Turning Toward the Mystery: A Seeker's Journey

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9780062517456: Turning Toward the Mystery: A Seeker's Journey

In his most intimate book, the world-renowned spiritual teacher shares his inner journey of transformation and wisdom.

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"I was born a hungry ghost," is the opening line of renowned Buddhist teacher Stephen Levine's memoir Turning Toward the Mystery. By the time Levine was 2 years old he was starving to death because of a doctor's bungled attempt to treat a digestive problem in infancy. This early starvation prepared Levine for stealing candy bars at age 4, toting a gun in his teenage years, and eventually turning his hunger toward the sacred journey into the unknown--that which he calls the mystery. When the drama of Levine's life story (heroin addiction, a stint at Riker's Island penitentiary for drug possession) falls away, we are left with the universal story of human longing. In this way Levine continues to be a teacher, using his life story to speak to the constant desire that feeds addictions, materialism, envy, and self-pity, to name a few collective demons. "The more we want food, love, sex, courage, the greater the feeling of not having them," he writes. "I saw desire as an undulating nausea in the pit of the hungry ghost's belly."

Levine, who has devoted much of his life work to the care of the dying (A Year to Live, Who Dies?), teaches the path of compassion, how suffering is caused by attachment, and how pleasure is the absence of desire. Because of his leanings toward poetry and Buddhism, Levine's writing is vivid, clean, and filled with lots of white space. The layering between personal story and spiritual teaching is well separated on the page, and yet the beauty of this memoir is that they unfold together so perfectly, not unlike the petal-by-petal opening of the lotus. --Gail Hudson

About the Author:

Stephen Levine is the bestselling author of many works, including Gradual Awakening. With his wife, Ondrea, Levine has counseled terminally ill people and their loved ones for over thirty years.

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