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“Full Catastrophe Living,” by John Kabat-Zinn

book coverAvailable from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

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.”

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Comment from Dad
Time: December 7, 2007, 12:15 am

my yoga class at Kaiser is going to read this book. Thought you might be interested. He’s supposed to be a v. good writer!!

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Comment from Bill Goodelle
Time: February 12, 2011, 3:02 pm

Has this book been translated to Japanese? If so, anyone know where I can get a copy?

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Pingback from Yourself at the End of a Dark Alley: On NW, Briefly « The Professor's Wife
Time: December 11, 2012, 10:29 am

[...] And this truism gets at what we should all aim for as writers: to get our sentences to do that work. Smith continues to give me something to aspire to. (The interview and the book, too, offer loads of wisdom on the writer’s life but also on what it’s like to be a woman in her thirties, living the “full catastrophe.”) [...]

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