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Review: Auspicious Good Fortune by Sumangali Morhall


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Article first published as Book Review: Auspicious Good Fortune: One Woman’s Inspirational Journey from Western Disillusionment to Eastern Spiritual Fulfilment by Sumangali Morhall on Blogcritics.

Auspicious Good Fortune by Sumangali MorhallAuspicious Good Fortune is English writer Sumangali Morhall’s first published work, a novice author and student of an Indian spiritual master writing more than adeptly of her lifelong journey from spiritual novice to adept. Or as such things are put on lush, inviting book covers, “One woman’s inspirational journey from Western disillusionment to Eastern spiritual fulfilment.” For once you really can judge a book by its attractively designed, accurately described cover.

Morhall is from an arguably unique generation in history, a generation which grew up taking the fruits and freedoms of feminism for granted. Coming of age in the late 1980s, she literally had the world at her feet, and like few women before her, was able to study, travel and work in almost any field of her choosing. In the pages of her autobiography, she literally does.

To borrow the mantra of Joseph Campbell, completely unhindered in the ability to follow her personal bliss, Morhall seeks happiness and satisfaction in multiple jobs, countries, relationships and experiences: gaining an art degree, lead singer of a band, teaching English in Thailand, partying in London, scuba diving and nearly marriage in Mexico, shoplifting and retail store manager, business degree from a prestigious university, job in a London fashion house; she tries it all and willingly walks away from it all, including a model-musician boyfriend, to wear a sari and join what is traditionally one of the most patriarchal, male dominated realms — a spiritual community — where by her own compelling account, she undeniably blossoms.

Amongst the near horizonless flotsam and jetsam of our internet age, the sea of world-weariness, cheap cynicism, aimlessly drifting intellectualism and obscure speculation, the sincere, affecting, beautiful words with which Morhall describes her sometimes stumbling, sometimes running search for enlightenment are like a life-raft floating far beyond, and the depth of wisdom on board, pearls from deep beneath.

Auspicious Good Fortune is potentially an instant classic of the world of spiritual literature. Like the writing of Christopher Isherwood, an English author better known as the father of modern gay writing, but also a lifelong member of the Ramakrishna Order, and author of several seminal works on spirituality, Morhall’s book possesses the rare distinction of being the product not just of an authentic devotee and spiritual insider — Morhall a student with a rare close access to the recently belated New York guru Sri Chinmoy — but a genuinely talented writer as well. Also like Isherwood, Auspicious Good Fortune surprises with its candour and willingness to throw back the cloister curtains, the search for inner truth speckled equally with tears of frustration and jewels of bliss.

Heart on sleeve and on page, Morhall writes directly from the heart, with endearing honesty and captivating charm. Hers is the pure, unaffected voice of child, but a child who has meditated for over two decades, and whom possesses piercing insight and depth of both spiritual and worldly experience. Morhall may be a novice author, but in Auspicious Good Fortune she is no novice of the spiritual realm. If Eat, Pray, Love were to become serialised, this would be concluding edition.

A subtly emotive, poetic writer, with a keen eye for the delicate and minute, so well written and metaphorically masterful is Auspicious Good Fortune, it is as if Emily Dickinson herself has entered the realm of biographical prose. By her own admission more adept at poetry than prose, Morhall is at her lyrical and transcendent best when discussing her genuinely inspiring — and at times genuinely miraculous — experiences with Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, whom on the basis of this heart-felt account, one can’t help but want to know better.

Morhall presents us with a conclusion that echoes the wisdom of ancient sages quoted within her very pages: to find a spiritual master and to follow the life of inner truth is the most auspicious path of all. Auspicious Good Fortune is the highly recommended tale of that search, and furthermore, the tale of what is found.

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This moment of happiness is brought to you by Coke


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“A moment of happiness has the power to bring the world closer together.”

Those marketing geniuses at Coca-Cola have done it again, making us feel all mushy and happy despite our better judgement, with this commercial about a Coke machine bringing everyday Indians and Pakistanis together.

Which reminds me of a quote by Sri Chinmoy that is remarkably similar in sentiment:

One happy moment
Can erase the bitter frustrations
Of decades.
Sri Chinmoy

Well done Coke. Whatever the merits of your product, I can wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment.

