In choosing the title, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, author Jon Kabat-Zinn acknowledges the various stresses caused by the unpredictability of daily life. The book is an invitation to bring awareness to the suffering that can too often come to frame our lives and to realize that our suffering need not and should not be what defines us.
Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and creator of the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR). MBSR, his eightweek introduction into the research and practice of mindfulness, is described fully within this self-help text and begins with anecdotes about some of the clients who have participated in the program over the years. Through these stories, the reader is given an opportunity to connect both to the people, their struggles, and the practice of MBSR.
According to Kabat-Zinn, practice is the key to mindfulness and practice refers to our attitude and willingness to change the way we relate to ourselves and to others. While meditation, yoga, and a healthy lifestyle are core to the practice, it is our commitment to compassion for ourselves and others that is key.
While reading this book, I was experiencing a good deal of back pain and my first reaction to Kabat-Zinn was defensive. However, instead of reaching for pain medication, I sat with my own discomfort, brought awareness to what I was thinking as I experienced the pain and, the feeling shifted ever so slightly. In that tiny glimpse into the possibilities offered by the practice of mindfulness, I was compelled to give it a try—testimony to the value of this book.
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness is an excellent manual for those wishing to begin their own exploration of mindfulness.