The Buddha had a prescription to end suffering—the eightfold path. But can the Western tradition of psychotherapy build upon these essential steps? Here, Buddhist psychotherapist and bestselling author Epstein talks with Tricycle contributing editor Amy Gross about how the two realms of wisdom view the idea of self as both problematic and helpful. Drawing from his new book, Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself, to discuss the ways meditation illuminates aspects of ourselves that we’re afraid or ashamed of, allowing us to let go of the identities that constrict us.
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00:00:06Welcome to tricycle talks time james shaheen editor and publisher of tricycle the buddhist review today we'll be listening to tricycle contributing editor amy grows chat with buddhist psychotherapist and best selling author mark epstein about his new book advice not given a guide to getting over yourself epstein's work
00:00:27has long found itself at the intersection of buddhism and psychotherapy and advice not given is in many ways a reinterpretation of buddhism's eightfold path in the light of therapeutic thought and practice at the heart of epstein's book our reflections on what it means to be human and of
00:00:44course getting over ourselves now let's join amy and mark in conversation mark it is so great to be here talking with you about this book your seventh in case you haven't been count on howard stern you're counting it's a book that takes us into therapy sessions with you
00:01:06shows us what's guiding you what's honed your intuitions both your buddhist training and psychotherapy experience The book's purpose you say is to bridge the gap between psychotherapy and buddhism it's about psycho therapies purpose buddhism's and yours it's built around the eightfold path the buddhist prescription to end suffering
00:01:30and you've expanded each fold to feed therapy influences principles expanding what we think of when we think of right view right speech you're creating i think a new mix and new balance so let's start there and tell us about this title advice not given the title came before
00:01:52the book so i was actually on a meditation retreat after my father had passed away and i'm sure there were influences But it felt as if out of the blue i had the thought oh advice not given or i have advice i haven't been giving came in some
00:02:11and i was sitting at the forest refuge where i we have been trying to go every year on you know silent retreat and my thoughts were reverberating with the title and i thought ok that's the title And then i had to find the book after the title I
00:02:26what i was thinking was that oh i've always been very careful about not laying a buddhist thing on my patients you know not wanting teo coerce them in any kind of way with my buddhism but maybe their stuff that would be helpful to them that i've been keeping
00:02:46back a little too much So if i were to go ahead and be freer with what i was actually thinking what would i say That was the germ of the book and the subtitle the subtitle a guide to getting over yourself that came at the end after i
00:03:02had finished the book the subtitle was the working subtitle was something like notes of a buddhist psychiatrist or something because notes like a psychiatrist it's supposed to keep notes but it was also like musical notes you know because the way i was thinking about what the book was
00:03:18it was sort of ah collage of impressions that i was having from my work as a therapist i wanted to bring a more mature experience of actually having been a therapist for thirty years and but thinking about buddhism the whole time like what did i have to say
00:03:35about that So that was my working subtitle and then when the book was all finished i was sitting in my office and i was puzzling over the subtitle and i just very impulsively wrote down a guide to getting over yourself and and i thought oh either my editor
00:03:56publisher is going to love it or hate it and she loved it so it so it suck so the cloak we'll expression get over yourself sounds like get over your inflated ego right now that is not at all what you mean i think well inflated or deflated yeah
00:04:13yeah the book ended up being a lot more about the ego than i knew it was going to when i started writing but after having completed the book like a major theme wass o that we get bad information about the ego the ego is not always your friend
00:04:30you can actually get control of your ego you can't get rid of it that's ah sort of mistaken idea but you don't have to let it terrorize you you don't have to let it drive you total eh You can start to doubt the ego when it's working against
00:04:45your best interests but the ego is nefarious is that the word you know it's tricky that you go so it's sometimes attach is to an inflated sense or a defensive sense of oneself but it can also attached to a deflated one where people are beating themselves up or
00:05:04just feeling bad about themselves and the attachment to that we call ego and that's a much of a problem the attachment to to the negative view of oneself and also to the overestimation and you know any kind you know any kind of ideas Well ideas are important but
00:05:22realistic ideas so the ego likes certainty And so once it gets a thought in its head or once we get a thought in our head we tend to repeat it because we're like looking for some kind of security or stability that our intellect offers us and we have
