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Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
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1,394 of 1,433 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 July 2012
I've suffered from depression most of my adult life and in that time have been fighting it on numerous fronts: Antidepressants, exercise, dietary changes, CBT and of course enough self help books to start a small shop on the subject. But all of these have only helped with some of the symptoms, none have really cured my depression and none have gone to the heart of it and shown me WHY I am depressed.

I had read in numerous places that meditation was considered beneficial and a particular branch of this, "mindfulness", even more so. But my first experiences with this subject were not good. Having bought the Dummies guide initially, it certainly had many "Aha!" moments but no structure and like most self help books soon went back on the shelf and out of memory. Then I tried a guided meditation CD which whilst considered one of the best in the field it was just too long - I can manage to stay awake for maybe 10 minutes at most when relaxing in this manner and I dare say anyone else on medication for depression would be the same. So that became a useful tool to help me sleep but nothing else.

This book was different. I'll be blunt, I nearly didn't buy it, having become jaded with the whole self-help philosophy but the good reviews and above all the ridiculously low price made this worth the risk. What this book does is give a formal structure - an 8 week course - to the whole idea of mindfulness, plus it gets you going with some very sensible length guided meditations on the CD. With most of these well under 10 minutes, the chances of nodding off are greatly diminished and the typical objections such as "I don't have time" are overcome. And let's be frank about this, if you're suffering from depression and feeling low, you CAN justify 10 minutes a day to try and fight it.

But talk about one huge red herring! Like many, I thought meditation was sitting cross-legged and staring into space. Whilst to an outsider this might appear to be what you are doing for some of this course (well apart from the cross-legged bit, you can sit or lie however you like) what's actually happening inside your head is remarkable. For more information on this you need to be careful to look up psychological mindfulness rather than the religious one, since there is virtually no reference to any religion in this course; this is not a course about Buddhism or any practice designed to enlighten you or take you to God.

What this is all about is giving you the tools to gently, carefully, see how your entire thought processes work. To use an analogy, imagine you have been living in a City all your life and this book takes you for a walk up a nearby hill, letting you look back on the scene and giving you a view you never had before. And it's as easy as going for a walk - just practice the mindfulness exercises in the book and on the CD - then things click. Yes, you may feel silly to start with (I did), yes you might think you're rubbish at meditating (I am), yes some of the exercises do elicit a feeling of "What's the point?" but stick with it, slowly but surely you are changing the way you look at life and more importantly, starting to detach yourself from the self-destructive thought processes which contribute to or even, as in my case, actually seed your depression.

How can something so gentle work so well? Everyone has their own view on this. Personally, I think the main power of this type of course is that YOU have to do the work. Yes, you really do need to do this every day and that won't suit everyone. But when you do, what you discover is self-discovered, you learn and heal by direct experience of something tangible, rather than blindly believing or accepting something you're told (which is the premise of many self help books, especially ones promising quick fixes).

The irony about this book is this: The worse you think you are at meditating the better mindfulness is! Because the other red herring is the whole foundation of mindfulness (coming into the present and freeing yourself from the shackles of the past and the worry of the future) is built on seeing what's going wrong in our heads, where our thought processes get screwed up. And how do we discover this? By failing at meditation and then gently and compassionately thinking "Ah, I can see I've wandered off track" - and repeating this over and over, seeing first and then understanding later how this process works. How the mind and our thoughts work and take us away from the moment we live in - this moment. How our whole life is a train of thoughts that just keep coming but one which we can learn to control. It's about switching off the autopilot.

So does it work? For me, yes. This is the first treatment in my whole adult life (I'm 40 now) which unlocked the root causes of my illness. It happened one morning in the shower actually just three days into this course. I was starting to run over some event that happened many years ago, reshaping it into something that might happen in the future, getting very negative about the whole thing, my mind running on and on. I remembered one of the exercises in the first week, to do something mindful as it teaches you to do. Then I saw it - I saw my depressive, negative thoughts from the outside. For the first time, I was no longer IN my thoughts, being that depressive and anxious person, I was seeing the whole process from the outside. From then, over the 8 weeks, this idea and concept was refined and re-enforced.

