The Art of Flourishing: A New East-West Approach to Staying Sane and Finding Love in an Insane World Hardcover – Jun 7 2011
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“What a wonderful book! Jeffrey Rubin seamlessly integrates east and west, heart and mind, science and metaphor, universal principles and personal advice.”
—Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Being Happy
“The Art of Flourishing is more than a practical manual for flourishing in these turbulent times. It offers step-by-step procedures for broadening the scope of one’s own well-being while deepening intimate relationships. But more, it displays Dr. Rubin’s profound wisdom of the human psyche. His many years of uniquely combining the best of Eastern and Western approaches in his own life and as a psychotherapist make this book a treasure.”
—Joel Kramer, coauthor of The Guru Papers and The Passionate Mind Revisited
“Jeffrey Rubin’s Art of Flourishing is at once a philosophical meditation on happiness and a practical how-to book that might help us find it. It is a lively, clearly written, and compelling argument for how we can better understand ourselves and our relationships, not least by exchanging the fantasy of control for the possibility of compassion.”
—David Scott Kastan, George M. Bodman Professor of English, Yale University
“Jeffrey Rubin has written an immensely readable, engaging work that points the way toward a life that actualizes our deepest and most essential selves while simultaneously linking us to others in bonds of love and personal commitment. Drawing on the wisdom of the Buddhist tradition on the one side and integrating the insights of psychoanalysis on the other, Rubin explores hitherto unseen possibilities of confluence and synthesis between East and West. The Art of Flourishing emphasizes the value of bringing together a profound meditative attitude toward our lives with a radical openness to self-understanding. This book is an important contribution to the contemporary search for meaningful ways of life in our changing and challenging times.”
—George Atwood, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University
“Meaty…A great read with empowering information that can help you achieve exactly what the title promises. I found myself nodding along with the many excellent points brought up by the author in regards to the challenges we face living in our modern society.”
—The Everything Yoga Blog
“A work of art in itself; and I’ll be referring to it often as I continue to pursue balance, happiness and fulfillment in my life. It’s basically a handbook for it!...[Rubin] provides brilliant and easy methods for readers to gain more spirituality and wholeness in a material world…I whole-heartedly urge you to pick up The Art of Flourishing if you are at all interested in creating a rich and fulfilling life you love and wish to maintain it.”
"Rubin offers a generous buffet of tasty phrases, metaphors, and take-home lessons for anyone who is eager to reduce his or her psychosocial hunger, experience some comfort, and perhaps even flourish."
About the Author
JEFFREY B. RUBIN, PhD, is the creator of meditative psychotherapy, a practice that he developed through insights gained from decades of study, teaching, and helping thousands of people flourish. The author of the critically acclaimed books Psychotherapy and Buddhism, The Good Life, and A Psychoanalysis for Our Time, Dr. Rubin is a practicing psychotherapist in New York City and Bedford Hills, NY, and has taught at various universities, psychoanalytic institutes, and Buddhist and yoga centers. He lectures around the country and has given workshops at the United Nations, the Esalen Institute, the Open Center, the 92nd Street Y and Yoga Sutra. His pioneering approach to Buddhism and psychotherapy has been featured in The New York Times Magazine.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
So I can't, in good conscience, "review" the book --- though I think I'm allowed to say it provoked some brain flares for me and nudged me toward what feels like a better path. But I can, legitimately, tell you about its author. As a kid, Jeffrey was one of those annoying brainiacs who has, even more annoyingly, a killer jump shot. He burned through Princeton and graduate school, and then, fully credentialed, set out to heal the world. A funny thing happened along the way. He discovered that Western psychoanalytic theory could get him --- and his patients --- only so far. But he was also a meditator and a seeker, and in Buddhist practice, he found tools that seemed extremely useful. He started to combine West and East and discovered he was on to something. Others agreed. Eventually one of his patients included a Zen master. [That relationship is chronicled in a fascinating article in The New York Times Magazine.]
Jeffrey is still a brainiac --- I doubt Dr. Phil will be saying anything as simple and profound as this:
In meditative psychotherapy, meditation and yogic breathing are used to quiet and focus the mind. Meanwhile, psycotherapeutic insights about unconscious motivations illuminate the meaning of what arises during one's spiritual practice. And the therapeutic relationship --- conceived of in a freer and more empathic way --- is the arena in which new ways of living are explored and actualized.
You need not be a patient of Dr. Rubin's to get the benefit of his work. There's his book, written by a smart grown-up for smart grown-ups, which can, he says, help you "flourish." What's that? I asked that question, and some follow-ups, on your behalf.