00:05:38a habit of identifying with our thoughts even if they're stupid are wrong or self defeating so once we articulate an idea to ourselves we have a hard time unstick ng from that articulation first of all what is the ego we talk about it as though it's an it
00:05:56but there isn't a box in the brain that's ego yeah freud said the ego was a necessary construction so whatever that means like the ego from a psychoanalytic point of view or a psychotherapy point of view the ego is that which mediates between inner and outer it's this
00:06:15sort of executive function you know that hyperactive kids don't have supposedly it's what helps us regulate our internal drives instincts biology and reconcile that with the external demands that our family our schools our culture puts on us so it's sort of like the internal regulatory mechanism and we
00:06:39think that self don't we we don't quite know what the ego is as your question makes clear so there's a lot of confusion ego self you know freud used the word ego it just meant i the german word he used just meant thie i like the capital i
00:06:56and then that got translated into english as ego but we have some kind of subjective sense inside of us that is always telling us who we are and what we are that is involved with that kind of regulation or mediation that the ego comes to represent the ego
00:07:14is just a function really it's not it's not a entity it's much more a a mechanism you know it's more of a verb than a noun but we're always looking the ego itself is always looking for certainty so it reflects on itself and then through our thoughts makes
00:07:33us think that that's who we are kind of thing and is the ego getting its information from this border patrol Yeah the ego is scanning both internally and externally but it's it's rooted in fear and in separation the ego is you know as a young child two year
00:07:55old child say comes into self consciousness you know when you start to realize that owen i'm a person here i'm alone here inside myself that's the beginning of the ego so it's a very immature ego but the ego keeps that kind of a maturity It doesn't unless it's
00:08:13educated which is what psychotherapy i can do and what meditation can't What buddhism can do is you know kind of education of the ego Unless it's educated it tends to stay in a kind of immature place where it sees itself for it sees thus self as basically separate
00:08:32and where it's kind of covering over a sense of insecurity that comes when you realize that there's only one of you and billions of other people trying to get some of what you need kind of thing and something permanently two years old in a sense something permanently two
00:08:50years old or at least rooted in in our two year old experience is operating almost independently within us you know kind of commenting or you know in the privacy of your thoughts when you're alone when you're going to sleep at night when you're in the bathroom when you're
00:09:10like worrying about what's gonna happen to may you know that there's an element of ego and all of that i think if that is the drone of the internal monologue or for me it's like your own private hell station yeah can be that it tends to be repetitive
00:09:27on and immature and anxious or defending against all of that so it could be the opposite of all of those things but i would see that as a defense against the primary anxieties you talk a lot about meditation as the good enough mother on that seems like a
00:09:46good fit for this insecure frightened defensive child Yeah well that's been a recurrent theme of mine in all seven of the books You know as i've tried to reconcile what i've learned from being a therapist with what i've learned from buddhism this idea of of meditation or mindfulness
00:10:08as a kind of holding environment for all of the um aspects of the self that were most afraid of or most ashamed of that there's a safe place within the mind or it could be in a psychotherapy office or it could be on a meditation cushion or it
00:10:29could be in the arms of a lover you are as a child it is thea arms of the parent i drew a lot from winning kat who wrote in the fifties who talked about the mother all the time but it could be any kind of caregiver you know
00:10:42but that there's a kind of safety that is created where even the most difficult kinds of feelings can be experienced in a safe enough secure enough way and i have felt that if given a chance meditation can resurrect that need and you know i did the whole thing
00:11:03in the trauma book about the buddhist mother dying when he was a week old and why is that story there And maybe there it was kind of set up in his life for him to have to find the mother within that he lost without on dh that rings
00:11:19true for me So mark this is reminding me i don't know if i read it in a book of yours where you said it but i remember you saying something like therapy can expose the crack in a personality but only meditation can heal it well i hope i
00:11:36didn't say that because i think fundamentally meditation and psychotherapy don't have to be thought of this different things they're just constructions also ways of learning how to let go of various identities that we've become attached tio the buddhist stories are great because they show how it could happen
