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Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness [Paperback]

Mark Epstein
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 1999
For decades, Western psychology has promised fulfillment through building and strengthening the ego. We are taught that the ideal is a strong, individuated self, constructed and reinforced over a lifetime. But Buddhist psychiatrist Mark Epstein has found a different way.

Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart shows us that happiness doesn't come from any kind of acquisitiveness, be it material or psychological. Happiness comes from letting go. Weaving together the accumulated wisdom of his two worlds--Buddhism and Western psychotherapy--Epstein shows how "the happiness that we seek depends on our ability to balance the ego's need to do with our inherent capacity to be." He encourages us to relax the ever-vigilant mind in order to experience the freedom that comes only from relinquishing control.

Drawing on events in his own life and stories from his patients, Going to Pieces  Without Falling Apart teaches us that only by letting go can we start on the path to a more peaceful and spiritually satisfying life.

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In the era of self-empowerment and the relentless glorification of self-esteem, Mark Epstein is questioning whether we have it all backward. As a psychiatrist and practicing Buddhist for 25 years, Epstein has come to believe that the self-help movement has encouraged us to spend enormous amounts of time, money, and mental energy on patching up our egos, rather than pursuing true self-awareness. Instead, Epstein suggests we carefully shatter the ego, as if it were a fat piggy bank, to see what's inside--a scary prospect for those who spend their lives in fear of falling apart. But fear not. Epstein artfully shows readers how to patch the pieces together again into a far richer and more meaningful mosaic. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[Epstein] elegantly describes how psychotherapy and meditation can help us manage our most powerful emotions--and make us feel more alive and whole in the process."
--Psychology Today

"Exhilarating . . . brilliant and original. . . . Important because it shows how work on the pains and pleasures of our own lives can be a means of transformation."
--New Age

"A daring and profound synthesis of intelligence about emotions East and West . . . establishes Mark Epstein as one of psychology's most dazzling thinkers."
--Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

"Plato's Socrates once wondered whether he should be a politician or a physician--that is, whether he should try to serve the existing tastes and interests of his fellow citizens or continually work to improve their minds and souls. Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart will appeal to physicians, therapists, and patients who, like Socrates, opt for the latter."                           --New England Journal of Medicine

"A thought-provoking look at how to break free from psychological materialism."
--Utne Reader

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Emboldened by the discovery, in my sixteenth year, of Samuel Beckett's bleak view of the human landscape, I took an informal poll of all forty-seven members of my high school class and asked who among them was bothered by an inner sense of emptiness or insufficiency. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pillow or couch? Aug. 10 2003
Format:Paperback
This book is fun to read and explore. It bears reading two or three times, and is filled with some good insights into parallels between buddisht practice and western psychology. Having said that, it is also fair to say that it is in need some serious editing and rethinking. Misstatememts like: "Buddhism has always made the self's ability to relax its boundaries the centerpiece of its teachings" are indicative of the authors' predeliction for interpreting buddhist philosophy in western psychological terms. And this is a real weakness of the text.
It also troubles me that the author himself, along with several of his aquaintances and patients, practiced most fertily in the ground of buddhist meditation, and yet the author seems to take pains to avoid suggesting that this is indeed the most appropriate advice for those suffering.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This a terrific blend of Buddhist thought with the ideas that inform much of Western Psychology. The end result is great book that just might, in very practical terms, help you undestand yourself better. It's an accessible read that doesn't attempt to be deeply philosophical; instead it aims to be more practical. To be sure, at times, some of the ideas may appear obtuse if you haven't had much exposure to Buddhist and Psychological thought. But like most ideas and abstractions, it's talking about them that makes them complex, NOT the ideas themselves. Acutally, once you sort of "get it", the book is terrifically illuminating and thoughtful, yet very easy reading.
IF your interested in some of the more scientific and philosphical ideas and arguements that inform modern Psychiatry, read Elio Frattaroli's HEALING THE SOUL IN THE AGE OF THE BRAIN. That book makes the complex ideas and philsophical arguements of modern Psychiatry read like common sense.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read This Book!! July 14 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is the best I have ever and will ever read. It explains budhism and psychotherapy, which are complex subjects in and of themselves, in a way that really connects with the reader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Digging it May 30 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I'm currently reading this book, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. It's helping me to take a more play-oriented approach to my writing.
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Format:Paperback
Mark Epstein is remarkable in that his writing has a distinctly spiritual note, even while he is talking in scientific terms and refraining from engaging in a discourse of religion. "Going to pieces without falling apart" is an apt name for this book because it talks about the paradoxical nature of Buddhist meditation i.e. through the disintegration of the self and the ego you integrate yourself with all that is living. There is a simple poem that is quoted in this book that describes this process of falling apart and then coming together through an analogy about how a meditator sees mountains and rivers before nirvana and then all is changed during nirvana and then he sees mountains and rivers again. Epstein writes about how Buddhist meditation principles can be used in psychotherapy. In fact many principles are already being used, but without acknowledgement of the resemblance. He describes how Freud instructs therapists to listen to the patient in a careful non- judgmental way, very much like what Buddhist meditation ideally is - i.e. non-judgmental observation of all your thoughts and actions. Buddhism, however, goes beyond traditional therapy by working with the feeling of isolation we all have to actually finding a more satisfying answer than merely learning to cope. In conclusion, highly recommended for its focus on Buddhist meditation practices and links to psychology but if you are looking for the religious aspects of Buddhism this is not for you.
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Format:Paperback
This book uses a very selective, pick-and-choose approach to Buddhism as a means of pointing up the failings of traditional psychotherapy, by the use of anecdotes from the psychiatrist-author's personal life and from the case histories of his (almost entirely female) patients. It succeeds to some degree on the descriptive level, but it is not a how-to: if you need therapy, this book is not a substitute for it, and if you want to develop a meditation practice, this book will probably encourage you but it will not show you or tell you how. If you want to learn about Buddhist meditation practice this book is particularly misleading because it suggests that meditation can be a sort of care-free lifestyle accoutrement that will correct all the flaws of your (and your therapist's) Western mindset. There is an over-emphasis on esoteric Tibetan practices and beliefs that have no demonstrable connection with the teachings of the Buddha. These lurid by-ways are showcased at the expense of the traditional core of Buddhist teaching, such as the laws of moral cause and effect (i.e., karma), the four Noble Truths, and the eightfold Noble Path. Most surprisingly, the author gets through his 180 pages without once noting that, according to the Buddhist perspective, progress in meditative insight and the spiritual path is based squarely upon self-discipline and moral living. By the end of the book you will know quite a bit about the lifestyle of a successful Manhattan psychotherapist and the sorts of problems that plague his patients, but if you want to be bristling with insights about yourself, as the author is, you would be better advised to undergo one of the intensive meditation retreats that he is always going on, and going on about.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Absolute Best Book I Have Ever Read!
If the title of this review does not say it all...
After reading this and considering so many of the ways this philosophy differs from our western psychology, it is no wonder... Read more
Published on March 9 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't have explained it better
I have been suffering from anxiety/depression and feelings of emptiness for 6 years since I went through a particularly stressful event. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2003 by "sekelly5"
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful followup
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
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A superb look at the inner workings of the mind. Often times Psychology and Buddhist texts tend to be a bit hard to read. Read more
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4.0 out of 5 stars Buddhist thought contributes to Western thought
This a terrific blend of Buddhist thought with the ideas that inform much of Western Psychology. The end result is great book that just might, in very practical terms, help you... Read more
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4.0 out of 5 stars A priceless companion
This book, first discovered in a very difficult period of my life, changed forever the way I deal with life's vicissitudes. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2001 by avid reader
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