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Excerpted from The New American Spirituality: A Seeker's Guide by Elizabeth Lesser. Copyright 1999 by Elizabeth Lesser. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"By the time we make our spiritual searching a conscious endeavor, we have acquired layers of stubborn misconceptions about ourselves and the nature of life"

Elizabeth Lesser, 
The New American Spirituality
, Part One

Like every other form of human knowledge, religious psychology is built upon experience. It needs fact. And since the circumstances are such that the facts occur only at the deepest level of men's consciousness, this branch of knowledge cannot develop until individuals supply the necessary "confessions." It is entirely with this sort of documentary purpose in mind that I have tried to pin down, in what follows, the reasons for my faith. . . . I in no way believe that I am better or more important than any other man: It simply happens that for a number of accidental reasons my own case is significant, and on that ground it is worth recording.

--Teilhard de Chardin

Writing about the spiritual search without writing about oneself is like writing about a road trip and never mentioning the car. One's self--or the sum total of one's body, mind, and heart--is our vehicle on the spiritual path. Parts of it can break down and need repair; it can function with ease and balance; or it can sit in the garage for years, ignored and rusting. Direct stories of breakdown, healing, and patience are the most helpful teaching tools we can access as we progress on the spiritual journey.

Therefore, I begin with my own story, and refer throughout this book to my struggles and awakenings, my teachers and the wisdom they have shown me. As the great Christian mystic Teilhard de Chardin suggests above, my own story is no more important than any other person's. But because it is a story of someone who has been searching her whole life--stumbling along the spiritual path, finding grace, making mistakes, and discovering joy--it has the potential to describe a particularly relevant way of seeking to Americans, here and now. Each bump and every blessing have informed what I have learned and adopted as my own. It is my hope that by revealing all the textures of the road I have traveled, I may help you gain faith and find meaning on your own journey.

Indeed, there is an unbroken golden thread that weaves its way through human history, stitching together the many wise voices that have pointed seekers toward the simple spiritual truth. Yet while the timeless message of spirituality may be simple, the searching is not. Why? Because human beings are complex. By the time we make our spiritual searching a conscious endeavor, we have acquired layers of stubborn misconceptions about ourselves and the nature of life. Not only must we follow the golden thread toward spiritual freedom, but we must also unravel the garden-variety twine that is wrapped tightly around our hearts and minds.

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