00:12:02any time you know you could meditate and meditate for thirty years and nothing happens and then the guy drops the pen on the table you know splattered and boom so that could happen in a psychotherapy session too or the buddhist stories are often of a teacher saying just
00:12:20the right thing at the right moment to somebody that catches them in there misperception and that's just another kind of psychotherapy where they therapist knows you well enough that and can see how you're misconstruing something and knows that you know has the tact to say they right thing
00:12:38at the right moment that releases something what brought that up to me in my practice feeling and getting into the world of compassion no more revenue being a concept actual on linking this's what he must have meant because the flow of compassion is felt like nothing i've ever
00:13:02felt it was it's like bomb you know it's the soothing ist it's desire it dissolves everything in its path well there's some kind of beneficent love energy that seems to flow out naturally with the whatever the awareness is that's being cultivated in meditation it's sometimes talked about us
00:13:27if it's a separate thing but what if it's the same thing you know which goes along with what you're describing you know that you don't have to cultivate compassion by itself It comes naturally And if you can tap into what that feels like then it displays itself on
00:13:49every object Write your own mind and other people Write something like that loving awareness loving awareness I was struck by the quote from the dalai lama Ego is our greatest obstacle and greatest hope And that again seemed like a startling idea Because i do think of ego is
00:14:10what gets me into trouble and the need to defend the need to be right The need to be certain the the pride that you talk about is the hardest emotion probably to deal with and then the hope So the ego there's this possibility of the ego growing up
00:14:30Yeah well i think the dalai lama is always very good about this because he talks about the intellect and the ego is rooted in the intellect The dalai lama is very very clear about thinking is not the problem thought is not bad Meditation is not about emptying the
00:14:47mind and being without thought Meditation is about honing your thinking using your intellect using reason to examine those places where we're being actually unreasonable and that's all ego that's an eagle function that could use reason to examine unreasonable all thoughts and constructs understanding that freed me up that
00:15:11oh i don't have to get rid of my intellect i could actually use my intellect in the service of something so yes that's all you go in your own life you're buddhist practice which you've got to before you got to therapy and your experiences as a therapist your
00:15:26experience as a person in therapy this book has these nuggets of wonderful stories where you come to see that you don't have to maintain what you called once false front and i think most of us most the time we don't even realize we're maintaining a false front we
00:15:46think we're acting properly or appropriately and i was struck by the story with jack so you were at a retreat with the joseph goldstein and jack cornfield you were driving back with them you are feeling quite special to be in the car with them and yes well this
00:16:03is i think the first or second retreat that i ever did so i was about twenty one years old or so and just having penetrated what i saw it's the inner circle of you know these people who seems so mature to me who are about thirty years old
00:16:18and they were teaching in mendocino which was very wild in those days did a whole retreat at an old camp in mendocino and then i got a ride with them back to san francisco and we needed to stop for lunch and i was like so excited you know
00:16:35to be part of this new community and i was figuring okay it's going to be a vegetarian vegetarian lunch and so on and jack cornfield ordered a hamburger and i was like oh my god you know he's a buddhist teacher and he's ordering a hamburger and it stripped
00:16:51away you know some ideas that i had about what made a buddhist teacher of buddhist teacher and i said in the book which i think was true like i didn't even want a hamburger but if i wanted when i could have won what i've always felt grateful for
00:17:06what that story was really about is that in getting to know my various teachers who i really looked up tio and idealized in getting to know them as people as friends i got to see that you know however accomplished they were as best buddhist as meditators they were
00:17:24still themselves and you know they weren't healed of their neuroses and one of the things it was refreshing about them was that they weren't putting on false fronts you know they were just themselves and that gave me tremendous freedom from a really early age tio okay the task
00:17:41is to be me not to be some idealized version of who i think i'm supposed to bay and that's been very useful especially as a therapist yeah the other story about false fronts and fear of being graded and again these unconscious assumptions of how we're supposed to be
00:18:01because i don't think we realized the rule books we have in our heads We just think this is how things should be the other story about it teacher who before he was dying behaved in a way that was perhaps disappointing teo one of his students that story i
