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Book review - Health & Living - Slowing down to taste the raisin

Have you ever properly looked at and tasted a raisin? Most people would answer no – we tend to live much of our hurried lives on autopilot and have little time for raisin, or indeed navel-gazing.The ‘living in the moment’ concept of mindfulness is increasingly being used as a practical way to improve our mental health.

Mindfulness, according to this recently published guide, stems from the fact that for most of us, our everyday experience is not very mindful. We tend to sleepwalk through much of our rushed daily lives, and when we do stop to think we get caught up in a storm of sometimes pointless ‘what-ifs?’ about the past and future.

While recognising that life can be difficulty, mindfulness allows us to ‘live in the moment’ and ‘park’ as many negative thoughts we can in order to cope with everyday stresses and anxieties. By developing mindfulness, we can become more aware of the habits that make us unhappy or stressed and start to make new choices.

The practice of mindfulness is not a new health fad – it goes back thousands of years and is a key part of meditation practices associated with Buddhism. But mindfulness is not a religion. In recent years, it has developed into structured lay courses and has gained a foothold in mental healthcare. It is now used, for example, as a treatment for people with depression and can also be used in managing chronic pain.

Through the use of exercises involving ‘stepping into the freshness of the present moment’, mindfulness, the book tells us, can benefit anyone who wants to take time to deal better with everyday stresses:

“By developing mindfulness…we can become more present, more able to taste the richness of the world and all the little experiences that make up our lives.”

Exercises described in the book include breathing, and a ‘body scan’, which involves bringing our awareness slowly to different parts of the body. Like many books aimed at improving our lives, this guide is a little long and sometimes repetitious. Much of it could be summarised in half its length. Also, the explanations of what mindfulness actually is can be a little confusing. It should be noted too, that mindfulness is a little counter-intuitive and does require some concentration and application to practise properly. The book, however, recognises this.

This is an efficient guide for anyone who wants to stop and think about their life and try to become a little less stressed.

– Niall Hunter

Book review - Health & Living - Slowing down to taste the raisin
June 2013 Vol 21(5)
June 2013 Vol 21(5)
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