Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Broken Open

If you are in need of help getting through a rough time, here it is. If you are looking for the courage and resources to move on, begin anew, find your next path, I recommend this book.

In it, Elizabeth Lesser details what she calls ‘the phoenix process’—the experience of having everything around you burn down to ashes, and the shining new growth that can then occur. The re-birth, sometimes over and over, than can be needed in a healthy lifetime. Here’s help along the way.

'Whether you are in the midst of a big upheaval or riding the smaller rapids of everyday life, I want you to know that you are not alone, not now, or at any stage of the journey. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist of the twentieth century, wrote, ‘We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.’ (p. xxiv)

Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute, is amazing. My friend Beth and I heard her speak recently at Sacred Circles, an annual spiritual and creative gathering of women at the Washington National Cathedral. It was Valentine’s Day, and the theme of the conference was ‘Love in Action’. Elizabeth said that the most valuable thing she’s learned backstage at Omega, hanging out with the luminaries she called "the wise ones", is that it’s so hard to walk the walk. She said: it’s up to me and you to walk the walk. We don’t need more prophets—we need each one of us to get prophetic and walk the walk.

Men, she pointed out, have been in charge of life on earth for the past 12,000 years—maybe even 200,000 years. We’ve made some progress- but also bungled some things terribly, hopefully not irrevocably. Women’s voices have been left out of the halls of power. If we’d been in the room, the outcomes would have been quite different. We might have talked some people to death (great laughter from the audience). But there would be a better balance of the full range of human intelligence and endeavor—heart, body, mind, soul. Most modern societies discredit emotional intelligence. Emotions are something we should keep in check—or life might be some kind of extended chick flick!

We need that better balance today. How to get there? No one is going to come and kiss us awake, Elizabeth told us. We’re going to have to rouse ourselves to action. Put your hand over your heart, she told us. Breathe in. Give a deep sigh. Pat your heart. It’s going to change the world!

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