00:18:17think i deliberately at least when i initially was writing paired with the jack cornfield hamburger story because it was about stripping away idealized notions of who were supposed to bay And that came when i was i think on my first book tour which was more than twenty years
00:18:35ago Now on i went to boulder and a very nice young woman picked me up at the airport and drove me to boulder to the boulder bookstore and on the way there she told mei how a teacher of hers had come off of a three year tibetan buddhist
00:18:53retreat Ah very accomplished man but on the retreat he had gotten colon cancer and not known he'd come out of the retreating he was already too sick to get treatment and he came and lived with her and she took care of him until he passed away But she
00:19:07told me the most disturbing thing about all of that was she was with him when he died and his last words were no no no help help and she was confused and upset because he was an accomplished buddhist teacher but he wasn't dying the way buddhists are supposed
00:19:22to die you know like going gracefully into the light and the bardo and so on my immediate reaction was oh that's wonderful you know like he wasn't hiding his fear he was as present with it as he could be and he was showing her something about we don't
00:19:39know what it's going to be like to die and any idea that we have of how it's supposed to be is very likely just to get in our way When it happens you lose control at that that's the ultimate loss of ego and that must be scary I
00:19:55bet it's scary and i wonder how many people in the backs of their heads fear how they're going to die and that they won't be able to bear it in a way that's going to be nice or easy for those around it or comfortable for them Well you
00:20:10know you were talking at the beginning about the advice not given and where that title came from and the other root of the title i think was when my father was dying which was eight years ago now so probably four five years before i started working on the
00:20:27book my father was a a doctor a research scientist very accomplished academic scientist who you know i never had a conversation with about buddhism or about my spiritually pursuits He was very happy that i went to medical school relieved that at least i became a psychiatrist you know
00:20:48and proud of my writing books and so on but we never engaged in a conversation about meditation or what happens after death or any of that stuff but he had a malignant brain tumor that started on the non dominant side of his brain the silent part of his
00:21:04brain that didn't affect his cognition so he worked as a doctor all the way until he couldn't anymore but he got lost driving home from the hospital the same route he taken for thirty years so he knew something was wrong but by the time he discovered it there
00:21:19was nothing to do about it so he knew what was happening I was in my office and i called him on the phone because i have had the thought you know i've never talked to my father about any of this but he's going to die and maybe there's
00:21:31something in you know that i've learned from buddhism that might be helpful so that was the advice not given you know and i had this one conversation with him where i said something like you know the feeling inside of you that's always been the same from when you
00:21:46were a young man you know to when you're forty and sixty and eighty like it doesn't really change you know you're still you but if you try to put your finger on what that feeling is it's kind of invisible what i understand from my buddhist stuff is that
00:22:01if you can kind of relax your mind into that sort of invisible space when you're dying that that's the thing you can ride out when you're dying and he was very amenable he was like oh thank you darling i'll try you know that conversation went well so i
00:22:18think that was one of the oh if i could talk to my father like that maybe you could tell the way that i could write it in a book you're listening to amy gross and conversation with mark epstein about his new book advice not given a guide to
00:22:34getting over yourself try school talks is sponsored by the tricycle foundation publisher of tricycle the buddhist review subscribed to tricycle and join a community of people who are interested in broadening their understanding of how buddha's teachings and meditation can transform their lives your subscription will give you access
00:22:53to our article archive is willis e books our monthly video dharma talk siri's feature films and discounts in our online courses and by the way if you'd like to read more by mark epstein there plenty of his essays in our online archive get to know us better visit
00:23:09us said tricycle that or ge now let's get back to the conversation i'm thinking about pride it's not how i think of the last fetter it's usually called conceit thinking you're special one way or the other especially wonderful especially horrible and thinking about why it's so resistant you
00:23:32tell a story about one of your patients i think it's miranda who is like screaming at you about how unworthy she is she just keeps telling you who she is and how she is a new saying oh you're showing me is your self hatred which is a wonderful
00:23:49line but i'm thinking what is the resistance to letting go of these horrible things he's horrible phantom cells or images of oneself that people hold on tighter than anything Well i'll tell you i had two therapists one one was the teacher of the other so my first therapist
