The Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber
Grace and Grit: A Tale of Love, Loss, and Liberation
In this unforgettable 2.5-hour video, Ken Wilber reads select passages from his book Grace and Grit, which documents the life and death of his wife Treya Killam Wilber. Ken's time with Treya was one of the most defining experiences of his life, and this is the very first time that he has talked in-depth about her death since she passed away in 1989. The depth and beauty of Ken and Treya's story is an inspiration to us all. It was tremendously moving to hear Ken read these words in front of a live audience—the room was so captivated, and Ken's vulnerability was so touching, the sound of a pin falling would hit you like a mushroom cloud in the heart. This is one of the greatest love stories ever told, and you will be forever changed upon hearing it.
Running time: 2 hours 31 minutes
Written by Corey W. deVos
"It takes grace, yes—and grit!" –Treya Killam Wilber
In 1983, Ken Wilber met the love of his life. Her name was Terry Killam, or Treya as she later called herself, and she was absolutely stunning. She was beautiful, intelligent, deeply conscious, and more full of life and vitality than anyone Ken had ever met. She had a wonderfully playful sense of humor, was passionate about nature, art, service, psychology, and spirituality, and radiated warmth and kindness from her very core. As Ken says, "it was love at first touch"—there was a powerful and undeniable sense of familiarity that both Ken and Treya felt when they met. She was the woman Ken had been waiting for his entire life, and before long they were married.
Just ten days after their wedding, before they really had a chance to begin their life together, they received the harrowing news: Treya was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. For the next five years Treya and Ken did everything they possibly could to recover from this devastating illness, including a full arsenal of orthodox and alternative treatments, before Treya's life came to an untimely end in 1989.
This is their story. It's a story of incredible suffering, of radical liberation, and of an ever-present love that transcends time and space itself—a love that reaches so far beyond life and death, they both seem like very small things in comparison.
As you listen to Ken, you will notice that the book weaves three different narratives together. The first voice is Treya herself, taken from her private journals that span from first meeting Ken to her death in 1989, which she insisted that Ken use in order to tell their extraordinary story. The second voice belongs to the Ken Wilber who was walking this difficult path alongside Treya, step by step, not yet aware of where their story would lead. The third voice also belongs to Ken, but as the "omniscient narrator" who is lacing these narratives together and telling the story from the perspective of someone who has lived the full experience.
As Ken reads he slides seamlessly from one narration to the next, which creates an almost palpable sense that there is only one single Spirit here—that through every experience, behind every distinct set of eyes, this One Spirit is tasting the intrinsic pain, sweetness, and wholeness of its own manifestation, moment to moment. It's love loving love, always and forever.
This is one of the greatest love stories ever told. And once you've heard it, you will never be the same again.
In Ken's words: "I haven't talked about Treya's death in public since she died in 1989. And even though this was one of the most important events in my life and changed me forever, it's still in a sense too close to me. When I read sections of this book just to myself in private, I still cry. So I'm a little bit worried that by the time I get to the end of the book, and especially the last chapter, that I'll be a dribbling, drooling, slobbering idiot. And I'm going to ask you to just please help me with that and put up with that.
This was an extraordinary five years in my life, and five years that will stay with me forever. So I'm going to spend an hour or two and go through some of the main sections, and hopefully give you a flavor of what this relationship was like, and what this path of conscious love was like.
We didn't choose the path of conscious love. We were both practicing a discipline—I was practicing Zen and Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism, and Treya was practicing Vipassana. But when we fell as desperately in love as we did, then that love became our teacher. We were thrown onto a path of conscious love. And we had no formal teacher in that, except the power of the love itself. And it constantly surfaced and resurfaced and resurfaced, and in a sense held our hand and walked us forward. And I think you will see what I mean with this."
Purchase Grace and Grit on Amazon
(Kindle edition available)
Ken Wilber is the founder of Integral Institute and the co-founder of Integral Life. He is an internationally acknowledged leader and the preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. His many books, all of which are still in print, can be found at Amazon.com. Some of his more popular books include Integral Spirituality; No Boundary; Grace and Grit; Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; and the "everything" books: A Brief History of Everything (one of his largest selling books) and A Theory of Everything (probably the shortest introduction to his work).