Spiritual Memoirs: Eat, Pray, Love and Sharon Janis’ Never to Return

I just got my copy of Eat, Pray, Love in the mail. I get so many review copies that I seldom buy books, ever, but I wanted to see what everyone was so fired up about.  Eat, Pray, Love is built on the notion of a woman trying to heal herself from a severe emotional and spiritual crisis.  Author Elizabeth Gilbertwanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”  I enjoyed the book and, as a former devotee,  I enjoy reading about ashram life.  I spoke with Sharon Kumuda Janis, author of Spirituality for Dummies, and Secrets of Spiritual Happiness, who first contacted me 1998.   She told me since her memoir Never To Return describes her decade living in and serving with the same path that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in Eat, Pray, Love, she thinks the time is right to re-release an updated version of her book to ride the wave when the movie  Eat, Pray, Love is released next year. Sharon recorded a version of the Guru Gita, which played a part in Gilbert‘s story, and the Diamond Sutra as well.   I told her I’d be glad to help promote her.

Elizabeth Gilbert studied at the Ganeshpuri ashram of Muktananda and Chidvilasananda’s Siddha YogaSiddha Yoga has been controversial throughout the years, for many reasons, but not any more so than any other business of that size with a lot of personalities and egos involved.  Living in an ashram can be a very powerful yoga in itself.  It puts you into a pressure cooker of personalities and quickly separates who is there to do their own spiritual work, and whoever is not really grokking it.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert only spent a short time in residence, but she absorbed herself in the ashram routine and it was like a balm to her open wounds.  She noticed the politics, but she didn’t get all wrapped up in it.  She has a way of weaving a story just so, to draw you in to the experience with her.  It was a good story, well told.

Sharon Janis looked me up and sent me her memoir Never To Return in 1998. In it she details her years at the SYDA Muktananda ashrams and gives the behind the scenes dish on her experience there.  Unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, she doesn’t hesitate to dig up the dirt, stir the pot and name names.

As you’ll read in the Afternote below, several months after I wrote this on August 22, 2009, out of the blue Sharon went all Mel Gibson on me and well, you’ll read it.  She’s a good writer and a she’s prolific writer.  Surprised you haven’t heard more about her?  She doesn’t advertise, she says, but she knows search engine optimization so she’s gotten ranked #5 out of 16,700,000 on Google for “spiritual links”.  She knows how to do all that stuff with websites to get high rankings.  She could make a fortune doing search engine optimization but prefers to see herself as the indigent monk.  The trouble is she’s told her story for so long that now she’s living it.  And I got fired for pointing that out to her.  Such is life 🙂

Drama aside, if you liked Eat, Pray, Love, you may enjoy Never To Return.

AFTERNOTE: I initially gave Never To Return a glowing review in 1998 and in late 2009 Sharon publicly mocked me for it on Facebook – so frankly I don’t know what to think about that.  She has now removed the very review she proudly displayed for 13 years, and has blocked several of my computers from accessing her websites. I like spiritual memoirs because I like to discover the different ways people make their way along the spiritual path, what their mental processes are, how they manage the daily struggles they encounter, how they overcome them.

Even if they don’t overcome them for long and then act as though they never knew how to in the first place.  Especially then.  It’s a lesson we can all use.  The spiritual path isn’t some rose laden paved way of butterflies and faeries, it’s working your way through personality conflicts you have with people you don’t care for.  An ashram is a perfect steam cooker for that.  Some can handle it, some cannot.

Some can handle the physical and psychological and emotional changes that move through you as your kundalini rises; some have a harder time with it.   Beginning the study of yoga – or going to a yoga retreat – is not merely putting your bodies into body positions and asanas.  You’re training your mind.  When you train your mind, a whole new world opens up to you.

Or three new worlds, as Elizabeth Gilbert found in Eat, Pray, Love

What do you do when friends misunderstand you and don’t want to play anymore?
When Friends Misunderstand, because we each see things as we are
Clash of the Egos
When Friends On The Path Go Off The Deep End
Taking Note of Cause and Effect in Action
Simple Scripts To Attract a Better Tomorrow
When friends betray friends
People Who Lie About Who They Are
The saga continues with Sharon Kumuda Janis