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Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart Paperback – January 22, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

According to ancient legends, alchemists use a magical philosopher's stone to transmute lead into gold. In Emotional Alchemy, Tara Bennett-Goleman shows readers how they can use this alchemist metaphor to transform emotional confusion (lead) into insightful clarity (gold). And what does the magic stone represent? "Mindfulness," a lifelong practice that can bring readers more joy and contentment than the gold, according to Bennett-Goleman. "Mindfulness means seeing things as they are without trying to change them," she writes. "The point is to dissolve our reactions to disturbing emotions, being careful not to reject the emotion itself."

Those who have never entered this practice will find a concise and articulate teacher in Bennett-Goleman, who leads national workshops with her husband, author Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence). What make this book such an exciting breakthrough is Bennett-Goleman's ability to apply Buddhist mindfulness to Western psychology. She shows how emotional alchemy can be used to address typical habits, such as mistrust, fear of rejection, feeling unlovable. Readers will also find fascinating scientific facts on how emotional alchemy affects brain chemistry and even cancer survival. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"We all desire happiness and do not want suffering." The Dalai Lama introduces Bennett-Goleman's first book with this trademark refrain, adding the deceptively simple Buddhist truth that much suffering is caused by our "disturbing emotions." Bennett-Goleman, a psychotherapist and longtime student of Buddhist meditation, draws on decades of experience to elucidate how the Buddhist practices of nonjudgmental awareness or mindfulness and the cultivation of compassion can unclasp the grip of the most addictive and deeply entrenched emotional patterns. What sets Bennett-Goleman's work apart from other contributions to the emerging field of Buddhist-oriented psychotherapy is her particular expertise in "schema therapy," which applies the consciousness of thought patterns that characterizes cognitive therapy to the deep-seated emotional habits that are formed in childhood. Thus she shows readers how our habitual fears and defenses get triggered again and again in our relationships, mechanically perpetuating old pain and obscuring reality. The author offers anecdotes from her clinical work and from workshops she conducts with her husband, Daniel Goleman, author of the megabestseller Emotional Intelligence. While Bennett-Goleman will undoubtedly benefit from the huge interest in her husband's book and from the burgeoning market for applied Buddhist wisdom in general, her distinct power flows from her sincerity. She is not given to neat formulations, yet her stories have the persuasiveness of experience, of transformation drop by drop. "In Western psychology it is often said that one needs a strong ego," writes Bennett-Goleman. "But in the Buddhist sense what we need is strong confidence." Many readers will trust the path that she forges here. (Jan.) Forecast: Foreign rights to this title have been sold in Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain and Latin America, Sweden, Taiwan and the U.K. Given the excellence of the book, a planned major push from Harmony, and the obvious benefit of a title and author name approximating those of Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, hefty sales and major interest are likely
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition (January 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609809032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609809037
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For many years I have been fortunate in studying with some of the great living meditation masters in the Vipassana and Dzogchen traditions, traveling to see them in Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Northwest China near the border of Tibet. This life-changing training and practice continues to inform every aspect of my work; in a sense my interest in fusion grew from integrating the insightful depth of these Eastern wisdom traditions with the accessible skills, breadth of understanding, and creativity of Western modalities.

During the same period I was practicing mindfulness meditation in intensive retreats, I also did a post-graduate training in Schema Therapy with Dr. Jeffrey Young, founder of the Cognitive Therapy Center of New York. As I was steeping myself in each of these Eastern and Western traditions, I began to see how they were offering similar insights and methods for working with the mind, though from different cultural perspectives - and in combination they powerfully complemented each other. I began to use this integration in my own work as a psychotherapist, which led me to write Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart . I continue to teach workshops about Emotional Alchemy, and am working on a follow-up book.

One of the outgrowths of teaching Emotional Alchemy workshops internationally, has been developing a program for professionals to package their unique skills and integrate them with awareness training. Buddhist practice, simply put, aims to understand how the mind works in order to relieve suffering, and to be there for the needs of others in whatever way we can. The program, called Karuna Workshops, offers seminars inspired by an attitude of generosity, to further insight and compassion, and to raise funds for projects that benefit others. I co-founded the program with partners in Denmark, which continues to the present.

