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The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling

4.31  ·  Rating Details  ·  741 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
From the Senior Scholar-in-residence and Ambassador forthe 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
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2012)
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Angela Risner
Dec 21, 2013 Angela Risner rated it it was amazing
Finding this book was very crucial for me. For years, I've been trying to fit myself into an expected mold. My parents were born during the Great Depression. They came from very poor families, and to them, success was a job that didn't involve physical labor or coming home covered in dirt. My dad wore a suit and tie to work. That was a measure of success.

I was raised to want to work in an office. Actually, my parents wanted me to become a pharmacist, but I couldn't imagine anything more boring.
Dec 08, 2012 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
This book centers around the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text, and the concept of dharma, one's true calling in life. Cope uses the story and characters in the Gita to frame 11 different biographical chapters about famous people who have followed their dharma and serve as perfect examples of how to find one's own and why it is important to do so.

I found this book very interesting in terms of the history of the famous figures (such as Keats, Frost, and Goodall) and the study
Nov 03, 2012 Lesley rated it really liked it
I'm embarrassed to read his books in public because the titles are so cheesy, but I really enjoy his writing about yoga and psychology. In this book, Cope tells the story of the Bhagavad Gita and cites the lives of many famous and "ordinary" people to illustrate how people can live out Krishna's advice.

This book does not so much serve as a "guide," though. Its "help" comes more as a revelation... like Svadhyaya, the study of self reveals ... it's all so familiar. You know this already. You just
Feb 15, 2013 Pamela rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, although there's nothing terribly deep about it. For me it functioned more as an emotional boost, a pat on the back for having chosen an impractical pursuit that means a great deal to me over a more predictable work life. Sometimes you gotta get those props. The book's message is: You have to find your dharma (life path) and commit to it... hard to argue with, but if you're someone who has no idea what that path is, or runs into serious obstacles (like the need to put food o ...more
Dec 28, 2012 Marla rated it it was amazing
This is a feel good book about finding your inner dharma (purpose in your life, or "what lights you up.") It's practical wisdom...bring forth what lights you up and it will save you, or deny it and be unhappy. It cannot be successfully denied. It's totally accessible and doesn't require any knowledge of eastern philosophy, although it's obvious that's what he's basing the book on. The best part of this book for me, was it's interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, which is extensive. I reread the Bh ...more
Jun 22, 2016 Saiisha rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!
It was recommended by someone on my book club ( and my interest was piqued by their mention that it was based on the Bhagavad Gita. Although the book itself wasn't about the Gita, Stephen Cope used the Gita as the framework to showcase 11 great lives, including my favorites - Thoreau and Gandhi. And also a few others I knew a little about (Jane Goodall, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, John Keats and Beethoven), and a few I didn't know much ab
Jan 20, 2013 Kris rated it it was amazing
This book was an incredible read. Cope has gone great lengths to share his research of influential people of our present and past and how they found and lived their true callings.

This is a book I will read again and know each time I will find new insight into myself.
Jennifer Louden
Sep 18, 2012 Jennifer Louden rated it it was amazing
half way through Stephen's brilliant new book and I know I will a) be quoting it and using it extensively in my own teaching and b) that it is changing how I see my own life. The timing, for me, to be reading this feels like a tap from God.
Dec 30, 2015 Deanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was given this book as a graduation gift, being that it's a pivotal time in my life and I am especially susceptible to the idea of having a purpose. Although the author said that when he was 18 he didn't understand the importance of such teachings of the Gita, I have always felt a lingering sense of a lack of dharma, although I did not know that word until now. In fact, most of my insecurities can be explained by this. So, though I am unsure of how much of Cope's advice I will take to heart, I ...more
Sep 19, 2012 Catherine rated it really liked it
If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

