Book Review: The Mindfulness Solution

This isn’t a quilt book, per se, but it did have an effect on at least one project. I hope you will find the review interesting and useful.

The Mindfulness SolutionThe Mindfulness Solution by Ronald Siegel

I first heard about this book on an episode of Creative Mojo with Mark Lipinski (). I was in the middle of reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton when this book came in from the Library. I didn’t want to rush through The Distant Hours so The Mindfulness Solution languished a bit while I enjoyed The Distant Hours. As luck would have it, before I got very far, the book was recalled to the Library! So many books, so little time!

Still, I found a few tidbits that I can think about, which I think will expand my horizons a little bit.

The first thing I noticed, in the preface, was the author’s ability to say something directly that did not make me think “who does he think he is telling me THAT?” In the preface Ronald Siegel writes “How can one practice possibly help with so many different problems? The answer is that they’re all made worse by the same natural tendency: in our effort to feel good, we try to avoid or escape discomfort, only to discover that this in fact multiplies our misery (pg.vii).” He goes on to promise that examples in the book will prove his point. In the recesses of my brain, I realized that I was avoiding finishing the back of the Zig Zaggy quilt, because I had done too much piecing on the back and it was a pain to finish the piecing. I got the piece out, finished piecing the back and now the quilt is ready to be quilted. I feel much better. This must seem like a lame example when there are so many people suffering in the world and I am sure a psychologist could find a zillion things wrong with me. Still, I like to start slowly on new things and not get too much embroiled in something unproven.

Siegel is also a good storyteller. He, obviously, knows that people will get something he is trying to tell them much better if he tells it in a story form. In the chapter called Life is Difficult (no beating around the bush for this guy!), in a section called Happiness is Possible-but optional, Mr. Siegel talks about brain evolution. In that section he suggests that enjoying life, according to nature’s priorities is optional and not a priority (pg.4). This hit me in the head. While I have always known that I am in charge of my own happiness, lately I have felt on the verge of chronically unhappy. When I read “Evolutionary forces don’t particularly care if whether we enjoy our life…” (pg.4)

Further in the Life is Difficult chapter, Ronald Siegel explains mindfulness in a way that makes sense to me. He says (pg.5) ‘Mindfulness is a particular attitude toward experience, or way of relating to life, that holds the promise of both alleviating our suffering and making our lives rich and meaningful.” This is a little bit of overpromising, if you ask me, but at this point I am willing to keep an open mind. For practices such as mindfulness, we do brush the edge of ‘woo-woo.

The section headings are amusing in this book. I found a gem that really made me think in the section entitled Our prognosis is terrible. The author recounts a conversation with a great Zen master who was asked (pg.6) ‘ “What is the most remarkable thing you’ve learned in all of your years of meditation and study?” He answered, “The most remarkable thing is that we’re all going to die but we live each day as though it weren’t so.” ‘ I hear and do listen to people who say to live each day as if it were you last. I try to do that, but don’t always remember. The Zen master’s comment is a little different way of saying the same thing, which will, perhaps stick in my head better.

Change is always a favorite of mine. I don’t like change, but who does? I chose a profession that has been in a constant state of flux since I joined it. I have to deal with change every day and I still don’t like it. Ronald Siegel writes about a book which states “…that most of what makes us unhappy involves difficulty dealing with the inevitability of change. (pg.8)” This bit is followed by a “Resistance to Change Inventory.” It asks you to categorize the most difficult changes, unwelcome changes and your emotional reaction to each change. I don’t know that I am self reflective enough to fill this out, but I am going to make note of the sections and try.

I am not going to get much farther in this book, right now, but as I implied, the above is a lot to think about.

View all my reviews, including non-quilt book reviews