In the Land of Invisible Women

After British-born doctor Qanta Ahmed is denied a visa to stay in the states, she accepts an exciting position at a Saudi hospital. A Muslim woman, she is both excited and intimidated by the Saudi culture she doesn't fully understand, and when she arrives in The Kingdom she realizes women in particular have a very specific (and sometimes confusing) role in society. In the Land of Invisible Women is Dr. Ahmed's journey into Saudi Arabia, an exotic land both modern and medieval ruled by faith and tradition.

I wanted to really love this book, but it simply wasn't cohesive to me. It started out with her flight over to Saudi Arabia and I figured it would continue as a story about her experience trying to get acclimated and understand her new environment. Instead, each chapter was a vignette about a different aspect of the Muslim faith, Saudi culture, or her experience with love/friendship while abroad. The content was interesting but it fell short for me because the book as a whole just didn't read well. 

Click below to buy through Amazon. 

Conscious Reading: Tales From The Yoga Studio

I'm sad to say I didn't much enjoy this book. It's a novel about a bunch of different yoga students who are all connected by this one LA studio. They sort of idolize the studio's owner, Lee, who is privately going through a mid-life crisis as her marriage falls apart.

While I liked the idea of the novel, I just felt like the book as a whole fell short in a lot of ways. As each chapter jumped around from yoga student to yoga student, I felt the character development was lacking and therefore never really felt much for any of them. The ending, which I won't give away, was predictable and felt very abrupt and last minute. So, maybe pass on this one unless you're looking for a beach read you don't have to think too much about.

Conscious Reading- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail takes us on a trek from southern Nevada all the way up to the border of Oregon and Washington. The Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT, is the parallel cousin to the better known Appalachian Trail- no small feat for anyone, nevermind a 20-something Minnesota girl going through a quarter life crisis. The eldest daughter of a family completely destroyed, in a bad romance with heroin and having ruined her marriage, Cheryl figures she has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this journey. She sets off with the REI gear the sales associates helped her choose crammed into Monster, her giant backpack. The book explores her life mistakes and coming to terms with her mother's death, to reveal a better version of the Cheryl she once was. 

This was a quick read, and really interesting for me. I found myself comparing my experience in Thailand to Cheryl's experience on the PCT often. She felt alone and scared at first- no one around save for the coyotes and snakes. I felt alone and scared during the first week in Thailand when I was there completely by myself- not knowing a single soul in the entire country. She met wonderful people, and learned more about herself- much like I did- during her journey. Overall, an uplifting read, though dark at times. Snap it up by clicking the link above.

Class Reading


Last Saturday I read an excerpt from the following poem that moved a few of my students. I was asked to share it on my website, so here goes. I hope it moves you, too. 

The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Conscious Reading: The Happiness Project


This past week I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. As the self-explanatory title explains, the book is a culmination of Rubin's commitment to spend one year focusing on various areas of her life to increase her happiness. She wasn't depressed or particularly sad before, but she felt how many of us probably feel- stressed and a bit out of control. 

The book is broken down month by month as she explains the areas she wishes to focus on. Were we to create our own happiness project, she claims, our specific areas of focus would probably be different since not everyone needs help in the same areas of life. 

For Rubin, the little things went a long way. Amont other things, she focused on organization, preparedness and lightheartedness, identifying ways in which she could improve upon these problem areas. 

 While I didn't see eye-to-eye with her on everything, I did find the book inspiring and think it's worth reading in order to examine your own life's happiness and ways in which you can fine tune it for a better experience. Pick it up online by clicking the link above.

Conscious Reading: Downward Dog, Upward Fog

I love to read. Mostly memoirs and historical fiction, but every once in a while I need a real light, quick read to switch it up. Meryl Davids Landau's book Downward Dog, Upward Fog is just what I was looking for. It's a quick read (I finished it in two days) that follows Lorna, a 20something girl with a great job and boyfriend but who feels like her life is desperately lacking in something. Through her sister, she's introduced to the idea of spirituality, healing and yoga- all things that make her group of shallow girlfriends wrinkle their noses. Then, Lorna's sister gets into a major car accident and her whole world is turned upside down. A great summer read- check it out!