Reviewed by E.B. Heath
Long ago, BI (Before Internet), meditation in the Western World was the domain of the bare-footed, kaftan brigade. The counter culture, amid much eye rolling, proclaimed the potency of a meditative life. Now, armed with hard evidence, medical science can verify that they indeed were right. Dr. Patrizia Collard’s The Mindfulness Bible comprehensively introduces the reader to the history, science and practice of meditation and mindfulness. Readers will be in no doubt that the benefits are far reaching, and within reach of everyone.
Meditation is an umbrella term that encompasses the practice of reaching full consciousness; mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on being in the present. The Mindfulness Bible introduces a variety of exercises. Presented in two parts: Part 1: ‘The origin and uses of mindfulness, including recent research’ – this section should convince the cynical of its validity. Part 2: ‘Mindfulness in practice’, is firstly, an assortment of creative ways of practising mindfulness and meditation, followed by an eight-session course for overcoming destructive emotions, and, finally, mindfulness in all walks of life, a how-to live naturally in the moment. Each section is colour coded which really aids ease of use. (There is a printing glitch on page 206, point number five, ‘through’ misrepresented as ‘throughn’.)
As the starting point, Dr. Collard takes the reader to Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Sufi and yogic philosophies, for a brief account of the origins of meditation. Then introduces -the men who brought these practices to the Western World – Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, based in France during the Vietnam War, translating The Miracle of Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the first to launch mindfulness into a secular setting adapting its use for stress-reduction. His clinic at Massachusetts University Hospital was an outstanding success and other therapeutic schools followed, which Dr. Collard details.
‘The awakening mind: the science of mindfulness’ is an informative explanation of recent research made possible by fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). It names and explains: brain structure, the function of its different areas, how it operates, including neurons, chemical neurotransmitters, and hormones. This section also gives hard evidence on the effects of meditation on the brain. An amazing discovery that the most primitive part of the brain, the amygdala, the part that controls emotions, triggering anxiety, violence, fearful or aggressive behaviour, actually shrinks when meditation is practised, resulting in a happier individual. Meditation also increases cortical thickness aiding memory, (useful for the ageing brain) and improves immune responses.
Dr. Collard gives an account of the various therapies providing good outcomes, in the section: ‘MBCT: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy’. MBCT is used in schools, mental health, physical health, relationship therapy, stress, and addiction. Actual case studies are included, so, by the end of Part 1, the reader is well informed on the potential and power of meditation and mindfulness.
Part 2: ‘Mindfulness in practice’, clearly guides the reader towards successful practice. ‘The essential meditations’, includes: a variety of focal points to keep the routines interesting, walking meditation, a few basic yoga postures, mindfulness movement exercises, how to target depression and anxiety. Research has shown that if time is taken to daily implement these meditations good results will follow.
Dr. Collard then presents – ‘Eight-session mindfulness course to overcome destructive emotions’; this course is often taught in a group, or, on a one to one basis. The inclusion of this course into the book provides a valuable opportunity to self-heal conveniently, and without extra cost. The last section – ‘Mindfulness for all walks of life’ teaches how to incorporate, into daily life, the art of living in the moment.
The Mindfulness Bible is a little book of amazing importance. Mindfulness is being recognized in high places as a valuable resource for modern living; England has an ‘all-party parliamentary mindfulness group’, led by MP Chris Ruane, with the aim of introducing mindfulness into schools, the National Health System and workplaces. I do hope Australia catches-on to this revolution of the mind.
The Mindfulness Bible
By Dr. Patrizia Collard
ISBN – 978-1-84181-452-0
Paperback – $28.75