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Insight Meditation: A Psychology of Freedom

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The fruit of some twenty years' experience leading Buddhist meditation retreats, this book touches on a wide range of topics raised repeatedly by meditators and includes favorite stories, key Buddhist teachings, and answers to most-asked questions. The fruit of some twenty years' experience leading Buddhist meditation retreats, this book touches on a wide range of topics raised repeatedly by meditators and includes favorite stories, key Buddhist teachings, and answers to most-asked questions.


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The fruit of some twenty years' experience leading Buddhist meditation retreats, this book touches on a wide range of topics raised repeatedly by meditators and includes favorite stories, key Buddhist teachings, and answers to most-asked questions. The fruit of some twenty years' experience leading Buddhist meditation retreats, this book touches on a wide range of topics raised repeatedly by meditators and includes favorite stories, key Buddhist teachings, and answers to most-asked questions.

30 review for Insight Meditation: A Psychology of Freedom

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fergus

    When I read this book in 1992 I was teetering at work under an inordinately heavy project load. My clerks were no help. My burgeoning pile of files was growing more complex and abstruse in its weightiness and complexity day by day, and back then I didn't think I needed help. I proudly refused to delegate. With Project Managers and Directors and a bevy of technicians now continuously hounding me from their variegated and disparate spheres of expertise, I felt harried and cornered as a tired fox at When I read this book in 1992 I was teetering at work under an inordinately heavy project load. My clerks were no help. My burgeoning pile of files was growing more complex and abstruse in its weightiness and complexity day by day, and back then I didn't think I needed help. I proudly refused to delegate. With Project Managers and Directors and a bevy of technicians now continuously hounding me from their variegated and disparate spheres of expertise, I felt harried and cornered as a tired fox at bay. So who was writing the script for all this nightmarish scenario? My section head. And I figure now she simply had it in for smokers. I - alas - was one of 'em! You see, we smokers congregated at the greasy spoon in the lobby of our building. Indoor smoking hadn't yet been banned in our fair city. And if we smoked, we were expected to order food or drink. So, even if it was a coffee or bottle of spring water, by the time we were done we'd have smoked at least two cigarettes. Time clearly wasted, to the big boss. And so she PILED the work on us. Did I hear someone out there say she was only adding more fuel to the utter fiery conflagration of stress we faced daily? You're right. But hers was a humanoid brain conducting cerebral time/motion studies on us poor trapped lab rats! And of course we started chain smoking. But come Five PM, I was ready to chill out at home. Goldstein's book had come highly recommended by my sister, who studied meditation, so I tried it. Wow, did I love Goldstein's warm and human approach to this dry discipline. It was an approach my bosses clearly lacked in any department! The book expanded my mind, and aided and abetted my more HUMAN relationships with my subordinates. And it worked so well that a coupla years later I started SHARING my files with them. And know what? It musta relaxed me so much, that another five years later... I was finally able to quit smoking for good.

  2. 4 out of 5

    D.S. West

    Of the books on Buddhist meditation I've consulted so far, this one goes at the front of the pack. I had Goldstein pressed against my nose on four days of long walks between my apartment and Main Street in Longmont, Colorado. I understand why much of the advice for meditation is vague, given the nature of the practice (and the need to avoid "project" thinking), but it's hard to understand why some writers tried to write a book on the subject in the first place. Goldstein takes a different approa Of the books on Buddhist meditation I've consulted so far, this one goes at the front of the pack. I had Goldstein pressed against my nose on four days of long walks between my apartment and Main Street in Longmont, Colorado. I understand why much of the advice for meditation is vague, given the nature of the practice (and the need to avoid "project" thinking), but it's hard to understand why some writers tried to write a book on the subject in the first place. Goldstein takes a different approach. The functional advice for meditation is scant, but the question of "Why meditate?" is explored at length and in depth. Issues such as morality, karma, and the relationship between self and emotion are addressed beautifully. I'm sad to see this book done. Goldstein hails from the vipassana/insight school on the sutrayana side of Buddhism. I'm immediately moving to a book on tatrayana. It should be interesting to see how the philosophies overlap and contradict one another... That was an aside. In terms of this book, allow me to say it's a pleasure to read, sitting or standing. (If you're among the motorists who had to put up with me this week, accept my deepest apologies. I aspire to metta. I read this book--now I know what that means, and now that I know what it means, I healthy-desire it.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I liked the sections on meditation and loving kindness the most, the parts that included stories about supernatural powers not so much. The sections on death and parents were also informative. The book is set up where the chapters can each be read as a separate essay, so it would be an easy to read bedtime book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karen Rose Ginman

