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Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness

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2005 15th anniversary edition reprint

Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, is perhaps the best-known proponent of using meditation to help patients deal with illness. (The somewhat confusing title is from a line in Zorba the Greek in which the title character refers to the ups and downs of family life as "the full catastrophe.") But this book is also a terrific introduction for anyone who has considered meditating but was afraid it would be too difficult or would include religious practices they found foreign. Kabat-Zinn focuses on "mindfulness," a concept that involves living in the moment, paying attention, and simply "being" rather than "doing." While you can practice anything "mindfully," from taking a walk to cleaning your house, Kabat-Zinn presents several meditation techniques that focus the attention most clearly, whether it's on a simple phrase, your breathing, or various parts of your body. The book goes into detail about how hospital patients have either improved their health or simply come to feel better despite their illness by using these techniques, but these meditations can help anyone deal with stress and gain a calmer outlook on life. "When we use the word healing to describe the experiences of people in the stress clinic, what we mean above all is that they are undergoing a profound transformation of view," Kabat-Zinn writes. "Out of this shift in perspective comes an ability to act with greater balance and inner security in the world." --Ben Kallen

reissue 2005

722 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Jon Kabat-Zinn

194 books1,771 followers
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world. He received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT in 1971 in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria.

He is the author of numerous scientific papers on the clinical applications of mindfulness in medicine and health care, and of a number of books for the lay public: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (Delta, 1991); Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (Hyperion, 1994); Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness (Hyperion, 2005); and Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness (Hyperion, 2007). He is also co-author, with his wife Myla, of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (Hyperion, 1997); and with Williams, Teasdale, and Segal, of The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Guilford, 2007). Overall, his books have been translated into over 30 languages.

His major research interests have focused on mind/body interactions for healing, clinical applications of mindfulness meditation training, the effects of MBSR on the brain, on the immune system, and on healthy emotional expression while under stress; on healing (skin clearing rates) in people with psoriasis; on patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation; with prison inmates and staff; in multicultural settings; and on stress in various corporate settings and work environments. His work in the Stress Reduction Clinic was featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS Special, “Healing and the Mind” and in the book of the same title, as well as on Good Morning America, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and NPR. It has contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness into mainstream institutions such as medicine, and psychology, health care and hospitals, schools, corporations, the legal profession, prisons, and professional sports.

He has trained groups of CEOs, judges, members of the clergy, and Olympic athletes (the 1984 Olympic Men’s Rowing Team) and congressional staff in mindfulness. The Stress Reduction Clinic has served as the model for mindfulness-based clinical intervention programs at over 200 medical centers and clinics nation-wide and abroad.
Dr. Kabat-Zinn has received numerous awards over the span of his career. He is a founding fellow of the Fetzer Institute, and a fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. He received the Interface Foundation Career Achievement Award, and the New York Open Center’s Tenth Year Anniversary Achievement in Medicine and Health Award (1994); the Art, Science, and Soul of Healing Award from the Institute for Health and Healing, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco (1998); the 2nd Annual Trailblazer Award for “pioneering work in the field of integrative medicine” from the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California (2001); the Distinguished Friend Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (2005), and an Inaugural Pioneer in Integrative Medicine Award from the Bravewell Philanthropic Collaborative for Integrative Medicine (2007).

He is the founding convener of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, and serves on the Board of the Mind and Life Institute, a group that organizes dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists to promote deeper understanding of different ways of knowing and probing the nature of mind, emotions, and reality. He was co-program chair of the 2005 Mind and Life Dialogue: The Clinical Appl

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 825 reviews
Profile Image for Patricia.
2,321 reviews43 followers
January 22, 2012
I read this book as part of my "get rid of psorisis in 2009" campaign. In my research, I read about a study where patients undergoing UV treatment for psorisis who listened to the body scan meditation associated with this book showed more improvement than patients who didn't. I'm not undergoing UV treatment, but I thought it couldn't hurt to see what this book has to say. Plus, I was intrigued by the title.

This is not a thin book. It is very, very long and as my library due date approached, I had to read 50 pages per night to finish it. However, despite its length, this book does more than any other book I have come across, to take the woo-woo out of meditation and yoga.

What this book asks you to do is not easy: spend 45 minutes per day meditating or doing yoga. One of the points made by the author is that in order to integrate this thing that will make your life easier into your life, you must first deal with making your life harder. It is a pain to make time every day for "the practice" but by week four, three people asked me if I'd been on vacation lately. "You look so calm" they said.

Looking like I've been on vacation without actually going? I can get on board with that.
Profile Image for David Sasaki.
244 reviews349 followers
January 2, 2012
October and November were my months of self-help. I don't think I've ever read a self-help book in my life, but within four weeks I had read three.

I discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn after receiving dozens of messages of concern about my recent sleeplessness. Various types of meditation and breathing exercises were the most popular recommendations. Some suggested retreats, others classes, and others audio CDs. I figured I'd start with a guided audio CD, and if it didn't work then I'd enroll in a class or retreat. After some online research I settled on Kabat-Zinn's Guided Mindfulness Meditation and this accompanying book. Both are the results of Kabat-Zinn's research and clinics at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in Boston.

At least half of the book is directed toward those suffering intense pain and chronic illness. I skipped over most of those sections; fortunately, they simply don't apply to me. But plenty of the book does, and it helped give me patience when I felt I was progressing too slowly with the meditation.

For most of October and November I meditated at least three times a week for 45 minutes at a time. I began to sleep better, but more importantly, I felt more at ease in all aspects of life. The book also helped me realize that I had been breathing shallowly. Now I breathe with my diaphragm, which tends to put me at ease and keep me more clear-minded.

