Advice Not Given Book Summary - Advice Not Given Book explained in key points
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Advice Not Given summary

Mark Epstein

A Guide to Getting Over Yourself

4.3 (79 ratings)
21 mins
Table of Contents

    Advice Not Given
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    Meditation is about living in the present, and sound meditation is a good place to start.

    If people have a problem with meditation, it’s likely due to the bad practice of trying to meditate with a strict goal in mind such as becoming a happier or more relaxed person. This is the wrong approach since being goal-oriented is a way of fixating on the future, and meditation is all about bringing yourself into the present.

    However, being present is easier said than done. For most of us, it’s downright difficult to simply sit quietly and not obsess over past regrets or future worries.

    If you were to stop what you’re doing right now and try to sit calmly in the present moment, it could very well be a matter of seconds before you’re caught up in all the tasks that need to be done by the end of the week. Or instead, you might return to some negative feelings you have around a previous encounter where someone’s feelings were hurt.

    Unfortunately, this is how the brain commonly operates: it puts you into an imaginary world full of obsessive thoughts where you worry about the future and replay past conflicts – all of which prevents you from living the present moment.

    There are two primary reasons why the brain prefers to stay away from the present.

    The first is that it’s new and unpredictable. Our various senses are picking up new stimuli every moment, which means our sensations are constantly changing from one moment to the next.

    Second, when there’s something unpleasant, the brain returns to old, familiar thoughts. So, rather than deal with the scary, new, unpredictable present, it retreats to the reliable mental terrain of common anxieties.

    However, with practice, you can get the brain used to living in the present. This is worth doing because it has many benefits, including less stress and a healthier immune system.

    To help your mind get used to the present, start with sound meditation.

    You can do this by finding a peaceful and comfortable place to sit and close your eyes. Then, focus on the sounds that are all around you. As you’re doing this, make a mental note of the sensation itself without judgment or creating a scenario in your mind. For example, just think, that’s the loud sound of a baby crying. Or, that’s a soft sound of wind blowing. Let the sounds be sounds, and let them pass freely without interpretation.

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    What is Advice Not Given about?

    Advice Not Given (2018) provides a fresh perspective on the practice of meditation from author Mark Epstein, an experienced psychiatrist who can attest to its therapeutic benefits. Epstein provides newcomers with a practical approach to meditation as he dispels the common misconceptions about the practice while offering clinical examples of how helpful it can be to our mental health.

    Best quote from Advice Not Given

    It can be tempting to use meditation to resist change rather than opening oneself to the ceaseless flow we are made of.

    —Mark Epstein
    example alt text

    Who should read Advice Not Given?

    • Meditation newcomers
    • Students of mental health
    • Anyone interested in Buddhism

    About the Author

    Mark Epstein is a New York City psychiatrist whose experiences have provided him with a unique interest in the connections between psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation practices. He has written several books exploring this connection, including The Trauma of Everyday Life (2013).

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