For years, Dr. Mark Epstein kept his beliefs as a Buddhist separate from his work as a psychiatrist. Content to use his training in mindfulness as a private resource, he trusted that the Buddhist influence could, and should, remain invisible. But as he became more forthcoming with his patients about his personal spiritual leanings, he was surprised to learn how many were eager to learn more. The divisions between the psychological, emotional, and the spiritual, he soon realized, were not as distinct as one might think.
In The Zen of Therapy, Dr. Epstein reflects on a year’s worth of selected sessions with his patients and observes how, in the incidental details of a given hour, his Buddhist background influences the way he works. Meditation and psychotherapy each encourage a willingness to face life’s difficulties with courage that can be hard to otherwise muster, and in this cross-section of life in his office, he emphasizes how therapy, an element of Western medicine, can in fact be considered a two-person meditation. Mindfulness, too, much like a good therapist, can “hold” our awareness for us—and allow us to come to our senses and find inner peace.