I only made it officially through one book in February (which is an all time low for me), but one powerful book is better than two or three crappy ones, right?
It all started when my colleague was complaining about her new-age instructor for an education leadership class. Apparently his love for dream-catchers and meditation was his answer to being a great principal. The more I asked about him, the more I grimaced at the thought of sitting through the class – but I was still curious about the “required reading.” One of the texts was by John Kabat-Zinn, and through a bit of surface level Googling, I impulsively purchased one of his other books, Full Catastrophe Living.
What’s it about? Here’s what the back of the book says:
“Stress. It can sap our energy, undermine our health if we let it, even shorten our lives. It makes us more vulnerable to anxiety and depression, disconnection and disease. Based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s renowned mindfulness-based stress reduction program, this classic, groundbreaking work—which gave rise to a whole new field in medicine and psychology—shows you how to use medically proven mind-body approaches derived from meditation and yoga to counteract stress, establish greater balance of body and mind, and stimulate well-being and healing. By engaging in these mindfulness practices and integrating them into your life from moment to moment and from day to day, you can learn to manage chronic pain, promote optimal healing, reduce anxiety and feelings of panic, and improve the overall quality of your life, relationships, and social networks.”
First off, I read anything like this with a grain of salt. However, the traditional medical treatments when I blew out my knee seemed very limited – one time the doctor even held up his hands and said, “I don’t know what to do with that,” when I described a horrific pain in my foot after knee surgery. But chiropractic and naturopathic treatments have worked in slow, steady increments (in fact, my chiropractor fixed my foot with a simple touch later that day). Admittedly, the acupuncture that required wrapping my knee in chainmail and tin foil was dubious, but I feel generally fantastic since prolotherapy.
You see, I’m just not the kind of person who wants to just take a pill. There’s got to be another way.
During Full Catastrophe Living, I found myself saying out loud, “Yes! That’s me! I understand what you’re talking about!” Although I’m not dealing with terminal illness or the tragedy of losing a spouse, I do feel daily aches and pains that I know are related to stress.
But also – my mind keeps me up at night. Whether it’s the burden of being a public educator, or I’ve just spent too much time on Reddit reading about MK Ultra, I wake up at night with too much going on in my brain. Donald Trump isn’t helping.
I already use my Headspace app regularly, but that feels a bit surface level. What I appreciate about Full Catastrophe Living is that it goes into the research of mindfulness and meditation, as well as gives a lot of practical strategies.
If anyone can relate to thinking that this is all ridiculous fluff, I can. A few years ago, I laughed in my naturopath’s face when she suggested I meditate. It wasn’t until I worked for a raging bully and was considering a medical leave that I thought, Maybe I need to give that meditation thing a try. I even mediated in secret because I was so embarrassed – and now here I am blogging about self-help books, for all the world to see.
“Catastrophe” to John Kabat-Zinn does not mean disaster, it just means that we have all these things going on in life – and learning how to manage them in a mindful way can make people realize that the things that feel overwhelming can actually be rewarding. For instance, people complain about work, but many people who are chronically ill or incapable of working would give anything to have a job. It’s a matter of perspective.
If you think mediation is boring or you don’t have time, they say “That’s ok,” and give 30 second strategies. If you have been meditating for awhile, it gives more advanced strategies (of which I am so far from being able to do).
As many people know, the stress of dealing with my dad’s house has been paramount in my life right now, but I’m working on experiencing the catastrophe rather than fighting against it. Speaking of which, the house goes on the market in three weeks.