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art japan literature

Donald Richie on Reading Noh Drama


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Noh Theatre

Each note, each word must be savored, weighed, calculated, and then put again into context; the context and never the word alone creating the image.

The Text

It is not impossible to read the Noh as literature, but it is difficult. It requires the kind of imagination essential to anyone who sits in complete silence and reads a score. It also requires a like amount of skill—whether the text is translated or not. Going to the Noh in Japan is very like going to a chamber music recital elsewhere. Many have the text open in their laps. Since the language is so obscure, the delivery so slow, the syllables so drawn-out, most Japanese could not otherwise understand a word. Even with the text, as with the score of a Schoenberg quartet, one must study it both before and after performance for the subtleties to become apparent. The pleasure lies in comprehending the form, in discovering the retrogrades, in uncovering the canons; or in tracing the allusion, in understanding the ambiguity, in finding the richness of the associations. The text of Noh is a collection of poems, some by the author of the play, some not; it is a repository of popular songs of the day; language and often action turn on the pun, the pillow-word, the invented portmanteau, pivot-words, conceits. Reading Noh is like reading late Joyce, like reading St. John Perse, like reading Webern. Each note, each word must be savored, weighed, calculated, and then put again into context; the context and never the word alone creating the image. Noh defies translation, as Chinese poetry, as Donne defy translation. Properly, Noh should include two pages of commentary for every two lines of text. When Hagoromo dances for her robe and sings of the heavens, she does much more than just this. What we are given is a created cosmography in which float bits of T’ang poetry, pieces of earlier Japanese, traditional refrains, and transient songs of the day. The language turns, convolutes, rears back upon itself. A near approach is Middleton, Webster, Ford; or, in Shakespeare, the echoing poetry of Measure for Measure, the subjective rant, all association, of Thersites in Troilus. The language of Noh is like music of the Elizabethan period, like the parade of reminiscences—controlled but seeming not—in the Cries of London; like the drinking-rounds and canons, cunning and lapidary. The Noh is mannerist drama.

From: Richie, Donald. “Notes on the Noh.” The Hudson Review 18, no. 1 (spring 1965)

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Quickstart Guide to Meditation


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Diabatsu great Buddha of Todaiji Temple, Nara, Japan, by Jaitra GillespieHaving been meditating as a student of meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy for over seventeen years now, I get asked for advice and tips on how to begin meditating so often, I thought it about time I wrote some of them down.

Learning to meditate is simple

Learning to meditate is both incredibly simple and incredibly complex. In theory, the essence of meditation is the simplest thing in the world — stilling your mind — but as with most things in life, there are a thousand and one methods to doing so, and a book and spiritual path dedicated to each one.

Furthermore, as anyone who has attempted a little meditation will tell you, making your mind quiet and still is anything but easy; in reality it is akin to the proverbial impossible task of making the crooked tail of a dog straight, and in many traditions of meditation, a goal seen to require lifetimes to completely master.

But for now, forget you read any of that. Think not about the mountain ahead to climb; think instead of the words of Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Here is a simple guide to taking that first step.

Simple guide to begin to meditate

  • Sit comfortably with your spine straight. You don’t have to sit cross-legged — sitting on a chair is fine.
  • Relax your body. Focus on feeling each part of your body relax one by one, i.e. your feet, your legs, your arms, your chest…
  • Breath deeply at first, then gently and softly. Try to allow your body to breathe for you, or feel that you are entering into a natural rhythm of breathing. Never force your breath or do anything that feels “unnatural”.
  • If you prefer, instead of focusing on your breath you can try concentrating on an object like a candle flame or flower.
  • Try to let thoughts go when they come. You can imagine thoughts are like clouds in the sky, passing by you without leaving a trace, or that you are on a bridge and thoughts the river passing beneath.
  • Mantras or a repeated phrase are fine if they work for you, but not at all necessary — all techniques are just one more way to focus and still your mind.
  • Burning incense and meditative music are aids that can help put you into a meditative zone or space.
  • Practise every single day, preferably at the same time, as it trains your mind into a routine and helps to build momentum. Only 5 or 10 minutes is enough, and longer of course fine, but don’t force yourself past what feels natural or comfortable.
  • Find what works for you, what takes you into the “zone” of meditation, then work at getting better at slipping into this state, and staying there for longer.

