Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness

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Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, is perhaps the best-known proponent of using meditation to help patients deal with illness. (The somewhat confusing title is from a line in Zorba the Greek in which the title character refers to the ups and downs of family life as "the full catastrophe.") But this book is also a terrific introduction for anyone who has considered meditating but was afraid it would be too difficult or would include religious practices they found foreign. Kabat-Zinn focuses on "mindfulness," a concept that involves living in the moment, paying attention, and simply "being" rather than "doing." While you can practice anything "mindfully," from taking a walk to cleaning your house, Kabat-Zinn presents several meditation techniques that focus the attention most clearly, whether it's on a simple phrase, your breathing, or various parts of your body. The book goes into detail about how hospital patients have either improved their health or simply come to feel better despite their illness by using these techniques, but these meditations can help anyone deal with stress and gain a calmer outlook on life. "When we use the word healing to describe the experiences of people in the stress clinic, what we mean above all is that they are undergoing a profound transformation of view," Kabat-Zinn writes. "Out of this shift in perspective comes an ability to act with greater balance and inner security in the world." --Ben Kallen

Featured on Bill Moyer's PBS special Healing and the Mind, this practical guide to mindfulness, meditation and healing from the author of the bestselling Wherever You Go, There You Are is a classic in the field of alternative medicine.

Customer Reviews:

  • Just what the doctor ordered
    I read this book upon my doctor's recommendation after serious childbirth injuries years ago. After a recent painful accident I purchased my own copy. It's more than a how-to. It is informative, serious, and humorous. It contains passages of extraordinary beauty, insight, and compassion.
    Purchasing the accompanying CDs has allowed me to put this wisdom into practice.
    I recommend this book and the guided mindfulness CDs without hesitation....more info
  • Stress Reliever
    Our lives are chaotic enough, but catastrophes shake us to the core. This book is a straightforward, not preachy, guide to making it through stress and the other obstacles life throws at us. I also recommend reading "Home in One Piece" by John Thompson and Lance Armstrong's, "It's not about the Bike"....more info
  • Full Catastrophe Living
    Very excellent. The book has very good ideas and methods to reduce stress in today's Life. ...more info
  • An excellent book, but one that needs to be rewritten
    This is an excellent book about meditation, stress reduction, health and healing, and the mind/body relationship as it applies to disease. Kabat-Zinn clearly explains not only how to meditate, but why. He discusses a wide variety of related issues, such as stress, emotions, and attitude, using examples from medical studies to illustrate much of the book.

    However, this book is 15 years old. In the introduction, Kabat-Zinn explains that that text has not been changed; this is unfortunate. So much research has been done since this book was written that Kabat-Zinn could have many more precise examples as illustration. There has been a great deal of research on meditation and healing, the mind/body connection, stress reduction, and all the issues he raises. (Such, for example, as we now know that stress is _not_ the cause of ulcers - he mentions the supposed link between stress and ulcers once or twice in the book.)

    I admire Kabat-Zinn and find this book to be very useful, as are his other books and relaxation tapes and CDs. I would very much like to see an updated version of this book, however, which would look more closely at the large amount of research that has been done since it was written. Yes, it would be a big job to update it, but, in a way, the author owes it to his readers....more info
  • This book keystoned a deep and meaningful change in my life
    Becoming mindful of the variety of situations life brings is the essense of this book. The process of becoming mindful is richly explained, and a thoughtful chapter on the attitudes of mindfulness deeply valuable. This book can serve as a beginning manual to meditation as well as a clearing of cobwebs for those returning to their practice.

    The author evokes a deep empathy for people and their daily struggles. I've meet Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and he is just as kind and present in person as the words in this extraordinary book are. The benefits of impartial observation of life unfolding helped me become free of past habits, presented options when choosing responses and deepened my connection to myself and others....more info
  • Helping Yourself
    A very good book - full of interesting ideas and real life examples. The companion tapes work well with the book. The only drawback for me is that the book is very wordy - I have read it in full but really had to push myself to do so. Now I just skip around to the parts I want to reread....more info
  • This book made a difference.
    I read this book and did not like it. I found it described a life I did not want to know about so I put the book aside having skipped a number of the chapters. Six months later when my wife was admitted to the ER with severe headaches I remembered the central message in this book.

