New book offers myriad resources to help us de-stress our harried lives
Cashing in on stress is big business nowadays. On a daily basis, advertisements bombard us with products promising to help us rest and relax—exercise programs, eating plans, videos, books, music, vacations—all guaranteeing to be the quintessential key to stress reduction. But with our BlackBerrys and iPhones constantly chirruping, oil spills freely gushing into the ocean and the global economy still stagnating it’s no wonder that we have all turned into giant balls of stress and tension, struggling to schlep through our lives day in and day out.
According to Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein, brilliant people with doctors, our lives don’t have to be lived in such a fast-paced, stressful way. The duo have co-authored a new book entitled “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook” which endeavors to teach the masses how to essentially live in the moment by ensuring that we are fully aware of everything that we do as we do it. Even the simplest actions we perform in daily life are examined from an introspective angle—from eating a healthy meal to breathing in the fresh air as you walk down the street. According to the authors, “Mindfulness is about being fully aware of what is happening in the present moment, without filters or the lens of judgment.”
Mindfulness is certainly not a new idea. The principle is taken from Buddhist meditation where it is described as a calm awareness or contentment with one’s body functions and feelings. What has changed over the years however is the practical approach to applying mindfulness to one’s everyday life. This is where “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook” comes in handy. Stahl (who lived in a Buddhist monastery in Northern California for more than eight years) and Goldstein both share a deep respect and knowledge of Eastern philosophy and religion, the practice and study of which led them to collaborate on their book. “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook” is written from a knowledgeable perspective, but in layman’s terms that you don’t have to have a degree in psychology to understand. Simply follow the directions chapter by chapter and your stress is practically guaranteed to melt away.
It seems as though Stahl and Goldstein have created this workbook style manual as a labor of love, born out of their own personal trials and tribulations. Each section of the book focuses on particular stressors faced in life and aims to help participants dig deeper into the root causes of the stress. The real beauty of the book however are the practical solutions offering ways to eliminate these stressors. Fill-in-the-blank pages allow for a deeper understanding of self as the authors lead you through the journaling and chronicling of your stress-inducing habits. Calming poems, helpful tips, practical applications and even an MP3 CD of guided meditations that comes with a purchase of the book add exponentially to this most enlightening experience. Readers will learn a repertoire of “mindful” activities including breathing, eating, meditation, yoga, self-inquiry, walking and interpersonal communication which can be put to immediate use. And if used in conjunction with one another, all work together to create less stressful and more wholesome surroundings.
Both authors are psychologists specializing in mindfulness. Like many people do, both doctors began to understand stress at a very young age—Stahl because of numerous deaths among his family and close friends when he was 4, and Goldstein because his parents divorced when he was a child of only 6. The authors credit these heartbreaking childhood experiences as the catalyst for their studies in mindfulness as adults. After studying psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and going on to earn his doctorate in philosophy and religion specializing in Buddhism, Stahl founded and now directs mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs worldwide and teaches at three medical centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Goldstein, who received his doctorate from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, is the cofounder of the Mindfulness Center for Psychotherapy and Psychiatry and also teaches mindfulness programs in the Los Angeles area.
The stark truth is that as long as we are alive there will always be something to stress about. It’s how we deal with that stress that can be the difference between living a life of pain and worry or a life of conscious presence. No matter what is stressing you, you will be in good hands with Stahl and Goldstein’s mindful approach to stress reduction.
The authors will be speaking about their book at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 26 at Bookshop Santa Cruz,1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. For more information, call Bookshop Santa Cruz at 423-0900 or visit bookshopsantacruz.com.