I don't say this often, but this is a book that changed my life. Okay, the change was more a subtle shift than a world-turned-upside-down kind of thing, but I do believe my life altered for the better through reading Mindfulness: How to Live Well by Paying Attention.
The book is in the Hay House Basics series, which the publisher says offers: "Introductory titles on core topics in the areas of self-development and mind, body, spirit... these books aim to de-mystify popular esoteric subjects so that anyone can understand them."
My previous attempts at making my life more mindful had been short lived. I had done quite a few meditations and mindfulness exercises, but never managed to turn them into a daily practice despite many resolutions to do so. Hay House Basics: Mindfulness changed my life by teaching me I shouldn't beat myself up over that, I should be compassionate with myself.
Author Ed Halliwell says: "Mindfulness is a training where being critical and trying too hard doesn't produce results... compassion is key. Whenever we hear the voice of the slave driver, telling us that we are not doing it right, or that we're a useless meditator, we can use this as a reminder to open up to kindness."
I started reading the book while I was having a short break with my husband. On the last morning of the holiday, we were sitting in a lovely cafe in Glastonbury waiting for a pair of full English breakfasts to turn up. We should have been happy, but we weren't. Both of us was feeling down because the holiday was nearly over. Then I got an idea inspired from my reading; I suggested we eat our breakfasts mindfully - not talking, just savouring the food, experiencing the smells, tastes and sensations.
We did that, and afterwards we not only agreed that the food had been delicious, but also that we both felt a lot happier. Mindfulness had brought us back to the holiday, rather than our thoughts about the future spoiling the experience of the present. After breakfast, the rest of the morning was delightful too - and we even felt cheerful on the journey home.
Since then I have practised mindfulness pretty much every day - but not by setting a special time aside to meditate. I have been mindful on commuter trains, mindful doing the housework and mindful curled up on the sofa stroking the cat. And if anyone wants to tell me I am not doing mindfulness right, I will listen with compassion - or at least try to.
Apart from the lesson of compassion, I found myself nodding with agreement at many other things in the book. The technique of using mindfulness to face fears, rather than attempting to use positive thinking to make the fears go away, was another that particularly resonated with me. I've always said that if there's a wasp in the room I prefer to be aware of its location rather than stick a towel over my head and pretend it isn't there.
As with the other Hay House Basics, the subject is explained clearly and concisely. There are exercises to do, each chapter has a summary at the end - and there is a good index in the book as well.
Hay House says: "In Mindfulness: How to Live Well by Paying Attention, mindfulness teacher Ed Halliwell makes this increasingly popular subject accessible to beginners. Featuring practical exercises you can try for yourself, it presents traditional mindfulness teaching alongside the increasing body of scientific evidence that shows these practices have huge potential for enhancing our health and wellbeing. Explore the basic approaches that will help you discover more mindfulness, learn how to take this practice into your everyday life, and experience the benefits for yourself."
To find out more, Hay House's website for the series is: http://www.hayhousebasics.com/. At the site you can find free downloads to go with each Basics book. This includes a free audio meditation on mindfulness.
Mindfulness: How to Live Well by Paying Attention (Hay House Basics)