Steve Flowers conducts the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction clinic online and at Enloe Hospital in Chico. In his private practice he teaches meditation techniques to help his clients come to terms with the "narrative-based self": a self constructed by stories of one's own inadequacies and failings.
"The Mindful Path Through Shyness" addressed some of the issues; now, in a new book co-authored with Bob Stahl (who founded mindfulness stress-reduction programs at several Bay Area medical centers), he offers a more comprehensive Buddhist approach to "Living With Your Heart Wide Open" ($16.95 in paperback from New Harbinger Publications; also in Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Google e-Book formats).
Flowers will be speaking about the way of "radical acceptance" at a presentation and book signing this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books in Chico.
The book's subtitle is "How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You From Unworthiness, Inadequacy and Shame." The authors begin with "key concepts from both Western and Buddhist psychology" in examining suffering. "The modern psychologies of the West," they write, "have developed interventions to repair problems with the self, using techniques such as investigating how we think and learning skills to change dysfunctional thinking. Buddhist psychology also acknowledges that thoughts create suffering, but rather than working to change thoughts, this approach considers the act of witnessing thoughts without getting caught up in them to be an effective way to dispel their power."
Slowly, carefully, through stories of those helped by meditation, and by meditation exercises, the authors take the reader into a deeper understanding of what it means to make peace with oneself and with others. The ego is not necessarily bad; "a healthy ego" is needed "to get free of the delusions your ego spins." But the Buddhist perspective is that the ego is not permanent, is not really "us." We don't have a self to "fix." Acceptance of that idea is tantamount to "awakening" to loving-kindness, "self-compassion."
"Mindfulness meditation," the authors say, "is an investigative practice. You enter a space of awareness in which you can witness and examine the thoughts and emotions from which you fabricate a sense of self." There is no judgment; only freedom to practice "wisdom, virtue, and concentration," and, like the velveteen rabbit, to become "real."