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The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self Paperback – November 6, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Alex Lickerman mines life's greatest challenges with an artist's eye, a scientist's rigor and a Buddhist's wise hand. The result is a book that I could not stop reading. Alex's unique gifts as a writer, doctor and scientific thinker make for an epiphany-studded quest to tame his own mind and to commune with the minds of others. He has produced a book that is profound, compassionate, and triply inspiring."

--Kaja Perina, editor-in-chief, Psychology Today

"Buddhism and Western medicine would seem an incongruous mixture, but in the hands of Alex Lickerman they meld seamlessly into a recipe for overcoming life's hardships―indeed, for turning them into advantages.  An accomplished physician, Lickerman has no truck for the supernatural, but recognizes that the tenets of Nichiren Buddhism have been honed over centuries to help alleviate life's inevitable sufferings. The Undefeated Mind is a deeply engaging story of how Lickerman has fused modern medicine with ancient wisdom to heal his patients both physically and psychologically―lessons that apply to all of us."   

--Jerry Coyne, professor of Ecology and Evolution at University of Chicago and author of Why Evolution is True

"Eastern religious practices such as chanting are often brushed aside as 'mysticism' by Western science. In this highly original book based on extensive case studies, Lickerman effectively bridges these two great traditions, providing novel insights along the way on how we can all triumph over the psychological impact of adversity and live joyfully, even in this 'vale of tears.'"

--V. S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at University of California San Diego and author of the New York Times bestseller The Tell-Tale Brain

"Dr. Lickerman's wisdom and compassion are evident on every page of this outstanding book. Inspired by his many years of practice in the Nichiren Buddhist tradition, Dr. Lickerman, a practicing physician, sets forth nine principles for developing an 'undefeated mind.' An undefeated mind is not a passive mind that is sometimes associated with Buddhism. It is a mind that never gives up the search for solutions to life's inevitable obstacles. It is a mind that knows that peace and happiness are attainable even in the midst of hardships, such as rejection, illness, and loss. It is a mind that treats adversity as an opportunity for growth.

By sharing personal stories of how he and his patients have benefited from these nine principles, Dr. Lickerman turns them into easy-to-apply tools that everyone can put to use immediately.

Incorporating the nine principles of The Undefeated Mind into your everyday life will open the door to limitless compassion for others and to unshakeable happiness for yourself. This profound book has the power to change your life."

―Toni Bernhard, author of How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers

The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self Alex Lickerman.
HCI Books, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-7573-1642-5 

    When life brings adversity such as profound loss or illness, we may sometimes feel defeated and powerless to change either the circumstance or our emotional response. Physician and blogger Lickerman tells us that things are only as bleak as they seem, and, using actual conversations with his patients, reveals the process of achieving an "inner life state" that mitigates suffering. More than presenting just a good theory or interesting stories, he interweaves compelling scientific research and core tenets of Nichiren Buddhism to flesh out this inner life state: nine central principles that moderate physical and emotional pain. The point of easing suffering is "not for solving problems but for establishing a life state that makes all problems solvable." The interplay of dialogue, narrative, science, and faith flows effortlessly, interrupted only by thought-provoking observations such as "research suggests that the more we use our willpower, the weaker it becomes," and "our expectations profoundly influence our responses to our experiences." The principles are well constructed and the book well written; the author not only describes an undefeated mind but also teaches the thinking that yields one. Agent: Stephany Evans. (Nov.) (Publishers Weekly Publishers Weekly)

"One of my favorite new books is The Undefeated Mind.  It's a powerful book that helps you cultivate your inner strength to face hard times with a fearless heart. It's more than a book. It's a set of tools for life."

