Quirky Books: The Zen Path through Depression by Philip Martin

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Zen Path through Depression by Philip Martin

Philip Martin is both a psychologist and a Buddhist. With a poetic way of writing the psychologist voice is apparent in several passages. The philosophical point-of-view of "the Zen Path through Depression" adds significance to the book. Martin's personal experience with depression makes writing unique and sometimes abrupt in a way someone would not associate with a self-help book.

A poetic passage, in the first few chapters, reads, "This place may feel as cold and lifeless as the moon, or as deadly and oppressive as a barren desert." The statement creates visual, auditory and kinesthetic awareness. The lofty language usage creates a sense of comfort, without being too presumptive.

The chapters are short, yet it is implied a long time should be spent on each meditation to resolve issues. This follows the traditional, extraneous method of Buddhism. I cannot imagine the time required in association to each meditation, averaging over a month.

Even in the chapters to achieve enlightenment; he mentions depressing scenarios. In "Community" he wants people with depression to find someone they trust to discuss mutual depression. Unfortunately, often people with depression do not trust people. This might make the person feel more alone, until reaching out to any available person.

Concepts in the later chapters would help bridge the long gap to personal revelations and positive reinforcement. The average reader, who is unaccustomed to the Buddhist method, may stop reading after the first few chapters. The meditations expect people to analyze life extensively. This method may provide helpful self-diagnosis to someone who is clouded in relentless depression since it is applied in private. Progressing in intervals, several smaller units bring about negative thoughts, so they can be decimated by peaceful and joyful thoughts. A greater perspective about life is gained.

The book has interesting values to consider. I would recommend it to philosophers, Buddhists, psychologists and people seeing a psychologist. However, I would not recommend it to anyone dealing with depression on their own, unless they are a practicing Buddhist or someone already under a psychologist's care. I fear a regular person will stop reading the book, before it is useful. Someone familiar with the method will read the entire book to realize its full potential. Frankly, it is too negative in the initial chapters.

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