The Great Work of Your Life opens with these lines from the Gnostic Gospels of Thomas Author Stephen Cope then skillfully relates “what is within you” to the Hindu concept of dharma. However, as seen by the intermingling of these two concepts, this is not a book just for followers of Eastern traditions but is relevant to people of a
Jan 28, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: coaching
Dharma is our vocation or calling and it gives us the "blue print" for being our true self. In The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna to find his purpose and the importance of living to his full potential. In The Great Work of Your Life, the author uses the lessons of The Bhagavad Gita to explain the importance of dharma in our modern life. He gives detailed examples of how both great and ordinary people have used the Path of Inaction-in-Action (the four pillars) to discover their dharma and ...more
Kristy McCaffrey
Aug 08, 2013 Kristy McCaffrey rated it it was amazing
Stephen Cope uses teachings from the Bhagavad Gita to explore the idea of dharma. This can be defined as one's true calling, life path, or more simply, utilizing and accepting the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed. Through individual examples he showcases how getting close to your dharma isn't enough--such a state can cause suffering for yourself and those around you. It's every person's obligation to fulfill their purpose in life, not just for themselves but for humanity in general. You mus ...more
Antonio Farias
Feb 17, 2013 Antonio Farias rated it it was amazing
A worthwhile meditation of the arc between desperation and fulfillment. Moving toward a rebalanced approach to faith that is not seared in guilt but on the premise of love, renewal, and forgiveness, Stephen Cope does a wonderful job of taking you through the Bhagavad Gita and the meaning of dharma as vocation and scared duty. His conceptualization of the crossroads and the danger that inaction causes struck a cord at this point in my personal journey, my writing, and a sense of obligation to the ...more
Shin Yu
Nov 15, 2012 Shin Yu rated it it was amazing
Cope focuses his project on the timeless lessons of the Bhagavad Gita concerning the individual's dharmic calling. Using the biographies of Harriet Tubman, Beethoven, John Keats, Ghandi, Susan B Anthony, as well as everyday people (clergy, healers, educators) - Cope explores the notion of embracing and choosing one's dharmic work through cultivating deep practice, letting go of the fruits of one's work, and the connection to the divine as manifested through one's own practice. This book bears so ...more
Apr 20, 2013 Marian rated it really liked it
I got a lot from this book... I underlined many paragraphs, added stars and comments. Enjoyed reading about the "dharmas" of Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, Thoreau, and others. Quite a few "ah ha" moments, truths well-stated, all that good stuff. Made me want to read the Bhagavad Gita(sp) and Gandhi's autobiography. But still, I can't quite give it a 5th star. I think in some parts I found it a bit precious. And he kind of glossed over how you discover your own dharma... and of course, that is a highly ...more
Silvia Hayakawa
Feb 20, 2013 Silvia Hayakawa rated it really liked it
Good book, love Stephen Cope. Anything that is an examination of the Gita would interest me. Great inspirational true life stories. With that said, I feel like he could have gone even deeper. Not just to listen to the call of our dharma in the world but the inner dharma we are all called to do as well. Our dharma of going into the scary battle of seeing the ego do it's work (especially in those difficult situations of life and difficult people) and switching from it's autopilot reactions to more ...more
Bob Jones
Apr 10, 2014 Bob Jones rated it it was amazing
The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope is subtitled, A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling. This is a spiritual book that interprets the Bhagavad Gita and Hindu philosophy in a way to which a Westerner can easily relate. As a Christian Minister I had to submit a "call" statement to be ordained. All of us have a call or dharma to live out. This book was as helpful to me in retirement as it would be to a young person deciding what life direction they should follow. That direction might ...more
Leah Walker
May 28, 2013 Leah Walker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leah-s-favorites
Cope did a wonderful job answering the questions that have scrolled through my mind lately. I was surprised to find my questions addressed in a digital book, I downloaded at random. I loved the bios he included to illustrate each step of achieving your life's great work. I also enjoyed understanding the Bhagavad Gita.

Reading this, I now understand why Churchill went from zero to hero. (See Churchill review).

I will probably buy this book. I will definitely read some Cope's other books.
Apr 29, 2013 Holly rated it it was amazing
Really, really enjoyed reading this book. It is EXACTLY my cup of tea! Using as background, the Bhagavad Gita, Cope explores the lives of great men and women and their call to live their dharma. From Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman to Beethoven and Keats to Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman, the author takes us on a tour of great lives through history to demonstrate different aspects of a life committed to a greater cause. Incredibly interesting and inspiring!
Xavier Guillaume
Jun 29, 2016 Xavier Guillaume rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spiritualists, Philosophers, Yogists, Questioners of Life
I was in my local bookstore looking for a book on leadership. I found this book instead. Perhaps The Great Work of Your Life does not teach you how to be a better leader of other people, but it does teach you how to be a better leader of your life, and that probably was what I was looking for, without even realizing it.

The Great Work of Your Life is written by Stephen Cope. He is the Senior Scholar-in-Residence and Ambassador for the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. He lives a life of spiritu
May 15, 2016 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Perhaps it was a case of the right book at the right time, but this one really resonated with me. The author uses the story of the Bhagavad Gita to guide a conversation about finding your soul work - that work that fires you up and feeds your soul. He also examines the lives of famous people and some of his friends and colleagues to provide examples of some of his learning.

Perhaps one of the most profound statements for me was the suggestion that if you are not in the right place at this moment
Dec 18, 2015 Brandi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
I read this book earlier in the year when I was going through a mini identity crisis and it was exactly what I needed. Stephen Cope is first and foremost, a wonderful story teller (I've read other books of his and enjoyed them very much) and this did not read like a self help book. Or even a help book. It was stories about people that made you think and then he'd subtly point you towards how their stories could be meaningful or provide direction in your life.

