I achieved a huge milestone in August 2019. My very first book, “So you’re a spiritual being—now what?” was finally published!
When I tell people that I’ve written a book and mention the title, they usually ask me these three questions:
- What made you write this book?
- What is the book about?
- How long did it take you to finish it?
The following article is based on a speech that I gave at my book launch celebration on October 6, 2019. It answers these three questions.
What made me write this book
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience” This quote is attributed to Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, French priest and philosopher.
When I first heard these words, I felt strangely good inside. To think of myself as a spiritual being made me feel larger and more powerful than being an ordinary, mortal human.
But then I heard this phrase repeated by teachers and coaches in the self-help and personal development field over and over again.
The more I heard it, the more uneasy I felt. This was because I didn’t hear any explanation of whywe are spiritual beings, only that we are.
I was eager for a better understanding of what those speakers and teachers meant.
One day, as I was listening to an on-line radio show hosted by a life coach, I heard her casually say my now, not-so-favourite phrase: “You are a spiritual being having a human experience.”
Spontaneously I blurted out: “So you’re a spiritual being being—now what?” And with that, out came a barrage of other questions: What is a spiritual being? What is spirit? What does it mean to be spiritual? What is spiritual growth and the spiritual journey? Can we provethat we are spiritual beings?
Twenty years ago, I began studying a spiritual science called Vedanta. It originates from ancient spiritual masters of the Himalayan regions in India.
Studying the spiritual truths of Vedanta, I started seeing spirituality in a new light and questioning everything I heard.
One morning, I picked up some books on Vedanta from my bookshelf and started to research the answers to my questions on spirituality.
My studies eventually became the topics of this book. This bookbrings traditional spiritual teachings from India in a straightforward, non-traditional way. It is written so that a western-oriented reader can understand and relate to them.
What the book is about
The twelve chapters of this book are equally divided into two main themes as indicated in the title, “So You’re a spiritual being” and “Now what?”
In Part 1, “You’re a Spiritual Being: Understanding the Basics,” I present fundamental concepts about spirit, spirituality, being spiritual and the spiritual journey.
In Part 2, “Now What? — How to live as a spiritual being,” I describe the habits, practices and lifestyle of a spiritual seeker.
Part 1—Understanding the Basics (Chapters 1-6)
Chapter 1: “Understanding What It Means to Be Spiritual’, begins with the story of Lori, an ambitious woman whose work-related health concerns brings her to her spiritual path. She starts by joining a yoga class, doing meditation and changing her diet. Her new habits open up a whole new world of learning and growth. Through her story, the reader discovers what it takes to be spiritual, what is the spiritual journey and how to grow spiritually.
Chapter 2: “Spirituality and Religion” draws a comparison between spirituality and religion through the everyday example of basic food ingredients and cuisines. I explain the difference between God and Spirit and show how spirituality and religion are not mutually exclusive. I explain how the reader can practice a blend of both.
Chapter 3: ‘The Rare Gift of Being Born as a Human” touches upon a core truth emphasized in Vedanta—gaining a human birth is extremely rare. From a museum visit in Toronto, I describe how I learned first-hand that science verifies this ancient fact. What is the sacred purpose that we are here to fulfill? Describing our unique human gifts, I show how only we as humans can achieve it.
Chapter 4: “Proof That You Are a Spiritual Being” explores the nature of Spirit though an understanding of the characteristics of matter. Using a Halloween costume as an example, I explain how spirit brings matter to life. If we are Spirit, why are we not able to see it? Through three examples, the reader is given proof that we are spiritual beings.
Chapter 5: “Your True Nature” is pure Vedanta. It could have been titled as “Who am I?” Through a chart created by my Guru, Swami Chinmayananda, I explain the different parts of the human personality and the innate tendencies that veil our spiritual nature from us. I also explain the nature of the soul and spirit.
Chapter 6: “Vedanta” I explain the origins of Vedanta through the story of a young man out on a bold quest to seek the creator of the world. Find out where he finds the creator and how he gains enlightenment.
Part 2 – How To Live As A Spiritual Being (Chapters 7-12)
Chapter 7: “Birth of a spiritual seeker” describes the circumstances that bring someone to the threshold of a spiritual life. Find out if you are there yet.
Chapter 8: “Embarking on your spiritual journey” describes the core practices of a spiritual seeker. Keeping the company of all that is good and noble is the first step on the spiritual journey. Next, the transformative practices of reflection and introspection are described. And lastly, I explain how to make the right choices in life by choosing the Path of the Good over the Path of the Pleasant.
Chapter 9: “The Path of Action and The Path of Devotion” In this chapter I explain the actions that we must do to grow spiritually and the attitude with which to hold while doing them. I also reveal the secret to being happy as we do our actions. In the section on the Path of Devotion in the same chapter, I describe nine ways to develop your heart and cultivate divine love.
Chapter 10: “The Path of Knowledge” explains how to grow in your understanding of life and unfold your innate spirituality through study and meditation.
Chapter 11: “Meditation” In this chapter, I explain the outer and inner preparations, duration and frequency of meditation and a sample practice of meditation.
Chapter 12: “Daily habits of a spiritual seeker” is a roundup of the concepts presented in Part 2. It highlights the core spiritual practices you can do daily and how to add a spiritual flavour to all your activities. I share my personal experience with implementing the most transformational habit of my life.
Appendix: In the appendix I have included a short “Biography of Swami Chinmayananda.” He is my guru, the inspiration and teacher behind this book. I’ve also included my personal story of “How I met my guru, Swami Chinmayananda.” There is a section on “Resources for Further Reading and Study” and also a “Bibliography.”
How long it took to finish this book
The idea to write this book and its title first came in 2010. I started putting together some ideas and posting them on my website from 2012 onwards.
In November 2015, I signed up for a publishing package with Balboa Press, the self-publishing arm of Hay House Inc.
Since I already had most of the material for the book in the form of my blog articles, I was able to put them together in the form of a book by February 2016.
I submitted my manuscript to an editor in February 2016. I then asked my dear friend, Debra Flanagan, who does some copyediting, to look it over one more time as she is also a student of Vedanta.
After Deb had a better idea of what I was presenting, she told me, “Manisha, the facts that you’re presenting are very important. People need to know where you got them from. You need to add footnotes.”
“Footnotes! That’s a lot of work!” I protested. But Deb didn’t budge and stood her ground.
When I finally got over the shock of what she was recommending, I gave in and started working again.
So out came the piles of books and notes. Now I was trying to match what I found in the books to what I had already written in my book.
The book started to morph into a different form. This took 2 years.
Deb looked at it once more and I then got another editor in the US to clean up the manuscript, especially the bibliography and references.
There were altogether 4 rounds of edits. The manuscript went to the publisher in June this year and I now have my newly published book in my hands!
In this book, I have presented the topics as simply as I can and in plain language. You can think of it as a “Spirituality 101” book. Whether you are new to the spiritual path, already a seasoned traveller or just curious, my hope is that you will get a fresh viewpoint and gather some practical tools and tips to take on your personal journey.
Read endorsements for the book here.
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