    There is nothing like a Jew who has become a Buddhist to guide you on your spiritual journey. I highly urge you to read this book, and I am only 50 pages in-- how's that for a recommendation! There is nothing like a Jew who has become a Buddhist to guide you on your spiritual journey. I highly urge you to read this book, and I am only 50 pages in-- how's that for a recommendation!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tom Cummings

    This is a short book, under 200 pages, but don’t let its brevity fool you. It contains more useful teaching about practicing meditation and following the path of Buddhism than many books twice its length. It was first published in 1993, when its author, the esteemed American dharma teacher Joseph Goldstein, had already been leading retreats and giving dharma talks for nearly twenty years. He writes in a gentle conversational style that no doubt reflects the ease he had developed over his two dec This is a short book, under 200 pages, but don’t let its brevity fool you. It contains more useful teaching about practicing meditation and following the path of Buddhism than many books twice its length. It was first published in 1993, when its author, the esteemed American dharma teacher Joseph Goldstein, had already been leading retreats and giving dharma talks for nearly twenty years. He writes in a gentle conversational style that no doubt reflects the ease he had developed over his two decades (at that point in time) of speaking in front of so many audiences of meditators and retreatants. But again, don’t let the accessible style of the writing fool you. For even as you’re reading along with such ease and pleasure, you will repeatedly find yourself suddenly grappling with some distinctly uneasy, and perhaps even unpleasant, topics – such as impermanence, selflessness, and karma. However, in Goldstein’s experienced hands, we grapple with these challenging concepts without ever losing our grip, and we come away with a better grasp and a deeper understanding of all three of them. And when he’s not teaching us about the fundamentals of Buddhism, Goldstein is instructing us on the more practical aspects of meditation. Of particular value are the two chapters “How to Practice” (advice for sitting as a practitioner on the meditation cushion) and “Practice in the World” (advice for living as a practitioner off the meditation cushion). It’s been twenty-five years since this brief but invaluable book first appeared, and it is every bit as timely and as useful today as it was then. As we know from the law of impermanence, nothing lasts forever. But this book’s relevance will surely last for a very long time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    L

    Great book on various aspects of the practice of Vipassana meditation by one of the founders of this style of Buddhism in the West; I like the way it's organized by topic in easily digestible short snippets on each. It doesn't need to be read from start to finish; I view it as more of a reference or something to inspire my own practice. Great book on various aspects of the practice of Vipassana meditation by one of the founders of this style of Buddhism in the West; I like the way it's organized by topic in easily digestible short snippets on each. It doesn't need to be read from start to finish; I view it as more of a reference or something to inspire my own practice.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amos Smith

    This is a solid book on meditation. A concept from this book that always stuck with me... When we observe our emotions in meditation we don't over-identify with them. If we experience anger, we don't say "my anger." If we experience grief we don't say "my grief." We simply say "anger" or "grief." This is the path of meditation in the beginning--to identify what is going on, then let it go. We get wrapped up in negative emotions when we over-identify with them, instead of just letting them go. -Am This is a solid book on meditation. A concept from this book that always stuck with me... When we observe our emotions in meditation we don't over-identify with them. If we experience anger, we don't say "my anger." If we experience grief we don't say "my grief." We simply say "anger" or "grief." This is the path of meditation in the beginning--to identify what is going on, then let it go. We get wrapped up in negative emotions when we over-identify with them, instead of just letting them go. -Amos Smith (author of Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Viet Hung

    A must read for meditators.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Angela Natividad

    Joseph has gotten me through some hard times.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jon Gauthier

