Christophe André is a psychiatrist author for the general public, who has the originality — in all his books — of combining meditation, personal development and positive psychology. No wonder everyone is talking about him… Let’s go ahead and focus on this extraordinary man who, with his list of bestsellers, may very well change our lives!
What? You’re not familiar with Christophe André?
Books, Toulouse, and Freud…
Christophe André was born in Montpellier, on June 12, 1956, to a mother who was a schoolteacher and to a father who was a sailor and who later became a stationery sales representative. The family lived in Toulouse. It is in this city that Christophe André spent all his childhood, adolescence, and his life as a young adult.
Solitary and studious, Christophe was a child who read voraciously. In high school, he became passionate about Freud and decided to become a psychiatrist. And so, in 1980, he received a Doctorate in medicine in Toulouse, then completed his thesis in psychiatry in 1982.
Christophe André’s early days in psychiatry
After his internship, Christophe André went into private practice. As he began to practice medicine, he realized that he thoroughly enjoyed healing people. However, he quickly realized that psychoanalysis, which was mainstream at the time in the discipline, was not for him. It required a therapeutic distance which, for Christophe André, amounted to depriving oneself of the tremendous power of emotions, of compassion and of empathy.
The trigger: positive psychology and meditation!
It was later, after meeting Lucien Millet, a humanist psychiatrist, that Christophe André finally began to practice psychiatry as he thought he should: with benevolence and concern for others.
Christophe André subsequently studied behavioral approaches, counter to Lacanian psychoanalysis. He then discovered positive psychology and meditation. For him, it was quite the shakeup!
A man wearing multiple hats: psychiatrist, author, speaker, husband, and father
When he got married, Christophe André went to Paris, where his wife, a fashion designer, lived. Despite the tragic event of witnessing his best friend die in his arms during a motorcycle accident in Portugal, a new chapter in his life began.
In fact, after practicing psychiatry for fifteen years in Toulouse, he began to practice, in 1992, at the Sainte-Anne hospital in Paris, within the mental health and therapeutic services. He specialized in the management of anxiety and depressive disorders.
Christophe André is one of the first to use behavioral and cognitive therapies in France. In addition, he has introduced the practice of mindfulness meditation in the field of psychotherapy, an innovative method that has since been taken up by many of his peers.
Apart from his consultations, Christophe André has a busy schedule: author of numerous psychology books for the general public; he is also an assistant professor at Paris X University, advises companies and gives lectures regularly.
Additionally, Christophe André is the father of three daughters born between 1993 and 1998. He now lives in Saint-Maurice, in Val-de-Marne.
Christophe André’s long and successful bibliography
Both scientific and accessible, Christophe André’s books are translated into many languages and are all very successful.
Among the best known are:
- “Self-esteem: Liking yourself in Order to Live Better with Others” (with François Lelord) (Original title: “L’estime de soi: s’aimer pour mieux vivre avec les autres”), Paris, Ed. Odile Jacob, 1999 (2nd Ed. In 2007)
- “Small Anxieties and Big Phobias” with illustrator Muzo, (Original title: “Petites angoisses et grosses phobies”), Paris, Ed. du Seuil, 2002. Reprinted in 2010 under the title “Overcoming my Fears and Anxieties” (Original title: Je dépasse mes peurs et mes angoisses)
- “Leading a Happy Life: Psychology of Happiness” (Original title: “Vivre heureux: psychologie du bonheur”), Paris, Ed. Odile Jacob, 2003
- “Psychology of Fear” (Original title: “Psychologie de la peur: craintes, angoisses et phobies”), Paris, Ed. Odile Jacob, 2004
- “Happiness: 25 Ways to Live Joyfully Through Art” (Original title: “De l’art du bonheur: 25 leçons pour vivre heureux”), Paris, L’Iconoclaste, 2006
- “Imperfect, Free and Happy: How to Live in Friendship with Yourself” (Original title: “Imparfaits, libres et heureux : pratiques de l’estime de soi), Paris, Ed. Odile Jacob, 2006 (Prix Psychologies-Fnac 2007)
- “The Soul’s States” (Original title: “Les états d’âme: un apprentissage de la sérénité”)l, Paris, Ed. Odile Jacob, 2009
- “Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art” (Original title: “Méditer, jour après jour”: 25 leçons pour vivre en pleine conscience”), Paris, L’Iconoclaste, 2011 (accompanied by an MP3 CD containing 10 meditations guided by the author’s voice)
