Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I don’t hold with gurus. It’s a purely personal thing so if you have a pet guru and the relationship works for you, then great, tickety-boo (but try to choose one that doesn't have a fancy car habit, okay? And I'd steer clear of ones that advocate only one colour of clothing - particularly if that colour doesn't suit you). Otherwise, go for it. But me? I run a mile.
Another thing I don’t like? Spiritual self-help books. Yeah, yeah, the irony doesn’t escape me. I have, for my egotistical sins, written twenty or so books on natural health and spirituality. In my defence I try not to spout my own non-existent ‘wisdom’, I just report or maybe ‘translate’ what other people say. Which, I suppose, when you look at it that way, is even worse. J
Anyhow, I have read thousands of books, literally thousands – including hundreds upon hundreds of New Age, spiritual, and self-help guides. As a journalist I interviewed a holy and unholy host of so-called ‘gurus’ and experts. Many were great people, with great ideas, but I was never tempted to lay my hat at their door. I have never been a follower; I have never even followed one particular ‘path’ or creed or religion or therapy. There’s a lot of stuff out there, some good, some bad, some blissfully bonkers. Probably way too much stuff. Maybe I got lost in the sheer volume of it all. Or maybe I just felt that there wasn’t a One Size Fits All answer to the seeking. I was fed up of people saying with total egocentric certainty ‘do this’, ‘be that’.
But this year I started a sort of process of distillation, of figuring out what works for me, what chimes for me. And I started listening to people, really listening. Okay, so a couple of those people were dead but, hey, let’s not let that get in the way of anything, right? But one of them was very much alive and kicking (except when he died, but that’s another story). Time to introduce you to Marek, aka Ma.Ste. Aka…nah, let’s keep it simple.
Marek and I started talking on the Labyrinth thread. He posted chunks of his book Symphonic Bridges and I found they chimed chords. You could argue that I had found someone I could project upon (and, by heck, I’ve got a PhD in projection). That, in Marek, I found someone on whom to project my subconscious knowing, my inner guru, if you like (alongside a whole host of other projections). And, bless him, the poor guy never took advantage of that – he just patiently (and, let’s be honest, sometimes impatiently!) held up the mirror.
Anyhow. I thought that maybe one of the edgy, far-sighted spiritual publishing houses would snap up Symphonic Bridges but the daft fools didn’t. It’s funny really how traditional people are when it comes to spirituality. Even in this field, surely the one that should be the most fluid and experimental, there are rules and formats and genres and slots. And Symphonic Bridges doesn’t fit into any slots.
It isn’t always easy; in fact it can be downright perplexing. A lot of people run flinching from it, saying it’s ‘self-indulgent’ or ‘crazy’. I can sort of understand those reactions. It isn’t a ‘safe’ book; it doesn’t play by the standard rules; it doesn’t do what it’s told. Maybe that’s partly what delights me about it. I used to want to edit it, to cut and paste and add and splice; to wrestle and reduce. Then the former Daily Mail journalist in my head kicked in and I nagged Marek to write another book, to condense it, to make it all ‘simple’. ‘Tell people this stuff in easy-to-get language, in seven simple steps,’ I said. He didn’t reply.
And no surprise because, really, what a stupid idea. The language of the soul can’t be squeezed into seven easy steps. The language of the soul is like a half-remembered tune, catches heard on the wind. Maybe its language is poetry, music, feeling, scent; maybe it’s found in the dancing interstices, rather than in stolid prose.
‘Follow me!’ says Marek. And then swiftly adds, ‘I’ll be right behind you!’
Anyhow. It’s not a book for everyone, that’s for sure. A lot of friends have read it and shaken their heads at me. But hey…I said I’d tell you what worked for me and this was a large part of it. So make up your own mind. Or rather listen to your own soul.
Here’s a chunk of what I wrote by way of a blurb/preface when Symphonic Bridges first came out (you can buy it on Amazon or CreateSpace, b(u)y the way...just follow the links...)
“You can drive yourself crazy going round in circles, reading, researching, trying to understand, trying to be clever, making spiritual truth all very complicated. But, at heart, it is probably very very simple. Do you want to live a more balanced, spiritual life? Everything you need is here, pretty much. This book set me back on the right path and, when I’m feeling very dramatic, I say it saved my life. Do I agree with it 100 percent? Not quite yet. *smile*
But Marek won’t tell you what to do. And that – I think – is why I really love this book so much. He wraps the spiritual stuff up in the fabric of his own life, splicing it into a sort of apologetic autobiography. In many ways it reads like a love story: about divine Love mirrored in the very human love he feels for his wife and soul-mate (a lovely and loving microcosm of the macrocosm).
He tells you about what he believes, what he does, and what he hopes he will get out of it. But he never ever says “you must do this”. And that is so right because everyone has to find his or her own way; you can lead the proverbial horse to water but horses can be bloody-minded. Ultimately we have to choose for ourselves – we can control our bodies, our minds, our destiny – or we can float. No judgement if you float...floating is fine.
It’s not a worthy book either and, dear God, do I loathe worthiness. There is humour and fun and lightheartedness and sex mixed with sadness and frustration and anger (mainly directed at himself). It’s human, so human.
Finally, if you love language, surely you have to smile at the way he plays with words, constructing and destructing them, pulling them apart to tease out meaning, to release, to reveal? And (okay, so that wasn’t the final finally) if you have a mystic’s soul, doesn’t that soul soar when it peeks over ego’s shoulder and reads something like:
“The true nature of Time and Space cannot be known. It can only be heard. Do you see?”
Personally, I reckon it’s got the makings of a cult spiritual classic. But what do I know?”
What indeed? For those patiently waiting for the ‘how to lose four stone’ bit, it’s coming, it’s coming. But, see, this is all part of it. Am I saying Symphonic Bridges should be renamed ‘Four Stone in Four Months - The Ma.Ste. Way to Magic Weight Loss’? Nah. Though, hmm, maybe he’s missing a trick. J