    I regularly read this before daily sittings (whenever I'm meditating at home rather than with a group). An outstanding guide to the Insight/Vipassana take on Buddhist meditation practice. Goldstein's writing is flowing and affable – it calms me down and reminds me why I am spending all this time sitting in the first place. I regularly read this before daily sittings (whenever I'm meditating at home rather than with a group). An outstanding guide to the Insight/Vipassana take on Buddhist meditation practice. Goldstein's writing is flowing and affable – it calms me down and reminds me why I am spending all this time sitting in the first place.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Falina

    I've been really into meditation lately, and I like to read things to motivate myself when I'm developing a habit. This book had some interesting points that I will probably revisit, but overall I found it dry and inaccessible. I've been really into meditation lately, and I like to read things to motivate myself when I'm developing a habit. This book had some interesting points that I will probably revisit, but overall I found it dry and inaccessible.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Like many other Buddhist teachers, Goldsmith is accessible and wise. Unlike some, he packs enormous power and insight (smile) into brief offerings about life's common roadblocks. For me, two of the most memorable are readings about guilt and anxiety. The insights I got from him were life changing.....no exaggeration! This is another book I will never be finished reading, and hope others find on their journey. Like many other Buddhist teachers, Goldsmith is accessible and wise. Unlike some, he packs enormous power and insight (smile) into brief offerings about life's common roadblocks. For me, two of the most memorable are readings about guilt and anxiety. The insights I got from him were life changing.....no exaggeration! This is another book I will never be finished reading, and hope others find on their journey.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tom Otvos

    Not having read Joseph Goldstein before, I was pleasantly surprised. He has quite an earthy style that I found very likeable. The book is a whirlwind tour of vipassana, but my favourite parts were sections 2 and 3, "How to Practice" and "Freeing the Mind". Both sections had a lot of useful little tips that seemed to resonate with me, the latter section being particularly useful as it discusses how to deal with specific hinderances. Also kind of nice is that each chapter is literally no more than Not having read Joseph Goldstein before, I was pleasantly surprised. He has quite an earthy style that I found very likeable. The book is a whirlwind tour of vipassana, but my favourite parts were sections 2 and 3, "How to Practice" and "Freeing the Mind". Both sections had a lot of useful little tips that seemed to resonate with me, the latter section being particularly useful as it discusses how to deal with specific hinderances. Also kind of nice is that each chapter is literally no more than 2-3 pages, so it makes for very focused reading and I can see myself using this as a future reference. Later sections were a little less practice-based, and dealt with issues like karma, psychology, and "practicing in the world", all of which remained interesting but a bit less so in my current stage of practice.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cindywho

    It's full of nice short discussions of aspects of meditation and dharma - short enough for my attention span, but heady enough that maybe my unconscious thought it was too much and had me mistakenly return the book to the library before I was finished! Luckily, it was still on the shelf when I went back for it. (October 27, 2006) It's full of nice short discussions of aspects of meditation and dharma - short enough for my attention span, but heady enough that maybe my unconscious thought it was too much and had me mistakenly return the book to the library before I was finished! Luckily, it was still on the shelf when I went back for it. (October 27, 2006)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    some bits were insightful, but I guess I've read enough books on Buddhist practice that little of this was new or revelatory to me. some bits were insightful, but I guess I've read enough books on Buddhist practice that little of this was new or revelatory to me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Reading Cat

    I might be underwhelmed by this book because I've literally been doing vipassana style meditation for years now so this felt a little like...repetitious to me? Even basic? But that was the intent of the book, so for its presumed audience (and this is my instructor's fault for assigning a book with the wrong audience), it is a good, very digestible introduction to insight meditation. I particularly like the latter sections, where he discusses meditation and psychotherapy. He, clearly, thinks the I might be underwhelmed by this book because I've literally been doing vipassana style meditation for years now so this felt a little like...repetitious to me? Even basic? But that was the intent of the book, so for its presumed audience (and this is my instructor's fault for assigning a book with the wrong audience), it is a good, very digestible introduction to insight meditation. I particularly like the latter sections, where he discusses meditation and psychotherapy. He, clearly, thinks the two are mutually supportive--one is not a replacement for the other. And I know some people have argued about other books on the topic of forgiveness of difficult or abusive parents or relationships--he deals with that here. He also has, though buried, some nice concise thoughts. Like: in his comments on jealousy: "If we condemn ourself for being jealous, we simply strengthen a feeling of not being good enough. We become even more tied up in the painful, fiery knot, and we find it very difficult to cut ourselves free" That is a great deal to sit with--that self judgement reinforces the ego self, and suffering. He also discusses the idea of self in East and West--in the West, we tend to conflate self with ego--what Cherie Huber would call the 'conditioned mind'--the jumpy monkey that wants and craves and needs most desperately to prove that it exists. The self, your self, is the self observer self. To survive in the world, we need a self--we do need some form of ego, but we need to be aware of the boundaries of ego--when are we letting the conditioned mind run the show? That is a nice bridge, I think, that's not often discussed in these texts.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mohammad Ali Abedi

