September 21, 2011

The Zen Path Through Depression (book review)

I’m not depressed. I’m not Buddhist. But I love this book.

The Zen Path Through Depression by Philip Martin was a truly meaningful read for me. I received the book as a gift from a friend after meeting with my meditation group one evening. “Here, I thought this might speak to you,” he said caringly as he handed me a small paperback. It was only after I’d gotten home and looked at the book that I realized the very friend who gifted it was also the author.

The format of Martin’s book is welcome, especially for one who may be struggling with depression or another mental disorder. Each of the short chapters begins with a quote of inspiration, touches on a particular aspect of depression, offers insight and often a personal illustration or Zen anecdote, and round out with an elective exploration exercise, all centering around the practices and principles of Zen Buddhism. The arrangement of the book itself is easy-to-digest, non-confrontational, and non-intimidating, which makes it ideal for the audience Martin is aiming to reach.

Martin’s book is written on a foundation of knowing compassion, love, experiential empathy, and caring, and those qualities ooze through his words.

I don’t struggle primarily with depression, though it often becomes a strong side-effect of what I do principally cope with on a daily basis. The topic of Zen as presented by Martin is so accessible that while reading, I was easily able to translate the word “depression” for my own personal inner conflicts.

After sitting practice one evening, Phil and I were discussing study habits and he shared that he has a thing against writing in books…I had to admit and apologize to him that I’d marked up his book quite a lot. There were so many points that spoke to me, and that as I look back and review continue to bring me gently to a place of mindful awareness and acceptance.

This book is recommended for anyone. Depressed, hopeless, confused…unsatisfied, struggling, coping…or simply seeking. It would offer great insight to someone who longs to understand or offer support to a depressed person. There is something for everyone here.

Thank you Phil, for sharing your path through depression, and shining a light for others to follow.

There are no wrong turns on this journey. Any way you choose provides an opportunity for practice and discovery.” –Philip Martin, describing the Eightfold Path and its offering for depression recovery.

Harper Collins (publisher)

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