Tuesday, 9 April 2013

 “I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more them.  In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.  Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.”
~ Nadine Stair (Opening quote, Full Catastrophe Living)

I was distracting myself from a reading assignment by surfing the web (as you do) and came across a couple of articles on a new study relating to mindful meditation and the reduction of cortisol levels.  One article regarding the study was published in the Huffington Post last month.  I backed away from my laptop, retrieved the book I had abandoned, Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and checked the copyright date.  Kabat-Zinn’s book about mindful meditation in the treatment of stress, pain and illness was published in 1990.  Twenty-three years later and they’re still figuring this out. 

This recent study at the University of California was designed to show the direct relationship “between resisting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale”.  Kabat-Zinn’s Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts has been churning out case-studies of mindful mediation in relation to the treatment of stress since 1979.  Full Catastrophe Living is the ultimate self-help guide for the practice of mindfulness, focusing on the methods employed in the Stress Reduction Program to treat stress and associated conditions.  Kabat-Zinn begins with the importance of breathing techniques and the basic techniques an individual can use to focus their attention on their breathing.  He also details methods for basic seated meditation and also a reclining mediation he refers to as the ‘Body-Scan’.  Also included is a full chapter on ‘mindful Hatha yoga’ as a form of meditation.  Kabat-Zinn says that ‘When you practice the yoga, you should be on the lookout for the many ways, some quite subtle, in which your perspective on your body, your thoughts, and your whole sense of self can change when you adopt different postures on purpose and stay in them for a time, paying attention from moment to moment’. 

I particularly liked his thoughts on walking meditation, something I’d never practiced before.  He states that walking meditation ‘involves intentionally attending to the experience of walking itself’.   This is not easy when you storm about everywhere with intense purpose, as I usually do.  In order to keep the ‘mindfulness strong’, he recommends focusing on just one aspect of your walking, such as a particular part your feet, or the length of your stride, or the movement of the calf muscles. 

A great deal of Full Catastrophe Living is dedicated to case studies; patients who were suffering from stress, pain and illness, and how these mindful meditation practices helped them.  When I say ‘a great deal’, what I mean is that there is really an overwhelming number of case studies which really over-extend the book to a certain extent, and I soon found myself skipping through a number of Kabat-Zinn’s stories in order to move more quickly through the ‘Applications’ section of the book. 

This detail aside, however, I’d give a copy of this book to everyone I know who suffers from stress or could simply do with a little more mindfulness in their lives…which is virtually everyone I know!

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