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116 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profoundly Moving Synthesis of Yoga Philosophy
This book is a thoroughly engaging and refreshingly accessible treatment of yoga philosophy and practice. Perhaps most touching is Stephen Cope's willingness to be so honest with his readers, providing an unflinching self-portrait of a modern seeker. Delving into the deepest teachings of the ancient scriptures on which yoga is based, including Vedanta, the Bhagavad...
Published on December 4, 1999 by Laura Cornell

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53 of 74 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Big Promise but Fails to Deliver
The Author promises a lot in terms of both Yoga and self discovery but fails to deliver either. Although he approaches the subject from a psychospiritual basis, he relies on anecdotal stories from a 1970's style commune to attempt to make his points. I found the anecdotes to be trivial or boring. If you wish to explore Yoga through the eyes of a therapist you'd be...
Published on May 25, 2000 by Carl Ewe


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116 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profoundly Moving Synthesis of Yoga Philosophy, December 4, 1999
By 
Laura Cornell (Oakland, California) - See all my reviews
This book is a thoroughly engaging and refreshingly accessible treatment of yoga philosophy and practice. Perhaps most touching is Stephen Cope's willingness to be so honest with his readers, providing an unflinching self-portrait of a modern seeker. Delving into the deepest teachings of the ancient scriptures on which yoga is based, including Vedanta, the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali, Tantrism, and even Buddhist thought, Cope's book is at the same time completely free of pretense or idealism. He intersperses yogic and Western psychology with real life stories from his own, his students and his psychotherapy clients' life experience. Despite his profound learning and accomplishment, Cope never allows us to place him on a pedestal, but rather shares his disillusionment, grief, and exhaustion as well as his clarity, wisdom, and enthusiasm, providing a story which is all the more empowering and inspiring. As a yoga student and teacher of several years, I found that Cope explored many troublesome and important questions I had been asking myself. For example, how do we reconcile seemingly contradictory philosophies within the yogic tradition? Perhaps even more importantly, what are we to make of the apparent contradiction between Western psychotherapy, which tells us to honor our feelings and move into them, and yogic teachings, which tell us to recognize the fleetingness of those feelings and access the Self which is beyond these fluctuations? Cope's vision is exciting also because he finds meaning in the divine feminine-feelings and emotions, heart, devotion, and the beautiful imperfection of our embodiment-as well as the divine masculine-clear seeing and thinking, mind, wisdom, and the ecstasy of transcendence-a balance so often lacking in spiritual circles. I have been long looking for a synthesis such as Cope provides. I was profoundly moved by this book and know it will continue to influence my understanding of the spiritual path for many years.
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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, Deep and Practical. A Life Changing Book !, December 6, 2003
This review is from: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (Paperback)
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.
Stephen Cope makes no claims to be an enlightened master with "wisdom from on high"nor is he trying to "convert" anyone to a particular spiritual path. He explains how the various tools of yoga can help us become more in touch with our true selves. How the process and practice of Hatha Yoga for example, isn't just physical exercise but a spiritual and yet practical process that can help people grow by becoming grounded in their own bodies. At the same time one can work at developing their witness consciousness thru the process of Hatha Yoga.
Of the many things I took away from the book, one particularly valuable was the "mantra" Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow" which can be used in Hatha Yoga practice, meditation, or even in one's ordinary life when they are scattered and want to become grounded, focused and internally centered.
Some have mistakenly concluded that the author's final assessment is that all of his spiritual practice was for nothing. While there is a "moment" in the book where Cope leaves in the middle of a retreat, a retreat that he had preconceived notions of it's outcome , that is not by any means the conclusion of the book. Actually the crux of what Stephen Cope comes to realize after refelecting on his10 years or so of practice is that "In the entire path of yoga, there is really only one lesson...... Whenever we relinquish our craving, clinging and grasping, whenever we stop the war with reality and are totally present and undivided, we are immediately in union with our true nature".
The book also talks about the Kripalu Center and it's own growth, through the early years with founder Amrit Desai, to his (Desai's) fall from grace, and how this community matured rather than fell apart in the midst of this controversy.
It also explains much about the "false" Guru phenomena. In particular what happens when disciples own needs for an "all knowing father" can in their own way create a monster of their own making.
