The book is “Tasting the Moon” by Meg Fortune McDonnell, about her life with Adi Da. Adi Da is sort of a subliminal inspiration for this blog, so if you like this blog, chances are you might like this book as well. And the book is a whole lot more positive than this blog can be at times. (See dual sensitivity.)
Sometimes people ask me, how can I find out more about Adi Da? Did he really have multiple wives? What’s that all about? What kind of person was he?
I feel these are important questions and deserve to be answered candidly. And often the best way is through storytelling.
I’m only halfway through this book (it’s over 700 pages and very dense), but I can already tell that I trust this author to tell an accurate story. There’s a detail here and there that I would have treated differently, but that’s the beautiful thing about storytelling – each person tells a story in their own voice, as they themselves experienced it.
I love it
I knew I loved this book when I read the following anecdote earlier this week. This is the last thing I expect to read in this sort of book. In this incident, the author is living on a remote island with Adi Da and a few dozen other people, listening to him answer questions about all kinds of topics.
One night, I got so carried away by what he’d had to say about tantric sex, Taoist sex, regular Western sex, and the ascetical tradition of no sex, and by the practical wisdom in his own teachings on how to conduct the energies of sex… that I blurted out, “Love-Ananda,2 your instruction on sexuality is masterful – the greatest ever!”
He immediately corrected my hyperbole, “Don’t ever speak that way. What qualifies you to say that? How do you know?”3
I just love this. I’m not surprised Adi Da said it, in retrospect, but I am surprised anyone would repeat it. It’s soooo not the kind of thing I expect to find in this sort of book. Often students’ books about their teachers are filled with exaggerations and half-truths and so on, a kind of sugary-sweet fantasy version of reality, leaving important things out in order to please people while betraying the reader’s desire to get the straight truth.
The author, having a background in dance, is at one point recruited to give lessons in modern dance to Adi Da’s young daughters on the tiny tropical retreat island where they live.
Earlier in the book, she describes how, given her trained sensitivity to how people hold their body, she is amazed to see how Adi Da’s body is so full of life and how there’s a total relaxation in all his movements – even more than in any professional dancer she has ever met. She finds this attractive, she says, but also intimidating.
Okay, so when she arrives on the tiny island, she finds out she is expected to teach ballet, rather than modern dance, which is worrisome, but she makes do. Then, one evening she is ushered into a dance party where she is invited to dance with Adi Da one on one to a song by Aretha Franklin, a very energetic song which was one of her favorites. Here’s what happened next:
Before the song was over, Love-Ananda looked back at what I was doing. After a good look, he put his finger to his lips and shushed,
“Sshhh! Calm down! Don’t be so enthusiastic about the busy-ness of the world. You’ve got to interfere with its motion. Penetrate it… Cut into it… Don’t dance to the music, transcend the music.”4
As he talked, he kept dancing, showing me what he meant. He seemed to move through the music from an invisible still-point around which the motion and the music revolved. His dance had its own intention, its own integrity that wasn’t evoked by the music. His movement had equanimity, elegance, and freedom. By comparison, mine did not. Even I could see this.5
Wow, I just love this story, which continues for several pages. This alone is almost worth the price of the book, in my opinion.
First encounter with Adi Da
My favorite part of the book so far is where she describes the intense spiritual experiences she has when she first meets Adi Da in person. Mind-blowing doesn’t even describe it, and yet the experiences also contained incredible humor, love, and spontaneity.
However, for the sake of brevity I think I will let people read that chapter on their own.
Issues I have with the book
I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions the author arrives at regarding gender issues. There is a chapter devoted to this topic, the factual content of which is accurate enough from what I can tell. But my conclusions are different from those of the author. I think I’ll wait and write about this topic at greater length on another day. It’s a touchy subject for many of us, I think.
Also, the author still believes in the theory of evolution, which I no longer believe in, after reviewing some Basket of Tolerance materials about the subject. (See my recent article on evolution.) But that’s an extremely minor and tangential issue, and can be forgiven. :)
Otherwise, I’m halfway through the book and I really don’t have any issues with this book at all so far. It’s a dense 700+ page book, and I’m taking my time with it, so I didn’t want to wait till I was done reading it to write a review.
But as with anything, I encourage you to listen to your heart and pay attention to your intuition and discrimination as you read this or any other book. As I’ll be doing while I read the second half. :)
I bought my copy in a physical bookstore, but it looks like the book can also be ordered from Amazon.
You can also look at Meg’s website, which I found not as interesting as the book itself.
Also, it’s my understanding that this book was neither authorized nor approved by the organizations that handle Adi Da’s stuff. So this book seems to be a personal creation, like a hand-made piece of art, rather than an institutional communication, for whatever that’s worth.
Sometimes I like handmade creations, and this is one of those times.
This is the first time I’m specifically promoting something on this blog, so this is unusual. Well, if the topic interests you, check out the book and let me know what you think.
- Would you like to read candid stories about a crazy wisdom master who helped inspire this blog? A modern Western-born Adept who used New York language and his own personal example to convey high teachings about love and non-separateness? So long as the storyteller is trustworthy, I think it’s one of the more interesting and moving subjects to read about.
- I’ve been told at times by some students of Adi Da that I should heavily promote him on this blog. Other people have indicated they don’t want me to promote any agenda at all on this blog. I’m curious if anyone has a comment about this? Personally I like the way it’s been in recent months, but I’m open to feedback.
- If any of my readers have already read “Tasting the Moon”, please feel free to chime in with your opinion of it. Was it interesting? Honest? Helpful? Please say something specific.
- The cover shows a lunar corona that I’m told was witnessed by Ms. McDonnell, which coincided with a moment of inspiration for her on the anniversary of Adi Da’s passing. For students of metaphysics – as I know there are among readers of this blog – Adi Da tended to use the SUN rather than the moon as a symbol of divinity. There’s more I could say about this… but I won’t for the sake of brevity. :) I will say there’s nothing about worshipping the moon in this book, in case anyone is wondering. :) The reference to tasting the moon I think has to do with simply becoming more sensitive to our surroundings, but I haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet. ↩
- “Love-Ananda” was another one of Adi Da’s names, given to him by one of his own teachers. ↩
- “Tasting the Moon”, p. 269. ↩
- Probably this advice depends on who the musician is, and what kind of intention the musician has when they make their music. And what the setting and purpose is for dancing, etc. ↩
- “Tasting the Moon”, p. 262. ↩