Few more lists:
- “Positive Psychology: Happiness in all its States” (Original title: “Psychologie positive: le bonheur dans tous ses états”), with Thomas d’Ansembourg, Isabelle Filliozat, etc., Bernex-Genève, Jouvence Ed., 2011
- “Serenity” (Original title: “Sérénité: 25 histoires d’équilibre intérieur”), Paris, Ed. Odile Jacob, 2012
- “Don’t Forget to be Happy: The ABC of Positive Psychology” (Original Title: Et n’oublie pas d’être heureux: Abécédaire de Psychologie Positive). Paris, Ed. Odile Jacob, 2014
- “In Search of wisdom” (Original Title: “Trois amis en quête de sagesse”) with Matthieu Ricard and Alexandre Jollien, L’Iconoclaste-Allary Éditions, 2016
- “Three Minutes to Meditate” (Original title: “Trois minutes à méditer”). Book & audio CD, 2017
- “The Inner Life” (Original title: “La Vie intérieure”), L’Iconoclast, 2018
- “Freedom for All of Us” (Original title: “À nous la liberté”), with Mathieu Ricard and Alexandre Jollien, L’Iconoclaste-Allary Éditions, 2019
Here’s a quick summary for three of Christophe André’s most emblematic books:
- “Imperfect, Free and Happy”
- “In Search of Wisdom”
- “Looking at Mindfulness”
3 must-reads by Christophe André
“Imperfect, Free and Happy: How to Live in Friendship with Yourself”
Released in 2006, “Imperfect, Free and Happy” is a worldwide bestseller. Among all of Christophe André’s works, this is without a doubt the most influential. The subject covered in this book is indeed one of Christophe André’s favorite themes, namely self-esteem. As its title suggests, in this book, Christophe André helps us to accept and to love our imperfect selves in order to feel free and happy! It is truly a comprehensive book. Basically, the book is divided into four main parts, in which Christophe André explains:
- What self-esteem is in general, then good self-esteem and vulnerable self-esteem.
- The work on our self-esteem to begin (through oneself and others).
- How to modify our actions.
- How to move towards self-forgetfulness.
Here is a summary of the ideas developed by Christophe André:
Part 1 – Self-esteem
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem combines three aspects. It is simultaneously: self-image, the emotions which that involves, and the behaviors that it induces. It therefore influences our way of being and is absolutely necessary.
Self-esteem is nourished by signs of social recognition (affection, sympathy, love, admiration, etc.) and signs of performance (our achievements and success).
What is good self-esteem?
You can measure whether your self-esteem is good, through six dimensions:
- Your self-dialogue: if you can speak positively about yourself and to accept compliments without embarrassment.
- Your attitude towards action: if you can undertake, persevere, and give up without feeling humiliated.
- And your expectations and ambitions: if you can adjust your hopes to their value neither too much nor too little.
- Stability: In general, you must be able to remain yourself, regardless of your audience or your interlocutors.
- Harmony: This is assessing your ability to repair yourself in one area if you are failing in another, and not to feel distressed when your self-esteem is damaged.
- Autonomy: This is your autonomy in the face of social pressures (what you must have, do, or display to be appreciated by others), your ability to bear rejection or disavowal in terms of social support.
- Cost: Basically, it’s your ability to quietly feed on criticism, to take an interest in it instead of wanting to avoid it.
- The place and importance that we give to self-esteem in our life: We must be able to digest failures without drama, be content with being appreciated without needing to be celebrated, pursue objectives that will bring us nothing in terms of social prestige or image; in short, self-esteem should not be overvalued to the point that wounded pride pollutes all of our thoughts, activities and emotional states.
What is vulnerable self-esteem?
Displays of vulnerable self-esteem are normal as long as they are occasional. Beyond that, there are two profiles of abnormal self-esteem. These are:
- Low self-esteem, with a sense of conscious vulnerability.
- High fragile self-esteem, with an unconscious sense of vulnerability.
Part 2 – Working on self-esteem
We can sustainably improve self-esteem. To do this, it is first essential to understand our past. However, this is not enough. We must also act in the present and initiate a change so that our self-esteem difficulties do not affect our quality of life. But this change requires regular effort and personal work on oneself and on others.
Christophe André develops in detail all that this entails:
- No longer judging ourselves: we generally judge ourselves far too severely, instead of analyzing and understanding ourselves.