    The message is clear and simple, the "bad" times in life are as valid an experience as the "good" be there, be aware,accept,don't wish for better times, don't run away from catastrophe. I was aware and present for the next three weeks, the most important three weeks of my life. I felt so lucky that I had read this book. It could be a lot shorter and more focused but the central message is invaluable....more info

  • Do you really want to feel better?
    Self help seems too good to be true? Never take advice unless you get it from a Church or a Doctor's office? Reading a book wont help? Time to try someting new. The concepts in this book work. You supply the practice. This is a journey well worth taking. If you never read another book, you'll be glad you read this one!...more info
  • Mindfulness is bliss
    I am fully enjoying what I have read so far in this book and look forward to implementing it in my life....more info
  • A Potentially Life-Transforming Work on Mindfulness (Zen)
    A remarkable, accessible, entertaining and enlightening work on mindfulness meditation (Zen). Chapter 2 describing 7 attitudinal factors (non-judging, patience, beginner's mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go) is key and indispensible to development of mindfulness meditation technique. I frequently recommend it to patients in my neurology and headache clinic. It can open up a whole new outlook on life for anyone...more info
  • Useful for Short Illnesses, Too
    I have both this book and Kabat-Zinn's other, "Wherever You Go, There You Are." That one is more of a general intro to mindfulness (i.e, concentrating on your breathing as a way to clear your mind and reach a deeper level) meditation. It's written in a more aphoristic style: short and sweet, lots of quotes from Thoreau and various gurus, "try this" exercises at the end of each short chapter. A book you mull over, read in bits, inbetween the recommended practice.

    This one is more wordy, a description of what goes on at the Massachusetts General Hospital Pain Reduction Clinic, where Kabat-Zinn uses a combination of (physical) yoga, mindfulness meditation, and something called the "full body scan" (lying down and concentrating on different parts of the body at a time) to help people with serious, stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, back pain, migraines and cancer.

    There are instructions on how to do the above; statistical information on how well this program works; descriptions of the types of illnesses they deal with; lots of case studies of typical patients; and some general conclusions that the very insightful Kabat-Zinn has drawn from his work. I hate pop psychology but that's not what's delivered here - these are very real insights, not facile at all, on the damaging stresses of modern life and concrete advice on how to cope with them in such a way as to not get sick.

    He says, for instance, that "your pain is not you" - that you can and should separate yourself from the pain, and from the negative feedback voice ("I'm never going to get better," for example) that makes things worse.

    They do recommend (as I do, and as I see another reviewer does) that you buy the tapes listed in the back of the book to help you with your program. But you can use the book without them: it just takes more willpower and concentration.

    As far as personal testimony is concerned, I haven't had to use this program to help me cope with any serious illnesses, thank goodness. But (like most women in their post-childbearing years) I do have a lot of miscellaneous aches and pains which I do deal with much better using the techniques in this book. I have not yet had time to make the recommended commitment for optimal results (45 minutes per day, 6 days a week) - I just use the techniques (which include, for instance, imagining that you are breathing in and out of the painful part of your body - it's hard to describe, but it works!) when I feel headachy or in pain, and medicine either doesn't help or isn't possible to take because of stomach upset.

    What I'm saying is, this book is valuable even if you don't have a serious, chronic illness.

    Besides, it really is preferable to use these techniques BEFORE you get sick, rather than after.