The book is about being observant as much as it is about meditation. In fact, for me, mindfulness is really just another synonym for observation. And it's true; I've become much less observant as I've grown older. I walk through my neighborhood lost in thoughts about what I need to get done rather than observing and appreciating everything around me.

These days there is simply too much information, too much to do. Our default is to accumulate as much as possible, pile it on top of our desk, and stress out as it never gets done. On top of all that we will never get to, there are hundreds of other distractions waiting for us.

Kabat-Zinn wrote Full Catastrophe Living in 1990. In the introduction he stresses that "modern life has made us too distracted." 1990! That was before the World Wide Web. Before cell phones. Compared to today, 1990 was an oasis of meditation, observation and contemplation.

It is for this reason that I'm now putting myself on an information diet. It is for this reason that one of my 2012 resolutions is to go photo-walking once again. I've written before about how photography is a path to mindfulness, but this post by Darren Rowse explains how to put it into practice in just 15 minutes.
Profile Image for Laysee.
519 reviews250 followers
March 17, 2019
Full Catastrophe Living is a 650-page practical guide on how to cultivate a mindfulness-based approach to life. It is very well written. I have long wanted to learn about mindfulness as an adjunct to other forms of psychotherapy. I read it slowly and took notes over the past six months during my sabbatical from work. This review is for myself as a way of summing up my thoughts on mindfulness. Please do not feel obliged to read it.

Mindfulness is defined operationally as the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness. In this book, Kabat-Zin provided a highly informative, comprehensive and practical manual on how individuals can live more fully in the moment. After all, the moment is the only time we have to live.

Mindfulness has positive effects on health and well-being. The book focused on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center as part of behavioral medicine or mind-body integrative medicine notably (but not solely) for individuals afflicted with chronic pain conditions. Treatment is an 8-session weekly program based on rigorous and systematic training in mindfulness, a form of meditation originally developed in the Buddhist traditions of Asia. The book abounds with encouraging stories of patients who have come to the end of their tether in their respective journey of seeking a cure for a range of medical and/or psychological conditions (heart disease, insomnia, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, etc.) but have found an alternative way of dealing with physical or emotional pain. For most, the improvement is significant and lasting.

‘Catastrophe’ in the book title does not mean disaster but rather ‘the poignant enormity of our life experience.’ We are reminded that our life is constantly changing and nothing is permanent. The question is how to adapt to a life of flux, the inevitable change we all encounter. The most salient idea is on the sacredness of the moment. Rather than worrying about the future or fretting about the past, mindfulness invites us to live in the present. Why? According to Kabat-Zin, ‘The only way we have of influencing the future is to own the present, however we find it. If we inhabit this moment with full awareness, the next moment will be very different because of our very presence in this one.’

The book is structured in five parts. Part I is ‘The Practice of Mindfulness’ and covers various forms of meditation: breathing, sitting meditation, body-scan meditation, yoga as meditation, walking meditation, loving-kindness meditation. I love the last form of meditation as it is about being kind first to yourself and then to others. Part II touches on ‘The New Paradigm: A New Way of Thinking about Health and Illness.’ It shows that our mind and body are intimately interconnected and completely integrated and that our beliefs, attitudes, thoughts and emotions can harm or heal. Part III is on ‘Stress’ and how we can respond rather than react to stress. Part IV focuses on ‘The Applications: Taking on the Full Catastrophe.’ It is an extremely helpful section on strategies for coping with time stress, sleep stress, work stress, people stress, role stress, food stress and world stress. We will each find here at least one stress area that has plagued us. We will also find some practical steps to de-stress. Part V, ‘The Way Of Awareness’ has tips on ways to keep up the formal and informal practice of mindfulness.

There are many features about mindfulness I like.

One of the most useful mindfulness practices I have discovered is breathing, which is the first step to (informal) meditation. The breath is the bridge between the body and our emotional life. The book recommends that we spend about 45 minutes a day doing a breathing exercise. Here’s how. ‘Focusing on the breath means becoming aware of the breath by feeling the sensations associated with it, and by attending to the changing qualities of those breath sensations. (For example, focusing on the breath as it flows past the nostrils or on the chest as it expands and contracts, or the belly as it moves in and out with each breath. The last is preferred as it tends to be particularly relaxing and calming in the early stages of practice.’ Beginners can start doing this first for 3 minutes and then 10 minutes a day. I tried this and liked how it made me feel more in tune with myself. The ability to regulate our breathing plays an all important role in enabling us to respond to situations in a calm and balanced manner. Kabat-Zin put it this way: ‘This is an extremely effective way to reconnect with the potential for calmness within you. It enhances the overall stability of your mind, even in very difficult moments, when you most need some stability and clarity of mind. When you touch base in any moment with that part of your mind that is already calm and stable, your perspective immediately changes. You can see things more clearly and act from inner balance rather than being tossed about by the agitation of your mind.’

Second, I appreciate the idea that mindfulness in daily life consists in ‘really doing what you’re doing’. We rarely pay moment-to-moment attention to the tasks, experiences, and encounters of ordinary living. Too often, we find ourselves doing several things all at the same time. I, for one, would be reading while I am eating. So I found it amusing that one of the earliest activities that the participants in the MBSR program are asked to do is to eat three raisins meditatively. They have to eat them one at a time, feeling the texture of the raisin between the fingers, noticing its colors and texture, paying attention to what they are actually doing and experiencing from moment to moment. It is interesting that some participants find themselves tasting a raisin for the very first time. The point is that eating (or conversing with a friend or any other activity) can be far more satisfying when we bring awareness to what we are actually doing while we are doing it. In moments of calm and alert attention, we are also more likely to gain insight into ourselves and our lives, which can lead to worthwhile changes.

Third, I like how mindfulness teaches acceptance and kindness toward oneself. The premise is that by intentionally cultivating acceptance, we are creating the preconditions for healing. Acceptance comes before change.

There are, however, tenets about mindfulness I have difficulty coming to terms with. It could be due to my limited understanding at this point in time.

My biggest difficulty has to do with its views on thoughts. The mindfulness-based approach adopts the view that we are not our thoughts. (I am inclined to think otherwise. Swiftly, Descartes comes to mind: ‘I think, therefore I am.’) The mindful way is to simply observe our thoughts as thoughts and letting them float away like passing clouds; we do not examine their content. Kabat-Zin says in his book, ‘The way to handle thinking is to just observe it as thinking, to be aware of thoughts as events in the field of your circumstances… Letting go is not a pushing away, a shutting off, a repression, or a rejection of your thoughts. It is more gentle than that. You are allowing the thoughts to do whatever they do as you keep your attention on the breath as best you can, moment by moment.’ In mindfulness, ‘we don’t try to censor our thinking, nor do we judge it as we observe it.’ Thoughts are not to be taken personally and are not to be taken as true. I find this mind-boggling. How can one’s thoughts not be respected as true? It is tantamount to invalidating what one has thought about. Do our thoughts not dictate how we perceive and interpret experiences as well as how we feel and behave?

What interests me most about mindfulness is how it is utilized in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). And yet, the description of MBCT is radically different from Cognitive Therapy. To quote, ‘The key to MBCT approach is to recognize that any efforts to talk yourself out of depression or fix it in one way or another through changing the way you think about things or feel about yourself, only confounds the grip. What is required is just what we have been exploring from the beginning: a shift from an attitude of ‘fixing’ what you think is wrong with you (one more misguided element of the domain of doing) to a mode of mind that is much more allowing and accepting, and simply aware.’ Awareness seems to be the end goal. Just be aware and accept the current state. However, I am uncomfortable with this approach. MBCT is different from Cognitive Therapy or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy which works at examining the content of thoughts (i.e., are they true, safe, worthy of holding on to) and then restructuring or altering them (if needed) in ways that can shape our feelings and behavior for the better.

The emphasis in Mindfulness is on non-striving and self-acceptance. This is fundamentally related to the Way of Awareness called the Tao. To quote, ‘The Tao is the world unfolding according to its own lawfulness. Nothing is done or forced, everything just comes about. To live according to the Tao is to understand non-doing and non-striving. Your life is already doing itself. The challenge is whether you can see in this way and live in accordance with the way things are, to come into harmony with all things and all moments. It has nothing to do with either passivity or activity. It transcends opposites. This is the path of insight, of wisdom, and of healing. It is the path of acceptance and peace. It is the path of the mindful body looking deeply into itself and knowing itself. It is the art of conscious living, of knowing your inner resources and your outer resources and knowing also that, fundamentally, there is neither inner nor outer. It is profoundly ethical.’ This is the philosophy underlying mindfulness. It is a liberating to think that we are born whole and there is no need for striving or doing. We can just be. It is not a philosophy I embrace. I am a thinker and a doer. I consider myself a work-in-progress; non-doing does not seem a credible option. Yet, undeniably, mindfulness and its meditative approach to life has its value. Kabat-Zin’s book has persuasive empirical evidence to show that MBSR has greatly benefited those who are willing to practice the discipline of mindfulness. This is just the beginning of my exploration of MBCT. I plan to read more on it and hopefully I will understand it more fully.
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books474 followers
March 4, 2021
A useful sanitized version of Buddhism. Buddhism isn't mentioned once in the entire book, that I can recall. Instead the focus is about how the practices of meditation and mindfulness can help with stress reduction and pain relief.

Just as in The New Earth , which was too optimistic about the evolution of human consciousness (yet still a worthy book), John Cabot Zinn is too optimistic that medicine is becoming more integrated and aware of mind-body connections. It bothers me when practices are recommended that are truly meaningful and helpful but then the author mars their advice by makes these sweeping generalizations about societal changes. Practitioners have absolutely no control over societal evolution, and they are not necessarily the best cultural critics. Right now, medicine is obsessed with a pandemic! It’s not working on mind-body duality as a body of knowledge. Also, I think he never touches on how health insurance--pay for care--is greatly skewing provided services.

This pet peeve aside, regardless of your philosophy or religion, if you are a novice at meditation and mindfulness, this book is a good primer and how-to. Overall, it's better for beginners than the experienced but not bad as general reinforcement.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,998 followers
March 18, 2023
Don’t get me wrong, I love mindfulness, though this specific book about mindfulness felt so long and drawn-out. Jon Kabat-Zinn details some important and helpful information about mindfulness, and he then applies it to many, many areas: mindfulness for doctors and patients, walking meditation, mindfulness applied to pain, mindfulness applied to stress, mindfulness applied to work, and so on. While I can see how this approach may resonate for folks who do want to read about mindfulness applied to literally everything, for me it started to feel repetitive. I don’t regret reading this because I like little boosters/reminders for me to engage in mindfulness in my packed day-to-day life. However, for those who want a more concise or targeted introduction to mindfulness, I’d recommend Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are or Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance. I read both of those books around a decade ago or even more than that I think, so I don’t recall everything from them, though they resonated with me then and still impact my day-to-day life positively.

