A debut memoir focuses on one man’s lifelong spiritual quest.
Moser’s book begins in Redwood City, California, in 1974. His meditation practice at the time was quite masochistic: He ate very little; he was isolated from others; and he sat for long periods in an often painful position. Before readers are told of the repercussions of such a lifestyle, the story reaches back a couple decades. It was in the 1950s in the San Fernando Valley that the author grew up as a Roman Catholic with a “full-tilt maniac” of a father. Moser earned a degree at Stanford, became entranced with a paperback by Ram Dass called Be Here Now, and took a job in France. It was in Europe that he encountered the writings of an Indian philosopher named Jiddu Krishnamurti. He saw Krishnamurti speak in Switzerland and the experience proved profound. Upon returning to California, the author withdrew more and more from average American life. He attended talks by a Sufi master and he gave up a love of French wine. Moser would ultimately fast and meditate into a state of ecstasy that was impossible to replicate. He had, in his words, “overdosed on a perfectly legal substance: asceticism.” Although reading about someone’s long periods of meditation and disdain for fine food may not sound captivating, the book has much to offer. Who better to reflect on a spiritual journey than someone who has gone on one and lived to tell about it? In an era when a term like mindfulness has become a buzzword, it is edifying to learn of an individual who has committed serious time to this practice. This is especially true when that effort frayed relationships, finances, and mental well-being. There are of course episodes without much action. For instance, the author, after coming down from his ascetic mountain, became a teacher. The payoff is that he found he did not enjoy the job. This conclusion may not be astounding, but it adds to the sincerity of an indisputably earnest odyssey. Even with such diversions into the mundane, the memoir provides a full picture of the difficulty of enlightenment.
While it is not always thrilling, this account offers honest insights into the rigors of deep self-reflection.