In graduate school my Masters thesis focused on caring for yourself while helping others, which evolved into a workshop for health professionals, and also a wellness education program for elders to help other elders, drawing on the wisdom of their lifelong experience. As a workshop leader, I have sometimes given presentations in restorative natural settings in the Caribbean, Europe, and the U.S. These gatherings are designed as educational vacations that provide nurturing, contemplative learning environments where people in the group readily become a bonded community.

One current interest extends this work to caretakers and social activists to turn inward, connecting with their own inner resources, while turning to each other for mutual support and to exchange ideas, as well as learn from inspiring social change leaders. One work-in-progress is organizing a think tank for people engaged in meaningful work to benefit others, to learn from Dr. Ariyaratne, whose Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka brings Gandhian and Buddhist principles to the challenges of development in the Third World.

One of the things that interests me in Dr. Ari's work is that it focuses on developing self-reliance. Over the years I've been drawn to projects that, help people work toward ways to help themselves. One form this has taken is direct involvement, such as making the first widely available educational video about the Tibetan situation; at the time it was widely used by local groups and the Office of Tibet to raise public awareness. I was a coordinator for Home Aid, a benefit concert for the homeless, at the Cathedral of St. John in New York City. As part of the task force for this concert, I arranged a grant for women living in homeless shelters to help them develop creative skills that would help them work toward economic independence.

Another form this has taken is through consulting or financial support, such as editing and underwriting the publication of Tibetan wisdom teachings. I continue to be inspired by finding ways to translate and integrate Eastern and Western insights and methods, while respect the integrity both of ancient and contemporary traditions.

More currently, I've been advising and supporting a project that will train teachers among Tibetan nuns and monks who have done long-term retreats, a compelling need since so many of the old, great masters are passing on. I've also been working with a group that aims to develop sustainable income sources for nuns on lifelong retreat in Tibet. I'm currently involved with conflict resolution based on Buddhist principles, consulting with and helping support training for monks in peaceful methods of resolving conflict between warring groups in Nepal, a country afflicted for years by civil strife.

I've been a longtime student of Japanese tea ceremony and Ikebana flower arranging, which led me to develop a workshop called the "meditative arts," integrating these artistic forms with mindfulness and social awareness, such as honoring cultural diversity, through an aesthetic appreciation of the arts.

My grandfather was a well-known dance instructor who, in his Manhattan studio at 47th St. and Broadway, taught actors and actresses who needed to learn dance sequences for theater and movies. My lifelong interest in dance blossomed while I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I studied with Chitresh Das, a master of Kathak, an Indian dance form. Kathak highlights story-telling; it originated in the Indian region Rajasthan -- which is also where the gypsies came from. The gypsies' dance and music evolved as they roamed the world, ripening into flamenco as they reached Spain. Dance historians believe Kathak and flamenco share the same roots, as is depicted beautifully in Lacho Dromo , the film about the migration of the gypsies, and how they transcended their hardships through dance and music.

My grand-father had a fascination with the rhythmic connection between tap and flamenco, as I remembered when I was developing a dance that combined the similarities in movements, rhythm, and melody of Kathak and flamenco. These dance forms are so similar - yet it is still a creative challenge to figure out how to segue from bells and bare feet to high heels!

Another dance work-in-progress combines Kathak with my longtime interest in the Japanese tea ceremony. Sometimes when I'm writing my book, I find an idea expresses itself more readily as a dance. One day I was writing about the arts as a vehicle for appreciating ethnic diversity, when I decided to choreograph these ideas using the storytelling aspect of Kathak. I started with a sequence that shows a vignette of mindfully serving a bowl of tea in the manner of the Japanese ceremony - with all the graceful and precise movements of tea.

Then I realized I could keep going, and continued to play with vignettes of other styles of tea, like the intricacies of British High Tea in the grand manner. Then I looked into the many simple or elaborate traditions of serving tea in the Middle East, China, Tibet, East India, and America. So the dance combines these with a playful spirit: an appropriate musical soundtrack from each culture accompanies the depiction of their style of tea. There's the ritualized, utterly attentive movements of Japanese tea, followed by an American multi-tasking while dipping a Lipton teabag in a cup, distractedly scanning the newspaper and listening to the radio. Then the relaxed, folksy style of the Indian chai walla, juxtaposed with the overly mannered and all-too-proper English afternoon tea - all tied together with the Kathak sadighat , dance movements that provide a connecting tissue of rhythm.

