Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

BOOK: Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
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Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn


1. Chasing Your Tail


2. Why Do We Attack Ourselves?


3. Waking Up to the Life You Have


4. Introducing the Eight-Week Mindfulness Program


5. Mindfulness Week One: Waking Up to the Autopilot


6. Mindfulness Week Two: Keeping the Body in Mind


7. Mindfulness Week Three: The Mouse in the Maze


8. Mindfulness Week Four: Moving Beyond the Rumor Mill


9. Mindfulness Week Five: Turning Toward Difficulties


10. Mindfulness Week Six: Trapped in the Past or Living in the Present?


11. Mindfulness Week Seven: When Did You Stop Dancing?


12. Mindfulness Week Eight: Your Wild and Precious Life








This book would not have come together if it were not for the help and support of many people. We are enormously grateful to Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown and to Anne Lawrance and her team at Piatkus.


Mark is grateful to the Wellcome Trust, not only for its generous financial support for the research that has sustained and extended the understanding of mindfulness, but also for the encouragement to take this work outside the academy.


We are also grateful to the many other individuals who have helped this project: Guinevere Webster, Gerry Byrne and the participants at the Boundary Brook training course, Oxford; Catherine Crane, Danielle Duggan, Thorsten Barnhofer, Melanie Fennell, Wendy Swift and other members of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (an institution that remains a testimony to its founder, Geoffrey Bamford); Melanie Fennell and Phyllis Williams, who made many careful suggestions on an earlier draft of the text; Ferris Buck Urbanowski, Antonia Sumbundu and John Peacock, on whose wisdom Mark continues to draw; John Teasdale and Zindel Segal, codevelopers of MBCT, and close friends for so many years; and Jon Kabat-Zinn, not only for his original inspiration for this work, and his generosity in sharing it with us, but also for his continuing encouragement to bring its strong and compassionate wisdom to a frantic world.


Many of the ideas in this book and the words in which they are expressed come from the close collaboration over two decades between Mark Williams and Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Zindel Segal and John Teasdale. We are enormously grateful for their generosity in allowing us to once again share these ideas with people who are new to mindfulness, and with those who wish to renew their practice.


Danny would also like to thank Pat Field of Neston County Comprehensive School for having the courage and foresight to teach meditation to a group of belligerent teenagers (including him). In the early 1980s this was a radical educational step and one that transformed many lives. He is especially grateful to Pippa Stallworthy for her help and guidance.


Finally, each of us owes a tremendous debt to our families, and especially to our wives, Phyllis and Bella, for their loving support through our preoccupation with the inevitable challenges of writing.

Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn

he world is all abuzz nowadays about mindfulness. This is a wonderful thing because we are sorely lacking, if not starving for some elusive but necessary element in our lives. We might even have a strong intuition on occasion that what is really missing in some profound way is us—our willingness or ability to show up fully in our lives and live them as if they really mattered, in the only moment we ever get, which is this one—and that we are worthy of inhabiting life in this way and capable of it. This is a very brave intuition or insight, and it matters enormously. It could be world-transforming. It is certainly profoundly nurturing and life-transforming for those who undertake it.


That said, mindfulness is not merely a good idea: “Oh yes, I will just be more present in my life, and less judgmental, and everything will be better. Why didn’t that occur to me before?” Such ideas are at best fleeting and hardly ever gain sustained traction. While it might very well be a good idea to be more present and less judgmental, you won’t get very far with the idea alone. In fact, that thought might just make you feel more inadequate or out of control. To be effective, mindfulness requires an embodied engagement on the part of anyone hoping to derive some benefit from it. Another way to put it is that mindfulness, as Mark Williams and Danny Penman point out, is actually a
. It is a way of being, rather than merely a good idea or a clever technique, or a passing fad. Indeed, it is thousands of years old and is often spoken of as “the heart of Buddhist meditation,” although its essence, being about attention and awareness, is universal.


The practice of mindfulness has been shown to exert a powerful influence on one’s health, well-being and happiness, as attested to by the scientific and medical evidence presented in this book in a very accessible fashion. However, because it is a practice rather than merely a good idea, its cultivation is a process, one that of necessity unfolds and deepens over time. It is most beneficial if you take it on as a strong commitment to yourself, one that requires a degree of stick-to-it-ness and discipline, while at the same time being playful and bringing to each moment, as best you can, a certain ease and lightness of touch—a gesture of kindness and self-compassion, really. This lightness of touch, coupled with a steadfast and wholehearted engagement, is really a signature of mindfulness training and practice in all its various forms.


It is very important to have good guidance along this path, for the stakes are actually quite high. Ultimately, the quality of your very life and your relationships to others and to the world you inhabit is at stake, to say nothing of the degree of well-being, mental balance, happiness and integration in your life as it unfolds. You would do well to put yourself in the experienced hands of Mark Williams and Danny Penman, and give yourself over to their guidance and to the program that they map out. The program provides a coherent structure, an architecture if you will, within which you can observe your own mind and body and life unfolding, and a systematic and trustworthy approach for working with whatever arises. This architecture is strongly evidence-based, arising out of the curricula of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and fashioned into a coherent, compelling and commonsensical eight-week program for anyone caring about his or her own health and sanity, especially in this increasingly fast-paced and, as they refer to it, frantic world. I particularly like the simple yet radical habit-breaking suggestions, what they call “habit releasers,” that they offer, which are meant to reveal and break open some of our most unaware life patterns of thought and behavior, patterns that unbeknownst to us, tend to imprison us in a smallness that is definitely not the full story of who we are.


And while you are putting yourself into the authors’ hands for guidance, you are also, most importantly, putting yourself very much into your own hands by making the commitment to yourself to actually follow their suggestions, to engage in the various formal and informal practices and habit releasers, and put them to the test by seeing what happens when you begin to pay attention and act with kindness and compassion toward yourself and others, even if it feels a bit artificial at first. Such a commitment is ultimately a radical act of trust and faith in yourself. In concert with the inspiring program offered here, it could really be the opportunity of a lifetime, and a chance to reclaim and befriend that “lifetime” and live it more fully, moment by moment by moment.


I have known Mark Williams as a colleague, coauthor and good friend over many years. He is one of the premier researchers in the field of mindfulness worldwide, and has been a pioneer in its development and dissemination. He is a cofounder, along with John Teasdale and Zindel Segal, of MBCT, which has been shown in many studies to make a huge difference in the lives of people with the condition known as major depressive disorder by dramatically lowering their risk of relapsing back into depression. He is also the founder of the Oxford Mindfulness Center, and before that, the Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University, North Wales. Both centers are at the forefront of research and clinical training in mindfulness-based interventions. Now, with journalist Danny Penman, Mark has put together this very practical and pragmatic guide to mindfulness and its cultivation. May you derive great benefit from engaging in this program and its invitation to explore how you might be in a wiser and more fulfilling relationship to your “one wild and precious life.”


Jon Kabat-Zinn

Boston, Massachusetts

December 2010

Chasing Your Tail

an you remember the last time you lay in bed wrestling with your thoughts? You desperately wanted your mind to become calm, to just be
, so that you could get some sleep. But whatever you tried seemed to fail. Every time you forced yourself not to think, your thoughts exploded into life with renewed strength. You told yourself not to worry, but suddenly discovered countless new things to worry about. You tried fluffing up the pillow and rolling over to get more comfortable, but soon enough, you began thinking again. As the night ground ever onward, your strength progressively drained away, leaving you feeling fragile and broken. By the time the alarm went off, you were exhausted, bad-tempered and thoroughly miserable.

BOOK: Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
8.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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