This follow-up to the widely praised national bestseller "Wherever You Go, There You Are" is yet another revolutionary offering from Jon Kabat-Zinn, showing readers how the power of mindfulness can bring radical change to their lives.
"For any of us, perhaps our greatest potential regret may be that of not seizing the moment and honoring it for what it is when it is here," writes bestselling author Kabat-Zinn (Full Catastrophe Living; Wherever You Go, There You Are; etc.). The scientist who pioneered the use of the Buddhist technique of mindfulness (or moment-by-moment awareness) to help patients cope with the stress and pain of illness arrived at this poignant lesson after seeing the way his father, an eminent immunologist who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, lost all sense of who he was and what was happening to him. In a passionate tour de force that blends personal experience with cutting-edge science (his own and others'), poetry and insights culled from many traditions, Kabat-Zinn sets out to awaken us to the true potential and value of a gift that most of us take for granted: sentience. Our lack of awareness of our impact on the rest of the world amounts to "a kind of auto-immune disease of the earth." Borrowing an analogy made by the neuroscientist Francisco Varela, Kabat-Zinn compares the way our immune system senses the whole of our bodily self to our potential for a mindful awareness. That is, the practice of cultivating this conscious, heightened sentience leads to the realization of our wholeness, as we begin to realize that we don't live just within the envelope of our own senses, sensations and thoughts but within the whole of all that is. Kabat-Zinn illuminates the many facets of this selfless way of being, not just with Buddhist understanding and verse but with quotes from Einstein ("A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe' "), Dickinson, Rilke and many other Western greats. Ardent, personal, frankly opinionated in places, this book seeks to wake up as individuals and as a culture. It is a treasure trove of contemporary wisdom. Author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 17, 2006
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Excerpt from Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Meditation Is Not for the Faint-Hearted
It is difficult to speak of the timeless beauty and richness of the present moment when things are moving so fast. But the faster things move, the more important it is for us to dip into or even inhabit the timeless. Otherwise, we can lose touch with dimensions of our humanity that make all the difference between happiness and misery, between wisdom and folly, between well-being and the erosive turmoil in the mind, in the body, and in the world that we will be referring to as "dis-ease." Because our discontent truly is a disease, even when it does not appear as such. Sometimes we colloquially refer to those kinds of feelings and conditions, to that "dis-ease" we feel so much of the time, as "stress." It is usually painful. It weighs on us. And it always carries a feeling of underlying dissatisfaction.
In 1979 I started a Stress Reduction Clinic. Thinking back to that era, I ask myself now, "What stress?" so much has our world changed since then, so much has the pace of life increased and the vagaries and dangers of the world come to our doorstep as never before. If looking squarely at our personal situation and circumstances and finding novel and imaginative ways to work with them in the service of health and healing was important then, it is infinitely more important and urgent now, inhabiting as we do a world that has been thrown into heightened chaos and speed in the unfolding of events, even as it has become far more interconnected and smaller.
In such an exponentially accelerating era, it is more important and urgent than ever for us to learn to inhabit the timeless and draw upon it for solace and clear seeing. That has been, from the start, the very core of the curriculum of the Stress Reduction Clinic. I am not speaking of some distant future in which, after years of striving, you would finally attain something, taste the timeless beauty of meditative awareness and all it offers, and ultimately lead a more effective and satisfying and peaceful life. I am speaking of accessing the timeless in this very moment because it is always right under our noses, so to speak and in so doing, to gain access to those dimensions of possibility that are presently hidden from us because we refuse to be present, because we are seduced, entrained, mesmerized, or frightened into the future and the past, carried along in the stream of events and the weather patterns of our own reactions and numbness, attending to, if not obsessing about what we often unthinkingly dub "urgent," while losing touch at the same time with what is actually important, supremely important, in fact vital for our own well-being, for our sanity, and for our very survival. We have made absorption in the future and in the past such an overriding habit that, much of the time, we have no awareness of the present moment at all. As a consequence, we may feel we have very little, if any, control over the ups and downs of our own lives and of our own minds.