The Ashokan Way

Landscape’s Path into Consciousness by Gail Straub

With a Foreword by Stephen Cope

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ISBN 978-1-947003-69-9 | 5.5 x 8.5 | 194 pgs

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The natural world has the power to awaken, restore, and transform us, and nowhere are these capacities more evident than in the thirty-six luminous essays that make up The Ashokan Way. Written in the form of journal entries that take place over the course of a year, the essays explore both the outer landscapes of the awe-inspiring Ashokan Reservoir, a vast open space surrounded by the ancient bluestone peaks of the Catskill Mountain Watershed, and the equally awe-inspiring inner landscapes of our own most personal terrains.

Each of the book’s evocative entries describes a walk along the ever-changing reservoir, illuminating the natural world as a portal to self-understanding, restoration, and meaning. Some walks take us deep inside to trek the hills and valleys of our aspirations and sorrows, our joys and confusions. Others offer a profound antidote to an interior landscape that has become crowded with distraction and overstimulation. Still others seem to seem usher us into the realm of the mystical.

As surely as we would perish without the water and air that the earth provides, we are at risk of perishing without the spiritual sustenance that the natural world provides through its ability to stir and astonish us. In a world that is ever faster, noisier, and busier, The Ashokan Way is a balm, an inspiration, and an invitation to discover greater intimacy with inner and outer landscapes alike.

Advance Reviews 

“ In this beautiful, elegant, and important book, Gail Straub takes us on a year of walks in the landscape she calls home. But she’s really describing a walk we all can take no matter where we live–the walk that bridges all the landscapes of our being: our connection to place, to each other, to our inner sense of self and outer sense of responsibility to the earth and its peoples. Quoting the ancient I Ching, she writes about “coming to rest in motion.” She should know: a world traveler and social activist, Gail brings the steady calm she finds in the mountains to her work at peacemaking in a troubled world. ”

—Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder Omega Institute, author of Broken Open and Marrow.is 

“Gail Straub’s The Ashokan Way speaks profoundly to the healing power of the places that most nourish us. It can be thought of as a blueprint for remembering and nurturing the wonders of place that are absolutely essential to our health and happiness. This is one beautiful book.”

–Christiane Northrup, NY Times bestselling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

The Ashokan Way is Gail Straub’s love letter to the mountain valley where she has lived for thirty-six years. In these poignant essays she demonstrates how the landscape is essential to our humanity. Through Gail’s elegant and heartfelt writing, we understand that by loving and protecting our open spaces we are, in fact, preserving our humanness. “

–Joan Borysenko, NY Times bestselling author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind

“This writing is a masterful act of devotion, pure and simple. Reading Gail Straub’s book is to enter a spell where past and present, seen and unseen, birthing and dying, dissolve into a mutually enhancing and luminous presence. Revealing how opening to an intimacy with place deepens all intimacies—with self, friends, lovers, parents, youth, and age—literally providing the reflective ground for reclaiming our humanity in the fullest sense possible. A pioneering contribution toward rendering an ecology of soul.”

–Joseph Jastrab, author of Sacred Manhood, Sacred Earth

“Walk with Gail Straub in her beloved mountains. Let her take you through the change of seasons, let her show you the altering light and shadow, the dark. You will see all that is visible and all that is not—the mystery that can only be sensed, the kind of beauty that can stun the viewer, or move her to tears. Gail Straub, a part of nature herself, has learned how to lose the static and friction of modern day life, finding a way to live at peace and in balance with nature, accepting the opposites of life and death as part of the Ashokan Way. This is a beautiful and profound book.”

–Abigail Thomas, Bestselling author of A Three Dog Life

“What is it to truly come home? Is it not to deeply inhabit the landscapes we are in and to bring all that we are and have been into relationship with them? In The Ashokan Way Gail Straub has illuminated this understanding with beauty, respect, and poignancy. She teaches us to look at and inhabit the places we live in, however grand or humble they may be, with total attention and compassion.”

–Gunilla Norris, author of Being Home

“Nimble and ecumenical in substance, elegant and melodious in style, Straub’s prose testifies to how place both elevates and holds our human egos grounded—how listening attentively to its cyclical rhythms keeps our own instruments tuned and humming—ready to serve.”

–Lissa Kiernan, Poet, author of Glass Needles & Goose Quills


Gail Straub

Gail Straub

Gail Straub is the Executive Director of the Empowerment Institute, which she co-founded in 1981. As one of the world’s leading authorities on women’s empowerment, she co-directs the Empowerment Institute’s School for Transformative Social Change empowering change agents from around the world to design and implement cutting-edge social innovations. As part of this focus, she co-founded IMAGINE: A Global Initiative for the Empowerment of Women to help women heal from violence, build strong lives, and contribute to their community. IMAGINE initiatives are currently under way throughout Africa, Afghanistan, India, and the Middle East. Gail has consulted to many organizations furthering women’s empowerment including the Chinese Women’s Federation, Women for Women International, World Pulse, and the Omega Women’s Leadership Center.

Gail is the author of five books including, with her husband David Gershon, the best-selling Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life As You Want It which has been translated into over 14 languages, the critically acclaimed The Rhythm of Compassion, and the award-winning feminist memoir Returning to My Mother’s House. She lives in the Hudson River Valley in New York.