Jesse Kornbluth: So, Doctor Rubin, what is "flourishing?"
Jeffrey Rubin: Here's the short answer: Flourishing is cultivating better relationships by enriching one's self-care and self-awareness.
Now I'll give you the longer version. For me, flourishing begins with resisting the frenetic pace and the bombardment of information and expanding inner space. Meditation and yoga, reading and music help me access inner space. You might get there by walking in nature, writing in a journal or cooking a meal.
I thrive when I appreciate beauty, so I try to remain alert to three areas --- physical beauty, the virtuosity of artists, athletes, and performers and admirable deeds and virtuous character.
We are what we care about. Another important aspect of flourishing for me is living my highest values. And when there is a gap between my ideals and my behavior --- which there sometimes is --- I try to lessen it. These gaps signal what I need to work on.
Balancing my physical needs with my intellectual ones, staying healthy even though I sit a lot in my work, is another aspect of flourishing. My goal is to work towards peak physical health. I happen to be addicted to playing basketball, so staying in shape makes it possible to remain in the game.
Flourishing also involves responding to the challenges I confront. Flourishing is not the same as happiness --- it doesn't always feel good. Sometimes flourishing is knowing I did the best I could.
Living authentically is also a crucial aspect of flourishing. I try to make my life my own, not a stale copy of someone else's style, or a replica of what society encourages me do, but what I, Jeffrey, believe is sane and wise.
The last stage of self-care and the final aspect of flourishing is maintaining and deepening my relationships; being a better partner, a better friend, working through conflict where possible, giving time to the needs of the people I love and care deeply about.
JK: As I read your book, it seems like you're saying we may flourish more in hard times than in boom years. True? Why?
JR: Yes. When all is going well, personally, and culturally, we feel good. And we continue to do what works. But success is a barrier to creativity. We often coast during those times. And as a result, we don't learn anything new, and we don't grow.
Crisis, which is often scary, and does not feel good, can lead to opportunity as well as challenge. Crisis forces us to wake up, to leave the comfort of coasting, to take the wheel and steer --- or crash.
JK: In the book, you write that cultivating beauty is a "cornerstone of a life well lived." Agreed. So let's explore your greatest hits list. Most beautiful music?
JR: Mozart (Symphony 40 in G Minor and Eine kleine Nachtmusik), Beethoven's 5th, Chopin's waltz op. 64, No. 2, Tchaikovsky (especially Swan Lake & Nutcracker), Charlie Parker (Laura), John Coltrane (Crescent), and Motown. Some of my fondest memories as a teenager were playing basketball outside during the summer with friends with Motown as our soundtrack. You would have thought us New Yorkers were living in Detroit.
JK: Most beautiful book?
JR: I'd break out in hives if I had to select one. Greek and Shakespearean tragedy; Great Expectations & Anna Karenina, which got me through an especially tough time; Aristotle's Ethics; And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran; and Centering: Poetry, Pottery and the Person by M. C. Richards. If you ask me this in a week or a month I might have a wholly different list...
JK: Favorite artist?
Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Ivan Aivozovsky's The Ninth Wave, 1850, which is a staggering painting of a small raft at sea. Monet and Renoir, Thomas Cole of the Hudson River school, and Richard Diebenkorn.
JK: I happen to know you like action movies, especially if they star Steven Seagall. Dare you to put one on your list of most beautiful movies.
JR: I love Bruce Lee more than Seagall. Steven might have his hands full with the Little Dragon. Films like The Visitor, The Straight Story, Smoke, Rabbit-Proof Fence and Winter's Bone are on my must-see-again list. And two childhood favorites again: To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride of the Yankees...I couldn't stop laughing during Best in Show.
JK: You tell a great story about winning a high school basketball game with a last-second shot that took place outside of time. Have you had that "Rubin! At the buzzer!" feeling since?
JR: Yes. Playing hoops at night by myself in a gym in East Meadow, NY in 1983. The hoop seemed as big as the ocean and the ball felt attached to my hand like a yo-yo. Time felt like it expanded and I was in a zone of joy and flow. The game felt so easy it was unfair, causing me to laugh out loud while I was playing. I've also had wondrous experiences meditating.
JK: All these people I see multi-tasking --- being in a conversation while texting or Tweeting --- strike me as missing the point completely. Or are they, in their own way, flourishing?
