Rumi-nating

Well, it’s been a while.

Four months to be exact.

BUT!

New Year, new leaf, new starts and all that.

And an absolute doozy of a book to recommend…

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafakimage

Now I must admit I knew very little about Rumi before I read this book.

Other than the fact that he seems to feature rather a lot when someone wants a spiritual sound bite for an inspirational quote.

Sort of a Thirteenth Century Athena poster guy.

But without cats.

How very wrong I was…

This book beautifully interweaves the story of Rumi’s platonic love for Shams of Tabriz, with a contemporary love story between a middle aged secular minded Jewish housewife and a modern day Sufi.

Improbable?   Possibly.

But the Universe works in mysterious ways. 🙂

This book provides a gentle introduction to the poetry and mysticism of Sufism, and to the wisdom and spiritual journey of Rumi.

Just lovely.

Buy it, read it, feel better.

Now that’s inspirational! 🙂

 

 

 

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Yogic Lit

I realise that I am in danger of becoming a yoga bore.

So I promise this will be the last time I mention it.

For a little while a least.

Probably.

But I have been asked for recommendations for books on yoga.

And given that I’m a Librarian with a degree in history, my ability to source books on yoga far surpasses my ability to actually do it 🙂

So coming at this as a complete beginner, the following have been really useful additions to the bookshelf.

And I’m sure sitting reading them with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit counts towards self practice time.

Svadhyaya, (tick), Pratyahara (tick), dharana (tick)

See, well on the way to enlightenment already.

Books to help with the Physical Practice

 The Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual by David Swenson.  I’ve found this absolutely invaluable.  Clear photos and written descriptions of the asanas, together with variations for the more flexibly challenged.  I still struggle with so many of the postures but at least with this book my brain can get what   I’m supposed to be doing even if my body isn’t interested in joining in yet.

 Yoga Mala by the originator of Ashtanga Yoga, Pattabhi Jois.  If I’m honest I really prefer David Swensons book, but it is interesting to read a text that weaves together the physical and spiritual elements of the practice. And makes incredible claims for the healing power of yoga.

image Having freaky fingers that bend the wrong way and are also double jointed I am fascinated by mudras.

Yay, postures I have half a chance of being able to do.

This is a really good introduction to a selection of the hundreds of different hand positions that focus on different physical, mental and spiritual attributes. Nice clear photos and written descriptions.

Integration/Philosophy

image Still working my way through this one.  But as I am trying develop both a daily asana self-practice , and to integrate other elements of yoga into my life, this is a useful set of pointers and discussions.

image I love this book, it really makes me laugh (the description of the young boy who claimed to have awoken his Kundalini energy being given a good slap and told to get a grip by Iyengar is particularly memorable) as well as being thought-provoking and full of wisdom.image This is absolutely fascinating.  A bit “photo-journalist”, but given it’s a topic I knew little about that was fine.  The photos are amazing, and the descriptions of how these men (and it is largely men) live and journey towards enlightenment are even more so.  A word of warning, if you are male and read this book, be aware that some of the photos (I’m thinking in particular of one that shows them lifting heavy stones without using their normal four limbs) will make your eyes water.

image Be Here Now by Ram Dass.  Well, I’ve included this because it comes under the heading of “interesting”.

Dass was a renowned Harvard academic & psychologist who worked with Timothy Leary “researching” the use of mind altering substances such as LSD.

Not sure how academically rigorous the research actually was.

Anyway, the first part of the book is a really interesting autobiographical description of Dass seeking spiritual enlightenment, first through psychology, then through drugs, and then through his wanderings in India.  This is absolutely fascinating.

The second part of the book is a series of stream-of-consciousness statements and drawings which I must admit I struggled with as it reminded me too much of some “deep and meaningful” album covers I spent too much time analysing as an angst-ridden teen goth.

Lots of people swear by it as a starting point for their own spiritual journey.

but I think I’ll stick with The Sisters of Mercy

Breath

image I’m just starting on this, but have high hopes it will prevent a recurrence of the hair ball incident (see previous post) and my tendency to sound like Darth Vader during his death scene in Star Wars  VI.

Fiction

Who knew there would be such a rich seam of yogic fic. to tap into?

image Yes it’s chick lit, but it’s very very funny.  And the descriptions of the heroines first forays into a yoga class are hilarious.

And so true to life.

image I’ve mentioned this before, but it so good, and as someone who struggles with meditation this did offer hope that if I persevere  one day my mind may stay focused for longer than three seconds (and yep, See previous posts about meditation)

image  I really hated this book.  But if you like the sort of self-obsessed, narcissistic works of Eat, Pray, Love and the like then you’ll probably like this.  Marketing executive decides there is more to life than image and goes off in search of enlightenment by staying in posh ashrams with beautiful people.  It made me so cross I gave up half way through, but perhaps it gets better later on.

Maybe.

And just to finish off….Ayurveda

image Ayurveda is a sister discipline to yoga.  It works on the assumption that we have different body types, made up of a mixture of the doshas vata, pitta and kapha.  If these doshas become imbalanced then you will have illness -physical, mental or spiritual.  Ayurveda is a system designed to help you keep your life in balance.

There are much more complete guides to Ayurveda out there.  But if you want a light, easy introduction to the topic, this is a good staring point.

Fiction Friday

22 days into a daily yoga practice.

You’d think it would be making a difference wouldn’t you?

But as I hobbled out of bed this morning, everything aching, I did think this was not quite the effect I was hoping for.

And tomorrow? 

I’ve signed up for a yoga workshop.

Which sounded lovely in the initial description.

And then the teacher released a leeetttle more information a couple of days ago.

Information which included the words “splits” and “tittibhasana”.

Yes I had to look the last one up too.

It looks like the evil older brother of the bhuja pidasana pose that has defeated me for the last 6 months.

May be crawling home tomorrow.

Or hitching a lift in an ambulance.

This Week I Have mostly Been Reading

   The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.

I loved this book.

Set amongst the merchant class of Seventeenth Century Amsterdam it deals with the life of Nella a new, very young and naive, bride and her new family.  Given a dolls house as a gift by her new husband, Nella comes to suspect (hope? Fear?) that the miniaturist who creates charming tiny replicas of the people and things in Nellas real life is in fact a prophetess or seer, or perhaps something more sinister.

The claustrophobic, damp and dingy atmosphere of seventeenth century Amsterdam is evocatively portrayed.  The themes of race, class, greed, love and jealousy beautifully interwoven.

The ending? A little disappointing.  Having developed these great characters and plot twists, it’s as if the author just didn’t know what to do with them.

Or perhaps she’s setting them up for a sequel 🙂

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

   Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz.

A boy (who is really named Odd) who has two talents:  Manning the grill at a greasy spoon, and communing with the dead.  

Not at the same time.

Oh and he also hangs out with dead Elvis.

Need I say more? 🙂

Fiction Friday

You would be forgiven for thinking

  

That Armageddon, or at least a small tornado combined with an earthquake, had passed through Leamington on Wednesday

  

But no.

It was nine 8 year old girls, over for an Easter/Spring Arts and Crafts and baking day.

My ears are still bleeding from the screaming.

Oldest child locked himself in his bedroom but eventually gave up, got on his bike and went to seek sanctuary at a friends house.

He may have broken the land speed record in his haste to get away.

But, out of chaos came forth order.

Of a sort

   

      

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

 

 Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson.

Absolutely fabulous!

 It is described on Amazon as  techno thriller.  But really that does not go anywhere near capturing the depth and breadth of this book.

Set in an unspecified Arab state, it deals with censorship and control, social structures, hacking and the cyber world and mixes these uber secular themes with Djinn, fables and myths, and ideas on the power and evolution of language. Language as a power source to knowledge and to magical realms and ultimately heaven. Language and books, in particular holy  books such as the Koran,  offering a source code whose sophistication evolves with mankinds ability to decode and use it. 

Throw in elements of the Arab Spring, a love story and the Thousand and One Nights and there you have it.

Magical Realism at its best.

Next Week I shall Mostly Be reading

   Clovenhoof by Heide Goody and Iain Grant.

What if the devil was fired from hell for gross negligence and had to forge a new life trying to quietly fit in in suburban Britain?

Hmm, thinking about it I’m sure that would explain a lot about Tescos on a Tuesday morning….

Hope Your Easter is a happy and chocolatey one

Fiction Friday

Late again.

But this has been an unexpectedly, and unremittingly, grim week.

The snow we woke up to this morning seemed most apt.

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The silence. The sense of waiting.

The meditation has been put on hold.

Too much stuff in my head for now.

And given that my zaku meditation cushion seems to have morphed into a PS4 gaming chair

And is now a bit sticky

That may be a Good Thing

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

The tale of Peter, sent as a missionary to a newly colonised world, to bring the Word of God to the original inhabitants of the new world. Also the tale of his wife Bea, left behind on Earth to carry on with normal life whilst Peter follows his vocation.

Only “normal” quickly disappears in the wake of environmental and economic disasters and subsequent societal breakdown.

It is a fascinating portrayal of the difficulties and vicissitudes of a long distance relationship.

The selfishness that (otherwise caring, loving) people can exhibit when focused on their own goals.

Or beliefs.

At times (many times), this is a somewhat bleak treatment on the nature of faith.
How much of that faith is dependent on believing it is part of a reciprocal arrangement. “I’ll believe in you, if you’ll give me x,y and z in return”.
And how quickly that faith can crumble when the rewards aren’t forthcoming.

I loved the portrayal of the indigenous people. How they changed from an amorphous collective, into loveable individuals as Peter came to know them, live and work with them.
How in many ways their childlike faith was stronger, more uncompromising, than Peter and Beas.

The writing is excellent.

Next Week I Shall Mostly be Reading

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The tale of a kick-ass librarian, sent to alternate realities to retrieve rare books and manuscripts.

