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Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. Cofounder of the upstate New York Omega philosophical mastication--and more sparkling good sense--in one lucid chapter of Broken Open than in a library of ordinary books on similar subjects. Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. Elizabeth Lesser, Author Villard Books $ (p) ISBN Praise. “A most extraordinary book Lesser is a brilliantly gifted writer.” — Caroline Myss, author of Sacred Contracts and Anatomy of the Spirit “Elizabeth Lesser.

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In the New York Times bestseller Broken Open, a beautifully crafted blend of Instead, I'll use Elizabeth's book to help me break open into greater strength. Start by marking “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow” as Want to Read: See 1 question about Broken Open. Quotes from Broken Open: How. Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow [Elizabeth Lesser] on *FREE* Author interviews, book reviews, editors' picks, and more .

And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. One morning in that broken city, I sat alone on a well-worn wall at the base of the Mount of Olives. The day was moving forward with the kind of determination that comes from people with places to go and things to do. Religious pilgrims pushed past each other into the gates of the holy city. Men and women made their way to work and market; children ran past them to school. But I had nowhere to go.

Or maybe you have become aware once again of the obvious yet startling fact that nothing stays the same for long; that things like the body, relationships, children, work, towns, nations, and the very earth that sustains us are fluid and fleeting—dynamic systems fueled by the breath of change. For more than twenty-five years I have led workshops based on the subject of change and transformation. I have seen how it is possible to approach the challenges of real life with openness and optimism— even with wisdom and joy.

I have engaged in this work at Omega Institute, the retreat and conference center I cofounded in Others attend spiritual retreats and personal growth workshops. All of them come to be around like-minded people. I often compare Omega to an oasis—a gathering place where travelers rest, learn, and tell their stories.

As a voyeur of the human experience, I have been well served by my years at Omega. It is a place rich in stories, a place where people can put down the burden of pretense and share what it really means to be human. The stories in this book are about ordinary people who, by design or disaster, decided to step boldly into the fullness of their humanity.

They are tales of overcoming fear and taking risks, of hard times and difficult passages, and of buds breaking open into blossoms. When I started writing the book, I thought I might be able to dance lightly around my own story, sharing a few personal vignettes, especially the ones about blossoming—the ones that came after the hard times and difficult passages.

But the book had other ideas. As I explored the subject of change and transformation, I was most inspired by those who were brave enough to tell the whole truth about their journeys.

When people left out the dark and bewildering and shameful parts, I lost interest, and even worse, I was led astray. And so, after more than a year of research and interviews, I took the old myths and current stories I had collected, put them aside for the time being, and got on with the harder work of telling my own story.

I soon discovered that the parts I least wanted to tell—the selfish parts, the parts where my actions hurt others, the parts where I stumbled and fell—were the very tales worth telling. It was only through turning around and facing my shadow that I was able to break open into a more genuine and generous life. Therefore the story that weaves its way through the pages of this book is one of both darkness and light, dejection and rejoicing. I was born in the s, a child of an American age when the darker parts of the human story were unpopular—a time when science promised a troublefree life and television promoted a vision of suburban perfection.

At school we jumped rope on the playground but also hid under our desks during nuclear bomb drills. Yet every now and then I also noticed photos of a little country called Vietnam, and of black people marching in the streets of American cities.

The veneer of perfection became thinner and thinner as I left childhood and entered adolescence. When the Beatles first crossed the Atlantic Ocean, I was waiting for them. I met my first husband while building a park for homeless people in an abandoned New York City lot. I was a freshman in college, and he was a medical student.

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We moved in together just as the spirit of the sixties by then it was the seventies was losing its momentum. We left the city, became disciples of a meditation teacher, moved to California, and then, a few years later—after he had finished his internship and I had received a teaching degree—moved back East to form a spiritual commune. We got married. I studied to become a midwife and with my husband delivered babies in our area.

I had my own babies. Our little family left the commune; we bought our own home; we started a school that grew into Omega Institute. Life became complicated. Issues I never thought I would face—of love and betrayal, passion and responsibility, loss and doubt— sprouted in the hidden places of my heart and led me into the dark woods of real life. It is those stories—the ones about the journey in and out of the woods—that I tell in this book.

To be human is to be lost in the woods. None of us arrives here with clear directions on how to get from point A to point B without stumbling into the forest of confusion or catastrophe or wrongdoing.

Although they are dark and dangerous, it is in the woods that we discover our strengths. Before their descent into the darkness, they took more than they gave, or they were numb, or full of fear or blame or self-pity. In their most broken moments they were brought to their knees; they were humbled; they were opened.


And later, as they pulled the pieces back together, they discovered a clearer sense of purpose and a new passion for life. But we also know people who did not turn their misfortune into insight, or their grief into joy. Instead, they became more bitter, more reactive, more cynical. They shut down.

