Kirkus Reviews / October 7, 2015
A chronicle of a life spent at the intersections of Eastern and Western thought. In this spiritual autobiography, first-time memoirist Michaels depicts his rocky but rewarding path toward self-reinvention via Hinduism. Born to a roaming Midwestern family who set their roots down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Michaels grew up beset by mental and physical illnesses—scoliosis, anxiety—and familial discord. Blamed for his father’s injury, anguish dominated Michaels’ childhood, which then led to an escapist party life in college. Drug-addled and sick, a stay in a psychiatric hospital convinced him of the need to change. Years later, he found himself consulting the man he would affectionately refer to as Babaji, his guru, at a Colorado ashram, determined to put his life on a healthier track. Doing so was hard; he made earnest pilgrimages to various mentors and spiritual communities—including the ashram of Gurumayi in upstate New York—and followed Sri Shambhavananda (his “Babaji”) to the verdant hills of Kailua-Kona in Hawaii. Michaels’ unrushed, often self-deprecating style suits his material. Without melodrama, he catalogs the experiences (he was once accidentally locked inside the chanting hall at an ashram in upstate New York for more than five hours) that led him to alter his fundamental views about the universe. Comparing Hinduism with Western thinking, Michaels parallels the narrative of his spiritual education with the history of his life using the image of a lotus seed as a metaphor for his own development. And surprisingly, despite the seemingly medical character of his recovery, Michaels insists that his return to well-being through spiritual practice was not a psychological process but one “energetic in nature,” a process that aims to reveal the “state of perfection that is latent in everyone. Affecting; seasoned with intellectual maturity as well as spiritual passion.