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The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling Hardcover – September 25, 2012

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Frequently Bought Together

The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling + Yoga and the Quest for the True Self + The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055380751X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553807516
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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

About 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.

More About the Author

Stephen Cope is a psychotherapist, senior Kripalu yoga teacher, and author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. He is currently Senior Scholar in Residence at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

For me, this book was/is life changing.
Mary M
I'm taking this on vacation with me and reading it again as it's the type of book you can open and find a lovely nugget of wisdom on each and every page.
ChildLight Yoga
This book is well written, and easy to follow.
California Bookworm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By David John on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I confess that I don't know the Bhagavad Gita, and I haven't thought very often about my dharma, but a friend recommended Stephen Cope's book because she thought that I would find the connections that Cope makes to the lives of writers interesting - and she was right. I appreciate very much the insights that Cope provides about ways that we can consider shaping our lives, but I appreciate even more strongly his understanding of the literature of Frost,Whitman, and Keats and of the music of Beethoven and of the way that their lives and works inform his topic. Cope's writing style is very welcoming, and his explanations are so clear that one can digest them easily and begin the process of incorporating them into one's own life with confidence. It is a pleasure to read a book that is intended for people who want to learn about themselves and about other meaningful subjects as well.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Stacie Campbell on January 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I recently finished this book and I do admit that it is inspirational and makes a lot of good points. Definately worthwhile reading.

However, I was disappointed that none of Mr. Cope's examples of people who found their dharma included people with real family or financial obligations. Most of us cannot walk in the woods or near a pond for a couple years (while our mother brings us cookies) and just write poetry and reflect on nature. We must also support and care for our families. I would very much like to find inspiration from people who were able to meet their obligations and still find a way to find their dharma tat does not make anyone else suffer.

I became an engineer solely for the reason that it was a secure way to provide for my family. For a long time my dharma was simply just that, to support and care for my family. Being able to do so made me very happy. Now that my children are grown or gone (one died in a car accident) I understand that life is very short and I want to grow as a person before it's my time to go as well. Yet I still have an obligation to my husband and don't want him to feel like he has to bear the complete burden of maintaining our life just so I can "find myself". It wouldn't be fair to him.

I would have also liked more examples of people who didn't know what their calling was. Most of Mr. Cope's examples were people that always knew they wanted to be a poet or a writer or had a very strong drive to do something very specific. I, on the other hand, am not so clear. I have lots of interests, many of which I obsess over,,,,, for a very brief period of time. Then another interest catches my eye. Perhaps the journey is part of the process and the mere act of looking is teaching me what I need to know. Still, it would be nice to find something that makes me feel like I'm not just treading water waiting out the second half of my life.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Margot Datz on September 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As not only a reader, but the author of a personal growth book myself, it is my great pleasure to review this book. Cope's new book is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read in regards to connecting with one's purpose and gifts. Through examples both historic and more intimate, he has illuminated the nature of gifts placed within us, and how we may identify and access them. Compassionate, yet challenging, Cope calls us forth to fulfill our life path, or dharma, and I for one am deeply enthused to approach my life with renewed zeal and intensity. I highly recommend this book, and am buying many copies for others in my life who seek to live their lives with meaning and purpose.
Margot Datz, author of "A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids"
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Diane Cameron on September 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I love this book. And it does feel like the book I have been waiting for. There is practical wisdom and insight on every page. I always wanted to read the Bhagavad Gita but never could quite make it there maybe I was intimidated?--but I'd heard of the wisdom. And now I know it's true. I've read Cope's other books about Yoga and he carries that wisdom much further. This book carried me into the Gita and helped me see how it can work in my life and Cope shares fabulous stories of famous people and well, not so famous, who illustrate the concepts of the Gita. What I really love about this is that it's not like so many other self-help books that pump you up and then...then nothing. This one sticks and stays. And now I'm learning about the Gita. Do check out this book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By KarenG on September 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It has been a long time since a book has left me with such a profound impact as did Stephen Cope's latest, The Great Work of Your Life. It is one of those beautifully-written books that is both a sheer delight to read in the moment, and one that lingers all day, urging a deeper examination of our time on earth. Cope weaves together multiple stories of friends and historical characters into an examination of what it takes for each of us to discover our reason for being. The central framework is the Bhagavad Gita, which is presented like an action movie and philosophical guide all in one, but the central character is really ourselves. I felt validated, comforted, challenged and inspired by the book. I recommend it to anyone interested in deepening and expanding their human potential.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ellek9999 on November 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read all of Stephen Cope's books and find him to be one of the most intelligent authors on the contemplative scene today. He's a clear thinker and he writes beautifully, and that is rare in my opinion. I really think, though, that this is his best book. Its wisdom is really stunning and I know that I'll read it over and over again. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with the meaning and purpose of his or her life. There is a lot here for you that you simply won't find anywhere else!
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