Buddhist Recovery Network book review
“Enough!: A Buddhist Approach to Finding Release from Addictive Patterns”
Snow Lion Publications, 2010. (Original edition July 16, 2010)
ISBN 1559393440, 978-1559393447
Paperback. 192 pages.
School/perspective: Chönyi Taylor (Dr. Diana Taylor) was ordained as a Buddhist nun by the Dalai Lama and is a lecturer in psychology and psychotherapy.
- 1. How we can change the compulsive mind: habits and meditation
- 2. What can be done right now?
- 3. Freedom from acting compulsively: working with the mind
- 4. Finding triggers and choosing to change
- 5. Exaggeration, denial and pain
- 6. Making choices and managing pain
- 7. Cleaning out rubbish: forgiveness
- 8. What is the point in saying “Enough!”?
- 9. Looking ahead: wisdom, compassion and happiness
- Recommended Reading List
- Appendices 1-4
“The meditations are ways of putting into practice the changes we need to make. Of course we are not actually making the changes when we meditate. Instead we are training our minds to take a different path. These new paths are the beginnings of the new habits we want to replace the habits behind our addictions. The meditations and the thinking parts of the chapters work together to create the motivation and give us the skills we need to make the changes we choose.” (pp 13-14)
“Using the equanimity tool does not mean that we take no pleasure in our successes or feel disappointment with our failures. It means that we do not overreact and say things like “I am useless,” “I’ll never be able to do this” or “Gee, I’m so smart.” We use equanimity over and over again in this book.” (p 28)
“We live in a hallucination. My ego is a story I have made up for myself, but the story seems real. But since it is just a story, then each of us can make up a new story. Which story is real? None of them, but some stories are more effective than others. If my story is that I am a victim, then it is only a story. It may be based on things that did happen, but that does not mean that I have to believe that I am always a victim. Understanding the ego as a story means that I can be open to change. My external circumstances are always changing. I can change my story. Nothing is fixed.” (pp 120-121)
© 2010 Chönyi Taylor
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Enough!, for me, is a very clear, accessible and practical book. The author Chönyi Taylor has impressive credentials to write a book like this, with a deep understanding of psychology, psychotherapy and Tibetan Buddhism. Her approach combines cognitive therapies and Buddhist teachings, but not in a heavily theoretical or philosophical way. The book is more about practical exercises, approaches, and things we can do to change behavioural patterns. To this end she introduces mindfulness practices and visualizations as used in Tibetan Buddhism. She has undoubtedly put a great deal of thought into the structure and presentation of the material, and so there is a compelling logic to the way it unfolds.
While her key points ring (to me) as loud and clear as a temple bell, there appears to be an assumption (reasonable in my view) that she is addressing an audience with a very positive predisposition towards Buddhism, and not a bunch of potential cynics. For newcomers, there are clearly some Buddhist positions that need to be taken on trust eg “The underlying nature of the mind is clean of any negative feelings and any ignorance.” (p 22) or the frequent references to rebirth (pp 61, 119, 149, 155). As I am agnostic on rebirth this presented a slight disconnect for me, but wasn’t a major issue. I guess it should just be noted that this book goes further than pulling out practical tools and techniques, and does integrate elements of traditional Buddhist teaching.
Unlike many writers in this genre she discloses no personal history of addiction, and despite the use of ‘we’ throughout, one does not come away with a strong sense that she herself is in a program of recovery. To provide elements of story, anecdote and identification she integrates some fictitious characters into the book. This generally works, but perhaps not as vividly as some of the more absorbing anecdotes in other books reviewed on the site. For those in Twelve Step programs, AA is occasionally mentioned, but more as a side-point rather than any attempt to integrate Buddhism and the 12 Steps (which is a good thing in my view, because there are plenty of other books that focus on this).
For me personally ‘compulsive’ is a complicated word, because I am a mild suffer of OCD, which is now seen as a neurological problem and not a psychological problem (see the OCD books on the site for further information). Enough! mentions hair-pulling as self-damage with underlying psychological causes like being abused or feeling a failure (p7, 86). However, hair-pulling is highly associated with OCD, and OCD is neurological. So, this was a slight disconnect for me.
She mentions on page 64 that “Positive emotions ... do not trigger us into addictions because they are, by definition, pleasant and do not harm ourselves or others”. I recall some strong AA advice that any sort of emotional turbulence, even celebratory, can be dangerous for those with addictive behaviours. Success and elation can also make us feel complacent and bulletproof, leading to the risk of relapse.
Some very good books on the topic are missing from her Bibliography, but if her focus is Tibetan Buddhism, then this is understandable. It is great to see that Alan Marlatt’s work has been of benefit to her.
The above issues which arose for me are relatively minor when set against the book’s many achievements. There are relatively few books that provide a Tibetan Buddhist perspective on finding release from addictive patterns, and so this is a welcome contribution. Her tone of voice is like a strong Buddhist ‘mum’ providing some loving and patient advice. When I finished the book I felt a renewed sense of calmness and equanimity, which was welcome. Ultimately, I really do recommend Enough! and thank her for it.
This is only one response to the book. It would be great to receive many.
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