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! 🙂

 

 

 

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.

Disturbing (AKA Fiction Friday)

It’s been a long time since I last visited Stratford Butterfly Farm

In fact youngest child was about 3 the last time we visited.

That was the time I turned my back for a minute and she decided to pet a butterfly.

Only, 3 year olds are not renowned for their finesse and fine motor skills.

I do hope it wasn’t an endangered species.

Ahem.

So, it’s been a while.

And what are you greeted with when you visit nowadays?

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A shop mannequin with the top of it’s head chopped off, and filled with plants.

As youngest child said as we approached it

“Well, that’s a bit disturbing”.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

This is the perfect early summer read.

It is the story of Ove, a man who at first appears bitter and unpleasant but whose tragic background, good heart and stubborn defense of his own, old fashioned, moral values and code of ethics lead, ultimately, to his rehabilitation.  You’ll laugh and, if you’re like me, you’ll weep buckets (earning plenty of eye rolls from oldest child).  This is a real feel-good story.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

It’s been on my wish list for a few years.

Hope  it’s worth the wait.

Fiction Friday

I’m not a gardener.

I sometimes kid myself that I am.

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But that only lasts as long as the nice weather does.

Real gardeners tend to be out there in all weathers.

They nurture,  they tend,  they nurse.

They dont just bung the plants in and hope for the best.

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But sometimes.

Sometimes.

Bunging in and leaving the rest to nature?

Works.

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This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

Walking Home by Sonia Choquette.

Which isnt a work of fiction.

Not exactly.

When her marriage breaks down and she unexpectedly suffers 2 bereavements,  Sonia Choquette decides to undertake an 820km pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. This book describes her journey- physical,  mental and spiritual- and the stories of the people she met along the way.

I am trying to be yogic and non judgemental about this.

But this is a woman who sees fairies.

Who puts her crippling blistered feet down to the workings of Spirit

rather than the fact she bought her walking boots a couple of days before starting her walk and didn’t wear them in.

And who knows?

Perhaps the Spirit does move in mysterious ways.

But,  in spite of being slightly deranged,  (must not judge,  must not judge),  Choquette is an endearing character.

And her descriptions of battling with her experiences,  her expectations and her self are fascinating and honest.

We all need some time away from the stress and busyness of life in order to remind ourselves of who we really are.

Most of us just dont need the fairies to help us find it.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

A book about a grumpy middle aged bloke.

Obviously a work of fiction then.

🙂

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

Yoga on Wednesday.

“Do you want to try some back bending?” Asked my teacher in much the same way as you would ask if someone fancied a custard cream with their cup of tea.

“Oh go on then” I said. In the same spirit.

Which is how I found myself lying face up on the floor, grasping my teachers ankles, grimacing furiously (I expect he wore the same facial expression but I was looking between his legs at this point) whilst the poor guy tried to heave me up into something approaching a graceful curve rather than a wooden plank.

I suspect he may not ask again for a while.

This Week I Have mostly Been Reading

IMG_0397.JPGNight after Night by Phil Rickman

Two nights.

That’s how long it took me to read this book.

Staying up well past my bedtime

Hairs on the back of my neck standing up more with each (virtual) turn of the page.

The premise? A haunted house. A reality TV show. Teams of sceptics and believers locked in the property together for a week.

The suspense and creepiness is built up gradually and inexorably. Rickman is an absolute master at building up suspense and a sense of lurking doom and horror without actually delivering the punch.

Until you least expect it.

A return of some characters readers of previous Rickman books will recognise fondly including Grayle Underhill and Cindy the cross-dressing shaman.

Fab fab fab.

I really must do a return visit to Sudeley Castle and Belas Knapp.

In the daylight. 🙂

Next Week I Will Mostly Be Reading

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Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.

Not sure what’s been going on with the publication of this book.

It was due last summer, then this November, then the publication date was put back to next summer, then it suddenly appeared as a Kindle book (at which point I quickly bought it in case they changed their minds again). And now I see the hardback is now available for purchase.

Get it while you can.