    And they do give the advantages of regular meditation, too: a sense of deeper understanding of yourself, a sense of wonder, etc. (so hard to describe without sounding silly)....more info

  • Shows practical applicability
    The references to MBSR, while acquired in a medical context, remain recognisable to the layman. The language and the message are crystal clear.
    The book contains a lot of practical advice regarding the "right" mindset ("You don't have to like it, ..."). After - while - reading it, one just wants to practice. Mission accomplished, J-K!...more info
  • "Your pain is not you!"
    You know how most self-help books have 50 pages and large type and basically say nothing? This book is different. It describes in depth and detail how to deal with the world. Not with 10 step plans or acronyms that are moronic. Just plain talk and good real stories. You can tell this author knows what he is talking about with regard to stress and dealing with the world.

    I was suffering with anxiety and panic that everyone does. I read books but they didn't really help. Most called for my life to change dramatically which was not in the offing. But this book calls for you to think differently. Most interesting for me was the idea about pain. The very idea that your pain is not you -- that you can have pain and choose to be mindful of it but not let it consume you has made me so much less fearful of the world.

    Too often pain and suffering are written as static things that are out of our control and unable to be changed. Sometimes I feel they are written that way so people will be more sympathetic to those in pain. But people don't see the downside of catastrophizing things -- of making people believe they are victims. Even those who aren't in pain at the moment see the reaction and fear pain / suffering because of the reaction.

    I don't agree with everything in the book but it is so big that even now I haven't read everything. What a great buy for $13. Yet there are chapters that I refer to over and over again when I am feeling anxious or stressed. Almost always it calms me down and makes me realize I am in charge. Like a calm and wise friend.

    ...more info
  • Inspirational and practical
    This book is full of wonderful wisdom on the theory and practice of developing a mindful, nonjudgmental, peaceful attitude toward oneself and others. It helped me to see the practice of meditation as nonmysterious and attainable. A great resource for enhancing the mind, body and spirit....more info
  • Cancer anyone?
    I followed this whole program. After you order the book, but before you do the 8-week program, please order the tapes in the back of the book. These will make doing the program 1,000 times more easier. I did it for severe depression. I don't want to make any jokes in this review because some people are in incredible mental and physical pain. This program has also been employed in hospital settings. You won't need a doctor or a teacher for this program. But there are a couple things to keep in mind. If I was diagnosed with cancer, I would first get rid of all junk foods. Then I would pray to God as often as I could. And third, I would follow this program. Even if you don't experience a "spontaneous remission", it can cut down greatly on chemotherapy and drugs. This program is for you to "feel" your body and mind states. You will love the "body scan". Very healing. Each day, you will be asked to give 45 minutes to each session. During this program, my depression decreased from 25% to 40%. During a similar period of following one of David Burn's books for cognitive-therapy, my depression decreased 8.5%. I quit both because I wanted more of a comprehensive spiritual program. But if someone told me that I had a fatal disease, this is what I would do. And there is one other concern that I have. I want my mind to be pointed in the right direction when I die. And it becomes extremely difficult when your body is being pounded with tons of pain to have a healthy and open attitude. But one is supposed to be able to use the dying experience in an opposite position in order to become a better person! I think that this is because when you accept both physical and mental pain, there is a subtle growth process behind it. When you fight it or resent it, it seems to build! Good luck....more info
  • A MUST-read for anyone living with chronic pain or stress!!
    This book depicts a program which will no doubt lead to you internal peace and allow you to transcend the suffocation of a life of pain - which probably means that you are also buried under the stress of living with pain, limited your coping ability for normal living. It has helped me to finally move toward a place that I always knew was out there, but could not find a way to reach. It has allowed me to overcome the barriers which have held me back in all avenues of my life, all of my life. Really do it, though, and really mean it.

