on March 21, 2009
This memoir deserves more than five stars! I just finished it and had to come here and post a review. I've been waiting and waiting for this book to come out and it not only didn't disappoint, but it by far exceeded my highest expectations. Whether Mary writes about the elderly or adolescence or the experiences of refugees and immigrants, she is always among the most insightful and heartfelt writers I've ever read. Seeking Peace is her autobiography. I wasn't sure what to expect. Autobiographies of fantastic individuals somehow too often turn out to be surprisingly dull but Seeking Peace is so naturally well written, so genuine and poignant and at times very funny, and allows you throughout the chapters to make meaningful parallels to your own in such a way that by the end of the book, I was able to see into the innermost creases and particulars of my own life in compelling, unexpected new ways.
What I love about Pipher most of all is the wide pasture she has always allowed for people to be exactly who they are and her extraordinary ability to write about individuals and their challenges in such a way that you can't help but see your fellow human beings in more forgiving, compassionate, and broader ways. Learning about her own history and how she came to be who she is was a wonderful read. There wasn't one dry, unnecessary sentence in the book. Some autobiographies are filled with too much detail and content without the balance of thoughtful insight and observation accompanying it along the way. Seeking Peace wasn't like that at all. Her writing style is the best part, as if she is sitting in her living room simply reminiscing out loud. I almost wish I had gotten it on audio cd for that reason. Its a deeply personal, courageously honest, and ultimately very inspiring book.
on April 14, 2009
I am an avid reader and Amazon peruser and have never written a review, but have to respectfully post my opinion this time to statistically increase the "star rating" average!
With respect to the previous reviewer, I couldn't disagree more. Perhaps because it is from my own personal vessel of life experiences from which I read the book. I don't think I have ever identified more strongly with a writer, and I found her to be so open, giving, and thus vulnerable, with the end-effect that I simply felt changed. So "self-involved" is not at all how I would characterize the writing. Quite the opposite.
Thank you, Mary for your humble, yet startling writing. We readers are all better for it.
People who think this is a how-to book are wrong, as are those who think it's a resource guide for Buddhist meditation. I think the only bad thing about it, actually, is the misleading title. Embrace this terrific little book for what it actually is: an insightful memoir by a fine Everywoman philosopher. I've been reading Mary Pipher for years and love her insightful, humanistic writing. Her previous books tended to cover a major topic of societal upheaval, like immigration issues or the aging of the population but this is a deeply personal book about who she is and how she got that way. I was shocked to read about some aspects of her childhood, reassured to learn that she stumbled starting out on her career path and incredibly moved by how difficult life became when her first book made her a national celebrity. Most people don't want to hear that the dream of becoming a bestselling author might actually turn out to be a nightmare: it certainly was to Mary. But regardless of your own dreams, this book puts things beautifully into perspective. I recommend it highly, and think it would make a perfect gift for someone reaching a major milestone birthday, like 40, 50 or 60, and wants to think about what matters in life.
on April 26, 2009
With each of her previous books, Mary Pipher demonstrated a talent for examining a drop of water and finding a way to understand, and - fortunately for the rest of us - to explain the ocean. Whether she focuses on adolescent girls, immigrants, the elderly or families, Mary is able to trace the connections between the individual and the culture and find the stories that explain us to ourselves and strangers to one another. Her new book, Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World, is no exception to this pattern. Even though the topic of this new book is her own life, a decidedly interesting one, its merits do not remain there. While rooted in the intimate experiences of one human being, the book flowers into a treatise about what it means to be Human. Like the stories that Mary's mother told her that became the bedrock for her moral education, Mary's life story teaches us something about how to behave toward ourselves and toward others. The book sparkles with wisdom and humor. There are dozens of paragraphs that stopped me with sadness as I recognized something that reflected my own life with crystalline clarity (as when she writes of her father, "My memories of our interactions contradict each other. He could turn my heart to butter and to stone. Across the broad landscape of time, I can't remember who he truly was."), but it's also laced with such surprising wit. (Okay, I admit I laughed out loud when I came across the sentence "The concept of a blow job was almost beyond my ability to understand, but Rhonda's explanations were riveting.") Ultimately the book gives us, if not a road map, at least a likable, well-read, soft-spoken traveling companion for our own journey toward peace.
on April 22, 2009
I loved this book. I read it over a weekend and was entranced. I found myself marking page after page to note a phrase or idea that I wanted to return to and think more about. The book is funny, wise and inspirational. I have tons of books and generally give books away after I've read them. This is one of the few that I'm keeping.
on August 4, 2009
As a mental health professional it is surprising to me that Mary could provide good therapy with so little insight concerning herself. It was a requirement of my graduate school to have been in therapy or actively involved in therapy during the graduate program. Mary was close to sixty years old when she figured out the basics of good mental health. She describes time and again her lack of being unable to emotional care for herself, getting lost in her life, being responsible for everyone and everything, unable to set limits with others,unable to disconnect from others, etc.etc. I found myself amazed that she had been a therapist for thirty years and couldn't do these basic things for herself. These are the things that bring many people into therapy. Mary shares that never once in her life did she use the phrase,"Blow it off." Call me stunned!
