Few books on mindfulness have been as influential as Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. When the 2nd edition came out, I was developing research interventions that incorporated mindfulness techniques, so I decided to read Full Catastrophe Living for some insight and tips. I was immediately taken aback by the pages and pages and pages of blurbs at the beginning of the book. Here’s a sampling:
"What physicians, psychologists, scientists, meditation teachers, educators, and leaders are saying..."
…Jon Kabat-Zinn’s visionary work, a singular beacon of clarity for integrating a 2,500 year-old science of the mind with twenty-first century management of stress, pain, and related disorders.” Zindel V. Segal, Ph.D. 13
“Jon Kabat-Zinn’s impact on transforming the lives of millions of people worldwide to experience inner peace and joy via mindfulness meditation is truly epic….Dean Ornish, M.D. 27
“The second edition of Full Catastrophe is a masterpiece of mindfulness, science, and practice….Truly a new paradigm for living and healing.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. 59
“Using a scientifically tested combination of mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other complementary practices, Kabat-Zinn’s approach has helped revolutionize the field of integrative medicine while greatly benefiting literally hundreds of thousands and even millions of individuals though his program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction…” David E. Meyer, PhD 93
“A landmark book that has changed the life of millions!” Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D. 109
“One of the greatest classics of mind/body medicine. More than any other, Full Catastrophe Living is the book that enabled Americans to discover the inner life.” Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. 139
“Looking back in time a hundred or five hundred years from now we may come to realize more fully the incalculable ripples that the being and work of Jon Kabat-Zinn catalyzed in the world.” Saki F. Santorelli, ED.D. 146
And so on and so forth. This bombardment of accolades by high-status people (“physicians, psychologists, scientists, meditation teachers, educators, and leaders”) functions as a form of intimidation: how can you disagree when all these distinguished people are singing the praises of mindfulness? The purpose is to dazzle us. But dazzling doesn’t illuminate; quite the opposite: it overwhelms the vision. Dazzling blinds and confuses.
So if you’re going to read Full Catastrophe Living, I suggest skipping the laudatory blurbs and going straight to the text. That way you’ll be able to see more clearly what you’re reading.
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
Handy guide to Blurb Red Flags. What to look out for:
1. Inflated language (e.g., “revolutionary”, “timeless”, “brilliant”, “truly epic”)
2. Claims of solid scientific credentials (e.g., “scientifically tested”, “cutting-edge neuroscience research”)
3. Exceptional/Unique (e.g. “a singular beacon of clarity”; “truly a new paradigm”)
4. Unsubstantiated or unprovable claims (e.g., “transforming the lives of millions of people”, “greatly benefiting literally hundreds of thousands and even millions of individuals”)
5. World-changing (e.g., “Looking back in time a hundred or five hundred years from now…”, “Join us in the quiet revolution! It has the potential to transform our country”)
6. Religious overtones ("wake up"; “transformative”)