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Stretching Lessons: The Daring That Starts from Within

Overview

Stretching Lessons, the final volume of Sue Bender's Plain and Simple trilogy, is written with all the clarity, honesty, and insight that made Plain and Simple a phenomenal New York Times bestseller. Stretching Lessons is a book about the risks we take to grow spiritually and the ways we can stretch ourselves to grow beyond our self-imposed limitations.

In Plain and Simple Sue Bender shared the wisdom she learned living with the Amish. With Everyday Sacred she shared her stories...

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San Francisco, California 2001 Hard cover FIRST PRINTING STATED, FIRST PRINTING New in new dust jacket. DUST JACKET IS PROTECTED IN MYLAR COVER. 227p.; Includes Illustrations. ... Orders are processed 7 days a week. We value your satisfaction and our feedback! Thanks. == 143 == Read more Show Less

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Stretching Lessons

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Overview

Stretching Lessons, the final volume of Sue Bender's Plain and Simple trilogy, is written with all the clarity, honesty, and insight that made Plain and Simple a phenomenal New York Times bestseller. Stretching Lessons is a book about the risks we take to grow spiritually and the ways we can stretch ourselves to grow beyond our self-imposed limitations.

In Plain and Simple Sue Bender shared the wisdom she learned living with the Amish. With Everyday Sacred she shared her stories about finding the sacred in everyday life and living peacefully and simply in our hectic world. Now, in Stretching Lessons, her journey grows even more intimate. With her graceful storytelling and charming illustrations, Sue looks inward to discover the spirit within each of us that whispers to be heard. By listening to the wisdom of the body, she follows the urgent call we all have to become as big in spirit as we truly are. Using the metaphor of stretching to overcome our doubts and the restricted visions of our own possibilities, this book -- her most profound work to date -- offers a new way for us to stretch to our fullest spiritual self.

Sue Bender remains a pioneer on the path of the spirit, and Stretching Lessons offers some of her most rigorous and personal explorations. Through Sue's humble and honest grappling with her own frailties and struggles, we discover the larger life lessons that help us realize the potential that lies within us.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This final volume of Sue Bender’s Plain and Simple trilogy aims to inspire readers to go beyond their self-imposed limitations. Bender found that “like a hermit crab that had outgrown its shell, I needed to stretch out of this exhausting way of conducting my life. Perhaps within each of us there is a need to stretch. Together we can stretch -- and dare to be as big as we really are.”
Library Journal
Bender, author of Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish, as well as Everyday Sacred, has written a new account of her continued efforts at spiritual growth. While this book is not so rooted in exceptional experiences as its two predecessors, Bender is undoubtedly a writer of charm and persuasion, and she pursues the theme of spiritual renewal (stretching) with sweet, calmly written anecdotes and insights. Recommended; likely to be popular where Bender's other books have found an audience, or where there is a strong audience for women's spirituality. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062516824
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Sue Bender is the author of Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish (HarperSanFrancisco). The book was a New York Times bestseller. A fascination with Amish quilts led Sue to live with the Amish in their seemingly timeless world, a landscape of immense inner quiet. This privilege, rarely bestowed upon outsiders, taught her about simplicity and commitment and the contentment that comes from accepting who you are. In this inspiring book, Bender shares the lessons she learned while in the presence of the Amish people.

In Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home (HarperSanFrancisco: now in its sixth printing), Bender speaks to our longing to make each day truly count. She chronicles her struggle to bring the joyful wisdom and simplicity she experienced in her sojourn with the Amish back to her hectic, too-much-to-do days at home. Bender discovers for herself, and in the process shows us, that small miracles can be found everywhere'in our homes, in our daily activities and, hardest to see, in ourselves.

Profiles and interviews with Ms. Bender, as well as book excerpts have been published in countless national publications including Reader's Digest, The Washington Post, Ladies' Home Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Utne Reader, and W Magazine. She has also appeared as a guest on dozens of radio and television shows.

