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Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness Hardcover – January 5, 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. "For any of us, perhaps our greatest potential regret may be that of not seizing the moment and honoring it for what it is when it is here," writes bestselling author Kabat-Zinn (Full Catastrophe Living; Wherever You Go, There You Are; etc.). The scientist who pioneered the use of the Buddhist technique of mindfulness (or moment-by-moment awareness) to help patients cope with the stress and pain of illness arrived at this poignant lesson after seeing the way his father, an eminent immunologist who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, lost all sense of who he was and what was happening to him. In a passionate tour de force that blends personal experience with cutting-edge science (his own and others'), poetry and insights culled from many traditions, Kabat-Zinn sets out to awaken us to the true potential and value of a gift that most of us take for granted: sentience. Our lack of awareness of our impact on the rest of the world amounts to "a kind of auto-immune disease of the earth." Borrowing an analogy made by the neuroscientist Francisco Varela, Kabat-Zinn compares the way our immune system senses the whole of our bodily self to our potential for a mindful awareness. That is, the practice of cultivating this conscious, heightened sentience leads to the realization of our wholeness, as we begin to realize that we don't live just within the envelope of our own senses, sensations and thoughts but within the whole of all that is. Kabat-Zinn illuminates the many facets of this selfless way of being, not just with Buddhist understanding and verse but with quotes from Einstein ("A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe' "), Dickinson, Rilke and many other Western greats. Ardent, personal, frankly opinionated in places, this book seeks to wake up as individuals and as a culture. It is a treasure trove of contemporary wisdom.
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"A passionate tour de force that blends personal experience with cutting-edge science, poetry, and insights culled from many traditions." -- Publisher's Weekly, starred review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 631 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1 edition (January 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786867566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786867561
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

This book woke me up, literally. "Coming to Our Senses" is a large, long, and for me---difficult, book about mindfulness. That said, it is well worth the read. The experience of reading this book was an awakening for me to the world outside my head, where I live most of my life, and where I suspect most of us live our lives. I don't think how I can explain HOW this happens, either, but I know it does.

I started reading it on vacation in Hawaii on my balcony outside, and slowly but gradually I became aware of the environment all around me----the sounds, the smells---and the environment within me---my aches and pains, my feelings, bodily sensations, etc. It was a new experience for me. It was really exciting to have it happen on vacation in Hawaii. I would think though, that wherever you are, if you make the time for the adventure of reading this book, and stick with it, you will have this same "awakening" experience.

Much of the book is about meditation as well as mindfulness, the author's own experiences, and his reflections on our society. He also writes about conventional medicine and how it is beginning to utilize mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a fine writer, and though the book is a tome, it is SO worth it. He got me excited about meditation, whereas other books have not. I am a Type A person, so I get anxious at just the thought of sitting around doing nothing for even a few minutes (or seconds); however, the author describes the incredible benefits to be delivered from a simple meditation practice after only several weeks of daily effort, so for me this would be well worth it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm going to be harsher in this review than I should be, since I think the message of the book is essential. I have read Kabat-Zinn's other books, and have the same ambivalent feeling about his first, Full Catastrophe Living, though his second, Wherevery You Go There You Are is much more to the point.

The problem is this: there are four books in here, struggling to break out of a single binding and become individual. Unfortunately, while Kabat-Zinn has great ideas, he is not the best writer, and he rambles. Oh, does he ramble... This 600-page book would have made a great 200 page book, with a great deal of editorial guidance to give it direction. As it stands, it is a mish-mash of unrelated essays about three different subjects: meditation; stress reduction and neuroscience; living in the present; and finally some ramblings about politics.

The meditation parts are well-written, concise instructions on how to meditate, why we want to do so, what sort of techniques to use, etc. The stress reduction and neuroscience parts should be a separate book, where the author could exercise his penchant for wordy sentences and references to studies and tests (and citing his stress reduction clinic over and over). As for the rest, the "living in the present" part, there is a great deal of waste. He says the same things over and over - not necessarily a bad thing, since it gives you different ways of reading similar ideas - but after a while his wordiness gets to you. He can't say something simply; he has to use too many words to say something that could be more poetic. Example: "Our bodies, quantized condensations of vital protoplasm, the most complex and differentiated conglomerations of matter and energy we know of in the universe, arise and pass away.
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Format: Paperback
How many books do you read in a lifetime where you can say this book is capable of truly changing a person's life? How many books truly impact you in a unique way unlike any other you might have read. This author, and this book are in a class by itself. Simply put, I RELISHED reading this book.

I am a student of technology. Medical technology is a field where I have considerable expertise. In my work with heart disease, I have come across literally thousands of sufferers where there is no scientific reason why the disease is present. This is true for victims of heart attacks also. These people have perfectly normal Cholesterol levels, yet the disease is ravaging their bodies.

One of the few explanations left is STRESS, and the individual's inability to deal with stress in their daily lives. Jon Kabat-Zinn takes you through the joys of meditation. On every page, he intrigues the reader by coming at him from a position that you will rarely encounter if ever in a book.

It is clear that the author is at peace with himself, and the world. His ability to achieve this state in the context of our culture is extraordinary. Listen to the flow of his words, the cadence, and the poetry. "...Make more of your ordinary moments notable and noteworthy by taking note of them. This also reduces the chaos and increases the order in the mind. The tiniest moments can become veritable milestones. If you were really present with your moments as they were unfolding, no matter what was happening, you would discover that each moment is unique and novel and therefore, momentous."

His words are beautiful, and moving. You will absorb this book intellectually and unconsciously. You will become a better person for having read it, and what could be more meaningful than that.
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