Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Life, Death and the Space Between

Feb 24, 2022



“Therapists are part voyeur, part gossip.” – psychiatrist Dr. Mark Epstein,




Episode Summary:


Another rock star guest!


Dr. Amy Robbins has been admiring Dr. Mark Epstein’s work for years.


Mark is an MD and psychiatrist in private practice in New York city and the prolific author of books about the overlap of Buddhism and psychotherapy, including:

  • Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective,
  • Going to Pieces without Falling Apart,
  • Going on Being: Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and Psychotherapy,
  • Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life,
  • Psychotherapy without the Self and The Trauma of Everyday Life.


His newest work, The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life is out now.


Mark received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard and is currently clinical assistant professor in the post-doctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis at New York University. We’re talking credentials!


Because this conversation was so juicy and ran long, we present it in two parts.





Topics We Discuss in Part 1:

  • [4:05]  Healing occurs when therapy acts as a holding environment where anything that needs to be talked about is talked about. A spiritual friendship.


  • [5:20] Dr. Epstein’s early interest in Buddhism, studying for years in Asia before he entered Harvard medical school with the interest in psychiatry.


  • [8:09] Dr. Epstein’s foray into writing books to translate or interpret Buddhist psychological thought into Western psychodynamic language. And sharing his personal experiences to illustrate that bridge.


  • [10:50] Free association may be Freud’s version of meditation. Or maybe meditation is Freud’s version of free association.


  • [13:31] Dr. Epstein stretches the interpersonal boundaries of traditional psychotherapy, sees it as a “spiritual friendship”. While valuing boundaries as important elements of healthy psychotherapy. The delicate balance.


  • [18:07] Anger as a stepping stone to love. The normal parent-child emotional dance around anger and love.



  • [24:23] Western culture can be an obstacle to absorbing the benefits of meditation. What meditation could or should can do for us.


  • [29:39] Amy’s own struggle with her mind wandering during meditation. And Dr. Epstein’s response to her very normal struggle.





Topics We Discuss in Part 2:



  • [1:43] Dr. Epstein sees the division between real life and meditation as artificial.


  • [4:20] The importance of answering the question, ““How are we not living life fully?” Therapy opens people to themselves.


  • [4:50] The three components to an insight meditation.


  • Concentration practices
  • Observing awareness, mindfulness
  • Insight stages; “who am I”? Letting the ego take a rest.


  • [11:28] A Buddhist perspective on grief and loss: every minute with your object of love is precious.


  • [17:25] Dr Epstein’s long term acquaintance with Ram Dass, formerly Richard Alpert.  (Guru Ram Dass was the subject of recent Life, Death and the Space Between podcast Episode #231.)


  • [24:55] Dr. Epstein answers Amy’s speed round questions…
    • Spirituality means…?
    • What is something most people don’t know about you?
    • What is one thing you’re looking forward to?
    • What are you grateful for right now?
    • What book is on your nightstand?
    • What is your favorite healing practice?
    • What is the most transformative experience of your life?




FOLLOW Dr. Mark Epstein


You can learn more about The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life and purchase your copy wherever books are sold.


You can follow Dr. Mark Epstein here:






If you’re enjoying the podcast and finding value in guest interviews, ghost stories, and the content I share, please consider supporting the show by becoming a Patreon member for as little as $5 a month at


As a member you’ll get more say in the content we cover and exclusive access to behind-the-scenes goodness!


Stay Connected with Dr. Amy Robbins: