This book by Siegel gives practical and strategic solutions so that informal and formal mindfulness can be adopted and integrated into one’s daily routine, and then customized to one’s particular set of circumstances. This is a form of a self-help text and comes with a link to a website so that the reader if interested can download audio files of the author for a more diverse and detailed guide to mindful practices. The following is a thorough exploration of the book showing why this a unique text among its contemporaries.
There are several books on this topic on the shelves for readers but what sets Siegel’s book apart in this field of mindfulness is the way that it is structured. The book is not based on a specific set program. For example, it is not a collection of principles, thoughts or readings but it makes references to Buddhist practices but it is not confined to Buddhist teachings. Moreover, as Susan et.al observe, the book is not about mindfulness on a particular disorder such for example, mindfulness through depression. A practical way to judge whether the text offers practical solutions to everyday problems, one could offer this manual to someone with a limited knowledge or one with no knowledge at all on mindfulness and possibly ask them whether the book had helped them through the everyday problems and the answer is almost certainly going to be a yes. The text is designed in a peculiar but important style: the reader needs to go through the first section of the book first and then he or she only needs to go through the relevant chapter at a particular moment in time when a specific chapter feels relevant. Hence, it is not just designed to be read from cover to cover but just like any other important manual, one needs to read a specific chapter on need be basis as is relevant in their lives at a particular moment in life.
This book is conveniently divided into two sections: the first section of the book marks the stage for the other section of the book. The first section consists of four chapters that explore what mindfulness is all about and what mindfulness is not about. It also explains the research background of mindfulness, informal and formal mindfulness practices. In the first chapter, the author makes mindfulness an approachable option by arguing that changes in life are a universal phenomenon, something that I deeply agree with the author on. To demonstrate this approach into universality, he starts off by first explores his mind as well as plaguing his own thoughts. After exploring and plaguing his thoughts, he turns his attention to the mind of Wilma and Fred of Flinstones. Using simple examples and humor, Siegel demonstrates several common ways in which our thoughts when combined with our own experiences as well as those of people we are close to or associate with can turn our lives to be difficult. He backs up his argument by use of research especially though his own inventories compiled mostly through inventories of his past clients.
The next chapter is important to this book because it is an introduction to what mindfulness is and an explanation why he sees mindfulness as a solution. Siegel illustrates what he terms as “mindlessness” and urges the reader to note how they can be mindless in their everyday functioning. In particular, it’s important that Siegel identifies and explores the construct of experiential avoidance and also talks about the origin of mindfulness as well as its encompassing research evidence that shows both its short term and long term benefits on one’s health and on the brain and basically on one’s well-being. Both chapters three and four take the reader through the process of cultivating mindfulness through step-by-step guidelines. The exercises on chapter three dwell on the concentration and breath. Without suggesting that one way is better than another, the book offers several modifications on following one’s breath. He follows that up by explaining about eating meditation, body scan and walking meditation. I find this maneuver to be important and unique of this book because it does not refute the previously tested and established forms of examining and monitoring one’s well-being but most importantly, offers another option to those existing procedures.
In the second part of the book, Siegel applies the already explored practices on mindfulness to situations. In every chapter, he explores a problem and argues how a mindfulness approach may provide a solution to turning a problem to a bearable one. At each chapter’s end, Siegel goes through the formal and informal mindful practices that are important to that specific problem and also consequently issues a case example to show how the practices helped a particular person. At the conclusion of each chapter, the book lists informal and formal practices and life preservers. By explanation gives by the book, life preservers are tools for adoption if or when a situation is very acute. Every chapter in this part offers a solution to a particular issue. For example, chapter five is based on worry and anxiety, chapter six is on sadness and depression. Chapter seven is based on physical pain, an issue that he had previously written extensively in a different book.
Chapter eight is an approach to relationships while chapter nine focuses on bad habits especially addictions to things like sex, food and technology. Conveniently positioned at the end of the book is the chapter on the mindfulness approach to aging and end of life. The remainder of the book is dedicated to provision of information on phone numbers, retreats, websites, therapists, yoga information, audio-guided meditation and research on mindfulness. These are current references and are an important asset to the book as a whole especially when taken together with the mp3 audio recordings on various mindfulness exercises as they can be incorporated into various devices. This is important because technology has made it possible to carry on portable and portable devices that can play mp3 files beyond the confines of the hoe environment. Hence, one can remind himself as frequently as possible the important ideas and guidelines expressed in the book by use of electronic portable devices that are a more adaptable to the outside environment such as an iPad or a mobile phone.
Conclusion and Recommendations
I find this book to be a useful and user friendly resource for people excited about the concept of mindfulness as a means of bettering their physical and mental well-being. I also think that the book has valuable ideas that may be useful to therapists who may be interested in integrating the ideas of the book as well as its exercises and explanations with their clients. I personally identified with the examples contained in the book. The ideas and exercises in the book can also be tailored to individual preferences and this is important because the needs of everyone are slightly varying to some degree to those of the next person. In a nutshell, the book makes mindfulness easier to understand and integrate and even more inviting to a broader audience including those who are not familiar to or practicing the approach. I would recommend the book as a general resource to individuals open to the idea but not yet deeply familiar with mindfulness.