Tag Archives: books

The Way To Stillness.

... being so open to the present moment, that numerous possibilities that weren't there before flow through you.

Since there hasn’t been any drama in a while, I keep spouting internal formulas on what may really be going on in my life. Something big is sure to be brewing under the currents of everyday banality and free-flowingness.

The jaded, perhaps more accurately, faithless side of me that’s been doing the rounds for a while was definitely heading towards a dead-ended wall of impenetrable inevitability. It’s answer to the this perpetual question of what’s next” that my life had become, was growing more angst-ridden. I was starting to feel like the walls were caving in, the more i burned through each day.

I’ve often tried to explain to a close friend about why I’m not a practicing muslim. I’ve told him that I know there is some greatness here, some truth in this book. Every time I try to gain some of that knowledge, that enlightenment, however, I felt like the words were a puzzle I couldn’t unlock. As an insult, whenever I would feel this way I would get stuck in the loop of a line that is often mentioned in the Quran. I daren’t even try to convey it accurately, but in the translation that I read, the general idea expressed is that :

Allah chooses to enlighten who he will, and will deny to enlighten some as well.

So I would tell my friend that I feel that I need some other means, some guidance, maybe another text to help me access this source of truth.

Last night, I thought of this recurring conversation, and for the first time, felt relief.

In his earlier book, he describes a moment where he awoke one morning to experience the world simply, as is.

I don’t know much about Eckhart Tolle, but his book “A New Earth” has Oprah’s Book Club stamped conspicuously on it. Every time I’ve quoted something that’s from, inspired by, or similar to its contents, I do a self-deprecating cheating disclaimer, apologizing verbosely about how “oprahish” this is going to sound. It’s a habit I really need to stop. I suspect it may be really liberating, to let people think I’m just another consumerist schmuck who buys into Oprah and the empire of feel-good self-help.

Now this [is really going to sound Oprahish], but I believe things have been unfolding for me in terms of a guidance since I watched The Secret a few years ago at a very low-point. As it says in “A New Earth,” acute suffering or loss, in particular, sometimes jolts people out of their unconscious state. Now it’s not an uncommon tenet: the cliched wisdom that suffering somehow brings inner healing and depth to a person. In this book, however, Eckhart Tolle is referring to something very particular with the word “unconscious.” He starts his earlier book, “The Power of Now,” with the description of a moment in which his suffering got a to a point where it simply dislodged the shackles of his soul. He awoke one morning to experience the world simply, as is.

After reading this volume, the beauty of the world and its “as isness,” is something I’ve come to value. It’s almost like I can remember how it feels when I was younger.

It’s about grounding yourself in the present moment. One effective way in which he tries to illustrate this state, is by pointing out that most people are always waiting to get happy in the future, that the present moment is always just a means to get somewhere, irrelevant and imperfect in itself. OK. That again is a hackneyed rhetorical observation. But Tolle somehow comes towards this same truth, and many others, through an entirely different vantage point.

He introduces us to a life-altering notion: that we are separate from our mind, and the prison of thoughts that may seem rooted in the present, is actually stopping us from living it. .

What he tries to make us see, is that in the moment that we become aware of our thoughts as separate from ourselves (because we are then, after all, looking at this thoughts from afar), we can then start to answer the real question:

If this thinking machine is not who I am, then who, or what am I ?

From this tiny glimpse of a space just behind this junkyard of spiraling thought-patterns, Tolle fuels an entirely new interpretation of consciousness.

Nonresistance:

Breathing. Absorbing. Accepting the moment, the situation, the reaction as is. Giving yourself that space to not react.

It’s the difference between a happy life and a miserable one. Really.

Surrender:

Perhaps an off-shoot of non-resistance.

It’s such a powerful state, or notion, that he is describing here. The state of being so open to the present moment, so non-defensive towards what might happen or is happening, that numerous possibilites that weren’t there before can flow into your life.

This is when I realized that I may be finding a way through to other forms of truth, like the Quran.

Surrender to the will of God.

