Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Beauty of the Book Discussion Group

In my last post I defined a Satsang, and how a book group can be considered one if the members gather together to 'inspire one another and tell the truth."

One of my book groups met last night to discuss Mary Lawson's The Other Side of the Bridge. We started the discussion by going around the circle and assigning the book a score out of ten. I think I gave in an 8.5 as I'd really enjoyed it.

About an hour later, following a lively discussion, we again went around the circle, and gave the book a new score out of 10. My score went up to 9.5, and I was tempted to give it a 10. Many of the other member's scores went up as well.

This is the beauty of the book group. No matter how much we enjoy reading, it's only through discussion that we can fully appreciate a book. Other readers bring their insights to the story, allowing us to see it from different points of view. In the case of The Other Side of the Bridge, the more we discussed the various themes, the tangled relationships, character motivation etc., the more I marvelled at the complexity of the story, and how beautifully it was told.

Towards the end of the meeting, one of the members asked if I thought the author would have had the entire story mapped out before she began writing it, or if she 'made it up as she went along'. I can only guess, but I suspect she would have the basic story line (or skeleton) in place before she began writing, but added the 'flesh' during the writing process as she grew to know the characters better. She certainly created a story that engaged us in a thoughtful discussion, one that 'inspired' me to think deeper, and to find the 'truth' in the story.

The Book Group is definitely a Satsang.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gathering For Truth

I've always been drawn to groups of people that inspire me. My various book clubs, meditation group, writer's group, yoga class,the Unitarian church and my author's group (Cwill BC) all fall into that category.

Just recently I discovered a word that describes these groups. 'Satsang'. According to the 'Daily OM', an on-line newsletter that I subscribe to, Satsang is a Sanskrit word combining 'satya' meaning 'truth' and 'sangha' meaning 'group'. It describes a gathering of people for the purpose of spiritual truth, and it is traditionally used to refer to a meeting with a guru or spiritual mentor. However, the word Satsang can also be used more loosely, and describe any group that meets to inspire one another. A Satsang can even be a group gathered to sing together, or a support group, as long as the intention is to inspire one another and tell the truth.

As described in the 'Daily Om' newsletter, "any occasion we are gathered with people who understand and support us can be a spiritual experience. While gatherings with the intention of communing with spirit are undoubtedly powerful and inspiring, getting together with people that uplift us by their presence alone is also vital to our well-being."

How true that is. An evening spent with special friends, like the one I had last night, is good for the soul. My life is blessed with people who truly do uplift me with their presence alone.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's a new year....

... and a good time for reflecting on the past and planning for the future.

The topic of 'New Year's Resolutions' came up at my yoga class yesterday. We agreed that in yoga, we set 'intentions' each time we practise, and these feel way more useful than a once-a-year resolution that requires will-power that we may or may not have. With resolutions, we often set ourselves up for failure. That said, the New Year can be a useful time for letting go of behaviours that have been harmful to us, or are no longer useful in our lives. It can be a time to renew our intentions to live the best life we are capable of.

In some Unitarian churches the attendees write down things they'd like to 'release' from the past year, like sorrows, resentments, feelings of guilt. Then they have a ceremony and burn these pieces of paper. By doing this, they are not relying on will-power to make changes in their lives, but are opening up space to allow new experiences to come in.

The above photo is of my three daughters kicking up their heels in joy. It seems to me that joy is one of those things most easily found when we have 'let go' of those troubling emotions that may be holding us back.

"May your New year unfold rich in meaning, creative challenge and loving connections." (author unknown)

Love & light.