A book review by Karen Newbould
“The Little Book of Mindfulness.”
By Dr Patrizia Collard (2014) Octopus: London
“The Little Book of Mindfulness” is a secular book written by Dr Patrizia Collard who is an educator and author.
The book is intended to be a helpful tool for those wishing to practise mindfulness as an alternative form of therapy. Not only is mindfulness now recommended by the Department of Health it is also noted in the guidelines set down by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence). The practice of mindfulness is believed to not only reduce the stress experienced in life, but that it can prevent break downs or becoming ill if practised regularly. The book is a mix of explanation and a plethora of 5 and 10 minute exercises.
The book commences with an introduction to mindfulness, its benefits and how it all began. Mindfulness is all about focusing your mind on the here and now and using your senses to really experience whatever you are doing mindfully. There has been over 10 thousand research papers published on the subject and it is used in a number of different areas from parenting, mental health, schools and well-being therapies. “It is even used in treating the immune system, with some positive outcomes for patients with HIV, ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) and MS.
Before the book goes on to provide descriptions of the mindfulness exercises, it provides a few general tips for carrying them out. From getting one’s mind clear before starting to ensuring one’s posture is correct when engaging in the exercise, noting that you should never do anything that causes pain. You could always envisage the exercise in your mind instead of actually doing it!
The book is quite small making it easy to carry, it is compact and easy to read with lots of good snippets of advice, with twelve 5 minute exercises and twelve 10 minute exercises. Each chapter focuses on a different area one can exercise mindfulness in. Although this is not a Christian book, there are some parts of the book that a Christian may find helpful, for example, being thankful for nature, for life’s experiences and for our food. The advice is obviously not given for us to connect to God, but as Christians, being thankful to God for our provisions would be something we would expect to be.
The chapters are short with a mixture of helpful advice and exercises. Chapter 1 starts with “Being in the Now”, which is a good way to start the book as it is really what mindfulness is all about. Chapter 2 is about “Accept and Respond” helping us to recognise our feelings including anger which is dealt with through a mindfulness exercise. Chapter 3 is about “Making your mind up” and Chapter 4 is about “Simply Be.” Chapter 5 is about “Mindful eating” the exercise encourages us to really take our time seeing, touching, feeling, sensing the food and being mindful about every aspect of the process of eating and how it feels. It also encourages us to be thankful for the food we are eating and even suggests having a regular time to drink tea which could be dedicated to mindfulness. Chapter 6 is about thankfulness and it suggests writing all the things we are thankful for down. This simple task is believed to “lead to better health, less stress and a more optimistic outlook on life.” The book also suggests finding a peaceful spot where you can sit and write your list and meditate on all the things you are thankful for. Again, as a Christian, you may want to take this opportunity to thank God for everything on your list and this would then become a prayer, bringing us closer to God. Finally Chapter 7 is about “Everyday Mindfulness” stating that mindfulness is an attitude rather than a skill.
Like the previous book I reviewed (D is for Depression…), this book is extremely easy to read, and is also written in a style which is conversational. It is very brief and to the point and has a way of communicating empathy to the reader. The exercises are easy to find and can be done by the reader or can be explained simply to a friend in need or someone you are trying to help.
As the book is small the exercises are also easy to find again, although they are that simple, that if you find an exercise that you enjoy or that you feel benefits you, then I am certain you would only need to do it once or twice and then you would remember it for future use.
This book is a great non-Christian self-help book for those who are suffering with stress or anxiety as well as other conditions. That said, I believe Christians may also find it helpful in the sense that mindfulness is proven to work, and that I have no doubt it would bring Christians closer to God through many of the exercises.