"Provides a guided tour of your own personal awakening...powerful, powerful writing. I loved it."
-Wayne Dyer, author of You'll See It When You Believe it
In this enlightening book, renowned author and mind-body therapist Joan Borysenko reveals the power of spiritual optimism: a philosophy that sees life crises as opportunities for personal growth and spiritual transformation. Drawing on her own experiences-and those of her therapy patients-she shows how meditation, prayer, and heightened awareness can illuminate the "dark night of the soul."
This is when the soul is on fire, fueled by despair. Yet this same soul burns with an inner flame that can consume negativity, allowing a new soul to be born. But the terrain is dark and most of us need a little light to see our way.
Fire in the Soul is that light. Its practical wisdom will inspire you to shed self-blame, heal childhood wounds, gain strength from adversity, and tap into the love that is everywhere.
An Alternate Selection of Book-of-the-Month Club(r)
"With eloquence and elegance, Dr. Joan Borysenko leads us gently to a place of infinite creativity, infinite bliss, complete self-sufficiency, and pure potentiality. Fire in the Soul will change you and your world forever."
-Deepak Chopra, M.D., author of Unconditional Life, Quantum Healing, and Perfect Healing
Difficult and tragic events, stresses Borysenko ( Minding the Body, Mending the Mind ), need not ruin our lives. They often bear the seeds of transformational healing and spiritual awakening--if we are willing to receive them and shed old beliefs. In a collection that draws on anecdotes, therapeutic practice, ancient parables, myths and Bible stories, Borysenko guides the reader through "dark nights when our souls are on fire" and toward optimism, affirming the conviction that pain can be a catalyst for growth. Inspirational verse, quotations and biblical passages comprise a final chapter, "Night Lights," and a list of resources is also provided. Practical and contemplative, and giving psychology and spirituality due concern, this book should be a welcome addition to New Age psychology.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Grand Central Publishing
July 01, 1994
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Excerpt from Fire in the Soul by Joan Borysenko
Why Do Bad Things
The only thing that we can know is that we know nothing and that is the highest flight of human wisdom.
I had almost finished the first draft of this chapter late in June 1990 when a tragedy led our family to ask the age-old question: "Why? If there is any love in this universe, why do bad things happen?"
My husband, Myrin, and I were sound asleep when we awakened with a start at 5:30 in the morning, the way a mother does when her baby begins to cry. Although our "baby," Andrei, was a young man of seventeen, we awakened instantly at his cries of distress. We ran down the hall and burst into his room along with our older son, Justin. Andrei was holding his chest as if his heart had been torn out. He was screaming, "Why? Why? No! No!" as a torrent of tears ran from his sleepy blue eyes down tanned cheeks that had suddenly gone chalk white. Andrei's anguish was so great that it seemed an accusation of life, a challenge to God.
Andrei had just received the phone call I've always feared the most. The one that would tell me that a loved one had died suddenly. His best friend, Mat, had died earlier that night when his car careened out of control on a dangerous, dark curve made slippery by the summer rains. Although an expert team of paramedics helicoptered him to our regional trauma center, Mat died before he even reached the hospital. Andrei's anguished "why?" was repeated by most of the teenagers who gathered at our home to grieve during the first few days after the tragedy. Why Mat? Why the one who never had a critical word for anyone, the one who was so grateful for life, so accepting of the uniqueness and potential of everyone he met? "Why the very best of us?" they asked.
At odds with Andrei and the others, one young woman admonished, "Don't even ask that question. It doesn't have an answer that we could possibly understand." This teenager in white sneakers and red socks had put her finger directly on the pulse of the sacred mystery. We cannot know. But for human beings the need to know goes hand in hand with restructuring our world after tragedy.
Tragedy brings forth the need to create meaning--to tell new stories--that can reweave the frayed ends of life into a coherent whole. Our ability to tell these stories is positively linked with recovery, according to the research of UCLA-based psychologist Shelley Taylor. Studying people whose lives had been disrupted by misfortunes that ranged from rape to life-threatening illness, Dr. Taylor found that those who readjusted well incorporated three coping strategies into their recovery: a search for meaning in the experience, an attempt to gain mastery over the event in particular and life in general, and a recouping of self-esteem after they had suffered some loss or setback.
Dr. Taylor was awed by the remarkable resilience of human nature and the deep reservoir of strength that tragedy taps. She observed that, rather than folding in times of crisis, most people have the innate capacity to recover from monumental problems, readjusting to life not only as well as, but even better than, before the tragedy occurred. And the meaning we ascribe to these dark nights of the soul is central to how we emerge from them.
What does it mean to lose a loved one, to get cancer, to be raped at knifepoint, to be molested as a child? If our answers create negative, fearful stories, then recovery from trauma is impeded. Research indicates that people who believe that they are helpless victims are more likely to remain anxious, depressed and angry than people who retain a feeling of control. A helpless, blaming attitude has in turn been linked to decreased immune function, increased heart disease and susceptibility to a whole panoply of stress-related disorders.
Equally paralyzing is self-blame, the pessimistic triad of feelings that University of Pennsylvania psychologist Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman sums up as "It's all my fault, I mess up everything I do, and it's the story of my life." Pessimism compromises immune function, makes it difficult to learn from our experiences and leaves us depressed and powerless. If the stories we weave from our tragedies are more optimistic ("I don't know why this happened, but I can deal with it," or "Someday I'll see the value in this situation," or "I'm already learning from this experience"), then both physical and mental health are optimized.
During the seven years that I directed a mind/body clinical program at Boston's Beth Israel and New England Deaconess hospitals, I had the chance to hear hundreds of "Why me?" stories.