Open to Desire

It is common in both Buddhism and Freudian psychoanalysis to treat desire as the root of all suffering and problems, but psychiatrist Mark Epstein believes this to be a grave misunderstanding. In his defense of desire, he makes clear that it is the key to deepening intimacy with ourselves, one another, and our world. An enlightening tapestry of psychotherapeutic practice, contemporary case studies, Buddhist insight, and narratives as diverse as the Ramayana and Sufi parables, Open to Desire brings a refreshing new perspective to humanity’s most paradoxical emotion.

Proposing that spiritual attainment does not have to be detached from intimacy or eroticism, Open to Desire begins with an exploration of the dissatisfaction that causes us to both cling to, and fear, desire. Offering a new path for traversing this ambivalence, Dr. Epstein shows us how we can overcome these obstacles, not by indulgence or suppression, but by learning a new way to be with desire. Full of practical advice, this is a lasting guide for finding peace both in ourselves and in our most highly charged interactions.


"Open to Desire shines a bright beam of wisdom into an ever-confusing, ever-seductive realm. Mark Epstein, using his rare gifts of insight, brilliantly shows us a way through the confusion of craving to the treasures of intimacy and clarity hidden within our yearnings."
—Daniel Goleman, author of Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama
"Mark Epstein's Open to Desire is a masterpiece in his unique genre of combined Buddhist, psychological, and poetic insights. It teaches us how not to fear and repress, but to re-channel and harness the most powerful energies of life toward freedom and bliss."
—Robert Thurman, author of Infinite Life
"Mark Epstein writes with the keen insight of a skilled psychotherapist, the compassion of a long-term meditator, and the gift of a compelling storyteller. He courageously explores the true nature of potential of desire, which we depend on for our very connection to life."
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience