Surrender. It is the meaning of the word “Islam.” Buddhism champions it, so does Sufism. It could easily be the secret to life, but how to practice le...moreSurrender. It is the meaning of the word “Islam.” Buddhism champions it, so does Sufism. It could easily be the secret to life, but how to practice letting go of the things that we are most attached to, the things we want most to happen in our lives? In a society that preaches going after what you want no matter the cost, how to let go?
I saw Dr. Judith Orloff speak for the first time at the signing for this book, her latest, The Ecstasy of Surrender. Though soft-spoken and gentle in nature, she had complete command of the audience. Her insights are brimming, even in passing comments. A medical doctor who is an assistant clinical professor of psychology at UCLA as well as an intuitive, she brings a unique blend of science to spirituality. After spending the evening with her, I knew her book would be worth reading. I had read one of her previous books, Positive Energy, and I vividly remember her uplifting voice encasing wisdom channeling through each page. I had devoured the book in one sitting.
The Ecstasy of Surrender is divided into five parts, power and money, reading people and communication, relationships, love and sensuality, mortality and immortality, and embracing ecstasy. All parts are helpful and Orloff writes with an engaging, intimate voice, but this book could have easily been half its size. It’s best to pick the parts that interest you and go from there. You can read it from beginning to end, but you may struggle.
The best parts are those that relate to relationships, how to read and communicate with people, the power of the self, and sexuality. The first surrender is also worth reading, which is redefining true success, power, and happiness. In her pages, there is a belief in destiny, and here is where her spirituality comes in. Orloff writes, “I guarantee that if a job, a relationship, or wealth is meant for you, it will find you in Timbuktu…However if something isn’t your destiny, it just won’t happen no matter how frustrating that feels or how hard you work for it.” She believes that the art of manifesting goals involves both effort and surrender. You have to release what isn’t working. She also believes in the magic of stillness and meditation, “to the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” By the end, I am convinced that surrender is empowering.
Especially for readers entering a trying or challenging period, The Ecstasy of Surrender brings comfort and some therapy. To get a taste of her words, here is a Surrender Affirmation for Trusting Intuition (a surrender affirmation ends each chapter):
I am willing to accept that there is more to me than my linear mind. I am ready to surrender to my intuition so I can read people in new ways. I release all thoughts that tell me I can’t do it. I want to embody Walt Whitman’s words, “I am large—I contain multitudes.” (less)
Illuminata is a beautiful book of what I would call “secular” prayers by one of the most acclaimed spiritual writers of our time, Marianne Williamson....moreIlluminata is a beautiful book of what I would call “secular” prayers by one of the most acclaimed spiritual writers of our time, Marianne Williamson. There is no mention of a prophet or religious lingo, just God and the contemplation to reach him with these words. There are prayers for everything you could imagine, healing, love, children, money, failure, achievement and work, daily prayers and renewal prayers. The prayers are as powerful as those of the three monotheistic traditions, yet they are bare and simple, applicable to anyone. Williamson believes in the unification of the world’s spiritual traditions, and this book of prayers reflects that. She also offers her own commentary to spirituality, written as a preface to her prayers.
Meditation is just as important to her as prayer. She writes, “prayer is when we talk to God, and meditation is when we listen.” Meditation is a time of quiet when the mind is freed, a silence in which the spirit of God can enter us and work his divine alchemy upon us, she says. Our brains hence emit different waves as we receive information more deeply than we do during normal waking consciousness. Meditation is a time we can speak to others at their soul level, “in the holiness of the inner shrine from your most naked, loving truth.”
Williamson’s reflection on prayer here is a snapshot of the great insights she shares in Illuminata, “The highest level of prayer is not a prayer for anything. It is a deep and profound silence, in which we allow ourselves to be still and know Him. In that silence, we are changed. We are calmed. We are illumined.”
