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In Search of Wisdom

In Search of Wisdom: A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most
by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien
Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2018
336 pages, CAD$23.85, GBP£13.18, USD$12.76
Reviewed by Greg Richardson

In Search of Wisdom is a conversation between three good friends, each a gifted teacher bringing their own lifetime of experience and insight to their conversation. It is as if we are sitting with them listening as they share the wisdom they have gained with us.

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who has written several books. He is a significant participant in research collaboration between cognitive scientists and Buddhist practitioners supported by the Dalai Lama and the Mind Life Institute. He is also a gifted photographer and translator. Christopher André is a psychiatrist who specializes in the psychology of emotions. He is also a noted author. Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and writer who spent more than fifteen years in a home for physically disabled people.

In Search of Wisdom is like reading a transcript of a spiritual direction session. It takes the time to breathe, to calmly and deeply consider serious questions. Each section of the book fits into and builds on the others without feeling rigidly structured. Some of the sections include “What Are Our Deepest Aspirations?,” “The Art of Listening,” “The Origins of Suffering,” “The School of Simplicity,” and “Our Daily Practice.”

The three friends respond to each other and share insights and questions. Their friendship is evident in the way they talk together and the memories shared. Each shines the light of his own specialty and perspective on their shared conversation, and the flavors of psychiatry, philosophy, and monastic contemplative blend in a tasty recipe. The words they share in In Search of Wisdom highlight both the different ways they approach questions and how much they share. It is a stimulating window on their friendship and sparks a reader’s interest in other books each of them has written.

It is a challenge for me to choose a favorite section or one that has given me the best insights. This book is not a checklist or a map for our search for wisdom. The three authors are experienced guides and companions on our voyage of discovery.

Like the delicious conversation it is, In Search of Wisdom whets our appetite for more and can offer guidance and inspiration for spiritual direction with directees.

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director and leadership coach in Pasadena, California, USA, and a lay oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. He is cohost of the #WordsToLiveBy chat on Twitter, and he blogs for the Contemplative channel on www.patheos.com. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and he can be reached at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.


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