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Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness

3.7 66
by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joan Borysenko (Foreword by), Thich Nhat Hanh (Preface by)

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Stress. It is everywhere around us. Even worse, it gets inside us: sapping our energy, undermining our health, and making us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and disease. Now, based on Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s renowned mindfulness-based stress reduction program, this groundbreaking book shows you how to use natural, medically proven methods


Stress. It is everywhere around us. Even worse, it gets inside us: sapping our energy, undermining our health, and making us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and disease. Now, based on Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s renowned mindfulness-based stress reduction program, this groundbreaking book shows you how to use natural, medically proven methods to soothe and heal your body, mind, and spirit. By using the practices described within, you can learn to manage chronic pain resulting from illness and/or stress related disorders…discover the roles that anger and tension play in heart disease… reduce anxiety and feelings of panic…improve overall quality of life and relationships through mindfulness meditation and mindful yoga. More timely than ever before, Full Catastrophe Living is a book for the young and the old, the well, the ill, and anyone trying to live a healthier and saner life in today’s world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A practical guide not only to mindfulness meditation and healing, but daily life.” —Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation Society, author of One Dharma and coauthor of Seeking the Heart of Wisdom

“Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn eloquently explains the power of paying attention and increasing awareness. I strongly recommend this book for everyone who wants to begin healing their life.”—Dean Ornish, M.D., author of Stress, Diet, and Your Heart and Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for the Reversal of Heart Disease

“Happy 15th birthday to one of the great classics of mind/body medicine! More than any other, Full Catastrophe Living is the book that enabled Americans to discover the inner life. This book has brought peace of mind to hundreds and thousands of people and healed countless lives. This is your chance to let it heal yours.” —Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings

“A wonderful guidebook for those of us who choose life and healing. I hope you all make the choice and read the book.” —Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles and Peace, Love, and Healing

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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6.11(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.06(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Twelve

Glimpses of Wholeness, Delusions of Separateness

Have you ever looked at a dog and really seen it in its total "dogness"? A dog is quite miraculous when you really see it. What is it? Where did it come from? Where is it going? What is it doing here? Why is it shaped the way it is? What is its "view" of things, of the neighborhood? What are its feelings?

Children tend to think about things this way. Their vision is fresh. They see things as if for the first time every time. Sometimes our seeing gets tired. We just see a dog. "If you've seen one, you've seen them all." So we barely see it at all. We tend to see more through our thoughts and opinions than through our eyes. Our thoughts act as a kind of veil preventing us from seeing things with fresh eyes. What comes into view is identified by the thinking, categorizing mind and quickly framed: a dog. This mind actually prevents us from seeing the dog in its fullness. It processes and categorizes the "dog" signal very quickly in our brain and then moves on to do the same to the next perception or thought.

When my son was two years old, he wanted to know if there was a person inside of our dog. It warmed my heart to see through his eyes in that moment. I knew why he was asking. Sage was a real family member. He had his rightful place. His presence was felt, he participated in the psychic space of the house, he was a complete being, as much a "personality" as any of the people in the family. What could I say to him?

Never mind dogs. What about a bird, or a cat, or a tree, or a flower, or a rhinoceros?! They are all quite miraculous really. When you really look at one, you can hardly believe it exists; there it is, this perfect thing, just being what it is, complete in itself. Any imaginative child could have dreamed up a rhinoceros, or an elephant, or a giraffe. But they didn't get here as the product of a child's imagination. The universe is spinning these dreams. They come out of the universe, as do we.

It doesn't hurt to keep this in mind on a daily basis. It would help us to be more mindful. All life is fascinating and beautiful when the veil of our routinized thinking lifts, even for a moment.

There are many different ways of looking at any thing or event or process. A dog is just a dog. In one way there is nothing special about it; at the same time it is extraordinary, even miraculous. It all depends on how you are looking at it. We might say that it is both ordinary and extraordinary. The dog doesn't change when you change the way you look. It is always just what it is. That is why dogs and flowers and mountains and the sea are such great teachers. They reflect your own mind. It is your mind that changes.

When your mind changes, new possibilities tend to arise. In fact everything changes when you can see things on different levels simultaneously, when you can see fullness and connectedness as well as individuality and separateness. Your thinking expands in scope. This can be a profoundly liberating experience. It can take you beyond your limited preoccupations with yourself. It can put things in a larger perspective. It will certainly change the way you relate to the dog.

When you observe things through the lens of mindfulness, whether it be during formal meditation practice or in daily living, you invariably begin to appreciate things in a new way because your very perceptions change. Ordinary experiences may suddenly be seen as extraordinary. This does not mean that they stop being ordinary. Each is still just what it is. It's just that now you are appreciating them more in their fullness.

