More than forty men and women from the Chicagoland area recently gathered in a Northbrook living room to be amazed, entertained—and loved—by Janet Bray Attwood, co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose.
The author and motivational speaker was the guest of Stacey Steinberg, a Northbrook resident who runs inspirational “salons” as an extension of her business as a holistic educator and life coach. Like the hosts of the 17th-century gatherings among French intellectuals, Steinberg's goal is to enlighten her guests.
Steinberg has been inviting speakers into her home to share their insight and wisdom off and on for the last eight years. Coming from Steinberg’s wide network of personal and professional connections, speakers have included authors, scientists and journalists, including designer and builder Cary Weldy (featured on HGTV), award-winning photojournalist Gary Wright as well as representatives of The Jerusalem Post, The Weizmann Institute, and the Ayn Rand Institute. The events are free, but guests are usually encouraged to support a different charity at each salon. (The nonprofit Take Flight Leadership Aviation, which provides scholarships to minority students interested in careers in aviation, was there with Attwood.)
Attwood, who confessed that this was her first time speaking in a living room setting, talked to the small group about passion and purpose. Wearing a long fuchsia sweater, gold bangle bracelets and black Vera Wang heels (“They’re really comfortable,” she insisted), the transformational leader and humanitarian was riveting. She embraced the group like fast friends, laughing and recounting stories from her past with an infectious smile.
Steinberg connected with Attwood through a mutual friend and timed the event around a seminar that Attwood was conducting in Chicago. “Janet Attwood was amazing!" Steinberg remarked. "She was funny and engaging, and the thing about an intimate setting like this is that you felt every word was directed right to you.”
When not traveling and speaking, Attwood lives in a community of 3,000 meditators in Fairfield, IA. She has been a teacher and practitioner of transcendental meditation for 40 years and has interviewed more than 100 masters all over the world from India to Nepal.
“When I’ve asked them what the secret to happiness is,” Attwood told the group gathered at Steinberg’s home, “they have all said the same thing—that the secret is giving.”
At the end of the evening, Attwood inscribed books with personal messages, hugging and chatting and looking just as bright as she had when guests first started filing in to Steinberg’s living room three hours earlier.
“Be true to what makes you feel excited and alive,” she told the group.
Lynn Sanders of Winnetka and her husband, Joel, were among the guests. “I was honored to have been there,” Sanders said. “It was powerful and so wonderful. I’ve been to a lot of seminars and transformational gatherings and I’ve never known anyone to be so warm and down to earth.”