Ask most therapists today what they’d suggest for a client with anxiety and you’re likely to hear a combination of techniques anchored by a mindfulness practice. But for psychiatrist and bestselling author Mark Epstein, a state of mindfulness isn’t just a prescription for quieting an anxious mind: it’s an introductory phase to a much deeper process of healing and enlightenment.
Epstein, a contemporary of Buddhist psychologists Ram Dass and Jack Kornfield, helped usher Buddhist thought into the therapy arena more than 20 years ago with his iconic book Thoughts Without a Thinker. Since then, he’s continued to publish to popular and professional acclaim and is celebrated for his writing exploring Buddhism and the psychologically vexing nature of the “self.” In his latest offering, Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself, he overcomes his longstanding reluctance to make the case for Buddhist ideology and gives genuine guidance on how to reign in our troublesome egos.
I recently caught up with Epstein for an interview to hear how he first came to integrate Buddhism and therapy decades ago, and to find out more about how he sees this intersection of Eastern and Western thought playing out in our culture today.
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RH: How did you first learn about Buddhist practice?
EPSTEIN: When I was in college, Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, was a grad…