- Practice useful self-criticism.
- Organize meetings with yourself.
- Guard against toxic influences and social pressures.
- Stop hurting yourself (doubts and dissatisfaction, self-deprecation, destructive behavior, self-aggression).
- Listen to yourself, respect yourself and assert yourself: express your needs, thoughts, emotions, without doing it aggressively.
- Fight against complexes: “don’t hide yourself entirely to hide only a small part of yourself.”
- Have the courage to be weak even in situations where you are afraid of losing face and of the feeling of revealing your limits and weaknesses (fear of displeasing, causing conflict, causing pain, out of need to prove yourself if you feel inferior in this or that area).
- Take care of your morale and use your emotions.
- Be your best friend (value yourself, don’t admire yourself).
Acceptance of others
- Fears, needs and behaviors towards others
The author discusses in detail the fears or disorders encountered by people who suffer from low self-esteem:
- The fear of rejection that brings a terrible feeling of isolation.
- The desire for recognition that provides a sense of being.
- The quest for love, affection, friendship, sympathy is essential for humans to develop, to feel happy and worthy to be alive.
- Social skills that bring together all the intangible know-how.
- The fear of ridicule, the fight against shame and self-harm.
- Envy and jealousy.
- Trust, which, if we make good use of it (adjusting the degree of trust according to the context or the nature of our interlocutors), is much more beneficial than it is inconvenient.
- The benefits of accepting others
Christophe André encourages us to show empathy and adopt various attitudes, all very important in self-esteem:
- Forgiveness: To forgive others is not to forget, it is to give up depending on hatred and resentment towards those who have hurt us and to decide to free ourselves from them.
- Kindness: It is a benevolent (unconditional in principle) attention to others. People with low self-esteem are often afraid of being “too kind”. However, in reality, the problem is not being too kind, but not being assertive enough.
- Gratitude: This involves recognizing and rejoicing in the good that we owe to others.
- Admiration: To admire is not to be overwhelmed by the perfection of the person you admire, but to take action to become closer to them (if you wish).
Part 3 – The “serene” action, according to Christophe André
Action builds self-esteem. It is, along with social ties, one of two main elements that nourish it. In this part, Christophe André develops several ideas for action:
- Use feedback: This ultra-powerful tool can help us progress and grow, provided we know how to make good use of it.
- Act despite the fear of failure: The author reveals several strategies for working on our fear of failure.
- Free yourself from regrets:
- Action regrets, called “hot regrets”: the things we did, our failed actions (“I shouldn’t have done this…”), often regretted immediately, associated with intense emotions (anger, shame, guilt, frustration, etc.).
- Regrets of inactions, labeled “melancholy regrets”: the things that we did not do, our inactions and our intentions of action that have not materialized (“I should have…”), often regretted in the long term, with hindsight, associated with more discreet and longer-lasting emotions (sense of melancholy, nostalgia, disillusionment, etc.).
- Change to change the world: The world around us changes when we look at it differently. Furthermore, changing oneself helps others to change because, according to the author, there is a social contagion of emotions, both negative and positive.
Part 4 – Self-forgetfulness
“The less I think about myself, the better it is”
We especially think of ourselves when we suffer, when we doubt ourselves and our actions. Then, as progress is made, self-obsession diminishes and recedes. We think less and less of ourselves and more and more of what we are experiencing.
Increase your presence instantly
Christophe André tells us about mindfulness meditation and autotelic activities (those we do for no other purpose than for the pleasure of doing them). In addition, he has us reflect on:
- The sense of our actions,
- Our fear of death (overcoming it improves self-esteem).
Review of “Imperfect, Free and Happy: How to Live in Friendship with Yourself”
This psychology book invites us to understand self-esteem from the perspective of our functioning, without presenting us with a “magic” solution. Rather, it offers keys and areas of reflection to begin a process of improvement or personal change through the repetition of simple and steady effort. In this sense, it isn’t a book that is a “purveyor of dreams” but rather a scientific work on oneself.
In addition, Christophe André has this ability to know how to use technical terms without making the reading incomprehensible. Also, the stories and anecdotes throughout the chapters are meaningful and help to contextualize the ideas developed.
With “Imperfect, Free and Happy “, expect a book that can help you out, but, beyond that, one that is full of serenity, humanity, and wisdom.
