Thursday, March 3, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway: Dani Shapiro, Author of Devotion: A Memoir



I’m thrilled to be able to offer you this guest post by Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion: A Memoir, as part of the TLC Book Tours for her book (read my review).
_______________________________________________

While I was writing Devotion I came upon the Sanskrit term samskara. A yoga teacher explained one day during class that samskaras are the tensions, pressures, memories, stored in our bodies that are sometimes released through the practice of yoga. Someone might be in the middle of a pose—say, a very simple forward bend, and find herself suddenly weeping. Or laughing. Or shaking. Why? Because a samskara has been activated, released. I found this whole idea completely compelling, revelatory. As a writer, I found myself thinking that samskaras are like stories. Our stories, embedded in our bodies. They never entirely go away, do they? What has happened to us during the course of our lives continues to live inside of us. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a very beautiful thing, if we understand it properly. Nothing ever really goes away.

Just last week, I found myself grappling with a samskara for the first time in a while. I wasn’t doing my yoga practice. I wasn’t meditating. No. I was on Ninth Avenue in New York City, leaving a restaurant with another couple after a long dinner. The two men—my husband and our friend Jack—were walking ahead, having hailed a taxi. I was trailing behind with our friend Holly, talking. Not paying attention to where I was going, or the slick pavement, or the high heeled boots I was wearing, when suddenly, I was down. Down, so, so, fast. I fell forward, somehow (I have no memory of this) and landed on my knee, and on my cheekbone. My face pressed into the concrete of Ninth Avenue.

Fortunately—and somewhat miraculously—I wasn’t hurt nearly as badly as I could have been. My knee took the brunt of it, and my face somehow didn’t get bruised. Holly and my husband helped me off the street. Shaken, I got into the taxi. I kept moving. There was talk of stopping for ice, of going back to their apartment. I wondered if I was more badly injured than I felt. I had hit my face full-force, after all. But I kept moving, kept going. We took the taxi uptown, got our car, and my husband and I started the two-hour journey home.

Here’s the thing. That fall set off a samskara for me. The next morning, I was completely shaken. Teary. Twenty-five years earlier, my parents had been in a terrible car accident that killed my father and gravely injured my mother. It was my introduction to suddenness, to randomness, to the thin, thin veil that separates us at any given moment from mortal danger. From change. Illness. Accidents. Death. I carry that knowledge—that story, that samskara—within me. I don’t think about it very often, but when I fell that night on Ninth Avenue, it was reawakened in me. Oh, it seemed to be saying. Remember this?

The feeling passed. A day, or two, and I no longer felt that jarred, frightened feeling. I no longer felt on the verge of tears. I was grateful to be okay. But my body had reminded me that everything that has ever happened to me remains alive within me. A story. A samskara. A slip and fall on Ninth Avenue brought to life a fatal car accident on a snowy highway twenty-five years earlier. It reminded me of life’s randomness, life’s fragility. It also reminded me to count my blessings. There is much we can learn from what we carry with us.
_______________________________________________

Would you like to win a copy of Devotion? Harper Collins has offered to send a copy to one of my readers. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only (no P.O. boxes). I will accept entries until 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Friday, April 1.

To enter the giveaway:

Please let me know if you’ve ever had an experience with a samskara (even if you didn’t know at the time that that was what it was called) OR tell me why you want to read this book.

If you are a follower or subscriber, please let me know and I will give you another entry.

Make sure you provide me with a way of getting in touch with you. Entries that fail to answer one of the questions or that don’t provide a blog link or email address will be disqualified.

Good luck!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

25 comments:

  1. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a time I've ever experienced a samskara, but I won't swear that I haven't. Thanks for the great giveaway. I subscribe in Google Reader. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, really powerful post. Thanks for sharing. I'm still thinking about Devotion and am so glad I had the opportunity to read it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I recently experienced a samskara; my mother just announced her wedding date and I found myself teary & shaking, feeling resentful which I linked back to my own feelings planning my wedding over 25 years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've had moments of intense emotional release, but I'm not sure they were samskaras.

    Wonderful guest post. I could imagine the fall and how it would be disturbing beyond the minor injuries. Life is fragile and precious.

    Please enter me in this great giveaway. I'll post this in my blog's sidebar.

    Avis, I thought I was already a follower of your terrific blog, but I found I wasn't (although your blog has been on my blogroll for a while). I am now a follower. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Um, I'm not really sure if I've ever had a samskara experience, not that i can think of at least. but it does sound interesting. I was raised Jewish myself and I'd love to read this book!

    strandedhero(at)gmail(dot)com

    I'm already a follower :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can't recall ever experiencing samskara. I would love to read the book. It sounds very good and interesting. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was very taken with the concept of samskara when I read the term and explanation in Devotion. I've been thinking about this powerful idea of carrying our past experiences with us as stories stored throughout our body quite a bit. I think it's amazing but also scary and sad. It's also has helped me understand how my past experiences, back to when I was quite young, come back to me even now when I'm in my early forties to offer me important life lessons.

