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The Wise Heart

Cover of The Wise Heart

The Wise Heart

A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology
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You have within you unlimited capacities for love, for joy, for communion with life, and for unshakable freedom--and here is how to awaken them. In The Wise Heart, one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time offers the most accessible and illuminating guide to Buddhism's transformational psychology ever published in the West.

Trained as a monk in Thailand, Burma, and India, Jack Kornfield experienced at first hand the life-changing power of Buddhist teachings: the emphasis on the nobility and sacredness of the human spirit, the fine-grained analysis of emotion and thought, the precise techniques for healing, training, and transforming the mind and heart. In contrast to the medical orientation of most Western psychology and psychiatry, here is a vision of radiant human dignity, and a practical path for realizing it in our own lives.

The Wise Heart is the fruit of a life's work that includes such classics as A Path with Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. Filled with stories from Kornfield's Buddhist psychotherapy practice and portraits of remarkable teachers, it also includes a moving account of his own recovery from a violence-filled childhood. For meditators and mental health professionals, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, The Wise Heart offers an extraordinary journey from the roots of consciousness to the highest expression of human possibility.

From the Hardcover edition.
You have within you unlimited capacities for love, for joy, for communion with life, and for unshakable freedom--and here is how to awaken them. In The Wise Heart, one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time offers the most accessible and illuminating guide to Buddhism's transformational psychology ever published in the West.

Trained as a monk in Thailand, Burma, and India, Jack Kornfield experienced at first hand the life-changing power of Buddhist teachings: the emphasis on the nobility and sacredness of the human spirit, the fine-grained analysis of emotion and thought, the precise techniques for healing, training, and transforming the mind and heart. In contrast to the medical orientation of most Western psychology and psychiatry, here is a vision of radiant human dignity, and a practical path for realizing it in our own lives.

The Wise Heart is the fruit of a life's work that includes such classics as A Path with Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. Filled with stories from Kornfield's Buddhist psychotherapy practice and portraits of remarkable teachers, it also includes a moving account of his own recovery from a violence-filled childhood. For meditators and mental health professionals, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, The Wise Heart offers an extraordinary journey from the roots of consciousness to the highest expression of human possibility.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Introduction Introduction


    Last year I joined with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh to co-lead a conference on mindfulness and psychotherapy at UCLA. As I stood at the podium looking over a crowd of almost two thousand people, I wondered what had drawn so many to this three-day gathering.

    Was it the need to take a deep breath and find a wiser way to cope with the conflict, stress, fears, and exhaustion so common in modern life? Was it the longing for a psychology that included the spiritual dimension and the highest human potential in its vision of healing? Was it a hope to find simple ways to quiet the mind and open the heart?

    I found that I had to speak personally and practically, as I do in this book. These conference participants wanted the same inspiration and support as the students who come to Spirit Rock Meditation Center near San Francisco.Those who enter our lightfilled meditation hall are not running away from life, but seeking a wise path through it.They each bring their personal problems and their genuine search for happiness. Often they carry a burden of concern for the world, with its continuing warfare and everdeepening environmental problems.They wonder what will be left for their children's generation.They have heard about meditation and hope to find the joy and inner freedom that Buddhist teachings promise, along with a wiser way to care for the world.

    Forty years ago, I arrived at a forest monastery in Thailand in search of my own happiness. A confused, lonely young man with a painful family history, I had graduated from Dartmouth College in Asian studies and asked the Peace Corps to send me to a Buddhist country. Looking back, I can see that I was trying to escape not only my family pain but also the materialism and suffering–so evident in the Vietnam War–of our culture at large.Working on rural health and medical teams in the provinces along the Mekong River, I heard about a meditation master, Ajahn Chah, who welcomed Western students. I was full of ideas and hopes that Buddhist teachings would help me, maybe even lead me to become enlightened. After months of visits to Ajahn Chah's monastery, I took monk's vows. Over the next three years I was introduced to the practices of mindfulness, generosity, loving-kindness, and integrity, which are at the heart of Buddhist training. That was the beginning of a lifetime journey with Buddhist teachings.

