The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Book review: Mindfulness for busy people

As I lay in a hammock under a cloudless African sky it occurred to me I was (at least temporarily) not in quite the same life space as the authors of Mindfulness for busy people, turning frantic and frazzled into calm and composed, envisioned when they wrote their book.

Written in an upbeat and chatty tone, the book opens with some background explanations and dispels some myths: such as mindfulness is not meditation although meditation can be a route to mindfulness.  Mindfulness is ‘a way of being’ rather than something to attain, an ability to ‘live in the present’ with acceptance, compassion and open curiosity about yourself and the world around you.  With the world crashing around your head and deadlines looming on every corner that might seem impossible to attain.  The authors don’t agree.  The message is that mindfulness is easy to do but takes determination and effort to achieve; not that your life should be less busy or doing less, but that you can do what you do more effectively, with less damaging stress and more control over your emotions.  Along the way the authors, psychologists Dr Michael Sinclair and Josie Seydel, emphasise just how busy you are, how unmanageable your life is, how your busyness is causing you to fail in so many ways, as they work to convince you how much you need this book.

As with any self-help book there are plenty of little quizzes, tasks and mini meditations to help you get to grips with the concept.   Throughout these are short and simple.  The book is, after all, intended for people who feel they are to busy to read the book.  There’s no timetable: no one-a-day or one-a-week challenges to take you through a programme at a set pace.  Fast or slow, you can set your own timetable, work through it steadily or lurch through it in chunks: whatever works for you – you can take the book entirely at your own pace.  As a bonus the authors have recorded downloadable audio guides to go with many of the meditations.  There’s plenty of ‘supporting evidence’ as to why Mindfulness is for you but if you want you can even skip the reading and leap through the clearly marked exercises.  Many only take a minute or two and can be done in the middle of a meeting, sitting at traffic lights (not while driving), standing in a queue at the supermarket, in the shower or while taking a much needed coffee break in the staff restaurant.

If you work in any of the social care fields you’ve probably come across either the term mindfulness or it’s practice since it was adopted into modern psychology in the 1970’s.  If you want to know more about mindfulness this could be an easy to read starting point.  If your life, your work, is frantic and frazzled this could be a signpost to a calmer more productive future.

Mindfulness for busy people: turning frantic and frazzled into calm and composed by Dr Michael Sinclair and Josie Seydel (2013) paperback, published by Pearson, £12.99, ISBN 978-0273-78990-1

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