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Excerpted from Going on Being by Mark Epstein, M.D.. Copyright © 2001 by Mark Epstein, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"I have wrestled with the sometimes competing worldviews of Buddhism and psychotherapy."

  Mark Epstein, M.D.
Going on Being, Part 1

There is a story that has kept popping up in my work over the years that embodies much of what I have learned about how people change. It is a story that has served a number of different functions as I have wrestled with the sometimes competing worldviews of Buddhism and psychotherapy, but it ultimately points the way toward their integration. It is one of the tales of Nasruddin, a Sufi amalgam of wise man and fool, with whom I have sometimes identified and by whom I have at other times been puzzled. He has the peculiar gift of both acting out our basic confusion and at the same time opening us up to our deeper wisdom.

I first heard this story many years ago from one of my first meditation teachers, Joseph Goldstein, who used it as an example of how people search for happiness in inherently fleeting, and therefore unsatisfactory, pleasant feelings. The story is about how some people came upon Nasruddin one night crawling around on his hands and knees under a lamppost.

"What are you looking for?" they asked him.

"Iíve lost the key to my house," he replied.

They all got down to help him look, but after a fruitless time of searching, someone thought to ask him where he had lost the key in the first place.

"In the house," Nasruddin answered.

"Then why are you looking under the lamppost?" he is asked.

"Because there is more light here," Nasruddin replied.

I suppose I must identify with Nasruddin to have quoted this story so often. Searching for my keys is something I can understand. It puts me in touch with a sense of estrangement, or yearning, that I had quite a bit of in my life, a feeling that I used to equate with an old reggae song by Jimmy Cliff called "Sitting in Limbo."

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