Preface to A Safe Place to Stand

by Karen Carlisle Ely


What seemed like a normal dinner invitation from a new acquaintance and colleague would prove to be anything but normal. That evening, A Friday in October of 1991, turned out to be a cataclysmic event that changed my life forever.

Having spent my adult life following the path of my mother and her mother before her, with a husband, children, and a home in the suburbs, I was living the only life I knew. And that life worked beautifully up until the year I turned forty.

Then suddenly, I became a stranger in my own life. I began searching for something, and I had no idea what it was or where to find it. I became restless and confused.  At times I thought maybe I was losing my mind.  I just knew I felt completely lost in a world that had felt familiar and satisfying but no longer did.

Over the next five years, I dangled between the world I’d always lived and the frightening possibility of the unknown.  At times, it felt like I had descended into madness. Why am I so unhappy when I have been given so much?  Am I just an ungrateful, narcissistic woman?  I knew I needed help but I had no idea where to turn or who to talk to or even what was wrong.

All of this was on my mind as I left my Denver office on that Friday evening to join my new colleague Bobby Brooks for dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant. As the chatter and clatter of a busy restaurant began to die down, I listened as he shared a reality that both frightened and intrigued me:

One day we wake up and see that what we thought was real was not. Rather it was only an agreed-upon reality based on an understanding of the universe that has everything broken down into a state of dualistic separation. Such an erroneous understanding leaves us with a spirit that wanders the earth seeking meaning and wholeness. Each step on the path is an open door that has always been there to be stepped through. 

That meeting and what Bobby went on to share with me opened a crack in my world, shedding light on a way out of a life that was no longer working and giving me a peek into a life that, at that moment, seemed unfathomable.

In the succeeding months, as I stepped on the path that he revealed, I began a journey that would lead first to an unravelling of everything I thought I knew about myself and my life, and then through open doors to my eventual spiritual awakening and life of global service. And Bobby walked with me every step of the way—until he couldn’t.

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