Learning to enjoy life to the full

This is my review of Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Prof Mark Williams,Dr Danny Penman.

In the spate of self-help and pop psychology books now widely available, I selected this because it is jargon-free, concise and to the point, practical in approach as claimed on the cover, free of any author's ego trip or hidden agenda.

Many sentences stand out for their unarguable common sense or the fact that they chime with your past experience. To quote from the end of Chapter 2: "You can't stop the triggering of unhappy memories, negative self-talk and judgmental ways of thinking….You can stop the negative cycle from feeding off itself and triggering the next spiral of negative thoughts. And you can do this by harnessing an alternative way of relating to yourself and the world." A bit later, "Happiness is looking at the same thing with different eyes." Meditation is promoted as a way of achieving this, although you can gain a good deal just by reading the book.

I find that its main benefit is to restore a sense of proportion, rather the way a compass will orientate you when you drift off a course that you basically know. It also develops the capacity to take pleasure in the surrounding world and the daily living of an "ordinary life", also perhaps the mental energy to change that life.

The growing practice of teaching mindfulness in schools seems to me very positive, although one worries a little about private companies cashing in. However, I am unsure how much this book can help people who need mindfulness most i.e. those diagnosed as mentally sick. If you have gone beyond a certain point, it may be hard to motivate oneself to make the necessary connections and act on them. The book may be a revelation to some, but in the main it is probably preaching to the converted, those who just need to be "reminded of mindfulness" which they may already have discovered, perhaps without giving it a name.

I agree with reviewers who argue that references to the CD are so integral to the book, that those who purchase it on video are short-changed. I also accept that it may be a pale shadow of the more detailed research-based publications on which it is based, although being simplified may make it more accessible. It's a useful addition to your shelves, a kind of secular bible.

Unlikely to do any harm, this should do many readers some good. (N.b. I was a bit worried by the heading on page 37, "How to double your life expectancy".)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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