November 27, 2008

Book review: Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion (The Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D.)

This book is actually a series of conversations that took place between His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, and Dr. Paul Ekman, a professor of psychology and considered expert on facial expressions and human emotion.  The conversations took place over several meetings and covered a wide range of topics within the realm of human emotion and compassion, a favorite topic of conversation for both men.  The text is essentially a transcript of these conversations, and the text indicates when the Dalai Lama speaks directly to Ekman and when the words are translated, which is a strength of the writing, particularly since His Holiness has a particularly beautiful way of putting words together, and it is a pleasure to read his words written down so exactly.  That’s not to say that the translated parts aren’t also well done, but being able to directly read the thoughts and phrasings of the Dalai Lama adds a certain nice touch to the book.  Another strength is that certain terms and concepts are compared and discussed relative to the two cultures (Eastern/Buddhist and Western); one particular example involves the connotation and uses of the word “attachment,” and the realization that how Westerners typically think of attachment isn’t the same as the Eastern Buddhist view of attachment.  Inserted into the conversation between the two are various short essays that further explain and expound on concepts presented in the book as a means for further clarification for the reader; again, a nice touch that aids in the understanding of the overall book.  Whether Buddhist, psychologist, or just interested in how to better understand and balance one’s own emotional life, this book is for you.  From Times Books/Henry Holt and Company and available at your local, independent bookstore.  (Tell them you saw it on Elephant Journal.com!)

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