Our first author is Péter Popper (1933–2010), a Hungarian psychologist and psychotherapist, whose theories offered, in essence, mindfulness before the term came into common usage. While he is famous in Hungary, his works are barely known in the English-speaking world.
Popper was one of Hungary’s greatest psychologists. He worked as a professor, practiced clinical psychology and psychotherapy, and was the editor of the Hungarian Psychology review. Before his untimely death in 2010, he had published more than 30 books, two dramas and a ballet. While the primary purpose of our featured work, The Book of Inner Paths, is to provide tools that may help the reader with a number of routines for the reader to practice in order to “become more resilient to the unavoidable burdens of life,” and to “live with more understanding and acceptance of ourselves,” it provides much more than that.
The Book of Inner Paths manages to be both straight-forward and comprehensive, setting out reasonable expectations for practices and mapping out understandable and effective exercises. It manages to be both an effective means of self-help and a captivating read.
Popper provides a context and framework which not only presents tools with which to cope with inner dissatisfaction or to help those who have the “urgent need for change and development,” but also provides an understanding of what the proper purpose of such tools are, how they can best be used, and their limitations. Throughout the book, Popper skillfully weaves these practices in with a helpful explanation and background information about the purposes of the exercises.
Popper travelled to India several times in the late 70s and early 80s, where he studied techniques for focusing attention and improving mental fortitude under the guidance of Buddhist monks Returning from India, he was the first to incorporate meditation into his psychotherapeutic practice, making him a pioneer of mindfulness.
This alone would be reason enough to listen to Popper’s book. But with its clear and simple presentation of a psychotherapeutic exercises, developed over many years of clinical practice, Popper’s text helps us to cope with the stresses and strains of modern life by focusing our attention, developing our observational skills, so as to set us on a path towards self-knowledge.
True to its title, Péter Popper’s The Book of Inner Paths goes beyond presenting psychological theory, and sets out a practical path for developing self-awareness, inner balance and understanding. Popper integrates many sources, creating an effective and accessible collection of exercises and explanations.
The book is not intended as a therapeutic tool for particular mental health conditions, but rather to help all kinds of people who may “lose their way, who look at inner dissatisfaction with the need for change” or who “wish to become better acquainted with and to develop themselves”.
The Book of Inner Paths provides such people with the tools to start “with basic and simple training programs aimed at individual sub-functions, and move towards more complex issues such as character and personality shaping.”
The Book of the Inner Paths seeks to teach. The instruction begins with basic exercises, focused upon five areas of psychological life: concentration; development of will; self-control in expression of emotion; openness to the positive, and impartiality of judgment. Afterwards, Popper dedicates time to further enhancing self-control, enhancing knowledge of others and developing observation and memory, through a series of practices that can be employed to practice techniques in daily life.
Next, Popper discusses the value of regularly analyzing one’s day through reflection and awareness, which is followed with the presentation of preparatory exercises to gain emotional balance.
A discussion of the energetic nature of the psychological processes follows, including sections on differentiating emotional responses of varying importance, rôle-swap exercises, and exercises on interpersonal confrontation.
Finally, Popper presents concentration exercises, starting with the small and specific before expanding to exercises involving broader subjects, eventually to those involving abstract subjects, for which he gives numerous examples and explanations.
The last exercise presented is meditation. Popper explains the purpose of and dispels misconceptions regarding the widely known, but seldom understood practice, before setting out some introductory meditation exercises.