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Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation Paperback – November 1, 2015
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—Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Sacred Contracts
“This is a wonderful and extremely moving book, by far the best memoir of loss and rebirth that I have read. Mirabai Starr has given us—in the plainest and most raw and pure form—the essence of what it means to transmute extreme suffering into new life.”
—Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activist
“Mirabai Starr’s Caravan of No Despair is a heartbreaking, raw, vulnerable, and beautifully poignant memoir. And yet it’s so much more than that. This book inspired me—as I believe it will anyone who reads it—to go deeper into my own broken pieces while cultivating greater fearlessness and compassion for myself and others in the process. This is one of the most heartfelt and truth-inspiring books I’ve ever read. Thank you, Mirabai, for this gift.”
—Chris Grosso, author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality and Everything Mind: What I’ve Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening, and the Mind-Blowing Truth of It All
“Mirabai Starr is a wonder. Nearly unique in her heart’s cradling of so many saints and adepts in her previous dozen highly regarded biographies, now, thankfully, she shares a biography of her own heart and the transitions, losses and insights, darkness and light, that so evidently brought it all to the surface. A deep bow for her generosity sharing her climb up the loose rungs of Jacob’s Ladder.”
—Stephen Levine (Who Dies, One Year to Live, and Kuan Yin) & Ondrea Levine (The Healing I Took Birth For)
“Caravan of No Despair is a stunning memoir from author, poet, and teacher Mirabai Starr that portrays her blossoming into a modern day mystic. But when her young daughter Jenny tragically dies on the day of publication of Mirabai’s first book, Dark Night of the Soul, everything she has learned about spirituality fails her. As Mirabai goes through her own dark night, she brings us deeply into her mystical surrender to grief. We transform with her as pain becomes healing. Mirabai has given us a precious compass to navigate the waters of loss with grace. Bravo!”
—Annie Kagan, bestselling author of The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death
“Of the many—I think too many—who accept the name of spiritual teacher these days, Mirabai Starr is one of the few I personally know whom I would trust with a beloved daughter or son if I had one. And to me that is saying a lot. I don't think she can lift the Sun from her purse—from her heart—whenever she wants and place it into another’s pocket (as a great saint could), but I feel God trusts her, and that many can benefit from reading this book and personally spending time with her.”
—Daniel Ladinsky, bestselling Penguin author and poet
“Caravan of No Despair has all the force and radiance of the story it tells. Mirabai Starr describes the loss of a child with unrelenting heart. Then, just as you feel that you will be lost with her in the searing pain, her grief opens a gate through which love and beauty pour out in streams of light. Beautifully written. How rare to find the words to describe such depths of being.”
—Paula D’Arcy, author of Gift of the Red Bird and Waking Up To This Day
“So deep and real. Thank you, Mirabai Starr, for letting us share your journey through the darkness of despair into the open sky of love.”
—Krishna Das, bestselling chant artist and author of Chants of a Lifetime
“It’s more of a roller coaster than a caravan, so get ready: Mirabai Starr’s gorgeous new book will leave you reeling. It’s not just the dizzying ascents and the terrifying freefalls, although both are in plentiful supply, it’s the extraordinary framework she provides as a seer, a seeker, and a pilgrim on the holiest of paths.”
—Lara Santoro, award-winning author of Mercy and The Boy
“A life-giving story with strong narrative drive and humor thrown in at exquisite moments. Fine, detailed writing. A clear-eyed journey through the grief of loss and of youth snatched away too early. Starr has created a beautiful, inspirational telling of a life that speaks to us all.”
—Natalie Goldberg, author of The True Secret of Writing
“Love is a fire. Grief is a bellows that fans it to white-hot intensity. When that fire burns out, what’s left may be ashes and desolation. Or it may be the distilled incandescence of a soul.
Mirabai Starr lives that inferno of grief and emerges annealed to a new alloy of spirit. She draws water from a well of love and compassion to temper the blazing sword of wisdom. She brings that wisdom—from saints like Saint John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila and Neem Karoli Baba—into immediate experience. Through her we see how one may barely begin to bear the unbearable. Mirabai’s memoir is poetry of the spirit, of a mother’s loss, and of the renewal of a heart’s connection beyond the body. She doesn’t paper over despair; she comes to terms with it. Caravan of No Despair is a rainbow tapestry of spiritual teachings from Christian mystics, Sufi poets, Buddhist monks, and Hindu gurus. Such teachings don’t end; they just keep on beginning.”
—Rameshwar Das, coauthor of Be Love Now and Polishing the Mirror(with Ram Dass)
“Like all great memoirs, Caravan of No Despair is a one-of-a-kind story sung in a melody that touches every soul. Mirabai’s journey carries us through Rumi’s heart of paradox, from unspeakable pain to sublime blessings, at once profoundly human and ecstatically transcendent.”
—Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yogaand Meditation—How Indian Spirituality Changed the West
“Caravan of No Despair is a shimmering offering from a heart that’s been broken open by life and death. The holiness that tears through these pages doesn’t come from a mountaintop, lofty ideas, or a meditation cushion, but instead from revealing the almost unbearable joy and pain of being wholly human. Baring her all, Mirabai gifts us with a darkly luminous love story and we are forever changed as a result.”
—Sera Beak, author of Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic’s Love Story
“This book, a little miracle, arose out of Starr’s recognition that grief, if experienced to the fullest, might open the soul up to something very, very holy. Her breathtaking story filled me with courage and joy I didn't know I had. This book will forever change the way we think not only about dying but about being alive.”
—Demetria Martinez, author of Mother Tongue
“Mirabai Starr has written a compellingly moving and heartfelt memoir of profound loss and spiritual transformation. As an inter-spiritual bridge-builder and translator of the great mystics, Mirabai brings unique and profound insights to her life’s journey, including her counterculture childhood and her daughter’s life and tragic death. A deeply revealing book that transcends pain to become an inspiration.”
—David Frenette, author of The Path of Centering Prayer
“By turns heartbreaking, lyrical, humorous, and poignant, this caravan carries not a hint of despair. Calling all mystics and seekers to get on board!”
—Sean Murphy, author of One Bird, One Stone: 108 Contemporary Zen Stories and The Time of New Weather
“An absorbing story of love and loss, Caravan of No Despair brings the depth of a mother’s grief and healing fully to life. Mirabai’s open heart and growing wisdom shine through the telling of her own story.”
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness
"From the memorable title to the memorable ending, you will be haunted, attracted, and transformed by Mirabai's integrity and message. Plus the writing itself will carry you along! Don't miss such an opportunity, such a grace, and such a ride!"
—Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation
About the Author
Mirabai Starr teaches philosophy and world religions at the University of New Mexico, and is the author of new translations of Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross and The Interior Castle and The Book of My Life by Teresa of Avila. She lives in Taos.
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The greatest spiritual teachers have always come into their authenticity through healthy doses of reluctance. Buddha wanted to know; he wanted that more than he wanted to teach. Jesus begged God to lift his burden from him. Joan of Arc wanted only to serve her country and return to her village. The Dalai Lama often reminds interviewers that he is just a man who loses his temper, yells at people and does things every day he regrets. Starr is right at home in this illustrious company. Her new book, Caravan of No Despair, consistently delivers what memoirs have such a hard time doing—presenting not just what happens, but also recreating real, suffering, sleepwalking and exhilarated human beings.
One of the world’s most sought after inter-spiritual speakers and the celebrated translator of renowned mystics such as St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen, Starr has led an inspiring, richly textured and cinematic life. Born to radical, politicized Jewish parents steeped in the 1960s antiwar and civil rights movements, buffeted by the deaths of her beloved older brother and first love, enduring the break-up of her parents, spending a girlhood of communal living in south America and New Mexico, and surviving more than a decade attached to an abusive mentor and teacher, Starr’s story would be memorable if it ended there.
But all this was only her beginning. What followed was her search for her life soul mate, her adoption of two daughters and her gradual acceptance and embrace of a life of service. That acceptance, as it does in the lives of all leaders, hinged on a signature moment or turning point. For Starr, the death of her daughter, Jenny, created that moment. As a world traveler, experimentalist and Jewish agnostic, everything Starr had learned to that point became suspect. She doubted the existence of a higher power, distrusted her meditation practice and self-help gurus and wondered if there really was any compassion or sense to life in this realm. Her dark soul-night opened and expanded and stretched on and on, breaking her down and cracking her in pieces. The tale of her endurance swim to healing and acceptance is as inspiring as the story of her destruction, and her ability to overcome or make peace with her spiritual reluctance will comfort many and may provide an epiphany for others. If anyone in film reads this or is listening, where is the movie of this journey?
There are other delights awaiting the reader. Starr is also a poet capable of creating evocative sentences like this: “Friends had gathered like strands of grass and woven a basket of waiting.”; or “Each body that walked through that door belonged to a hand that kept me from drowning.”; or “The most vexing flavor on the grief menu was bargaining.”; or “Only in Taos, I said. A channeling maître d’.” No matter the stage she is sharing in her long journey, Mirabai Starr is always exquisitely beautiful and human. She is mystical, yes; she is more than us, she is less than us, she is one of us and she knows it. I cherish my heart/soul connection with this gorgeous book, and I bow to its author. You can trust her, I know, with your physical and spiritual life.
The winter selection for our book club, I was concerned "Caravan" was yet another pretty and precious women's book. I was wrong! This book was written by a wise warrior. Brave, honest and exciting. I read all 300 pages in two days, could not put it down!
Mirabai Starr is in peak form here. Trust that her keen eyes and unflinching bravery will not bog us down in sentimentality. It was the most honest thing I've read all year. For that, more than anything else, I found myself in tears much of the book.
I highly recommend this to anyone. Book clubs take note!
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heart broken and restored.
She has spoken for all of us
for whom death has become life.