For the rest of this summer, Saturday posts on the blog will feature the seven books that I consider the foundational texts of my creatively organized life. This week, let me introduce you to The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope.
What’s it about?
From the Senior Scholar-in-residence and Ambassador for the famed Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health comes an incisive and inspiring meditation on living the life you were born to live.
In this fast-paced age, the often overwhelming realities of daily life may leave you feeling uncertain about how to realize your life’s true purpose—what spiritual teachers call dharma. But yoga master Stephen Cope says that in order to have a fulfilling life you must, in fact, discover the deep purpose hidden at the very core of your self. In The Great Work of Your Life, Cope describes the process of unlocking the unique possibility harbored within every human soul. The secret, he asserts, can be found in the pages of a two-thousand-year-old spiritual classic called the Bhagavad Gita—an ancient allegory about the path to dharma, told through a timeless dialogue between the fabled archer, Arjuna, and his divine mentor, Krishna.
Cope takes readers on a step-by-step tour of this revered tale, and in order to make it relevant to contemporary readers, he highlights well-known Western lives that embody its central principles—including such luminaries as Jane Goodall, whose life trajectory shows us the power of honoring The Gift; Walt Whitman, who listened for the call of the times; Susan B. Anthony, whose example demonstrates the power of focused energy; John Keats, who was able to let his desire give birth to aspiration; and Harriet Tubman, whose life was nothing if not a lesson in learning to walk by faith. This essential guide also includes everyday stories about following the path to dharma, which illustrate the astonishingly contemporary relevance and practicality of this classic yogic story.
If you’re feeling lost in your own life’s journey, The Great Work of Your Life may provide you with answers to the questions you most urgently need addressed—and may help you to find and to embrace your true calling.
Why read it?
Because you can’t be anyone, Arjuna. You can only be the person you’re meant to be.
I’ve read and re-read this book a number of times over the last two, three years. Each time I read it, I engage in argument–er, dialogue–with the author. Who is a bit of his generation. And whose life experience is very much influenced by his childlessness. And, his queerness notwithstanding, his maleness. But. Each time I read it, I get something out of it, and I believe so will you.
If you don’t find your dharma–the great work of your life (which, by the way, does not have to be GREAT the way we understand great in this time of fame-worship and grandiosity–great really just means true and meaningful and important to YOU)–you will make yourself the work of your life. And what a waste that is.
This, actually, I think is the biggest insight of The Great Work of Your Life, and it’s almost tucked away in-between “meatier” revelations and discussions.
Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life is one of the resources I draw upon in my Organized Creative workshop and guide. For more information, pop over to mjanecolette.com/SECRETS.