Are you flourishing, or just hanging on? Is your lack of self-care getting in the way of fulfilling intimacy with others? This book might just help you find out what you need, and give you some paths to getting it.
Flourishing: a flower blooming, full of its wonderful colours and smells, attracting all the insects and animals to help it reproduce.
Flourishing: a feeling of life being full of opportunities for expanding ourselves, for feeling contentment and joy. Happiness, maybe.
Flourishing, for me, is living beyond survival. It’s finding time to connect, to grow, to learn, to help others, to become a better human being. I haven’t felt like the possibility of flourishing was even available to me for quite a long time, but things have changed quite a lot during the summer, and I feel it within my grasp.
Feeling stuck, unable to move forward, happens to all of us. Maybe it’s bad relationships, or being stuck in negative, repetitive patterns from our past; it could simply be doing the wrong job or living in the wrong place.
Jeffrey Rubin, psychologist and therapist, defines flourishing as “about how we live, more than what we feel“. Flourishing and sadness, as he says, can happen together. “Flourishing means working with the imperfect conditions we face, while taking care of ourselves and enriching the lives of others.”
The Art of Flourishing begins with a not quite revolutionary but still important insight: that “self-care is the foundation of intimacy”. Self-care is not shopping sprees and spa days (well, sometimes it can be); rather, self-care is dealing with our past, being able to feel genuine emotion, having purpose, avoiding martyrdom, and embodying our values.
The Buddhist, meditative part of this book attracted me from the get-go. But Rubin makes an excellent argument about combining meditative techniques with Western psychological concepts. As he explains, meditation doesn’t really let us understand our patterns. It helps us see them, but understanding their origin is more the purview of psychodynamic therapy. Combining them, he believes, brings the best of both and enables us to go beyond what either can do alone.
The book is divided in two sections: one about the self, and one about love and relationships–mostly marriage. I found the first section more informative than the second, but the second did have some great advice about how to develop and maintain intimacy with our loved ones.
Of course, the book is heavily focused on therapy and Rubin’s own clients. It assumes that readers aren’t poor, something that upset me more than once as I pondered his advice to “follow your passion” and “find your purpose” by taking financial risks. But if you can live with a little classism (or at least advice that can be a little tone-deaf for struggling Millennials), I think you’ll find a few things of value in this book.
At the very least, it’s an interesting introduction to meditative therapy, something I’ve wanted to learn more about since entering psychology. If you are already a meditator and want to see if anything can help you push a little beyond your patterns, this might also be a good read for you.
In the end, this book upholds the old saying: “know thyself”. If we are fearless in looking at ourselves at our best and worst, if we are courageous in admitting our faults and accepting our strengths, it’s much easier to flourish. It’s a call for deep authenticity in a world that gets shallower by the minute.
The Art of Flourishing: A Guide to Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Love in a Chaotic World by Dr. Jeffrey Rubin.