Also, this should be the bare minimum, though I’m glad Kabat-Zinn acknowledges the roots of mindfulness in Eastern and Buddhist philosophies.
Profile Image for Ruby.
348 reviews9 followers
April 20, 2014
This book was a real mixed bag for me - simultaneously profound, moving and frustrating! I think it is a bit like eating a wholesome meal that is good for your body but not particularly tasty. You eat it, you know it is doing you good, but you secretly think a bit of extra flavour wouldn't go astray. The fact that I have given it four stars is testimony to the good aspects of this book, which were very, very good.

I will start with what I did NOT like. The book was more than 1000 pages long; I can put up with that if each page offers up something new, but the book was very, very repetitive. You could play a drinking game where you drink a shot every time he says 'moment by moment and breath by breath' or 'cradling it in the field of awareness' and you would be utterly sozzled within a few chapters. I wouldn't do that because I don't drink, but you could.

I think what this book really needed was an editor not afraid to give Kabat-Zinn some tough love. 1000 pages is simply too long. I read the book because I am already very enthusiastic about mindfulness but if I was a newbie I might really get put off by the length of this book. It did not need to be anywhere near as long as it was.

So that was the down side of the book for me. Luckily, there was an upside, and it was enough to encourage me to plough through. The upside was that the book really articulated the incredible powerful of mindfulness and awareness in a wide range of contexts; whether you are a chronic pain sufferer looking for some way to manage or whether you are looking for a way to make the world a better place. Kabat-Zinn did a great job of describing the power of mindfulness in these contexts.

I think this book could have been broken into several books: mindfulness and chronic illness, mindfulness and mental health, mindfulness and environmentalism, mindful diet and eating and so on. It would have worked better that way. Also, a book specifically about the science behind mindfulness and medicine might warrant its own book. Although I appreciate knowing that there is plenty of scientific evidence, personally I would have preferred the studies to be listed in a glossary, so if I was interested in reading more I could. Having them included in the body of the book only further bloated it and I felt really bogged down by all the statistics.

I suppose one thing you could say is you definitely get value for money! I have been reading the book for almost a month now. I would recommend this book to people who already have an interest in mindfulness and want to deepen their knowledge. Not sure I would recommend it to many people though. His other book 'Wherever You Go, There You Are' would be a much less daunting place to begin.
Profile Image for L.
377 reviews
January 27, 2012
I feel like I already knew everything he was talking about and he was saying it less eloquently than Dr. Andrew Weil. I also had serious problems with that nonsense he was spouting about headaches and medicine. Unlike Dr. Weil, this guy appears to be anti-medicine of all sorts and recommends "being aware" of your headache and "letting your mind figure out what is causing it." WTF??? Has this man never had a migraine? I dare him to breathe through that shit. And this flat-out stupidity about anxiety drugs? Some. People. Need. Them. I certainly did after reading this sanctimonious crap. I'm of the belief that you shouldn't suffer if you don't have to. Why have our lifespans improved over the hundreds of years? It's not because of Jesus; it's because of modern medicine and medications.

I think Dr. Weil takes a MUCH more level-headed approach to this subject. Stress reduction, meditation, exercise, etc. SHOULD be used - definitely! - but only in CONJUNCTION with traditional medicine. All the mindfulness in the world isn't going to make a schizophrenic suddenly act within the normal realm of societal behavior.

He also wants you to dedicate 45 minutes a day (yes, 45) to sitting and feeling your breath - not even meditating, just breathing. Not only do I seriously not have the time but I do that while trying to fall asleep…which I recommend as preferable to reading this book. One and a half stars.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jeff.
34 reviews3 followers
January 18, 2015
Tough book to review.

I've taken a mindfulness class or two through my medical provider and Kabat-Zinn is clearly THE man, and this book THE reference for everything going on there.

And I think it's likely some, if not many, of the epiphanies and insights I experienced in the class I would've experienced here if I'd come to the material cold.

But since I didn't...

If you are interested in pursuing mindfulness/meditation but are worried about dealing with religious cant of one sort or another, JKZ has got you covered: this book focuses purely on the benefits of the practice, without any kind of religious proselytizing. Chapter after chapter goes on to discuss what actual medical professionals found looking at stress-based studies and tests as well as scientific studies about the power of meditating. And the book aims to both be a cheerleader and meditation guru in one, with chapter after chapter carefully delineating every conceivable type of stress we go through in modern living, providing calm explanations of how meditation can help, and then providing a variety of mindful exercises.


The book was written in 1991 and although it's clearly been revised a few times since, I think it actually needs a substantive overhaul. Although the easy targets are to world events and life situations that are clearly dated (Mikhail Gorbachev?), far worse are the number of studies charting the relationship between mind, body, and stress that are summarized without any sort of in-depth analysis, or preliminary studies that are mentioned as "encouraging" or "promising" that are crying out for a modern follow-through.

Anecdotally speaking, mindfulness has had very real short term benefits in stress reduction for me. But where are the studies looking at long-term effects? Although JKZ has a Ph.D. in molecular biology and is Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Full Catastrophe Living reads uncomfortably like any other self-help book and a dispiriting number of enthusiastic claims couched by cautionary "these may not be your results with mindfulness...but then again let me tell you extensively about all the people for whom they were!" At more than 500 pages, there's a distressingly high smoke-to-fire ratio.

And yet.

Having (finally) made it all the way through the book, I can see myself returning to it as I try to maintain the mindful lifestyle. Also, I read the 15th anniversary edition from 2004 which was lightly updated: my understanding is there's a more recently revised edition that may address at least some of my complaints. Still I'm surprised I thought this book deserved only three stars since it's been at least indirectly responsible for so much improvement in my life these last few months.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,946 followers
January 31, 2010
I'm assigning five stars based on the book's content and thoroughness. The real value remains to be determined after consistent practice of the program.

