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on November 17, 2009
This is a great resource for people who suffer from any type of chronic (long-term) health problems. It is based on the author's experience with thousands of people who have participated in a course called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program at the Univ. of Massachusetts Medical Center. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness is intended to be that program rolled up into a book.

The book's tool is mindfulness meditation- a form of meditation originally developed in the Buddhist traditions- defined as a moment-to-moment awareness. Through mindful meditation, one can gain new kinds of control and wisdom in their lives. The book is very "hands on", so don't expect to just read it and be done with it. For example, you'll be doing things such breathing exercises or yoga postures (I can also recommend Exercise Beats Depression as another good resource for those struggling with depression).

Since the mind plays a factor in stress-related disorders, and very undertreated in Western medicine, I feel like this book will fill a much needed niche for many people. With over five-hundred pages, there's plenty of wisdom here to suck up.
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on September 8, 2001
I've read over a dozen books on anxiety, relaxation, and stress. This book has a totally different approach.Instead of giving specific tips to handle anxiety attacks, it uses a philosophical type of approach which is extremely helpful in combatting stress in the long run. The main activity that is taught is meditation and mindfulness through breathing, sitting, or walking, along with a body scan and yoga exercises. They recommend an 8 week commitment to the exercises. But the last half of the book is even more helpful, with discussions on how to see yourself and your problems differently--to feel in control and a master of the events around you. My anxiety level has gone down tremendously after just reading the book and not beginning the meditation yet. This book is a must for anyone having a hard time facing life's normal circumstances or who sees life pessimistically. And it is even more vital for anyone who is facing health problems and is feeling depressed because of them. This man's approach will be a comfort to me for years to come.
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on September 9, 2001
This is one of the three most powerful books I have read in my ten year effort to rid myself of depression and chronic back pain. The other two were "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Dr. Joseph Murphy and "Healing Back Pain" by Dr. Sarno. As a testament to all of these books, I am now almost completely free of both of these tiresome life-robbers: mental and physical pain. I have never been able to sit down and meditate, but this book taught me to reach a meditative state using the walking meditation, and recently I have started using the body scan while running - it is a superb way to combine exercise and meditation. I received a lot of inspiration from the case studies used in this book, also. The style in which it is written is intelligent, warm, compassionate and friendly. I recommend the book highly. If you are tired of being sick, and are ready to make a commitment to help yourself, this book is essential. I can not stress enough the importance that NUTRITION and EXERCISE have played in my own recovery, but mindfulness and relaxation are crucial as well. I use mindfulness every day now that I have learned the techniques presented in this book. I think anyone who is looking for a better way to live needs to read this book.
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on May 19, 2005
Amazing book for anyone that has lived a difficult life. In my case I was a victim of abuse. This book has done so much for me. I am enlightened and inspired to move forward with my life.
Great Books: Running With Scissors,Dry and Nightmares Echo
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on March 19, 2002
I read this book and did not like it. I found it described a life I did not want to know about so I put the book aside having skipped a number of the chapters. Six months later when my wife was admitted to the ER with severe headaches I remembered the central message in this book.
The message is clear and simple, the "bad" times in life are as valid an experience as the "good" be there, be aware,accept,don't wish for better times, don't run away from catastrophe. I was aware and present for the next three weeks, the most important three weeks of my life. I felt so lucky that I had read this book. It could be a lot shorter and more focused but the central message is invaluable.
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on July 18, 2000
I have both this book and Kabat-Zinn's other, "Wherever You Go, There You Are." That one is more of a general intro to mindfulness (i.e, concentrating on your breathing as a way to clear your mind and reach a deeper level) meditation. It's written in a more aphoristic style: short and sweet, lots of quotes from Thoreau and various gurus, "try this" exercises at the end of each short chapter. A book you mull over, read in bits, inbetween the recommended practice.
This one is more wordy, a description of what goes on at the Massachusetts General Hospital Pain Reduction Clinic, where Kabat-Zinn uses a combination of (physical) yoga, mindfulness meditation, and something called the "full body scan" (lying down and concentrating on different parts of the body at a time) to help people with serious, stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, back pain, migraines and cancer.
There are instructions on how to do the above; statistical information on how well this program works; descriptions of the types of illnesses they deal with; lots of case studies of typical patients; and some general conclusions that the very insightful Kabat-Zinn has drawn from his work. I hate pop psychology but that's not what's delivered here - these are very real insights, not facile at all, on the damaging stresses of modern life and concrete advice on how to cope with them in such a way as to not get sick.
