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Present-moment focus

by
15 February 2013

Jenny Francis looks at  a word now in vogue

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The Heart of Mindful Relationships: Meditations on togetherness
Maria Arpa
Leaping Hare Press £7.99
(978-1-908005-29-8)
Church Times Bookshop £7.20

Mindfulness and the Art of Managing Anger: Meditations on clearing the red mist
Mike Fisher
Leaping Hare Press £7.99
(978-1-908005-30-4)
Church Times Bookshop £7.20

THESE two books look very striking. With their coloured spines and gold lettering, they are attractively produced, thoughtfully designed, using pen and ink drawings, and are very similar in format: both, for example, have exactly 143 pages, including the index. Despite being eye-catching, they are no more expensive than many small specialist books.

Prompted by their unusual appearance, the reader would do well to Google the publisher, Leaping Hare Press, itself an imprint of the Ivy Press, which specialises in producing beautifully crafted books, illustrative of their Buddhist inspiration. Both these two have the word "mindfulness" in their title, a word in increasingly widespread use these days. The intrigued reader may discover a short video of Adam Ford, explaining what mindfulness is, its Buddhist derivation, and its relevance for us all today, whether or not we have a personal Christian faith. It is, Ford says, about embracing life in the present moment, letting the past go, and resisting the temptation to look ahead, simply concentrating on "now". Setting ourselves free to appreciate the very moment without distraction, we are free to appreciate the peace, joy, and happiness available to us.

Maria Arpa is an experienced and well-qualified London-based mediator and counsellor. She also trained in conflict-resolution, and is a Reiki Master. One of her passions is helping those in a relationship to improve the quality and functioning of that relationship, or, if necessary, to separate with the least damage possible. She gives children's welfare top priority in her work as a mediator, and in this little book, using the concept of "mindfulness", she encourages people to learn to listen to themselves, and thus move on to listen and respond sensitively to the needs of their partner, thereby strengthening their relationship. She does this in a very detailed, practical, and thoughtful way.

Similarly, Mike Fisher, also London-based, is a counsellor, facilitator, and anger-management guru, who founded the British Association of Anger Management. He deals with the way in which stress stimulates anger, and how dangerous it can be for all relationships. Using his own experience of overcoming "toxic anger", he guides anger-sufferers towards an improved understanding of its deleterious effects, and how best to improve things by listening to themselves. His practical approach, based on his understanding of "mindfulness", describes how to achieve better self-control, and how to improve both working and personal relationships. Although recommending meditation, Fisher also recommends sticking to what works best for you.

Both these titles are very practical, easy to handle, well-structured, and benefit from the authors' considerable experience. They both emphasise the need to start by knowing oneself. Only then can one begin to come to terms with the destructive forces of anger, or work towards improving relationships. Loving oneself is a familiar tenet of Christianity, as we learn thereby to love others as ourselves, and love "as he loves us". Food for thought.

The Revd Jenny Francis is a retired psychotherapist and a priest in the diocese of Exeter.

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