There has been a steady trickle of books by Buddhist therapists recently, exploring the overlaps between western therapeutic models and practices and traditional Buddhist approaches to dealing with human suffering (see Tara Brach’s “Radical Acceptance” and Tara Bennett-Goleman’s “Emotional Alchemy”). Both systems have as their aim the reduction of suffering, and while at times the approaches may differ, there is also considerable overlap. There exists considerable possibility for cross-fertilization, and Ladner’s book is to my mind the finest fruit of that process to date.
Ladner’s book is more Buddhist than the other two examples I have picked, and for me that’s a bonus. While Brach and Bennett-Goleman look mainly towards a rather secularized form of mindfulness meditation for the Buddhist component of their mix of Buddhism and therapy, Ladner draws more widely from Buddhist mythology, meditation, and ethical teachings. “The Lost Art” contains so much Buddhism that this book would almost (but not quite) serve as an introduction to the subject even for a complete novice to the topic.
Choose any two pages at random from Lorne Ladner’s book, “The Lost Art of Compassion”, and there’s likely to be enough wisdom there to keep you thinking and boost your practice for months or even years to come. Ladner’s writing, perhaps because he doesn’t strive to write in a way which is ornate or poetic, has a rare clarity and is devoid of the sentimentality that I thought detracted from both “Radical Acceptance” and “Emotional Alchemy”.
I particularly appreciated the way in which at the end of the book Ladner outlines a summary of compassion practices for easy reference, showing how traditional Buddhist practices can be used as therapeutic tools, and how we can each become our own therapist.
I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to deal better with their own suffering, or who is interested in the overlap between Buddhism and therapy. This book will certainly make a lasting difference to my own practice and my own approach to teaching.