Tara Brach, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist as well as a Buddhist lay priest and popular teacher of mindfulness (vipassana) meditation. She is the founder of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C., and has conducted workshops at Spirit Rock Center, Omega Institute, the New York Open Center, and other retreat centers nationwide. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her teenaged son.
Fischer, former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, and Brach, a clinical psychologist and Insight Meditation teacher, draw on years of experience as Buddhist practitioners to help form their respective theses. Fischer bases his discussion on an examination of what it truly means to be mature. Having taken on the task of mentoring a group of adolescent boys, Fischer describes how the process informed and was informed by his spiritual practice, leading him to the conclusion that genuine spiritual practice naturally reflects a genuine maturity. Brach takes as her starting point what she refers to as the "trance of unworthiness," in which we consider ourselves somehow damaged or incomplete. Working with Buddhist ideas of compassion and mindfulness, she describes "radical acceptance" as the path that can lead to a more open and fulfilling life. In both cases, the grounding in Buddhism helps the authors guide those who have entrusted themselves to their care. Of the two books, Fischer's has more to do with Buddhism directly, treating such things as Buddhist precepts, meditation, and the notion of vowing, but finally it has a greater affinity with self-help and pop psychology titles than with Buddhist philosophy or practice. This is even more true of the Brach title, as her tone is more logical and oriented toward psychology. While experienced practitioners will recognize her concepts, drawn largely from Insight Meditation, the language and methodology and the numerous case studies tend to blur the distinctions between clinical psychology and Buddhist practice. Neither title breaks any new ground, and neither will satisfy readers seeking to clarify their ideas about Buddhist practice. But both books have merit as sources of encouragement and support for readers and would be suitable for public libraries with an interest in self-improvement titles.-Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A psychotherapist and Buddhist meditation teacher in the tradition of Jack Kornfield (who contributes a foreword), first-time author Brach offers readers a rich compendium of stories and techniques designed to help people awaken from what she calls "the trance of unworthiness." The sense of self-hatred and fearful isolation that afflicts so many people in the West can be transformed with the steady application of a loving attention infused with the insights of the Buddhist tradition, according to Brach. Interweaving stories from her own life as a hardworking single mother with many wonderful anecdotes culled from her therapy practice and her work as a leader of meditation retreats, Brach offers myriad examples of how our pain can become a doorway to love and liberation. An older Catholic woman in one of Brach's weekend workshops, for example, recounts how she learned to ask God to help hold her pain. Like her colleagues Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein and others in the Vipassana or Insight meditation tradition, Brach is open-minded about where she gathers inspiration. Garnishing her gentle advice and guided meditation with beautiful bits of poetry and well-loved if familiar dharma stories, Brach describes what it can mean to open to the reality of other people, to live in love, to belong to the world. Obviously the fruit of the author's own long and honest search, this is a consoling and practical guide that can help people find a light within themselves. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"Radical Acceptance offers gentle wisdom and tender healing,
a most excellent medicine for our unworthiness and longing.
Breathe, soften, and let these compassionate teachings bless your
-- Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry