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Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  7,588 ratings  ·  471 reviews
In the more than twenty-five years since she co-founded Omega Institute - now the world's largest center for spiritual retreat and personal growth -Elizabeth Lesser has been an intimate witness to the ways in which people weather change and transition. In a beautifully crafted blend of moving stories, humorous insights, practical guidance, and personal memoir, she offers t ...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published June 14th 2005 by Villard (first published May 4th 2004)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,588 ratings  ·  471 reviews

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Apr 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE WHO CAN READ!
Recommended to Adam by: GOD/THE UNIVERSE
Oh my God!!! This book changed my life!!! Hell it MAY have saved it. I was homeless in New York and going through a really rough time in my life and this book was constantly by my side as my companion, my friend, my pillow (sometimes), my hope, my inspiration and maybe even my savior. I cannot say enough about it. Maybe it was just me and my extrordinary circumstances that made this book such an amazing thing for me but i definitely think it was more than that. I am not the same person i was bef ...more
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An alright self-help book about how we can use difficult times to grow. Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute known for spiritual retreat and personal growth, shares her own story of loss as well as the journeys of those she has encountered through her work. She mixes theory with memoir with metaphor to address difficult experiences and the potential pockets of revitalization these types of trials can bring.

I wanted a little more definition from this book. While Lesser took a nuanc
Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I borrowed this from a friend who tends to be what I consider over the top wacky spiritual. Watching her move through life, easily make friends and enjoy what I so often take for granted is amazing and makes me a little jealous all the while resisting and occasionally mocking.

Thankfully this book was believable and down to earth which allowed my over logical mentality to connect to the writing. Lesser writes beautifully about her experiences (not quite as well when making generalities). The quo
Julie Weaver
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you're wanting to learn how to cope with life's trials, this book is an excellent tool to teach you how to do just that. Its not so much a self-help book, but more of an instruction manual on how to look at trials in a different perspective, and to graciously welcome life's opportunities to grow and learn instead of resisting them and feeling beaten up by the process. A book you'll want to refer to often! Highly recommended! ...more
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
EVERYONE who has gone through a personal crisis whether it be death, depression, divorce or just a simple personal evolution should read this book. And, everyone else should read it too. Elizabeth Lesser speaks to psychological and spiritual awakening in an understandable, lighthearted voice.
Jan 15, 2013 rated it liked it
I realize that this book is out of character with the sorts of things that I normally read. I was led to this book by both a coworker's recommendation and by my personal struggles of this past year. Last March, an old friend of mine committed suicide. A month later, my first real boyfriend broke up with me. Together, these two events have dictated how I feel in my daily experience: when I'm with friends, or on a date with someone new, or even just spending time alone with my thoughts, my mind wi ...more
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic, spiritual
One of my favorite books of all time. My dearest, Jennifer Cox, recommended this book at a particularly tough time in my life. The first time I read it, I cried pretty much the entire read. Lesser's writing is like a warm bath on a chilly day. I look forward to passing this book on to people in the future. It helped me move forward and overcome, I mean this truly. It was a gift to read it again from an emotionally improved place. Great stuff. ...more
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
Full of hope and excited to begin reading this book, as the title seemed promising, especially when one feels so broken at the tragic loss of a family member. The book had me realize that I am human, and accepted myself with all my flaws, because what I consider flaws are not bad, it's just being human, and being human is good. I have negative thoughts, ugly, bad, mean, etc. But I'm not a bad person. Author goes on to explain that "we are all bozos on the bus. There is no cool crowd bus where pe ...more
Carolyn Dorstek
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the most important books in my adult life. This book has been my friend since I started reading it in mid-May. I continue to re-read parts of it when I need encouragement facing the upheaval that my life has become. It has helped me to jump into the fray without fear. Like playing hide and seek as a child, this book knows the secrets we think we have kept really well. It offers simple, honest reflections about life's situations, and allows the reader to make the most of the bleakest situa ...more
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am currently reading this book. Although I am generally NOT into self help books, this book goes beyond that to explore the way we view the world and in times of turmoil, how we manage through. I really like the wisdom and shared stories of Elizabeth Lesser
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
INCREDIBLE. If I could personally hand out a copy of this book to every single person living in this pandemic right now I would.

READ this book. Buy a copy, borrow a copy, get the audiobook, the e-book -I don't care how you read it, just READ IT.
Kristen Freiburger
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My dear friend insisted I read this. She shared her copy with me and I’m so incredibly grateful she did. The cover should have a warning “proceed with caution”. If you are looking for a summer beach read, something light and fluffy this is not it. If you’re ready to do some serious unpacking and resorting in your life then this is the book for you. Don’t even crack open the cover if you cannot devote the time and space it justly deserves. Outstanding body of work.
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. I had reason to, it is similar to my own personal philosophy, which includes a little bit of everything. If I was forced to label myself I would call myself a Zen, Hasidic, Jesus admiring landscape worshiping mystical earth ecstatic. The scope of this author’s spiritual forays and experiments is staggering, I think she has tried everything but voodoo, and with some fairly powerful people/celebrities. I know someone who has attended some retreats at her institute and w ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
Look, if you want to bone the poncho wearing douche in the beret while married to someone else then just bone him and own it. Your life, your problem. But when dress it up in "Shaman Lover" rhetoric and invoke Dante in some bizarre attempt to make it seem like betraying yourself and your family is an optimal and necessary life event in order to become your true self then it becomes all of our problem. I hate to break it to you lady but some of us knew ourselves well enough not to marry the wrong ...more
Anna W.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to reread this book probably once a year for the rest of my life. There are few books that have influenced my perspective in the way that this one has (see below), but I hope to find at least 10 more before I reach self actualization (ha, ha, that's a joke!). But truly, this book is a diamond among shards of coal, and I really do want to buy one for everyone with whom I am friends--and fourteen apiece for those with whom I am enemies. (OK, so I don't have enemies, but if I did they'd tota ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
The sections of this book that I loved were generally other people's words and experiences. I felt that Elizabeth Lesser's philosophy was too New Age, make excuses for people's bad actions -- including her own -- by attributing them to some cosmic experience.

