- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; Revised edition (July 30, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465050948
- ISBN-13: 978-0465050949
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective Revised Edition
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Ultimately, the experience can be summed-up as speaking with an art scholar who can eloquently expand upon the context and intricacies of a painting, while not being able to paint(lacking consolidation or full acceptance?). If you are, like I was, looking for an open/balanced exploration of the harmony and integration of Buddhist philosophy and psychotherapy, then I'd recommend looking elsewhere(perhaps Yalom’s “The Gifts of Therapy”, though its focal point is not Buddhism, it is still very much a methodology guided by mindfulness). If you're interested in exploring a well-written though linear perspective on that relationship, then I'd say give it a shot.
Stating that the Buddha may have been the original psychoanalyst, Part I of the book, "The Buddha's Psychology of Mind," introduces the Buddha's psychological teachings in the language of Western psychodynamics. To begin with, Freud and the Buddha agreed that we can't "find our enlightened minds while continuing to be estranged from our neurotic ones." We must have the courage to experience our suffering. The first truth of the Buddha is (in Epstein's words) "the inevitability of humiliation." Doubts about the self are inevitable. The maturational process is to go into the doubt rather than away from it. Finally, the Buddha had a "vision of a psyche freed from narcissism." Epstein weaves stories of himself and his patients throughout this section.
In part II, "Meditation," he explains, in psychodynamic terms, the basic Buddhist strategy of bare attention, showing the relevance these techniques still have for us. "It is the fundamental tenet of Buddhist psychology that this kind of attention is, in itself, healing." The challenge of this method is clear in this sentence: "What the meditator must keep confronting is her own capacity for conceit or pride, her own instinctive thirst for certainty, her own ability to co-opt the meditative process for narcissistic ends. Meditation is a means of indefatigably exposing this narcissism." This section is wonderfully descriptive of the experience of meditation.
Part III, "Therapy," uses Freud's treatise on the practice of psychotherapy to consider how to integrate the Buddha's teachings into that practice. What Epstein discovered is that the practice of Buddhist meditation helps develop the presence and the nonjudgmental attention that are crucial for a therapist. This is an exceptional book.