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Posted November 30, 2004
The Sacred Mirror is truly a milestone book in the history of psychotherapy, ¿must reading¿ for all therapists, therapists-in-training, their instructors, and, I daresay, many spiritual teachers. Editors John Prendergast, Peter Fenner, and Sheila Krystal have done a terrific job, not only in the quality of their own articles (for instance, senior editor John Prendergast¿s ¿Introduction¿ and his article for chapter 4, ¿The Sacred Mirror: Being Together,¿ are alone well worth the modest price of the book), but also in the high quality of all the other multi-faceted papers they have inspired their fellow authors to draft. Note that all these papers are original, not having been previously published elsewhere. Each essay is a gem. Having spent over three decades in ¿the nondual way¿ exploring its relevance for authentic living, loving, working and serving, I had wondered, before reading this book, just how much new insight could be generated by having so many contributors to this topic, ¿Nondual Wisdom in Psychotherapy¿ (the book¿s subtitle). After all, Alan Watts had brilliantly touched on many issues in his classic 'Psychotherapy East and West,' and Ken Wilber had written a fair amount on the nondual culmination of the psycho-spiritual development process. I was pleasantly surprised. Whereas there some overlap, especially in that each author must define what ¿nondual¿ means for them--and the term tends to evoke a lot of the same definitions--even here I was impressed at the wealth of nuance in how each author has truly ¿owned¿ the language of nonduality, and doesn¿t merely sound like s/he is parroting nondual wording from the Perennial Wisdom traditions of Advaita Vedanta, Kashmir Saivism, Zen Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and contemplative Taoism (the main five sacred traditions that have engendered the rise of nonduality in the West). Not only are these pages abundantly filled with ¿nondual insight¿ and good conceptual overview, most of the authors present transcripts or synopses of interesting individual cases clearly showing how nondual awareness-- arising either spontaneously or via gentle suggestion -- allowed for the therapeutic relationship to deepen profoundly and then, suddenly or gradually, radical (root-level) healing/wholing could occur. Limited space for this review precludes discussion of each of the papers presented in The Sacred Mirror. Suffice it to say that this should be required reading for anyone working in the fields of transpersonal, humanistic or depth psychology. Persons in other ¿helping professions¿ and many other walks of life will also greatly benefit from reading this authentic compilation of enlightened teachings thoroughly grounded in psychotherapeutic sensitivity and pragmatic common sense. Congratulations to Prendergast, Fenner, Krystal, John Welwood, Jennifer Welwood, Dorothy Hunt, Dan Berkow, Richard Miller, Stephan Bodian, Lynn Marie Lumiere, Bryan Wittine, and Adyashanti for their truly fine contributions. Only three criticisms of the book: 1) I don't recall (I might have missed something) in any of the papers any discussion of the ancient warnings by the nondual sages that a person be relatively free of certain basic 'defilements' before being introduced to nonduality (i.e, that only the One Is, that one's real nature is the Absolute, that ¿the sage transcends right and wrong¿). Such warnings are given lest any immature persons misappropriate nondual glimpses or teachings for reifying or aggrandizing their own limited egocentricity (leading to the problematic 'psychic inflation' that Carl Jung warned about). 2) Many persons can fall into a veritable 'spiritual vertigo' when their initial nondual breakthroughs occur (recall the cases of Narendranath with Sri Ramakrishna and Paul Brunton with Ramana Maharshi, to give only two examples); except for Adyashanti in his interview with editors Prendergast and Krystal, I don't recall any of the authorsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2003
In the growing body of Transpersonal literature exploring the interface between Eastern spirituality and Western psychology, this anthology is the first to address the infiltration of specifically nondual awareness into psychotherapy practice. This ground- breaking work comes out of the maturing spiritual realization of its authors, who have generally committed decades of their lives to the practice of nondual Asian teachings, such as, Zen, Advaita Vedanta, TM, Prajnaparamita, Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. The aim of the text is less to contrast East with West than to present the authors' cutting-edge integrations of nondual wisdom within their therapy practices. A couple authors are not therapists, but spiritual teachers who, conversely, are lacing psychotherapeutic sensibilities into their nondual teachings. This combination of attitudes makes for a provocative, paradoxical presentation; at times ¿ in the service of openness - blurring the boundaries between the ¿spiritual¿ and ¿psychological¿. At other times ¿ in the service of self-honesty ¿ clarifying these boundaries and differences. The chapters generally present a theoretical overview combined with case studies. The cases run the gamut from cursory summaries to an indepth case history. The psychotherapeutic orientations of the authors vary as widely as their spiritual practices. Included are Existential, Cognitive, Humanistic- Transpersonal and Psychoanalytic practitioners, each addressing unconditioned being, albeit dressed in differing perspectives. What the text lacks in depth, were it limited to specific orientation, it makes up for in breadth and variety, as befits an introduction to a new field of inquiry. The Sacred Mirror recognizes that the actuality and depth of the unconditioned mind is decisive for dissolving neurotic fixations of all kinds, including the most subtle and enduring fixation that clings to the construct of a separate sense of self. The therapeutic skillful means most emphasized in the book include promoting the primacy of presence, or unconditioned openness in being with an other, ie. 'sacred mirroring', and the therapeutic use of deconstructing mental constructs through radical forms of questioning. Written largely by seasoned clinicians, the authors return frequently to the necessity of existential grounding for nondual therapeutics. Dangers of spiritual bypassing are spoken to throughout. But the real brilliance of this text lies in the courageous, at times erudite, at times gritty displays of sanity in being fully human and evoking that fullness in an other. The book encourages us to open to unconditioned presence and to bring a fearless relational field to bear on therapeutic exchanges, so that self-limiting constructs dissolve into no-thing, thus releasing both client and therapist to discover they need not defend themselves from anything. Touching, knowing and resting in moments of nondual wakefulness builds confidence in being with things as they are, undefended yet remarkably responsive.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.