Book Review: Advice Not Given

This week we look at Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Mark Epstein.

In this book, Epstein combines Buddhist principles with Western Psychology and explains what he would have told his patients, the advice he would have given them, but didn’t…I’m not exactly sure why not, but I think it has to do with him not wanting to integrate his Buddhist practice into his professional career.

Epstein uses the eightfold path to walk through different ideas he thinks it is important for people to know.  It is clear from the stories he tells that he has been involved in the Buddhist and mindfulness movement before it became popular and mainstream, regularly dropping names of some of the predominant figures in the field that he knew before they were the superstars they are.

Personally, I found this to be a “meh” type book.  The title interested me as I am always looking for a way to get my ego out of the way and let my more spiritual self-shine through…but this is not what this book did.  This was also a book that was selected for the book club that I am a part of, one that was started at a Buddhist center so Buddhist philosophy predominates.

I have a little more than a basic understanding of Buddhism, spending the better part of my early twenties learning about the field and immersing myself in the practices.  What I have found, from my current spiritual perspective, is that the current practice of Buddhism and, in particular, meditation, in the Western world brings people to a point of experiencing mystical activity, but then does not explain or give context to that interaction.

Epstein explains an occurs of “hearing a voice” during meditation but does not have the context to further elaborate or understand this experience.  This may take a turn towards a rant on the clinicalization of Western Buddhism, but when you get people focusing on their breath and oneness and then don’t tell them that this may open up their psychic senses and allow them to “hear” their guides or deceased loved ones or higher self…you’ve got a recipe for potential trouble.

Okay, rant over.  Back to this book.  Overall, this book was actually a little boring.  I found myself wondering in and out of focus, having a difficult time staying with the book…and that is saying something as I love deep esoteric literature.  There was nothing new or earth-shattering revealed during this book.  So, unless you have this book as part of your book club, I would say skip it.

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