They went back to sleep. The Persian poet Rumi says, The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. You must ask for what you really want.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. I am fascinated by what it takes to stay awake in difficult times.

I marvel at what we all do in times of transition—how we resist, and how we surrender; how we stay stuck, and how we grow. Since my first major broken-open experience—my divorce—I have been an observer and a confidante of others as they engage with the forces of their own suffering.

I have made note of how fiasco and failure visit each one of us, as if they were written into the job description of being human.

I have seen people crumble in times of trouble, lose their spirit, and never fully recover. I have seen others protect themselves fiercely from any kind of change, until they are living a half life, safe yet stunted. But I have also seen another way to deal with a fearful change or a painful loss.

I call this other way the Phoenix Process—named for the mythical phoenix bird who remains awake through the fires of change, rises from the ashes of death, and is reborn into his most vibrant and enlightened self. I describe the Phoenix Process in Part Two of the book. For now, we need only understand it as an alternative to going back to sleep. And I have stayed awake and been broken open. Both ways are difficult, but one way brings with it the gift of a lifetime. While Lesser took a nuanced approach to her storytelling, I found myself glossing over certain sections of Broken Open because of their circularity.

I would have gotten more wisdom from this book if Lesser had connected more of her themes together in a concrete way. And while I agree that certain meanings and feelings transcend words, I thought Broken Open veered into New Age, wish-washy territories at times. Overall, this book might inspire at least one person, and just one makes it worth it. Not the first book I would recommend to someone going through a tough time, but perhaps I would share it with people who dig self-help books.

Of course, I always appreciate the general theme of resilience in times of hardship. Mar 13, Ruhegeist rated it really liked it Shelves: I borrowed this from a friend who tends to be what I consider over the top wacky spiritual. Watching her move through life, easily make friends and enjoy what I so often take for granted is amazing and makes me a little jealous all the while resisting and occasionally mocking. Thankfully this book was believable and down to earth which allowed my over logical mentality to connect to the writing.

Lesser writes beautifully about her experiences not quite as well when making generalities. The quo I borrowed this from a friend who tends to be what I consider over the top wacky spiritual.

The quotes and poetry at the beginning of the chapters were part of my favorite bits and inspired a few additional book downloads. I also bought a copy of this book for myself so, now that I have to give it back to my friend, I will always be able to go back to remind myself to breath and be open to change. Yes, I'm rereading this book. Its quick and positive. Glad I bought my own copy. Oct 31, Nedra rated it it was amazing. EVERYONE who has gone through a personal crisis whether it be death, depression, divorce or just a simple personal evolution should read this book.

And, everyone else should read it too. Elizabeth Lesser speaks to psychological and spiritual awakening in an understandable, lighthearted voice. Jan 15, Jordan rated it liked it. I realize that this book is out of character with the sorts of things that I normally read.

I was led to this book by both a coworker's recommendation and by my personal struggles of this past year. Last March, an old friend of mine committed suicide. A month later, my first real boyfriend broke up with me. Together, these two events have dictated how I feel in my daily experience: I often try to tell myself that I don't deserve happiness or love, simply because someone chose not to live, and someone else chose not to love me back. It's been a heavy burden for me, and Lesser's philosophy on grief and loss is partially consoling and healing for my current state of mind.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. Lesser is a wonderful writer, and the stories she tells, as well as her own journey to happiness and healing, are inspiring, multifaceted, and even mythic. She describes being "broken open" by pain, death, and other losses rather than being broken down and consumed by them. In being broken open, we should give this grief due consideration, but also be able to grow from it, a process that Lesser dubs the "Phoenix Process.

Pain and heartache are intrinsic to the human experience, so they should be processed naturally, and even celebrated as a gateway to greater wisdom and self- understanding.

This is a process I am undergoing anyway, and it helped to put a cheesy name on it, and to read success stories. My main problem with this book isn't really a problem: There is nothing wrong with spiritual and religious conceptualizations and interactions with the world--meditation, prayer, etc.

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Traditional spirituality aside, other portions started to feel like New Age hoo-ha: I can't accept that. It feels akin to the sick fucks who claim that the recent Sandy Hook tragedy is a blessing in disguise for delivering children from the pain of this world to Jesus and Heaven. I can understand wanting to grow from such tragedies, and utilizing the pain and confusion of these events to make constructive changes to the status quo Yet, despite my misgivings, I enjoyed Lesser's writing and themes, and I definitely walk away from this book with a greater sense of the processes of grief, and how to grow from them.

View all 4 comments. Jan 09, Julie Weaver rated it it was amazing.

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If you're wanting to learn how to cope with life's trials, this book is an excellent tool to teach you how to do just that. Its not so much a self-help book, but more of an instruction manual on how to look at trials in a different perspective, and to graciously welcome life's opportunities to grow and learn instead of resisting them and feeling beaten up by the process.

