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The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery Hardcover – October 7, 2014
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“The Present Heart asks the question "present for what?" and the answer is "all of it." Caring for two ex-husbands with dementia, one of whom has cashed in her lifesavings, Polly Young-Eisendrath tests her training as a Jungian analyst and Buddhist meditator against the hard rocks of reality. Bypassing self-pity altogether, she finds an immense and surprising capacity for loving without delusion and seeing without blame. Unflinching yet hopeful, her story is an inspiring study in courage.” ―Kay Larson, author of Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists
“Polly Young Eisendrath's brilliant new book skillfully blends Buddhist sensibility with depth psychology to illumine the human heart's deepest longing for love. Besides shining the bright light of these two wisdom traditions on love in all of its mystery, she also makes her own personal path toward love and its loss transparent. Her well-honed craft, self-awareness through love and loss, and profound understanding of human nature make this book useful to all of us engaged in seeking meaning and relationship.” ―Grace Schireson, Ph.D., Zen Abbess, Central Valley Zen, author of Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters
“Polly Young-Eisendrath illuminates love as a path--not a goal--of self and mutual discovery that goes to the very heart of our nature.” ―Barry Magid, author of Ending the Pursuit of Happiness
“This is a book for anyone who has encountered catastrophic change in a relationship. It is a story of love broken open--the unvarnished account of how a well-known psychoanalyst uses her Buddhist path and community of friends to make room in love for every other emotion--and to thrive again. THE PRESENT HEART left me thinking of May Sarton's observation: "I am lavish with riches made from loss.” ―Deborah Anna Luepnitz, Ph.D., author of Schopenhauer's Porcupines
“Polly Young-Eisendrath's wise, exquisite, heart-opening book will renew your faith in the power of love as a transformative gift and a path of personal awakening. Informed by decades of analytical practice and spiritual inquiry, this intimate story of one woman's journey through love and loss--and what lies between--deserves a place on your bookshelf next to Elegy for Iris, A Three Dog Life, and About Alice. Read this book!” ―Mark Matousek, author of Sex Death Enlightenment and When You're Falling, Dive
“In this provocative and daring memoir, Polly Young-Eisendrath has mined her inner landscape more than most people will ever even dream. Her digging yields surprising gems that will be precious to anyone interested in transforming hardship into wisdom--and even joy.” ―Jaimal Yogis, author of Saltwater Buddha and The Fear Project
“I have rarely seen love articulated so clearly and honestly. What Polly shares with readers will be of inestimable value to everyone in a loving relationship. Such an untrammeled and open-hearted account of love's journey is a gift to us all.” ―Toinette Lippe, author of Nothing Left Over: A Plain and Simple Life and Caught in the Act: Reflections on Being, Knowing, and Doing
About the Author
POLLY YOUNG-EISENDRATH, Ph.D., is the author of 14 books, including The Self-Esteem Trap, The Resilient Spirit, and Women and Desire, and is a Jungian analyst, psychologist, and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont. A frequent speaker and facilitator at conferences and a teacher of mindfulness, she lives in central Vermont.
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This story, which comes at the end of the memoir, picks up the thread of a theme that runs through the book, and through Young-Eisendrath’s life: the lover’s need not only to know, but also to be known by, the beloved. She writes:
When true love involves two people, it provides a means by which they can see
themselves through each other’s eyes: a human mirror that reflects you in ways
you cannot see or know yourself.
The author initially experiences the absence of this reciprocal knowledge as a young woman, with her first two husbands, of whom she says,
They had generous spirits and they wanted and needed me, but they were not interested in
really getting to know me on a first-person basis.
After finding and living this knowledge-steeped love with her third husband, she suffers its absence once again, tragically, as his early-onset Alzheimer’s takes away his ability to know her.
The author is a Jungian psychoanalyst, a couples counselor, and a Buddhist, so she has plenty of theories about love and how to live it. The psychology of love has been her life’s work. She weaves her theories, along with those of other authors, into her story. But the truly remarkable thing about Young-Eisendrath is that she never lets her theories overshadow her experience; she sees her theories in light of what she is living, and not the other way around. Her book is not only about loss, though she doesn’t minimize that part of her story, but also about the deepening of her understanding of the one-way love—knowing without being known—she calls “cherishment.”
Ultimately, from her entire life’s experience, she distils a roadmap of a “spiritual path of personal love,” by which:
…you see into another person so deeply that you can see through him or her to whatever
you take to be the Divine Source, refracted back again through your own self.