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Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective Paperback – November 30, 1995

4.2 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the most sophisticated integrations of therapeutic and spiritual disciplines." Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence"

About the Author

Mark Epstein, M.D., a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Medical School, has a private practice in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; export ed edition (1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465020224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465020225
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The first chapter of this book alone is worth the purchase price. I have it dogeared, and refer back to it frequently. The author uses the Buddhist Wheel of Life as a metaphor for states of pschological suffering. His explanations are both clear and intriguing. This book will interest students of psychology and Buddhism alike.
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Format: Paperback
It was one of a few required texts for a Buddhism class. I chose it because I have an interest in psychology, particularly the psychodynamic perspective (unconscious motivation) and this book added to my life in such a way! I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about Buddhism and freeing one's "self" from the limitations of convention. I don't agree with everything in it, but this is a book for my collection, definitely.
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Format: Paperback
The author of this book has done an outstanding job explaining the different benefits of both psychotherapy and meditation, there limits and how these approaches can help the other. He explains that "It's not what we are feeling that's important but how we relate to it that matters". The author does a great job clearing up a lot of misconceptions about meditation and the Buddha's teachings. They are very similiar to modern day psychotherapy. Meditation is a form of self therapy, observing your thoughts as they arise and insight mediation allows you to examine how your thoughts flow and why.
Buddha taught that the false ego or metaphorical self causes mental suffering. Deeds exist, but no doer can be found. Thoughts exist with out a thinker. We have thoughts, feelings, a body, senses, and consciousness; all these exist, however there is no "I" or "ego". That is mental formation we hold in our mind and give it a form, but it is a mental mirage and is an illusion and is the root of all our mental suffering. That is the main teaching of this book, and if you can grasp that you overcome the world.
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Format: Paperback
A glance at the Buddhism or Applied Psychology sections of any bookstore or website will turn up thousands of titles, many of which are insightful, and many of which are, frankly, New-Age fluff. Those books of the 'fluff' category tend to come from people who no business writing about Buddhism and/or applied psychology because they simply do not know the subject matter (and let me be clear that I am not an expert in either field). Books of these genres that are (1) accessible to non-specialists, and (2) authored by real experts are gems in a sea of mediocrity. Mark Epstein's "Thoughts Without a Thinker" stands out even among these higher-quality works, though, not only because non-specialists can follow his ideas, but because he really knows his stuff in BOTH of the fields that he integrates in this work.

What makes this book remarkable, for me at least, is that Epstein does NOT try to combine Buddhism and psychotherapy into a hybrid so much as he creatively and effectively uses each to reflect and inform the other. Instead of advocating a watered-down "Buddhism-Lite", or a Western psychology with some meditation draped over top, he recognizes that each has its merits, but that each can learn from the other without attempting to become the other. The result is a trenchant presentation/interpretation of Buddhism that Westerners can follow (because it starts from categories and cultural institutions rooted in Western traditions of psychology) AND an applied psychology that learns from Buddhism without trying to become Buddhism.
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Format: Paperback
Epstein sees psychotherapy and meditation as going hand in hand. He does not see them used consecutively, or side-by-side, but rather being closely integrated.

There are many exciting developments in the use of mindfulness and meditation in psychotherapy. A Buddhist approach is one of them. What gives such value to Epstein's approach, though, is his success at giving an overall theoretical psychodynamic framework. This book is an excellent statement on the `how it works' of meditation in psychotherapy. What is needed after a close reading of this material, are specifics on the `how to' of actually doing and using meditation within a psychotherapy practice.

---For the therapist with a psychodynamic orientation, I recommend studying the third section of this book, in which Epstein lays out a process for integrating meditation and therapy.

---For the mindful client who wants to understand the therapeutic process, a reading of the whole book will be helpful.

---The Buddhist reader will be able to better understand psychodynamic psychotherapy after reading this.

The book brilliantly explains the process of integration, but stops short of explaining exactly how to set the wheels in process. For now, psychotherapist wanting to learn the `how to' in individual psychotherapy will need supervision, as approaches are developed client by client.

I am interested in dialog on mindfulness and psychotherapy. [...]
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Format: Paperback
I think Einstein said "..I dream of things that never were, and ask, "why not ?" Dreams show us a different reality. If you are looking for books that teach Meditation 101 as a way of gaining insight into the hidden world of thought, read Mark Epstein' s books. Because the subject matter is alien to the Western mind, these books may require reading and re-reading. For instance: what does Epstein mean by the "Realm of the Hungry Ghosts"? Who are they?. Why are they running our lives? And about meditation: Why is it so difficult for the mind to obey the simple request of watching the breath rising and falling for more than one time? Yet it can be done; and with mindfulness a new world unfolds. Epstein' s books are our introduction to the path of freedom to be who we really are. Then there are the books of Joseph Goldstein that Epstein mentions in his writings. "The "I" and the "self" are creations of our own mind. "They" simply do not exist."
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