, and enormously so. Wish I had read it every year since I could start reading.
The only real issue I have with it is that he doesn't condense the distilled wisdom as much as he could. I will try summing up the main things here, though this list of actions to take is oversimplified & biased towards my own experiences:
1) Find the best doctors and therapists in your area, including a Stress Reduction Clinic, or something like it. If they aren't working out, find ones that will. Probably will be lifechanging.
2) Visit a professional Pain Management clinic. Crucially important.
3) Learn to meditate, and do it daily. It's simple, easy, and surprisingly effective. The better you get at it, the more routine it is, and the more you can DETATCH from pain and suffering. Absolutely essential. (If you can't do it alone, get help & training. Also: you might learn it best through Yoga or Tai Chi -- all of which go hand-in-hand).
4) Be with others who are going through catastrophes. Especially catastrophes similar to your own, if possible. Alone, you'll probably feel overwhelmed and hopeless; with others, you probably won't. Helps massively.
5) Do Dry Sauna OR some form of intense cardiovascular exercise every day (treadmill, elliptical exerciser, bicycling, aerobics, sports, martial arts training -- SOMETHING), if at all possible. Might be hard at first, but you'll get addicted to it sooner or later, and then it will be effortless. Will help you intensely, and in multiple ways, by a) releasing tons of painkillers into your system b) dramatically improving your emotional state c) killing stress d) helping you detatch from both physical pain & emotional suffering e) radically improving your immune system f) flushing toxins from your tissues, which are constantly adding to the pain & stress.
6) Do Yoga, Tai Chi, or something similar every day. Deeply relaxing, pain-detatching, and helps your ability to meditate dramatically.
7) Find the best-tasting foods that are super healthy & nutritious & preservative-free & pesticide-free, and focus on eating them all the time, so you can avoid the terribly toxic foods that are multiplying your stress/pain/suffering drastically.
8) Listen to audio tapes on meditation, stress, tai chi, health, and all the other things listed above & related to them, while doing these activities. This will a) reinforce everything you're learning b) keep you maximally informed on all these things c) distract you & detatch you from pain/suffering/problems d) keep you INSPIRED and MOTIVATED to do them & keep doing them.
9) Get as deeply into spirituality as you can (or a profound form of existentialism if you're non-spiritual). Helps profoundly, and may be the most important thing of all.
10) Understand that EVERYONE goes through catastrophes, sooner or later, in one form or another. This is the way life is. Learning to accept this will help enormously.
I could go on, but those are the most crucial things.