If you are a Yoga practitioner who wants to go "beyond the postures" as strictly physical exercise, or a spiritual seeker of any faith who wants to read a book that speaks with honesty and depth, intelligence and insight (and to "real people") then I highly recommend this book.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an erudite, beautifully written memoir., November 5, 1999
By A Customer
This beautifully written book is several books in one: an engaging memoir, a map to personal transformation and an explanation of the deeper side of yoga. As a devotee of yoga and one who has practiced it for over 30 years (beginning with a whiplash injury which doctors were helpless to cure in l968), I found this book to be unlike anything else on the market. Stephen Cope takes us far, far beyond the postures which are only the outer manifestations of yogic practice and carries us with him to the mysterious heart of yoga. No one else that I've read can do this with such directness and (apparent!) simplicity. This book is a MUST "read" not only for those who practice yoga, but also people who want a guide through life's difficult changes. Stephen Cope is an erudite, compassionate teacher.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and inspiring, April 21, 2000
By A Customer
I've studied yoga for years (albeit only as a physical discipline), so I was attracted by the title of this book. It started off sounding like yet another "How [name a spiritual practice] transformed my life" biography, and I almost put the book down at that point -- but I'm glad I didn't. Cope seamlessly interweaves the story of his personal development, and that of his fellow seekers, with clear and easy-to-understand explanations of the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of yoga. His analysis of why modern-day Americans feel alienated from their true selves is, I feel, right on the mark, and he effectively uses his own experience to illustrate how we all can get back on track again. I was also impressed with his candor and sense of balance about the Kripalu community. When their guru turns out to have feet (and other body parts) of clay, it would have been easy for the community to throw out his message as well as him. But Cope gives him credit for having been an excellent teacher, and it's a tribute to the soundness of his teachings that Kripalu has continued to grow in a new direction after the guru's departure. This book is not only a fascinating story of one man's spiritual growth, but also painlessly educational about the belief system he espouses, and I found it enthralling on both counts.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredibly rich and well written testimony. Loved it., November 17, 2001
I bought this book just after a stay at Kripalu and knew it would be entertaining to read about the physical and spiritual history of the place. Stephen Cope is both very open and informative, and also healthily restrained about this aspect. The book enabled me to understand and accept some sides of the Kripalu teachings that had annoyed me at the time : namely the emphasis put on the body, and the psychological acceptance of oneself. After reading it, I was totally able to understand why and relate to that teaching.
Even if you have read 100 books on yoga, I promise that you will find something new and interesting in this account. it is beautifully written (I cannot believe this is a first book ! what an achievement !) and the psychological anecdotes on people that I usually found boring are actually quite interesting in S. Cope`s book. I warmly recommend it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and Accessible, October 18, 2004
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This review is from: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (Paperback)
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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yoga and the Quest For the True Self, December 19, 1999
This book goes beyond the practice of yoga and the physical postures or asanas..It is an inspiring book about the evolution of the self through the practice of yoga on and off the mat. The history and evolution of a spiritual center is also an integral and important part of transformation and growth that occurs with yoga
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book about how yoga can change your life., November 4, 1999
By 
Most yoga books are about how to do the postures. But in addition to being a physical practice, it has the power to transform your spirit. How? Why? This book explores those questions in an illuminating way. An important addition to western yoga. Also, it's extremely well written and engaging. Loved it!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of all Quests, January 7, 2001
As a former member of Kripalu, I am deeply indebted to Stephen Cope for bringing forth Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. I have lived through much of what he describes, and recognize in his work not only an accurate, but also extremely faithful portrait of the inner workings of ashram life and the pursuit of spiritual sadhana. As a first-time author, Steve takes his life in his hands through his willingness to insert himself into his work, and it is that very weaving of personal anecdote with the rigors of yoga that makes this a masterpiece. It is through this work that I was finally able to grasp distinctions such as clear seeing and calm abiding, and the ability to "bear" reality or witness in depth. For one who practices yoga, there is a wealth of information and clarity about sadhana; for one who treads the western paths of psychology, there are many illuminations and pathways opened between the two systems. As Stephen guides us through his complex cast of characters and multiple accesses to yoga and psychology, perhaps the greatest perk of all is how skillfully he integrates his information, providing a marvelously enjoyable read, when all is said and done.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's true! Every word of it!!, February 1, 2002
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This review is from: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (Paperback)
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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Yoga and the Quest for the True Self
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope (Paperback - September 5, 2000)
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