Full Catastrophe Living


This book is an invitation to the reader to embark upon a journey of self-development, self-discovery, learning, and healing. It is based on ten years of clinical experience with over four thousand people who have begun this lifelong journey via their participation in an eight-week course known as the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program (SR&RP) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

The SR&RP—or stress clinic, as it is often called—is a new kind of clinic in a new branch of medicine known as behavioral medicine, which believes that mental and emotional factors, the ways in which we think and behave, can have a significant effect, for better or worse, on our physical health and on our capacity to recover from illness and injury.

The people who embark on this journey in the stress clinic do so in an effort to regain control of their health and to attain at least some peace of mind. They come referred by their doctors for a wide range of medical problems ranging from headaches, high blood pressure, and back pain to heart disease, cancer, and AIDS. They are young and old and in-between. What they learn in the stress clinic is the how of taking care of themselves, not as a replacement for their medical treatment but as a vitally important complement to it.

Over the years numerous people have made inquiries about how they can learn what our patients learn in this eight-week course, which amounts to an intensive self-directed training program in the art of conscious living. This book is a response to those inquiries. It is meant to be a practical guide for anyone, well or ill, who seeks to transcend his or her limitations and move toward greater levels of health and well-being.

The SR&RP is based on rigorous and systematic training in mindfulness, a form of meditation originally developed in the Buddhist traditions of Asia. Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight.

The stress clinic is not a rescue service in which people are passive recipients of support and therapeutic advice. Rather it is a vehicle for active learning, in which people can build on the strengths that they already have and come to do something for themselves to improve their own health and well-being.

In this learning process we assume from the start that as long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel. But if you hope to mobilize your inner capacities for growth and for healing and to take charge in your life on a new level, a certain kind of effort and energy on your part will be required. The way we put it is that it can be stressful to take the Stress Reduction Program.

I sometimes explain this by saying that there are times when you have to light one fire to put out another. There are no drugs that will make you immune to stress or to pain or that will by themselves magically solve your life’s problems or promote healing. It will take conscious effort on your part to move in a direction of healing and inner peace. This means learning to work with the very stress and pain that is causing you to suffer.

FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness pdf by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.  – 15th ed.