We hear a lot about mindfulness these days how it reduces stress and improves our lives. It’s not always easy, though, to know how to be mindful. A Mindful Way : Eight Weeks to Happiness, by Jeanie Seward-Magee, is an eight-week course that shows you, simply and effectively, how to implement habits of mindfulness practice into your daily life. Mindfulness, according to Seward-Magee, is having a clear mind, a mind that is fully conscious in each present moment. It is also about awareness of body, feelings, mind, and perceptions.
A Mindful Way is based on the Five Mindfulness Trainings, specific practices established by the Buddha to help people live more peacefully. They include compassion and non-violence, defeating oppression, conscious sexuality, mindful speech and listening, and mindful consumption. These trainings are the essence of the book, the basis of living a life mindfully.
Through separate chapters, Seward-Magee discusses and explains each of the mindfulness trainings. She also offers her own reflections stories that provide additional meaning and insight. Each chapter closes with exercises, meditations, and writing prompts to assist with implementing the message. A weekly check-in is also included as a reminder to be kind, compassionate, accepting, and honest with yourself.
The basic components of Seward-Magee’s course are three daily practices: Mindful Meditation, Mindful Memoirs, and Mindful Gratitudes. She also includes weekly mindful exercises to be used alone and/or with a group. Seward-Magee promises that practicing consistently forty minutes each morning and five minutes each night will be life changing and will help bring you more peace, joy, and freedom.
Mindful Meditation encourages ten to twenty minutes each morning, as soon as you get up, sitting comfortably, relaxing, and following your breath. Practicing this consistently, the author says, helps to re-appreciate and celebrate the precious present.
Mindful Memoirs follow the morning meditation. Writing in a journal a minimum of two pages helps you to have a greater understanding and acceptance of yourself. Exercises are provided to use as writing prompts or you can simply express your feelings about the morning meditation.
Mindful Gratitudes is the practice for the end of each day. This, Seward-Magee says, is essential in trying to lead a more mindful life. She suggests that your last thoughts before going to sleep be at least five things you are grateful for. If you get stuck, she suggests starting with I am grateful for my breath/life. She promises that another one will soon follow.
Seward-Magee advises starting a group to encourage you to stay on the path during the eight weeks of learning and practice. Groups, she ways, are a powerful way for us to experience the support and acceptance of what is happening to each one of us in the course of our life’s journey. She thoughtfully provides guidelines and exercise ideas for group facilitators.
A foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh, frequent references to his teachings, and sidebar quotes throughout the book provide ongoing inspiration and insight. Appendices include Walking Meditation and excerpts from two books by Thich Nhat Hanh, all designed to further your mindfulness learning and practice.
Leading a mindful life is about daily practice, says Seward-Magee. Practicing the guidelines offered in A Mindful Way can help you receive the gifts of greater acceptance, understanding, peace, and freedom. This is a must-read for anyone interested in becoming more fully conscious and appreciative of life.