    I learned about Joseph Goldstein from Dan Harris’ book, podcast, and his meditation app. On the podcast, I liked the one interview they had together, and in the app, his guided meditations are good. Joseph Goldstein seems to be a great meditation teacher, but I can’t say I loved his book. I think for some people, being a face to face teacher, or talking, might be easier than writing. I felt that the book did not really have a structure and just felt like a collection of different thoughts on the p I learned about Joseph Goldstein from Dan Harris’ book, podcast, and his meditation app. On the podcast, I liked the one interview they had together, and in the app, his guided meditations are good. Joseph Goldstein seems to be a great meditation teacher, but I can’t say I loved his book. I think for some people, being a face to face teacher, or talking, might be easier than writing. I felt that the book did not really have a structure and just felt like a collection of different thoughts on the practice and his experiences. Even thinking about it while writing this, I can’t really remember much from the book that stayed with me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This is one of THE books from one of THE masters of western Buddhist meditation. I was underwhelmed and bored most of the time while reading this, however. Maybe I’ve read too much on meditation or maybe I just don’t identify with the Buddhist approach as much as I do with secular meditation. Maybe Goldstein’s gift is in speaking and leading face to face meditation sessions and dharma talks. I generally prefer to read books straight through rather than as daily devotion or independent essays. At This is one of THE books from one of THE masters of western Buddhist meditation. I was underwhelmed and bored most of the time while reading this, however. Maybe I’ve read too much on meditation or maybe I just don’t identify with the Buddhist approach as much as I do with secular meditation. Maybe Goldstein’s gift is in speaking and leading face to face meditation sessions and dharma talks. I generally prefer to read books straight through rather than as daily devotion or independent essays. At times I found this book to be too simplistic and at other times I found it too heavy and boring for my taste. Just not my cup of tea.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon Bash

    Much shorter than his more recent, massive "Mindfulness," this one reads more like one of Thich Nhat Hanh's little books, with 1-4 page chapters with little bits of wisdom strung into larger sections on a theme. Didn't hit me with as many "truth bombs" as the aforementioned "Mindfulness," but I think that might be partially due to timing. Some bits of metaphysical nonsense, but it's to be expected. Mostly deals with actual concrete reality of our day-to-day experience. It's great mostly. I'd def Much shorter than his more recent, massive "Mindfulness," this one reads more like one of Thich Nhat Hanh's little books, with 1-4 page chapters with little bits of wisdom strung into larger sections on a theme. Didn't hit me with as many "truth bombs" as the aforementioned "Mindfulness," but I think that might be partially due to timing. Some bits of metaphysical nonsense, but it's to be expected. Mostly deals with actual concrete reality of our day-to-day experience. It's great mostly. I'd definitely recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Kipa

    Useful companion to address key issues that arise while on retreat, and beyond. Most of the advice is recycled throughout, though, and what is already a short book could have been even shorter. I appreciate this book mostly due to the context within which I read it - on retreat, under teacher guidance to address particular areas such as pain, expectations, and desire. Had I read it elsewhere, two stars. TL;DR: Open to your experience. Investigate stuff that keeps coming up with warmth and curios Useful companion to address key issues that arise while on retreat, and beyond. Most of the advice is recycled throughout, though, and what is already a short book could have been even shorter. I appreciate this book mostly due to the context within which I read it - on retreat, under teacher guidance to address particular areas such as pain, expectations, and desire. Had I read it elsewhere, two stars. TL;DR: Open to your experience. Investigate stuff that keeps coming up with warmth and curiosity. Stuff is just stuff. Keep going. There’s nowhere to go. Fun.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Niño

