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By Nancy Gossard
Wellness Editor 

BOOK REVIEW: Full Catastrophe Living . . .


Last updated 2/25/2019 at 11:49am

BOOK REVIEW: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (1991) by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I am sure that not everyone interested in a "mindfulness" practice is ill or in pain or stressed out, but certainly a large number of Americans appear to be. If you are well, the 8-week program in the book can still help you. This is a secular program and different from Centering Prayer or Christian meditations.

From a December 2017 article by the American Psychological Association, three out of four Americans report experiencing at least one stress symptom in the last month. Forty-five percent report lying awake at night, 36 percent report feeling nervous or anxious, 35 percent report irritability or anger, and 34 percent report fatigue due to stress.

The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans – just over 20 percent of the adult population – have chronic pain. About 20 million of them have "high-impact chronic pain" -- pain severe enough that it frequently limits life or work activities.

I don't remember the name of the book I wanted, but as I was scanning the shelves of the Lake Wales Public Library the title "Full Catastrophe Living" caught my eye. This was many years ago. The title is from a line in Zorba the Greek in which the title character refers to the ups and downs of life as "the full catastrophe."

Jon Kabat-Zinn, now 74, is a professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His clinic served as the model for mindfulness-based clinical intervention programs at more than 200 medical centers and clinics nationwide and abroad.

The book allows you to recreate the 8-week program that was taught at his stress clinic. Kabat-Zinn guides you through everything presented in that course, with full instructions for how to do it at home and set up your own schedule. Exercises include a body scan, gentle yoga, following the breath, and sitting meditation.

The book goes into detail about how hospital patients have either improved their health or simply come to feel better despite their illness by using these techniques.

"When we use the word healing to describe the experiences of people in the stress clinic, what we mean above all is that they are undergoing a profound transformation of view," Kabat-Zinn writes. "Out of this shift in perspective comes an ability to act with greater balance and inner security in the world."

Online, there is a free link to Guided Audio Files to Practice Mindfulness Meditation & Yoga from the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness.

For those of us who are the target audience of the book, I say "try it." Eight weeks is a short time if you live with chronic pain, illness, or stress.

"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use."– Earl Nightingale

Our library is a wonderful resource. I appreciate it all the more when I find hidden gems like this.


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