The book actually went further than this, but I am reluctant to waffle on too much about my experiences because it will sound too good to be true! Let's just say I have never been happier and my whole life experience has become the opposite of depression - I have been given new eyes. I should point out that I do this course now on a rolling basis, having first started seven months ago. I wanted to wait this long before reviewing since I still retained some concern it might be a temporary fix, but it does seem to have rewired many faulty parts of my life on a permanent basis.

The only thing this book lacks is any help or guidance on interacting with the same people who only knew you as a depressed person. You may experience a growing gulf between yourself and those around you when you become aware of what's underneath and start to unlock the good things there. Trying to explain this all to friends and family - which you'll want to, you'll be excited - is hard work because the tangible results and feelings you get are difficult to explain in lay terms (you have to experience it to understand it). You may also find that other people cannot explain the fact you do actually smile a lot more - you're so happy - they can become defensive and please don't let this burst your bubble. Just remember: This is all about YOU.

It has also opened many doors to areas I was previously a skeptic to, notably spirituality and the concept of us (as in the "I", the person or soul inside) being separate from our thoughts which I personally believe is the key to getting a grip on depressive illness.

For anyone else interested after you have tried this course there are a couple of recommendations for further reading from Amazon. The first is "Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer. This approaches core concepts of mindfulness from a non-meditation perspective. If meditation is the gentle and flowing guide, then Untethered Soul is the street-fighter which will club you over the head; it pulls no punches and therefore is good as further reading once you have a grounding in the basics. I found a combination of the tools from Mindful Meditation and Untethered Soul quite a potent mix in some challenging life events. "Mindfulness for Dummies" is a useful follow up book (by Shamash Alidina), mostly because of the reworking of the same ideas in different ways and the CD providing more guided meditation, though I cannot recommend it as a starting point to this journey because of its lack of good structure, only as a useful way of continuing your progress.

Finally, if you get hooked on the meditation side then by far the best book to explore this that I have found is "Buddhist Meditation" by Kamalashila. Obviously the slant on meditation here is a religious one (but in a nice and non-intrusive way) however this book has some very practical tools and guides to help you meditate without a guided CD, this is the start of yet another journey.
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119 of 124 people found the following review helpful
I found this book remarkably insightful, and a very useful. Here's why....

Would you describe yourself as often suffering from stress? Have you ever lain in bed at night with thoughts whizzing around your head. You try to switch off, but can't, and even when you force yourself to stop thinking about one issue, one of a hundred other things come to mind - did I remember to pay that bill? Heck, I've got to complete that report by 10am tomorrow, better set off extra early? Oh hell, it's 2am and I'm still awake - I'm going to be shattered tomorrow!

If you do, this book *may* be for you.

Must admit, I was skeptical of the entire subject when I first found this book. I loved one review I read who said it should be renamed to "How to cope with the crp that life throws at you". It's nothing to do with crystals, healing, and it won't turn you into a Buddhist. What it aims to do, is separate you from your worries, so you can think about them calmly and objectively.

How does it work?

Well, the first few chapters are really enlightening. Effectively it explains the scientific background to how and why this book was written, how mindful meditation works, and what effects it aims to achieve. It explains that the practice is medically based, and it's one of the preferred treatments for depression by NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. So you're in good hands - even if you're not depressed - just a bit stressed like me.

Although the Kindle version is written, it includes some recordings, and It goes on to provide a series of "guided meditations" during which the author (who has a remarkably soothing voice), guides you through the steps (mainly breathing) to meditate. There's a series of about 8-10 meditations to follow, and all are suitable for almost any adult at any age. ie. No getting into impossible Yoga style crossed legged positions to greet the sun.

Word to the wise. I do find this book remarkably useful and interesting, but I was annoyed to find I couldn't get the audio to work on my Android Kindle. I did eventually buy it on Audio Book (audible) as well, and have been so impressed, I've no complaints at all - despite buying it twice.

