The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling

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Overview

From the director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at the famed Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health comes an incisive and inspiring meditation on living the life you were born to live.
 
In this fast-paced age, the often overwhelming realities of daily life may leave you feeling uncertain about how to realize your life’s true purpose—what spiritual teachers call dharma. But yoga master Stephen Cope says that in order to have a ...
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The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling

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Overview

From the director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at the famed Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health comes an incisive and inspiring meditation on living the life you were born to live.
 
In this fast-paced age, the often overwhelming realities of daily life may leave you feeling uncertain about how to realize your life’s true purpose—what spiritual teachers call dharma. But yoga master Stephen Cope says that in order to have a fulfilling life you must, in fact, discover the deep purpose hidden at the very core of your self. In The Great Work of Your Life, Cope describes the process of unlocking the unique possibility harbored within every human soul. The secret, he asserts, can be found in the pages of a two-thousand-year-old spiritual classic called the Bhagavad Gita—an ancient allegory about the path to dharma, told through a timeless dialogue between the fabled archer, Arjuna, and his divine mentor, Krishna.
 
Cope takes readers on a step-by-step tour of this revered tale, and in order to make it relevant to contemporary readers, he highlights well-known Western lives that embody its central principles—including such luminaries as Jane Goodall, whose life trajectory shows us the power of honoring The Gift; Walt Whitman, who listened for the call of the times; Susan B. Anthony, whose example demonstrates the power of focused energy; John Keats, who was able to let his desire give birth to aspiration; and Harriet Tubman, whose life was nothing if not a lesson in learning to walk by faith. This essential guide also includes everyday stories about following the path to dharma, which illustrate the astonishingly contemporary relevance and practicality of this classic yogic story.
 
If you’re feeling lost in your own life’s journey, The Great Work of Your Life may provide you with answers to the questions you most urgently need addressed—and may help you to find and to embrace your true calling.

Advance praise for The Great Work of Your Life
 
“Stephen Cope is a national treasure. He is an incredibly rare combination of brilliant spiritual thinker, elegant prose stylist, and empathic, grounded teacher. The dharma stories threaded throughout The Great Work of Your Life are moving and instructive. Keep a pen and paper handy as you read this remarkable book: It’s like an owner’s manual for the soul.”—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
 
“I am moved and inspired by The Great Work of Your Life, the clarity and beauty of the lives lived in it, and the timeless dharma it teaches.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cope (Yoga and the Quest for the True Self), Director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, Mass., layers biographical teaching stories between the lessons offered by what might be the greatest teaching story of all: the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna teaches Arjuna about finding and manifesting your life's divine purpose, or dharma. Cope, while examining the life struggles faced by such visionaries as Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman, and Mohandas Gandhi, encourages readers to reject the modern idea that "we can be anyone we want to be" and instead to discover and fully pursue their inner self's calling. Cope's voice is gentle and understanding, but also urgent in expressing this idea from the Gospel of Thomas: "If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you." The historical portraits make interesting reading in their own rightâ?”Cope is a skilled storytellerâ?”but in the service of illustrating a well-organized thesis about achieving true fulfillment, they offer a rich source of contemplation and inspiration. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
The director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health inquires into the dharma--vocation or calling--of a selection of both illustrious and ordinary individuals. "Yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation," writes Cope. Turning to the Bhagavad Gita for guidance, the author realized the difficulty in penetrating even the first piece of advice: "Discern, name, and then embrace your own dharma." For some, their dharma is a ready and apparent gift, but others struggle long and hard to hear that piece of inner music, that passion. So Cope illustrates this fact of life through example, drawing smooth portraits of important historical characters and twining them with glimpses into the lives of everyday people he knows. For example, he weds Henry David Thoreau's courage to follow his muse in front of an entire town's disapprobation with the story of a psychiatric nurse with a magical caregiving hand who needed help in recognizing and using her talent. Cope also tells the stories of Robert Frost finding a voice word by word, Walt Whitman's wartime nursing, "a calling for which he didn't even know he was searching," and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, breaking the rules to understand the connection between seeing and painting. With ringing clarity, Cope gets his main point across: that seeking is all and that dharma will allow you to bear life's suffering. "You only get yourself when you lose yourself to some great work," he writes. An engaging exploration into living fully.
From the Publisher
Praise for The Great Work of Your Life

“Cope layers biographical teaching stories between the lessons offered by what might be the greatest teaching story of all: the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna teaches Arjuna about finding and manifesting your life's divine purpose, or dharma. Cope, while examining the life struggles faced by such visionaries as Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman, and Mohandas Gandhi, encourages readers to reject the modern idea that 'we can be anyone we want to be' and instead to discover and fully pursue their inner self's calling….The historical portraits make interesting reading in their own right—Cope is a skilled storyteller—but in the service of illustrating a well-organized thesis about achieving true fulfillment, they offer a rich source of contemplation and inspiration.” —Publisher’s Weekly

"The director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health inquires into the dharma--vocation or calling--of a selection of both illustrious and ordinary individuals. 'Yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation,' writes Cope. Turning to the Bhagavad Gita for guidance, the author realized the difficulty in penetrating even the first piece of advice: 'Discern, name, and then embrace your own dharma.' For some, their dharma is a ready and apparent gift, but others struggle long and hard to hear that piece of inner music, that passion. So Cope illustrates this fact of life through example, drawing smooth portraits of important historical characters and twining them with glimpses into the lives of everyday people he knows. For example, he weds Henry David Thoreau’s courage to follow his muse in front of an entire town’s disapprobation with the story of a psychiatric nurse with a magical caregiving hand who needed help in recognizing and using her talent. Cope also tells the stories of Robert Frost finding a voice word by word, Walt Whitman’s wartime nursing, 'a calling for which he didn’t even know he was searching,' and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot breaking the rules to understand the connection between seeing and painting. With ringing clarity, Cope gets his main point across: that seeking is all and that dharma will allow you to bear life’s suffering. 'You only get yourself when you lose yourself to some great work,' he writes. An engaging exploration into living fully."—Kirkus

