My physician, Alex Lickerman, is a terrific doctor, one who spends a lot of time with his patients and treats the whole person rather than the disease. I’ve been enormously impressed with him. He also has a website, “Happiness in this world,” where he posts once a week, covering medical topics with psychological implications (click the first page to see the variety of subjects). He also writes about his own life and how he’s dealt with various obstacles.
Alex is an atheistic Buddhist (we call such culturally Jewish Buddhists “Bu-Jews”) who, though not accepting the supernatural or things like reincarnation, feels that Nichiren Buddhism (his species of the philosophy) has a lot to teach people about how to deal with adversity. Based on his personal example, I’d have to say his views have merit. I’ve flirted with secular Buddhism from time to time—not as seriously as has, say, Sam Harris, but I do think there’s a core of wisdom in some Buddhist tenets.
That core, as Alex sees it, is presented in a very nice new book that I’d like to plug here: The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self. It not only explains how Buddhist precepts helped him become a more resilient person, but also shows how he’s applied those lessons to his patients, some of them in very serious medical situations. There’s simply no doubt that his immersion in Buddhism has made him a better and more caring doctor.
I suppose I’d put this in the category of “self-help” books, but to call it that denigrates what I think can be a very useful guide for some folks.
Here’s the blurb I wrote for the book:
“Buddhism and Western medicine would seem an incongruous mixture, but in the hands of Alex Lickerman they meld seamlessly into a recipe for overcoming life’s hardships—indeed, for turning them into advantages. An accomplished physician, Lickerman has no truck for the supernatural, but recognizes that the tenets of Nichiren Buddhism have been honed over centuries to help alleviate life’s inevitable sufferings. The Undefeated Mind is a deeply engaging story of how Lickerman has fused modern medicine with ancient wisdom to heal his patients both physically and psychologically—lessons that apply to all of us.”