I said above this *may* be good for you as it depends. You need to accept that you'll need to put some effort into meditating every day. It's OK to miss a day, but as with many things, you'll need to put in the effort for it to become a habit. I personally bought the book months ago, loved it, and then put it aside, only to come back to it when things really took off at work.

If you're looking for an excellent introduction to the subject or are worried and stressed and are looking for some guidance, this book is Highly Recommended.
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400 of 428 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2011
Probably like many people, I had a vague idea of what meditation and
mindfulness were before reading this book but didn't really
understand them properly. This book explains mindfulness and its benefits
very clearly and really shows you how regular practice of meditation can
help you deal with the stresses of everyday life. It is particularly
useful that the book provides an 8 week program of different levels or
types of meditation because this really gives you a sense that it is
something practical that can bring about change. This seems to be what
differentiates this book from the other books on meditation that I looked
at. The guided meditations on the accompanying CD are great and have so
far been easy to follow and I look forward to completing the program. Over
all, it seems like a really great book if you want to learn about the
benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
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443 of 484 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2011
I have to smile about this book: Books that come with CDs are usually subscripted "With accompanying CD" or "With supporting CD", but with this one it is, for me, the other way around. If all you do is buy the book and meditate under the guidance of the CD then it will be the best £10 you'll ever spend. The eight meditations on the CD are progressive and in line with the 8-week meditation course outlined in the book; however, one can happily use any one of them in any order and still derive great benefit and, indeed, enjoyment from them. The content and the style of vocal delivery are just right. One feels reluctant to ditch the CD and go it alone!
This is not to say that the book is unimportant or unnecessary; it contains a written script of the 8 meditations, together with other supporting explanatory material and some exercises for breaking habits and bringing one to appreciate ordinary everyday things. However, I feel that the most important content of the book is the explanation of how the mind holds onto previous painful memories and unconsciously makes connections and associations with those memories when a person experiences disagreeable events or emotions in everyday life. It explains that this response is habitual and uncontrolled; it also explains that the psychological dysfunction operates without full cognisance of the bodily sensations that accompany it and which are caught up in the vicious cycle of impulse, mood, emotion and thought.
I would set this immensely practical meditation method well apart from the methods we are more familiar with; those that focus and concentrate and which try to ignore or even stop thought; constantly chanting some silly mantra to oneself and hoping for some wonderful "aha" experience to happen. The meditations in this excellent piece of work are all directed towards what is described on the CD as "coming home to the body". Whilst it utilises the oft-used attention to the breath, it is an open style that "listens" to sensation, emotion and thought, but does not try to create it or change it when it finds such sensations. The breath is used as a guiding vehicle in a body-scan and it uses a technique of heightening attention on the in-breath, and then softening the intensity on the out-breath. This is a powerful, varying beam of attention that one uses when exploring the mind and body. One can readily appreciate the therapeutic effects of initially learning to be mindful of bodily sensation and then using this skill to defuse painful emotions and thoughts before they set off the vicious cycle of sadness, suffering or even full-blown depression.
The techniques described in this book and CD are derived from work undertaken for depressives; indeed it will be an invaluable help to anyone suffering from depression. However, it is aimed at anyone who wants to break the vicious cycle of habitual response to Life's challenges.
I thoroughly recommend this CD and its accompanying Book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2014
This is a basic, practical set of techniques to calm your mind without recourse to religion or mysticism. It is intentionally simple and easy to read and does not go into great detail. Instead, the authors restrict themselves to setting out a relatively short, practical program with clearly defined objectives and clearly stated means of achieving them.

One minor gripe I have is with the CD. For the first four meditations it works fairly well, reminding you of what you are supposed to be doing so that you can get on with it, instead of thinking about how long you have been focusing on a particular task, and helping you to bring your mind back to the task when it wanders. But on the later tracks, there is so much talking that it is a distraction from the tasks at hand.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2011
This book is a life changing experience.

It's been so useful to me that I am giving it to 3 people for Christmas.
The book takes you through the 8 week mindfulness course - with the help of a CD. Although not the same as a group experience it is a wonderful way to start.
The practice of Mindfulness lessens anxiety by helping us to stay in the present moment. It is non judgemental and one of the kindest experiences I have ever had.