- Very rich and relevant content for understanding self-esteem.
- Simple and actionable advice for starting the process of self-improvement.
- The stories and anecdotes are full of wisdom that help illustrate the points.
- Although the content is interesting, the reader who is already familiar with psychology books may not find any new information inside.
- A rather long read and more theoretical than practical.
“In Search of Wisdom: A Monk, a Philosopher, a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most”
This book is a pearl of wisdom!
Christophe André co-wrote this work in collaboration with two well-known authors: Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk and Alexandre Jollien, philosopher.
Christophe André, Matthieu Ricard and Alexandre Jollien have become friends in “real life” over the years. One day, the three men decide to meet in a house in the Dordogne forest, for several days, and to sit down together, daily, by the fireside, to converse about the themes of existence they care so deeply about.
They decide to make a book out of these discussions. Consequently, they record their discussions in full, transcribe them and then format these hours of dialogue to make this three-author book.
Their points of view differ at certain times but converge on the essentials, opening to reflections and life lessons that are full of wisdom.
What do they talk about in this three-author book?
First of all, you have to soak up the atmosphere of the book. For that, you have to imagine yourself in front of the fireplace, listening to the friendly conversation of our three authors over a steaming tea. The authors’ sharing of experiences and ideas revolve around 10 themes. These are then brought together in twelve chapters:
- At the beginning of the book, the journey, intent, and aspirations of each author are laid out. In fact, they contemplate, one by one, upon what really matters in existence, what they identify, deep down, as essential.
- Throughout the book, the following topics are discussed: ego, emotions, the art of listening, the body, suffering, consistency, altruism, simplicity, guilt, and forgiveness. The structure is as follows: a chapter = a subject. At the end of each of these chapters, the authors offer us solutions, advice, practical tips, or areas for reflection, from different perspectives, depending on their disciplines.
- The last chapter is devoted to the “secrets” and daily practices of the three author friends.
Concepts to take away
The discussions of the three friends are very rich in content. However, I managed to summarize, very succinctly, the ideas and themes developed.
1. The ego
- The terms are different depending on the discipline: the ego is rather the philosophical term; we speak more of self-esteem in psychology and inner strength in Buddhism.
- There are two types of pathologies of self-esteem: excess of self-esteem (narcissism) and lack of self-esteem (negative attachment); thus, the ideal of working on self-esteem is self-forgetfulness (or the silence of the ego).
- There is nothing that we are going through right now that is not due to other people. Therefore, we should practice gratitude.
- It is essential to take care of yourself and identify what makes you happy, to free yourself from your ego.
- Being your friend and having a bond of friendship with yourself is to be kind and gently demanding with yourself.
- Emotions upset us (they are often the reason for psychological consultations).
- Whether positive or negative, emotions are fundamental to understanding humans, their psychology, and their suffering. These are signals of our needs. The important thing is to avoid their misuse or excess.
- An emotion is appropriate when it is adapted to the situation and expressed with an intensity commensurate with the circumstances.
- It is wise to examine the consequences of our emotions (well-being or suffering), as is done in Buddhism.
- There are techniques in each of the authors’ disciplines (which they develop) for working on emotions.
- Meditation is a solution to get out of the roller coaster of emotions.
- About meditation, we should not confuse “mental void” and “freedom of the mind” because the goal is not to eliminate thoughts but to prevent them from enslaving us.
- The essential characteristics of true listening are respect for the words of others, letting go, and the ability to let yourself be touched.
- Listening is a process of humility, where one puts others before oneself. To listen well, you have to be genuinely concerned about the other, to pay full attention, to not judge, and to be kind. Too often, we bring everything back to ourselves, to our story, to our mental categories. You have to “empty yourself in part in order to listen well”: let go of your fear of not knowing what to say or of not having answers to give, of your certainties, of your weariness; do not anticipate the words of the other thinking that you already know where they’re coming from.
- When someone talks to us, they don’t just want answers. They want someone’s presence, affection, fellowship: to listen is to give.
- Silence is entering a fullness that heals.
4. The body
- It is indeed a gateway to our mind — a complex, intelligent entity that must be taken care of, notably through diet, meditation, physical exercise, etc.
- In Buddhism, the mind is the master of the body and of speech.
- The body-mind link is indisputable (power of the mind in the placebo effect, in a situation of disability, etc.).
- It is important to respect and love your body without idolizing it.
