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Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

作    者
Elizabeth Lesser;  
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所属分类
Religion > Spirituality
出版社
Villard
ISBN-13
9780375759918
ISBN-10
0375759913
出版日期
2005-06
页数
311
单位
尺寸
2.5 * 20.3 * 13.2
装帧
Paperback
版本
Reprint

Product Description

In the more than twenty-five years since she co-founded Omega Institute - now the world's largest center for spiritual retreat and personal growth -Elizabeth Lesser has been an intimate witness to the ways in which people weather change and transition. In a beautifully crafted blend of moving stories, humorous insights, practical guidance, and personal memoir, she offers tools to help us make the choice we all face in times of challenge: Will we be broken down and defeated, or broken open and transformed? Lesser shares tales of ordinary people who have risen from the ashes of illness, divorce, loss of a job or a loved one - stronger, wiser, and more in touch with their purpose and passion. And she draws on the world's great spiritual and psychological traditions to support us as we too learn to break open and blossom into who we were meant to be.

About the Author

ELIZABETH LESSER is the co-founder of Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, which offers conferences and workshops attended by twenty thousand people a year. Formerly a midwife, she attended Barnard College and San Francisco State University. The mother of three grown sons, she lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband.


From the Hardcover edition.

Review

"A most extraordinary book...Lesser is a brilliantly gifted writer."
—Caroline Myss, author of Sacred Contracts and Anatomy of the Spirit

"Elizabeth Lesser bravely and beautifully explores one of the most compelling questions of life: How do we emerge from suffering and challenge with real, encompassing wisdom and love? Broken Open is personal, pragmatic, and enlightening."
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience

"Rich in food for philosophical mastication, and sparkling in their stylistic clarity, the true-life stories in Broken Open are both entertaining and enlightening."
—Tom Robbins, author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, and Villa Incognito

"Insightful reflections...Reminiscent of Rachel Naomi Remen's books (e.g. Kitchen Table Wisdom), the book is gentle in tone without falling into sentimentality an clear without being dogmatic or simplistic."
—Library Journal

"Never again will a painful experience break me down. Instead, I'll use Elizabeth's book to help me bread open into greater strength, acceptance, and awakening."
—Jane Fonda, actress, activist, and author of My Life So Far


From the Inside Flap

"If we can stay awake when our lives are changing, secrets will be revealed to us—secrets about ourselves, about the nature of life, and about the eternal source of happiness and peace that is always available, always renewable, already within us."
—ELIZABETH LESSER

During times of transition, amid everyday stress, and even when we face seemingly insurmountable adversity, life offers us a choice: to turn away from change or to embrace it; to shut down or to be broken open and transformed. In the more than twenty-five years since she cofounded the Omega Institute—now the world's largest personal-growth and spiritual retreat center—Elizabeth Lesser has been an intimate witness to the ways in which human beings deal with change, loss, and difficulty. She herself has struggled to submit to what she calls the "Phoenix Process"— allowing herself to be broken open in order to rise like the mythical bird from the ashes of past mistakes and suffering.

In this beautifully written, often funny, and always inspiring book, Lesser has gathered together true stories about ordinary people who by design or disaster decided to step boldly into a fuller life. Here are profoundly moving narratives of fears overcome and risks taken; of hard times and difficult passages; of betrayal, divorce, sickness, and death; and of the day-to-day challenges of raising children, earning a living, and growing older. By sharing her own most human traits, Lesser helps us feel less lonely in our own struggles, and more optimistic about the possibility of transformation. Broken Open also introduces us to some of the world's greatest spiritual teachers—both ancient and living—and imparts the wisdom of various traditions, from Buddhist meditation to Sufi dance, and from Christian prayer to contemporary psychotherapy. Eminently practical, Lesser provides tools to support us in our quest for a clearer sense of purpose and a new passion for life.

Broken Open is not only a testament to the inner richness and potential of every life but also a deeply trustworthy guide to the dynamics of healing and growth—how we resist and how we surrender, how we stay stuck and how we grow, and how we can turn misfortune into insight, and grief into joy. It helps us to discover within ourselves a fearless heart, a clear mind, and a shining soul.

