CHASING ELEPHANTS:
Healing Psychologically with Buddhist Wisdom
by Diane Shainberg
Asti-Rahman Books: New York, 2000
200 pp. ; $16.95 (paper)

In her new book, Diane Shainberg, a clinical psychologist and Zen Buddhist priest, places the reader in the present moment. From multiple angles, in forceful prose, she repeats this refrain, pointing to its universally applicable and beneficial relevance. The most striking aspect of Chasing Elephants is the author’s capacity to write and rewrite her thesis with infectious clarity and conviction. Dr. Shainberg says:

To be aware of where we are now, to have noticed, recognized, welcomed, heard, and given space is the ground for healing . . . throughout therapy, we bring clients to their awareness with a hundred variations of the question “What are you experiencing right now?” . . . we always work with the basic human potential of staying present and immediacy in any moment . . . As we realize how phenomena continue to arise and pass in us until we die, we don’t have to identify so much with each particular wave in the ocean. We can observe without identifying.

Chasing Elephants is an inspirational text combining vivid psychotherapeutic examples and the author’s personal experiences with general discussion. The tone of the writing is heartfelt, hopeful, and energetic. We feel the author reaching out through the printed page to help us discover what she herself has found elevating. She keeps finding ways to rephrase her message, enabling us to catch it from wherever we are, urging us “to come into the now . . . to stay open frame by frame.”

The book contains brief as well as extended therapeutic transcripts in which we can feel the presence of a trusted and comforting therapist who exposes her working style and skills with confessional honesty. Her message is this: Seeing things as they are, leaving things as they are, nonjudgmental awareness, releases healing potentials that we all possess and that help us both psychologically and spiritually to be liberated in the moment, moment after moment.

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