Tag Archives: paramhansa yogananda

100th Word Journeys Blog: Involvement With an International Book Award Winner

I’ve been wondering what to write for the 100th Word Journeys Blog. I will still write an anthology blog that highlights this wonderful writing journey, with links to the better blog experiences. However, this morning, an ideal topic fell on my doorstep — rather, my email queue. It combines everything I care about: writing, books, education, my spiritual life … and a lifetime achievement by a man I deeply admire.

This morning, I learned that Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, by Swami Kriyananda, won the International Book Award for New Spirituality Books. Since I am in the middle of promoting this book for three major events directly ahead — the Yuga Cycles Conference at The Expanding Light Retreat, at which Kriyananda is speaking Saturday as one of 10 esteemed presenters; Book Expo America, which is June 5-7 in New York; and Kriyananda’s book appearance at the Ford Theater in L.A. on June 24 — my first response was, “Perfect timing!” Let’s face it: you can’t pay the New York Times Review of Books for a year of full-page ads and receive more serendipitous timing.

Then I sat back and thought about what this book has meant in my life: as an author; an educator at Ananda College who utilizes the Education for Life method (which Kriyananda initiated); as someone who first welcomed Yogananda’s teachings (that merge essential Christianity and essential Vedic truths) into his life more than 30 years ago; and as one who counts among his dearest friends many deep and wise souls who live and work at Ananda Village in Northern California (which Kriyananda founded). Never mind my admiration for Kriyananda’s prolific nature; Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography is his 130th book (give or take). All of these books extend the yoga master’s teachings into the 21st century, and into every corner of our lives, societies, and communities. So for starters, the International Book Award serves as sort of a Lifetime Achievement Award for an incredible 86-year-old man who has given his entire adult life in service to God – and touched countless thousands of souls in the process (or millions, if you count the 4 million books he has sold).

When I contemplated how Yogananda’s teachings, Kriyananda’s books, and the many ways in which I have worked with Ananda over the past 23 years (including two stints at Crystal Clarity Publishers, 20 years apart), have helped define my life, I asked myself a question: Where would I be without it? I can come up with all sorts of answers, but few – if any – will add up to anything close to the mixture of God, joy, creativity, nature, happiness and serviceful spirit that is part and parcel of my daily life.

Then there is the book itself. Many of you have probably read or heard about Autobiography of a Yogi, the book Yogananda wrote in 1947 that remains the best-selling spiritual autobiography of all time. It has changed countless lives; Kriyananda read it in 1948, dropped his life as he knew it, and took a bus to L.A., where Yogananda received him at his headquarters in L.A. In one sense, Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography tells the rest of the story, one that, for whatever reason, only Kriyananda has been willing to share. For starters, there are more than 60 stories that have not appeared in Autobiography, Yogananda’s other works that he wrote in his lifetime, or in compilations that have appeared since. Secondarily, Kriyananda offers a bird’s eye view of Yogananda’s approaches to many different spiritual and everyday life situations, creating a glowing narrative of this God-realized man’s enormous compassion and strength that Yogananda was too humble to write himself. That’s what good biographers do.

But then Kriyananda reached out and touched everyone: he shared what Yogananda did the past few years of his life. Yogananda ended his public speaking engagements, which drew up to 7,000 people during the 1920s and 1930s, and wrote books and instructed his closest disciples to carry his mission forward. As one of his editors, and the leader of the monks, young Kriyananda belonged to that inner circle — and was tasked to get the word out. Yogananda had a mission and a vision for bringing souls and society into a future age where energy would accelerate, communication would become faster and more global, and spiritual magnetism would grow to become the law of the land. In the Vedic cycles of time, this is known as Dwapara Yuga. Yogananda envisioned and spoke of communities of like-minded souls (like Ananda), education that emphasized the inner as well as outer development of the student (like Education for Life), and lives lived simply, with complete devotion to God.

Here we are. Here, in my opinion, is why this book bears such significance that it claimed the International Book Award. It is also why I, as a multiple book author dedicated to focusing on the highest ideals and potentials of my students, clients, friends and others, feel so honored to be working on the promotion of Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography.

Finally, to Swami Kriyananda: Congratulations on a wonderful achievement. You have written 130+ books in your life and helped provide deeper purpose and meaning to the lives of countless people … and now, the book world salutes you. To put it in one of your favorite languages, “Bravissimo!”

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Value of A Thousand Words …

… Scott Simon, Joy Harjo, Luis Urrea and other highlights of the Tucson Festival of Books Author’s Table Dinner

Sometimes, the dinner ticket that drops in your lap feels like manna from heaven. Especially if it’s a ticket to the Author’s Table Dinner at the Tucson Festival of Books, and you’re an author who happens to be in town.

My friend and client Lesley Lupo (author of the wonderful, forthcoming children’s book Surf ‘N Seeds), hosted four workshops I facilitated the past two weeks in Arizona’s finest city, where I’ve visited and taught for the past 10 years. She offered me a ticket to what is already shooting around the literary world as a very big function: the Author’s Table Dinner for a book festival that, in its second year, drew 400 authors and more than 50,000 people.

What an event. A different featured author sits at each table. We were honored with New York Times bestselling author Elisabeth Hyde, who has written In The Heart of the Canyon and The Abortionist’s Daughter, among others. I commiserated with several others, among them Luis Alberto Urrea, the bestselling author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Nobody’s Son (a GREAT memoir), and the creative inspiration and a guiding light of The Hummingbird Review, the literary journal I now edit, and which is published by my friend, the author-poet Charlie Redner (Down But Never Out). (Did I mention that the Tucson Festival of Books’ logo this year was a hummingbird – isn’t serendipity awesome?)

Luis’ book tour Tweets are nearing legendary status among the countless thousands who have read them; how he packs his ebullient personality into 144 characters or less, I’ll never know. He also draws crowds. They had to turn away people from his event at the festival. I’m sure the University of Arizona’s fire marshal was freaking out, but the massive turnout knew what it wanted.

I also met and briefly chatted with one of my all-time favorite poet-authors, Joy Harjo, the author of How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (among others). Joy is not only one of contemporary literature’s wisest and most eloquent writers, but also one of the world’s most beautiful souls. Her “Eagle Poem” is epic – check out the musical version on YouTube and see why. While speaking with Joy, I kept mentally merging two of my favorite opening poetic lines: Joy’s “To pray you open your whole self…” and Indian yoga master Paramhansa Yogananda’s “Make me thine eagle of soul progress…”

If the Muse herself donned a human form …. well, she has. Joy is the living song, dance and verse of what is beautiful about each and every one of us, if we would only accept that.

Then there was the featured speaker at the 1,000-person (at least) dinner, Scott Simon. In an evening of personal favorites, let’s add Scott: he’s been my favorite National Public Radio correspondent since his riveting on-site reports from the besieged Sarajevo in the early 1990s. The host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” he’s also a best-selling author.

Scott gave a wonderful half-hour talk on storytelling, but it was his close that will forever live with me – and which closes today’s blog post. He shared a story of how his father, a Chicago bookstore owner, once told him that a picture is worth a thousand words. Scott respectfully differs (what writer wouldn’t?). In so doing, he demonstrated just how meaningful a thousand words can be. He said that, when you stitch together the Lord’s Prayer, Twenty-Third Psalm, Gettysburg Address, first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, climactic paragraph in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the final entry in Anne Frank’s Diary, you have a thousand words.

Enjoy a day of writing and/or reading, a thousand purposeful words at a time.

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