From the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

"Elizabeth Lesser bravely and beautifully explores one of the most compelling questions of life: how do we emerge from suffering and challenge with real, encompassing wisdom and love. Broken Open is personal, pragmatic and enlightening."
- Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience

"Never again will a painful experience wipe me out. This book shows how you can transform any difficult transition into a time of great strength and awakening."
-Jane Fonda

“There's more food for philosophical mastication--and more sparkling good sense--in one lucid chapter of Broken Open than in a library of ordinary books on similar subjects.”
-Tom Robbins --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Cofounder of the upstate New York Omega Institute and author of The Seeker’s Guide, Lesser uses her own life story, and those of others, to explore what she calls the "Phoenix Process," or positive life change that can emerge from very difficult life events. In short, episodic chapters, Lesser cites stories of those who have gone through a divorce (as she has), lost a child or suffered a terminal illness. She brings in thinkers such as Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron, the late philosopher Joseph Campbell and her longtime friend and colleague Ram Dass to illustrate how meditation and belief in a spirit that works through people can help break through fear and hopelessness. Lesser’s own Phoenix Process began when, having previously been "betrayed" by her husband, she embarked on an adulterous affair (with a "shaman lover") that lasted a year and, in her terms, broke her open and allowed her to change. Lesser doesn’t describe her life events in enough detail for them to stand on their own as memoir; rather, she puts them in the service of an explicitly Nietzschean argument: that one needs to embrace one’s own "evil" in order to grow. Lesser’s resolve comes through in her clear, even, declarative prose, and her use of jargon is sparing and directed. But with conventional morality off the table and frequently overgeneralized musings sprinkled in ("Women still nurture and sustain me, but it is men who call me to grow, to examine my presumptions, to widen the boundaries of my heart"), the book can feel less the delineation of a process than a careful set of self-justifications. That sense is mitigated, however, by the anecdotes of other Phoenix veterans, via Omega and other parts of Lesser’s life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

What Einstein Knew

No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. —Albert Einstein

When Route 25 leaves the mountains of northern New Mexico, the city of Albuquerque appears suddenly like a mirage—a slice of strip-mall America shimmering on a flat shelf of ancient desert. In all my years of visiting friends in New Mexico, I had not ventured into Albuquerque. I had passed by it many times, on my way to and from the airport, but never had a reason to turn off the highway until one afternoon, when I went looking for a psychic whose card had been given to me by a friend in Santa Fe. This was during the first difficult days of being separated from my husband of fourteen years, a time when people who tried to help me would eventually give up, too frustrated to continue following me around a maze with no exit. The day before I left my friend’s house, she handed me the business card of a psychic and said, “Don’t ask. Just go.”

The front side of the card read,

Name: The Mouthpiece of Spirit Location: The Road of Truth

I found more helpful directions on the other side, where three rules were printed:

1. Pay Only in Cash. 2. Bring a Blank Tape. 3. Do Not Hold Me Responsible for Your Life.

And then the address, which led me through dusty, treeless streets, past a few warehouses and truck lots, to a trailer park on a forlorn road a couple of miles from the airport. The place looked like a bad movie set—several old trailers and dilapidated outbuildings, discarded automobiles, and a dog tied to a clothesline. At a dead end I came upon the last trailer in the park, set off under a gnarled tree strung with flashing Christmas lights. Rechecking the directions, I was alarmed to discover that this indeed was The Road of Truth, the home of The Mouthpiece of Spirit.

On the steps of the trailer things got even weirder. The psychic met me at the door. She had the most hair I had ever seen—piles of bleached blond tresses arranged in a beehive on top of her head. She was wearing a red-and-white-checked cowgirl shirt, white stretch pants, and high-heeled sandals. Her eyes were clear and blue, and her nails were painted bright red to match her dangling, heart-shaped earrings. She seemed surprised to see me, as if I hadn’t called earlier in the morning to confirm the appointment, as if she wasn’t a psychic at all. After I established what I was doing on the steps of her trailer, she invited me in, asking me to excuse the mess. We stepped over boxes, books, magazines, and bags of pet food and potato chips. On the couch, watching TV, was a man—perhaps the psychic’s husband—and a big white poodle with plastic barrettes in its hair. Neither seemed to notice me as the psychic led us to her bedroom.

The psychic sat on a king-size bed that took up most of the space in the room. She motioned to me to sit on a folding chair in the corner. I could still get out of this, I thought, as I squeezed behind the bed to sit on the chair. But before I could say anything, the psychic announced in a no-nonsense tone, “You have something in your purse for me. Something from your husband. A letter.” Her voice was dusky—a smoker’s voice—but it also had a regional twang, making her sound like a Texas Mae West. In fact she reminded me of Mae West, and I wondered what the hell I was doing, in a trailer near the Albuquerque airport, asking for life direction from Mae West.

“So, do you have a letter in your purse or not?” demanded the psychic.

“No, I don’t,” I stammered, defensively. “I don’t usually carry letters in my purse.”