In fact, if I had to use one word to
Subhash Jawahrani
Mar 30, 2015 Subhash Jawahrani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Subhash by: Stephanie Snyder
Believe it or not, this book is required reading by my yoga teacher for Yoga Teacher Training. Cope has done a great job of making the teaching and key tenants of Bhagvad Gita, for western audience by sharing the key tenants with stories who lived their life based on Gita and who w all can related to: think Beethoven and Gandhi.

The central theme of the book and Bhavgad Gita is Dharma, who we all called purpose or True calling that each and every human being has on earth. I also learned a lot ab
Dec 03, 2012 Melanie rated it really liked it
Inspiring but, in my opinion, not as good as his first two books. There's less of the Gita here and more of snippets of life stories. I liked it and had some interesting insights. I thought The Wisdom of Yoga was more powerful.
Dianne Lange
Feb 20, 2013 Dianne Lange rated it really liked it
"We work first because we have to work. Then because we want to work. Then because we love to work. Then the work simply does us. Difficult at the beginning. Inevitable at the end."
Jan 07, 2015 Adi rated it really liked it
I enjoyed and am inspired by the short biographies of the individuals and wonderful exemplars in this book. From this point of view it is a great, entertaining read filled with gems of teachings and interesting revelations from the integration of the Bhagavad Gita with the lives of the individuals. However, since it is mostly the view of extraordinary exemplars, I am missing the biography of the average Joe-the-plumber and how he found and lived his Dharma. Or maybe it should have been even more ...more
Feb 16, 2016 Bruce rated it really liked it
Study this book.
"Each of us must have one domain, one small place on the globe where we can fully meet life—where we can meet it with every gift we have. One small place where, through testing ourselves, we can know the nature of life, and ultimately know ourselves. This domain, this one place that is uniquely ours, is our work in the world. Our work in the world is for each of us the axis mundi, the immovable spot—the one place where we really have the opportunity to wake up."
"“We can do no gre
Ludmila Kovaříková
Jul 26, 2015 Ludmila Kovaříková rated it really liked it
Člověk si říká, nakolik jsou životopisy osobností zabarveny úhlem pohledu (dharma - poslání). Ke konci už začala být kniha úmorná, stále o tomtéž. Ale pomohla mi si uvědomit, že strach, neúspěch (Gándhí), deprese, sebevražedné myšlenky (Beethoven) jsou součástí naší cesty.

Příjemné čtení, lehká angličtina, i když název je hrozný. Každý člověk má nějaké "vocation" - práci, ze které se mu rozzáří oči. Autor vychází z Bhagavadgíty a vypráví o osudech různých lidí a jejich posláních. Zajímavý byl pří
Deb Korch
Apr 03, 2013 Deb Korch rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book.
Oct 13, 2015 Eleni rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book. The only thing that slowed me down was writing quotes and notes from it into my journal. There are so many gems throughout - so much so that each chapter feels like it could stand alone. Cope weaves together teachings from the Bhagavad Gita (and other sacred texts) with the stories of people whose lives have been dedicated to their calling to show us what it looks like to find and live one's calling. It is beautifully written, very accessible and a life changer. I plan to r ...more
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Old Souls Book Club: The Great Work of Your Life, by Stephen Cope 1 9 Jun 22, 2016 02:19PM  
  • Kripalu Yoga: A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat
  • Yoga for Transformation: Ancient Teachings and Practices for Healing the Body, Mind,and Heart
  • 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice
  • The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work
  • Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life
  • Insight Yoga
  • Shakti Mantras: Tapping into the Great Goddess Energy Within
  • Yoga for Anxiety: Meditations and Practices for Calming the Body and Mind
  • Meditation for the Love of It: Enjoying Your Own Deepest Experience
  • Yoga for Depression: A Compassionate Guide to Relieve Suffering Through Yoga
  • Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Calm Your Mind and Heal Your Chronic Pain
  • The Path of the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga
  • Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing
  • Healthy Happy Sexy: Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women
  • Downward Dog, Upward Fog
  • How the Light Gets in: Writing as a Spiritual Practice
  • Yoga Tradition (REV Ed)
  • Art of Attention: Book One
Stephen Cope is the director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living, the largest yoga research institute in the Western world—with a team of scientists affiliated with major medical schools on the East coast, primarily Harvard Medical School. He has been for many years the senior scholar in residence at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, and is the author of fou ...more
More about Stephen Cope...

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“longing for our idealized images of life separates us from our true selves and from our true callings.” 2 likes
“Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself.” 2 likes
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