How could I not read this?

Lara Croft, tome raider.

Ha!

(Sorry) 🙂

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Fiction Friday (nearly)

I didn’t resolve to “be organised” this year.

So I haven’t broken that resolution at least 🙂

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a21/51030994/files/2015/01/img_0458.jpg Times Legacy by Barbara Erskine.

Pure escapism.

Set in Glastonbury and Cambridge. A tale that combines modern day Anglicanism with pre-Christian druidry, female curates being obsessively stalked by fundamentalist Anglican vicars, the legend of Jesus visiting England developed into a tale of him studying with Druid healers.

What’s not to like?

A few reviewers on Amazon have been sniffy that the pre-Christian pagan society has not been dealt with in the exacting detail of authors such as Ken Follett.

But I don’t think this book is meant to be an historical epic.

It’s a fast paced, enjoyable piece of escapist time-slip nonsense.

With a bit of Anglican theology and mysticism and pagan spirituality thrown in.

And there’s nothing wrong with that 🙂

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a21/51030994/files/2015/01/img_0459.jpg The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

An unexpected but very welcome birthday present from Jean (hi Jean!).

“The portrait of a living breathing relationship frayed by distance….an enquiry into the mountains faith can move and the mountains faith can’t move” according to the blurb.

Sounds intriguing.

And I’m always up for a bit of belief challenging 🙂

101 Uses for a toenail

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I am really, really drawn to the idea of green living.

I’m just not that good at always living the dream.

But I do try. I Do. Honestly.

And I take my hat off to those people who manage to remain steadfast in the face of the myriad temptations of Amazon.

Who do not succumb to the lure of ready-made biscuits and cakes for the kids packing up.

Who handmake everything and just say no to convenience and packaging.

I am not worthy.

And the doyen of them all?

Zero Waste Home aka Bea Johnson.

This is a woman who reuses her toenail clippings and the hair from her hairbrush (they are put out for the birds to use for nesting material), who makes putty from the lint collected by her washing machine, who collects dead flies for composting.

Gentle reader, that “thunking” noise that kept disturbing my reading of her book Zero Waste Home? that was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor with alarming regularity.

The book

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is an inspiring and thought provoking read.

But I fear my toenails (and any dead flies I come across) are destined to remain bin -bound for at least the foreseeable future.

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Fiction Friday

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

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Just fabulous.

The story of Matthew, and what happens to him when his older brother dies in a tragic accident. An accident that Matthew believes he is responsible for. The story chronicles Matthew’s battles with mental health problems, the depression and schizophrenia, hearing and seeing his dead brother. It also chronicles the comfort that he draws from feeling his brother’s presence and almost reluctance to be “cured” as the cure would shut out that presence.

Now I know this doesn’t sound the most enjoyable or cheery of subject matters but the story is written with empathy and humour. The author is a mental health nurse and has obviously drawn heavily on his experiences in this area to craft the description of Matthew’s battles with both his illness and the authorities who try to “help” him. My experiences with people with mental health problems are limited to dealing with my mother’s Alzheimer’s, but the way Matthew’s narration veers from logical to random, from empathetic to aggressive, really struck a chord. And made feel sad that I didn’t and couldn’t understand what she was experiencing as the Alzheimer’s took hold.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

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I just downloaded this on a whim because I liked the book cover.

Hey it works for wine doesn’t it? 🙂

I think it’s good to step outside your usual choices sometimes.

Well, hopefully….

Fiction Friday

The Last Few Weeks I Have Mostly Been Reading….

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Well, I seem to be the only person on the planet who really disliked this book.

The premise of the book is “What if you could live your life again, and again, until you got it right”?

And so you have a book where the main character keeps dying, and each new chapter starts with the assumption that the previous events that caused the death either didn’t happen, or were altered in some way so the outcome is different.

To begin with I thought “how refreshing” and “how clever”.

By the end of the book the concept was annoying me so much I could have cheerfully hurled the book out of the window.

If it hadn’t been a kindle version. 🙂

Yes, I get that it is a great, and interesting idea. But really, after a while the conceit completely gets in the way of the narrative.

A pity, because the underlying story, once you actually managed to follow it through to the end, was good.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

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I’ve read a lot of good things about this book, let’s hope they are all true 🙂

Fiction Friday

Yoga today.

Gordon Bennett!

That’s all I can say.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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Another good book! Yay! Isn’t it nice when you get a run of them?

Again, it’s not great literature, but it is a good read.

I found myself irritated by it at first. A detective who has been working on a case for ten years needs a forensic archaeologist to explain references in letters that could have been sent by a murder? References that include such things as Will O’ the Wisps, and quotes from TS Eliot?come on. But once you get past that unlikely scenario this has a storyline and characters that draw you in.

Henges, pagans, bodies in the bog?

Fab 🙂

Next Week I ShallMostly Be Reading

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The last Kate Atkinson I read was Behind The Scenes At The Museum, ooooh, many moons ago. I’m intrigued to see if this will be as good.