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Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--and Your Life Hardcover – January 1, 2012
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Author of A Path with Heart
"Jon Kabat-Zinn provides access to the essence of meditation and its applications for both the beginner and those who wish to deepen and expand their practice. He embodies what he describes."
—DEAN ORNISH, MD
About the Author
Featured in Bill Moyer's PBS Special Healing and the Mind, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. is executive director at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He is the founder and former director of the UMMC Stress Reduction Clinic and an associate professor of medicine in the division of preventive and behavioral medicine. Using mindfulness meditation, Kabat-Zinn works to help people reduce stress and deal with chronic pain, and a variety of illnesses, particularly breast cancer. He was a trainer for the 1984 U.S. Men's Olympic Rowing Team and is especially interested in reducing the stress-related problems in the inner city and in prison populations. Kabat-Zinn's books include: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (1991); Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (1994) and Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (1997), which was co-authored with his wife, Myla.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the entire book can be read in an hour (most chapters are only one or two pages), I don't think there would be much benefit from reading it in one sitting. The book seems designed to be read a brief chapter or two at a time, followed by reflection. From my perspective, the chapters do not always seem sequentially or logically linked. They are more like mindfulness devotionals. I found some of the chapters thought-provoking, but not consistently so. I would have preferred a more organized book that started by laying out a foundation for how and why meditation is helpful, followed by instruction for getting started.
The enclosed CD is a very nice bonus. I used it to guide my first-ever attempt at meditation, and I felt very good about the process and the outcome. If I continue to meditate, I may refer to various chapters in this book for inspiration, but I am more likely to use the recommended reading list to find books that help make meditation more accessible to a true beginner.
The book is not presented like a conventional "Intro to Meditation" with a first you do step A and then B. Rather, there are many short entries, that introduce one to mindfulness in a gradual way with the understanding you will use the enclosed guided meditation CD. While initially slightly disoriented by this, when you think about it, this is a more real-life way to learn mindfulness techniques as life doesn't usually work in a Step A-Step B way--especially for something as encompassing as greater awareness (JKZ wisely emphasizes the importance of not restricting increased awareness to the meditation bench or cushion).
The greatest strength of the book is Jon Kabat-Zinn himself. I once had the great pleasure to talk to him one-on-one. Within a very short time he made me feel very comfortable and as though he had all the time in the world for me. Despite his renown as a meditation teacher and author, he was very down-to-earth. There was nothing of the aloof meditation teacher about him. That warm and realness comes through in this book. He never puts ideology ahead of effectiveness. This is why he is such a great teacher. Almost all of us can benefit from what he has to offer.
I prefer it, as well, to Jack Kornfield's Meditation for Beginners. Kornfield places more emphasis on the spirituality of mindfulness. My thought is that the practice of mindfulness will deepen one's spirituality. It's the direction of the causal arrow. I pursue mindfulness because of its practical applicability to my daily life. As a consequence, my spirituality is deepened. This is opposed to the causal arrow going the other way: I want to deepen my spirituality and took up Buddhist practices, and got the practical benefits of mindful meditation as a consequence. It's the same door, I suppose, but it's how the door looks, say, to a devout Christian. One looks like the door to a tool shed, the other looks like a forbidden door to to some alien mysticism. Thinking that a Christian will find the first door less intimidating or threatening, I prefer to turn my Christian friends onto the benefits of mindful mediation by handing them the Kabat-Zinn cd and saying, "This will make you a better Christian," which it will. Jack Kornfield's approach injects a little more of the spiritual aspect up front. He even tells of a cartoon he saw one time where this fellow was walking down the sidewalk with a sandwich board which said, "Jesus is coming soon." There was a little fellow behind him with a sign that said, "Buddha here now." My Christian friends would find that offensive and they would turn away from mindfulness because of its being a perceived threat to their spirituality.
Whereas Kornfield comes to it from his training as a Buddhist monk, Kabat-Zinn comes at it from his training as a scientist. If you prefer the more spiritual approach, then go with Kornfield. If you prefer the more deeply intellectual approach, go with Kabat-Zinn. By using these terms to describe the different approaches, by no means do I disparage either one. I understand that by my stating my preference for Kabat-Zinn, it could feel as if I am speaking against Kornfield. I am not. They both lead to the same place, and both will be very very good at helping you get there.