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Book Reviews243 Circling to the Center: One Woman's Encounter with Silent Prayer by Susan M. Tiberghien Paulist Press, 2000 142 pages, paper, $12.95 Like any weU-written memoir should, this book takes a very personal look at the author's experiences and relates them in a way that has universal meaning . The fact that this is a spiritual memoir makes it aU the more surprising that the author has succeeded in crafting a book that wfll appeal to a broad audience. So many "spiritual" books focus on their exclusiveness—that is, their adamant adherence to only one doctrine, only one faith, and only one way to get there. The refreshing difference of Tiberghiens book is her openness to and inclusion of a tremendously wide variety of influences, from ancient religions to modern philosophy from legends and scripture to nature and art, which have led to a deeper understanding of the events in her Ufe and shaped her faith. This in turn has led to her frequent immersion in silent prayer, which she simply offers as an example ofone way to pray. Those who seek to emulate her method wfll find much guidance here, yet a larger audience can appreciate herjourney without needing to reenact it. A frequent attendee of the International Women's Writing Guild Skidmore Conference, Tiberghien has often written about her journey of self-discovery in short stories and personal essays. She has led a fascinating life. Born and raised in America, Tiberghien set out at age twenty to study abroad. She left behind her country, her friends, her family, and the reUgion of her upbringing. She married into a very French family and for twentyfive years foUowed her husband from country to country, raising six children while living in France, Belgium, Italy, and finaUy Switzerland, where she lives today. When the author reached midlife, she continued to look for bearings through her own and others' writing. Her experience withJungian analysis is chronicled in her previous book, Lookingfor Gold. She attributes the idea that helped shape Circling to the Center to advice gleaned from reading works by Meister Eckhart. I have often said that a person who wishes to begin a good life should be like a man who draws a circle. Let him get the center in the right place and keep it so, then the circumference wül be good. 244Fourth Genre The quote inspired not only the title of her book, but also a repetition of circles, figurative as weU as literal, spiraling throughout. Frequent circular drawings by the author are joined with the authentic voices of many spiritual leaders from the past, selected because "They circle around the same center . . . underlying the oneness of humanity's search for the sacred." In the introduction, the author explains her desire to "dip wflUngly into our universal heritage—the coUective unconscious as C. G. Jung defined it, the precious spiritual treasure chest of humanity." Tiberghien digs deeply into this treasure chest and unearths for the reader the Taoist story of the lost pearl, the Hindu legend of the musk deer, the Sufi tale of the young lover, Black Elk's vision ofthe sacred hoop. These are joined by many works from writers within her Judeo-Christian tradition, including Thomas Merton, Saint John the Cross, and Saint Teresa of Avila, as weU as contemporary works from Clarissa Pinkola Estés,Thomas Moore, Kathleen Norris, and M. Scott Peck, among others. Tiberghien not only provides an iUuminating tour ofthe many influences that guided her own spiritual path, but also includes an extensive bibliography for those who wish to learn more. StiU, she doesn't let the academic thoroughness or the spiritual direction ofher book overtake the beauty and simplicity of it. Each chapter begins with an image of nature either drawn or photographed. That image is then portrayed in a prose poem and followed by some personal event she has struggled with. Words from various faith traditions are then used to help put her experience into a spiritual context . Tiberghien refers to the structure ofher chapters as a process that "ripples outward to the circumference." She works "back and forth from real experience to translation of its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-1733
Print ISSN
1522-3868
Pages
pp. 243-245
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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