“The Wise Heart – A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology” by Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield, an experienced American meditation teacher, combines Buddhist philosophy, meditation exercises, and stories about his students and himself into a thorough introduction to Buddhist psychology.

The Buddhist therapeutic techniques for resolving trauma are strikingly similar to Somatic Experiencing techniques. One comes from self-observation, and one comes from observation of other animals. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that they have converged on a similar set of gentle, effective techniques.

I had a lot of reactions while reading the 400 pages of this book. Interest in people’s experiences with meditation and transformation. Boredom with the more esoteric details about Buddhism. Self-judgment about my own meditation experiences. Longing for the support of a meditative community. Relief when reading about self-acceptance.

One section describes the three personality types that cause suffering: grasping, aversive, and deluded. We all have elements of these types, and may lean strongly toward one of them. Fortunately, awareness and acceptance can mitigate the suffering they cause, and even bring positive benefits.

I felt defensive about recognizing the aversive type in myself. Yeah, okay, so I have a strong judgmental voice. At the same time, it’s a relief to realize that lots of people struggle with this. It’s normal, acceptable. The positive side of aversion is discernment.

I recommend this book if you’re interested in a warm, accessible, occasionally dry introduction to Buddhist thought. It can be fascinating to observe your reactions as you read!

Available at Powell’s Books.

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