00:24:11i saw for a long time then he sent me to his teacher ah wonderful wonderful therapist named is a door from who was a teacher of gestalt therapist and one of is adores things wass if you were telling him something good that it happened to you but you
00:24:28were kind of hesitating about being proud about it he would say something like tell me that again and but brag about it so he was like make you the patient bragged to him to be proud so i think a lot of that self hatred kind of pride or
00:24:47conceit actually is a reflection of failure too feel special enough in one self you know like from the buddhist point of view they talk about precious human birth what an amazing accomplishment it is just to be in this body you know with this mind that's capable of self
00:25:09reflection you know that can accomplish so much with so little and that's sort of like ground level psychotherapy people come with their self hatred with their self loathing with their negativity with their sense of not being good enough with the kind of psychological emptiness not necessarily buddhist emptiness
00:25:30you know and with what psycho analysis is called the basic fault you know like some kind of crack like you were saying some kind of you know what something wrong inside and i think it's traditionally the realm of psychotherapy to try to bolster that or he'll that or
00:25:48build that up and buddhism historically never really addressed you know early childhood experience and where that might come from and people's psychological negativity they talk about it as afflicted emotion or whatever but it's under the auspices of psychotherapy that we have to build up that kind of pride
00:26:09but i think one of the ways that meditation can work as like that good enough mother is that it makes us examine the repetitive and unconscious self hatred self loathing negativity that circling inside of us that were not really questioning So i think we can hit it from
00:26:32both sides but i think in order to undermined the conceit or the pride that we think about as the last fetter we actually have to feel good enough about ourselves in a way that doesn't necessarily go away even with great meditative attainment You know i think there could
00:26:50be a sense of individual certainty individual pride even that we would call self confidence self esteem you know there's that famous story of the of the dalai lama sitting around with all the western psychotherapists and people are start to talk about you know this one's low self esteem
00:27:08and that one's low self esteem and the dalai lama was incredulous that all these accomplished westerners had this thing called low self esteem and he went and asked you to do you have this Do you have this And they all said oh yes we have this and he
00:27:21wasn't even something that was in his experience so all those llamas have either have or are pretending to have high self esteem I remember it won retreat are tibetan buddhist teacher said i can't understand this and he said if anyone can explain this to me i would like
00:27:40you to come and you was moved You won't and you went and what did you tell him I tried to talk to him about about winning kat and about the intrusive or abandoning parent that when you know if the early experiences doesn't give enough room for the child
00:28:00teo feel his or her feelings as like acceptable that the ego comes in and starts to think of oneself as unacceptable and that you know that kind of thing And he was like oh really And in tibet or in nepal he was saying if the child is misbehaving
00:28:21or something we just like slap it and make it go sit in the corner for a while on dh it was like the whole child seriously so i wonder hearing miranda's voice in my head is it possible that we hold onto these ideas because there's a fear that
00:28:40would be nothing if we didn't have these ideas Yes i think very much so again not teo reprise that ego thing too much but the ego needs an identity and that's an identity And the fears that there's nothing underneath that that's really like emptiness bad emptiness nothing there
00:28:59you know just ah dream that we're going to go down and what's wonderful about buddhism buddhism knows that's not true buddhism knows the mind is capable of so much you know that precious human birth is a really thing you know enlightenment is possible for everyone buddhism knows that
00:29:18psycho analysis psychotherapy has been you know not so sure you know coming around to it navy and i'm remembering in the story of miranda you said underneath was a discovery waiting waiting to happen you discovery for two nature yeah yeah whatever true nature is but it has something
00:29:37to do with that compassionate love awareness thing that you were talking about so we don't have time to go through each and every of the eight full paths that's what reading is for but let's focus first on impermanence i'm sorry on right view okay let's focus on impermanence
00:29:55which is a central thing for right field yes yeah So tell me how like the classic buddhist teacher would teach what right view is and then what you are doing with it Well i think the classical buddhist teaching about right view they could come at it from a