JR: I think it's tricky to measure other peoples' states of mind from the outside. That's the psychoanalyst in me. The Buddhist would say I'm not going to flourish by judging others. That said, what I've personally discovered, and what many of us have been reading about in the recent past, is that multitasking seems to insure that we attend less well to each task and that we feel more scattered, hyper-stimulated, and un-centered, all at once. And this state does tend to get in the way of focusing on doing what is authentically good for us and starves the people around us who need and deserve our complete attention.
JK: I've got 10 minutes. What can I do to enrich my life? What won't work?
JR: One of the deepest lessons I've learned from the yoga tradition is that we become whatever we are connected to. Assuming you're at home, engage in a conversation or activity that you find stimulating or meaningful. Listen to your favorite music, read an engrossing book, or look at a beautiful work of art that moves you. If you're in the doctor's office, take 12 relaxed and gentle breaths, paying attention to any places of restfulness in your body, and savor it. Try to avoid running ahead of yourself, assuming you have a bad diagnosis.
What won't work is worrying about all you have to do, judging yourself, comparing yourself to other people, surfing the web, eating out of boredom, buying something you do not need, denying what you're feeling in favor of assuming a positive attitude, willing yourself into a better mood.
JK: Reassure us that you still have miles to go. To make your life flourish more, what's the next challenge for you?
JR: We are all works-in-progress. Human growth hormone, the body's repair elixir, is produced 24 hours a day in children. You know when it's produced in adults? When we sleep. I wonder if dreams are human psychological growth hormones, our way of repairing ourselves emotionally. My next big challenge: putting into practice what I've written about in the book. One of my Buddhist teachers used to say, "Begin again, and again and again and again," because human beings slip and fall and fail. The trick is to face our humanness with patience and compassion and get up and begin again.
It is not a book just for Buddhists, nor is it a book just for therapists. It is a book that can inform and assist anyone seeking quality tools to help them grow as healthy, happy individuals who want a relationship that is meaningful, nurturing, passionate and fulfilling. Rubin states, "Crucial to intimacy is the recognition that one's partner is a separate and equivalent center of experience and initiative, a person in his or her own right, not merely an object for the other person's use." He goes on to say, "The relationship is a we that cherishes both I's."
The book begins by building a strong foundation for the individual based on self awareness developed in meditation and a program of self care that encompasses spirituality, purpose, values and authenticity. The premise is that a strong, loving relationship has to be based on a strong, self aware, healthy individual. It brings to mind the Latin phrase, non habit, non dabit - you can't give what you don't have.
The second half of the book deals with relationships using the metaphor of a garden. Rubin guides the reader through cultivating, planting, composting, weeding and harvesting the relationship to bring it to a state of flourishing. Packed with examples, "practical practices" and well thought-out explanations, the book can be a "survivor's manual" for troubled marriages. It can also serve as a primer for pre-marital counseling with the caveat that the couple read it again sometime after the wedding. It would benefit anyone who wants to improve, to grow as a person, and to flourish as an individual.
So, what IS flourishing? Rubin states, "We flourish when we take great care of ourselves, connect with spirituality, widen our moral imaginations, cultivate ethical accountability and live authentically." From this position of strength we are much more able to help form an intimate relationship that flourishes as well. Don't we all want that?
I found the books to be broken up in two parts, just as life is. One and most importantly, Yourself. The first part of this book is all about giving, teaching, and reiterating tools that help you progress as a person. To being a healthier happier you and understanding your emotions and expressing your feelings.
The ladder part of this books deal with love and relationships. Assuming that you have yourself "in check", or as in check as we can be in a chaotic life, we learn to understand the importance of being mindful in relationships. Not allowing our "emotions to get hijacked" (one of my favorite quotes of the book, not being consumed with always "winning" and acknowledging and deadheading a problem before it becomes WW3.
I am thrilled to say I read, finished, and even made use of my highlighter while reading this book. For anyone who likes to stay ahead of the game and believes in constantly evolving this is a MUST read. After all, the best gift we can give anyone is the best version of ourself!
- self care / self loving
- loving others
I have found through my own personal life experiences that you can't fully love others until you love yourself (as cliche as that might sound). This book succinctly expresses that perspective and explains why we must take care of ourselves in order to fully experience loving another person. The book does a very good job of describing why and how to love yourself as well as others. It helps with the realities of loving oneself and others and is not just theoretical like some many books. It has real life stories which illustrate the points and will stay with you long after the theories evaporate from memory. It also uses metaphors which help illustrate the points and will create longer term resonance.
The mark of a good book is how much I've written in the margins. My copy of this book is all marked up!
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