Book review: ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Book review: ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Originally published in 1990 and re-issued in 2013, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s classic ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ is widely accepted as the bible, or at least one of the gospels, of the Modern Mindfulness Movement. There isn’t really a version of mindfulness based practices, and there are a dizzying array of them, that doesn’t in some way reflect the work encapsulated in this book. It is a testament to its value of t hat despite the passing of thirty years and an explosion of interest in the field, it is still so revered and so often quoted.
Which is all the more remarkable when you consider that the book is basically a training manual for the 8 week MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course. As such It wouldn’t be surprising if you found this book gathering dust on the book shelves of a few health professionals or psychotherapists. But its reach, to date ;(it has sold over 500,000 copies), tells a completely different story.
Reading the endorsements at the start of the book from countless leaders in fields as diverse as psychology, politics, education, business consultancy, religions and neuroscience, you get the impression that this is a book that has made a significant impact on Western culture and is well worth the read.
This is just as well; because the book is over 600 pages long and is packed full of thought provoking material. Thankfully JKZ’s writing style is warm, accessible and free from complex language. He succeeds in keeping things really simple and practical.
As well as taking us through the 8 week MBSR program step by step, JKZ shares with us the personal and often inspiring stories from the twenty or so years he himself led the courses at the UMASS MBSR clinic. This is why, even though the book is a manual, it isn’t dry. It speaks to the heart. I wouldn’t call this book – easy reading. It is at times demanding to read about the different stresses we face and the debilitating effects of living in pain etc. But there is so much compassion for our plight and belief in our potential for turning things around that it is exciting and compelling to read.
And if having your heartstrings played doesn’t do it for you – then the mountains of evidence summarised and discussed in the new edition as to the effectiveness of the program should make you a true believer. You can feel JKZ’s excitement and joy when he describes the compelling new evidence, now pouring out of esteemed academic and scientific establishments worldwide, which validate what he alone dared to dream back in 1979. That we all have the wisdom and strength to live fuller, more meaningful lives if we pay attention to what actually is.
5stars
(Make sure you order the new edition)
Peter (July 2014)