One of my favorite sections is “Daily Prayers.” Henry David Thoreau once said that each day is a new beginning, like a new blank leaf page of a book, the chance to start anew. The prayers in this section are a great way to begin the day, with “Morning Prayer,” or “A New Day,” or even closing the day with “Evening Prayers.” She also has a wonderful section on relationships. During meditation, she says, we can speak soul to soul and hear the response. “Where we love,” she writes, “let us deepen that love through silent communion in the chambers of the heart. Where we experience conflict, let us find the soul of the other in silence, in prayer.” (less)
The author put a good effort here, but unfortunately this book succumbs to the type of orientalism that still plagues historical fiction set in the Ot...moreThe author put a good effort here, but unfortunately this book succumbs to the type of orientalism that still plagues historical fiction set in the Ottoman Empire. This is the Western view of the Ottoman Empire harem life, not the authentic life in the Ottoman Empire itself. One of the biggest hurdles is language. It's difficult to have an authentic novel set in the old Turkish culture when you don't know the language or have a deep sense of the customs and ways back then.(less)
As women we can sell ourselves short as mothers, wives, lovers, friends and employees. Marianne Williamson is our biggest advocate, reminding us that...moreAs women we can sell ourselves short as mothers, wives, lovers, friends and employees. Marianne Williamson is our biggest advocate, reminding us that we are worth far more than we allow ourselves to acknowledge. It's easy for women to sacrifice, getting lost in a sea of needs, losing ourselves in others, forgetting our power as creative beings.
I think A Woman's Worth should be assigned reading for every woman.
This is the third book of Williamson's that I've read. I see this book as a 140-page essay rather than a self-help guide. Though the form is at times amorphous and meandering, delving sometimes into Woolfish stream of consciousness, she manages to pinpoint the essence of a woman's role, purpose and spiritual mission. This is quite a large feat for 140 pages! Ultimately, she writes that a woman can only find peace and security in herself. We as the "goddess" can only lead intact. And that peace can only come from a strong spiritual core cultivated through meditation, prayer, yoga, or some type of daily spiritual practice, even physical exercise helps. To love deeply, she argues, is a woman's greatest gift. She discusses children, sex, relationships, but ultimately her core messages comes down to the imperativeness of a whole woman only made whole by a strong connection to God. "The only beloved who can always be counted on is God," she writes.
The golden nugget here is her voice. It is highly engaging, almost enthralling and penetrating. Though her message can get convoluted in so many of her thoughts, to enjoy this book you just have marinate in her words, and stay in the moment of her raw prose. (less)
This little pink book of Rumi Poetry translated by writer Farrukh Dhondy is radiant. The poems included in this collection are brief, some only a stan...moreThis little pink book of Rumi Poetry translated by writer Farrukh Dhondy is radiant. The poems included in this collection are brief, some only a stanza or a few lines, but such is the poetry of Rumi, short and piercing, yet peaceful and meditative, a glimpse of another time and place, yet contemporary. This thirteenth-century Sufi poet is the most popular one in our current culture, the best selling poet of all time, because of his ability to connect with a simple voice and resonating, universal message that speaks across all religions. Reading each verse is like a meditation in itself.
Dhondy introduces his collection with a compelling and helpful essay, “Rumi, Sufism and the Modern World.” He expounds how Sufism is in truth a universal religion of the spirit that adopted the disciplines of Islam and used its dynamism to disseminate itself. For other orders of Islam, acceptance of the five pillars, the obedience of Sharia, and ritual observance, are necessary to deem oneself a good Muslim. But for the Sufi, these are the minimal garb, the outer, “hollow” forms of Islam. The essence of Sufi devotion is the spiritual awakening, he writes, the oneness and the light. All ritual or practice must lead to that. All paths lead to the one. Dhondy also includes a personal note about translating this collection at the end.
The verses selected are from the Mathnawi, Diwan-e Shams-e and The Discourses. Though I am not a Sufi scholar, or well versed in his poetry (though I have read some other collections and translations), I can only comment as a lay reader. But I have to say that I immensely enjoyed this translation. My job is not to judge the translator, but to appreciate his interpretation. Translation is a science but it is also an art, and as an art, the poems were beautifully translated. Each poem has its own charm and poignancy. I always like to include a poem from a collection that I review. Here is one of my favorites below.
There are no rules of worship He will hear The voice of every heart That is sincere. (less)