Title: Mindfulness For Beginners
Author: Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD
Printed Pages: 184
Publish Year: 2016 (Sounds True)
Recommended For: Those somewhat familiar with mindfulness meditation, that want to immerse themselves a little deeper.
First Lines: “Welcome to this program that’s called Mindfulness For Beginners. I’m delighted to be working with you in this way, and I do so in the hope that whatever it was that drew you to the allure of mindfulness, that that very impulse can be explored and nurtured so that it will grow and develop. Because no on comes to a program such as this by accident.”
I listened to the audiobook version of this book. In fact, I think this was probably an audio lecture before it was adapted to printed form. Thinking about it, I’m curious how the written work would come across, as Jon Kabat-Zinn uses a very conversational style in this work. It’s actually quite comforting, Kabat-Zinn reminds me of the Jewish uncle I wish I had–his voice is soothing and his demeanor is incredibly cheerful (in a refreshingly sincere way).
Kabat-Zinn is a powerful figure in the modern mindfulness movement. He’s the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, a scientist, a writer, and a meditation teacher. He has helped bring mindfulness into the mainstream.
The book is divided into two sessions. The first is a narrative on what mindfulness is and how it can be used in our daily lives, with the second session being a series of guided meditations.
The meditations are useful for beginners, but perhaps a little esoteric if you are completely green to the practice. I worry that meditation skeptics might be a little turned off when they’re asked to listen to a raisin, but if this work is considered with an open mind the reader is bound to find some value along the way.
A common theme is a phrase that Kabat-Zinn is famous for coining: “awarenessing”. I appreciate this idea–turning ‘awareness’ into a verb, inspiring one to be active in an activity that we spend most of our lives attending to only subconsciously.
As long as you’re breathing, there’s more right with you than there is wrong.
As a beginner to meditation it is very important to know that meditation is not about shutting off your thinking or shutting down your thinking. It’s not saying “it would be better if you didn’t think”, and that we are trying to suppress all thought and have the mind be silent. You try to suppress your thinking, you’re going to end up with a gigantic headache. It’s like trying to stop the ocean from waving; it’s in the nature of the surface of the ocean to wave, just like it’s in the nature of the mind to wave and to secrete these little thoughts. But if we get caught in the thoughts and we self-identify with them, “that’s me”, “or that’s not me”, then we are really caught. That’s clinging.
The only person that you have the possibility of being like is yourself, and that’s really the challenge of mindfulness.
My rating: 3.5/5 – It’s a joy to read (or even better, listen to). This book might not be the best introduction to meditation for someone completely unfamiliar with the practice, but it’s definitely worth including in your knowledge base as you develop your own practice.