The Full Catastrophe & Mindfulness

I spent last week at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY attending a 5-day retreat in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The course is a condensed version of the 8-week course that since 1979 has been taught to over 16,000 people at the U. Massachusetts Medical Center.

The catchy title – “Mindfulness Tools for Living the Full Catastrophe” – borrows from the landmark book “Full Catastrophe Living” (1991) by John Kabat-Zinn, founder of the U Mass Center. He, in turn, borrowed it from the film “Zorba the Greek.” At one point in the film Zorba’s young companion asks him if he’s ever been married. Zorba replies, “Am I not a man? Of course I’ve been married. Wife, house, kids, everything…. The full catastrophe .” The essential characteristic of the full catastrophe is stress and mindfulness offers a way to deal with it.

At risk of understatement, I’m a neophyte, but I did learn a 4-part definition of mindfulness: l) paying attention, 2) on purpose, 3) in the moment, 4) non-judgmentally. Sounds simple, but it takes a lot of practice. I intend to withhold further comment until I’ve done a fair amount of it myself.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, I’d suggest reading “Full Catastrophe Living” or any other book by Kabat-Zinn. Another good one: “Wherever You Go, There You Are.”

I will put in a plug for the Omega Institute: beautiful and idyllic setting, excellent faculty, amazing food (!). This year Omega offers over 350 workshops, conferences, and trainings on a wide variety of personal and spiritual growth topics. Check it out at .

Onward, Malcolm Gauld