    Like Spirit Rock today, the forest monastery received a stream of visitors. Every day, Ajahn Chah would sit on a wooden bench at the edge of a clearing and greet them all: local rice farmers and devout pilgrims, seekers and soldiers, young people, government ministers from the capital, and Western students.All brought their spiritual questions and conflicts, their sorrows, fears, and aspirations.

    At one moment Ajahn Chah would be gently holding the head of a man whose young son had just died, at another laughing with a disillusioned shopkeeper at the arrogance of humanity. In the morning he might be teaching ethics to a semi-corrupt government official, in the afternoon offering a meditation on the nature of undying consciousness to a devout old nun.

    Even among these total strangers, there was a remarkable atmosphere of safety and trust. All were held by the compassion of the master and the teachings that guided us together in the human journey of birth and death, joy and sorrow.We sat together as one human family.

    Ajahn Chah and other Buddhist masters like him are practitioners of a living psychology: one of the oldest and most welldeveloped systems of healing and understanding on the face of the earth.This psychology makes no distinction between worldly...
About the Author-
  • Jack Kornfield is a Buddhist teacher and meditation master on internationally renown and a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Center in northern California. A former Buddhist monk, he holds a PhD in clinical psychology. His books include A Path with Heart, Buddha's Little Instruction Book, and After the Ecstasy.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 10, 2008
    Author, psychologist and pioneering Buddhist teacher Kornfield writes his best book yet (and his previous ones were pretty good). His newest uses the same sweet narrative voice, provides convincing and illustrative anecdotes and stories, and reaches into world traditions and literature as well as contemporary scientific research. This book offers a systematic and well-organized view of Buddhist psychology, complete with occasional diagrams. Concepts and practices are placed in a framework that explains and connects them. It’s all done with an eye toward application; most chapters end with exercises. Kornfield has been practicing Buddhism for close to 40 years, a lasting discipline that has produced this masterful book and a seasoned view of life that acknowledges a lot of oopses. As a mediator and psychologist, he has also witnessed some serious angst, including his own, and draws on it for illustrative power. Not everything here is new, least of all the title, but then the Buddha isn’t either. The best is left for last: joy you can seek for yourself and others. Just keep your meditative seat, and this book by your bed. Kornfield comes across as the therapist you wish you’d had.

  • Anne Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies and Grace (Eventually) "I love this gentle, brilliant, and incisive book. I read it slowly, with amazement at its richness and wisdom, relief at feeling so understood, pleasure in Kornfield's beautiful writing and sweet humor, and gratitude that such understanding has been expressed in the written word. This Wise Heart changed me."
  • Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence "The Wise Heart offers more than remedies--it points the way to a life of flourishing."
  • Daniel Siegel, M.D., author of The Developing Mind and The Mindful Brain "This masterpiece of a dedicated life's work unveils the principles of an ancient 'science of mind' that are woven seamlessly into a wondrous map of the human heart--one that is astonishingly consistent with the discoveries of modern neuroscience."
  • Mark Epstein, M.D., author of Thoughts without a Thinker and Psychotherapy without the Self "Warm, funny, moving, and tremendously inspiring, The Wise Heart brings Buddhist psychology to life. Reading it is, in itself, a transformational experience."
  • Norman Fischer, former abbot, San Francisco Zen Center; author of Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer's Odyssey to Navigate Your Spiritual Journey "Jack Kornfield harvests a lifetime of experiences to create a masterful, clear, and moving picture of the human mind and heart, a picture whose hopeful healing power I find astounding."
  • Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance "Through clear teaching and wonderful storytelling, Jack Kornfield inspires us to realize and embody the love, presence and freedom that is our very essence."
  • Science of Mind "One of today's most compeling and inspiring guides to spiritual growth."
  • Publishers Weekly, starred review "His best book yet.... Kornfield comes across as the therapist you wish you'd had.... Provides convincing and illustrative anecdotes and stories, and reaches into world traditions and literature as well as contemporary scientific research."
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