- We should consider our body as a child in our care or a house that is loaned to us.
- Through their experiences and their practice, the authors approach the theme of rejection as a source of suffering.
- Practicing acceptance on a daily basis (accepting is not resigning oneself) is an effective remedy against suffering.
- Suffering can be a source of accomplishment and resilience.
- At the heart of suffering, it is important to take action; there is nothing worse than immobility.
- Suffering cuts us off from the world and deprives us of what we need most. It is therefore essential to stay in touch with the world.
- It is infinitely easier to change our perception of things than to want to transform the world so that it no longer harms us.
- Do not over-react: in the midst of turmoil, it’s dangerous to want to change everything.
- Accept what you feel is happening in your body and in your mind: this will help you not to react impulsively but to respond in an appropriate and intelligent manner.
- By making concessions, we can find ourselves caught in an irreversible chain leading us to the opposite of our fundamental moral principles.
- Being truthful is not necessarily always telling the whole truth, especially if it creates suffering.
- It is more effective to embody your values yourself than to talk about and recommend them.
- The ideals and the concern for consistency must not transform into self-tyranny: our approach must also be accompanied by benevolence towards ourselves, tolerance towards our errors and our imperfections.
- Human situations are always complex, being too rigid can lead to reactions that are at odds with reality and create more suffering than happiness.
- It helps to differentiate altruism from empathy and compassion. They are, in fact, three distinct emotional states, which have different repercussions on our behavior and, consequently, on others.
- Generosity, charity, the true love of neighbor are exercised in everyday life: knowing how to welcome the next door neighbor, comforting a child, generously meeting a beggar, etc.
- We should pay attention to the others every day and especially to those who go unnoticed.
- Our altruism does not end with the number of those who receive it. If ten people bask in the sun, and if a thousand others come to bask in the same place, the sun does not need to shine a hundred times as much.
- We should understand rather than condemn.
- The evil person is above all a person who suffers, who clearly lacks peace and joy. In any case, benevolence should never be seen as a weakness but as the best option. It is also the best way to preserve our integrity and to cope in the face of adversity.
- Above all, you should not take anything away from your kindness (sometimes seen as a weakness) but rather work on your assertiveness more.
- It is good to be generous without being overwhelmed by the desire to please: it must be pure love, free and without reason.
- We should not blame ourselves for not doing what is beyond our strength but blame ourselves for looking away when we can act.
- Being benevolent with yourself facilitates benevolence towards others.
- It is necessary to continually let yourself be touched and moved by others: you risk, when you have “gone through rough times” in life, “hardening yourself”, or even cutting yourself off from others.
- The wise man does not seek that of which he has more than you, but rather that of which he has less.
- It is essential to identify our attachments and to realize that they deprive us of levity and complicate our lives. In fact, the problem does not concern objects, events, or people per se, but the attachment we have for them. Starkness is therefore not a question of wealth or poverty, but of the degree to which we cling to things.
- Non-attachment does not mean to love others less: on the contrary, we fully appreciate beings and situations, but without wanting to monopolize them. Also, it involves not placing all our hopes and fears in external conditions.
- Renouncing does not mean depriving yourself of what brings joy and happiness, but ending with what constantly creates countless torments.
- It is necessary to clear the mind (of cogitations, expectations, unnecessary fears, ruminations of the past, anticipation of the future) and to ask what is essential in our daily life (doing the cleaning, groceries).
- We should simplify our words (speak less, without animosity, with gentleness and, if firmness is necessary, that it is marked with benevolence) and our actions (not to get caught up in time-consuming activities that bring a piddling amount of satisfaction).
9. Guilt and forgiveness
- To forgive is to recognize the harm caused, to renounce hatred and resentment to replace them with benevolence and compassion, to break the cycle of revenge.
- We should not make moral judgment on people but on what they have done.
- Forgiveness is beneficial to all. It allows victims to find inner peace, and the culprits to bring out the best in them.
- To free oneself is to disobey a capricious ego.
- Freedom is inseparable from responsibility: it must be thought through while reflecting on the freedom of others.
- External freedom is the control of our existence, and internal freedom is the control of our mind.
- Free yourself from the past: revisit it, examine your history not to find excuses, but to become better.
- Even if the law allows us to do certain things, it is not always desirable to do them. Because, beyond “what is legal”, we must ask ourselves, “what is moral”.
- Ultimate freedom is freeing yourself from the causes of suffering.
