Author: Jack Kornfield
Hardcover, 314 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication date: June 2000
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This book seeks to address a question important to anyone seriously following a spiritual path: after those moments of enlightenment, of transcendent wonder, then what? How does that fit into day to day life?
In approaching this question, Kornfield comes primarily from a Buddhist perspective, but makes it a point to include anecdotes from people following various paths, such as Judaism, Sufism, Hinduism, and Christianity.
The book is organized into four sections: Preparation for Ecstasy, The Gates of Awakening, No Enlightened Retirement, and Awakening in the Laundry. Within this progression, he provides myths from different traditions, particularly Baba Yaga who makes several appearances, as well as the anecdotes mentioned above. This provides a basis for comparison and contrast between the ways various paths lead one to moments of ecstasy or awakening and then bring whatever is found there back to daily life.
The book’s greatest strength is in its presentation of challenges anyone may face in integrating spiritual discoveries into their life. From the workplace to family dynamics, most major classes of challenges are addressed, and candidly. This is a welcome respite in a book market often laden with rosy predictions of utopian existence if only we would just [fill in the blank with fad du jour].
Its greatest weakness is that, in the attempt to make it as accessible as possible to people of all paths, sometimes the point of any given chapter or section seems to get buried under an avalanche of anecdotes. Also, there does not seem to be a substantial difference between the two last sections of the book, and it is unclear why they are not simply a single, if longer, grouping of chapters. With that in mind, it is probably a good idea to read this book with periodic breaks to consider the overall pattern and progression so as to keep some sense of where it is heading.
Despite these drawbacks, I feel this book is well worth the read. It has definitely earned a spot on my "frequently used spiritual reference" shelf, with sections flagged for those days the ecstasy is lost somewhere in the laundry basket.
Reviewed by Diane Verrochi (aka Firefly)