    Thank you, Dani, for explaining samskara here. I'm glad you weren't seriously injured when you fell.
    Thank you Avis and Dani for this wonderful post.
    ~Amy

    ReplyDelete
  8. Samskara sounds like a very interesting concept. I don't think I ever have experienced this but when I think about it longer I may discover that I have!
    pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am a new follower.
    pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had a samskara moment last November during a yoga session (I joined a class by the beach in Byron Bay, Australia, of all the clichés!). I've been struggling since then to understand or explain exactly what happened, it's amazing to have a name for it finally... cause it really weirded me out at the time. So, above all, I'd love to read this book to find out more. And I can tell from your review and the guest post that Shapiro is a beautiful, thoughtful writer.

    I'm a follower and you have my email :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I hope I can enter the giveaway even if I've read this book...it's such a beauty I'd love to own my own copy :) Does a samskara on behalf of someone else count? When I watch my daughter skate, holding her body so stiff and awkward, in a state of perpetual almost-falling, but then, also, managing somehow to glide...it makes my eyes well up, which I assure you is neither pride nor shame, but a kind of helpless body knowing.
    I think there is also no shortage of samskara possibilities in my own experience, does it count if the forward bend in yoga causes you to feel like puking? Not from strain or anything like that but just a kind of feeling that comes over me that is halfway between grief and nausea? For a long time this made me not want to do the forward bend. Now I am thinking that there must be something there for me to explore/work on/transform...

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't think I have ever experienced samskara, but I'm curious about it. I'd like to experience it, I think, because it sounds so mysterious and powerful. I'm interested in this book because I am on a great memoir binge right now, and I also like reading books about spirituality. Thanks for the give-away!

    I'm at ofbooksandbikes at yahoo dot com.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a great guest post, thank you both. I'm sure I've had some experience of samskara but nothing comes to mind at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I enjoyed the guest post and reading about the trigger of a fall that touched off Dani's hidden emotions. Samskara hides what we fear to face or repress deep inside. The only thing I had which comes to this is reading passages within a book that triggers emotions to the forefront. The past is closed off until you read something that rears it back to life. Samskara in a book is what I often find... Good and bad all in one but definitely emotionally uplifting for what we must face.

    Count me in for this giveaway.
    email aisleb@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have no experience with a samskara. Sounds like an interesting book, and I'd love to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  16. I follow on GFC!

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  17. "But my body had reminded me that everything that has ever happened to me remains alive within me." How true this is! Thanks for featuring this post - I really enjoyed hearing more from Ms. Shapiro.

    (no need to enter me)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Not that I am aware of but because of the death of my sister at age 32, I understand the frailty of life.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  19. I personally have never experience a samskara as I don't practice yoga. But the concept is intriguing and the book sounds even more so! Would love to be entered for this amazing giveaway.

    Blessings
    Molly
    Molly AT reviewsbymolly DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am a new GFC follower.

    Blessings
    Molly
    Molly AT reviewsbymolly DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  21. I know I would love this book - I read your review and the passages you quoted were wonderful. I related to this guest post as well. Interestingly, my samskara happened when I was reading a memoir written by Elizabeth McCracken (another wonderful writer) about the baby she lost. I've never had a baby - and perhaps that was the point. The book made me sob, it stirred up all the emotions I thought I had put to rest about not having children. There was this story about my infertility that I had buried deep inside me, and reading that memoir woke it up and brought it to the light. Surprisingly, it helped me work through some things I though I had already worked through. The power of words is immense...and stories do have that cathartic or healing quality to them. Thanks for this giveaway! Oh, and, as you probably already know, I subscribe to your blog!

    caribousmom (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have definitely experienced "samskara"...not through yoga, but in attacks of tension and anxiety. I don't feel "me" until I go through a process of lots of prayer and "letting go". I am VERY interested in this book. Please include me in the giveaway.

    Thankful,
    Renee
    renee(dot)soriano(at)caltech(dot)edu

    And I think I'm going to start following this blog...really like it and especially the focus on fiction by women. Hope you are on FB too!

    ReplyDelete
  23. would enjoy reading this inspirational book...thanks for the chance :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have not but I am looking to read something new and out of the norm for me and this looks perfect.
    ykatrina at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'm a longtime practitioner and new teacher of yoga, and I have certainly experienced the release of samskaras during my yoga practice. Sometimes, during backbending and heart-opening sequences, I get a rush where I'm suddenly open and alive, as if I've released some sort of festering heartache. I admit, though, I go through periods where I avoid slower paced and restorative classes because I'm afraid of having time to truly breathe and confront these samskaras...

    I'm a follower of this blog via GFC, and I'd love to win this book!

    Shana
    shanaelyse@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete