Often it is not the information contained in a book that draws us to it, but the context in which it is presented. The Buddhist teachings and practices that Gabriel Cohen presents are not new, he is himself a novice Buddhist practitioner, but they are framed in the space of a man in the midst of a heartbreaking end of a relationship that he believed would last forever. Through the clarity and insight of Buddhist meditation and teachings, he was able to steer through the turbulent waters of ending a relationship and in the process recognize his own strength and compassion.
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After his fairytale relationship unexpectedly fell apart, Cohen was left to deal with the emotional and mental agony of the loss. In many ways, the experience of the author is reflective of the grief of any loss from divorce to death, and through the Buddhist approach contemplation and examination, he finds the beauty and grace within the pain. He guides us through his sometimes rocky path of uncovering his own faults and at the same time finding compassion for his former partner. Cohen is frank, exposing his own sorrow and turmoil candidly, and admitting some of the harder realizations of ending a relationship. He takes time to explore the tendency toward anger and blame which is often a catalyst for making any bad situation worse. By relating the stories and practices of his teachers in the context of his own suffering, the reader can find a space relative to their own experience and work with where they are now.
One thing that struck me most about the text was how applicable these teachings could be in the rough edges of difficult existing relationships. If applied before the end approaches, as Cohen laments often, these teachings and practices have the power to affect a positive change in the situations that may seem otherwise hopeless. If this is not the case for you, and you are recovering from the loss and pain of a relationship ending, then here too are many tools to find understanding and solace, and prepare you for your future experiences.
These Buddhist concepts have been presented in countless ways, countless times, but instead of being a rote list of theories and practices, Cohen finds an intimate and open space in which to share his insights and often his suffering with others. The book is clearly not a deep examination of Buddhist philosphy, but instead it provides insight into our shared humanness and helps to illuminate our ability to suffer with grace and unfold deeper understanding in the process.