A book you'll want to refer to often! Highly recommended! Sep 20, Homa rated it it was ok. Full of hope and excited to begin reading this book, as the title seemed promising, especially when one feels so broken at the tragic loss of a family member. The book had me realize that I am human, and accepted myself with all my flaws, because what I consider flaws are not bad, it's just being human, and being human is good.

I have negative thoughts, ugly, bad, mean, etc. But I'm not a bad person. Author goes on to explain that "we are all bozos on the bus. There is no cool crowd bus where pe Full of hope and excited to begin reading this book, as the title seemed promising, especially when one feels so broken at the tragic loss of a family member. There is no cool crowd bus where people have everything together and life is easy" Another way of saying, the grass is greener on the other side.

However, somewhere after the half-marker point, the author shares a BIG detail about her divorce. A detail I felt changes the whole introduction of the book, changes the trust and confidence I found in the author as an expert in writing such material.

After that point, she went on writing about her children, and step children - none of which I can relate to. In retrospect, I feel the author wrote this book to forgive herself and her conscience of the adultery she committed - which led to her divorce, which broke her open. She wrote the beginning of her book as though her husband and her were some horrible match after many years of marriage, and that she was struggling to keep the marriage together, having the reader infer the husband is not trying if she is struggling so much.

But in fact, he had nothing to do with it, she cheater - not him. She was battling her own thoughts of herself. I had to re-evaluate my thoughts about the book and the author. I realized the author is not handing out priceless advise, she is looking to heal herself, and maybe adulteress such as herself.

I immediately started skimming through the book at that point to the end. Copied the chapter "Before and After" which is a letter one of her students had written to her , kept it, and tossed the book to the back of my library.

Sep 08, Tiffany rated it it was amazing Shelves: One of my favorite books of all time. My dearest, Jennifer Cox, recommended this book at a particularly tough time in my life. The first time I read it, I cried pretty much the entire read. Lesser's writing is like a warm bath on a chilly day. I look forward to passing this book on to people in the future.

It helped me move forward and overcome, I mean this truly. It was a gift to read it again from an emotionally improved place. Great stuff.

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Jun 24, Carolyn Dorstek rated it it was amazing. One of the most important books in my adult life. This book has been my friend since I started reading it in mid-May.

I continue to re-read parts of it when I need encouragement facing the upheaval that my life has become. It has helped me to jump into the fray without fear. Like playing hide and seek as a child, this book knows the secrets we think we have kept really well.

Broken Open

It offers simple, honest reflections about life's situations, and allows the reader to make the most of the bleakest situa One of the most important books in my adult life. It offers simple, honest reflections about life's situations, and allows the reader to make the most of the bleakest situations. It truly honors the reader allowing space to make the choice of facing personal issues and strength for understanding and using the "Phoenix Process" to rise from the ashes of our lives and become vibrant and alive and whole.

I have asked for and received several of the suggested books as gifts and, at the moment, am struggling to make time in my life again to read them. View 1 comment. Feb 18, Laura rated it really liked it. I am currently reading this book. Although I am generally NOT into self help books, this book goes beyond that to explore the way we view the world and in times of turmoil, how we manage through. I really like the wisdom and shared stories of Elizabeth Lesser.

Aug 15, Cheryl rated it it was ok.

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser | Books

I wanted to like this book. I had reason to, it is similar to my own personal philosophy, which includes a little bit of everything. If I was forced to label myself I would call myself a Zen, Hasidic, Jesus admiring landscape worshiping mystical earth ecstatic. I know someone who has attended some retreats at her institute and w I wanted to like this book. I know someone who has attended some retreats at her institute and who thinks I would love it.

Several things rubbed me wrong, her mention of celebrity being so insincere and unnecessary being the most obvious. Secondly, she wrote extremely brief chapters, a page or two, and while I am trying to learn that, to learn how to condense and get the point across quickly, I felt it was less powerful that way.

I am not judging, she had to find her own way, but she started the book talking about how hard her divorce was, how she struggled with it, breaking up her family, but she implied that it was not her fault, when she cheated and did so spectacularly.

It was cheesy and trite and stupid. If she had not gone into detail, I would have enjoyed the book more because there were gems in it. Or maybe she is aiming for a movie of her life like eat, pray, love.

It all makes sense that way: At least a little more so. Oh well, I will not see the movie. I can appreciate her openness and insatiable beautiful curiosity, it echoes within me. Sadness occurs when the heart is stone cold and lifeless. On the contrary, there is an unbelievable amount of vitality in a broken heart. Aug 03, Anna W. I want to reread this book probably once a year for the rest of my life. download the Audiobook Download: Apple Audible downpour eMusic audiobooks.

Add to Cart. Also by Elizabeth Lesser. See all books by Elizabeth Lesser. Product Details. Inspired by Your Browsing History. Related Links Visit the Broken Open website.

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