The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path explores the counter-intuitive insight that sadness and joy are not opposites - and that human capacities often suppressed or rejected can, instead, be gateways to deep joy, creativity, and liberation. Its eighty-two short, poetic, sometimes epigrammatic chapters draw on contemplative traditions, art, even pop songs. They are reflections on the path of surrender, alchemy, and the sacred.
Written over a ten year period, and completed in the mourning period after the death of the author's mother, The Gate of Tears is not a self-help book. If anything, it is a self-helpless book, discovering a happiness deeper than transitory joys that emerges precisely when the resistance to sadness is released. As the contemporary Buddhist teacher Lama Surya Das says in his foreword to the book, "the only thing that prevents happiness is searching for it."
The Gate of Tears draws on Jay Michaelson's fifteen years as a student, and now a teacher, of Buddhist and Jewish contemplative paths. Michaelson is a rabbi, and holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought, and has taught Jewish mysticism in and outside the academic world. Yet he is also a longtime teacher of insight meditation in Western Buddhist and secular mindfulness contexts, who has sat many months-long silent meditation retreats. With his usual blend of erudition and accessibility, Michaelson weaves together Hasidic tales and Dharma teachings, Leonard Cohen and Langston Hughes. The Gate of Tears is not a New Age book with easy answers; it is infused with a contemporary sensibility, skepticism, and humor.
All of us, if we are to be fully human, experience pain. The Gate of Tears is about how the embrace of that experience ennobles, empowers, and liberates us.