00:30:13couple of different angles i think the deepest expression of right view is the questioning of the absolute self so that immediately gets into all kinds of confusion because we don't know what the self is and we don't know what the no self is but the best teaching that
00:30:33i've gotten on that comes from robert thurman who i've had the good fortune to teach with over the years you know a little bit every year and he talks about his mongolian buddhist teacher who he met in new jersey in nineteen sixty or something saying it's not that
00:30:52yourself is not really of course it's really you know you have the south and so on but the problem with you people sometimes when he tells stories like the problem with you but then when i told that way he says no he didn't say that anyway so the
00:31:05problem with you guys is you think you are really really sore right View in its deepest expression is undermining that feeling that we all have of being really riel and the understanding of right view The true understanding is not that we don't exist at all that's a falling
00:31:23into the demon cave or something they could they call it in scent because if you're not there at all then what What are you know just confusion but that you're willing to question the identities that you hold teo and they in the most private thoughts that you have
00:31:39you know where you're operating from that place we talked about before of of fear and separation so if you're not really real if you're just like riel but you are in relationship to a world that you're part of and other people that you care about then you're self
00:31:58starts to be experienced as mohr relational in nature or more relative compared to the absolute n'est ce that you're holding two when you're seeing yourself as completely separate i think that's that that's my understanding of of right view from a purely buddhist perspective i don't want to have
00:32:18to try toe explain all of that in the book cause it's alienating when you know when you're just starting so the kind of next level down from that is about impermanent which you were telegraphing already when you asked the question and so that's again a basic buddhist thing
00:32:34everything's influx change is always happening moment to moment there's change we all know we're not getting younger you know the body ages death old age infirmity illness separation is part and parcel of experience that was like the trump of everyday life we can't get away from it and
00:32:58we wish we could but right view says of course we wish we could that's the thing about no no no help help you know in the face of death of course that's our habitual instinctive reaction but if we educate our minds it's possible to experience the change as
00:33:19music it's possible to experience that as we're part of a river that's flowing and we can and float with it or we can fight against the current there is that famous story that i tell all the time i didn't tell it in this book i think it's the
00:33:36first book i didn't repeat it about the glass being already broken you know you won't tell the story When i was travelling in the early years of my buddhist exploration with jack cornfield and joseph goldstein and so on we went to jack cornfields monastery and in thailand where
00:33:54he had trained for two years to have a meeting with his teacher named john shaw and there were about ten of us and we had to come up with a question that i could get an answer that we could bring back to the west with his you know
00:34:06wisdom and i can't remember the question but the answer he gave we must have asked about what is duca what is suffering what's your understanding of enlightenment some something he held up his drinking glass Do you see this glass I love this glass and holds the water admirably
00:34:23when the light strikes that it makes a beautiful diffraction the light beautifully when i strike it it makes a beautiful sound but when the wind knocks it over my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls and breaks I say of course because for me the glass
00:34:38is already broken but when i know that it's already broken every minute with it is precious and it's that last part took me a long time to realize the wisdom is actually in the last part because it's like ok the buddhists you know the self is already broke
00:34:53and everything is going to die it's like okay to too pessimistic but every minute with its precious there's the love you know i don't think you should ever write a book without that it just put in and never broadcast I was thinking about impermanence about how much suffering
00:35:12is caused by resistance to it fear of it reluctance of buying into acceptance of how things are habits of anticipating catastrophe izing writing the story one example ahead If this was an editor i used to work with very fit californian in new york striding around the street and
00:35:35she tripped and fell into one of those open doors cellar doors and broke her femur and she was in the hospital and i went to see her and the suffering that she was feeling was about this it's taking me so long to heal and i thought according to
00:35:56what you know where is it written how long it should take So just thie the suffering of uncertainty not knowing and the story you know start telling yourself a story So i'm so interested in stories and i was so interested in what you did with right speech which
