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Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, is perhaps the best-known proponent of using meditation to help patients deal with illness. (The somewhat confusing title is from a line in Zorba the Greek in which the title character refers to the ups and downs of family life as "the full catastrophe.") But this book is also a terrific introduction for anyone who has considered meditating but was afraid it would be too difficult or would include religious practices they found foreign. Kabat-Zinn focuses on "mindfulness," a concept that involves living in the moment, paying attention, and simply "being" rather than "doing." While you can practice anything "mindfully," from taking a walk to cleaning your house, Kabat-Zinn presents several meditation techniques that focus the attention most clearly, whether it's on a simple phrase, your breathing, or various parts of your body. The book goes into detail about how hospital patients have either improved their health or simply come to feel better despite their illness by using these techniques, but these meditations can help anyone deal with stress and gain a calmer outlook on life. "When we use the word healing to describe the experiences of people in the stress clinic, what we mean above all is that they are undergoing a profound transformation of view," Kabat-Zinn writes. "Out of this shift in perspective comes an ability to act with greater balance and inner security in the world." --Ben Kallen
From Publishers Weekly
Kabat-Zinn is founder and director of the stress reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and the "full catastrophe" of which he writes is the spectrum of stress in life. His program, in a word, is meditation, rescued from the mire of mysticism that made it trendy in the 1960s. The author focuses on the advantages of employing "practiced mindfulness" to control and calm our responses without blunting our feelings--and a more convincing introduction to the many modes and uses of meditation could hardly be imagined. In personable, enlightening prose, Kabat-Zinn first explains how to develop a meditation schedule, and in later chapters pragmatically applies his plan to the main sources of stress. An impressive middle section clearly marshals scientific and anecdotal evidence relating state of mind to state of health. And while emphasizing meditation's healing potential, Kabat-Zinn makes no sweeping claims, suggesting that the discipline serve not as means but end. Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC and QPB selection. Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
To the days of my life before I found this book, or as I sometimes like to look at it, before this book found me. I was a high strung mess of anxiety, even afraid to go to work and face the "challenges" of a day of social interaction and internal struggle and emotions. I wasn't completely sure what I was, but I was pretty sure I was suffering from what doctors would call social or maybe generalized anxiety. And with that came depression and sometimes hopelessness of ever changing and moving on. This went on for years--for as far back as I can remember--and it only seemed like it was getting worse, and I was never able to accept myself, I thought myself a failure of some sort. What had I or my parents done wrong in raising me? Why me? When I found this book, I had been through several programs for anxiety that I had found and downloaded online--none of them helping much--and when I read the introduction, something about it clicked with me. It somehow subconsciously made sense and I knew that I had found something that might actually change the way I WAS, and unknowingly but much more importantly, change the way I viewed myself. Over the next 8 months, I almost religiously followed the exercises in the book. I learned more about myself and the world around me in those eight months than I have in the past ten years, at least it feels that way. To cut a long story short, I still have anxiety, but on a scale of 1-10 it is now a 2 where it was an 7 or an 8 before. Simply put, practicing mindfulness pulls the rug from under anything that bothers you in any way. It teaches you that it's ok to feel any emotion and think any thought because that is what is already here. It teaches you to accept those things, and in the process of doing that, those horrible horrible things lose their power over you, and you can begin to heal. To anyone suffering from emotional pain of any sort, please let me be an example to you that you don't have to be controlled by these terrible feelings. Learn to accept them as they are, and they will go away by themselves. This book is a great way to start. Please consider
I remember when Bill Moyers first interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn and I have been interested in mindfulness meditation off and on ever since. Five months ago I lost my husband. I also have Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency or "inherited emphysema" and I am on oxygen 24/7. This past summer the stress from both became unbearable. So I bought the book. It is an extremely easy read and the author lulls you into the practice, little by little, from page one. I am now a convert and I plan to take a live course the beginning of next year. I highly recommend this book.
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.
Bought this for my nephew who was in jail for drugs, etc. He has thanked me many times, and others, in jail, asked their family to send them one. He is out now and still practices and refers to it everyday and said it is great for stress relief.