Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: The Trauma of Everyday Life by Mark Epstein, M.D.

I've had this book on my list to read ever since hearing it praised in 10 % Happier. I've recently been going through quite a personal ordeal, so it seemed a good time to step back into thinking about Buddhism in hopes it could give me insight into my own situation. I figured if it helped Dan Harris so much, it certainly couldn't hurt me.

The Trauma of Everyday Life is a wonderful step into the notion that combines psychiatry and Buddhism. Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist known for using Buddhist practices in treating his patients, and this book served as a good overview of how the two intertwine. Epstein gives examples of different "traumas" some of his patients experienced, and then references one of the Buddha's teachings that applied to that circumstance. There is quite a bit of retelling of stories from the Buddha's life and what they taught the people of his time, but Epstein always ties it back into our modern lives. The biggest focus is the concept of, "The only way out is through." It is only by allowing ourselves to experience our emotions, no matter how unpleasant, that we can overcome them.

This book is full of really wonderful quotes, several of which I wrote down to help me remember. I thought they would be worth sharing, so here goes:
"Enlightenment does not mean getting rid of anything. It means changing one's frame of reference so that all things become enlightening."
"When we stop distancing ourselves from the pain in the world, our own or others, we create the possibility of a new experience, one that often surprises because of how much joy, connection, or relief it yields. Destruction may continue, but humanity shines through." 
"Awakening does not mean a change in difficulty, it means a change in how those difficulties are met."
I highly enjoyed this book. The more I delve into Buddhism, the more respect I have for the concepts it teaches. I am a much more confident person having learned just what I have in the past 6 months, and this book certainly helped me on that path. I would caution that this probably wouldn't be the best book for a complete newcomer to Buddhism - maybe read one of the other books I've read this year first - but this will absolutely help to show how practical a Buddhist frame of mind can be when it comes to our emotional lives. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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