Every Breath You Take is one of the finest mindfulness manuals that I’ve ever had the pleasure to pick up. Practice by practice, Elliot takes the reader from the simple and concrete observation of the breath to the complex and abstract juggling of mind stuff. Along the way, she provides stories and anecdotes of those who have walked these paths before us and shows that, no matter where you are in your life, you can become more aware and grounded in the present moment and how beneficial that can be for you.
She began her journey like most of us- convinced that mindfulness was too difficult: “I struggled with the practice. I found it dreary, dull and boring- all that ‘notice-what-you’re-doing-while-you-clean-your-teeth’- I just couldn’t get to grips with it at all. … when I was on the point of giving up altogether, I met a monk… and he quietly suggested that it is helpful to link mindfulness practice to breathing. This really helped.” loc 16. Elliot is so relatable that she made me feel like, if she could do this, I could do it too.
A reminder that mindfulness isn’t just a ‘Buddhist’ thing: “…it is to the Buddha that we owe mindfulness, but that does not mean you have to ‘be a Buddhist’ (whatever that may mean), or indeed of any religion at all to practise it. The breath is universal, as is spirit, so we can all benefit.” loc 46. If we can breathe, we can watch the breath. We just need to remember to do it.
I loved Elliot’s gentle humor which was evident throughout: “You can use the irritations of daily life as reminders to take a mindfulness breath- and this way you’ll certainly get plenty of practice! For instance, such reminders might be: Being held up in traffic or a red light when you are driving. Waiting for the kettle to boil or for a bus or a train that’s late- waiting for almost anything. Lining up at the bank or at the grocery store checkout, or anywhere, for that matter. When someone is being really irritating, how great to know you have your own inner source of peace so they can’t bother you.” loc 237. It is as if life is chock full of opportunities to take mindful breaths 🙂
My favorite part of the book was the many teachings about attachment. “When we can accept things as they are now, but recognize that they will change, and accept that too, we will know peace.” loc 793. I feel more peaceful already!
The Epilogue where Elliot talks about grieving for her husband and using these breathing exercises to make it through is especially touching. This is not just someone who talks the talk- she’s out there walking the walk. Highly recommended for anybody at any level of ability who wants to learn more about mindfulness.
Some further reading: How to Relax, The Wisdom of the Breath: Three Guided Meditations for Calming the Mind and Cultivating Insight, or Being Peace.
Thank you to NetGalley and Watkins Publishing for a free digital copy of this book! And, thank you for reading.