Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I gave this one the old college try, but it’s just not working for me. I actually think it’s a fine book with some really insightful gems, like the excellent and succinct description of Buddhism in the “Dharma” chapter and this passage about individual experience:

“Since awareness at first blush seems to be a subjective experience, it is hard for us not to think that we are the subject, the thinker, the feeler, the seer, the doer and as such, the very center of the universe, the very center of the field of our awareness. Perceiving thus, we take everything in the universe, or at least our universe, quite personally.” (169)

That passage in particular has caused a small but significant shift in how I look at the world.

The trouble is that Kabat-Zinn uses an awful lot of words. There’s a lot to read between the gems, and I find myself getting…bored. Perhaps part of this is because I’ve already read Full Catastrophe Living, and I’ve not found much that’s particularly new in Coming to Our Senses. Or it could just be that I’m not in a nonfiction mood or that I really just want to “do” mindfulness rather than read about it right now. Whatever it is, I’m going to read the section on “Healing the Body Politic,” and maybe jump here and there, but when I go to the library day after tomorrow, I’m going to be taking this one back, no matter how much I’ve left unread.

Other reviewers (on Goodreads) recommend reading this book as a series of essays. I can see how taking it in smaller chunks might work; I just didn’t want to give it quite that much time.

For a more condensed look at mindfulness, I would actually recommend The Mindful Way Through Depression (co-written by Kabat-Zinn, Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal). It’s intended for those suffering from chronic or recurrent depression, but I think anyone could benefit from the insights and techniques in the book.

The crappiest part of not finishing this book is that it’s the first I’ve tried to read from my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list. Well, I guess this just means I’ll have to read one of my alternates. I’ve got some great alternates, so I’m okay with that.

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