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Book Review: Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment and your life
by Jon Kabat Zinn
Reviewed by Diane Renz, LPC
I was first introduced to Jon Kabat Zinn’s work in the field of Mindfulness through the required reading in the curriculum for both my graduate and post graduate degrees in Contemplative and Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University. I consider myself very lucky to have received an education which put Mindful Awareness at its core, subsequently informing the efficacy of my work, as my “doing” arises out of my “being”, and my “knowing”, out of my “not knowing”, (as Jon would say).
It was in 2004 when I had the pleasure of learning directly from Jon and his partner in teaching, Saki Santorelli, by attending a 7 day professional training in Jon’s model of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Truth be known, I was engaged in my private practice as a psychotherapist with the full awareness of the power of Mindfulness as an “agent of change”, but simultaneously aware of a professional culture, and culture at large, which marginalized this model, or psychological frame of reference. So my understanding was kept on the “down low”, I felt like I was sneaking it in under the radar, needing some support to validate in the eyes of mainstream perspectives. So I signed up for the training, thinking it would be some dry scientific seminar that I would plod through to gain the documentation needed to bring my use of Mindfulness out into the light. It was with my great delight that I discovered that the training became a beautiful retreat, steeped in the Dharma, guided beautifully by both science and spirituality, and by these heartful men, Jon and Saki.
I feel a deep sense of gratitude to them for all I have been given, and for all they have contributed to the dissemination of a quality of living, called Mindfulness throughout our society. It is with great joy that I offer this review of Jon’s recent book published by Sounds True, “Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment and your life”.
Teaching Mindfulness is an Art. The simple complexity can be misunderstood, not easily grasped, or made user-friendly. As Jon states, it is not just a practice, it is a “way of being”, and requires a reconfiguration of our usual approach in our culture of striving and achieving and “doing” at the cost of our “Being”. Mindfulness is a return to our “human beingness” cultivated through a specific quality of Awareness. It is a courageous and loving act to show up, fully, in the present moment, not asking it to be different, or asking ourselves to “dress up” before arriving.
In the recent popularity of Mindfulness, traveling through our culture on the wings of scientific validation, (but is valid regardless), we may long to be a part of this new wave of consciousness. Misperceptions can keep us from including Mindfulness in our lives: “it is only for those meditators”, (there are various forms of practice in Mindfulness, and it extends beyond practice), “I can’t afford to relax and BE, I have too much to DO”, (as Jon states, doing arises out of being, and you can’t afford NOT to Be), “I can’t possibly stop my mind from thinking”, (and you are right, it is the relationship to the thoughts that counts), “I don’t have time”, (you are here, and mindfulness is here, now, in the present moment, there is no other time), “it is all about Buddhism and I don’t believe in that religion”, (it has roots in Buddhism but it not exclusive to any religion and is a nonsectarian training of mind), “It’s too complicated”, (not with the book, “Mindfulness for Beginners”).
The book comes with a guided audio CD helping us to integrate what we read through our direct experience. This is how we become the expert of our own life, by using our life as an experiment. Mindfulness is not a concept, it must be experienced. To gather the understanding and incentive to practice, Jon breaks this book down into easy nuggets of wisdom to chew on; pretty impressive how he consolidates such profundity into simple, compact, worthy principles for understanding. He has come a long way, if you look at some of his other books like, “Coming to Our Senses” 656 pages in paperback!- (this book an easy 150 pages)- He is such a smart, intellectual, scientifically trained writer, who can offer volumes for your learning and understanding of Mindfulness, and has, but here, you can rest assured, this teaching makes it easily digestible for everyone, beginner to long time practitioner.
The book is broken up into five parts:
I. Entering: Addressing “Beginner’s Mind”, breath, Awareness and Attention, “befriending our thinking”
II. Sustaining: Sharing the validity of MBSR, expanding it into universal applications, deepening awareness through our senses and within our bodies, beyond conceptual mind, life as practice, inherent sanity, and our bigger identity
III. Deepening: Gentleness and compassion toward ourselves, relaxing into Being, skillful means, not about feeling good, or becoming other than who we are, what is suffering, creating and taking care of our practice, bringing it into the world
IV. Ripening: The seven attitudes of Mindfulness
V. Practicing: Simple guidance on creating formal practice, exploring body, mind, heart, senses, with accompanying audio.
We could easily take our time with this book and read just one page or paragraph and enjoy incorporating what we’ve read into our life. We could also pick up the book in its entirety and enter the guided audio immediately. This is the user’s guide to Mindfulness; it is the manual we never received about how to harness the Awareness of our inherent wellness, through the power and practice of returning to our present moment.
Purchase Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment and your life on Amazon.
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About the Author
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and its Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. He was featured in the public television series Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers. He is the author of Wherever You Go, There You Are (Hyperion, 1995) and other bestselling books and audio programs. See mindfulnesstapes.com.
About Sounds True
Sounds True was founded in 1985 by Tami Simon with a clear mission: to disseminate spiritual wisdom. Since starting out as a project with one woman and her tape recorder, we have grown into a multimedia publishing company with more than 80 employees, a library of more than 600 titles featuring some of the leading teachers and visionaries of our time, and an ever-expanding family of customers from across the world. In more than two decades of growth, change, and evolution, Sounds True has maintained its focus on its overriding purpose, as summed up in our Vision Statement:
Sounds True exists to inspire, support, and serve personal transformation and spiritual awakening.
Sounds True is an independent multimedia publishing company that embraces the world's major spiritual traditions, as well as the arts and humanities, embodied by the leading authors, teachers, and visionary artists of our time. Our approach to publishing is not dependent on a single format or technology—rather, we strive with every title to preserve the essential "living wisdom" of the author, artist, or spiritual teacher. It is our goal to create products that not only provide information to a reader or listener, but that also embody the essential quality of a wisdom transmission between a teacher and a student.
Throughout the years, Sounds True has developed a guiding philosophy that we call "multiple bottom lines." Our dedication to this principle is embodied in our Mission Statement:
The mission of Sounds True is to find teachers and artists who serve as a gateway to spiritual awakening and to produce, publish, and distribute their work with beauty, intelligence, and integrity. We treat our authors, vendors, and partners in the same way we would want to be treated. We work flexibly and efficiently together to create a cooperative, loving environment that honors respectful authenticity and individual growth. We maintain a healthy level of profitability so that we are an independent and sustainable employee-owned organization.
For more information visit SoundsTrue.com.
About the Author
Diane Renz, MA, LPC is a Psychotherapist in private practice trained in Transpersonal psychology with extensive post graduate studies in Trauma and Somatic psychology. She specializes in anxiety utilizing the latest neuroscience studies that show our capacity for brain change through focused attention to sensations, images, thoughts and emotions. She presents a variety of somatic and mindfulness based practices to help people affect state changes. Her work is fueled both by professional training and personal exploration.
Diane is currently working on a book that compiles her healing journey. She offers counseling and workshops nationwide and is available for speaking engagements on Integrative Healing Paths from both the patient's and clinician's perspective. You can contact her at Diane@YourGatewaytoHealing.com or visit her website at www.YourGatewaytoHealing.com.
Visit her website: YourGatewaytoHealing.com