Sumangali Morhall’s Auspicious Good Fortune details one woman’s spiritual awakening in beautiful, lyrical prose that sometimes reads like poetry. The rhythm and cadence of her voice is easy to fall into, easy to find peace in. This piece of writing is not merely a memoir or a spiritual journey or even an ode to a lost Guru and way of life that so few of us are able to find. Sumangali’s writing offers a unique window into the pacing and thinking of a person who has found a balance between her “interior world and the outer world” – giving her reader a visceral experience of that balance.
The story she tells flows fluidly from the specifics of her physical reality to her own conscious interactions within herself. Sumangali’s adept use of language allows for such fluidity – allows for the reader to follow her implicitly as new connections are made. In one of my favorite sections of the text, Sumangali describes a moment in which, while painting her walls a bright mango, a delivery man asks her what she is doing: “It’s a living room,” I returned, “it wants to look alive.” This fluid moment, this insight into a new way of seeing our reality, is what captured me the most throughout her story. Everything about her new world became a balance of an interior truth and an outer reality. It is this very simple representation of thought that makes her writing to be very compelling.
This is going to go right next to the copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Sun My Heart on my bookshelf, easily placed so that anytime I need a quick pick-me-up, or some comfort in my purse, I can easily grab for one. Both My Heart and Good Fortune are similar in that way – they are comfort food books. Yes, both are considered “spiritual” texts, but above all both do so on an intimate, personal level. Morhall’s spiritual journey is inspiring and hopeful and honest … but above all, her prose is intoxicating and raw. While reading, I felt many times as though I was receiving a bright, warm hug.
Gently and beautifully written this is a peek into the journey many take over the course of a lifetime trying to discover happiness, a purpose to life or even their chosen pathway through life.
Morhall tells her story from the perspective of a child growing into adulthood, all the while challenging the boundaries; some of her own making and others, that of society.
Always looking for love and acceptance she trod many pathways – that of music, corporate executive, salesperson, student, traveller and waitress to find that whatever she was looking for was not at the end of any of those particular roads.
It was not until she was at the lowest of one of the many low points of her life, she decided to attend a meditation session held by the Sri Chinmoy group she began to find the true pathway for her life.
Learning to accept that which is offered was one of her major accomplishments during a time of persistent ill health; coming to terms with the reality that much of her life had been lived in the shadow of shyness, could possibly have been of her own making and finally, accepting that for her the pathway to happiness in her life was the gentle way of reflection, meditation and acceptance.
Along the way she also discovered happiness is inside everyone if you care to look.
Empowering and enjoyable this is more than at look into someone else’s life – it is a course in how to come to terms with the reality of life while all the while having the courage to overcome challenges and never, ever giving up on your journey of discovery, as you never know what is waiting for you just around the corner.
Article first published by John Gillespie as Book Review: Auspicious Good Fortune: One Woman’s Inspirational Journey from Western Disillusionment to Eastern Spiritual Fulfilment by Sumangali Morhall on Blogcritics.
Auspicious Good Fortune is English writer Sumangali Morhall’s first published work, a novice author and student of an Indian spiritual master writing more than adeptly of her lifelong journey from spiritual novice to adept. Or as such things are put on lush, inviting book covers, “One woman’s inspirational journey from Western disillusionment to Eastern spiritual fulfilment.” For once you really can judge a book by its attractively designed, accurately described cover.
Morhall is from an arguably unique generation in history, a generation which grew up taking the fruits and freedoms of feminism for granted. Coming of age in the late 1980s, she literally had the world at her feet, and like few women before her, was able to study, travel and work in almost any field of her choosing. In the pages of her autobiography, she literally does.
To borrow the mantra of Joseph Campbell, completely unhindered in the ability to follow her personal bliss, Morhall seeks happiness and satisfaction in multiple jobs, countries, relationships and experiences: gaining an art degree, lead singer of a band, teaching English in Thailand, partying in London, scuba diving and nearly marriage in Mexico, shoplifting and retail store manager, business degree from a prestigious university, job in a London fashion house; she tries it all and willingly walks away from it all, including a model-musician boyfriend, to wear a sari and join what is traditionally one of the most patriarchal, male dominated realms — a spiritual community — where by her own compelling account, she undeniably blossoms.