“I am quite sure you have something, something from your husband, in your purse.” Her voice softened some, and I suddenly realized that I did have a letter from my husband in my purse—a letter that spelled out the sad jumble of our marriage and revealed to me all the reasons for staying in it, as well as all the reasons for leaving. I had brought the letter with me to show my friend, to see if she could interpret it in a more definitive way, but I had forgotten all about it and never showed it to her. Instead, I had spent my time in Santa Fe doing exactly what Albert Einstein warns people with problems not to do. No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it, he writes. In other words, don’t try to solve a problem using the same mixed-up thinking that got you into the mess in the first place. You will just keep swimming around in tight little circles of indecision and fear.

I had been in a state of indecision about my marriage for so long that my ability to move in either direction had atrophied. I had recalculated the reasons for staying and the reasons for leaving over and over, like Einstein struggling with an equation that never quite added up. Something told me I would not find my way out of this quandary using the same old arguments, but I didn’t know where to look for a new perspective. It was as if I was underwater, swimming around and around in darkness. Far above me, beyond the weight of an ocean of worries, a ray of light was pointing in a luminous, new direction, but I was too distracted to notice. I was caught in waves of conflicting questions: Would I ruin my children’s lives by getting divorced? Or was it worse for them to live with unhappy parents? Was I a dreamer, looking for an elusive happiness that real life could never deliver? Or were we meant to know the rapture of being alive, even at the cost of breaking the rules? The questions ebbed and flowed, back and forth, an endless exchange with no answers, no winners, just a worn-out swimmer.

How was I to break out of my tight circle of fear into a new consciousness? How did Einstein do it? How did he quiet the admonishing, skeptical voices in his head—the ones barking bad directions—long enough to hear the steady whispers of the universe? How was he able to peer beyond himself and follow the light to the more lucid answers?

I opened my purse, and there was the letter. I leaned over the bed and gave it to the psychic. She held on to it with her eyes closed, not even opening the envelope. After a few moments she asked, “Would you like to tape the session, dear?” sounding no longer like Mae West but more like a kindly waitress at a diner. I took the blank tape out of my jacket pocket, leaned across the bed again, and gave the psychic the tape. She popped it into a tape recorder that had seen better days, pushed the record button, and the session began—an hour-long mix of wacky chatter, astute philosophy, and unexplainably accurate information about me, my husband, my children, my whole mixed-up life. She jumped around from epoch to epoch: a past life with my husband in China; the destiny of my youngest son; the next man I would marry; and the eventual “last days” of earth time.

Sitting in the corner, I felt as if I had left my body and The Mouthpiece of Spirit had taken up residence. This was the only way I could explain her sudden knowledge of my life. Otherwise, how would she have known that I had a letter from my husband in my purse? How, just from holding on to that letter, did she know that my marriage was crumbling? She sat cross-legged on the bed, squeezing her eyes shut, clutching the letter, mumbling to herself: “He wanted to leave, but now he’s changed his mind. Hmmm.” She fluttered her eyelids, then shut them tight again. “He’s desperate to come back, but now she wants to leave. She feels guilty; he is angry. Okay, okay,” she whispered, as she opened her eyes and studied the return address.

“Rick-shaw, Rick-shaw,” she drawled, mispronouncing my husband’s last name in her Texas twang. Closing her eyes again, she said, “I see you pulling a rickshaw. I see you serving your husband in China. He is a nobleman; you are his servant girl. You have served him in many lifetimes. You served him then, and you hid yourself. You serve him now, and still you hide yourself. Still you do not claim your power. Do you understand?”

I nodded my head. Regardless of her dubious methodology of determining past lives, I did understand how I gave away power to my husband, how I resented him for steering our marriage, how I had so little trust in my own voice.

“Well, it is time to break the cycle. For you and for him. But you must be the one to do it. You must take back your power. Do you understand?”

“It’s complex,” I complained. “It’s not his fault that I lack confidence and he doesn’t.”

She looked at me hard. “Write this down,” she said, tossing me a pen and a pad of paper with a border of little bluebirds and flowers. “Those with power never willingly concede their control. Do you understand? Your husband will never, ever be able to let you grow into who you are supposed to be. It is not in your karmic contract. It’s not a matter of fault. The truth is that, in order to find yourself, you must leave him. This is your quest. And in order for your husband to find himself, he must lose you. Y’all have lessons to learn—lessons that are more important than the marriage itself. The soul comes to earth to learn lessons, not to get married, or stay married, or to take this job or that job. You have been asking the wrong question. It’s not whether or not to stay married. The question,” she said, leaning closer to me, “is what lesson does your soul want to learn? Do you know?”

What lesson did my soul want to learn? I liked this question. It was new. Right then and there I felt it pointing me in a different direction. I felt it leading me up toward the light.

“Well, I’ll tell you then,” the psychic said when I didn’t answer. “Your lesson in this lifetime is to find and trust your own precious voic...