Epstein places a lot of emphasis on the idea of spirit. What is spirit, how it develops, and the “deficiency of spirit” in the western world. He, himself went on a life long journey to find his spirit and is constantly maintaining and bettering himself. His own therapy practice promotes and encourages meditation and breathing as a practice to help people find what is truly bothering them and how Buddhism may be used as a practical everyday tool to learning greater self-acceptance. In the West, Epstein says, we have become reactionary to everything. His patients, Epstein also says, have a tendency to wallow in their problems, questioning what is wrong with them. Epstein questions whether that is the best way to handle all issues.
The Buddhist message is that people are inherently good and the acceptance and happiness is reached through understanding and self-reflection. One must learn to accept and release the hurt, shame and the roles we have taken on, often in childhood, to accept our situations and know ourselves. When we step back, and practice meditation, we find a way to understand ourselves and to be comfortable with our being. Rather than counteract something stressful, thereby creating more stress, meditation can unlock new levels of inner knowing and ability to just simply reside in the not knowing, the mystery.
“Going on being does not need to connote any fixed entity of self, but it does imply a stream of unimpeded awareness, ever evolving, yet with continuity, uniqueness and integrity. It carries within it the sense of unending places of interpersonal experience, convergences that are not blocked by a reactor contracted ego”. Rather than looking to fix, run, or change, meditation provides us with greater awareness to simply to be.
Epstein graduated from Harvard medical school and has been practicing Buddhism since his early twenties. His bright, positive spirit allows the reader to believe the Buddhist message that people are inherently good and that acceptance and happiness is within everyone’s reach, if we do the work to reach it.
Book review written by Amy Gonwa
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