I am one year older than Mary and I too have had my share of abuse and neglect. I sought therapy (again) to assist me in finding myself and answering many of my questions. Mary chose meditation and rest and it worked for her. Her depression lasted for a winter. Mine lasted for five years and I would never think of writing a book about my despair. It would not serve well the clients that I have worked with over the last thirty years and I think Mary did herself a disservice to share her winter of pain. Mary did have a rough childhood as did thousands of others. I did get tired of hearing about her lack of insight and her one dark winter.
I had to ask myself if Mary realizes that she lives a charmed life? She has a husband that most women only dream of, life long friends, good health, happy and healthy children and grandchildren, financial security and a home where she can hear bird song daily. Mary's life offers her the opportunity to rest from the stress until she feels well enough to continue on with peace and hope. I wish that so many of my clients had the resources to care for themselves in just this way.
There are some fine things in this book if you can over look the repetitiveness concerning her pain and lack of self understanding. Quite frankly I can't imagine how she does therapy with people that are overwhelmed and depressed with their lives. That said, she is fine writer and does give some insight to those struggling with basic mental health issues.
Keep your marker handy and you will find many things worth underlining.
I will not recommend this book to others. My therapist friends would laugh and roll their eyes . Most would have the same response that I have ..a big to do about not much. We all have our misery and tragedy. I am selling this book for one dollar in a garage sale. Two stars only.
on July 13, 2011
I kind of feel bad writing anything negative, since the author seems like such a nice (and vulnerable) person, but I'm afraid those expecting the "Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World" will be disappointed with the rather glaring absence of Buddhism for the majority of the book. The first 188 pages are the repetitive and grossly under-edited autobiography of a woman who (we are told repeatedly) lived only to please others - all others - and engaged in self-torture when that impossible goal could not be met. It is true that many people suffer this way and the author is courageous in what she reveals, but because of the packaging of this book, I expected a detailed chronicle of a Western woman's introduction to Buddhism. I'm certain others will as well.
By the time Pipher does start down the 8-Fold Path, there is barely time for anything but a brief summery of her exposure to Buddhism and her meditation practice. Meditation and the difficulties that go along with it are alone worth a chapter, yet the subject was glossed over, as was the referenced, but not mentioned by name, Loving~Kindness and Tong-len practices. These were worth sharing with the reader in some detail (not instructional, but rather, experiential). In general, I didn't feel the average Westerner reading this book would come away knowing much more about Buddhism than they started with.
How could this have been better executed? Perhaps alternating chapters on Mary's struggles (flashback style) with her experiences at Buddhist workshops and retreats and her experiences in bringing what she learned home in the form of a daily practice. It's also possible that the first 188 pages could be better edited, maybe consolidated into no more than half of the book, while the aspects of Buddhist meditation practice could have been expanded so they weren't so much two or three chapters of hurried, jumbled cliches.
In Pipher's defense, it's exceptionally hard to write about yourself and she repeatedly notes that she knows she's lived a privileged life compared to most others. Had the title of this book been merely "Seeking Peace," it wouldn't have been such a frustrating read, because the focus would have been on the author's experiences as a whole, rather than the expected focus on Buddhism as a path to peace (which is certainly is).
Those looking for more on peace through Buddhist meditation should look for books by Tara Brach, Sharon Saltzberg, Pema Chodron and Joseph Goldstein (among others). Those interested in a Westerner's embrace of Buddhism may enjoy Dinty W. Moore's, "The Accidental Buddhist."
I have had Mary Pipher's other books on my "to read" list forever... but this is the one that grabbed me and said "Read me now!" I'm glad I did.
A self-proclaimed homebody, Pipher is thrust into a deep depression and near breakdown after the phenomenal success of her previous books. She fights her way out through a combination of self-care and do-it-yourself Buddhism. This book is her story of learning to put herself not only at the front of the line, but in the driver's seat as well.
Tracing her personal history back through generations, she finds the root of many of her self-defeating and challenging behaviors and concocts ways to counter her inherited and learned behaviors.
Written with much compassion and a straightforward hand, anyone who is searching for herself while caring for others will appreciate Pipher's story.
I do wish there had been more detail about her process for finding and healing herself, and less about her family history. While her history is important to her tale, it was less interesting to me than the actual "how" of her self-healing.
on July 13, 2009
I have read all of Dr. Pipher's books and generally find them to be well-written and down to earth. My personal disappointment with this book is as follows: when she was having her "breakdown" she apparently did not seek psychological treatment. Ultimately she was successful in mending herself through meditation, hot baths, nature and stress managment. She got medication prescribed by a colleague. She could have set a valuable example to others by availing herself of the same service she provided to others for 30 years, psychotherapy. It might have helped to remove some of the stigma of asking for help to acknowledge that she needed that same kind of help. As I say this was a personal disappointment to me as I feel that if , as a psychologist,you believe psychotherapy is valuable to others, it should be of value to you as well.
on August 6, 2015
Thoughtful, open memoir of author's emotional crisis reaction to fame and recognition after successful books. Her family background left her with a need/drive to be responsible for others' needs/requests. She retells her period of shutting down external noise and learning to quiet her usually overactive 'monkey mind'. Since reading I have found myself recalling her descriptions of finding peaceful moments. This isn't your usual self help tome but I found it helpful.