Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity
Ronald Epstein, MD • Scribner
A family physician and a professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, Ron Epstein has been working to improve how doctors treat others for decades. Together with colleague Mick Krasner, he has encouraged caregivers to pay attention to what’s happening in their own minds and bodies as they interact with patients—with particular attention to how they communicate and the quality of the time: Are they really “attending” or are they not quite all there? In 1999, Epstein launched a small revolution with “Mindful Practice,” a piece in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. Ten years later, he and Krasner reported in the same journal on the results of their mindfulness work with doctors: They were more present, less stressed out, and more attentive to patients, and they incorporated mindfulness skills into their everyday lives. (See Mindful, October 2014: “The Doctor is Not Well.”)
Now, Epstein has contemplated and compiled all he has learned from using the lens of self-awareness to view the health-care system and the lives of the people in it. Both analytically clear and empathic, he guides us to a vision of a new kind of doctor in a new system: covering everything from how doctors need to pay attention to their mindware (the thought processes they use to make diagnoses and decisions), using meta-cognition (being aware of your own thinking) to healing the healer (how to travel the path from burnout to resistance), to what makes a compassionate and humane health-care system (one where small acts of kindness can make “the unbearable bearable”). Attending is a long overdue book that needs to be read by doctors, caregivers, health administrators, and patients who care about human-centered medicine.
A Love Story
Elizabeth Lesser • HarperCollins
When she learns she’s the perfect match for her sister’s bone marrow transplant to fight cancer, Elizabeth Lesser begins a life journey she never imagined. The cofounder of the Omega Institute and author of the best-selling book Broken Open, Lesser has been a seeker for her entire adult life and a benevolent chronicler of the human condition. But this experience she shares with her younger sister goes far beyond any soul-searching she’s under- taken on the couch or on the cushion. Along the way, the sisters get the rare opportunity to truly explore—and heal—their past, and find themselves on a completely transformed field of friendship, and indeed, love. Beautifully written, deeply poignant in its honesty, this book is far more than a story about sibling relations; it’s a memoir about touching the marrow of life itself.
3) MINDFUL MONEY
Simple Practices for Reaching Your Financial Goals and Increasing Your Happiness Dividend
Jonathan K. DeYoe • New World Library
Do mindful and money even belong in the same sentence? Money is such a scary thing, fraught with so much fear and emotion. And most advice about money offered in the mainstream media plays on that fear and anxiety: Are you prepared for retirement? Is your money working hard enough for you? Are you spending too much? DeYoe’s approach to money is honest and free of hype. Money will never make us happy, he tells us right off. It’s merely a tool we need to use to live our life. That said, he goes on to offer very practical, non-preachy, down-to-earth counsel.
4) MODERN MINDFULNESS
How to Be More Relaxed, Focused, and Kind While Living in a Fast, Digital, Always-On World
Rohan Gunatillake • St. Martin’s Griffin
Does mindfulness need a redesign? Author Rohan Gunatillake, the creator of the popular buddhify app, says yes. Although there’s never been more interest in mindfulness and meditation than right now, three barriers keep too many people from making mindfulness a lived reality: the time problem (“I just don’t have time to meditate”), the hippy problem (“You have to be spiritual or religious to get into meditation”), and the digital problem (“It’s not practical for me to unplug everything”). Fortunately, each of these barriers is more apparent than real, and in this accessible, readable book, he lays out some techniques for bringing mindfulness into even the busiest of lives. Gunatillake also argues that switching off our devices is not the key to mindfulness. Instead, he makes suggestions for using technology, like mobile phones and television, to actually be mindful.
5) GOODBYE, THINGS
The New Japanese Minimalism
Fumio Sasaki • Norton
Imagine you live in a 215-square-foot apartment, with fewer pieces of furniture than fingers on your hand, and about 150 possessions in total. Yes, that’s a bit extreme. But it actually describes the lifestyle of writer Fumio Sasaki, who decided to pare down his possessions to the barest minimum after years struggling with stress, insecurity, and comparing himself against others. As a result, he says, he was able to let go of the emotional baggage that comes from defining yourself by the things you own. Goodbye, Things kicks off by defining “minimalism,” a way of living that has been around for decades but has been gaining popularity over the past 10 years or so. From there, Sasaki explores the psychological underpinnings of our materialistic culture and offers advice for how to shift your mindset around belongings, say goodbye to the stuff, and feel good about it. The book is light and easy to read, dotted with anecdotes from Sasaki’s personal experience transforming from a maximalist into a minimalist.
6) THE WELL-TEMPERED CITY
What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us about the Future of Urban Life
Jonathan F.P. Rose • Harper Wave
Jonathan Rose is a thinking person’s developer and a man who knows whereof he speaks. His grandfather and great-uncle founded a real estate company in New York in 1928, and his father and he and other members of his extended family have continued in the family business. For his part, Jonathan has distinguished himself by merging his development interests with concerns about the effect of the built environment on the natural world and on well-being. Together with his wife, he founded the Garrison Institute (one of the country’s leading centers for contemplative practice) and created its innovative Climate, Mind, and Behavior program. In this visionary book, Rose presents an urbanism that’s not merely aesthetic and practical. With concrete examples of both the good and the bad, he offers a plan for city-making that fosters community, vitality, and well-being in harmony with nature, not at its expense.
7) THE WISDOM OF NOT KNOWING
Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty
Estelle Frankel • Shambhala
Estelle Frankel, a practicing psychotherapist and teacher of Jewish mysticism, has written a timely new book about daring to not know. Certainty in extreme situations, she says in a passage that resonates today, can lead to bigotry and hatred, which “thrive in environments where people are too certain—when they think they know the truth and consider their version of it to be the only valid perspective.” Too o en we allow our fears to shape our imagination; this prevents genuine possibility from emerging in our lives, and holds us back from taking risks and venturing into the unknown. Frankel suggests that we should use our imagination to embrace the possibilities that not knowing can offer us, and as a result, “our lives and our consciousness expand.”
Five Podcasts and Videos Worth Your Time
Episode: “Fulfilling Trauma’s Hidden Promise” James Gordon, a professor of medicine at Georgetown University, talks about using integrative approaches, such as movement, meditation, and relaxation, to help patients with chronic illnesses, US war veterans, Syrian refugees, and families in Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel, Gaza, and Haiti, among others.
2) THINK AGAIN
Episode: “Nature, Nurture, Neither” Mark Epstein, a psychiatrist, mindfulness teacher, and author of Thoughts Without a Thinker and The Trauma of Everyday Life, joins host Jason Gots in a wide-ranging discussion on education, free will, trauma, epigenetics, and the nature–nurture debate.
3) 10% HAPPIER
Episode: “George Stephanopoulos, ABC News Chief Anchor” Most of us know Dan Harris: the ABC newsman who had a panic attack live on Good Morning America and went on to write best-selling book 10% Happier. Well, Dan also started a podcast. In this episode, he talks with George Stephanopolous about his twice-daily meditation practice.
4) TED: IDEAS WORTH SPREADING
Episode: “What Reality Are You Creating for Yourself?” Isaac Lidsky—who runs a construction company in Orlando, starred in a TV sitcom, and served as a law clerk to two Supreme Court justices—lost his sight to a rare genetic eye disease. In this talk, he challenges us to let go of excuses, assumptions, and fears, and accept that we create our own reality.
5) THE ONE YOU FEED
Episode: “Emily Esfahani Smith”
“Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures,” says the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. “Transcendent experiences are crucial to having a greater sense of meaning in life.”