Vol 5 in the brilliant Rivers of London series.

A series which saw me unable to travel on the London Tube without being seriously creeped out.

And which justified my long and unrelenting dislike and mistrust of Punch and Judy.

Really looking forward to this.

Fiction Friday

A postscript on the trip Oop North.

Sunday saw us shivering around Housesteads Roman fort.

Well, you can’t really visit Northumberland and not go to The Wall.

A masterpiece of ancient architecture

An unsophisticated attempt at apartheid

Bleak.

And very very cold.

I have never been to The Wall and not been cold.

It certainly makes you appreciate what those displaced centurions would have felt like, with the bitter winds whipping up their togas 🙂

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And the thing the kids will remember from this trip?

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Roman loos.

And after an hour wandering around in the freezing cold, they actually started to look quite inviting.

Especially with the sound of moo-ing in the background.

It was just like being back in Hestons Little Chef.

Plus ca change…

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

Well unfortunately Gideon Mack has been put on hold whilst I have been racing through the first five volumes of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

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Racing because oldest child has been voraciously devouring these books and as they are, again, young adult books I wanted to give them a quick scan before handing them over.

And I have to say, these are so good.

Gripping, excellent story line, nice dose of biblical references which went completely over Oldest Childs head (” Who was Cain mum?”), lots of teenage angst over identity and friendships but not in a navel gazing Twilight way.

So so good.

And currently on special offer in The Works!

Even better 🙂

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

Bwa ha HA!

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The New Phil Rickman.

Bought today and delivered instantly to my Kindle.

Reasons to be grateful #564 🙂

Snot bubbles (AKA Fiction Friday)

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

20141017-063349.jpg The Fault In our Stars by John Green
I have seen the pictures of mass hysteria at the cinema with bedraggled, mascara smeared teens sobbing their way, blinking, into the daylight.
I approached the book forewarned and forearmed with a healthy degree of cynicism

By chapter two I was sobbing on the sofa.

Chapter twenty one had me in a state of collapse. Think Juliet Stevenson in “Truly, Madly Deeply”, raw and sobbing, snot bubbles and all.

Readers, it was not pretty.

It was at this point that Oldest Child staged An Intervention and wrestled the book from my tear sodden hands and told me to go upstairs and lie down and get a grip on myself.

He now refuses to touch the book with a ten foot barge pole.

So yes.

A book that goes through every cliche but still manages to suck you into the story and spit you out the other end.

Even whilst you are completely aware of how the author is playing you like a, like a banjo!

Remind me not to watch the film.

At least not in public.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

20141017-064617.jpgThe Testament of Gideon Mack

A novel exploring faith and belief and the existence of Satan.

A bit of light relief after the last book then.

🙂

Fiction Friday

On Tuesday I decided to try a bit of yoga self practice.

Full of enthusiasm (ish) I took myself up to the peace and quiet of the guest bedroom where I could wobble and grimace without fear of scaring any passing postmen.

Immersed in the pain moment, I reached the, very attractive, karna pidasana pose which basically involves wedging your head between your knees, bum waving in the air, face as red as if you are trying to give birth to something the size of a baby elephant.

At which point I heard a faint scratching at the window and looked up to see the shocked face of the window cleaner.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

IMG_0356.JPGThe Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman.

A really interesting read. A disparate group of characters – Rebecca who broadcasts her emotions, Lewis who skips his wife’s funeral and then meets a woman who claims to be God, Aby, a green, gill necked aquatic woman trying to save her mother from damnation caused by living out of water – weirdness abounds, but in a good way. Kaufman weaves the separate stories together into an entertaining and compulsive narrative. Excellent.

Next Week I shall Mostly Be Reading

IMG_0359.JPGThe Fault in Our Stars. Thought I would check this out before setting oldest child loose on it as I’m not sure how “adult” this “young adult” book gets. Having seen the photos of distraught, tear stained teens coming out of the cinema after seeing the film am slightly concerned I may disgrace myself by weeping through most of the story.

Tissues are at the ready 🙂