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

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,919 ratings  ·  230 reviews
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. B
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Bantam
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Angela Risner
Dec 21, 2013 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.
Nov 09, 2012 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
Dec 20, 2012 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
Feb 15, 2013 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
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what an amazing read this was!

This book was recommended to me during a time where I am actually at a crossroads in my life by a yoga teacher I greatly admire. I didn't really realise I was at this crossroads until I read the book.

The power of Stephen Cope's writing is that he takes his own exploration as a starting point to guide you as the reader on a journey of some of the most incredible dharma stories. He blends great philosophical concepts, interpretations of old scriptures in a modern
Nov 03, 2012 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
Jennifer Louden
Sep 09, 2012 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. ...more
Jan 20, 2013 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.
Jun 22, 2016 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
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cried reading most of it. My heart was vibrating from all the truth.

A dear friend gifted me this book and I don't think I'll ever be able to thank her enough. I got this book during a period of intense transition and searching for what comes next.

I can't recommend this book enough for people going through transition and on the soul searching path.
Dianne Lange
Feb 20, 2013 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." ...more
Silvia Hayakawa
Feb 20, 2013 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
Deb in UT
I purchased this book from Amazon after hearing Brooke Castillo mention it on one of her 2016 podcasts. It's not exactly what I expected, but it was still helpful to me. It's full of examples of people in their process of finding their "true calling" more than a list of steps any individual could take. Even so, there is definitely power in example.

The guiding aspect of the book is embedded in the stories that show "the four pillars of dharma." Cope goes through the pillars one by one. Throughout
Linda Haggerty
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Most books I’ve read on spiritual awakening have focused on how to “Be” in this Life. I felt like I got excellent input and perspective about “Being” but felt a bit daunted by the question “but what do I do to become this enlightened (“woke”) Being?” I am delighted to have found this book by Stephen Cope on what to Do in this Life in order to achieve our highest Being. The foundation of Cope’s explanation of Doing is the story of Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Layered on top of this fo ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended by my yoga instructor, I initially began reading to follow along with concepts she was talking about during the discussion sessions of our class. I really enjoyed the examples of Keats, Jane Goodall, Robert Frost, Beethoven, Harriet Tubman and Mahatma Gandhi along with examples of more ordinary folks finding and following their Dharmic path. So much thought-provoking advice, I will likely re-read and transcribe notes. I liked the generalized intro to the Bhagavad Gita, as well, as I ...more
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book took me a long time to read - not because it was dense or boring - but I had to sit with each chapter, reflect as I went. It was a morning devotional of sorts. It has left me with hope and a belief in dharma. An awareness of the need to let go of the self. It was a big step on a journey I didn’t know I was on.
Judy Rancourt
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Will continue to read this...
Jake Lyda
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing companion to the Bhagavad Gita. It’ll definitely be Gita-Great Works, Gita-Great Works every quarter year for the rest of my life.
Lauren Moore
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a deeply inspiring book. Its one I will read over and over again. Highly recommend!
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply wonderful!!
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this book easy to read and I learned some great points from it!
John Veon
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this at the right time in my life. If I'd read it ten years earlier it wouldn't have had as much meaning. Maybe it will be the same for you? ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I was excited to begin reading this book for a couple of reasons. I had just finished reading the Bhagavad Gita again, and Cope's previous works have been pretty decent reads. Also, seeing the mostly positive reviews here, had sparked my interest. It is a nice read. However, in my view the book falls short of it's potential for a few reasons.

The tie-in to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita is done well, however, save for the one story of Brian, the rest of the lives of the individuals in the boo
Brian Katz
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing book. Stephen Cope is an excellent writer and researcher. He told the story of the Bhagavad Gita by giving examples of famous people and how they exhibited characteristics and behaviors that are contained in the teachings of this 2,000 year old text. Having read other books on meditation and the contemplative ways of Yogis, this book really hit home.

I learned about dharma and it’s four pillars (look to your dharma, do it full out, let go of the fruits, and turn it over to Go
Jan 16, 2013 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
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide to Books
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
Antonio Farias
Feb 07, 2013 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
Kristy McCaffrey
Feb 10, 2013 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
Shin Yu
Nov 15, 2012 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
Feb 19, 2013 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
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Old Souls Book Club: The Great Work of Your Life, by Stephen Cope 1 15 Jun 22, 2016 02:19PM  

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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

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