Amongst the near horizonless flotsam and jetsam of our internet age, the sea of world-weariness, cheap cynicism, aimlessly drifting intellectualism and obscure speculation, the sincere, affecting, beautiful words with which Morhall describes her sometimes stumbling, sometimes running search for enlightenment are like a life-raft floating far beyond, and the depth of wisdom on board, pearls from deep beneath.
Auspicious Good Fortune is potentially an instant classic of the world of spiritual literature. Like the writing of Christopher Isherwood, an English author better known as the father of modern gay writing, but also a lifelong member of the Ramakrishna Order, and author of several seminal works on spirituality, Morhall’s book possesses the rare distinction of being the product not just of an authentic devotee and spiritual insider — Morhall a student with a rare close access to the recently belated New York guru Sri Chinmoy — but a genuinely talented writer as well. Also like Isherwood, Auspicious Good Fortune surprises with its candour and willingness to throw back the cloister curtains, the search for inner truth speckled equally with tears of frustration and jewels of bliss.
Heart on sleeve and on page, Morhall writes directly from the heart, with endearing honesty and captivating charm. Hers is the pure, unaffected voice of child, but a child who has meditated for over two decades, and whom possesses piercing insight and depth of both spiritual and worldly experience. Morhall may be a novice author, but in Auspicious Good Fortune she is no novice of the spiritual realm. If Eat, Pray, Love were to become serialised, this would be concluding edition.
A subtly emotive, poetic writer, with a keen eye for the delicate and minute, so well written and metaphorically masterful is Auspicious Good Fortune, it is as if Emily Dickinson herself has entered the realm of biographical prose. By her own admission more adept at poetry than prose, Morhall is at her lyrical and transcendent best when discussing her genuinely inspiring — and at times genuinely miraculous — experiences with Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, whom on the basis of this heart-felt account, one can’t help but want to know better.
Morhall presents us with a conclusion that echoes the wisdom of ancient sages quoted within her very pages: to find a spiritual master and to follow the life of inner truth is the most auspicious path of all. Auspicious Good Fortune is the highly recommended tale of that search, and furthermore, the tale of what is found.
– John Gillespie
Feel free to judge this book by its cover. Lush and inviting, the writing is beautiful, refined and immaculate as the gerbera gracing its front. Described as ‘One woman’s inspirational journey from Western disillusionment to Eastern spiritual fulfillment,’ it is really much more: a journey into the sensibility of the human heart, longing for the ineffable.
Morhall’s story is told with disarming simplicity. Here is the voice of a poet, speaking in prose – reaching always for the truth and beauty in things; and at a loss before ugliness, meanness and injustice. There is never a sense of embellishment or exaggeration – only authentic, keenly felt experience, related with a resonant and discerning sympathy.
Auspicious Good Fortune is not a rose-coloured promo piece for her teacher
Sri Chinmoy and the spiritual path he established. Morhall writes equally of her struggles, misgivings and discomfort as of her happiness and fulfilment. Auspicious Good Fortune affirms the goodness and beauty of life. Beautiful in itself, it brings forward the beautiful in us. Such words – leaving us glad to be alive – are auspicious words indeed.”
This story of a Western woman becoming disillusioned with her Western lifestyle and, through a number of twists and turns, finding fulfilment as a spiritual disciple of modern Guru, Sri Chinmoy, is both heart-warming and informative.
The book is beautifully written and well-crafted. The pace of the story, whether through the chapters where the author is chasing everything that Western society offers or those set during her years studying meditation with her Indian spiritual master, is gripping. It gives a rare insight into the fascinating, conflicted life of a very modern spiritual seeker.
Morhall makes no secret of her initial scepticism about the likely outcome of her spiritual search, yet after reading her candid account of life as a disciple, there can be no doubt that she loves her chosen lifestyle.
This is a personal memoir that spans childhood, career and relationships and the sudden near-death experience that transformed her life, yet it is the insight into how she struggles to adapt to the ways of the East, and to put them into practice in her modern world, that is especially captivating. It is an extraordinary tale and highly recommended.”
– Kindred Spirit Magazine