Mindfulness is challenging. It’s a daily practice that unfolds moment by moment — and staying aware in each moment requires attentiveness. It also requires an honest look at the self and the willingness to be fully present no matter what sensations arise in the body, what emotional responses to life occur, and the courage to accept these things at face value.
This can be difficult for many — and especially difficult for those who may have experienced difficult life events or circumstances, or even trauma. So, wouldn’t it be more fun with an illustrated guide chock full of gentle reminders on just how the mindfulness practice can be done? And — even better — if that illustrated guide was presented by an adorable, rotund little Sloth?
A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness is a succinct, illustrated volume that makes mindfulness a little bit less daunting — and a lot more fun! The beauty of this easy-to-read volume is its irony and humor, and its ability to quickly make mindfulness second nature. It provides a gentle way to engage in a practice that can be full of ups and downs, depending on what’s unfolding in life’s present moment.
Sloth provides simple but profound instructions such as: “Befriend your emotions — the good ones and the bad ones.” And, “The search for mindfulness is not marked by success. Some days will be harder than others. The key is not to try too hard. If we focus too hard on results, if becomes harder to stay present.” And, perhaps my personal favorite, a directive that when life or mindfulness practice becomes very challenging, just “Hang in there.”
Sloth reminds readers that awareness of breath is important, that a person need not have all the answers to life’s burning eternal questions or temporary pains. It also reminds us that the present moment is, in fact, the perfect moment just the way it is.
Sloth makes a mindfulness practice easier, allowing readers to zip through the cute illustrations and use them as reminders that can help focus this ongoing practice. Its simplicity lends to its usefulness, and to the ways in which the basic principles of mindfulness are distilled in such an easy to digest manner. It’s easy to pick this book up, open to any page, and instantly receive a poignant lesson.
But, most importantly, the brilliance of this little gem is that it provides readers the ability to focus not on the self and how the mindfulness practice is being executed, which is so incredibly easy to do, but rather to focus on Sloth and the instructions. And doing so inherently takes the self-criticism and self-judgment out of the mindfulness practice, which so often is the biggest challenge for anyone to face while engaging in this type of practice.
For a beginning meditator just learning about mindfulness, or for a seasoned practitioner or teacher, this volume has something for everyone. And its off-the-charts cute factor makes it nearly impossible to come away from this read without a smile. It’s a one-of-a-kind edition that everyone interested in mindfulness or meditation should have on his or her bookshelf.
Photo courtesy of A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak (Chronicle Books, 2018).