Most people will only be drawn to a program like this after a health crisis or other major life stressor. There is a significant daily time commitment, especially for the first 8 weeks of practice. I've had to eliminate some non-essential activities from my life to make time for this work.

The book gives you a chance to simulate the 8-week program that was held regularly at a stress clinic in Massachusetts. Kabat-Zinn guides you through everything presented in that course, with full instructions for how to do it at home and set up your own schedule. Exercises include a body scan, gentle yoga, following the breath, and sitting meditation. (Don't be put off by the word "meditation." There's nothing airy-fairy or New-Agey about this particular meditation. It mostly consists of paying attention to your breath and your body.)

I especially appreciate the author's gentle approach and reminders throughout the book that you're not trying to "get somewhere." The mindfulness approach emphasizes non-doing, so you're not trying to accomplish anything. You haven't failed if you don't reach nirvana or overcome your fear of spiders or heal your relationship with your mother. You succeed simply by doing the exercises consistently and remembering to bring more mindfulness to your activities throughout the day.

Unless you have great discipline and powers of concentration, I strongly suggest getting the CDs that go with the program. Doing a body scan for 45 minutes without guidance leaves too much room for wool-gathering or just giving up and ordering a pizza! The CDs will really help you stay focused while you learn the techniques.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
October 18, 2007
This is the book that got me started on a mindfulness meditation practice.

Of course, at around the same time I was reading it, I took a MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) class and was working with a mindfulness psychotherapist, so it’s hard to review the book on its own; the class was essential for me as just reading the book might not have spurred me on. Meditation is very difficult, especially at the beginning, at least it was/is for me. And, even though Kabat-Zinn says it's not at all essential and I've been practicing on my own, I do believe a continuing weekly meditation &/or yoga class is beneficial in being able to continue a regular practice indefinitely.

But Jon Kabat-Zinn is very personable and down to earth and communicates well. This is a terrific introduction to mindfulness meditation. It gives info on why meditation is beneficial and what exactly it is & how to meditate, something that I had not intuitively known.

Kabat-Zinn is a master at making meditation accessible and appealing for people like me who aren’t Buddhist or religious/spiritual.

I’d read the author’s Wherever You Go There You Are when it was first published, but read the 15th anniversary edition of this book in 2007. A very few facts in here are dated, but almost everything imparted is still pertinent. When this book was published, I assume most of this information would have struck me as amazing; now, a lot of it was already known to me.

But, if I continue with the meditation practice (mostly sitting meditation, with some body scanning & walking meditation & yoga as well), this book might end up being life changing for me.

And I just love the title, and the reason for it is fully explained in the book.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books375 followers
November 25, 2020
The concept of mindfulness has been oversold. I took a course on it at Stanford, with this book as the supporting text, and it was pretty bogus. Some of the folks in the group were mentally ill and needed professional therapy
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,856 followers
March 23, 2018
On the core areas of meditation, yoga and mindfulness focused laying the foundation stone of a new form of therapy

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

An understandable guide to an intensive, 8-week program to treat a variety of mental, psychosomatic and physical ailments can be found in this work. The "mindful-based stress reduction" program allies traditional relaxation techniques, yoga exercises, walking meditation, mindfulness and modern psychotherapy, opening up entirely new treatment options and perspectives.
For example, to reduce anxiety, stress, insecurity, depression, and self-doubt, as well as strengthening the immune system and general health-promoting effects. For old and timeless correct is the motto: Mens sana in corpore sano.
Moreover, apart from the wisdom written in dead languages, this work also contains instructions for practical implementation. Too many Buddhist or philosophical subchapters are sought in vain. Zinn focuses consistently on his exercise program, the exact description of various meditation techniques and practical advice for the success of initial difficulties and setbacks.
It provides guidance on how to proceed after completing the exercise program and a helpful list of deceptive factors that may potentially contribute to the discontinuation of regular practice. Also, you enter directly without much introduction to the practice and increase at a perfectly balanced pace up to the more complex tasks. That is the beginning to experience the rapidly growing, positive effect of regular exercise first hand. This mobilizes additional motivation and willingness to make the wholly demanding training program through to the end.
Where the regular references of the author to his meditation CDs are no coincidence. In addition to business ambition, he is also right that the success can be better adjusted with the help of spoken, guided meditation introductions. In this respect, the CDs are ideal as a supplement, since they build on the same concept and you keep with "Healthy through meditation"detailed written instructions and the CD with a practical implementation help in your hands. The same applies to Jack Kornfield's "The wise heart," which is supplemented by the book-CD combination "Meditation for Beginners." Of course, even free audio tutorials or CDs have the same effect, but the benefit of voting and supplementing the book and CD is then partially lost.
However, the consequence must be present in a purely visual as well as acoustically supported implementation. You should carefully examine your diary in advance, as at least 45 minutes per day are not a cardboard style.
Also, after an avoidable, with frustration and listlessness associated break it is all the more difficult to retire back to his, in the best case lovingly decorated, meditation corner. Through illustrations, some exercises are also graphically explained and the improvement of pain symptoms, blood pressure, stress response cycles and night sleep is guaranteed by regular practice. Jon Kabat-Zinn's, just like Jack Kornfield's, influence cannot be over-estimated.
One confidently refer to them as the founding fathers of a new form of psychotherapy that dispenses with medical treatment, and that does not require years of expensive psychiatric treatment or even hospitalization. To provide the people with the self-taught tools to enable them, after careful assistance in the first steps, to find their way into a practice that is ever more self-determined, free and less grief-stricken. They can experience their initiative and self-critical and aware observation as if they were newborn.