Chapter Thirteen

On Healing

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. This transformation is brought about by the encounter with one's own wholeness, catalyzed by the meditation practice. When we glimpse our own completeness in the stillness of any moment, when we directly experience ourself during the body scan or the sitting or while practicing the yoga as whole in that moment and also as part of a larger whole, a new and profound coming to terms with our problems and our suffering begins to take place. We begin to see both ourselves and our problems differently, namely from a perspective of wholeness. This transformation of view creates an entirely different context within which we can see and work with our problems, however serious they may be. It is a perceptual shift away from fragmentation and isolation toward wholeness and connectedness. With this change of perspective comes a shift from feeling out of control and beyond help (helpless and pessimistic) to a sense of the possible, a sense of acceptance and inner peace and control. Healing always involves an attitudinal and emotional transformation. Sometimes, but not always, it is also accompanied by a major reduction in physical symptoms and by improvement in a person's physical condition.

This transformation of view comes about in many different ways as people immerse themselves in mindfulness-meditation practice. In the stress clinic, sometimes people have sudden and dramatic experiences during meditation that lead them to new ways of seeing. More frequently people speak of moments of simply feeling deeply relaxed or confident. Many times they don't even recognize such experiences at the time they are happening as being particularly important, although they often can't remember having had such an experience before. These incremental transformations can be quite subtle. Yet they can be as profound or even more so than the more dramatic ones. Dramatic or subtle, such shifts in perspective are signs of seeing with eyes of wholeness. Out of this shift in perspective comes an ability to act with greater balance and inner security in the world, especially when encountering stress or pain.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he was founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and founder (in 1979) and former director of its world-renowned Stress Reduction Clinic. His work has contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness into mainstream institutions in our society such as medicine, health care and hospitals, schools, corporations, prisons, and professional sports. In addition to Full Catastrophe Living, Kabat-Zinn's books include Wherever You Go, There You Are and Everyday Blessings. They have been translated into over fifteen foriegn languages, including German, Japanese, Italian, Dutch, French, Spanish, Russian, Portugese, Hebrew and Korean. His series of Mindfulness Meditation Practice tapes were created to be used in conjunction with Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You Go. Dr. Kabat-Zinn lives in Lexington, Massachussets.

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Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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" 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.
topcatt More than 1 year ago
While being treating at the Mayo Clinic, the doctors were scratching their heads and thinking that the only way to control the pain I was experiencing was through radical treatment. One option was to implant an electrode deep inside my brain. Although they weren't sure why it helped some people with similar pain to mine, they just knew it did. One of the doctors recommended I read "Full Catastrophe Living" while thinking about whether or not to let them open up my skull for the implant. I read the book and took the workshop, as outlined in the book, on my own. After two weeks, I was obtaining relief from my pain, and I was able to stop increasing the pain meds I was on. After the forth week, I was able to actually reduce the number of meds, and after the sixth week, I eliminated four of the ten types of medications I had been prescribed and taking for over a year. It has now been two years since reading this life changing book, and I am happy to say, it has truly given me a new lease on life and how to deal with the pain I have. I only wish I had taken the MBSR workshop earlier in my life. Having worked in a very stressful position for years, I sure could have used the information contain in this book to deal with the stress and pressure in a much more natural way. Whether you are under a lot of stress, or whether you have a high level of pain, this book will most definitely change your life. It will take dedicating 45 minutes per day throughout the workshop and beyond. But those 45 minutes will be the best investment you have ever done. Believe me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best self help books I've read! Not only do I battle with illness, but as a result, I developed an anxiety/panic disorder. This book helped me in more ways than I even imagined, not only did it help me deal with the stress of my illness, but it also helped me with my anxiety disorder. I can go on about this book, but for anyone who is dealing with health issues, any health issues from stress to cancer this book can help you, it teaches you how to take control of your mind and teaches you how to deal with any stresses in your life. I've let people read a chapter or two out of this book and after only reading one or two chapters they run out and get the book, it's that good! Such a small price to pay for your sanity and peace of mind.
Eber More than 1 year ago
Although I am not finished with it yet, I have found it to be well structured, moderately easy to read, and very helpful in my own journey of self discovery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My husband and I have been using this book in dealing with the stress of having two special needs children. I have also passed this book on to writer and artist friends of mine who suffer the stress of deadlines and artistic 'block.' I also highly recommend 'Open Your Mind, Open Your Life' by Taro Gold. I use both of these books for stress reduction in my life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jon Kabat-Zinn helps even the most distressed of us learn about self-healing and self-nuturing. I am a physician and I recommend this to ALL of my chronic pain/depressed/anxious patients, and it has dramatically changed many of their lives.
clkwa More than 1 year ago
I would recommend that you pass on this book. I do not know if I had read the paper copy of the book that it would have made any difference. I will be moving this archive and trash!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
love2learnDT More than 1 year ago
This is a life-changing book. I picked this up and started reading it after having listened to Dr. Kabat-Zinn's meditation CDs that are described in the book. Stress, anxiety, and pain are so prevalent in our society, but even if one doesn't have a chronic or debilitating illness, the mindfulness training is extremely beneficial for those who want to lead an awakened life. Readers will come to understand the basis for the practices that are outlined and find hope for relief from suffering in the stories of those who have participated in the stress reduction clinic. Though I confess that I haven't yet fully implemented the book's recommendations into my daily routine, I began to feel more centered and connected as my reading progressed and I will commit to the program because I know that it works. I have begun purchasing copies for friends and family members and I recommend it to anyone who indicates a willingness to learn to live moment to moment.
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