Elizabeth Lesser in conversation with Isabel Allende
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Elizabeth Lesser’s newest book Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes reveals how humanity has outgrown its origin tales and hero myths, and empowers women to trust their instincts, find their voice, and tell new guiding stories.
Elizabeth is a bestselling author and the cofounder of Omega Institute, the renowned conference and retreat center located in Rhinebeck, New York. Elizabeth’s first book, The Seeker’s Guide, chronicles her years at Omega and distills lessons learned into a potent guide for growth and healing. Her New York Times bestselling book, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, has sold more than 300,000 copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Her Marrow: Love, Loss and What Matters Most is a memoir about Elizabeth and her younger sister, Maggie, and the process they went through when Elizabeth was the donor for Maggie’s bone marrow transplant.
Elizabeth cofounded Omega Institute in 1977—a time when a variety of fresh ideas were sprouting in American culture. Since then, the institute has been at the forefront of holistic education, offering workshops and trainings in: integrative medicine, prevention, nutrition, and the mind/body connection; meditation and yoga; cross-cultural arts and creativity; ecumenical spirituality; and social change movements like women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability. Elizabeth is also the cofounder of Omega’s Women’s Leadership Center, which grew out of the popular Women & Power conference series featuring women leaders, activists, authors and artists from around the world. Each year more than 30,000 people participate in Omega’s programs on its campus in Rhinebeck, New York and at urban and travel sites, and more than a million people visit its website for online learning.
A student of the Sufi master, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan for many years, Elizabeth has also studied with spiritual teachers, healers, psychologists, and philosophers from other traditions. In 2008 she helped Oprah Winfrey produce a ten-week, online seminar based on Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. The webinar was viewed by more than 8 million people worldwide. She was a frequent host on Oprah’s Soul Series, a weekly radio show on Sirius/XM, and a guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday television show. In 2011, she gave a popular TED talk called “Take The Other to Lunch,” a call for civility and understanding as we negotiate our differences as human beings.
Elizabeth attended Barnard College, where she studied literature, and San Francisco State University, where she received a teaching degree. In 2011 she received an honorary doctorate from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, in Palo Alto, California. Early in her career she was a lay midwife and birth educator.
Today, besides writing and her work at Omega Institute, she lends her time to social and environmental causes, and is an avid walker, cook, gardener, friend, mother, grandmother, and homebody. She and her husband live in New York’s Hudson River Valley.
Isabel Allende—novelist, feminist, and philanthropist—is one of the most widely-read authors in the world, having sold more than 74 million books. In addition to her work as a writer, Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes. In 1996, following the death of her daughter Paula, she established a charitable foundation in her honor, which has awarded grants to more than 100 nonprofits worldwide, delivering life-changing care to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. More than 8 million have watched her TED Talks on leading a passionate life.
“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.”
—Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow .
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