Words that previously shut me out like iron bars clamping down with their dogma, suddenly had see-through miles of fabric in between.

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Awakening To Her Final Sleep

When I first started this blog (as just a reading blog) and was surfing to see if there was possibly anyone else in the world who would be reading Kate Chopin (needless to say, there was), I read in someone else’s post that it ends tragically. I managed to keep myself from performing those spontaneous calculations when someone presents you with information you don’t want to know.

However, that didn’t stop me honing into the eventuality of the final scene.

The choice of immediately placing Edna in Grand Isle, once again, had a delirious sense of time warp. The fact that she is there out of season, when the place doesn’t exude the same hospitable vibe, but more of a barren, deserted feeling, eerily starts creeping up on the reader like a foreshadower of the end. Our final vision of Edna is naked, without any garments, completely exposed to the elements. This is such a remarkable transformation from the start; such a perfect evolution of her awakening process. There have been points earlier in the book when Chopin draws our attention towards Edna’s relationship to her clothes, having her remove them like shackles:

“Edna, left alone in the little room, loosened her clothes, removing the greater part of them. She bathed her face, neck and arms in the basin that stood between the windows. She took off her shoes and stockings and stretched herself in the very centre of the high, white bed.”

The scene above takes place after Edna leaves a church service with Robert after a “feeling of oppression and drowsiness overcomes” her. That day can perhaps be described as a first turning point in her awakening process. The oppression she feels suggests an intensity of perception and a hyper awareness of her surroundings from which she breaks free by taking refuge in Madam Antoine’s little house. Her deep afternoon slumber in the pristine, serene white room in the middle of the bright, hot day spells a certain transcendence.

To find her, at the novel’s end, completely alone, without clothes, in the same sea that first awakens her, is a fitting end to say the least. As she walks onwards into the horizon, letting go of any pangs of terror and connection, it’s as if a tight ball has been completely unwound and its structure dissolved into oblivion…



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Surrendering to Love

Finally, the central passion of this story sees some fruition.

I can’t help thinking along those terms as I forge the broken link in my stream of reading Chopin. I’ve enjoyed meandering around many different facets of the book – the feminist themes – the varying personas of Edna – etc. Now that we come to some materialization of the silent passion between Robert and Edna, I can’t help but going back to that gorgeous line:

“…the same glance which had penetrated to

the sleeping places of her soul and awakened them.”

The glance referred to here so majestically is of course, none other than Robert Lebrun’s. [I love how any analysis / description about period writing always refers to lead male characters with their full name.]  I realize I always tend to struggle against looking at a novel as a love story, as much as I can. I always try to fit it into context, to see how the central or multiple threads of love and relationships reflect on the social undercurrents or overtones of the piece. I think someone else quoted this line and it made it stand out and remind me that the story is about this passion, this love, and that love is very much connected to the absolute main theme of the book: awakening.

Not only does this quote, I must sadly admit, rather cheesily take my breath away, it also provides a relationship epiphany for real life:

The passions / infatuations or deepest and most significant relationships of our lives could possibly be those that we associate, for some reason, with a time period, process or sentiment in our lives that we cherish or cling to. Perhaps this is just a new packaging of an old truth: that we fall in love with versions of ourselves at a certain time, and the commitment and love spun from that time binds us together (hopefully) as we change.

This quote illuminates the same for Edna, I feel, with such discerning elegance. Besides the aforementioned Darcy-esque pang of quavering passion that it renders amongst many a girlish reader [or so I hope and assume], it almost provides some stability in the rather daring process of her awakening. She does experience sensuality during this phase apart from Robert, and her enjoyment and awareness of this side of herself emboldens her. But it is, as we are reminded here, Robert who… [urh, if you will].. planted the seeds.

It’s strange how, as a reader, I felt a certain nocturnal, balmy magic slip away from the text as Edna leaves the sea side and settles back into her city life. It is truly as if that place, time and Robert all conspired together to set her free.

Onwards I read.

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Of Re-reading and Readerships.



