The Spirit of a Woman: Stories to Empower and Inspire
by Terry Laszlo-Gopadze, editor

Santa Monica Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-595-80052-7.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 09/24/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

I had to shake my head several times in awe when I read the stories in The Spirit of a Woman. So many women featured here have overcome vast obstacles in their lives in order to survive and even thrive.

I kept looking to the back of the book to the bios to see what the women are doing now. They're all taking what they learned from their life experiences into the world as peace activists or in community or international efforts, as writers, lecturers, teachers, storytellers, shaman, artists, mentors, spiritual directors, doctors, and runners. The word "runners" is to honour Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966.

There is one exception to the ongoing efforts in the world and that is Nicolette Tal who lived with a motor neuron disease. Before her death in 2004, she was able to write by twitching her lower lip to activate a laser hooked up to her laptop computer. I should say her efforts in the world are ongoing as we have her story and the people who knew her remember her determination to focus on what was important to her.

All of the women's stories are full of courage, compassion (including self-compassion), discovery and authenticity.

The sub-title of the book, "Stories to Empower and Inspire," is accurate indeed. There are so many inspiring stories that reveal women's strength and wisdom that one can't help but feel empowered by them. The power of the stories themselves, the writing of them, and the sharing of them in the book, is a marvellous gift.

Laszlo-Gopadze's gentle introductions to each of the five sections of the book contain thought-provoking words as well. In Section Two, "Creating My Destiny," she writes: "The truth of a Navajo saying tells us to bless our challenges for they are big teachers for us and can lead us home to our true essential natures."

The contributions I read first were by two women who have inspired me already: Christina Baldwin and Lauren Artress. Baldwin entitled her contribution "A Storycatcher is Born." Her essay, which appropriately begins the book, reminds us of the power of hearing one another's stories: "Story is a map: what gets one person through is a grid that gets another person through...Preserve the story. Hold that space, my daughter. And foster action that rises from story's wisdom," Baldwin writes. The place of story is the core of Baldwin's life work as she travels the globe with Ann Linnea for PeerSpirit, the company they created together.

Lauren Artress's essay, "Finding My Soul's Path," describes her journey, spreading the word about the circuitous path of a labyrinth and how it can quiet the mind and open the heart. Once she was "bitten" by the labyrinth, "the labyrinth kept on working with me long after I stepped out of it," she writes. Artress is the founder and director of Veriditas: The World-Wide Labyrinth Project.

I was very moved by Colleen Haggerty's story of meeting with the driver of the car that pinned her against her car causing the loss of her left leg. She wanted to learn from the loss and going over the details of the accident with the other driver, fiftenn years later, helped both of them with the event that changed both their lives. They heard one another's perspective and reached a place of forgiveness.

The visual art of Nicholas Moss, on the cover and the interior, is a beautiful accompaniment to the women's stories

These are all remarkable women and so are we! When we share our stories, we can inspire one another to be all we can be.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Terry Laszlo-Gopadze is a marriage and family therapist as well as a storyteller and a listener of stories. Offering workshops on storytelling, shamanism, forgiveness, courage, intuition, healing, and creating destiny has been her passion and joy. She lives in Del Mar, California with her husband Lee. Visit Terry and the authors on the book website.

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