Auf die Kernbereiche Meditation, Yoga und Achtsamkeit fokussierte Grundsteinlegung einer Therapieform

Eine verständliche Anleitung für ein intensives, 8-wöchiges Programm zur Behandlung verschiedenster psychischer, psychosomatischer und auch körperlicher Leiden findet man in diesem Werk. Das „mindfull-based stress reduction“ Programm schmiedet eine Allianz zwischen überlieferten Entspannungstechniken, Yogaübungen, Gehmeditation, Achtsamkeit und moderner Psychotherapie und eröffnet damit ganz neuer Behandlungsmöglichkeiten und Perspektiven. Etwa zur Reduktion von Angst, Stress, Unsicherheiten, Depressionen und Selbstzweifeln nebst einer Stärkung des Immunsystems und allgemeinen, gesundheitsfördernden Auswirkungen.
Denn altbewährt und zeitlos richtig lautet die Devise: Mens sana in corpore sano. Und abseits von in toten Sprachen verfassten Weisheiten hält man mit diesem Werk auch eine Anleitung zur praktischen Umsetzung in Händen.
Allzu viele buddhistische oder philosophische Unterkapitel sucht man vergeblich. Zinn konzentriert sich konsequent auf sein Übungsprogramm, die genaue Beschreibung verschiedenster Meditationstechniken und praktische Ratschläge für das gute Gelingen bei Anfangsschwierigkeiten und Rückschlägen. Er gibt eine Anleitung zur weiteren Vorgehensweise nach Beendigung des Übungsprogramms und eine hilfreiche Auflistung trügerischer und zum Abbruch der regelmäßigen Praxis potentiell beitragender Faktoren.
Auch steigt man direkt ohne große Einleitung in die Praxis ein und steigert sich im perfekt ausbalancierten Tempo bis zu den komplexeren Aufgabenstellungen hin. Dadurch beginnt man von Anfang an den sich rasch steigernden, positiven Effekt regelmäßiger Praxis am eigenen Leib zu erfahren. Man mobilisiert dadurch zusätzliche Motivation und Bereitschaft, das doch recht anspruchsvolle Trainingsprogramm bis zum Ende konsequent durch zu machen.
Wobei die regelmäßigen Hinweise des Autors auf seine Meditations CDs nicht von ungefähr kommen. Er hat, neben geschäftlichem Ehrgeiz, auch recht damit, dass sich der Erfolg mit Unterstützung durch gesprochene, geführte Meditationseinleitungen noch besser einstellen kann. Insofern sind die CDs als Ergänzung ideal, da sie auf demselben Konzept aufbauen und man mit „Gesund durch Meditation“ eine ausführliche schriftliche Anleitung und mit der CD eine praktische Umsetzungshilfe in Händen hält. Ähnliches gilt auch für Jack Kornfields „Das weise Herz“ zu dem sich als Ergänzung die Buch-CD-Kombination „Meditation für Anfänger“ anbietet. Natürlich haben auch kostenlose Audio-Anleitungen oder CDs denselben Effekt, aber der Vorteil der Abgestimmtheit und Ergänzung von Buch und CD geht dann teilweise verloren.
Die Konsequenz muss aber sowohl bei rein visueller als auch bei akustisch unterstützter Umsetzung vorhanden sein. Man sollte seinen Terminkalender vorab genau sondieren, da mindesten 45 Minuten pro Tag doch kein Pappenstil sind. Und es nach einem vermeidbaren, mit Frustration und Lustlosigkeit verbundenen Abbruch umso schwerer fällt, sich wieder in seine, im besten Fall liebevoll dekorierte, Meditationsecke zurückzuziehen.
Anhand von Illustrationen werden einige Übungen zusätzlich grafisch erklärt und die Verbesserung von Schmerzsymptomatik, Blutdruck, Stressreaktionszyklen und Nachtschlaf durch regelmäßige Praxis veranschaulicht.
Der Einfluss Jon Kabat-Zinns kann gleich wie der Jack Kornfields gar nicht hoch genug geschätzt werden. Kann man sie doch getrost als Gründerväter einer neuen, auf medikamentöse Behandlung verzichtenden, ohne jahrelange, teure psychiatrische Behandlung oder gar stationäre Einweisung in eine Klinik auskommende Form der Psychotherapie bezeichnen. Den Menschen die autodidaktischen Werkzeuge in die Hände zu legen, um ihnen nach behutsamen Hilfestellungen bei den ersten Schritten den Weg in eine mit der Praxis ständig selbstbestimmtere, freiere und weniger gramgeplagte Existenz zu ermöglichen. Die sie eigeninitiativ, selbstkritisch und offen neu erleben können.
Profile Image for Bloodorange.
720 reviews196 followers
February 19, 2019
I was intimidated by the bulk of this book, but unnecessarily so. Some reviewers say it's repetitive - I agree but I think the point of the book is to read it and then refer to parts that apply to your specific situation, without having to brush up on basics covered elsewhere.

The book is divided into five parts:
* Part I deals with mindfulness techniques - I really appreciate the fact that it gives detailed pointers on how to raise your meditation practice from satisfactory to deep
* Part II deals with sickness and health, and (most directly of all the parts) with how mindfulness affects the quality of life (this is the part I probably won't return to)
* Part III covers different types of stress and its effects (ditto)
* Part IV is the part I will definitely return to - it covers different types of stressors and best ways of responding to them
* Part V describes the mindfulness programme (and how to recreate it at home) and gives tips on how to continue with your practice after the eight weeks.