00:36:16is usually about lying gossip idle talk and harsh harsh statements but you brought your bringing the speech right speech into two approach how we talk to our throne Yeah the stories we tell ourselves you know sharon salzberg wrote one of her early books called faith She was the
00:36:39most self revealing that she's ever been in the beginning of that book where she talked about her own upbringing and how she was dressed in her ballerina costume you know when she was a young girl and sitting with her mother watching their favorite tv show and her mother
00:36:55started to bleed and sharon had to go call an ambulance and her mother got taken away and she never saw her again and then how her father was it was crazy and came home and left and and she was abandoned and the father got put in a mental
00:37:09hospital and she was raised by her grand parents and she just talked about the incredible suffering that was part of her upbringing and then the stories that she repeated to her selves about what she didn't deserve you know and what was wrong with her in general In my
00:37:26books i try to use myself as the major case study although a couple of my patients were nice enough to let me use some of the material i'm always reluctant to do that but i thought since share and put it out there so beautifully and she started that
00:37:40book with we all tell ourselves a story and i thought oh yeah that that's the right speech that i'm interested in not that the more classic right speech of how we talk to each other isn't important but we give ourselves the past you know we don't stop to
00:37:55question the stories that we've grown up with and it's a revelation when we d'oh when i can show someone in therapy what that is that they're doing it's much more than oh i said the right thing you know i gave the right interpretation or when i try to
00:38:13write it in a book it comes out as two fake you know but to actually be so engaged with someone that they can see themselves what i'm seeing about the way they're talking to themselves and and you know really see it then that that's a nice moment very
00:38:31nice moment to see a picture of someone just ropes and nooses around a person falling yeah or something just getting loosened you know and falling lighter if you want to use yourself you talk about a point Yeah you talk about yourself building a story about separation as abandoned
00:38:55Yeah turning separation into abandonment was sort of my thing that i didn't know it was my thing until i first got married and you know was more complete unquestioningly and love and happier than i could ever remember having been and then managed to turn that into a problem
00:39:14by kind of attacking or feeling was both a combination of attacking and feeling abandoned when we would just go to sleep at night or if my new wife wasn't like right there the way i wanted her to be for me in that moment you know i would feel
00:39:30that not just as a disappointment but as as a rejection and so it's not like i'm completely free of that tendency now but i really know it and i could see the exaggeration on i talk about it in the book it took me therapy and meditation and dream
00:39:48ins and some kind of confabulation of where that might have all been coming from from my early childhood to relax the intensity of it in myself but that's been a huge help to keep a marriage together do you think people can begin to see the space between or
00:40:07create the space between what actually just happens and the story yeah i think they can i think they can i think the difficult thing is that the affect the feelings that come can be so strong and seems so riel you know and so important that there could be
00:40:27a really insistent and internal insistence like this is true this is right you have to acknowledge this and i see that in couples a lot and i know it in myself you know like i'm not going to let go until you acknowledge the truth of my feelings i
00:40:43tell a story in the book like one of the first married people i ever knew who's whittled the dharma down to one phrase which was letting go even though you even though you know you're right on that was in the context of him talking about his marriage you
00:40:58know the key to a successful marriage letting go even though you know you're right but that knowing you're right is like that the affect the emotion being so seeming so really like really really you know and why won't you acknowledge it You know so and then just in
00:41:18an instant you can drop that like you really can and i think a lot in the psychotherapy world what's become very popular is the dialectical behavioral therapy dbt which was started by a woman marshall and a hand who had buddhist training but also was a behavior esten a
00:41:37psychotherapist and she understood that a lot of the most disturbs seemingly emotional patients who got into trouble because they're you know they they felt stuff so strongly they had to cut themselves or starve themselves or whatever they actually weren't aware of their emotions as emotions you know they
00:41:58were taken over by intense feelings that made them act in certain ways but they didn't know they couldn't they couldn't They weren't aware of the feelings as feeling and that's what dialectical behavioral therapy is it's like she made note cards like mad sad glad like and then trained
00:42:18people to de habituate themselves to desensitize themselves to the feelings to get to know them just as we do in meditation So you know that's where it's helpful So you came up with another piece of advice for a woman who was furious that the house wasn't her partner
