Jon Kabat-Zinn is a member of our Living Spiritual Teachers Project. He often leads workshops on stress reduction and mindfulness for doctors and other healthcare professionals. Some of the content of this book began as an audio CD released by the same publisher in 2010.
Kabat-Zinn wants to change how you see your pain and suffering. He writes specifically for people whose lives are “shaped by pain in one way of another,” adding, “it is possible to learn to live with pain that does not easily diminish or go away.”
Chapter 1 is titled, “Learning to Live with Pain,” and he applies mindfulness teaching to this aspect of life by encouraging people to “tune in” to personal pain and suffering, rather than attempt to “tune out.”
“Mindfulness is opening to and befriending our experience…. We attend. We befriend. We put out the welcome mat,” we read in chapter 4, which is called “Seven Principles for Working with Pain.”
The book is designed with beautiful watercolor paintings and photographs, sometimes filling the page, adding to and enhancing the tone and feeling of the teachings brought forward by Kabat-Zinn’s words.
Most importantly, he wants readers — fellow pain sufferers and fellow mindfulness practitioners — to see how bringing awareness to thoughts and emotions about pain may, over time, effectively reduce suffering. But most importantly, being present in the moment, aware of how we feel with careful attention (no escaping or “tuning out”), happens through mindfulness that does not desire a change of circumstances or wish that the troubles would go away.
Kabat-Zinn wants readers to learn to “simply rest in awareness itself,” because if they can do that, they will discover not how to eliminate pain from their lives — because life is in many ways defined by pain — but how to “dwell in the spaciousness of your own heart.”