Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the groundbreaking book Wherever You Go, There You Are, has written what has to be the most comprehensive book about mindfulness published to date. Coming To Our Senses is over six hundred pages of pure spiritual gold, offering a definitive look at the connection between mindful awareness and our current physical and mental states of well-being.
Kabat-Zinn, founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and popular author and workshop leader, brings ancient Eastern teachings into the Western light by focusing on the power of being aware and paying attention to the moment at hand, based upon Buddhist teachings. The book is divided into eight sections, each focusing on a different aspect of how we can, and must, come to our senses in order to heal, to find our purpose, and to live the life of our dreams. In other words, a life spent in the present and not agonizing over the past or worrying over the future, which is where most of us spend, and waste, our lives.
Tied in with this quest to achieve mindful awareness is the necessity of learning how to quiet the mind and enter the stillness within, best done through meditation. Kabat-Zinn makes sure to dispel myths about meditation, what it is and what it isn’t, and offers simple ways to begin this truly life-altering practice. Other sections of the book focus on how we can reawaken our five senses with mindfulness, and how paying attention and our lack of it leads to dis-ease, including such “new diseases” as “attention deficit disorder,” which the author believes is more about us not paying attention to what we are doing, one moment at a time, than to any actual physical ailment or cause. In fact, I am convinced after reading Coming To Our Senses that we, yes we, are not being present in our own lives, then are creating new diseases and drugs to try and fix that lack of presence and the frustration and depression it causes us.
Other sections deal with our perceptions of what we see and how our reality may not be the “real” reality, of time and how we can control its speed through mindfulness, achieving real inner healing and happiness, healing the political body and social ills (boy, is this needed today more than ever), how we relate to and fit in with the natural world, and our ability to slow the pace of life and really be who we were meant to be. In order to do this, though, we have to be willing to shut off cell phones, computers and fax machines and get quiet. Meditate. Be still. Now that is a tall order for anyone juggling family, career and personal goals!
Coming To Our Senses takes a long time to read, to absorb, to wrap your mind and consciousness around, but the end result is a beautifully profound experience of literally waking up and re-discovering the present moments that make up a life. The book is written with such a lyrical, almost poetic beauty, and just the act of reading it calms your spirit and soothes your nerves. Is there such a thing as “reading meditation?” If so, this is the perfect guidebook. Yet it is also a scholarly book, filled with knowledge both ancient and modern, as well as a spiritual primer for getting back to the basics of religious practice that shift the focus from exterior to interior sources.
Yet, through all the wisdom the author shares in this important book, he also warns us over and over again of the harsher consequences of a life lived without mindfulness, without awareness. A life of past regret and future anxiety, filled with fear, disease, war, poverty, political deception, environmental collapse, economical ruin, hatred, intolerance, bigotry, terrorism… A life where we walk blindly from one chore to the next, numb to our feelings, our desires and the truth of who we are in our hearts.
Sound familiar? Get quiet and go within. Stay focused on the present moment. After all is said and done, it’s only the moment, and what we choose to do with it, that matters.