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Yoga and the Quest for the True Self Paperback – September 5, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Despite skeptical jibes from his well-meaning friends, Stephen Cope set off for a four-month yoga retreat in rural Massachusetts. Ten years later, he is still there. A psychotherapist left in the lurch after a long-term relationship, Cope was experiencing the same deep questioning of life that he had witnessed so often in his practice. His self-prescribed antidote was to pursue a life of contemplation and inner discovery that he had felt drawn to for some time. Yoga and the Quest for the True Self is Cope's chronicle of self-discovery. Cope is at turns frank in describing his own obstacles and epiphanies, brotherly in relating anecdotes of friends and patients on similar quests, and clinical in his trenchant psychological summations of why we find ourselves estranged and how yoga and meditation bring us back to clear awareness. Like Mark Epstein's Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self is a milestone in the melding of Eastern and Western methods of personal transformation. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Yoga, according to first-time author and longtime yoga teacher Cope, can cure the sense of separation that dogs many people in our culture: "a separation from the life of the body; a separation from the hidden depths of life, its mystery and interiority." Here, Cope, a psychotherapist who left a practice in Boston to live, study and ultimately teach at the Kripalu Yoga ashram in Lenox, Mass., navigates yoga for Western seekers. Drawing on his own experiences and the stories of many friends and yoga students, Cope holds up ancient yogic concepts of the self against evolving theories of modern psychotherapy. Rather than attempting a reductive comparison, Cope suggests that various ideas experienced during yoga practice can enhance the goals of Western psychotherapy. Readers familiar with Jack Korn- field's A Path with Heart or Mark Epstein's Thoughts Without a Thinker may find Cope's approach noncommittal. He tells stories of liberation and release without ever quite conceding that yoga and psychotherapy are two profoundly different worldviews. Although ineluctably drawn to yoga practice and the ashram, Cope's point of view is resolutely Western and psychotherapeutic. Still, Cope's psychotherapeutic orientation and genial win-win approach lights up a notoriously arcane subject for Western readers. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Later Printing Used edition (September 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055337835X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553378351
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By CPTScott on December 6, 2003
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self is definitely one of the best (if not the best) and most useful books I've ever read. It truly speaks to developing a mature, real life approach to spirituality.
Stephen Cope writes from a perspective that I feel really speaks to the Western spiritual seeker. He combines his experience and knowledge as a psychotherapist with his knowledge of Yoga and other spiritual paths.
While Yoga is a path of union, it appears only too clear that without removing the layers of psychological baggage, union with the divine cannot truly mainfest in ones life. All of the spiritual insights and epiphanies will never be more than a transparent veil placed thinly over the unresolved baggage. Insights without fertile ground to take root will soon fade or be used as another vehicle for ego building.
The author makes clear that the mature path of Yoga is not one of renunciation, or a solitary journey, but explains that "as spiritual practice matured in India there arose a radical new understanding of the paradox of action and inaction. This was the doctrine of inaction in action, and goes further to explain that Krishna teaches in the "Gita" to "Act in the world in alignment with your true vocation, your true self etc....." Clearly not a path of renunciation or a solitary path but one that involves action IN the world.
I found this book really spoke to me as a person on the spiritual path in a way that is truly transformative and not just a bunch of religious dogma. Using his own personal experiences and the experiences of other seekers throughout the book, he has woven a beautifully written guide that is really eye opening and practical. It clearly put into perspective many things that I have either personally struggled with or wondered about.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Melanie on October 18, 2004
I so enjoyed reading this book. I very much felt that this book is written for real people who are skeptical/curious about yoga philosophy. Cope takes you through step by step how and why yoga works using real language not hippie/bliss out language seen in other yoga books. Also, for someone who is familiar with psychotherapy and wanting to add a spiritual dimension to their self-care this book is invaluable in merging the two lines of thinking. This book was very influential to me - I plan to refer to it much as I continue to develop my yoga practice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Craig Shoemake on March 17, 2012
It is not often I use the "M word" to describe a book. No, I'm not talking about "munchkin books" or "maleficient books." I'm talking about masterpieces. I am not certain if Stephen Cope's bestseller is a masterpiece. Maybe it is, maybe not. Either way, it is pretty damn good.

This is one of those books that entertains and educates you in a visceral way right from the start. Large chunks are written in immediate narrative format--as in "he said," "I said," etc. It is Stephen Cope's personal yoga story--a sort of "pilgrim's progress," if you will--as well as the yoga story of his many friends and acquaintances before and during his long and continuing stay at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

We meet a man, a practicing Boston psychotherapist, who for a variety of reasons was feeling unsettled and dissatisfied with his life and then, somehwat to his dismay, found himself joining a religious community to do...what? Much of the book is an answer to that and related questions: What did he want? Why? What was he trying to do at Kripalu? What was--is--the meaning of yoga? What is enlightenment? Is such a thing possible? Are there enlightened people in this world? And what happens when all the things we try to keep hidden are revealed for the world to see?

Stephen Cope furrows through all these questions and more. His sincerity, his intensity, his intelligence, make the book a gripping read. Its pages educate the reader even as Cope the protagonist is educated by his experiences in the ashram. Yoga philosophy is pondered over, its depths turned up, and its many connections to Western psychotherapy reflected upon, all in gratifyingly sober, lucid prose.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Meredith Gould on February 1, 2002
Verified Purchase
Stephen Cope has written an exquisite, moving, and totally accurate ethnography of the way it was at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.
Both a memoir and an intelligent, compelling discourse about the transformation of self to Self via yoga. Answers the question: Why would any lively, sentient being hie off to an ashram, monastery, or convent. Cope explores the complex psychodynamics of the spiritual journey without talking over or down to readers. His writing is positively lyrical in places.
Superb Appendix provides a detailed, well-written guide to yogic practices and disciplines.
You don't have to be smitten w/the Eastern-based spiritual traditions to appreciate this book. It's an essential read for anyone interested in why, when, and how people choose "a path."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Big D on July 14, 2006
I rank Cope's work right up there with Prisoners of Childhood by Alice Miller. This book shed light on some of my own experience and gave voice to spiritual yearnings of my own. This is a yoga of transformation. Excellent.
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