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MEDITATION IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK

Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important

Jon Kabat-Zinn • Hachette

In 2005, Jon Kabat-Zinn published his magnum opus, Coming to Our Senses. At 650 pages and years in the making, it was a monumental achievement. It allowed the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to put his life’s work in a larger context. Mindfulness is not a mental trick, an adjunct to regular life. It’s a basic human inheritance that is essential to life. We need to be optimally aware of who we are, where we are, how we are, if we are to survive individually and as communities, and even as a species in Kabat-Zinn’s view. The book amounted to a bold call for us all to quite literally “come to our senses,” to as often as possible experience where we are and what is going on within and around us—and to take up practices that cultivate our ability to do so.

Now Hachette has decided to reissue the book as four separate small books, starting with Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important, followed by Falling Awake: How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life, both of which are available now. The third and fourth books will come out late this year and early next.

While the books overall are thick with references to and examples from science, literature, poetry, political thought, and more, the whole is presented in digestible chapters, which is almost certainly the best way to read these books, since trying to rip through them leaves not enough time to reflect and take in what you’ve read. They’re like a box of fine chocolates. Eaten and savored one chapter at a time, they bring delight. If one eats half the box in one sitting, it may lead to indigestion.

RADICAL LOVE

Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition

Omid Safi • Yale University Press

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This collection of ancient Islamic teachings reveals the roots and nuances of a mystical tradition that conjoins intellectual depth, spiritual humility, and bountiful sensuality. Together with the introduction by the book’s editor and translator, Omid Safi, the writings offer a glimpse into Islamic cosmology and philosophy through the history of a central tenet: radical love, or eshq. Safi, director of the Islamic Studies Department at Duke University, has disavowed “this idea that love is something private. Love is public. It is something that you do.” His collecting, translating, and editing of these exquisitely poetic teachings should be viewed as a public act of love, of service.

THE EMPATH’S SURVIVAL GUIDE

Life Strategies for Sensitive People

Judith Orloff, MD • Sounds True

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According to research cited by Judith Orloff, the MD who is the bestselling author of Emotional Freedom, one in five people are “highly sensitive.” According to this understanding, “empaths” don’t just feel empathy in the typical way. It’s a kind of whole-body experience. And it can be difficult to get through a world of pain in such a raw, open, state. Orloff offers advice for those of us who feel we’re wearing our heart on the outside of our bodies: a way to live fully engaged and open to others without having to put on the thicker skin that so many people tell you is required.

“Had I chosen to be well balanced I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank heavens for living at a sloped angle!”

PICK THREE

You Can Have It All (Just Not Every Day)

Randi Zuckerberg • Dey Street

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Zuckerberg was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she acquired one in 2004 at age 22 when her brother Mark asked her to join his little startup. In 2011, she left to start her own company, which led to Dot Complicated, a book about how the wired world has changed everything we do and think. In her follow-on book, she shatters the myth of the “well-balanced” life: Things are just lopsided. Out of work, sleep, family, friends, and fitness, she says, “pick three.” (daily, that is). Accept that, be choosy, and thrive.

Podcast

THE GUARDIAN’S SCIENCE WEEKLY

A neuroscientist explains: the need for ‘empathetic citizens’

“Empathy is really about emotional resonance,” says Francesca Happé, a researcher at King’s College London. It’s “the ability to feel with another person,” an underrated skill that our increasingly fractured societies need. In studying how children develop empathy (beginning as young as seven months), Professor Happé finds that if we want a more empathic society, “children need to experience a wide range of emotions,” safely, such as through the arts. This nurtures the capacity to recognize and relate to the same emotional states in others, including—most critically—others who seem unlike themselves.

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