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YEARNINGS: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life
by Irwin Kula

September 2006
$23.95US (hardcover);
336 pages; ISBN:1-4013-0192-4


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"Irwin Kula is a masterful teacher. He is passionate about his message and every page shimmers with excitement as he conveys his inner knowing that 'you can become all that you yearn to manifest' – very readable!" – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, author of

Inspiration and The Power of Intention 

"This wonderful book does what so many like it fail to do: it embraces the magic of day to day living, the spirituality that can be found in our questions, our mistakes, our passions and our doubts. Life is indeed messy, but as Rabbi Irwin Kula shows us, sorting through it is what transforms us to higher ground." – Mitch Albom, author of

Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven 

Life is messy and imperfect. Living in this world is anything but simple.  We yearn for answers – clear paths ... comfortable easy solutions. Whether we are facing a mid-life crisis, raising our children, confronting the betrayal of a loved one, or trying to find meaning in the conflicts and disasters that blanket the evening news, we need to accept that sometimes we do not have the answers, that there are no final solutions to our deepest questions and no quick fixes to complex problems. But to do that, we need a guide. Enter Irwin Kula and his new book, Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life. 

Around the world the pursuit of spirituality and the need for spiritual guidance has never been stronger. Yearnings merges ancient Jewish wisdom with contemporary insights and intimate stories to offer practical perspectives on everyday problems. From our most complicated (love and relationships, loss and death) to the deceptively simple (figuring out how to be creative and happy, what to do with your teenager’s messy room), Kula explains how our yearning for answers is no different now than it was in the times of Moses, Buddha, and Jesus. He shows how ancient wisdom and practices can inform and enrich our own search for meaning. More important, he invites us to accept, even celebrate the messiness and complexities behind these human experiences in order to embrace the endless and glorious project of building a life. 

In this, his first book, Rabbi Kula explores the essence of human desire applying ancient Jewish teachings to seven of our most wonderful yearnings: Yearning for Truth, Yearning for Meaning, Yearning for the Way, Yearning for Love, Yearning to Create, Yearning for Happiness, Yearning for Transcendence. He then guides us through these yearnings showing how we can use them as a path to blessing, prompting questions and insights that result in new ways of being and believing. 

For example, consider our Yearning for Truth. We must realize that there are no absolutes, no escape from responsibility simply by dismissing views with which we disagree. Kula is tired of the polarities that dismiss contradiction and so neatly split our world into right and wrong (or right and left). Instead, Kula contends, we should seek the partial truths (or what he calls “moment truths”) that exist in an opposing view. We never need to lock ourselves into one side or another. Instead, Kula wants us to find the wisdom that exists in every conflict. “Disagreement is a gift,” he writes. It’s an invitation to engage in the harder conversations that enable us to grow in understanding ourselves and each other.  

Similarly in Yearning for Meaning, Kula sees appreciating life’s messiness as the key to our desire to have life always make sense. Life has no straight lines or easy paths. When happy times give way to sad times, when families do not get along, when jobs are lost, when illness strikes and accidents happen, we are surprised, thinking life is supposed to work out just the way we hope it will. But if we never have dirty dishes in the kitchen sink we probably never had a home cooked meal. Life is always an exquisite dance between joy and sadness, certainty and uncertainty, hope and anxiety, meaning and absurdity, pleasure and disappointment, and when we confuse our yearning for meaning with a desire for stability and simplicity, meaning eludes us. The wisdom is in the dance, the meaning in embracing the sacred messiness of life. 

In Yearning for the Way, Kula shows how our desire for certainty obscures the doubt that is necessary for any personal growth and enlightenment. In Yearning for Love, he reveals how the messiness of love and relationships ─ fights, disappointments, even betrayals ─ is a necessary path to deeper intimacy. (As the Talmud says: Love will always upset the balance.) We think we need to understand people in order to love them, but Kula shows that until we love someone we can never understand them. In Yearning for Happiness, the most encompassing yearning of them all, Kula notes how there is always a space between our imagined happiness and the happiness available to us and shows how to live fully in that space between wanting it all and finding enough. Kula invites us to consider that the yearning for happiness that remains even after we have everything we need points to a hidden wisdom: Our yearning for happiness is really our desire to give happiness.  

Yearnings concludes with the Yearning for Transcendence ─ the yearning for forever, that in the face of the inevitability of death is an essential part of being human. Kula shows us how to bring death into the service of life. In order to be ready to die, we need to live with such care and passion that we redeem life from the absurdity that death imposes. Then we can “die fully alive.” In the “end,” Kula invites us to embrace the fact that we so much more than simply the sum of our parts. He inspires us and comforts us by reminding us of the final delicious ambiguity: That though we are all dust in the end ─ it is all magic dust.   

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