--J.D. Meier, Sources of Insight

About the Author

Alex Lickerman, MD, is a physician and former director of primary care at one of the world's most prestigious universities, the University of Chicago. He is also a practicing Nichiren Buddhist and leader in the Nichiren Buddhist lay organization, the Soka Gakkai International, USA (SGI-USA). Dr. Lickerman is a prolific writer, having written for medical textbooks, national trade publications, and even for Hollywood with an adaptation of Milton's Paradise Lost. He has extensive speaking experience, having given lectures at high schools, colleges, and medical conferences, and was recently selected by the Consumers' Research Council of America as one of America's top physicians in their publication Guide to America's Top Physicians. Dr. Lickerman's blog "Happiness in this World" is syndicated on the website of Psychology Today, and receives over one hundred thousand unique visitors per month. Please visit his website at www.alexlickerman.com.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HCI; 1 edition (November 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0757316425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0757316425
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I rarely see the point in giving something a three-star review. It basically tells readers that the book, CD or movie is "average," so what's the point?
However, this book has a lot of plusses, as well as some "not-so-plusses," so I figured that a review might be of use to people to decide whether they would find the book to be of value or not.
On the "not so plus" side, the book is basically "Self-Help 101." In other words, if you are new to self-help books, then most of what is in this book will be new to you. However, if you are a "veteran" of such books, you will find very little new information or insights in this book. In fact, the author cites hundreds of journal studies. This isn't necessary a bad thing. The only problem is that, if you've read many self-help books before, you will recognize dozens of these studies. They are the exact same ones that hundreds of authors have cited before in hundreds of other books. (You probably have a lot of these studies memorized.)
On the plus side, there are a few new and interesting insights, most of which are contained in the first couple of chapters. After that, though, in the remaining chapters, it's pretty much "more of the same" that you've read in every other self-help book over the years.
Where the book really shines, though, is in the compassion that literally exudes from every page. It is obvious that this author is genuinely a caring and loving individual, with a great deal of compassion for his patients in specific, and people in general. As a result, by the time you are finished reading the book, you may not have learned anything intellectually, but you do end up with a really warm feeling - a true emotional high.
So, if you're new to self-help books, this book "clicks" on all counts.
If you are a veteran of self-help books, you may not learn much new information (no need to keep a pen and pad of paper handy), but you WILL feel really good by the end of the book.
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Format: Paperback
We all grew up listening to fairy tales. For the most part, the story plot provided a dilemma, a solution and usually ended with "and they all lived happily ever after." I think we came to believe that after reaching certain points in life, after completing school, getting married, establishing a career, we would enjoy the fairy tale of living happily ever after.

For most of us, it did not take too long to realize that was not the way life is. While our innate drive is to seek to maximize happiness, for the most part we are not given very good directions. For a time we were led to believe that achieving certain materialistic goals would bring the happiness we longed for. But we soon learned that no matter what material goals we achieve, we soon habituate to them - the new wears off and their ability to satisfy us diminishes.

Clearly we need a better approach to life and its ups and downs if we are going to lead a happy, productive life. Dr. Alex Lickerman, the author of The Undefeated Mind has provided us an exceptionally well written book which gives us the tools necessary for a better approach.

The first lesson we need to understand and accept is that we need to "... stop hoping for easy lives and instead to focus on cultivating the inner strength we need to enjoy the difficult lives we all have."

We have grown up thinking that things will bring us happiness. But the more things we acquire and the more attached we become to these things, the more vulnerable we become. Our attachment to things increases the possibility we will experience suffering.

According to Dr. Lickerman, what we need is the wisdom to deal with life the way life is.
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2 Comments 110 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Many years ago, the renowned humorist and columnist Erma Bombeck wrote a book called, "If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?" And while humor can be a great salve for life's challenges, when we are in the midst of adversities such as a physical illness or addiction, or the pain of losing a dear one, or facing financial devastation, it can feel like the "pits"-- far from being a laughing matter.

But when we experience powerlessness and defeat, things are only as bleak as they seem, says author Alex Lickerman, M.D. While the circumstances may be out of our control, the wisdom extracted from adverse experience can impart "an inner life state" of undefeated strength. More than just a good theory, he illuminates nine core principles that assuage suffering, interweaving them into actual dialogues with his patients, and reinforcing their efficacy through examples of scientific studies and tenets of Nichiren Buddhism. An undefeated mind is when the goal for achieving something is to is to keep trying--rather than achieving the goal itself: "Never giving up isn't just necessary for victory, it is victory."

The author turns some cherished notions on their head - such as embracing the pain rather than resisting it, or that resilience is the capacity to endure the pain that adversity causes, or that distraction is superior to willpower for delaying gratification. Seamlessly blending dialogue, narrative, science, and faith, he convincingly demonstrates how one can achieve an inner life state of undefeated inner strength in any circumstance.
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