Saturday, May 17, 2008

Enlightenment For Idiots

Did you know that I am a Chick-Lit Expert Blackbelt to the 3rd degree? I am. I love my fluff reads when I'm not reading a yoga/Buddhist book. So when I read a recent review in yoga Journal for Enlightenment For Idiots by Anne Cushman, I was super excited! Another review said this book was Sex In The City meets Eat, Pray, Love. I don't know about you but I have never seen an episode of Sex In The City but Eat, Pray, Love is one of my FAVORITE books. Immediately I added it to my Amazon Wishlist.

Long story short, I scored a copy and loved it. The story involves Amanda, a 29 year old would-be yoga teacher and writer travelling through India for her publisher to write a guidebook for enlightenment - because it's the latest craze and all. In the midst of that, she deals with heartache, homesickness, cultureshock, and a travel companion who refers to himself in the plural sense. She struggles to find enlightment when life keeps throwing CRAZY curveballs at her. How will she handle it? I wholeheartedly recommend you read it and find out!

Anne co-directs the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. She has also been published in Yoga Journal, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, O: The Oprah Magazine and more. She was kind enough to stop by C&Y and answer a couple of questions I had for her...

How did you end up at Spirit Rock?

Almost 20 years ago I began attending a weekly sitting group and talk led by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield in Fairfax, California. Jack then became one of the founders of Spirit Rock in nearby Woodacre, and his class moved there in the early 90s. I’ve been practicing there ever since—I think of it as my primary spiritual community. About eight years ago I began teaching yoga there, and about four years ago I taught on their first “yoga and meditation” retreat.

How does your yoga practice come to play when you are tapping into your creativity?
I couldn’t write if I didn’t do yoga. Yoga gets my creative juices flowing, and acts as a potent counterpose to the writer’s tendency to live in the head. And both yoga and writing are powerful practices that focus the lens of my awareness on the details of my embodied life, revealing its magic and mystery.

What in your life do you consider bliss?
Meditating and doing yoga outside on my deck under the oak branches, looking out at Mt. Tamalpais. Snuggling up in a hammock with my son and reading “The Borrowers” aloud. Dancing with friends in my living room. Curling up on my soft golden sofa with someone I love. Hiking through the spring wildflowers along the bluffs at Pt. Reyes.

Do you feel there is a lack of education in the West on the true meaning of Yoga?
I think the teachings are always available for those who are looking for them. If you’re not ready, it doesn’t matter how many times you’re instructed in the true dharma. If you are ready, you can hear it in the rustling of the wind in the trees.

I know the book is all fictional characters but who in the book can you relate to the most?
One of the things I discovered about writing fiction is that I really fall in love with all of my characters, even the difficult ones. For instance, in order to write the scenes with the impossible boyfriend, Matt, I had to really get inside his head and understand who he was, where he was coming from, and why he was acting the way he was. If I didn’t do that, the scenes were flat and didn’t ring true—and once I understood him on a deeper level, I couldn’t dismiss him as the jerk I initially wanted him to be.

That said, of course Devi Das and Amanda are the dearest to my heart, with all their quirks and vulnerabilities. Amanda touches me with her courage to plunge forward with her adventure, despite her tremendous insecurities and fears—I was rooting for her all the way!

What is your favorite dessert?
My most blissful dessert memory is of a crème brulee I ate in France, years ago, shortly after leaving a three-week meditation retreat at Plum Village, the monastery of Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. The hot, crunchy burnt-sugar top...the cool sweetness of the took me straight to samadhi!

These days, I’m not so into decadent dessert of choice is more along the lines of a soft, stinky cheese (like Stilton or Brie) paired with a juicy pear from the farmer’s market. But I often accompany my seven-year-old son to the Scoop, the icecream store in downtown Fairfax, which offers the world’s best icecream made on the premises from local, organic ingredients (and served up in homemade sugar cones)--and every now and then I’ll enjoy a cone of one of their most exotic flavors myself (cardamom is my current favorite).


Anonymous said...

Cool interview! I think maybe you'll like a bliss interview I'll be posting this Wednesday with yoga teachers Ana Brett & Ravi Singh! Ana is brilliantly articulate about some important aspects of our chosen path.

Linda Sama said...

In one month I'm headed for my second retreat at Spirit Rock for the Mindfulness Yoga training....Anne is an excellent teacher and it's an awesome training.

and I loved her book! her descriptions of India brought me right back.

Linda Sama said...

p.s. you can read about some of my experiences at last year's retreat on my blog, if you search "spirit rock"

Wheeler's Frozen Dessert said...

Looks interesting! I might pick up a copy of it soon ...

Erin said...

Read it! Loved it!

rand(om) bites said...

Thanks hon! Waiting for it to come out in Australia and I think it's got a different title here. Gotta check again.

Jen said...

Thanks for reviewing - I loved this book! Much better than other yoga chick-lit. It's actually informative about yoga, but still fun. I'm waiting for a sequel.

eganvay said...

Thanks for the pointer, I'll pick up a copy to share with my students!

Great blog... pass the cupcakes!

can I request a vegan one?


aliceinparis said...

Just read this book and Loved it:)

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