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on May 26, 2004
Don't let the Publisher's Weekly review stop you from buying this wonderful book. The idea is not that we MUST embrace our evils in order to grow, but that we can use our times of depression,anxiety, or pain to transform us into more open people. I spotted it in Barnes and Noble the other day, bought it, and haven't been able to put it down since. Lesser calls this process of transformation "The Phoenix Process." She beautifully illustrates how difficult times really can help us grow by giving us the story of her first marriage and how the pain she endured during it made her better afterward. She also includes stories of others who have gone through their own struggles in life. Broken Open is well written, and interesting from the first page to the last. The stories in it are truly amazing and inspirational. I reccomend this book to everyone!
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on December 17, 2004
When I had to place my partner of eighteen years in assisted- living this summer,I felt such sorrow, guilt and despair that I barely functioned in my professional job. I would cry for hours, letting the phone ring when I couldn't compose myself enough to speak. At only 56, my partner had a massive stroke, followed by two more. By January of this year, she was showing all the signs of dementia. When I knew she could not live with me any more, I was heart-broken and tortured by guilt. A friend invitated me to visit her, and I noticed the title of a book laying on my friend's bedside table,"Broken Open". That really described me.
I began to read it, and I spent much of my visit finishing it!
Suddenly I knew I would eventually move through all this awfulness and out the other side.
Lesser's image of the Phoenix rising from the ashes resonated with me, for ashes was an apt metaphor for my life then.
So I began to follow the path Lesser lays out for the reader. She combines the use of emotional and spiritual growth tools that can lead toward healing and growth.
I was not able to feel the Phoenix in me when I opened these pages the first time. But after many readings of this gentle and sometimes humorous book, I'm on my way to owning such strength. I read many of the other books Lesser recommends to the reader. I also prayed, meditated, and kept going to therapy. But this book started the whole miraculous passage toward recovery.
Elizabeth Lesser, with her poetic and supportive writing, held my hand, week after week. Her words created a virtual hologram that held me when I cried, and patted me softly as I raged.
Lesser's loving mission for this book must have been to help the reader see how she is feeling normal fear and pain that comes with crisis. Lesser acknowledges the unbearable and out-of-control nature of the crisis and loss experience. She helps the reader grow in confidence that she will come through it all, alive and sane... like almost all of us do.
I just read her book 3 months ago, and have also now read her book "A Seeker's Guide", another excellent, beautifully- written guide to spiritual growth.
So I haven't yet risen from the ashes of my burnt-out self. But Lesser's book has given me the courage to keep on facing reality, being present with my feelings, and meditating as if my life depended on it. Thanks, Elizabeth.
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on January 3, 2014
So many people love this book, and in many ways I did too. I've struggled to allow New Age therapies in - but Elizabeth Lesser has found a voice and writing style that is instantly relatable. From divorce to death, she has a wealth of wisdom to share about the trials in life's ever-changing landscape. Her words are poetic, compassionate, and poignant. The stories she shares from her life and those that she observed from the Omega Institute inspire those of us who think we are alone in our problems. As they say, "sharing is caring," so it's helpful to read her share the irony that "the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we [are] meant to be."

Of the six sections (I.The Call of the Soul; II. The Phoenix Process; III. The Shaman Lover; IV. Children; V. Birth and Death; VI. River of Change) the greatest for me was The Phoenix Process. Through a combination of meditation, psychotheraphy, and prayer Lesser has developed a guide and toolbox of practices that help us "transform terror into revelations" in a believable and down-to-earth way. I've used psychotherapy before to heal heartbreak and depression, but I never trusted the power of prayer or dedicated the time necessary to meditation. I feel ready to do that now!

