READERS GUIDEIn The Anatomy of a Calling, Lissa Rankin, MD, makes a simple yet revolutionary claim: Every single one of us is a hero. We are all on what Joseph Campbell calls “a hero’s journey”—a mission to step into our true nature and fulfill the assignment our souls were sent to Earth to realize and complete. Navigating the hero’s journey and giving in to our respective callings, Lissa argues, are cornerstones of living a meaningful, authentic, healthy life.
In clear, engaging prose, Lissa—author of the New York Times bestseller Mind Over Medicine—describes her entire spiritual journey and recounts the many transformative experiences that led to a profound awakening of her soul. Through her father’s death, her daughter’s birth, career victories and failures, a strained marriage, growing debt, and an ongoing struggle to identify as both a doctor and a healer, Lissa discovers a powerful self-awareness.
More than a memoir, The Anatomy of a Calling is a roadmap to your own awakening. As she shares her story, Lissa encourages you to find out where you are on your own journey, offering Hero’s Guideposts and prescriptive Hero’s Practices along the way. With compelling lessons on trusting intuition, learning to see adversity as an opportunity for soul growth, and surrendering to love, The Anatomy of a Calling invites you to make a powerful shift in consciousness and reach your highest destiny.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. This book hinges on the claim that “We are all, every single one of us, heroes.” What does it mean to you to be a hero? In what areas of your life or of the world might you work to be a positive force? Take a moment to think about what your calling might be. Consider Lissa’s childhood persona as the Squirrel Girl and dig deep to remember the unbridled passions you embodied and expressed outwardly as a child.
2. Explore the revelation Lissa has after her father passes away: “To be cured is to be free of disease, but to be healed means to become whole.” Do you agree or disagree? Keep this statement—and your views on it—in mind as you work through the text, and note if and how your position changes.
3. What might it take for you to consider your own “perfect storm,” big or small, a positive occurrence? Consider how you might reframe your struggle and sorrow into meaningful action, both in your hero’s journey and your everyday life.
4. After Lissa leaves medicine and the “anesthesia” wears off, she notices things she never had before, both in her environment and in herself. Take a moment to fully experience, revel in, and ponder the environment that surrounds you on a daily basis. What are a few things you hadn’t noticed before? What effect does this environment have on your mood and your actions?
5. Why do you think that the physicians in Lissa’s circle and beyond—as well as Lissa herself, at first—have such an aversion to alternative, mind-body medicine? Might fear have something to do with it? Discuss why or why not. Can you think of a time a belief of yours was totally turned on its head in a similar way?
6. If the Universe is asking each of us to embark on a specific, Divine journey, why do you think the hero’s path is laden with so many obstacles? Recount some of Lissa’s obstacles and how they made her stronger.
7. Before reading this book, how did you define “ego”? Consider how the broader definition of the ego, or the small self, has affected your life. Notice and reflect on the motivations behind damaging or negative thoughts that you might have been repeating for years.
8. How did you react to Lissa’s accounts of calling whales, bending spoons, and practicing other “white magic”? Did these examples surprise and inspire you or bring out your inner skeptic? Explore what this might mean.
9. Lissa focuses on the medical community and the transformation she hopes it will go through. What industries, groups, or aspects of your life would benefit from individuals uniting around a common intention, rather than battling for and from polarizing sides? Keep in mind the false unity of those in Vonnegut’s “granfalloons.”
10. Bring to mind a hero from pop culture. How does Lissa’s hero journey align with theirs? How does it differ? How might yours?