If you are interested in mindfulness practice, I would like to recommend two free, high quality resources:
* this app - https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile... - really simple and effective, and
* this website - https://palousemindfulness.com/
48 reviews4 followers
November 5, 2012
Health problems? Traditional medicine has let you down? Curious about meditation and it's benefits on your health? This book may be for you. It helped me in various ways and will continue to. It outlines and guides you through the 8 week stress reduction program that Kabat-Zinn teaches at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Case studies are included on people who suffer (sometimes horribly) from a wide range of health issues. Anything from just stress, to panic attacks, to heart disease...If you're going to go down this path it takes some effort. I recommend you do a bit of research before jumping right in if you want to participate in the program. If you're frustrated (and at your wits end, possibly suffering) from any health or life issue you might want to check out mindfulness or just other forms of mediation, or some forms of yoga. It's alternative medicine at its best from a book. Takes a bit of effort on your part though.
Profile Image for Carol Peacock.
Author 9 books19 followers
April 3, 2017
I am a huge proponent of mindfulness, but felt this book needed a strong editor. I found many parts of it highly repetitive.
Profile Image for Bri.
5 reviews6 followers
December 27, 2017
My therapist recommended this book to me and it was SO SO SO helpful.
Profile Image for Mercedes Fernández Varea.
254 reviews72 followers
June 28, 2022
Reseña al dictado y en 5 minutos

He leído muy atentamente y después releído las casi 750 páginas de este libro en su versión actualizada. Los audios que se combinan para la práctica se pueden encontrar todos en Youtube aunque yo he preferido comprarnos en audible.

No me extenderé en la reseña porque, como indica el autor, mejor dedícate a ponerte en marcha que a convencer a nadie.

Indicaré simplemente lo que no me ha gustado nada del libro: el título.

Seguramente el libro, aunque hoy es una referencia, habría vendido menos si el título focalizara en lo que es: programa de mínimo 8 semanas, y para implementar el resto de tu vida, creado dentro de un contexto hospitalario, para mejor gestión del estrés o dolor crónico o lo que sea.., partiendo de la premisa de que no se ofrece curación de nada sino un complemento a la terapia médica convencional.

El grandísimo hospital y de referencia en España al lado del cual vivo presentó hace poco un programa pionero en el que se referencia esta obra y fundamentado en su estructura. Con las listas de espera... pensé que me tocaría cuando fuera cadáver.

Sirve??? No contesto porque ni siquiera lo sé. Me voy a seguir contemplando el parque en que estoy ahora, eso sí a la sombra, y escuchar la fuente.
Profile Image for Aubree Deimler.
Author 3 books48 followers
August 2, 2016
This was a long 600 page journey filled with such wisdom. Jon Kabat-Zinn's words are divine. He beautifully describes the magic of mindful living and how this greatly benefits those living with chronic illness, pain and stress.

He goes into great detail about the mindfulness stress reduction program and includes many stories of success from past participants. I've noticed big shifts in my own life since I started reading this one. I highly recommend this to anyone dealing with chronic pain and/or illness.
Profile Image for Arimo.
96 reviews
April 4, 2017
Great content, less impressive presentation

Jon Kabat Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living is one of the most recommended mindfulness books out there. It's easy to see why. Besides an excellent 8-week mindfulness program, the book offers thorough guidance for all fields of life. There's a lot of information stored within the covers.

The 8-week mindfulness program is easily worth 4 stars or more, but the presentation drops my rating. First of all, Jon Kabat-Zinn is not a very engaging writer. He leaves no stone unturned, but reading the chapters can be very cumbersome. In a way, reading the book should be done like a mindfulness exercise: Just focus on the current page and don't crave to finish the book any time soon, because it won't happen. In the end, it took me 3 months to read the book.

Full Catastrophe Living is centered around an 8-week stress reduction program. The program is very good, but its presentation could be much better. For example, Kabat-Zinn sometimes gives contradictory assignments, so you have to choose for yourself which version to follow. Some of the yoga pictures differ from the audio files (you need to buy an app for these) and some descriptions (Day of Mindfulness) are too vague to follow.

Finding all the instructions isn't too easy, either. Frustratingly, a short summary of the program was hidden in one of the final chapters of the book – a chapter that you'll only read after the program is finished!

Despite the challenges, I'm very glad I read the book. Following Jon Kabat-Zinn's instructions can be truly beneficial, and Full Catastrophe Living is a very good crash course on mindfulness, yoga and meditation.
Profile Image for JDK1962.
1,255 reviews20 followers
May 29, 2014
It took me a long time to get through this book. Not because I disagree with any of it (I don't), but because this book, IMHO, desperately needed an editor, or at least a more assertive editor than it had. The material is excellent, but probably could have been presented in half the number of pages. The organization seemed poor, and consequently, there were many times where I felt like I was being told something I had already been told...and had not just been told twice or three times, but ten times. And pages to make a point where a paragraph would do. So it was a bit tedious to read cover to cover, but the organization doesn't really support just dipping in and covering specific chapters.

I also found it a little odd to be told (over and over) to practice meditation without any goals, then be regaled with lots of tales of people experiencing great outcomes, followed by warnings that we shouldn't expect anything ourselves, but that *probably* we'll experience results within the beginning eight weeks, but we must always practice without goals. The simultaneous and continual "selling" of the practice using results, while telling us not to focus on or expect results was causing me some cognitive dissonance.