“You’ll find inspiration in these pages. You’ll gain a better appreciation of divine guidance and perhaps even understand how you might better hear it in your own life. With this masterwork of a book, Stephen Cope shows us once again that great yoga writing need not be esoteric, complicated, or full of Sanskrit to point the way to liberation.”—Yoga Journal

“Stephen Cope is a national treasure. He is an incredibly rare combination of brilliant spiritual thinker, elegant prose stylist, and empathic, grounded teacher. The dharma stories threaded throughout The Great Work of Your Life are moving and instructive. Keep a pen and paper handy as you read this remarkable book: It’s like an owner’s manual for the soul.”—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
 
“I am moved and inspired by The Great Work of Your Life, the clarity and beauty of the lives lived in it, and the timeless dharma it teaches.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
 
“I was spellbound and inspired by this book from beginning to end. I thought, How is he going to bring together the message of the Gita, the enduringly compelling lives of so many amazing people, the quest for passionate expression in the lives of his friends—how will he keep so many balls juggling at the same time without dropping any—and end by making it all relevant to me right now in my life? And he has! One rarely thinks of a dharma book as a page-turner, but this one is indeed that. This is a great read and a great revitalizing breath of fresh air.”—Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job
 
“Stephen Cope has taken great Western figures—poets, painters, freedom fighters, a composer—and shows how the dharma of fierce determination played through their lives and how it can inspire all of us today. Tears came to my eyes as I read how Walt Whitman found himself. This is an important book—West and East informing each other. It was a joy to read.”—Natalie Goldberg, author of Old Friend from Far Away

“Consistently well-written and get-up-and-go inspirational, this book should go right to the top of your reading list… this valuable book should help you bring 'the great work of your own life' into sharper focus.” –Yoga International

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553807516
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/25/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 82,837
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Cope is the director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living—the largest yoga research institute in the Western world. He has been for many years the Senior Scholar in Residence at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, where he writes and teaches about the relationship between the Eastern contemplative traditions and Western philosophy and psychology. He is the author of three previous books, including the bestselling Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.
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Table of Contents

Introduction xv

Part I Krishna's Counsel on the Field of Battle 1

One The Four Pillars of Dharma 7

Part II The First Pillar: "Look to your Dharma" 19

Two Trust in the Gift Jane Goodall 25

Three Think of the Small as the Large Henry David Thoreau 39

Four Listen for the Call of the Times Walt Whitman 52

Part III The Second Pillar: "Do it Full Out!" 65

Five Find out Who you are and do it on Purpose Robert Frost 72

Six Unify! Susan B. Anthony 89

Seven Practice Deliberately Camille Corot 106

Part IV The Third Pillar: "Let Go of the Fruits" 125

Eight Let Desire Give Birth to Aspiration John Keats 134

Nine When Difficulties Arise, See Them as Dharma Marion Woodman 157

Ten Turn the Wound into Light Ludswig van Beethoven 179

Part V The Fourth Pillar: "Turn it Over to God" 201

Eleven Walk by Faith Harriet Tubman 213

Twelve Take Yourself to Zero Mohandas K. Gandhi 232

Epilogue 250

Notes 257

Permissions 271

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 10, 2013

    Stephen Cope uses teachings from the Bhagavad Gita to explore th

    Stephen Cope uses teachings from the Bhagavad Gita to explore the idea of dharma. This can be defined as one's true calling, life path, or more simply, utilizing and accepting the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed. Through individual examples he showcases how getting close to your dharma isn't enough--such a state can cause suffering for yourself and those around you. It's every person's obligation to fulfill their purpose in life, not just for themselves but for humanity in general. You must hit your dharma head on. This is a wonderful book that will make you think about where you are in your own life. Mr. Cope offers insights into how others have found their dharma--Jane Goodall, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Susan B. Anthony, Camille Corot, John Keats, Marion Woodman, Beethoven, Harriet Tubman and Mohandas Ghandi. This book is a gem and I highly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2013

    An excellent work about the Bhagavad Gita and how it applies to real life.

    I've read Stephen's other books prior to this and greatly anticipated this new work. The wait was worth it. This book, done in his accessible and conversational style is perhaps his best work. He has "translated" the Bhagavad Gita into language that is really understandable and most importantly to me, practical and applicable to my life. Books don't give you answers, but this book will certainly help you to start paying attention to what is important to you and hopefully help you realize you already have the answers. Thought provoking and well written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This book has stories of remarkable people, who will inspire you to do better. It's refelective, poignant, and thoughtful. Hopefully, it will move you a little closer to your calling in life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2012

    Another 'Great work' from Stephen Cope!

    Written in his signature conversational style, Stepen Cope once again shares personal insights as well as those of others of friends and mentors in this approachable exploration of the ancient spiritual classic, The Bhagavad Gita. I highly recommend this to yoginis, yogis and anyone else on a spiritual enrichment path. And, I can't wait to explore this teaching with Stephen himself at his workshop at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in January 2013, where the author is the Director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 20, 2013

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    Posted July 19, 2013

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