I would recommend this to everyone.
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156 of 172 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2012
A someone with Asperger's Syndrome, I have been plagued by anxiety and depression for much of my adult life. I read another book that recommended Mindfulness as a means of dealing with the dreaded 'black dog' and I am so glad that I followed this tip up.

I've now read several books on the subject, but this one is, in my opinion, by far the best. The writing style is very easy to read (unlike some other titles that get bogged down with endless quotes), the instructions are simple and clear to follow and, after following the eight-week programme more or less to the letter, I have found that there have been definite changes in my life. I no longer dwell on the past, I spend more time watching Nature around me and I feel more generally content in myself. The changes feel quite subtle - I do not feel like a completely different person, for example - but, crucially, I have not had an episode of depression since reading this book and my meditation practice has become as much a part of my everyday life as brushing my teeth - it is not a chore, it is something that I look forward to.

If you are going to give Mindfulness a try - and what have you got to lose? - I really recommend this book and CD as your first port of call. It's amazing - I wish I had found it years ago.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2013
As a tool for learning how to live with ease and harmony this is excellent. Not only does it provide understanding of how our minds work, usually to our detriment,but it shows us in practical stages how to rise above things, focus on the now and achieve clarity and peace of mind. It also included a CD to get started on the Mindfulness meditation.
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164 of 183 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2011
I have just finished reading this book and felt compelled to write a review of it as I think its message is so important - especially once you get further into the book. The book devotes its first 3 chapters to outlining the general benefits of mindfulness before turning to 8 chapters outlining an 8 week program of meditation and habit-breaking practice. It was Chapter 9 `Turning towards Difficulties', which describes week 5 of the meditation program, that provided the Eureka moment for me. As the book describes, all the previous meditations lead up to this point and we now learn how mindfulness can help us develop an `approach' attitude to difficult situations in life instead of being fearful and anxious about them. As the book says of two people who tried out the mindfulness program, they learned `the release that follows when we are able to approach difficult situations without triggering the body's powerful aversion systems'. For anyone who has those days, as surely we all do sometimes, when they can't bear the thought of going into work or of dealing with a difficult situation, or even for those who are unfortunate enough to face some really serious crisis this could be transformative. Chapters 10-11, `Trapped in the past' and `When did you stop dancing' continue to develop the serious work started in chapter 9 and by the end of reading the book I felt really uplifted - and this was without even completing all the meditations yet!
The other thing that became clear from reading this book is that mindfulness is not about clearing your mind or trying to think of nothing as some people think. This had always put me off meditation before but the methods described in this book made meditation make sense for the first time - at least for me. Overall, then, I really recommend this book for the way that, during the 8 week program, it takes you from simple breathing meditations to ones that tackle deeper issues but also for the way it provides suggestions for how to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life after you've completed the program.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2015
If you asked me a year ago, I would never have said that I'm a stressed out person. If you asked me these days, I wouldn't be so sure. Recently I've felt a bit of a cloud fall over me. I've found it hard to sleep, hard to focus, have had difficulty achieving the stuff I want to, and am generally not feeling like myself. I was like that for a good few months, and while I'm not saying this book and the accompanying audio cd has completely cleared that for me, it's certainly improved my situation.

I, like you may be, was skeptical about the positive impacts of meditation. I thought it was going to be quite wishy-washy and new-agey, but I was wrong. The excercises are simple to follow, relaxing and after a month or so of following them, I already feel like I'm more attentive, awake and positive in my life.

However, it is not always easy. In order to see the benefits from this programme, you will need to set aside parts of your day to attempt meditation, and that genuinely isn't always easy, especially when you are first beginning. If you are anything like me, the first few weeks will be the hardest, because when you are stressed, the idea of doing nothing is the most counter intuitive thing in the world. But stick with it, and you will quickly realise that giving yourself a few moments of non-judgemental piece and quiet is genuinely hugely therapeutic.

I wish you as much luck with this as I had. If you have any other questions, please ask away!
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