    Highly recommended....more info

  • Living in the Present
    This book is a miraculous vehicle for learning to live in the moment. Everyone has their story and life goes on. Learning to live and notice each moment while the story is happening, without being consummed by it, alows us to separate out the tragedies of everyday life and to get through them. This book is about becoming a survivor. My friends look at me and want to know what I have done. I tell them, I've done the book and the training and integrated them into my daily life. Bravo J.K-Z...more info
  • Life changing
    This is one of the best books available to help people reduce the stress and anxiety in their lives by taking charge of their own bodies and emotions. It lays out an entire program that is easy to follow and results are immediate. I can't recommend it highly enough....more info
  • Need to dig for the pearls.....
    The book if filled with thoughtful insight into how to live in peace. Yet, much of this insight is buried in 625 or so pages of distracting verbiage-it's not distilled. A reader with limited time and attention (me and, maybe, you) gets his train of thought derailed in Mr. Kabat-Zinn's personal life and the details of how he founded his stress reduction clinic at U of Mass. This static interferes with effective assimilation of his important points....more info
  • Meditation primer
    A good introduction to meditation, emphasis on breathing and yoga. An easy read....more info
  • Great gift for a friend.
    This book is a bit of a paradox. It is dead simple but quite complex all at the same time. I have utiised the program as detailed in the book in its most simple form. Follow the steps and see what happens. It is a great guide and it works and that is why I bought my most recent copy as a gift for a friend. However the basics are just the beginning. In very simple language this book gives you access to a new way of thinking about "you & the world" and a vast array of quality sources and peer reviewed references to support and elaborate on the ideas presented in the book. This book is the antithesis of most of the self help babble in the market place. It's the product of research, clinical experience, time and results. It's a great book that plots a simple path for those who need to find the space and time for centering their lives, once there, it gives them a framework and any number of directions that will enable them to anchor that tranquility in real time....more info
  • Good book for reducing stress
    This book helps even the most distressed of us learn about self-healing and self-nuturing. I recommend it for heavily stressed people to help settle and relax them, and find ways of mastering one's mind and circumstances. (...)...more info
  • For use teaching prenatal, gentle yoga
    This book was required reading for a prenatal yoga training that I was to take. Before attending the training I had a miscarriage and this book really helped me move to a more peaceful place more quickly, with more awareness. I have used it as a reference in teaching a gentle yoga class to a pain support group and will use its mindfulness-based techniques to empower women for the birthing process. This book will really change the way you relate to yourSelf and the life you are given. It contains powerful tools for taking charge of your life. What's missing from your life may well be YOU! Embrace its teachings to live your life more FULLY!...more info
  • Important, inspiring and uplifting read
    This practical book is a great resource to have. It teaches the importance of mindfulness, which is crucial for living in a balanced way amongst the difficulties of life. It is powerful, healing and transformative. ...more info
  • My favorite health book
    This book has done more for me then any of my health books. Get this book if you have any kind of stress at all in your life....more info
  • series 1 tapes
    I am a child clinical psychologist, and I recommend the use of the series 1 tapes/cds which go with this book. I have had a great deal of success using these in my practice with children as young as 7. the tapes cds are available at http://www.mindfulnesstapes.com/ Dr. Nancie R. Spector...more info
  • A study and course in life
    This is really a mini course in a book form on how to keep and get you life together. I have practice a lot of various faiths, that have helped my life. So this book has come at a point in life that has fit in quit well. It is a book which you have to take your time and work with. You should follow the exercises and reflect on what is being taught. I would recommend this book to anyone going through a crisis in life or trying to get back on tract after living through one. Do not pass it up. You will learn advice to pass on to friends as well. It is well written and easy to follow. This book is worth every bit of 5 stars....more info
  • As a health educator- it's one of my most favorites!
    The simple principle of mindfulness can change your life- it did mine. Jon Kabat-Zinn does a wonderful job of explaining mindfulness and teaching you how it can help you deal with stress, pain and illness. Read it, buy it, live it!...more info
  • The right book at exactly the right time.
    I decided to read this book as a result of discovering that my pregnancy was high risk and that I was very likely going to be confined to the house for the coming 4-5 months. A friend of mine, in recovery for cancer, had found a lot of comfort and strength from its ideas and appraoch.

