I'm revisiting Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living because it illustrates so many key themes in the mindfulness movement and serves as a perfect springboard for exploration of these themes. Let's quote away!*

Much of humankind lives in “the blanket of unawareness” (7626) ... functioning "on automatic pilot so much of the time that it might well be said that we are more asleep than awake, even when we are awake.” (8047)

Being “unaware” is not innocuous - it can be very dangerous:

 “So the value of cultivating mindfulness is not just a matter of getting more out of sunsets.…our tendency toward unawareness may also be lethal, either rapidly or slowly” (1046)

Wow - that's scary! Once again, a picture is created of how bad off we are without mindfulness. And we don't even know how unaware we are.

In Full Catastrophe Living, Kabat-Zinn paints a picture of a world in which people are dissatisfied, fragmented and driven, “totally unaware of the tyranny" of their own thoughts (1053). In such a world, people run on automatic pilot, so tense and stressed out that they “may even lose hope of ever feeling relaxed again” (1080)

Here is the theme of endemic pain and suffering in our everyday lives, in which minor and transitory negative feelings become something deep and debilitating: an example of the pathologizing of negative emotions, exaggerating the ills of the “nonmindful” life to make the mindful life so much more appealing.

Allusions to the dire conditions of modern humanity conjure up images of catastrophe around the corner. So part of convincing people how wonderful mindfulness is requires that they realize how awful their lives are without mindfulness. It’s similar to some religious proselytizers trying to convince potential converts that their lives are horrible and worthless, their souls damned, and the only hope of salvation is conversion to the one true Religion.

* All page references are for Kindle pages


Jon Kabat-Zinn (2013) Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Kindle Version, Revised Edition; Bantam Books, New York