Destructive Emotions is an abridged account of a series of presentations and conversations that unfolded over a several day conference between the Dali Lama and several leading scientists in the study of emotions. Scientific perspectives represented included the developmental, cross-cultural, social-psychological, and neuro-biological. The focus is on exploring and fleshing out the possibility for a program that combines the wisdom of Eastern philosophy with the scientific understanding (really in its infancy) of emotional well-being to both build the foundations for emotional well-being and empathy / compassion in childhood and remedy the destructive habits of pathological anger, addiction, delusion, and fear/anxiety in adulthood. If you are angry, addicted, deluded, or anxious don't expect this book to help you directly. It will, however, open your eyes in a very convincing way to the possibility for growth and healing. I have always, if not always actively, been interested in Buddhism and meditation - but did not feel justified in "indulging" in meditative practice when there was "work" to be done (am I alone in this?)...This book is a nice motivating shove off the "fence" - there is solid evidence to suggest that the marriage of meditation and psychology can inform practices that are well "justified" in terms of the time and effort needed to develop them. Particularly memorable was Mark Greenberg's presentation on the "Program for Alternative THinking Strategies" (PATHS) for helping kids develop empathy, conflict resolution skills, anger management skills, and emotional intelligence (I immediately started applying some principles he presented with my kids and will be learning more about the program).
Roots of Buddhist Psychology is a speech given in a number of parts on several aspects of the Buddhist perspective on human nature and living a good life. It is organized around the cultivation or weeding of central virtues and vices including grasping (addiction), aversion (fear/anger/hatred), compassion, equilibrium, generosity, love. This speech is given on a very visceral level and is propelled primarily by anecdotes, humor, and insight. I thoroughly enjoyed the moment to moment experience of listening to Kornfield's voice, appreciating his humor, and connecting intimately with his insights. However as a speech, I think the organization of the material is loose and as such made it less readily absorbed and understood. A second or third listening is required (and perhaps some note taking) if you want to feel you learned something you can talk about. Thus, the experience is somewhat like a massage - wonderfully relaxing in the moment, but within days, you are ready for another one - having not retained the benefits of the first. So eventhough I give this a 3-star rating, that's really stemming from my disappointment that I don't feel, days after finishing the book, that I "learned" anything (perhaps it's me, perhaps it's merely the audio format, but it felt like at least partly due to the meandering, conversational path through the material the speaker takes). I did love the experience of hearing this guy speak as I commute to and from work, however; so much so that I am now purchasing another speech by Kornfield: Buddhism for Beginners.... I just need another massage...
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