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Record Type: Review   ID: 99

Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber

Wilber, Ken

 This book stunned me. It is a remarkable account by and about two remarkable people and their five years together, from their first meeting/recognition of being soulmates to Treya’s union with God and Ken’s rebirth, if such is possible to one so experientially as well as intellectually steeped in the life of the spirit. Grace and Grit is many things: a handbook for both cancer patients and caretaker, an exploration of the techniques of the world’s spiritual traditions applied, definitely in this case, in "life and death" situations. Both tell their story—recorded at the time in Treya’s case, in her journals or letters, so it also serves as a dual autobiography/biography. (I cannot imagine why she is not listed as coauthor.) Both examine the ins and outs and pros and cons of several cancer treatments, traditional and nontraditional, intellectually and literally in the flesh. In particular, they criticize the New Age adage that one necessarily gets cancer because one has "something eating away at you inside." I appreciated the inside view of Ken Wilber as a human being, having heretofore known him only as the leading transpersonal theorist and a Westerner writing at the cutting edge from and about the life of the spirit, combining high intellect and intense practice. The "grace and grit" of the title are the words used to typify Treya, and surely they do, but they apply also to Wilber. Both felt justifiably sorry for themselves and each other at one point. Here they had each found the person meant for them not only in this life but through the ages. And before they even could marry she was diagnosed with cancer. In the course of it, Treya found her woman self, and was enriched and revived by the creativity of doing as a spin-off of being. She found her vocation, but gradually had to give it up. In one sense, Ken’s world opened up more deeply and inwardly through his love for her. But then she was suffering the devastating aftereffects of chemotherapy, and especially, radiation. And Ken became a full-time caretaker: shopping, cooking, learning about alternate therapies, nursing Treya, so that he had to stop writing almost entirely. Having had a brief glimpse of heaven on earth, they put up a good fight, but then they were plummeting toward despair. Then, as persons truly dedicated to spirit, each in their own way turned around and said Yes to life. What Treya had to go through, by way of treatment, was awesome. She did it with her head up, loving life more each day, rarely feeling sorry for herself. And Ken did the same. He got up at 5 so he could meditate and gain strength and inspiration for the coming day, and he devoted all of his time to Treya’s care. They both now saw their own lives and their life together as a means of living what the world’s religions teach. The account of her death and the aftermath is truly awesome. Having read it, I can only say: This book is about the sacred and how we human beings are intended to relate to it. It is evident from this work that giants still live in these days—it requires, not Wheaties, but being true as individuals to the same Life that courses through all of us, including other life forms. The book is about Life, Death, God, and Self. I believe henceforth Ken Wilber will be writing from a different place, a place of being as well as knowing. This is not to say he did not before—but he has looked at the face of the living God. You cannot do that and live as you were. However much he was then, he must be more now (and less). Several powerful exceptional human experiences are described here, but I will not even name them. They instituted the process, they nurtured it, and they brought all to the only conclusion yet conceived by humans: "Thou art That": Here, now, and in all ways.
Publisher Information:Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1993. 422p. Bibl: 415-419; 1 fig; 11 illus
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