Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.
I learned about Dr. Gregory Bottaro’s book, “The Mindful Catholic,” and thought first, “this could be helpful for my writing” and then, second and more sheepishly, “I probably need that.” It is a self-help book, a how-to book in the practice of mindfulness, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.
My life is no longer the slow pace of waiting for my baby to wake up, but a wide array of choices I can make. Coming to Chapter Four, “Telling Ourselves Stories,” I felt he was speaking to me. It feels like time and schedules drag me along, especially on the weekends. Overwhelmed, my life feels cluttered and fractured and never quite enough.
What am I missing?
Attendance to the present moment.
I think “The Mindful Catholic” may be one of the best non-fiction books I have read. The theology is sound and used to a purpose. While the title says “Catholic” the meaning comes in through a Christian worldview of what makes a person human.
If someone is a materialist, believing we are just bodies without a spiritual component, the foundation will not stand. Bottaro draws from a Catholic theological and philosophical tradition, described most thoroughly in the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person (CCMMP). This approach is the foundation and strengthens everything he has to say. For those Christians uncomfortable with now-common practices that have their origin in Eastern spirituality, Bottaro astutely defends a unique Christian tradition behind the mindfulness practice.
Because he draws from a tradition deeper than his own concepts his writing has layers of depth a reader could spend hours contemplating. For example, “Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment, God is the present moment. He defined himself as ‘I am who am.’ God sees all as a present moment, and it is our goal to see as he sees.”
Bottaro introduces himself and his credentials to the reader. Throughout the book, we gradually learn who Bottaro is, some of his habits (he hates traffic), about his wife’s labor and delivery (she is amazing) and in the chapter on acceptance, about the tragic circumstances this young professional faced in his family. He makes it clear he practices (and needs) this thing of mindfulness he preaches.
There are certain analogies and explanations therapists will use again and again. I feel Bottaro is walking us down a well-worn path, one he knows well. His analogies accomplish their goal of illustrating points in a thorough way. Bottaro does not waste words. I do not want an author to be my buddy. I bristle a little when writers refer to me as “friend” because it takes a lot to earn my trust as friend. I want an author to teach me something.
The practices begin in the traditional exercises of mindfulness and then develop into something wholly unique bringing in the core concept of mercy while staying true to the parameters of the psychological process.
He wisely repeats concepts again and again. Throughout the day, I catch myself calling me back to the present moment with my children using his phrase. “Doing versus being,” I say inside myself. Then, I look at them and attend to them in the way in which I have fallen short of late.
When Bottaro tells the story of his mother’s death, with passion and exhortation in Chapter Five, “Acceptance,” he describes what acceptance is and you know he has felt it.
I have felt it, too.
“The path of acceptance is the one you walk with peace, but peace does not mean the alleviation of suffering…
“This awareness will certainly take in painful realities, but it will also keep you open to seeing the deep beauty that lies inherently in all of life.”
As soon as I finished “The Mindful Catholic,” I wanted to pick it up again and dive deeper. My plan is, now, to go back through it and practice the exercises after each chapter. I picked up this book for its usefulness to my profession but found in it a treasure for my heart. I whole-heartedly recommend this book.