Ok, so this blogging thing can be a little tricky.

The inspiration to start was powerful and made complete sense, and I’ve enjoyed the process so far. I just need to stay innocent to things like “stats” and that damn readership graph WordPress plugs into your main admin page. As a friend said when I showed her the whole set up: “How rude.” Continue reading

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Edna Out at Sea.

There’ve been migraines, grad school rejections, complete, maniacal boredom, a complete overload of CSS and an ophthalmological breakdown as a result, but I am still ploughing on with The Awakening. I feel a little silly making such a big deal on what is, from a superficial perspective, a rather easy read. I wish I truly felt liberated in my unemployment to simply enjoy the luxury of going to a cafe everyday and reading. Alas, some sort of mental fixation or inner demon pops up.

Today I read at home, on my aqua sofa with the last of my banana chocolate walnut muffins and tea.

˜

Edna and Robert at Grand Islae

I love the way the beginning of the story sets up such a richly interwoven sub-layer of tensions. In the idyllic world of Grand Isle, there’s so much beneath the surface, and this is somehow echoed through the powerful presence of the sea. In one of the earlier passages, Chopin writes:


“Edna Pontellier, casting her eyes about, had finally kept them at rest upon the sea. The day was clear and carried the gaze out as far as the blue sky went; there were a few white clouds suspended idly over the horizon.”

Although the sea isn’t an obvious metaphor or presence in Chopin’s story-telling, there is the powerful scene towards the end of the Pontellier’s time at Grand Isle, when Edna masters swimming. Even from a detached, purely conceptual point of view, this is very symbolic. For a woman to learn to swim at that time may not have been a big deal in itself, but it somehow seems like a gesture of independence, of breaking free from the stiff formality of everyday dress and protocol. In the context of Edna’s “awakening,” though, this act takes on added meaning:

a cover piece that highlights this very quote...

“.. that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who of a sudden realizes its powers, and walks for the first time alone, boldly and with over-confidence. She could have shouted for joy. She did shout for joy, as with a sweeping stroke or two she lifted her body to the surface of the water…

“… she grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.”

In light of Edna’s move out of her husband’s home much later on, this reference to swimming and branching out seems especially potent. I also just realized that she feels the desire to swim out further than any woman, particularly, had swum out. This evokes our empathy or realization of Edna’s yearning to experience more soul, more feeling, perhaps that the average woman settles for. [apart from conjuring up a vision of early-2oth century Edna exploring the universe along side Jean Luc Picard, that is.]

If Edna’s experience in the water was one of the earlier “moments” in her awakening, then her dinner party, her “coup d’ etat,” as Arobin called it, was perhaps another. The sheer extravagance and resplendence of that dinner party seemed to be calling for attention. The diamonds in Edna’s hair kind of really take the cake. The amount of time Chopin spends describing the affair, the physical layout the, elements which make it rich and luxurious, really points to the significance of this scene:

“There was something extremely gorgeous about the appearance of the table, an effect of splendor conveyed by a cover of pale yellow satin under strips of lace-work. There were wax candles in massive brass candelabra, burning softly under yellow silk shades; full, fragrant roses, yellow and red, abounded. There were silver and gold, as she had said there would be, and crystal which glittered like the gems which the women wore.”

It’s such a contrast to the way we first meet Edna. It almost seems like a celebration of her “awakening,” some sort of pinnacle towards which the book has been heading. All the tensions of inner drama vs. outer silence have been released, and there she sits, bedecked in diamonds, the queen of the night:

“…magnificent cluster of diamonds that sparkled, that almost sputtered, in Edna’s hair, just over the centre of her forehead.”

The rhythm and feeling of things in the volume sort of change, as they often do in life, after such high-points. Edna herself couldn’t put it better when she says later that night to Arobin [who seems to me, so far, a little like the extra air that Edna must simply blow out of her, and also a little pretentious and annoying] after she’d moved into the new house:

“I feel as if I had been wound up to a certain pitch – too tight – and something inside of me had snapped.”

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