I started this book over a year ago and just picked it up again. It's the first-person narrative of Elisabeth Haich, Western yogi born in Hungary in t...moreI started this book over a year ago and just picked it up again. It's the first-person narrative of Elisabeth Haich, Western yogi born in Hungary in the late 19th century, and her detailed recollection of her past life as an initiate in ancient Egypt. The highlight of this dramatic story is not, believe me, the writing. Much of it sounds hackneyed and improbable, but once you get past that, the knowledge she conveys is rich and fascinating -- yet another packaging of the same universal truths told and retold the world over: that we are entities of unlimited consciousness, and our physical bodies and normative perspective are but a tiny part of our full expressive potential. When I first started reading the book, I had gotten stuck in the particularly dense section on sacred geometry, but ironically enough, the very next chapter was on astrology, one of my very favorite subjects, and illuminates the epochs, Biblical symbology, and reincarnation in ways I have never before seen or considered. Haich founded the oldest yoga school in Europe, and her methods of self-realization are hugely inspiring. So glad I gave it a second try!(less)
I read this cover-to-cover while sitting on Mt. Shasta this summer, consuming nothing but water and juice for 7 days. But its brilliance is beyond hal...moreI read this cover-to-cover while sitting on Mt. Shasta this summer, consuming nothing but water and juice for 7 days. But its brilliance is beyond hallucination. Though I was told this was one of those "dry spiritual texts," I found it funny, accessible, practical, and engaging. The translation of Patanjali's aphorisms must be one of the best, if not the best, out there, and the Sanskrit terminology isn't obtrusive. My only qualm is that by the end, the pragmatic "how-to" approach to yogi-ism felt so discouragingly disciplined that I spent hours lying in my tent bemoaning the impossibility of ever achieving samadhi.
Seriously, though. If this book ever crosses your path, at the right time and in the right space, give it a try.(less)
This book was recommended to me by various persons in different phases of my life, but I clearly wasn't ready to read it till now. Suzuki's talks on z...moreThis book was recommended to me by various persons in different phases of my life, but I clearly wasn't ready to read it till now. Suzuki's talks on zazen are spare and direct, demystifying Buddhism as a religion or philosophy and continually bringing the focus back to the simple and perfect practice of sitting--cleaning out your mind through meditation. Though we all choose different paths according to our culture and temperament, the ultimate desire is the same: for the soul or "big I" to freely express itself, released from delusion. Whether you meditate or not, Suzuki provides useful and illuminating truths for anyone interested in becoming more mindful. Here is one of my favorite passages:
"Each of us must make his own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way. This is the mystery. When you understand one thing, you understand everything. When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything. So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others. Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you. To be independent in this true sense, we have to forget everything which we have in our mind and discover something quite new and different moment after moment. This is how we live in this world."(less)
I took this book up on my 10-day Mount Shasta retreat and it became the reverberating background of my whole experience. In the translation by mystic...moreI took this book up on my 10-day Mount Shasta retreat and it became the reverberating background of my whole experience. In the translation by mystic scholar Mirabai Starr, St. John of the Cross's description of the phases of the soul as she ('el alma') nears unity with God far transcends the confines of Catholicism. The 'Dark Night of the Soul' is not merely a period of intense depression -- it is the annihilation of the ego, the final stage when spiritual rituals, symbols and beliefs no longer suffice and there is no comfort but emptiness: the awareness that 'I Am Nothing.' In every major religion from Buddhism to Judaism, enlightenment or spiritual union or perfect consciousness is described as the ultimate Nothing. Zero. The dissolution of self into Oneness. Like Rumi's devotional poetry to the eternal presence within, St. John of the Cross posits the soul as lover and God as Beloved. "In the darkness of night, the wounded soul rises up in response to the affections of the will. Like a lioness or a she-bear that goes looking for her lost cubs, the wounded soul goes anxiously forth in search of her God. In darkness, she feels only his absence. She feels like she is dying with love for him." Mind, body and soul are purified and illuminated in preparation for total union -- and the process, according to John, is excruciating. The price, as Rumi says, is your life. But to know God means to know yourself, and as Jung said, "The way to light is through the darkness."
For anyone who is "inflamed by love-longing," this book is a beautiful and validating guide.
"Love is like a fire. It rises perpetually upward, yearning to be absorbed at its very center."(less)
I perused this book by haphazardly skipping around to different sections, but I got the basic ideas and concepts, which were already largely familiar...moreI perused this book by haphazardly skipping around to different sections, but I got the basic ideas and concepts, which were already largely familiar to me through the work I do with Aspire. Tolle can be a little convoluted, but he's direct and puts truth in terms that people can digest. Very glad these awarenesses are being disseminated, in any way shape or form.(less)
Kerouac is innocent and rowdy and loco, unjaded and earnest, a real goodfellow. I tried reading On the Road as a high schooler and was unimpressed, I...moreKerouac is innocent and rowdy and loco, unjaded and earnest, a real goodfellow. I tried reading On the Road as a high schooler and was unimpressed, I was too serious and uptight. I lacked experience. This time around I get the Zen stuff, yo, I was put off at first by his attempts at telling what is impossible to tell, but he reveals himself, he risks ridicule to show how sincere he feels, and how arrogant too, like when Rosie dies and he thinks if only she had listened to him, if only she knew what he knew. He writes the pure callow self-centeredness of first discovery, not yet humbled, convinced of his singular chosenness, here to show the world how it’s really done, what’s really possible. And the amazing thing is he does, did, he introduced the West to Buddhism in a way that, as far as I know, hadn’t been done before. There’s a wildness that gradually gains harder edges as the story wears on, becomes slightly less ebullient, more tame in the way of impending bitterness, but then not at all bitter, just the slight threatening impending-ness of it, because the world is gonna change and you know it and he may or may not know it, but certainly his world is changing and nothing of course can stay the same, including good old Japhy. And then there is that last section, he writes the "religious" experience of extended solitude in nature with such joy and authenticity. I have wondered for years how to convey the experience of connecting with God, with Source, sans sentimentality. I am not exactly sure how he does it, my hunch is that he succeeds by constantly reconnecting with the physical world, rather than going up into his head in airy transcendence. He puts you in touch with the land and the air and the stars in a way like no other. It’s a natural world and in the natural world people eat and smoke and piss and get agitated for no good reason and madness must be followed by peace and peace by madness. In someone else words, “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” Ray experiences moments of enlightenment, followed by feeding the cat (135). They get sick of parties and sick of each other. And they are also so dearly devoted, it’s a man’s man’s world, and there is such tenderness in these male friendships. Women are good girls or mad girls or hangers-on, but that’s fitting for this period in the narrator’s life, trying as he is to stick to celibacy (with hints of something obviously beneath that, like a deep-seated fear of women, a little boy’s awe and sense of mystery).