- To be free consists in identifying the determinism and the influences which impact our choices, our opinions to then challenge them, and revisit them.
- Regarding freedom of expression: exercising our freedom cannot be done without conditions or while being disconnected from the effects it can produce. It is therefore only on the basis of benevolence that everyone can decide on the proper use of this freedom.
Review of “In Search of Wisdom: A Monk, a Philosopher, a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most”
The idea of sitting three “great minds” together and opening a friendly conversation on subjects that fascinate them immerses us in a rare climate of wisdom and benevolence.
Furthermore, by restoring the context, the atmosphere, the decor, and the continuity editing of this conversation, the writing and the tone of the book transport the reader. We, too, have the impression of being huddled around the fireplace, in the intimacy of the discussions.
The deep and widely developed subjects, approached from different angles, provide answers, or at least, interesting avenues for reflection on the conduct of our existence. However, the philosophical and theoretical content sometimes makes reading difficult and long. Specific passages require specific amounts of concentration…
- The wisdom of the tone and the words.
- Its originality.
- The way in which the book is designed brings us into the intimacy of this friendly encounter.
- The personal enrichment that the content provides.
- Somewhat lengthy due to the theoretical, philosophical, and spiritual content (lightened by the life experiences told).
- Very deep reflections not always easily accessible.
- Advice full of wisdom but which often seems difficult to apply in everyday reality.
My rating :
“Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art”
Published in September 2011, “Looking at Mindfulness” is one of the best-selling books by Christophe André.
Christophe André is one of the leading French specialists in mindfulness meditation and has written extensively on the subject. “Looking at Mindfulness” remains one of the most seminal books on the subject.
With illustrations (each chapter begins with a painting commented on by the author) and a CD of 10 guided meditations, designed and read by the author, this book shows us 25 ways to live well through mindfulness. In this book, Christophe André invites us to discover, at our own pace, mindfulness meditation in order to rediscover a relationship with the world and a more peaceful life.
Presence, not emptiness!
Many people believe that meditation is to clear your head. However, that’s not the case. Meditation, according to Christophe André, is getting in touch with ourselves. This requires to cease our activities, to sit down, to close our eyes to observe a paradox: that which is empty (actions and distractions cease) and that which is full (our sensations and the hubbub of our thoughts remain).
25 lessons for living in mindfulness, according to Christophe André
Lesson 1: Breathe
Through breathing, we can truly live in and feel the present moment, by experiencing what is happening in us and around us, right now.
Lesson 2: Inhabit your body
This means being attentive to our whole body, including our pain.
Lesson 3: Close your eyes and listen
This entails listening to the sounds around us, the silence in our hectic lives and what is going on in our bodies.
Lesson 4: Observe your thoughts
We then realize that our thoughts are only mental constructions. By meditating, we thus find a space of freedom, that of choosing or not to follow our thoughts.
Lesson 5: Make space for your emotions
We’re tempted to flee or, on the contrary, to control unpleasant emotions. Meditation invites us to confront our emotions by asking ourselves how they manifest, where and what thoughts they trigger.
Lesson 6: Use your attention to expand your awareness
Mindfulness consists of three levels of awareness:
- Primary: Our feelings and impressions.
- Identity: Awareness of one’s “self”.
- Reflexive: Taking a step back, thinking, analyzing.
Lesson 7: Being simply present
When you stop “doing”, you feel yourself “being”. To facilitate this process, four attitudes can be improved:
- Do not judge: In the case of meditation, for example, we will not focus on whether our exercise is a success or a failure.
- Do not filter: Often, in our exercise, we tend to remember only that which is pleasant or what we enjoy. The goal is to welcome everything, even that which does not suit us or unsettles us.
- Do not cling to what is pleasant, for fear that it will escape, but savor it when it presents itself.
- Do not expect anything: During our meditation exercise, there is no point in setting goals. In fact, the idea is to simply observe what is there, already there, in us and around us.
Lesson 8: See the ordinary
It is a question of ceasing to “do” and to go through activities mindlessly, in order to, instead, make ourselves present to what we do (like the infant who discovers the world around him).
Lesson 9: See the invisible
Let us reconnect to our daily lives and to what “we no longer look at”. Activation and acceleration are an obstacle in our connection to the elements that make up our daily life.
