A debut spiritual book explores the quest for meaning in life.
Kokatay begins her wide-ranging work on the Big Island of Hawaii with an incident in January 2018 that nobody living there at that time will likely ever forget: the instance when their phones relayed an emergency notice that a ballistic missile was incoming. For 38 minutes, until the all-clear signal was sent, Hawaiians thought they were moments away from incineration. The author uses the profound relief and inner questioning of that startling event as a parallel for the age-old human search for profound meaning in life. “I wonder how we can experience being truly awake and alive in the present without being on the verge of dying,” Kokatay ponders. “Maybe the answer is by coming face-to-face with the reality that we conveniently try to ignore: that we are on the verge of dying.” The fateful episode came as a kind of culmination in a lifetime of seeking deeper meaning in, among other places, “temples, ashrams, and ancient caves in India.” In a series of quick, anecdotal chapters drawing on stories from her years working at a hospice, the author synthesizes a series of “non-principles” underlying the struggles of existence, sentiments like “Allow life to touch and teach you,” “See that you are not in control,” “Be empty and open,” and “Embrace what is.” The spotlight on these ideas is sharpened by “Contemplation” questions and comments ending each chapter, things like “Reflect on what it means to live life rather than a concept of life” or “Reflect on heartbreak and suffering as an opportunity for awakening to wholeness.” Kokatay colors in these self-help generalities with vivid tales of her travels in India (and very movingly of the feel and tenor of life in Hawaii). The end result is a heartfelt book probing the meaning of life in intriguingly nondenominational terms, creating from multiple spiritual traditions a more general conception of sacredness in everyday occurrences.
A broad and engaging guide to a deeper personal philosophy.