Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a wonderful resource on mindfulness and how meditation can help on many levels, not solely the spiritual. Drawing on his work with the Stress Reduction Clinic, Kabat-Zinn has come to realize that meditation and gentle yoga can help reduce the manifestations of stress–including anxiety, anger, etc. It can also help those living with chronic conditions, including pain, to live in relationship with these circumstances rather than resist them.
The book begins almost immediately with practice, starting with breathing as a foundation for all that will follow. Sharing the experiences of his workshop participants, the reader learns how simple things like seated and walking meditation, doing a guided body scan, and learning to reconnect with the body through yoga are beneficial. The advice is practical and explains in detail the eight week workshop without suggesting that anything and everything can be cured. A level of individual commitment is required but, by the book’s conclusion, it is apparent that the purpose of these practices is not to change so much as to accept.
For those living with an incurable, chronic condition, this can seem disappointing. I prefer truth over empty promises. It would be nice to discover that walking meditation and daily yoga, along with body scans and breathing practice, would relieve a patient from living with constant pain but there is so much hope implied in saying that even where there is no cure there is acceptance and that living within the incurable can be more bearable.
I borrowed this book several times, reading it slowly and then returning it because I needed to think about some of the content before moving on. I want to own this book and have added it to my wish list. There is a cd set that includes the guided body scan and yoga practices Kabat-Zinn uses in the workshop. I highly recommend these cds and, to anyone interested in truly committing to exploring the potential benefits of this text. I can say that I have put into practice many of the suggestions and they have helped me tremendously. I would love to hear from others what experiences they have had with the individual practices and how meditation has helped in living with a chronic condition.