    One of the goals of meditation is freedom. The mental liberation of letting it be. Being open to all that life has to offer. The non-judgmental relationship to our thoughts, to fully see the impermanence of all things. Thoughts are nothing but never ending scenes in our mind, like clouds passing over a mountain. We don't need to identify with them, instead, we practice acknowledgement, accepting each thought with fullness. One of the goals of meditation is freedom. The mental liberation of letting it be. Being open to all that life has to offer. The non-judgmental relationship to our thoughts, to fully see the impermanence of all things. Thoughts are nothing but never ending scenes in our mind, like clouds passing over a mountain. We don't need to identify with them, instead, we practice acknowledgement, accepting each thought with fullness.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This is a great book for those who already have some background knowledge of Buddhism and vipassana practice. Although I read the book from start to finish, it could be used as reference on various topics of interest (e.g., self, loving-kindness). I found Goldstein's writing to be both clear and accessible, and the book contains numerous helpful anecdotes to illustrate the concepts he is explaining. This is a great book for those who already have some background knowledge of Buddhism and vipassana practice. Although I read the book from start to finish, it could be used as reference on various topics of interest (e.g., self, loving-kindness). I found Goldstein's writing to be both clear and accessible, and the book contains numerous helpful anecdotes to illustrate the concepts he is explaining.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Drobg62

    Essential reading for those with a serious interest in deepening their meditation practice If you have been practicing meditation for a while and are interested in more depth or understanding this is a fantastic resource. For those new to meditation who are seeking clear information on the specifics of how to meditate, look elsewhere.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Insight Meditation is organized into easy-to-follow chapters/essays about various aspects of meditation and mindfulness practices. I skimmed through the majority of the book because I didn't like Joseph Goldstein's writing style and I was looking for a little less Buddha and a little more general "meditation for beginners" help. Insight Meditation is organized into easy-to-follow chapters/essays about various aspects of meditation and mindfulness practices. I skimmed through the majority of the book because I didn't like Joseph Goldstein's writing style and I was looking for a little less Buddha and a little more general "meditation for beginners" help.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anne Earney

    I tried to limit myself to one essay a day, so this book would last longer, and I wish it could have gone on forever. Goldstein writes in an accessible style about a wide variety of issues surrounding meditation and mindfulness practice, and he makes it seem achievable for anyone. It would be difficult to feel badly about your practice while reading his work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Matte

    I would recommend Joseph Goldstein to anyone on a Buddhist meditative path. This book is filled with so much practical wisdom. You don't have to be awake to apply some of the everyday techniques he offers. I laughed at the humorous anecdotes about his life, all of which apply in some way to a dharma teaching. I would recommend Joseph Goldstein to anyone on a Buddhist meditative path. This book is filled with so much practical wisdom. You don't have to be awake to apply some of the everyday techniques he offers. I laughed at the humorous anecdotes about his life, all of which apply in some way to a dharma teaching.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Setiadi

    Joseph Goldstein’s teachings in a nutshell I’ve been a member of the 10 Percent meditation app since 2018, and as you all may know Joseph Goldstein is THE big deal. It’s really nice to have all of his wisdom and insights compiled all together in one concise and neatly organized book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pouya

    If you love his talks, there could be little reason as why not to like this book as it is pretty much a collection of well edited version of his good advice about meditation practice (obviously, with a great spice/taste of Buddhism). And the nice thing is that you don't need to read the chapters in sequence since they are kinda standalone. If you love his talks, there could be little reason as why not to like this book as it is pretty much a collection of well edited version of his good advice about meditation practice (obviously, with a great spice/taste of Buddhism). And the nice thing is that you don't need to read the chapters in sequence since they are kinda standalone.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Psionmark

    Another wonderful work One can always rely on Joseph to produce works that educate and inspire the reader and this volume is no exception. Concise, easy to absorb, entertaining and thought provoking.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Bollinger

    Informative and instructional for those interested in deepening their practice with insight meditation.

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