Seeker's Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure

Seeker's Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure

3.8 10
by Elizabeth Lesser

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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… See more details below


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

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Napra ReView
It's a book for the millenium that all true seekers should read.
Arizona Daily Star
A marvelous guide for people who want to dig below the surface of life.
Los Angeles Times
There are moments of sublime clarity and depth.
Publishers Weekly
. . . blends autobiography with broader observation to offer readers a compelling, commonsense guide to a new American style of spiritual search. . . With honesty, warmth, and seasoned judgement. Lesser leads readers to the water.
New Age
An inspiring field guide.
From the Publisher
"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

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an 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.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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What People are saying about this

Steven Levine
The Seeker's Guide is a dynamic tale of the search for the true self. As one of the primary founders of growth centers in America, Elizabeth Lesser has had a profound influence on the development of the spiritual movement in this country. Follow her trail to your heart.
—authors of Who Dies?, Healing into Life and Death, and A Year to Live
Sam Keen
A comprehensive guide to what is best in the new spirituality that is delightful to read and will satisfy your mind, heart, and soul.
—author of Fire in the Belly and Hymns to an Unknown God
Julia Cameron
A lucid, provacative, and enlightening tour of the American spiritual landscape. Lesser has a storyteller's eye and a philosopher's spirit.
—author of The Artist's Way and The Vein of Gold
Michael Lerner
I've often been repelled by the flakiness and intellectual vacuity of those who claim to be presenting the world a new spirituality. So it was a delight to read Elizabeth Lesser's deep, serious, and intellectually stimulating portrayal of the range and possibilties of contemporary spiritual discourse and practice. Lesser has a remarkable capacity to highlight that which is most powerful and compelling in the revival of American spirituality. No serious intellectual could reasonably dismiss the lasting significance of the new interest in spirituality after reading Lesser's book.
—editor, Tikkun magazine, and author of The Politics of Meaning and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation
Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
In this book, Elizabeth Lesser ranges with a clear mind over a wide field of human spiritual activity–with the added dimension of a woman's heart. She helps us to utilize the transformative ingredients that are available for every person's spiritual development. The Seeker's Guide is a book to study and to keep handy near your altar. You will always find something in it to raise the ceiling of your awareness.
—coauthor of Age-ing to Sage-ing
Bernie Siegel
The great sages of the past taught us all we could ever need to know about spirituality. The problem is their followers created religion, which instead of joining us together has created more problems. Bringing spirituality into modern life is vital and this book can help you do just that. Do not wait for a life-threatening illness to awaken you. Instead, read this book, and find the revelation and transformation to begin a process of spiritual rebirth now.
—author of Love, Medicine and Miracles and Peace, Love and Healing
Rachel Naomi Remen
As the cofounder of the internationally known Omega Institute, 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, unpretentious, and simply brilliant. In The Seeker's Guide, she validates our spiritual hunger, offering us the clarity to separate what will nourish it from what will not. 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.
—author of Kitchen Table Wisdom
Joan Halifax
This beautiful book is a sensitive guide to the inner life as well as a revolutionary text on the new spirituality.
—author of Shamanic Voices and The Fruitful Darkness
Marion Woodman
As a founding member of Omega Institute, Elizabeth Lesser has known many of the leaders who have brought their spiritual insights to America over the past twenty years. Her own curiosity, discernment, and intuition have guided her in taking in what is authentically her own, and in letting go what is not for her. She shares this process in a style so honest and personal that readers are continually evaluating their own insights and saying yes or no from their own core. The Seeker's Guide is a tuning fork for where we ring true.
—author of Addiction to Perfection and Conscious Femininity, and coauthor (with Robert Bly) of The Maiden King
Phil Jackson
Those who are looking for an uncharted way of living their beliefs will find The Seeker's Guide a guiding light. Elizabeth Lesser's book defines what many have longed to see in print–a new Varieties of Religious Experience one hundred years after William James. This is a courageous book in which the author doesn't spare her own leaps of faith and dark moments of the soul, even as she encounters some great luminaries of our times. I was moved and affected–and I had a great time–reading her journey of a thousand stories that began with a girl's first halting spiritual steps. Her luminous sense of spirituality bubbles out of every deep pathway described along the way. For the seekers of the nineties and the visionaries of the next century, this book will shake your world too.
—coach of the L.A. Lakers and author Sacred Hoops
Daniel Goleman
Elizabeth Lesser offers up to a rich cornucopia of lessons for the soul in The Seeker's Guide, a warm and fascinating account of a modern pilgrimage.
—author of Emotional Intelligence
Jean Shinoda Bolen
Through her particular vantage point at the Omega Institute, Elizabeth Lesser has been an observer, participant, and evaluator of the rich smorgasbord of teachings and teachers who have had an enormous effect on the spiritual perspective and practices that are now entering the American mainstream. America has historically been known as a melting pot, and as a union of individual states. The new American spirituality of which Elizabeth Lesser writes follows in this tradition, and can be appreciated as a democracy of spiritual perspectives, a freedom to choose to follow that which has personal meaning, an egalitarian sense of valuing body, mind, and spirit, and not elevating one above another.

I appreciated Elizabeth's inclusion of details of her own spiritual journey, because she is like so many who lives and beliefs have been affected by the civil rights and women's movements, by the influx of Eastern thought and teachers, and by the need to find one's own path. To have authentic spiritual experiences woven throughout a book like this is what the new American spirituality is all about.
—author of Goddesses in Every Woman, Crossing to Avalon, and Close to the Bone

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