Book review: Mindfulness

Book cover for Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman

I started meditating on a regular basis three years ago. Wait, let me rephrase that, I started meditating three years ago. Up until that time, I didn’t understand meditation nor did I understand the potential benefits. After a few fits and starts, I came to realize that meditation isn’t an exercise where you look for meaning or embark on a journey to a destination. Like exercising to stay physically fit or watching your diet to care for your body, meditation is a regular practice that you do to care for your mind.

Given that meditation is a regular practice, it can be easy to fall into and get stuck in ruts. Think about staying physically fit. You need to do different activities and exercises to continually challenge your body. With your diet, you need to mix foods for variety and to get the diverse set of nutrients your body requires. Likewise, with meditation, it’s good to learn about different tools and techniques that you can use to better develop and care for your mind. It’s what led me to reading Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman.

Mindfulness is all the rage these days. It’s the buzzword that comes up anytime people start discussing mental health. People say things like “I want to be more mindful”, “Being mindful has made me more productive”, or “Mindfulness has helped to feel more content and at peace”. These all sound great, but what does mindfulness or being mindful mean? It can mean many things, and something different to different people. To define the term and put us on the same page, this definition from Headspace is a good place to start:

Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.

Ok, this sounds awesome. Who doesn’t want to be more present and fully engaged with what we’re doing at the moment? Who wouldn’t want to be free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feeling without getting caught up in them? I believe all of us want this, but the question is how do we achieve it?

Well, that’s where meditation comes in. Meditation is the means by which we can train our mind to gain clarity of our thoughts, which leads to awareness, which leads to being more present and fully engaged in the moment – in other words, “being mindful”. So if meditation is the road to mindfulness, how does one start a regular practice of meditation, one that leads to being (more) mindful?

My personal experience has shown me that it is best to 1) make the decision to start, and 2) have a coach, app, or program that will guide you. That’s where Williams and Penman’s book comes into play. The book is titled Mindfulness, but it is more about how to approach meditation so it turns into a regular practice that will lead to mindfulness, being more mindful, being more aware and fully engaged in the moment.

Personally, I got a lot out of Mindfulness. I expect to revisit Mindfulness and incorporate the techniques into my meditation practice. I’ve been an active user of Headspace for the last three years, but I’m always looking to add and incorporate new tools and techniques into my routine. The exercises, techniques, and tips in Mindfulness are going to help me to do just that.

And therein lies the rub with Mindfulness. It is a great book about meditation. It contains lots of great exercises, techniques, tools, resources, and tips. It spoke to me and gave me ideas I can use to take my meditation practice to the next level. I’m just not sure that Mindfulness is a good resource for someone looking to start meditating. It felt like there was a certain knowledge or comfort level with mediation that was needed to get the most out of the book. I believe it is more applicable to someone who has already decided to start meditating and is struggling trying to find their groove, or for someone like me who meditates regularly and needs to shake their routine up a bit.

Bottom line, Mindfulness is a great meditation resource. I would highly recommend it to those who have started a regular practice, are looking to restart a regular practice, or for regulars who want to add some new techniques to their routine. Otherwise, if you’re looking to get started, I’d recommend following the suggestions in my post, Starting a meditation practice, and then pick up Mindfulness after you developed a comfort level with some basic meditation techniques.

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