Thursday, April 5, 2018

Books Reviewed - Practicing Mindfulness -

The last big writing assignment my 2010 writing students have is to write a Rhetorical Think Piece using three resources from the sources they used for their research paper.

It is always my goal to have written what I assign, and yet I haven't written to this particular assignment. So, I write. And I chose to use three sources that I am reading right now as I learn more about a topic I love: Mindfulness.

Below is my review of three books regarding Mindfulness - for my students and for my blog readers. Enjoy.

Ronda Walker Weaver
April 4, 2018
English 2010
Rhetorical Think Piece – Mindfulness; Benefits and Practices
          I have been studying Mindfulness for the past six years. I injured my back six years ago. I could not get into a doctor for three months, so I had to find some way of staying in the moment and keeping my pain at bay. Then, five and a half years ago I found a tumor in my left breast. It was cancerous. I went through eight months of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. During this time my mind and body were restless and in pain. I needed the practices Mindfulness offers to control my pain and to keep myself in the moment rather than worrying about tomorrow.
          There are three publications that helped me as I wrote my research paper, “Practicing Mindfulness.” These pieces are Breathe: The Well-Being Special; Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, and 101 Mindful Ways to Build Resilience: Cultivate Calm, Clarity, Optimism and Happiness Each Day.
Jonathan Grogan, editor. Breathe: The Well-Being Special. Times Inc. Books, 2017.
                Breathe: The Well-Being Special, is printed in magazine form, with numerous topics regarding practicing Mindfulness. There are several articles, or chapters in this publication, with numerous authors and specialists in the area of Mindfulness contributing their wisdom. The book is broken down into four areas: Mindfulness, Wellness, Kindness, and Inspiration.
                With these four chapters, the publisher takes the reader from the actual practices of Mindfulness to the benefits of Mindfulness.
                I appreciated the essay, “Let Go,” where the author writes about identifying feelings that are of no benefit and giving the reader the permission and tools to let go of these emotions (16).
                A second article, “Yoga: find your balance,” is a good beginner’s guide to Yoga. This article discusses how to find the right type of yoga for anyone interested in practicing.
                Interestingly, kindness, plays a powerful role in practicing Mindfulness, as the article on “Letter Writing” explains.
                Lastly, in the “Inspiration” section, topics include taking a bath, benefits of essential oils, a good night’s sleep, and having hope.
Point of View
                This book is very upbeat and very simple. The articles are clearly presented and written for a general audience. There are “cutesy” drawings, pictures, fonts, and sidebars, which made me believe, along with the article topics, that this was written for a female audience.
                My counter-argument would be that the articles are very short quick reads, with nothing too deep or intense. There were topics where I wished there would have been more information, or at least some resources made available. This book appears to be a “one-stop shopping” publication, where this probably should be a primer with resources if the reader wants to go deeper into any of the topics presented.
                The book is cleanly and clearly presented. All of the articles are positive and very life-affirming. This book, like a magazine, does not need to be read in any order, as the articles do not build on each other. It does have a Nordic feel to it – from the drawing on the cover to the feel of the paper to the simple drawings inside. There is a Scandinavian term that is quite popular these days, “hygge,” and this publication lends itself to the idea of cozy, simple, and encouraging.
                The value is the set-up of the book as well as the readability. It offers a great overview of what breathing and well-being really are.
Mark Williams, and Danny Penman. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale Books, 2012.
This book is a basic guide to understanding Mindfulness, and it offers simple forms of Mindfulness that anyone can practice.
Point of View
                Mindfulness Guru, John Kabat-Zinn wrote a foreword for this book. And, if he endorses its publication, it must be of value. This writing is not just “fluff,” but a “how to” manual for application of the material that is taught. This book is a challenge – not only reading the material as well as choosing to take on, and commit to, the eight-week plan that is created in the book.
                While practical and even wise, this book’s “change your life in eight weeks” premise can be daunting. I am even a little concerned about committing to this challenge; what if I cannot do the eight weeks? Will I be a failure? I think shortening the challenge would make the entire book a little friendlier.
                Jon Kabat-Zinn sets the tone for the entire book. He offers, “This is an inspiring program for anyone caring about his or her own health and sanity.” With that aspiration, the reader sees not only a challenge, but a confirmation that the work entailed will be worthwhile.
                If the reader is a skeptic, this book probably is not of much value; but then, why would someone be reading this if they were not interested in Mindfulness? The value in this book is not only the explanation of the forms of Mindfulness, but also the ways to put this into practice – whether it be formal meditation or informal focus.
Donald Altman. 101 Mindful Ways to Build Resilience: Cultivate Calm, Clarity, Optimism and Happiness Each Day. PESI Publishing, 2016.
Altman’s guide to Mindfulness is a “how to” manual for bouncing back from stressful moments using simple sixty second exercises, that are mostly applicable in any situation, any place. It is divided into four sections: Calm, Clarity, Optimism, and Happiness.
Point of View
                This book is presented as a toolbox of sorts with the table of contents showing exactly what tool is needed in any stressful or anxiety producing situation the reader is in. It is accessible, simple, and very reader friendly.
                The author makes the presumption that all of the readers will have been in situations where stress can happen and then downtime can quickly proceed. He also presumes that his readers are resilient and able to bounce back from challenges.
                The tone is chatty while also teaching. Altman gives step-by-step instructions for each mindful moment. For example, under “Daily Intention Setting,” he teaches the reader should make a conscious effort to set positive intentions for the day, every morning, “It helps you show up in a way that makes even your smaller actions count. A guiding intention invites a sense of order and calm into your day – and life.” He then proceeds to give four “How-to” points for putting this into action. This clearly defined and leaves the reader with no excuse for not being able to act on these intentions (11).
                Easy, simple, quick, without taking more than a minute, these applications are doable to even a novice at practicing Mindfulness. This practical guide does what it promises, if the reader gives the actions just a try.
My ability to practice Mindfulness supported my experiences with my back, my cancer treatment, and my desire to find a place in my mind and my day to calm down. Even today, when life gets stressful, my anxiety gets high, and I cannot sleep at nights, I have the resources and knowledge to practice Mindfulness, whether that be a fifteen-minute meditation, some deep stretching or yoga for a bit (even at work), or taking the time to close my eyes, picture a sunny day at the lake, and “ommm” for a few minutes as the plane takes off, or lands, on my way to England this next week.

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