THOUGHTS WITHOUT A THINKER by Mark Epstein

THOUGHTS WITHOUT A THINKER

Psychotherapy From a Buddhist Perspective
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An intriguing, if only partly successful, effort to apply Buddhist insights, particularly from meditation, to patient- therapist dynamics. A New Yorkbased psychiatrist and consulting editor to the Buddhist review Tricycle, Epstein does a good job of explaining the six Buddhist stages of existence and four essential truths. At times he draws parallels between such Buddhist concepts as ``bare attention'' (``an approach to working with our own minds and emotions [that] is impartial, open, nonjudgmental, interested, patient, fearless and impersonal'') and the Freudian charge to the therapist to listen to a patient with ``evenly suspended attention.'' Epstein's efforts to apply Buddhist masters' and his own insights from meditation to therapy are at times fascinating, at times quite elusive--the latter perhaps in part because the Buddhist concept that ``self'' is an illusion is so distant from Western philosophy and sensibilities; in part because prolonged and disciplined meditation at its most profound is a quasi-mystical phenomenon that is best experienced firsthand before being analyzed. Epstein, of course, has had this experience, but many of his readers will not have. Still, the author makes an eloquent and persuasive case that serious meditation is usually best used not as a substitute but as a complement to and preparation for psychotherapy; it can strengthen psychological preparedness by helping the ego observe itself. As a longtime student of Buddhism and meditator, and as an experienced therapist, Epstein offers an accessible, thoughtful guide to how the insights of one can be adapted to the other. No facile synthesis of the two systems here, but rather a thoughtful account that allows their paths to converge and diverge without losing sight of the distinctive contributions of each to deeper self-understanding.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-465-03931-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995




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