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Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity    by Ronald Epstein order for
by Ronald Epstein
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Although Attending by Ronald Epstein, M.D. seems to be aimed primarily at health care providers, there is much information in this book that would be beneficial for everyone. His subtitle is 'Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity', and certainly the mindfulness and humanity advice apply to those in different professions, as well as to the everyday encounters and relationships that all people have, even those who are retired.

In the first chapters, Dr. Epstein explains what he means by mindfulness. He then goes on to encourage people to listen attentively to others, showing appropriate curiosity, and not jumping in with remarks about their own experiences. Although this certainly presents an approach to doctoring that would be appreciated, it can also improve relationships between couples or friends, especially if one of those in the relationship has suffered an emotional or physical setback in his or her life. I wonder how many of us, having been told by a friend about something that is really bothering them, will jump into the conversation with an account of our own experience with that situation, rather than giving the friend a chance to receive support by just listening carefully and asking how we can help.

Before he decided to become a doctor, Dr. Epstein's ambition was to become a musician, and he spent long hours learning and practicing music. However, after reading a book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, he spent three months, at the age of nineteen, at the San Francisco Zen Center. This book and his musical background have influenced his medical career in significant ways, and he spends a lot of time explaining how meditation can help people avoid burn-out.

Attending tells many interesting stories about patients who have health crises and how their doctors approached these illnesses. Sometimes the outcomes are good, quite often after mistakes have been made, but there are the inevitable failures, and he gives moving accounts about how the death of a patient affects a doctor and how he can best deal with that pain to protect himself as well as to present caring support to the surviving family members. I think that anyone who wants to learn better ways of connecting with other people, both in their careers and personal lives, will gain much insight from reading this interesting book.

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