This week, I was lucky enough to be invited to preview "The Easy Way to Mindfulness" by Allen Carr. As fans of Allen Carr will know, he sadly passed away in 2006. A "stop-smoking" guru, his Easyway method has helped millions of smokers to quit. This book is written in his voice by John Dicey, Senior Therapist, using the same Easyway method. Moving beyond the addictions for which Carr was so famous for tackling (including gambling, alcohol, and spending) this book focuses on sharing "the proven principles of mindfulness with a wider audience in simple accessible terms." It aims to help the reader find happiness, and to free them from the anxiety, depression and other man-made conditions that are sometimes prevalent in modern society.
As a complete novice to the principles of mindfulness, I have to admit that I was a little bit sceptical. My only previous experience of mindfulness was in high school, trying not to giggle with my friends when our teacher led such exercises in religious studies classes. However, the claims of the book are desirable and I was interested to learn more.
The book contains lots of useful information for the beginner - such as the origins of mindfulness and how it can be applied to modern life. In parts, it does seem to focus on repetition, as a way of reinforcing the ideas in the mind of the reader. Personally, I liked this....I'm one of those people that sometimes has to read things a few times before they sink in. However, if you have more knowledge of mindfulness then this format might be less attractive to you.
So, what did I like? These are just a couple of sections that resonated with me and I hope it gives you a glimpse into some of the ideas that the author explores.
Develop an open mind - distance yourself from "mind pollution". The author talks about the difference between the pure mind we're all born with and the constant distractions and even brainwashing that we encounter in modern society. He writes, "advertising fills your head with false ideas about what is attractive, successful, happy, healthy, popular, respectable, etc., and then offers to sell you the solution." The book talks about counteracting this "mind pollution" by adopting a mindful approach - by taking time out to pause and reconnect with our senses and genuine needs. It talks about the wondrous machine that is the human body and mind...and that by listening to - and reconnecting with - our natural instincts, we can lessen the anxiety and stress heaped upon us by modern day living.
The analogy of a box of flies - the author compares the stresses of modern life (work, relationships, money, time, etc) to a swarm of flies that buzz around your head like flies in a box. He writes that we can try to combat these flies in different futile ways - lashing out, ignoring them or trying to tackle them with rational thought (almost impossible when your head is mired up with so many issues buzzing around). He suggests, instead, adopting a fourth way - mindfulness; simply observing them and then letting them go. He asserts that by constantly worrying about things that have happened in the past (regret), or things that "might" happen in the future (anxieties) we're separating ourselves from the present, and missing out on the here and now. By being more mindful, we can separate ourselves from these problems (several of which it's likely we can do nothing about/or won't happen anyway) and appreciate what's going on in the present. The sunshine on a cold morning, the birds that wake you up at dawn, a cuddle from your child as you drop them off at the school gates.
Tips for being more mindful, today. The book contains mindful exercises, as well as suggestions, to help readers become more mindful in their daily lives. Some examples include -
- Mindful walking - taking the time to notice the feel of the ground underneath your feet, the aromas in the air and the people and places that you come into contact with.
- Tuning into reality and mindfulness whilst completing regular activities such as chores.
- Focus on being instead of "doing". When you have a few spare moments, practise mindfulness techniques instead of surfing the net or reading the paper.
I hope you found the review useful and I'd love to hear what you think in the comment section. I wonder if mindfulness is something that you already practise or whether this is something that you believe could help you, too? Or perhaps you have some books you could recommend.
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