The point of this global tea dance: even with all the differences and conflicts going on in the world, there's one thing we know we can all agree on - everybody loves to drink tea!

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The emotional impact of delving into "schemas" as defined by Goleman was huge.
While intellectually I was aware of childhood influences on my adult being, Goleman's work puts those experiences, and our resultant coping mechanisms, or schemas, into a solid framework.
I had never given thought to how deeply rooted the schemas of abandonment, deprivation, subjugation, mistrust and unlovability were in my own life, or in the life of my signficant other.
Descriptions and vignettes presented by the author brought me to shaking and shuddering tearfulness as long-dormant emotions rose to the surface. At the same time, I could see my partner's schemas at work on both her and on our relationship.
For the first time outside of a pure academic exercise, I highlighted the book as relevancy to my life swirled inside of my head. I later actually wrote out 12 single-spaced pages of notes about these revelations to later share with my partner.
I sent her the book (since she's now moved 1500 miles away. . .) with the promise that we shall discuss in detail once she finishes. Behaviors as individuals and as a couple NOW make sense. What was inexplicable and frustrating before now have a plausible framework.
Most importantly, the author's strategy and techniques for employing "mindfulness," or the way to see things as they are, is very useful and sensible. The ability to recognize the power of our schemas and then help to turn maladaptive schemas away from controlling our lives is totally understandable and useful.
She adroitly blends in various underpinnings for her theory ranging from the latest psychological therapy techniques to the quieting powers of reflection as exercised within Buddaism and other far eastern religions.
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Format: Hardcover
Alchemy is the process of transformation. It describes "the process of integrating mindfulness with emotional work." "Mindfulness means seeing things as they are, without trying to change them." (p. 6) Tara is an excellent guide. Mindfulness grows on you as you ponder through the numerous personal and therapy stories and descriptions. You really learn to appreciate and taste the contemplative, compassionate, accepting, equanimous, present-focused, light-hearted and liberating mindfulness permeating throughout the book.
At the recommendation of Fr. Anthony de Mello, 10 Catholic priests, including myself, and 8 Sisters (doing a full-year's Sadhana) had the privilege of following S. N. Goenka, for intensive Vipassana or Insight Meditation retreats at Igatpuri, near Bombay, in India, in 1976. The focal point was on sharpening our awareness of breathing, thoughts, body sensations, feelings and accepting whatever IS without judging.
Tara has followed Goenka and many other masters. She suggests many easy-to-follow exercises for awareness and integration. You pick up such awareness by osmosis in reading the book and practising the exercises.
Dalai Lama wrote the Foreword. Though Buddhists like Goenka, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama and many Zen and Tibetan masters have done much to popularise "mindfulness", you don't have to believe in Buddha to practise such mindfulness.
About 3 decades ago, Beisser, summarized the essence of Gestalt Therapy as "The paradoxical law of change": "When you accept what IS, change occurs." That is mindfulness. Charles T. Tart, Andrew Weil and many others have all written on mindfulness without a religious context..
Tara not only conveys the spirit of mindfulness here.
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Format: Hardcover
Years ago I attended one of Tara and her husband Daniel's weekend seminar on meditation. I remember feeling a lightness and ease in myself after this seminar. I found a similar experience with reading Tara's book, Emotional Alchemy. Through Western psychology and Buddhist mindfulness Tara guides the reader in self discovery. According to Tara "Mindfulness means seeing things as they are, without trying to change them." I had not previously heard of the practice of mindfulness, but it rang true for me. I feel I will revisit Tara's book again and again as it is a great resource for personal transformation.
I you enjoyed this book, I highly recommend reading another book called "Working on Yourself Doesn't Work" by Ariel and Shya Kane. The Kane's approach to modern day enlightenments is based on simple awareness where mechanical behavior can transform enabling you to lead an authentic life, one with meaning and satisfaction. Thanks to all the authors of these two wonderful books!
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Format: Hardcover
I had the pleasure of editing this book for Harmony, and I've never been more helped and enlightened by a book I've worked on than I have by EMOTIONAL ALCHEMY. It is so rare to find a book that combines original insight with an actual practice that can bring the insights to you in an immediate and personal way. It is even rarer to find such a book that is beautifully written, full of stories and wisdom woven seamlessly together. Rarer still is to find an author as authentic, caring and generous as Tara--so true to her message. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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