Ondrea Levine did not have a storybook childhood with loving, doting, attentive parents. She did not receive adequate academic or emotional support in school. And she had very few adult role models, mentors, or friends as a child and adolescent. In The Healing I Took Birth For, the autobiography she collaborated with her husband to write, she recalls one of her heartbreaking experiences: “Once I was grabbed by some neighborhood boys and hung like a piñata by my ankles in my garage as an object of ridicule. When my mother came out and saw what was happening, she just laughed and went back in the house. The boys let me down, but some part of me was left hanging there.”
As a means of coping and building resiliency, Levine, whose family was Jewish, began to develop a relationship with god and started to practice prayer and meditation. She became a voracious reader, and also started to dance as an outlet of self-expression. When she was eleven and her parents were on vacation, she stayed with her aunt, and for the first time experienced love, kindness, and affection from a relative. “I only stayed with her for two weeks,” Levine recounts, “but it made a life-long impression on my heart.”
In her quest for self-discovery, self-acceptance, healing, and love, she began to explore other religions and forms of spirituality. She visited many types of Christian churches, and also began more intensive studies in Zen Buddhism, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. Then, she used her knowledge in these areas to help terminally-ill patients and those suffering through loss. After meeting her husband Stephen, she also began to collaborate with him on teaching, writing books, and providing bereavement support.
Levine is candid about her feelings and experiences, especially when it comes to her difficult childhood, her parents and family, her personal relationships, and cancer. After receiving a crushing cancer prognosis, Levine began a “life review” and devoted her time to resolving unfinished business by the process of forgiveness and healing.
Reading the book, I felt that Levine and I share a common goal: to strive to be a blessing to others every day, but especially to those who are sick and grieving. I am a hospice volunteer, so I also have a special calling to comfort terminally-ill patients and their families. Volunteering with hospice has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. It has taught me tremendous lessons in love and healing, and has shown me how to truly value time and appreciate blessings, both small and large.
Levine has explored many spiritual paths. So reading her book as a Christian, I was not familiar with some of the practices and chants she refers to, and sometimes had difficulty comprehending the process. Nonetheless, I fully understood the desired outcomes: love, wisdom, gratitude, forgiveness, and healing. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about Levine and her dedication to helping others while she continues to make peace with her own illness.
The Healing I Took Birth For: Practicing the Art of Compassion
Weiser Books, May 2015
Paperback, 224 pages