Along this same thought vein, I feel that readers of this book would also really enjoy the new release Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic's Love Story, and a lesser-known book called Impossible Love: Or Why the Heart Must Go Wrong.
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on May 13, 2004
With Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser has written a book that is more than capable of changing ones outlook on life. She explores the ways we can use the hardships we face in life to become better people. Through her own "breaking open" story and the true stories of others, she masterfully weaves a web of spiritual and emotional wisdom, showing how times of pain and strife can awaken us to new ways of living more meaningful lives. I'll never look at an emotional problem the same way again. The imagery that Elizabeth Lesser creates in this majestic work of literature is some of the best I have ever experienced. Not only is Broken Open emotionally educational, it is also interesting and entertaining. From the first chapter, you will be drawn into this book, only to emerge later on with a completely different outlook on the pain and strife of your daily life. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in having a more meaningful life, and anyone who likes to read amazing stories.
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VINE VOICEon December 25, 2005
It is one thing to espouse spiritual or philisophical teachings. It is another thing to offer a humanistic understanding of what it means to seek, grow, evolve and endure until we can each transform. I found myself lulled with the voice of the writer and my head kept nodding because I understood the journey. I find that empathetic witnessing is a great teacher for me, so hearing the story of others creates a wider canvas for me to see things on. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has the gift for introspection and perspective. If you are looking for a "how to be a better person" manual, you're not going to find that in any book. If your life is your onw manual on how to strive to change, grow and break open... this book with sooth, uplift and inspire you.
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on June 6, 2006
Not a self-help book--thank the Lord! Rather, "Broken Open" is a book to help the soul of the self. "Broken Open" understands profoundly that the nature of life is change and constant transition. Elizabeth Lesser's theme is a call to make a choice: How will we relate to life's constant climbs and dives?

The book is divided into 6 sections: I.The Call of the Soul; II. The Phoenix Process; III. The Shaman Lover; IV. Children; V. Birth and Death; VI. River of Change.

I love her quotations at the chapter headings and use of poetry as in her chapter on "Crooked Hearts" when she quotes W. H. Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening." She comments: "A heart made crooked through loss and change is a heart that can love the world and its less than perfect people."

"Broken Open" is a book that can be read first quickly, for the joy or it, and then more slowly later, for pondering and soaking in. I found her "Meditation for Practicing Dying" (p. 233) fit perfectly into a Unitarian Service I led on "Memento Mori: Dying and Living, Moment by Moment" and one I'll benefit from using in my daily practice.

"Broken Open" is a good friend and mentor for all us sliding through our changes. As the verse she quotes from "Beauty and the Beast" sings--it is "bittersweet and strange/finding you can change."

--Janet Grace Riehl, author of Sightlines: A Poet's Diary
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I think this book, Broken Open, is definitely a great book to read for spiritual growth. I respect the author having the courage in bringing her personal past experience to teach us how to break open and to blossom. It is simply wonderful to read other individuals' Phoenix process (transformation). Most importantly, it allowed me to understand I am not the only one going through some drastic changes in life. Sometimes, we all just need to have that extra support system to realize we are not the only ones going through challenges in life. This book simply has the effect to provide me that extra support that I need so much in order to grow.

I also appreciate how the author sections the stories, with sections presenting personal stories around different topics such as relationship, birth, death and life changes. The book taught me how to "break open" than to "break down" and suffer. It is a beautiful book to recommend.
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on July 5, 2004
If you haven't yet been "broken open" this book can help get you started. And it can do so in the most pleasurable, poignant way. Reading it is as good as hanging out with a really smart and funny close friend who's had a lot of amazing experiences in her life. Most important, someone who's been willing to learn, learn, learn from them all, and is now without the slightest hesitation sharing it all with you. Who can resist that?
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on March 3, 2006
Elizabeth Lesser has managed to gather some of the most profound stories about the essence of being alive. It is in the context of death and trauma, that our deepest understanding for consciousness can be born. Why else do we experience these difficult times on earth, if not for our awakening? Lesser's book is a powerful and accessible support for this awareness. I just gave a copy to a mother whose 18 year old daughter was killed in a car accident, at the one year anniversary. I can't loan my copy out as too many passages are underlined, that I want to refer to when needed. This is a book on my short list of most important books I've read.
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on January 2, 2009
Rarely has a book provided me with such guidance, wisdom, and insight. I want to buy this book for my children and all my friends, because in this little gem, one will find the answers that we all struggle with concerning suffering and the 'why's' of life. I hated for this book to end and do not plan to put it up on a shelf but to read it many times over. If you are struggling with painful issues or grappling with the larger questions of your life, then there is only one book to read: Broken Open.
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