00:42:39her husband who roof would cook and shop and everything but she'd come home and the house was missing and if he cared about her is a story If he cared about her it would only take twenty seconds why couldn't you do that exact than your advice given if
00:42:57it only takes twenty seconds why don't you just do it And have a glass of wine or something you know instead of making that the definition of ah good relationship because every time you know when she would get locked into that then he would start in with your
00:43:12not my mother and then she would go to well i'm not your maid and then you know she would end up in the bathroom smoking a cigarette or he would have to leave or you know it's like turned into a big fight So rather than setting up that
00:43:28condition you know of this means you love me if you'll do that but that was very my just saying it that one time wasn't you know like letting go even though you know you're right it's not so easy except it's very simple but it's not so easy that's
00:43:43Amazing you know sometimes i think when i think how important it is to be right how huge millie ating it is to be young that this whole you know kind of pick up stick construction of me Yeah you know Well and on the other side of it it's
00:43:59not i don't mean to be promoting you know like oh let him bully o o r yet but you know one there are plenty of people who are saints in their heart and are allowing too much of you you know don't have the pride or the confidence or
00:44:20the self esteem or the strength or haven't figured out how to marshal their aggression in order to stand up for themselves and that's equally important so you define right what you mean what what right view right it's all about balance you s oh it's none of these are
00:44:38absolute well i tried not to make it right or wrong when we hear right we think wrong and then there's a right way to be but it's actually you know like just pay attention what i'm trying to say is that you know when we learned meditation we think
00:44:51it's just about paying attention we close our eyes and pay attention to our inner thoughts but we can pay attention in the same way too You know our outward speech are inward speech our livelihood our relationship to money you know who's cleaning up when we come home how
00:45:09we're thinking about politics i mean hopefully you can apply this everywhere use it to stay balanced in a turbulent time so i see we're running out of time and i i have something i'm going to ask you to read it's the last slightly edited the last page of
00:45:29your book which i just i loved and i thought we would give listeners the pleasure of men so if you would i would after forty plus years i can say for sure that i am not cured nora my enlightened people continue to complain at times about my coldness
00:45:48my aloofness and my irritability i still have to deal with the various kinds of suffering that plague me with my own tensions and anxieties with my own need to be right and my own need to be liked issues that have been with me for a cz long as
00:46:03i can remember and now in my sixties there are things to face i've never experienced previously but i do have something i did not have before Now i have the means thanks to both buddhism and psychotherapy to face whatever life throws at may while in many ways i
00:46:20have remained the same my personality as much as it ever wass i am not the prisoner of my ego that i once wass when the most difficult aspects of my character surface i know there is something i can do to not be at their mercy while my three
00:46:36year old seven year old or twelve year old selves may not have given up the ghost i do not have to be there helpless victim years of engagement with both psychiatry and buddhism have shown me where i have control over my own mind and where i do not
00:46:53and i do not have to be cured to be hopeful it is this optimism that i most want to make possible for my patients What i tried to convey to my patients is that they can meet the challenges life throws at them by changing the way they relate
00:47:07to them This is advice i now feel free to offer The goal is to meet the challenges with equanimity not to make them go away When suzuki roshi said not to be bothered by the waves fluctuations he meant it and one thing we can say for sure life
00:47:25gives us endless opportunity to practice mostly we fail who khun say they're not bothered by anything really but when we make the effort the results could be astonishing in an insecure world we can become our own refuge our egos do not have to have the last word thank
00:47:45you mark it's been a joy to talk with you i have a good friend who always when he looks at a book he looks at the last word in the book to see what it is so i was writing this for him making last word the last words
00:47:58i'm sure he's grateful and i'm sure grateful i'm grateful thank you you've been listening to tricycle contributing editor amy gross speak with mark epstein about his new book advice not given a guide to getting over yourself ifyou've got feedback we'd love to hear from you right to feedback
00:48:23at tri school dot borg price school talks is produced at argo studios in new york city By paul roux Ist this's james shaheen thank you for listening to tricycle talks

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