A Spacious Life by Narissa Doumani

A Spacious Life

Memoir of a Meditator
Email this review


A young woman writes of her spiritual evolution in an insightful debut memoir.

The “spacious life” of the title refers to the “immeasurable spaciousness” evoked when the author, a model and actress, practices meditation and mindfulness. Doumani was born well-off, “ensconced in the comfort of a heavenly suburbia” in Sydney, Australia, to loving parents (Thai mother, Lebanese father). An “inner restlessness” fueled her spiritual quest. The result here is not a dreary rehashing of her past but a thought-provoking look inward that includes fascinating mystical experiences and dreams. Writing in a strong, clear voice, she describes an inner journey augmented by travel and exposure to other cultures in places like Bangkok and Bangladesh. Her spiritual adventures weren’t as expansive as those of, say, Shirley MacLaine, nor do they veer into cosmic revelations, yet both authors question reality and their individual circumstances. In addition to a mentoring relationship with a Buddhist master, Luang Pu, the author had a series of male friends, three of whom are profiled here: the Italian, the Businessman, and the Fighter. These relationships aren’t portrayed solely as romantic interludes but rather as mirrors of her spiritual process, each representing a particular set of challenges. The Italian, a “livewire” whom she met at university, was possessive and ultimately obsessed with her. The Businessman was given to “maximising opportunities,” a process that didn’t necessarily match Doumani’s wishes (he remained on the sidelines during her cancer scare). The most compelling association was with that of the Fighter, who was in pain due to a freak accident; his physical suffering, sometimes moderated by overmedicating, greatly impacted the author. In time, she came to view relationships as “ultimately ephemeral, like a hologram.” Using established spiritual staples—“Sitting quietly by myself, doing nothing special, and grasping at nothing in particular, that is what the forest taught me”—the author crafts an engaging story, keeping the relationship with self top of mind and ending many chapters with an enticing hook. The result is a tale of heightened awareness and compassion. Despite her Mensa-level IQ, Doumani avoids pomposity, delivering a coherent story grounded in consistent practices and self-awareness.

Intelligent, contemplative spiritual memoir by a fine writer with a rich interior world.

Pub Date: March 18th, 2015
Publisher: almer Higgs Pty Ltd.
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015


IndieTHE SOUND OF WATER by Joshua K. Linden
by Joshua K. Linden