Guest Editorial > Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch & Dr Danny Penman
Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch & Dr Danny Penman | Dr Michael Taylor
Mindfulness, based on the wisdom of ages, is not everyone's cup of hot chocolate; and so it is with this book, according to our guest reviewer
“Never judge a book by its cover”; this one you can.
“INCLUDES FREE CD OF GUIDED MEDITATIONS” is the sunny yellow strapline. Free? Please. To me this was almost contemptible, as the marketing of a con-merchant to the gullible. I therefore skipped the “advance praise” section.
In smaller print the cover also says “a practical guide to”, and yes in retrospect this is more than an advertiser’s clue; it’s what it says on the tin. This book is like a Haynes Manual; these used to be so frequent in bookshops, one for each type and model of car. Open them to diagrams and descriptions. They were never meant to be read from cover to cover like a potboiler.
But imagine if you can, reading a Haynes Manual without diagrams where all the necessary tools are similar, all the nuts and bolts are of irregular and varying size, where the descriptions of the mechanisms also have alternative everyday meanings to those who are not signed up members of the Car Club. If you were to read from cover to cover the manual for a Ford Focus 2012, you would not glean a mite of what a Ford Focus was like to drive, to live with, nor the impact it would have upon your life. Getting oily from hands-on experience would bring the whole book to life. I suspect that this is the case with regards to Mindfulness for Health.
I also had difficulty with the exposition. On reading rather than consulting, the book is repetitious; I have learned that truth doesn’t increase with repetition. Similarly the book is full of anecdote and narrative which, I have learned rightly or wrongly to be highly suspect.
As a GP I am surrounded by pain so I can easily appreciate that the authors expertly share the same body of knowledge. As an “oh so experienced” consumer of bureaucratic bullsh*t I know that the authors are sincere. Knowing the Quaker way of sitting silently, I can easily accept the teaching of the benefits of quiet meditation. And I know that the book’s core wisdom is older than our way of numbering the years. Burch and Penman are exponents of practices in the relief of pain and suffering which have withstood the ravages of time, purveyors of a part of the eternal truths of mankind.
Later I returned to look at the advance praise; I was then unsurprised to see a eulogy from some scientist colleagues whose humanity I have grown to respect.
Yes, this is a marmite book.
Dr Michael Taylor is a GP in Heywood, Lancashire with a special interest in pain and problems of drug and alcohol addiction.
‘Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing’ by Burch and Penman. Published by Piatkus. RRP £13.99 (available in paperback from Amazon £7.30)