Lesson 10: See what is important
We are continuously overexposed (information, advertisements, noise, images, etc.). Therefore, we need:
- Slowness, by reducing our busy agendas.
- Continuity in our activities, by rejecting the urge to constantly look at our screens.
- Calm, by taking the time to do nothing, to just take care of ourselves.
Meditating helps us to differentiate between what is urgent and what is important.
Lesson 11: Act and don’t act
Instead of doing several things at once, practice calmness and silence from time to time. In “wanting to live twice as much, you actually risk living half as much because it maybe twice as bad”.
Lesson 12: Sharpen your mind
Meditating is watching and observing your mind work, identifying its automatic reflexes, getting it used to creativity, concentration, flexibility, and finally appeasing it. To keep our mind sharp, it is necessary to question and challenge it regularly.
Lesson 13: Understand and accept what is
Accept that “everything is there, already there”. It is not a question of resigning oneself but of learning to live with it. In this, we remain active in healing and lucidity. We are no longer in a struggle.
Lesson 14: Escape your mental prisons
Physical pain often takes over a lot of things. By soothing our mind, meditation can then act as an analgesic. As for suffering of the mind, we must avoid focusing our attention on it, as it can make it more burdensome (principle of rumination). Meditation provides the space necessary for this suffering so that it can gradually diminish in impermanence: nothing lasts, everything passes.
Lesson 15: Let go
In some cases, there is no point in acting or trying to sort out our problem. It is therefore better to breathe and not look for a solution, at least not right away. Our breathing helps us to see more clearly, and thus to find an adequate solution. We can also consider it as letting go, which leads to giving up the need to control everything or to find an immediate solution.
Lesson 16: Stay present to the world
It is difficult to do when we are suffering because we would prefer to cower in front of our misfortune. However, staying in touch with the world and life prevents us from being overwhelmed by the pain.
Lesson 17: Move forward, even when hurt
When things are very bad, action is sometimes the only remedy: walking, running, tinkering around, gardening, working… Because nothing else seems possible at that moment anyways. And if we do nothing, we collapse.
Lesson 18: Accept mystery
In our life, we cannot control everything. Meditation teaches us to tolerate, to live with these situations that we cannot control. Meditating means welcoming, in the present moment, the discomfort of not knowing and of not understanding.
Lesson 19: See happiness gently emerge
Happiness is fleeting, it comes and goes. Learn to savor it, despite the stress and boredom of life, rather than always and always waiting for happiness with a capital “H”.
Lesson 20: Work
Our brain, like our body, requires training. Meditation helps to exercise our mind. In this sense, it is a true “health act”. It is essential to practice regularly and to accept that sometimes we simply will not want to meditate.
Lesson 21: Contemplate
The author distinguishes the telos (which depends on us) from the skopos (the objective to be reached). Only the means depend on us. The final objective is subject to vagaries independent of our will, thus useless to want to control it.
Lesson 22: Love
We are social creatures capable of love. Without relationships, one cannot live well. You can start by practicing gratitude, by recognizing what others provide you.
There are four types of meditation related to love:
- Benevolence: Wishing for others to be happy.
- Compassion: Sharing the suffering of another person to relieve them (not to weigh yourself down).
- Altruistic joy: Rejoicing in the happiness of others.
- Equanimity: Wanting good for all human beings, even those with whom you have difficult relationships or whom you don’t know.
Lesson 23: Experience the expansion and dissolution of the self
The expansion refers to the vast field of our consciousness, capable of welcoming everything. Dissolution corresponds to the feeling that 3.everything happens as if we were merging into our environment.
Lesson 24: Connecting to the world: by meditating, there are no more borders between us and the rest. Everything is linked.
Lesson 25: Lesson 25 is not mentioned. Perhaps this is a nod from the author…
Review of “Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art”
This book is both poetic (paintings, quotes) and very practical (with, in addition, its accompanying CD of meditations). It is really a work that I recommend for those who seek to discover meditation and, at the same time, a tool for personal development. It can, indeed, greatly help you to improve your daily life by, as the author says, modifying your relationship with the world, alleviating your suffering, and transcending your joys.
- The structure of the book combines poetry, instruction, and exercises (guided meditations on the CD).
- The author’s clear and instructional approach to express difficult concepts.
- The benevolence of Christophe André who, in fact, is not looking to persuade the reader at all costs but simply is offering another path, that of meditation.
- The last chapter is not readily accessible for the uninitiated.
My rating :