You will start to notice results and positive side-effects of your meditation practise relatively quickly — even in a week or two.

Sitting still for 10 minutes will change your life

Yes, it really is that simple. Sitting still for five or ten minutes really can change your life — increase your concentration, reduce stress, increase creativity, make you sleep better, intangibly but permanently make you happier — and it requires neither fee, course of study, equipment or complicated technique. You’d really be crazy not to do it, and to paraphrase a famous meditation master, only those who meditate are truly sane.

More learning to meditate resources

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Japanese Doughnuts


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With their outrageous cuteness, Japanese doughnuts will fill the hole in your stomach and your heart.

From Floresta Nature Doughnuts, Kyoto, Japan.

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inspiring life

Richard Nixon’s Meaning of Life


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History hasn’t been kind to President Nixon, and were you looking for insight into the meaning of life, his door would not be the first you would open.

Maybe however it should be, for when he gives his version of the oft-ignored truism that money will not buy you happiness, you would be wise to listen. And remember another frequently overlooked fact while you’re doing so — one can’t always judge a book by its cover. Even a book covered by dust, and hiding at the back of a library.

…the unhappiest people in the world are those in the watering places, the international watering places like..uhhh..the south coast of France and Newport and Palm Springs and Palm Beach; going to parties every night, playing golf every afternoon, then bridge. Drinking too much, talking too much, thinking too little. Retired. No purpose.

And so, well I know those who will totally disagree with this and say ‘Gee, boy, if I could just be a millionaire that would be the most wonderful thing; if I could just not have to work everyday, if I could just be out fishing or hunting, or playing golf, or travelling, that would be the most wonderful life in the world’ …they don’t know life, because what makes life mean something is purpose. A goal. The battle. The struggle. Even if you don’t win it…

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Nowhere Else on Earth


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New Zealand sheep

It seems I’ve been away from New Zealand long enough now that I am beginning to experience New Zealanders as the rest of the world does. That is disarmingly open and friendly — even innocent — and not the less charitable qualities I might once have assigned.

My debit card expired, and so I called my Auckland based bank to get a replacement sent to the United States. Barely a minute later I was speaking with “Janine”.

Ooohh, there’s a Jamaica in New York, I didn’t know that… Is it like the other Jamaica?

Sadly no,” I respond to this cheery call centre operator, who sounds not a day over sixteen. “Not at all!

I wonder why it’s called Jamaica then?

A moment of silence follows as Janine ponders the enigma of a Caribbean namesake in the New York borough of Queens, and I ponder whether I am really on the phone with a high powered banker. Randomly but endearingly she then adds,

I do like Jamaican music though!

And that’s New Zealand right there in a single phone conversation. So down to earth you couldn’t be anywhere else on this Earth.

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Hero Rabbit Saves Humans From House Fire


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super rabbit bugs bunny

Proving that man’s best friend may sometimes have a twitching nose and cute button tail, a pet rabbit is being credited with saving its owners from a house fire in southeastern Alaska.

The not at all rascally rabbit woke the owner of both house and pet early in the morning by scratching on her chest, the Ketchikan Fire Department said in a statement. Realising that the house was full of smoke—and not the kind that makes carrots even more delicious—the homeowner woke her daughter and fled.

The fire was brought under control fairly quickly, and while damage to the house was considered moderate—and damage to humans non-existent—the heroic house pet was not so lucky, succumbing to smoke inhalation at the scene according to the fire department.

Source: Reuters

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Walt Whitman: Make no puns


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Make no puns
funny remarks
Double entendres
“witty” remarks
ironies
Sarcasms
Only that which
is simply earnest
meant, —harmless
to anyone’s feelings
—unadorned
unvarnished
nothing to
excite a
laugh
silence
silence
silence
silence
laconic
taciturn.

–Walt Whitman instructs himself in an 1855-56 notebook about the Second Edition of Leaves of Grass.

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life

Q, R, Cookie Monster…


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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3m9kBzdA34

Childhood favourite Kermit the Frog shows that not only kittens and puppies can be cute, as he counts through the letters of the alphabet with a young human who likes cookies.

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