The Gate of Tears straddles the border between Judaism, Buddhism, and non-denominational spirituality. Michaelson is eclectic, drawing from divergent value systems and systems of thought. His central message is: Don’t run away from sadness. Rather, “The only way out is through; it is not possible to deny, avoid, or repress one’s way to freedom. The fears, the cracks, the empty spaces…through the gateless gate which is never shut” (p. 164). The book is filled with statements like this: “To try to explain suffering is to attempt escape. But when explanation is no longer sought, the deep joy of the contemplative arises. Here we are; this is what is happening” (p. 5) and “I can breathe in the mud, and the act of surrendering to it brings relaxation and release” (p. 124). All the rest is commentary on Michaelson’s life.
The books is composed of approximately 80 two-page meditations, essays, or musings in no discernable order, though Michaelson has grouped them into three sections: Opening, Listening, Merging. Each stands on its own. Some are very nice.
Michaelson’s reframing of sadness as a normal and unavoidable part of human experience that we do best to surrender to will have value for many people.