Mindfulness is trending. It’s been on the forefront of conversations in terms of Western therapeutic methodologies since Jon Kabat Zinn integrated it into his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) in the early 1980s. Today, mindfulness practices are at the heart of many psychotherapeutic approaches such as: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT); acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT); dialectical behavior therapy (DBT); mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP); mindfulness-based trauma therapy (MBTT); and mindfulness-based eating awareness training (MB-EAT).
The word itself, however, is often confused. Its meaning subjectively associated with who or what entity is promoting its use. There’s clearly a difference between Eastern approaches to meditation and mindfulness and the current Western emphasis.
With the proliferation of modalities integrating components of meditation and mindfulness practice, this book is a welcome addition to Hogrefe’s Advances in Psychotherapy: Evidence Based Practice Series—noted as Volume 37. Per the series requirements, this book is designed to be a compact “how to” reference for “a particular disorder”, for use by professional clinicians in their daily work and as an ideal educational resource. According to the publisher the most important feature is that the books in this series are practical and easy to use. All are structured in the same vein including: tables, boxed clinical “pearls’, marginal notes and summary boxes to assist orientation as well as the use of checklists to provide tools for daily use.
Mindfulness, while not focusing on “a particular disorder”, does indeed fit the required series format: it is compact, easy to use, organized, succinct, detailed, and informative without being overdone. The authors note that the “theories, understandings and practices reviewed in this book are rooted in a rich and ancient tradition” (Preface). Their aim was to offer a “brief and simplified introduction to contemporary applications in ‘mindfulness’ as delivered within secularized mindfulness-based interventions” (Preface). Their work targets the roots and practices of mindfulness. It is not meant to be all encompassing, all inclusive; rather, it’s noted to be a starting place. There are seven chapters including: Description, Theories and Models, Assessments and Treatment Indications, Treatment, Further Reading, References and an Appendix with tools and resources.
I’ve read many, perhaps too many books on mindfulness, attended webinars, workshops, private groups, Buddhist retreats, mindfulness based stress reduction seminars, yoga sessions with mindfulness practice and so on. Yet, reading the description of mindfulness in the first few pages of this book felt refreshing. I felt a sense of synthesis, a sense of completion as if these authors gathered together all these dangling strands (so many different versions of a definition for one simple word), threaded them through the eye of one needle to then stitch their text together.
The authors distinguish between the noun—mindfulness—and its adverbial construction as in mindfulness practice. Mindfulness, they say, is seeing with discernment while mindfulness practice is a form of mental training that enhances one’s ability to nonjudgmentally attend to the present moment—a type of consciousness. It cultivates an awareness of one’s own experiences without attachment or investment in what or how particular experiences occur. They cite Jon Kabat Zinn’s definition of mindfulness and its use in MBSR: “The awareness that emerges by way of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding experience, moment by moment” (pg. 1).