This is the kind of book that one reads not knowing whether the promises on the cover will be fulfilled or not - and by the end, they absolutely have been - and so much more so than you could have expected. The kind of book that you buy two more of to lend to friends as you can't bear to part with your own copy... The story of the author's love affair, both with India and with one of its inhabitants is movingly told and superbly described - with a depth of understanding both of the country and her own emotions. Completely gripping. But the chapters at the end when she grapples with her own deep patterns and a growing comprehension of what leads us to make sometimes disastrous mistakes in our lives are such a gift... insightful, life-changing, mind-opening. Stupia brings colour and light to the dark places of the inner places of the heart and mind as well as describing life in India in all it's vivid wonder. I would so completely recommend this book, as a good read in every possible way.
Meeting Shiva could most succinctly be described as a spiritual autobiography, but it is many things. I'm usually totally turned off by anything that sounds like `how I found enlightenment' or `my personal tale of growth and redemption' but this is a beautiful and inspiring book, and not at all what you might expect from spiritual autobiography as a genre. It helps that nothing about it suggests that this is one of those tales of magical transformation with a subtext that you too could have a perfect life if only you managed to be as good as the author. Rather than dangling impossible carrots out the reader's reach, what Tiziana Stupia offers is a profoundly feet-of-clay story about real emotions, real turmoil and the on-going quest for healing. There are no magical solutions, no all-knowing mystic gurus, nothing smug. Instead there is a courageous degree of honesty, and a story through which many people may be able to reflect productively on their own experiences.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tiziana a few times during the period when we both lived in the Midlands. An elfin, self-possessed seeming creature, she certainly had a power to fascinate, and when she set off to travel the world, I followed her blog with interest. Tiziana is an engaging writer with a travel author's knack for evoking places the reader probably hasn't seen. This is very much a part of Meeting Shiva, as it covers the end part of her journey, the bit that, for technical reasons (lack of internet) we blog followers did not get to see.
It is a strange thing, to meet someone a few times, and then share, through a book, this kind of emotional intimacy. It is a very profound sharing, and I deeply respect what she's done here. Meeting Shiva explores the dynamic between our spiritual lives and our love lives, by telling the tale of what happened during the author's brief, intense and clearly doomed affair with a monk. This was a relationship that stripped her soul bare, and sharing that process is powerful. I found myself reflecting on my own experiences and reactions, and seeing aspects of my own life in a different light as a consequence. It is only by telling true tales of our love experiences that we can start to overcome the poisonous and misleading tales our culture holds about what love is and how it works. Those fairy story beliefs so often set us up to fail.
If, like me, you followed the Travelling Priestess blog then you have to read this to find out how the story ends. If you are interested in India, and an in-depth encounter with Hindu practice, this book has a great deal to offer you. If you are tired of self-help books about how to fix your love life and heal your soul, try this one because it doesn't offer all the answers, but it will show you some very good questions to be asking. A powerful, provocative read, I can very much recommend taking it on, and challenging yourself to find the same levels of emotional honesty.