Before he began training as a psychiatrist, Mark Epstein immersed himself in Buddhism through influential teachers such as Ram Dass, Joseph Goldstein, and Jack Kornfield. Buddhism's positive outlook and the meditative principle of living in the moment profoundly influenced his study and practice of psychotherapy. Going on Being is an intimate chronicle of Epstein's formative years as well as a practical guide to how a Buddhist understanding of psychological problems can help anyone change for the better. Epstein gives readers a deeply personal look into his life, thoughts, fears, and hopes, while detailing the influences that have shaped his worldview. Inspiring in its honesty and humility, Going on Being is a compassionate, brilliant look at how uniting the worlds of psyche and spirit can lead to a new way of seeing reality.
Psychiatrist Epstein revisits territory he explored in his earlier books, Thoughts Without a Thinker and Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart. Borrowing his title and his inspiration from the British child analyst D.W. Winnicott, Epstein sets out to elucidate how Buddhist meditation can work with psychotherapy to guide people off the rocky shoals of "psychological emptiness" and into the deep flowing water of being. As in his earlier work, Epstein demonstrates a keen ability to link Buddhist ideas and practice with Winnicott's insight about the sense of psychological well-being that comes with the primal experience of "the uninterrupted flow of authentic self." Here, however, Epstein also describes his own liberation from inner emptiness, offering a memoir about his encounter with Buddhism as a Harvard student in the early 1970s. As a structuring device, he attributes different aspects of his growing Buddhist understanding to his encounters with three extraordinary teachers: Ram Dass, Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. Alas, Epstein's admirers will hunger for more meat on the bones he lays out with such care. Part of the problem is the way that Epstein breaks narrative momentum by recapping material that has appeared in more potent form elsewhere, both in his earlier books and in classics like Ram Dass's Be Here Now and Kornfield's A Path with Heart. Lucid writing and truly useful ideas abound, although the talented Epstein travels a well-worn path here.