    I have to say that it was extremely useful. I would recommend it highly to anyone in similar circumstances. Simple things like the breathing and the body scan exercises helped me get through some very painful nights. While I haven't embraced it as fully as perhaps I should, parts of it are already helpfully embedded into my daily routine.

    I give the book four stars because while the book is a good introduction to the ideas, it is really not complete without the tapes to aid in the exercises and meditation. If you really intend to use the book, I would recommend that you also purchase the other resources....more info
  • Feeling empowered again
    This book helps even the most distressed of us learn about self-healing and self-nuturing. I recommend it for heavily stressed people to help settle and relax them, and find ways of mastering one's mind and circumstances. I also highly recommend "Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Book of Wisdom" by Taro Gold which is another great reading tool to regain one's feelings of empowerment. Excellent....more info
  • A Powerful Guide to Mind-Body Wisdom
    This is one of the three most powerful books I have read in my ten year effort to rid myself of depression and chronic back pain. The other two were "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Dr. Joseph Murphy and "Healing Back Pain" by Dr. Sarno. As a testament to all of these books, I am now almost completely free of both of these tiresome life-robbers: mental and physical pain. I have never been able to sit down and meditate, but this book taught me to reach a meditative state using the walking meditation, and recently I have started using the body scan while running - it is a superb way to combine exercise and meditation. I received a lot of inspiration from the case studies used in this book, also. The style in which it is written is intelligent, warm, compassionate and friendly. I recommend the book highly. If you are tired of being sick, and are ready to make a commitment to help yourself, this book is essential. I can not stress enough the importance that NUTRITION and EXERCISE have played in my own recovery, but mindfulness and relaxation are crucial as well. I use mindfulness every day now that I have learned the techniques presented in this book. I think anyone who is looking for a better way to live needs to read this book....more info
  • A must read for people living with chronic conditions.
    This is one book I refer back to again and again. It teaches a new way of dealing with the physical body by listening to it and working with it. It improved my understanding of my physical condition and greatly reduced my frustration level....more info
  • Full Catastrophe Living
    Although Jon Kabat-Zinn can be a little verbose at times, he tells a great story. He's excellent at presenting difficult information in a coprehensible, functional and life altering way. This book is a great guide for the beginning meditator as much as for one suffering with debilitating pain, both physical and emotional. Kabat-Zinn takes you through a journey leaving you with the tools to cope with life's challenges in a more positive and productive way so that you can live a more fullfilled and joyful life. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness...more info
  • An amazingly helpful book for stress!
    My husband and I have been using this book in dealing with the unrelenting stress of having two special needs children. I have also passed this book on to writer and artist friends of mine who suffer the incredible stress of deadlines and artistic "block." It is very helpful with this and with insomnia, stomach aches and other psychosomatic symptoms of stress. Great, great book!...more info
  • This book is a stress management bible!
    I've read over a dozen books on anxiety, relaxation, and stress. This book has a totally different approach.Instead of giving specific tips to handle anxiety attacks, it uses a philosophical type of approach which is extremely helpful in combatting stress in the long run. The main activity that is taught is meditation and mindfulness through breathing, sitting, or walking, along with a body scan and yoga exercises. They recommend an 8 week commitment to the exercises. But the last half of the book is even more helpful, with discussions on how to see yourself and your problems differently--to feel in control and a master of the events around you. My anxiety level has gone down tremendously after just reading the book and not beginning the meditation yet. This book is a must for anyone having a hard time facing life's normal circumstances or who sees life pessimistically. And it is even more vital for anyone who is facing health problems and is feeling depressed because of them. This man's approach will be a comfort to me for years to come....more info
  • Comme ci, comme ca
    I'm getting tired of repeating myself. Your service is uniformly good, you charge too much shipping for two or three week delivery, and your products have been completely satisfactory, with the exception of a lousy DVD I bought that didn't work because it had obviously been played a thousand times. What am I supposed to do, incur a three buck charge by sending it back for a refund of $2.99? Keep up the good work, speed up delivery and/or charge less shipping....more info


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