All that being said, I'm trying to do the MBSR program, I've got the CDs, and I think the world of Jon Kabat-Zinn. I just wish the book had been less frustrating.
Profile Image for Tash.
38 reviews
January 24, 2020
Four weeks after starting MBSR, I broke multiple bones and had a compound fracture while rock climbing. It took two hours for a helicopter to pick me up and during that whole time, I was cool and collected while I focused on my breath and the sensations across my whole body.

MBSR helped me through three surgeries and six months of not being able to walk unassisted. It gave me a framework on how to think about pain, emotions and what it means to be able-bodied.

I've been practicing and learning about meditation for a decade or so but things didn't really stick in the long term, or make such a big difference until this book and the audio meditations.

While I'm still in recovery, the doctors are amazed at my healing and attitude.

This book is big, so take your time and dip in and out. I originally picked it up because I suffer from migraines, but I could never predict how relevant and timely it was and how much it has changed me for the better.
Profile Image for Gregory K..
57 reviews3 followers
May 9, 2017
The title of this book is a little bit misleading. When you see the word "Catastrophe" you might think that this is a book that will help you in a crisis. In reality though this book is more about gently changing your perspective so you are better able to handle future problems. And even these goals are also loose and unfocused (as the rambling subtitle might suggest), so it may be best to tackle this book when you have lots of time and emotional energy to spend on a reading project. You will need that time and that energy to wade through all the opinions and reflections of the author.

As a mental health counselor the best part of this book for me is how it discusses the therapeutic benefit of mindfulness. The first part of the book is specifically about the process of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and can be useful for any therapist looking to learn more about how mindfulness works in practice and how it might help people who are struggling. What you will find are many of the same ideas and practices found in other mindfulness based therapies, such as mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT), but from the unique perspective of this author.

Beyond that initial benefit though this book suffers from two big problems. First, this book felt somewhat dated to me. Many of the ideas that the author is excited about have been thoroughly explored by other researchers, therapists, mindfulness practitioners, and thinkers in the decades since this book was first published. It may be more fruitful to go and read those more recent and more focused books written by those specialists rather than reading about all those ideas in a more general way in this book. To put it another way, this book lacks the sort of timelessness that the title suggests it has. This book is less about wisdom and more about the author's opinions about research conducted (in some cases) many decades ago.

The second problem of this book is that it loses its focus. While the author is talking about MBSR the text is informative, structured, and purposed. But the second half of the book seems to be a string of loosely related reflections, tied together like the posts on a blog only because they are written by the same person and (in a general way) have something to do with mindfulness, stress, pain, and illness. I do not say this to denigrate the author's opinions and insight. He certainly has some useful things to say. It just is not connected to the main purpose of this book in an overt sense. That lack of focus makes it much harder for readers to take real and purposed steps towards change.

Overall I still believe this book is worth reading. But if you are interested specifically in MBSR it may be best to put the book down after that part of the book is over. Otherwise you may find yourself dropping deeper and deeper into a mine the author has set up of his own ideas. Some of what you uncover might be useful, but much of the time you will just be flipping through pages hoping that the author will eventually get to the point and be done with it.
84 reviews
September 26, 2012
Amazing book! I've read several books on mindfulness and meditation over the years, but none of them were actually practical. This book explains clearly not only the reasons why you should train yourself to practice mindfulness but also how to do it. It lays out Kabat-Zinn's 8-wk meditation immersion from his stress reduction clinic associated with UMass medical center, where physicians send their patients with the most difficult chronic medical conditions for relief that can't be had with medication alone. If you can't practically travel to his center weekly for 8 weeks, you can certainly follow along with his instructions in this book. It's really quite amazing. I wish this book had been given to me as a tool when I was in medical school. I have personally benefited from following this program through the depths of my own illness, and I hope one day to get well enough to lead many patients to this amazing tool.
Profile Image for Rachelle.
268 reviews15 followers
February 24, 2022
When I started this book, I didn’t know what to expect. In many ways, the path it took me on is worth way more than five stars, but since the book itself is unnecessarily long, I have to take a star off.
The writing is lovely, much of the information is useful, but it is repetitive.
I tried the MBSR program described using the author’s JKZ app, and it is wonderful. Life-changing, really. I hope to continue practicing for years to come.
Profile Image for Laura.
677 reviews144 followers
April 17, 2022
Sped read through this after a while. The basic info & concepts are good, but the author took way too many pages to articulate them. This was not a first addition. It would be much more likely to help people if edited better, removing so much repetition.
Profile Image for antonella litta.
44 reviews10 followers
April 25, 2020
Ho riletto questo libro dopo sei anni, nella sua edizione di Corbaccio aggiornata e ampliata del 2016. Per me è il grande classico sulla mindfulness, il libro da cui cominciare (e ricominciare) per avviare la pratica della mindfulness.
Profile Image for Julia Li.
183 reviews33 followers
September 12, 2020
Insightful & a great starting point for beginners looking into mindfulness and meditative strategies!
Profile Image for Armin.
48 reviews2 followers
June 14, 2014
I am a big fan of meditation and mindfulness, and was actually very much looking forward to this book. Unfortunately it is too verbose and repetitive to be helpful or even enjoyable. I had to stop reading it after 50% because I could not see any structure nor understand what Kabat-Zinn was going after in chaotic and seemingly endless paragraphs on the importance of self-awareness and the present moment. Too much pseudo-philosophical blabla and too little focus on what is important in practice. Having read one or two other books on the topic before, I could not find anything new here, and I doubt that this book will be helpful as a guide for a beginner in meditation.
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