You either get it or you don’t, I think, and this time around I got it. (less)
I am free and lost. I feel. I have fever, chills. I am myself.
In Pessoa I have made a lifelong friend. Rarely do I f...morePessoa – "Dreams Without Illusions"
I am free and lost. I feel. I have fever, chills. I am myself.
In Pessoa I have made a lifelong friend. Rarely do I find an author who speaks to my wild adoration of words as well as my spiritual hunger. The word "spiritual" does not even really say it, it is the unveiling of things as they are, and the raw bare telling of it. My last big love was an unsettled scribbling philosopher who used to write things like "Everything is ourselves and we are everything, but of what use is it, if everything is nothing?" (47) and reading his seemingly nonsensical rants I would scoff. Then I started doing some serious work and met some real teachers and everywhere began hearing the same thing: this life is a dream. We are caught in the illusion. Everything and everyone we see is a reflection of ourselves. A projection of our minds. We are the creators of everything we experience. True self is no self. We are everything, we are nothing, indeed.
"Whenever I see someone sleep, I remember that everything is asleep. Whenever someone tells me he dreamed, I wonder if he ever thought he did anything but dream" (81)
Pessoa's insistence on dreams, the very literal dream-quality of existence, the awareness of our everyday disguises in the clothing of identity, the happiest hours of no-thought, his acutely detached observations of the unconscious humans around him—all of these reveal a being who is awake in the dream. He states that he never had anyone he could call "Master" (67), but somehow, at some point probably early in his life, the curtain of illusion was yanked back to expose Reality. No wonder then that he spent the majority of his life in solitude, connected but not relating to his fellow humans. Writing, I suspect, created outlet and purpose, and of course companionship, in a life alienated from the ignorant dramas and delusions of the sleeping world. He was not, however, enlightened/released from suffering; or maybe he was, who knows? Either way, he succeeded in conveying both a vivid and undeniable appreciation of life, and an abysmal yet matter-of-fact longing for death. To see things as they are and continue to be: I'm sure this must have been a challenge. But Pessoa renewed my faith in the possibility of communicating the unreligious ineffability of waking up, of seeing through the illusion of separation, doubt and fear which surrounds us. Without sentimentality or agenda. Simply to express, to create, to pass on a written artifact of understanding for those, like me, to come across and treasure.(less)
She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into...moreShe generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. "But it's no use now," thought poor Alice, "to pretend to be two people! Why, there's hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!" (less)
"As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suff...more"As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we've been avoiding uncertainty, we're naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms--withdrawal from always thinking that there's a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it." (p.54)(less)
Sometimes I feel vicariously through books. In fact, before I developed some degree of acceptance and comfort toward my own vulnerability, I think the...moreSometimes I feel vicariously through books. In fact, before I developed some degree of acceptance and comfort toward my own vulnerability, I think the majority of my opportunities to feel most freely came through books and movies. It was certainly safer to live in the virtual realm, so I never shied away from tear-jerkers.
That said, I was warned by my friend (a fellow water sign) who recommended this book that it.would.make.me.cry. So I thought I was somewhat prepared.
Well, I wasn't. This story of a china rabbit - on the surface a tried-and-true tale of a beloved child's toy who gets separated and must find his way back to the little girl who lost him - is actually a profound allegory on learning to love through loss, developing Christ consciousness (with a quite literal scene in which the rabbit gets nailed to a cross to serve as a scarecrow) and finally surrendering to selfless, open-hearted loving, no matter the consequences.
I read this novel in one night and about halfway through was sobbing in the bathtub. The tears kept flowing for the remainder of the book, and it became very clear to me that a dam had burst, allowing every feeling I'd been suppressing and containing for months to come rushing through. In truth, it felt like blessed release and salvation. After weeks of acknowledged emotional numbness, this book helped open the floodgates and get things moving again.
This, to me, is one of the wonders of books - and any artistic expression. Sometimes we can get to the truth of a thing so much easier through metaphor and allegory - it's why myths and religion and poetry all endure, as they all intimate in their own way something timeless and essential about human nature. We all, on some level, long for reconnection to our own creative spark, intuition and empathy. The being of ourselves, rather than doing.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever thought or uttered, as the china rabbit Edward does, "I am done with being loved...I'm done with loving. It's too painful." DiCamillo has channeled a narrative and a character to embody the universal experience of heartbreak, to which another voice within is always ready to counter, "Pish...Where is your courage?"(less)