Shortcuts to Mindfulness:
100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth

by Catherine Auman

Green Tara Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-989-83053-9.
Reviewed by Susan Marsh
Posted on 05/09/2016

Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

"Too busy to take up a meditation practice? You don't have to with this collection of short essays by Catherine Auman, LMFT. The reader will experience mindful awakenings about spirituality, relationships, love, tantric sex, and how to become a better person." —book promotion blurb from Green Tara Press
I'm probably too old for tantric sex, but the title of Catherine Auman's book, Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth, intrigued me. In my 63 years I have yet to discover a true shortcut to spiritual growth of any kind, and mindfulness in particular. It is a daily practice, requiring intention and attention, and reading a 300-word essay is no substitute for doing the actual work. So I was interested to read what kind of shortcuts Auman had to offer.

As it turned out, she does not offer shortcuts, though the chapters are short, bite-sized columns from an online publication that she has put together for this book. She offers reminders, resources for further exploration, and comfort. Unfortunately, many of the pieces skip over the surface of deeper ideas that ask for deeper discussion and could have benefited from greater attention. But all can serve those who struggle to make even fifteen minutes available for contemplation, meditation, or writing in a journal. This is the sort of book one may randomly open, perhaps to find that the very thing you are struggling with is discussed on the page in front of you. I will use as an example a passage that appealed to me, from an essay on causes of depression:

You are a spiritual person, and living a life without deeper meaning is not enough for you. Many depressed people have tasted something deeper than is offered by the mainstream culture and have a driving desire to honor that inner knowing. This call must be answered.
Auman doesn't tell you how to answer it (thus, no shortcut, sorry). But she does put her finger on the root of a common state of unease. When you start to understand the cause, you have a tool with which to help yourself find the cure.

In another passage from what must be my favorite page in the book Auman advises us to find friends and people to support us. "Facebook doesn't count," she says. "We need to be in the presence of other people's bodies." How true that rings for me. We are more than our minds and fingertips (or thumbs, if you are a texter). We need to be part of the world and its people with all of our senses. There is no substitute for a friend who is a good listener, who will place her hand on your shoulder or give you a hug.

Proximity to others in their physical wholeness is the state in which we evolved. We still need that proximity, that realness. While one might make the point the being jostled in a crowd is not very therapeutic, being with people you trust and who deserve that trust can be a tremendous boost.

Auman is a practitioner of a branch of psychology called Transpersonal Therapy, and she uses the book to promote this approach. From my reading, it borrows from Buddhist traditions and shares much in common with many so-called alternative healing modalities. That said, the book does not overwhelm the reader with esoteric woo-woo. I believe the concepts and practices presented have been offered for us to take what helps us and leave what does not.

Catherine Auman's distinguished career in psychology has included working in virtually all aspects of mental heath: private practice, psychiatric hospitals, chemical dependency treatment centers, residential treatment, and consulting nationally with mental health facilities. She was previously Director of Behavioral Health Services at Glendale Memorial Hospital, Redlands Community Hospital, and the Alpha Recovery Center. She taught psychology and counseling at JFK University, the University of Phoenix, and The Chicago School for Professional Psychology. Catherine received her M.A. in Psychology from Antioch University in 1983, her license as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 1993 (30784), and she is a Certified NLP Practitioner. In 2011, she was elected by her peers to the State Board of her professional organization CAMFT. Visit her website.

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