I received a digital galley of Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art by Christophe André a few days before it was released. Then I saw it in print while I was browsing McNally Jackson and I knew I had to own it. It’s a simply designed but incredibly beautiful book: it’s printed on excellent paper, and the text and reproductions of 25 pieces of art (shown in full, and then several close up views – focusing on brilliant details) are crisp and stunning on the matte pages. It’s a work of art in its own right.
Here are some photographs from my copy, although it looks even better in person:
Beautiful, eh? It also smells great.
Ok, so it’s stunning, contains beautiful works of art, and it smells great. But perhaps you’re a bit fussy and are not yet convinced. I’ll tell you more.
The concept of the book is simple but lovely: lessons in being present and improving mindfulness are paired with beautiful works of art that exemplify each lesson. This is a book that should be read slowly – poured over and reflected upon. I read one chapter every morning, and it was a calming, inspiring way to start each day.
It begins with basic training in being present in every moment, and the ability to step back from our thoughts and observe them:
“We are between a waterfall (the torrent of our thoughts) and the rock behind it. We observe ourselves thinking from a step back. We are no longer inside the torrent (distance), but we are still close to it (presence). “
It then moves into the ways that the awareness we build helps us see things more clearly:
“Gradually, with training, we come to see our thoughts more clearly as just thoughts. We become more able to identify them as fleeting mental phenomena, rather than lasting certainties. We see them appear, and often, if we don’t follow them, we see them evaporate. Then come back. Then go away again. Experiencing this has far more to teach us than just knowing it. We know that our thoughts are just thoughts but, when we are carried away by them, this knowledge is no use to us. Only regular practice and experience can help us distance ourselves from what is happening in our mind and develop the habit of allowing our thoughts to evaporate by themselves.”
“In our lives there are things that are urgent and things that are important. It’s urgent for me to answer my emails, finish my work, do the shopping and fix that dripping tap. If I don’t do what’s urgent I will be punished – soon I’ll have problems. So I do it. It’s important that I walk in nature, watch the clouds passing, talk to my friends, take time to get my breath back and breathe, do nothing and feel alive. If I don’t do what’s important, nothing will happen to me – at least not immediately. But gradually my life will become drab, sad, or strangely lacking in meaning.”
And it progresses into how the foundation of being present and mindful will help us during the difficult times in our lives:
“Breathing in adversity means placing our mind in a refuge. Not in order to flee reality or to act, but so that we can choose to see more clearly, make space for calm and give our intelligence a chance.”
Many of you know that I’ve been reading a lot of books on Buddhism and mindfulness lately, and I’m thankful for the positive impact meditation has slowly but surely been making in my life. This book is a beautiful introduction to slowing down and aiming to be more mindful in everything that we do.
“The widest exercise space is life itself. Life in mindfulness, to which we have referred throughout this book, simply means passing through the greatest possible number of moments with our mind wide open. It means regularly stopping for a few seconds, minutes or more, to feel, intensely and wordlessly, whatever is happening inside and outside ourselves.”
FTC Disclosure: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher. (And then I bought a copy of the hardcover myself because it was so beautiful I had to own it in print.)