Mindfulness became a household word a few years ago, and it seems that books on the topic just keep coming. Some books of a few years ago suggested a near-meditative state, if not meditation itself, as a means to greater mindfulness, but meditation takes work and concentration. As years passed, it seems the books have shifted to increasingly shorter methods of achieving mindfulness to accommodate people who are too busy to devote time to it, and this isn’t necessarily bad.
This book, Mindfulness on the Run, seems to be another step away from time-consuming meditation and hard work. It is written by Chantal Hofstee, a clinical psychologist from New Zealand. If one accepts a short definition of mindfulness as paying greater attention to the present in a more kind or less judgmental way, then perhaps the length of time one puts into mindfulness practice is of little consequence. This book is a good primer for those who are limited by time demands.
The book is logically laid out. Hofstee tells us her objectives are to provide insights into how our brains work; to identify the causes of our stress; and to teach us mindfulness techniques. She offers explanations and ideas that, if we follow them, may result in these objectives being met. Her examples often present two sides to a situation to help readers see how using mindfulness compares to not using it, and I found this helpful.
In helping us to understand our brain function, Hofstee uses simple, non-medical terms. For instance, she explains that either our brain feels safe (“green state”) or unsafe (“red state”). An inbetween “orange state” exists as a neutral ground where ideas and goals are formulated that will move us into a green state, and Hofstee provides many good examples of movement between these states.
Attention and attitude are the focus of her introduction to mindfulness. I liked a term she used to describe our mind’s difficulty in concentrating on the present — the monkey mind — which is visualized as a monkey climbing from branch to branch without a real focus. Hofstee says, “Before you know it you are thinking about something and have no idea how you got there.”
A major aspect of mindfulness is, of course, our thoughts, and Hofstee has included a couple chapters focused on this. As we process our thoughts, it is important to evaluate them for truthfulness and accuracy. It is helpful to identify their source and then to work to change the inappropriate thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a cornerstone of this effort. The author suggests using mantras to help us reinforce the positive or corrected thoughts. I didn’t find this as helpful as others might.
There are numerous chapters on topics in which mindfulness can be applied, such as emotions, relating to others, conflict, and even self-compassion. We often can be self-critical without having a rational reason for feeling that way. Each of these chapters has good examples and suggestions. Imagining our own real-life situations can help us to relate to what the author is guiding us to do.
I especially appreciated the final chapter titled, “Mindfulness and Self-Compassion.” If we recognize and acknowledge the need for greater personal mindfulness, there is a likelihood that we are having some negative thoughts about ourselves and our lives. A busy life, one which needs Mindfulness on the Run, is also likely full of stress and self-criticism. As the saying goes, “we are at times our own worst critics” and we know better than anyone what our inner doubts and insecurities are. Going easier on ourselves with self-compassion is an important step.
For those who have not explored mindfulness much, especially because they haven’t had or made the time, Mindfulness on the Run can be a good place to begin. Different, more in-depth approaches to mindfulness can be considered another time. On the other hand, those who have read numerous books on mindfulness might feel that this book does not offer much that is new. But if they find themselves with little time to devote to mindfulness, this could be a good book to consider as well.
Possibly any positive method that helps us release or avoid stress is good. Some mindfulness techniques lead to much greater introspection and insight; others may be less of that and simply helps us to better cope with the daily stresses and baggage we have carried since youth. So while Mindfulness on the Run may seem more “hurried,” it can still provide important benefits.
Mindfulness on the Run
Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd, July 2016
Paperback, 234 pages