February 3, 2009

Book review: Return to the Sacred (Jonathan H. Ellerby, Ph.D.)

Jonathan Ellerby, Spiritual Program Director for Canyon Ranch Health Resorts, has spent most of his life not only studying a range of spiritual practices, but also using what he has learned in his own life and sharing what he knows with others.  The core of this knowledge comes down to one simple idea: while there are some very definite and concrete methods to practice spirituality, it can be done simply and without religion, and if we are to survive and thrive, not only as individuals but as a society, it must be done.  Enter his book, Return to the Sacred: Ancient Pathways to Spiritual AwakeningReturn to the Sacred’s biggest strength is that it doesn’t lapse into New Age “hippie-dippiness,” instead presenting the ideas within it in a straightforward and approachable manner.  Ellerby chooses to use personal stories and anecdotes over facts and analysis, which further strengthens his premise that spiritual exploration is an intensely personal pursuit, not one that can be quantified, standardized, and measured, regardless of how many other self-help types offer “A Better You In Three Easy Lessons.”  Ellerby does categorize the spiritual journey into 12 “Master Paths,” which fall into four larger categories of body, mind, heart, and soul, based on commonalities within spiritual cultures across time and geography, but within each of these categories and sub-categories, he encourages his reader to personalize their journey so it becomes meaningful and powerful for them, allowing for diversity of practice rather than subscribing to specific dogma.  Ellerby also suggests the avoidance of labels, and his discussion of religion vs. spirituality is particularly thought provoking (and one of my favorite parts of the book).  The book includes a list of resources at the end covering spiritual mentorship programs to yoga workshops to service-oriented organizations for those seeking to engage in social engagement. From Hay House and available at your local, independent bookstore.
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