Born in New York City, Sue Bender received her BA from Simmons College and her MA from the Harvard University School of Education. She taught high school in New York and English at the Berlitz School in Switzerland. She later earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of California at Berkeley. During her active years as a family therapist, Bender was founder and Director of CHOICE: The Institute of the Middle Years. In addition to being an author and former therapist, Sue Bender is a ceramic artist and much sought after lecturer nationwide. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband Richard, and is the mother of two grown sons.

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Read an Excerpt

Beginning

Stretching

Spending too much time hunched over the computer, trying to write, I decided to sign up for a stretching class. "Just Stretch" it was called. It would be healthy, I thought, and I was prepared to be a good and earnest student and work hard, as I usually do. Instead, I heard a miraculously flexible instructor, Nancy, say:

"PRACTICE ENJOYING. DON'T PRACTICE STRUGGLING."

The suggestion was startling, revolutionary, and sweet: "Pain doesn't have to be your teacher."

"Unlearn the habit of trying," she said after we began to stretch. "It's not about trying -- it's about allowing."

But trying is my middle name, I wanted to shout. How do I learn allowing?

Back at my desk after class, I wrote Nancy's words in large bold letters with lots of * * * * * next to each one. Though there was nothing to show on the outside, even the possibility of doing what she suggested made me feel calm inside. All I could think was, "I hope this class never ends!"

I felt like a person who'd been too long in the desert, hungry and thirsty, suddenly offered delicious, unfamiliar nectar. Nancy's last instruction rings in my ears:

"Listen to the whispers."

Struggle

Could I quiet down my own noise to hear the soft whispers from within? What happened next was a shriek, not a whisper.

"Talent is doing what comes naturally," a friend announced.

"What do you think comes naturally to you?" she asked me. The answer came quickly and with great certainty:

"STRUGGLE! I'm an expert at STRUGGLING."

The swiftness and clarity of my response made me laugh. But it wasn't funny. My old, familiar voice of judgment chimed in: "Haven't you learned anything? Aren't you wiser?"

I am wiser. And I am still struggling.

Have good things grown out of my exhausting habit of struggling? Absolutely. I've written two books using struggle as my method. But after seventeen years of this single-minded obsession with writing, I still didn't think of myself as a writer.

Working this way only confirmed an old belief of mine: good things will come to me, but I will have to work hard and work all the time to make them happen. I wondered if I also believed I had to struggle in order to earn the right be happy.

There's a difference between hard work and unnecessary suffering.

If I were composing an ad for a relationship magazine and deciding to really tell the truth about myself, I would say:

Expert at struggle, longing for ease. Signed: EAGER.

I'm sixty-six years old and I want to learn about ease. Even writing the word ease or saying it out loud has a magical effect on me. The expression on my face softens, my shoulders drop two inches, and I'm able to take a full and deep breath.

"I want to learn about ease," I announced to my wise friend Mitzi, with a determined ring in my voice. "I'm going to use my natural talent for struggle to learn how not to struggle." Sometimes, too earnest in my search for answers, I forget to laugh at myself: My struggle toward ease.

Mitzi told me about a time, many years ago, when she was taking a dance class in college. The teacher asked the students to imagine themselves holding a heavy ball and then lifting it over their heads. Mitzi was very busy trying to lift the heavy ball, never succeeding at getting it more than three inches above the ground, only stopping her labors for a moment when she heard the group laughing.

She looked up and saw all the students with their balls over their heads, watching her tugging at her invisible ball. She had succeeded at creating the heaviest ball.

"I don't think you always have to suffer in order to do good work," Mitzi said. "After all, I was the one who made my ball too heavy. The task hadn't been difficult. I created my own struggle."

She turned to me and asked: "Could you begin to imagine a release from the struggle? A gentler way to change?" Could I find a release that feels good and doesn't require so much hard work?

Looking at release on the page, I see ease tucked in.

Today, Valentine's Day, a card arrived with a handmade heart and, in a friend's beautiful handwriting, a reminder from Rilke:

Be patient
toward all that is unsolved in your heart.

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