What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in AmericaTony SchwartzBantam Books: New York, 1995.472 pp. (cloth), $23.95.

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Spiritual search is as American as the art of the deal. Many Euro-Buddhists, for circumstances, have actually come to the dharma only after leaving behind a Christian, Jewish, or agnostic upbringing and heading for parts unknown. So it’s not surprising that the dust jacket of What Really Matters, Tony Schwartz’s account of his four-year odyssey throughout the USA looking for “wisdom,” carries enticing blurbs from such American media stars and also spiritual icons as Diane Sawyer, Stalso Bochco, Larry Dossey, and Ken Wilber. Well, possibly the Wilber quote is surpincreasing (What Really Matters is a magnificent occupational, executed through style, excellent knowledge, and excellent sincerity. . . .”), considering that Schwartz devotes a chapter of his book to Wilber, writer of The Spectrum of Consciousness and also other works. In fact, Schwartz notes that Wilber (whom he credits via “an extraordinarily penetrating, artificial, and also discriminating intellect”) is “invariably logical, cogent, and intellectually persuasive . . . heat, charming, patient, generous, funny, insightful, and also entertaining.” If after all those effusions, the use of Wilber’s blurb strikes the reader as a little off, then the book itself more than likely will, as well.

It was in early on 1988, Schwartz tells us, shortly after the publication of The Art of the Deal, the bestseller he composed via Donald Trump, that he noticed something doing not have in his life: “I sensed that I was living just a item of the life I’d been given, a pale reflection of my potential. I was looking for a much more complete life, an experience of my very own essence, something I came to contact wisdom.” Yearning to fill the void of his unrealized potential, Schwartz did what so many Americans perform as soon as faced via a feeling of dissatisfaction: he went shopping.

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Tony Schwartz, courtesty of Cassie Arnold.

Schwartz doesn’t call his hapdanger spree with America’s spiritual superindustry “shopping,” of course. In his words, he “traveled the nation . . . invested hundreds of hrs talking through psychologists, philosophers, doctors, mystics,” and also so on; he “looked closely at the ways in which explorations in more conventional areas such as psychology, medication, and science nave contributed tough knowledge to the extremely subjective difficulty of specifying a complete life,” and also “set out to experiment . . . with methods, innovations, and techniques aimed at transformation.” In the course of his search, Schwartz went to the Esalen Institute several times; underwent biofeedback training; stupassed away via Betty Edwards, learning to attract making use of the best side of his brain; explored the mind/body/healing link, particularly the work of Irving Dardik, involving rhythms of exercise and also relaxation; learned to play much better tennis by using the psycho-physiological approaches of Jim Loehr; underwent extensive dreamwork through Jeremy Taylor and also Montague Ullman; stupassed away the psychological system Helen Palmer has actually developed based upon the enneagram, the spiritual symbol lugged to the West by G. I. Gurdjieff; and also talked at length to Ram Dass, Michael Murphy, and also Ken Wilber.

He also pursued meditation. But after what shows up to have been a couple of months of vigorous effort, Schwartz concluded that but “useful the perspective of the greater meditative says, they didn’t seem to administer all of the answers I was seeking.” Reading this, most Buddhists will sigh with relief that the Buddha didn’t involved the exact same conclusion after a few months of meditation – yet then, the Buddha didn’t have actually a book to create. Regardless of his conclusion, Schwartz has actually more to say about meditation; he ends up devoting an entire chapter to vipassana meditation and to 2 of its forethe majority of teachers in this country, Jack Kornfield and also Joseph Goldstein, cofounders of the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, Massachusetts.

After several brief retreats, Schwartz “exercised mindfulness twenty to forty-five minutes a day, periodically twice a day,” for more than two years. By “mindfulness” he seems to suppose sitting practice; the search of mindfulness constantly and also anywhere seems to have taken a back seat among his interests. He does, yet, market a clear image of what happens in the time of the initial steras of meditation, specifically just how one can sit, observe, drift off, and also “snap to,” then drift off aget. It’s a shame that Schwartz doesn’t go on at better size about his sitting endure, yet of the 32 peras that constitute the chapter “Seeking the Heart of Wisdom,” only four problem mindfulness practice. Many more are devoted to biographies of Kornfield and also Goldstein; equivalent biographies act as engaging filler in practically every chapter of the book. Here we learn that, in college, Goldstein was galvanized by reading the Bhagavad Gita; that, throughout the summer of 1966, Kornarea invested four months living in Haight Ashbury, periodically dropping acid; and that both guys taught at Naropa Institute, the Buddhist-inspired college established by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Many kind of more peras still are devoted to a separation in between Goldstein and also Kornfield. In this fight of the meditating titans, the author casts Goldstein as the rigid traditionalist and also Kornfield as the functional modernist (“The even more Goldstein and also Sharon Salzberg adopted U Pandita’s tough line, the even more Kornarea began experimenting various other approaches to wisdom,” consisting of psychotherapy). Schwartz leaves no doubt as to his choice for Kornfield’s technique. The trouble isn’t in his taking sides, but, however in his emphasizing the break-up in the initially place. With 2,500 years of the Buddha’s teaching coming to its latest fruition in America, the fact that Schwartz chooses to emphasis on a minor rip between two Buddhist teachers is a authorize of the journalist’s instinct surpassing that of the seeker.

Schwartz’s journalistic training serves him well on a little range. When he’s describing minutiae, he proves a knowledgeable and entertaining guide. But when taking care of bigger ideas, he seems shed at sea without a compass. He gives even more or less equal weight to biofeedback training and vipassana, and also glosses over the wealth of Buddhist teaching to dwell on gossip.

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Throughout What Really Matters, Schwartz seems moved by an evident require for outcomes. He impatiently flits from one principle or teaching to the following, supposedly expecting to heal in a few years wounds that have actually taken a lifetime, if not many lifetimes, to construct. Claiming to go in search of “wisdom” in America, he stays clear of talking to any kind of formal representatives of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or the Native American religions, and he never before delves right into prayer or the spiritual. Wright here is the wisdom in that? It is perhaps true that Schwartz was urged even more by the search for wisdom than by the search for vivid material—through which to fashion a book about the search for wisdom. Even so, in the search for “what really matters,” this book really doesn’t.