Caught in the Act

Caught in the Act

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Reflections on Being, Knowing and Doing

Toinette Lippe

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US $14.95 /CAN $16.50
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We all hold deep-seated beliefs about three facets of our lives: what we do (and are not willing to do); what we know (and are certain that we don’t know); and what we are (and are not). We invest each of these activities with our life force and yet we are so close to them we cannot see them clearly.

In Caught in the Act, Toinette Lippe—with wit, a laser-sharp eye for detail, and a sense of the contemplative—brings us on a journey of awareness so that we perceive how being, knowing, and doing shape our daily existence.

Ultimately, Caught in the Act is a journey of surrender. In its pages, we learn to give up the illusion of identifying with the thoughts and activities we call “I”—a vital step on the spiritual path and in the search for an authentic life.


Toinette Lippe was born in London, where she began her publishing career. In 1964 she came to New York City “for a year,” worked at Simon and Schuster for three years, and then at Alfred A. Knopf as reprint rights director and editor for thirty-two years. In 1989, while still at Knopf, she founded Bell Tower, an imprint publishing books that nourish the soul, illuminate the mind, and speak directly to the heart, and she remained its editorial director for twenty years. Her own first book, Nothing Left Over: A Plain and Simple Life was first published in 2002 and her second, Caught in the Act: Reflections on Being, Knowing, and Doing, in 2004. In 2011 Vintage published a new edition of the Gia-fu Feng/Jane English translation of the Tao Te Ching, which Toinette edited at Knopf/Vintage in 1972 and which has sold more than a million copies. She and Jane English refreshed and revised the original translation, adding over a hundred new photographs by Jane and a foreword by Toinette, who is now listed as one of the translators.

After fifty years in publishing Toinette abandoned editorial work and devotes herself to East Asian brush painting, which she taught at the Educational Alliance for four years and now teaches on the Upper West Side of New York City. You can view and purchase her paintings and cards at


Caught in the Act is about surrender on several levels: surrendering what’s unnecessary in life, surrendering attitudes that keep you from pure enjoyment, surrendering yourself to the moment—letting it take you where it wants to go rather than where you wish to be taken. The book is unconventional in form and manner, and is told in a brisk, conversational style that’s immediate and engaging. It has a mystery and beauty all its own.”
Robert Leiter, Jewish Exponent

“If we’re fortunate, there are a couple of junctures in our lives when we have the leisure and impetus to reflect on the past and consider our future. Caught in the Act witnesses a mature woman contemplating how what you do becomes what you are. She has a curious mind, an indefatigable eye for detail and a serious intellect. To see what a mind like that does with semi-retirement, read Caught in the Act.”
—Shambhala Sun

“This is no instructional manual of advice, thankfully; instead it is a book about learning to surrender. An informed and well-grounded wisdom shines forth on every page.
     While the stories from her life give the reader a sense of connection to her, somehow the book magically becomes about you. Her questions become your questions, too. She writes unpretentiously, as one who finds it unnecessary to state the obvious. It is tempting to credit her decades as a book editor for the clarity of her writing, but the ability to turn a rigorous, analytical mind back on itself requires a degree of personal honesty that only comes with years of spiritual practice and contemplation. This is what makes her insight so recognizably human and relevant. It takes both humility and courage to first see, and then reveal oneself so forthrightly.
     Never mind that she calls herself an “almost-Buddhist,” her grasp of the issues centered around “aimless aim” is right up there with Zen in the Art of Archery. If we don’t have any goals or intentions with whatever activity we are doing, we may go nowhere. Yet if we are too focused on results, we burden our actions with heavy expectations. This book is about finding that balance in your daily life.”
—Gloria Lee, Nonduality Highlights

“All those on a spiritual path will identify with Lippe’s struggles to simply be.… Control is what so many of us aim for and yet surrender to experience is what all the sages in every mystical tradition tell us to do. Lippe counsels herself to be welcoming to everything and to relinquish the attachments that stop her from being present.”
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Health

“Lippe’s anecdotes arise from her travels, her friendships, her reading, and her meditation practice. Her style is clear and revealing. Her book will appeal to those searching for what is authentic in life, as well as those dealing with transitions, including retirement. In becoming intimate with her journey, readers have the opportunity to tune in to their own.”
Tova Green, Turning Wheel

"Caught in the Act, has had an ardent impact on my life, and has been a loving shove into further self-cultivation and a deeper connection with my own soul. [Toinette] came to mind as someone whose life shines a light on a contemplative way forward."
—Paul Swanson, host of Contemplify: Kindling the Examined Life