He says, for instance, that "your pain is not you" - that you can and should separate yourself from the pain, and from the negative feedback voice ("I'm never going to get better," for example) that makes things worse.
They do recommend (as I do, and as I see another reviewer does) that you buy the tapes listed in the back of the book to help you with your program. But you can use the book without them: it just takes more willpower and concentration.
As far as personal testimony is concerned, I haven't had to use this program to help me cope with any serious illnesses, thank goodness. But (like most women in their post-childbearing years) I do have a lot of miscellaneous aches and pains which I do deal with much better using the techniques in this book. I have not yet had time to make the recommended commitment for optimal results (45 minutes per day, 6 days a week) - I just use the techniques (which include, for instance, imagining that you are breathing in and out of the painful part of your body - it's hard to describe, but it works!) when I feel headachy or in pain, and medicine either doesn't help or isn't possible to take because of stomach upset.
What I'm saying is, this book is valuable even if you don't have a serious, chronic illness.
Besides, it really is preferable to use these techniques BEFORE you get sick, rather than after.
And they do give the advantages of regular meditation, too: a sense of deeper understanding of yourself, a sense of wonder, etc. (so hard to describe without sounding silly).
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on March 29, 2014
Absolutely the best book I have read on the meditation process. Specifically targeted to those who are dealing with major health issues, stress, pain or depression. I am taking a meditation class and this was the recommended book we are studying. I have gotten more out of the book than the class. The book deals with all the stumbling blocks one encounters which make us feel " unsuccessful " in our meditation learning process. As well as being an authority on meditation the author is extremely well educated and knowledgable in the field of science and medicine to be able to authoritively speak on the many benefits of medicine to our mind and body. I would highly recommend this book.
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on March 27, 2013
It seems that a large part of the world is living in an unconscious manner, only really feeling their life from time to time, life can be overwhelming, then add illness, depression or loss of the loved one. This is the 3rd time I have purchased this book, the 1st time I purchased it was after I had experienced cardiac arrest at the age of 42. 8 years later I have still not been diagnosed, but this book helped me to learn to get through one moment at a time, not worry about 10 years from now. Currently, I am rereading it with a friend who is stuck since her mom passed 3 years ago. I know that this book will help her move into the present. I highly recommend it.
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on December 31, 2013
this book came to my attention when a friend sent me a video clip of The author giving a talk on you tube. the fellow that introduced him at the beginning had a dog eared book in his hand which showed he had used it extensively.
I watched the beginning of the clip a few times and decided I could recognize the cover if I saw it. I went to amazon and sure enough.. there it was. I ordered it and had it in hand two days later. Along with a copy of Wherever You Go There You Are. I read Full Catastrophe Living over about 3 days and changed my way of thinking about my life.
then I picked up the second book Wherever You Go There You Are. It was a perfect compliment to Full Catastrophe Living. I use it as a "pick me up" whenever I lose my vision of what it is I am trying to accomplish in life. I sent 6 sets of the two books out for Christmas. I could send a few more sets out as well, but the budget for the year is shot. You have to have the attitude that the guidance in the book makes sense and is doable. once you committ to the philosophy you are on your way. Kabat-Zinn writes very well and it's an easy ( not to be confused with simple) book to read. my daughter reads it whenever she has 5 minutes. it just sits on her kitchen counter. those 5 minute takes help her stay on track. I read the shorter book every morning as it is meant to be consumed in small bites. Enjoy....and may your mind be lighted with the torch of understanding
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on January 9, 2012
Jon Kabat Zinn offers practical advice, hope, insight and practice to those human travelers suffering pain, depression and worse. This is my third copy, since each is ultimately given away to some friend in need. I cannot recommend this book more highly because it puts you in charge of the investment in your wellness. No magic potions, no pills - just learning to focus, to pay attention.

"He had also learned that the sick and unfortunate are far more receptive to traditional magic spells and exorcisms than to sensible advice; that people more readily accept affliction and outward penances than the task of changing themselves, or even examining themselves; that they believe more easily in magic than reason, in formulas than experience. These are matters which in several thousand years since this era have probably not changed as much as many history books claim. But he had also learned that a seeking, thoughtful man dare not forfeit love; that he must meet the wishes and follies of men halfway, not showing arrogance but also not truckling to them; that it is always only a single step from sage to charlatan, from priest to mountebank, from helpful brother to parasitic drone, and that people would far prefer to pay a swindler and be exploited by a quack than accept help given freely and unselfishly. They would rather pay in money and goods than in trust and love. They cheat one another and expect to be cheated themselves..."

Herman Hesse - Magister Ludi
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