Jane Vennard is ordained to a special ministry of teaching and spiritual direction in the United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination. She is an astute scholar of Christianity who has also practiced Buddhism. For many years, she was a Senior Adjunct Professor at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, teaching numerous courses on prayer, spirituality, and discernment.
Vennard is also a spiritual director in private practice. She leads retreats across the country and teaches in a variety of ecumenical settings. She has a rare gift for seeing clearly the similarities and differences among traditional perspectives and then to adeptly lead people through an examination of a variety of spiritual perspectives.
Being fully awake and truly alive is one of the major challenges of these crazy/busy times. There are plenty of roadblocks to achieving that noble pursuit. Spiritual practices can center us and light the path to transformation. Vennard has chosen to focus on care of the body, rest, silence, solitude, letting go, practice in community, hospitality, service, and the fruits of practice — gratefulness, humility and compassion. These practices have been praised by those on many spiritual paths and in most of the world's religions. They also have the added value of being understandable and accessible to those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious.
Each chapter in the book ends with the question: "How are you called to practice?" and there is more guidance for those who want to go deeper into the practice. We were especially taken with Vennard's ability to help us see the relevance of these soulful activities to the enrichment of our daily lives. For instance, she writes about how the spiritual practice of hospitality can bless and challenge families and religious communities to reach out in ways that they never thought possible. Vennard hits high stride with her coverage of living gratefully, humbly, and compassionately. These beneficial qualities can be realized, as the Buddhists say, both on-the-cushion and off-the-cushion.
Jane Vennard scores a bull's eye with this masterful and down-to-earth resource on spiritual practices that bring zest to everyday life. Fully Awake and Truly Alive is a rich blend of action and insight that demands to be read and then tried out in our days and in our doings.