S&P's Contributing Editor, Jon M. Sweeney, had an “Off the Page" conversation with Adam Bucko about “Let Your Heartbreak Be Your Guide" on November 2, 2022. Watch the video below.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre concluded his famous book, After Virtue, saying that even though the pursuit of wisdom has been all but lost, “we are not entirely without grounds for hope.” If the virtues — spiritual practices that can lead to wisdom — managed to survive dark times in past centuries, perhaps they can survive the times we live in now.

Adam Bucko’s personal story and new book, Let Your Heartbreak Be Your Guide, reminded me of this. He has been pointing out for at least a decade now that a new monastic spirit, different from the Christian kind that began in antiquity, has manifested in the lives of people today. As we wake up to the callousness of our culture, the monastic dimension within our hearts is finding its Easter Sunday.

Bucko co-wrote with Matthew Fox a book, Occupy Spirituality, that received one of S&P’s “Best Spiritual Books of the Year” in 2013.

In Let Your Heartbreak Be Your Guide, Bucko explains how those who have discovered the importance of contemplative practices can cultivate lives of greater depth, centeredness, connection, meaning, and simplicity. The world works against us doing this, with its dizzyingly complex and increasingly mind-numbing shallowness.

The book skillfully weaves together heartfelt personal stories, wisdom teachings, invitations for reflection, scriptural insights, and a mystical understanding of the historic Christian liturgy. Many will feel like they are encountering a Christianity that they can finally get on board with, but they also won’t be able to shake the feeling that this is the type of Christianity that should have been and could have been around all along.

With every chapter, you get the sense that as Bucko names his own heartache, it has a way of tapping into your own. He names the feelings that so many of us have found it impossible to wrap our words around. But like every wisdom teacher worthy of the title, Bucko is not imparting something new as much as he is passing along wisdom he’s received from his elders.

Chapter 5 illuminates all the others and gives the book its gravitas. In it, Bucko distills advice that was imparted to him by Andrew Harvey, another of S&P’s favorite authors: “Don’t follow your bliss … follow your heartbreak.”

Are you overwhelmed by all the seemingly insurmountable problems that exist in this post-lockdown, politically divided, economically unstable, ecologically devastated world? Let your broken heart guide you and not only will you find your way, but you’ll be a light to others. Are you struggling to pray and regain some semblance of balance? "Don’t follow your bliss.” Let your heartache teach you. Are you still struggling to figure out who you are? Then keep your own mortality before your eyes because the very thought of death has a way of putting the most important things into perspective. True transformation happens when, rather than ignoring our pain, we choose to embrace it instead.

Ultimately, Bucko is not inviting us into a new way of thinking or a new way of acting. He’s inviting us into a new way of seeing.
T.J. Humphrey has studied with the hermits of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, and is the priest of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Beloit, Wisconsin.