I've been reading The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. There have been some very positive reviews of this book. Williams, Segal, and Teasdale are all Ph.Ds with impressive credentials in cognitive therapy for the treatment of depression, and Kabat-Zinn, also a Ph.D, is known for mindfulness meditation.
I must admit that I've only read the first 50 pages. I started with great enthusiasm, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, when I tried to find a place to learn the technique, I was so turned off by the hype and the cost of most "healers" that it thrust me in a downward spiral. (There is a CD attached to the book so I'm hoping to try this by myself.)
What I have also found difficult about reading this book is that it presents a viewpoint that is different from almost everything I've read in the past. On the one hand, that should make me feel good because perhaps it works. On the other hand, it makes me feel bad because I've spent so many years trying to attain wellness--and it would seem like my efforts were misdirected.
In a nutshell, the authors say that using critical thinking skills to figure out what is causing our depression and trying to fix it is the wrong approach. They suggest that thinking about the problems and the solutions "merely compounds our misery."
What they recommend is a concept called "mindfulness." They define it the following way: "Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to things as they are."
In essence, it means that if we can learn to focus on the present, and stop thinking about past depressions, the negative thoughts and feelings they evoke, and other patterns of behavior that contribute to our downward spiral, we will be able to let go and move on.
My feeling is that I achieve somewhat of the same result when I play the harmonica. Actually, the word "playing" is a misnomer. But I use it as a breathing exercise and it, too, has a certain Zen quality, and helps me concentrate on the present moment. The problem is that walking around with a harmonica permanently affixed to my lips might be construed as "mentally ill" behavior. Thus, I guess mindfulness meditation could be considered a more "normal" alternative.
The jury is still out. I'll finish the book in the next few days, begin the program, and let you know my results. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend!
P.S. You might want to look at Aimee's comments about meditation from my Mind-Body Connection post. Although it didn't work for her, I'd be interested in hearing from others who have tried it.