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Injured Innocence and Violent Nostalgia

“A monk asked, ‘What is meditation?’ The Master said, ‘It is not meditation.’ The monk said, ‘Why is it “not meditation”?’ The Master said, ‘It’s alive, it’s alive!’” –Chao-Chou, 8th century Buddhist master

How can traditional psychotherapy, with its emphasis on the self, work with Zen practices like meditation, with their de-emphasizing of the ego, to make us feel better? In this episode of Book Dreams, Dr. Mark Epstein–psychiatrist, Zen practitioner, and author of The Zen of Buddhism: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life–joins Julie and Eve to talk about ways in which Buddhist thought and Western psychotherapy can work in tandem. Their conversation ranges from the Dalai Lama’s surprising insistence on the significance of self; to the benefits and limitations of a Zen approach in times of political turmoil; to the tension between a desire to make our mark, on the one hand, and our inconsequentiality in the scope of the universe, on the other. Dr. Epstein also explains to Julie why “the self is just a construct” is maybe not the most helpful advice for teenage children during stressful moments.

Dr. Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis at New York University. He is also the author of a number of books about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy, including Advice Not Given, The Trauma of Everyday Life, Thoughts Without a Thinker, Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, and The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life.

The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life

“A warm, profound and cleareyed memoir . . . this wise and sympathetic book’s lingering effect is as a reminder that a deeper and more companionable way of life lurks behind our self-serious stories.” —Oliver Burkeman, New York Times Book Review

“Epstein draws on a lifetime of personal and professional experience to deliver a profound and optimistic examination of the links between psychotherapy and meditation . . . A warm and accessible explanation of topics that defy easy explanation . . . Epstein makes abstract concepts understandable, and his accounts of his patients’ struggles and progress are laced with humor and hope . . . It’s a message receptive readers will embrace in these dark and difficult times. Empathetic and persuasive—one of the better books on psychotherapy and meditation in recent years.” —Kirkus (starred review)

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