This week, I had the pleasure of reading The Mindful Manifesto
, by Ed Halliwell, a respected Mindfulness
teacher in the U.K. and family physician, Jonty Heaversedge, published by Hay House. This book is a clear, engaging, and informative introduction to the practice of Mindfulness, and how it can lead to a more fulfiling way of living. The book is both succinct and thorough, covering the practice's Eastern roots, modern-day applications, and the research demonstrating its efficacy for medical issues, addictions, and mood disorders. Each chapter includes practical Mindfulness exercises, instructions to get the most out of the practice, stories of actual clients, and authentic, personal accounts by the authors of their mindful journeys. Overall, the book succeeds in its goal of making Mindfulness understandable and accessible to the general public.
The book covers four key aspects of Mindfulness: breath, body, thoughts, and feelings. It also covers the ancient Eastern roots of the practice, its applicability to a modern world, and in true mindful fashion, it concludes with a holistic discussion of how mindfulness could lead to less stressed, more engaged lifestyles, more supportive and compassionate relationships and institutions that foster creativity and innovation. The authors are expert teachers, who make fuzzy, abstract concepts highly understandable. Below are some key excerpts and ideas from the book.
What is Mindfulness?
The authors provides many, excellent examples, using easily relatable imagery and analogy to illustrate key aspects of Mindfulness. Below are some of my favorite descriptions of what Mindfulness is.
“It’s a bit like having a TV with a fuzzy picture—it blurs and cuts out, and there’s snow on the screen. You try changing channels...or banging the set. Finally you call the technician, who…shifts the antenna. Your reception becomes clear. Many of us deal with our problems in the same way: we try to change channels, hit the remote, or bang the set—struggling to alter the contents of our lives. When we practice mindfulness, we’re learning how to change the position of our antenna, to see things from a different perspective.”
”Mindfulness is an ABC skill: it helps us train in becoming more aware (A), and in “being with” our experience (B), rather than reacting to it impulsively. This gives us more choice (C) about how we relate to situations in our lives.”
“Mindfulness means relating to our thoughts as just thoughts, our feelings as just feelings, our actions as just actions—they are not the whole of who we are. Mindfulness comes from a deeper awareness that is not caught up in our thoughts and feelings, although it can see them and work with them effectively. Mindfulness means relating to our experience rather than just from our experience.”
How Does Practicing Mindfulness Change People’s Lives?
The book describes, from the vantage point of the authors, and of trainees, how Mindfulness can improve both awareness and tolerance of difficult symptoms and emotions. As a person who has always been driven and achievement focused, I could really relate to Ed’s description of how rushed he always felt, working as a busy journalist facing deadlines. It is easy to try to pack more and more activities into our lives, never feeling that we have done enough, until we lose the meaning and quality of our experiences. Mindfulness helped Ed (and me) to slow down enough to observe our own behaviors and reactions, realizing that we can make deliberate, wise, and considered choices, rather than reacting automatically out of fear.
Another key aspect of Mindfulness is becoming aware of our tendencies to label and judge our own physical sensations and experiences, wanting to push them away and feeling victimized by them.Mindfulness can help us to feel less like victims; and increase our confidence and sense of efficacy in managing our own experiences.
A woman dealing with chronic pain described her experience as follows:
“I have gone from seeing it as this thing that I didn’t want to deal with—an inconvenience—to it now being part of me. It’s a much more accepting relationship. Rather than seeing it as a kind of hindrance—something to get annoyed with myself about, I use it to learn how to be more compassionate to myself, my body, and my situation.”
A participant dealing with an anxiety disorder and cancer diagnosis stated:
“It has changed my life in such a positive way. My meditation practice has become an integral part of my day. My anxiety levels continue to lessen, and it has had a positive impact on my health, which I now try to deal with one day at a time.”
It is clear from these examples that Mindfulness training helped these people to view their symptoms and themselves differently. Pain and anxiety were no longer annoying burdens or signs of personal failure, but tolerable aspects of life that could be coped with.They learned to relate to themselves with patience, caring, and compassion, rather than harsh judgment and intolerance.
How Can Mindfulness Help People Deal With Their Worries & Negative Thoughts
My work as a psychologist has taught me how negative thought cycles can keep people feeling stuck, depressed, overwhelmed, unable to move forward proactively in their lives. The Mindful Manifesto describes the cycle poignantly as follows:
“Instead of helping us resolve the problem we’re facing, rumination tends to make us more and more distracted, tired, and introspective—and more and more focused on our (unhappy) selves. We get trapped in our heads, and our minds and bodies stay locked in a state of tension, unconsciously conspiring to keep us driven and anxious.”
The book goes on to describe practical strategies for relating to, rather than from our thoughts. Essentially, Mindfulness can help us to become less fused and identified with our own thoughts, allowing us to watch them, rather than being defined by them. We may not be able to control what our thoughts tell us, but we can learn to relate to them in new ways. As the authors note, “…we can become skilled at choosing when to listen and when to treat thoughts as harmless background noise.”
These excerpts are designed to gives you the flavor of the book, but there is a whole lot more, including many Mindfulness exercises and instructions, a clear and understandable review of Mindfulness’s Buddhist roots and a clear,concise summary of the research studies supporting its use to improve health, reduce stress, treat chronic depression, and help overcome addictive patterns. The Mindful Manifesto is a great resource for the public, professionals, therapists, clients, educators, and business people. If you read only one book about how to incorporate Mindfulness into your life, this is the one!
About The Author
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, and expert on Mindfulness and Positive Psychology. Dr Greenberg provides workshops and speaking engagements for organizations, life, weight loss, or career coaching, and psychotherapy for individuals and couples.
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