Leaves Falling Gently

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Leaves Falling Gently
by Susan Bauer-Wu
New Harbinger Publications

Reviewed by V. Anderson

In her book, Leaves Falling Gently, Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN, defines and elaborates on three main concepts—mindfulness, compassion, and connectedness—to help readers facing life-limiting illnesses “break free from the rut of rumination” and focus on living life more fully. Although illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS are briefly identified in the book, the lessons for living are decidedly not specific to one illness.

A powerful passage early on outlines the author’s distinction between pain and suffering. Key to benefiting from the practices in the book is accepting this distinction. Bauer-Wu expands this idea by stressing the cause-effect relationship between human emotion and physiology. For readers who are feeling bogged down by anger, frustration, stress, or fear about their illnesses, the author’s practical advice and open discussion of the more difficult issues that people with life-limiting illnesses face could be a great comfort and help release some of those negative feelings.

The language is accessible, and the book is easy to read; each section follows roughly the same pattern: definition of key concepts, elaboration on those concepts, evidence, and practical exercises. The evidence included is everything from personal anecdotes and patient stories to scientific research that is mostly fully synthesized into the work, giving readers little information from which to draw their own interpretations. Sources range from a music teacher to a neuroscientist to a Buddhist monk, and although the book claims to be non-religious, it borrows heavily from Buddhist philosophy. For those who are resistant to simple techniques or self-help in general, this book may not be useful. However, as a tool for people living with a life-limiting illness such as HIV/AIDS, it could be a great resource. For many of us, the simplest concepts are often the hardest to master.

V. Anderson holds an MFA in Film from New York University. She has worked in India, the Caribbean, and the U.S., and is currently based in New York City.

December 2011