Yoga and the Quest for the True Self is definitely one of the best (if not the best) and most useful books I've ever read. It truly speaks to developing a mature, real life approach to spirituality.
Stephen Cope writes from a perspective that I feel really speaks to the Western spiritual seeker. He combines his experience and knowledge as a psychotherapist with his knowledge of Yoga and other spiritual paths.
While Yoga is a path of union, it appears only too clear that without removing the layers of psychological baggage, union with the divine cannot truly mainfest in ones life. All of the spiritual insights and epiphanies will never be more than a transparent veil placed thinly over the unresolved baggage. Insights without fertile ground to take root will soon fade or be used as another vehicle for ego building.
The author makes clear that the mature path of Yoga is not one of renunciation, or a solitary journey, but explains that "as spiritual practice matured in India there arose a radical new understanding of the paradox of action and inaction. This was the doctrine of inaction in action, and goes further to explain that Krishna teaches in the "Gita" to "Act in the world in alignment with your true vocation, your true self etc....." Clearly not a path of renunciation or a solitary path but one that involves action IN the world.
I found this book really spoke to me as a person on the spiritual path in a way that is truly transformative and not just a bunch of religious dogma. Using his own personal experiences and the experiences of other seekers throughout the book, he has woven a beautifully written guide that is really eye opening and practical. It clearly put into perspective many things that I have either personally struggled with or wondered about.
Stephen Cope makes no claims to be an enlightened master with "wisdom from on high"nor is he trying to "convert" anyone to a particular spiritual path. He explains how the various tools of yoga can help us become more in touch with our true selves. How the process and practice of Hatha Yoga for example, isn't just physical exercise but a spiritual and yet practical process that can help people grow by becoming grounded in their own bodies. At the same time one can work at developing their witness consciousness thru the process of Hatha Yoga.
Of the many things I took away from the book, one particularly valuable was the "mantra" Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow" which can be used in Hatha Yoga practice, meditation, or even in one's ordinary life when they are scattered and want to become grounded, focused and internally centered.
Some have mistakenly concluded that the author's final assessment is that all of his spiritual practice was for nothing. While there is a "moment" in the book where Cope leaves in the middle of a retreat, a retreat that he had preconceived notions of it's outcome , that is not by any means the conclusion of the book. Actually the crux of what Stephen Cope comes to realize after refelecting on his10 years or so of practice is that "In the entire path of yoga, there is really only one lesson...... Whenever we relinquish our craving, clinging and grasping, whenever we stop the war with reality and are totally present and undivided, we are immediately in union with our true nature".
The book also talks about the Kripalu Center and it's own growth, through the early years with founder Amrit Desai, to his (Desai's) fall from grace, and how this community matured rather than fell apart in the midst of this controversy.
It also explains much about the "false" Guru phenomena. In particular what happens when disciples own needs for an "all knowing father" can in their own way create a monster of their own making.
If you are a Yoga practitioner who wants to go "beyond the postures" as strictly physical exercise, or a spiritual seeker of any faith who wants to read a book that speaks with honesty and depth, intelligence and insight (and to "real people") then I highly recommend this book.