photo credit: Randomhouse.com

As I continue to learn more and more about this spiritual dance we are all a part of, I’m bowled over (time and time again) by this concept that we attract into our lives all the people, places and circumstances that we need in order to grow. But it works both ways. You attract mentors, teachers and friends to give you guidance and support, and you also attract pain, suffering and people who dig up your own “garbage.” It’s a little wild to absorb at first, but the book that I just finished — Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser– does a fantastic job of illustrating how we can take a real, honest look at our pain and transform it into a call for greatness.

Elizabeth Lesser is one of the co-founders of Omega (a retreat center in New York, very similar to Kripalu), and just a few pages into her book you can sense that she KNOWS what she’s talking about. She doesn’t claim to be enlightened, or get it all right, but the material she provides based on learnings from so many powerful Omega workshops is stunning. I thought the chapter on grieving was particularly powerful. So if you know anyone struggling to come to terms with a death and mortality in general, I highly recommend you pick them up a copy of this book.

There are so many dazzling quotes in this book, but here were two of my favorites:

“It is in the times of brokenness that the soul sings its most wise and eternal song. I cannot hum you a tune or tell you the lyrics; each person’s soul has its own cadence. You will recognize its music, though, by the way you feel when you are listening: awake, calm, and suddenly relieved of the burden of control…You’ll unfold your arms and lean back, and say the soul, ‘Just sing me your song. Teach me the words. Tell me what you know.'”

Let me also explain “brokenness” comes in varying degrees. It isn’t just the big time stuff like cancer and divorce. It’s a busted friendship. A job that’s leaving you more and more anxious every week. It’s a break-up with a boyfriend. Anything that cuts straight into you and leaves you feeling vulnerable. We all break differently.

“Trungpa did not teach people to pray for life to turn out a certain way. Instead, he encouraged his students to learn from the way life already was. He regarded everyday events as messages about reality. ‘Trust in those messages,’ he said. They are an accurate description of what came before and what to do next. Don’t fight with reality. Don’t defend against it. Rather, read it like you would a newspaper.”