I don't for a second believe that God decided people needed to die on an airplane. That was the decision of man. I don't believe God would hurt young children by encouraging an affair as the only way to find your true self. That's people. P
Kevin Orth
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I feel I've accomplised a lot in this life. At the same time I acknowledge I've experienced an immense amout of emotional distress and excrusiating anxiety. Through all this I know my life is richer because I chhose to stay in the game and engaged. This book totally reinforces this perspective and provides tools, insights, direction, and inspiration to stay with it see the richness in life, persevering, and continuing to see glimpses of beauty in life's trials, lessons, and wins. ...more
Lori Gilbert
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could give this book to everyone. Beautifully written. I cried and I was comforted throughout. Lesser shares her experiences, and the experiences of others, concerning how to make it through tough times and transform your self should you choose the growth process when difficult things occur in your life. I'm not doing it justice here... ...more
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read self help books on a frequent basis, and this is definitely one of my favorites. It's hard to describe exactly why I liked it so much. I only know that I found myself unable to put it down once I started. ...more
Tara Hall
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
this is an essential book for anyone dealing with the pain of loss in a small or profound way. it is reassuring, heartbreaking, poignant, and never preachy. i will probably read it again when i am feeling particularly lost or at a big crossroads in life...i highly recommend it!
Jan 12, 2009 is currently reading it
To make a long story short....A patient got me to read this book......!
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Relying on her own personal experiences, the author helps the reader negotiate and even thrive through the tough times in life. While the book won’t fix the problems in your life, it will help you to learn through them. The uplifting thoughts are fine, but some parts of the book felt a bit shallow to me, and yes, a bit New Age.

My advice to readers is to take what good points you can from the book, because she does make valid points, and ignore the annoying bits.
Jan Wollet
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was my first read by this author, I had never heard of her until my friend Kris gave rave reviews! Lesser is a beautiful writer, I loved how she weaved in other people’s stories. Life is such an up and down journey with so many trials. Why some have more painful seasons then others always breaks my heart.
Oct 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help, memoir, 2020
This is a totally decent book, about how living through difficult events can help us grow as people. I love the message, but found the organization of the book a little difficult to follow. The author tells her story through relaying her own, personal experiences, and the stories of people who've attended retreats from her. Some of them are very moving; others felt forced. I felt like there were too many "other people" stories compared to "author stories" for me. ...more
Marnie Stetson
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those best in 10 years books, one of the best books I've read in ten years, the kind of book that I want to begin rereading the moment I finished it. It is rich and full of wisdom and written in the most beautiful language, rich in metaphors that make challenging ideas accessible. ...more
Kaila Gallacher
Jun 19, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angie Klink
Dec 19, 2012 rated it liked it
I actually read this book twice and learned new things the second time. I loved the first half, then the second half lost me. But the first pages really helped me with my own life events of being "broken open." I highly recommend it to anyone who has a major life difficulty, shift, or revelation. One of my favorite lines: "Your lesson in this lifetime is to find and trust your own precious voice." Another: "Things may get worse before they get better, but they'll only get better if you let them ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Some insightful thoughts and guidance on how to accept the things that happen to us, good and bad and how to deal with changes and transitions. The author does go into some detail of her own life, maybe a little too much...but guess it is good to know how she and some of her other friends she highlights within the book, dealt with life's challenges to inspire the reader.

Instead of fighting change, believe that it is the way it is meant to be and use your energy not to fight the current but to op
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2014
Good. I skipped the chapters on childbirth and parenthood. I wish she had used a phrase other than "Shaman Lover" but accepted it as her thing. Essentially the point of the book is to talk about learning to allow yourself the freedom to follow your path. It's easy to get caught up in the paths of others - and necessary, sometimes - but ultimately, staying on someone else's path too long is too high a price to pay. She clearly makes the case that being joined with a partner in life does not mean ...more
Mary Ann
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books, I've ever read. Lesser does a great job of exemplifying that EVERYONE goes through very difficult times no matter how we all appear on the surface. She believes these difficulties are meant as a wake up call to look inside ourselves and do the work to align our life choices with our inner spirit or souls. We can either choose to go back to sleep or do the work which will bring us to happier, more fulfilling lives. If you are going through a difficult period it prov ...more
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Old Souls Book Club: The Inevitability of Change 1 7 Mar 29, 2017 10:00AM  
Very enlightening discovery :-) 3 30 Mar 31, 2009 05:16AM  

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98 likes · 16 comments
“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” 114 likes
“What will matter is the good we did, not the good we expected others to do.” 42 likes
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