23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Four books trying to be one...,
This review is from: Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness (Paperback)
I'm going to be harsher in this review than I should be, since I think the message of the book is essential. I have read Kabat-Zinn's other books, and have the same ambivalent feeling about his first, Full Catastrophe Living, though his second, Wherevery You Go There You Are is much more to the point.
The problem is this: there are four books in here, struggling to break out of a single binding and become individual. Unfortunately, while Kabat-Zinn has great ideas, he is not the best writer, and he rambles. Oh, does he ramble... This 600-page book would have made a great 200 page book, with a great deal of editorial guidance to give it direction. As it stands, it is a mish-mash of unrelated essays about three different subjects: meditation; stress reduction and neuroscience; living in the present; and finally some ramblings about politics.
The meditation parts are well-written, concise instructions on how to meditate, why we want to do so, what sort of techniques to use, etc. The stress reduction and neuroscience parts should be a separate book, where the author could exercise his penchant for wordy sentences and references to studies and tests (and citing his stress reduction clinic over and over). As for the rest, the "living in the present" part, there is a great deal of waste. He says the same things over and over - not necessarily a bad thing, since it gives you different ways of reading similar ideas - but after a while his wordiness gets to you. He can't say something simply; he has to use too many words to say something that could be more poetic. Example: "Our bodies, quantized condensations of vital protoplasm, the most complex and differentiated conglomerations of matter and energy we know of in the universe, arise and pass away." That second clause could be nuked, leaving a more pithy: "Our bodies arise and pass away." Or, with a few modifiers, "Our bodies, complex and uncomprehended, arise and pass away."
In a way, this book seems to be a "toss it all at the wall and see what sticks" collection. There is some internal organization, but not enough. There is no macro-editing (that is, selecting what is really worth saying, and getting rid of the rest). While it is full of good ideas, you need to wade through a lot of chaff to find the wheat. And that is a shame, because Kabat-Zinn is one of the most perceptive authors of books on meditation in a non-religious context.