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Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure

Written by Elizabeth LesserAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Elizabeth Lesser

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List Price: $13.99

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On Sale: November 18, 2008
Pages: 448 | ISBN: 978-0-345-51658-9
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In 1977, Elizabeth Lesser cofounded the Omega Institute, now America's largest adult-education center focusing on wellness and spirituality. Working with many of the eminent thinkers of our times, including Zen masters, rabbis, Christian monks, psychologists, scientists, and an array of noted American figures--from L.A. Lakers coach Phil Jackson to author Maya Angelou--Lesser found that by combining a variety of religious, psychological, and healing traditions, each of us has the unique ability to satisfy our spiritual hunger.

In The Seeker's Guid, she synthesizes the lessons learned from an immersion into the world's wisdom traditions and intertwines them with illuminating stories from her daily life. Recounting her own trials and errors and offering meditative exercises, she shows the reader how to create a personal practice, gauge one's progress, and choose effective spiritual teachers and habits. Warm, accessible, and wise, this book provides directions through the four landscapes of the spiritual journey:

THE MIND: learning meditation to ease stress and anxiety
THE HEART: dealing with grief, loss, and pain; opening the heart and becoming fully alive
THE BODY: returning the body to the spiritual fold to heal and
overcome the fear of aging and death
THE SOUL: experiencing daily life as an adventure of meaning and mystery

Excerpt

Although a book is born of many impulses, and influenced by diverse experiences, authors often speak of a symbolic moment of conception--an "aha" moment when you say to yourself, "I have to tell this story." That moment came for me several summers ago, in the faculty dining room at Omega Institute, the education and retreat center I cofounded in 1977. Over the years I have shared countless meals with conference and workshop leaders in that room, moderating discussions between medical doctors and shamanic healers, Christian monks and Jewish rabbis, Zen teachers and business executives.

On this particular day I was eating lunch with Babatunde Olatunji, the West African drum master and world-music innovator. Seated next to Baba was the American poet Allen Ginsberg, engaged in conversation with Gelek Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama, and Joseph Shabalala, a South African musician and freedom fighter. They were talking about their twin passions--politics and spirituality--and how challenging it was to combine the two. At the other end of the table was the onetime heavyweight champion of the world Floyd Patterson picking over his plate of tofu salad and discussing his workshop, "The Tao of Boxing," with a Chinese tai chi master, a tiny woman dressed in black pajamas. Next to them sat Huston Smith, the renowned authority on the history of religions, chatting with Ysaye Barnwell of the gospel group Sweet Honey in the Rock, and John Mohawk, a Seneca author and spiritual leader.

Catching bits and pieces of conversations, I turned to Baba Olatunji and asked, "So, what do you make of this--all these traditions meeting and merging?" Baba leaned back in his chair and surveyed the scene. Then, waving his fork at the extraordinary cast of characters seated around us, he announced, "This is a new kind of spirituality. It's American, and one day it will be the world."
An American spirituality--I liked that concept. It described my own spiritual life, something I had never been able to label. I had been actively searching for God since childhood. My path wove through the peaks and valleys of many different traditions: organized religion, disorganized mysticism, psychotherapy, philosophy, mythology, science. My search had all the signs of being an American one: it was open-minded, individualistic, and adventurous. It celebrated diversity: ten years of discipleship with an Eastern meditation master; a deep immersion into Christian, Jewish, and Islamic mysticism; extended work with a psychotherapist; study of Jungian psychology and Western schools of philosophy; and exposure, from my work at Omega Institute, to a range of healing systems, from ancient Chinese medicine to modern consciousness research.

For more than twenty-five years I had been on an adventure, searching for a genuine and fearless kind of spirituality. My goal had not been to become a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim; a Buddhist or a Sikh or a Hindu. I didn't want to become anything other than my most vibrant, peaceful, and grateful self. I wanted to find a sacred path through the fullness of life in the real world--a daily discipline that reached into the heavens even as it dug deeply into my psyche, helping me overcome resistance, falseness, and mistrust. On such an adventure I would need to seek guidance freely, from the rich repository of the world's wisdom traditions. Baba Ola-tunji's words about an "American spirituality" rang true: what I was seeking was a spirituality as diverse, democratic, and individualistic as America itself.

After my "aha" moment in the lunchroom with Baba Olatunji, I set out to research and write about the emerging American spiritual tradition. I had three distinct yet related stories to tell: America's story, my story, and yours--the reader's story. America's story, because each American's spiritual quest is fundamentally marked--for better and worse--by American values. My story, because a book about the spiritual journey is about an individual's most basic questions: Who am I? How should I live? What happens when I die? Without honest, real-life examples to accompany theories and practices, spiritual literature lacks veracity. Since the real-life examples I am most familiar with are my own, I have structured this book around my spiritual adventures--my blunders and my accomplishments, my dark nights and my luminous awakenings. But in writing about my path, I did not want to betray the most important message of the book, which is that each person's spiritual journey is different, worthy, and unique. Therefore, the third story in the book belongs to the reader. Directions on the spiritual path are offered here; it is my hope that you will use them to chart a course all your own.
Elizabeth Lesser

About Elizabeth Lesser

Elizabeth Lesser - The Seeker's Guide
Elizabeth Lesser is the co-founder of Omega Institute, this country's largest adult education center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality, social change, and creativity. She is the author of The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure and Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. For more than 30 years she has studied and worked with leading figures in the field of healing—healing self and healing society. Her recent work includes helping Oprah Winfrey to produce the 10-week “webinar” for Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth; acting as a senior advisor for Omega Institute at the board and staff level; and creating Omega’s successful Women and Power conferences, which offer a dialogue between women in leadership positions in a variety of areas—government, religion, media, the arts, and more. Ms. Lesser attended Barnard College and San Francisco State University. Previous to her work at Omega, she was a midwife and birth educator. The mother of three grown sons, she lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband.
Praise

Praise

"Elizabeth Lesser has witnessed the search for God in America from a front-row seat. As both an observer and a participant, she is funny, profoundly moving, and simply brilliant. This is a book for anyone who wants to read their own spiritual story more clearly and find the inner compass that can lead them home."
-Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., author of Kitchen Table Wisdom

  • The Seeker's Guide by Elizabeth Lesser Cofounder of the Omega Institute
  • October 03, 2000
  • Religion - Spirituality
  • Villard
  • $15.95
  • 9780679783596

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