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    Soul food

    By NANCY PARADIS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000


    HEALING JOURNEY: In 1975, at age 23, Bri. Maya Tiwari (the "Bri." is an honorific that stands for female Vedic monk) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Two-and-a-half years, 12 surgeries and many devastating rounds of radiation later, she was told she was terminal and given two months to live. Tiwari sought refuge in a friend's Vermont cabin and prepared to die. Instead, after several months, she left the cabin, her cancer gone.

    Tiwari chronicles the journey that healed both her body and her life on a deep and spiritual level in The Path of Practice: A Woman's Book of Healing with Food, Breath, and Sound (Ballantine Books, $24.95). Drawing on ancient Ayurvedic teachings and techniques, and emphasizing the roles not only of holistic nutrition but also of breath and sound, she offers recipes, exercises and meditations to incorporate into the lives of women. . . and men, the book's title notwithstanding.

    HEALING HEART: If Bri. Maya Tiwari takes healing the body as her starting point, then Awakening the Buddhist Heart (Broadway Books, $25) by Lama Surya Das does so with the heart. "Do you ever suffer from a sense that you are lost and wandering -- almost as though you have been through some kind of an emotional holocaust?" Surya Das asks. The antidote to this spiritual emptiness and loneliness is to awaken the "Buddhist heart," which Surya Das, spiritual teacher and spokesperson for the emerging Buddhism in this country as well as an authorized lama in the Tibetan Dzogchen lineage, defines as our innate inner goodness. While the techniques he offers may not make our lives perfect, we are at least given hope that we can gain a calming perspective as we enrich all our relationships.

    LANGUAGE OF THE HEART: Looking for a more Western approach to spirituality? Try Circle of Grace: Praying with -- and for -- your children (Ballantine Books, $25). Authors Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe begin with the premise that prayer is natural to human beings, and that children in particular have an innate ability to pray, absent the self-consciousness and ambivalence of adults. The first chapters explore the context of prayer within family life before segueing into a multitude of examples of prayer for different times and occasions. A bibliography at the end supplies a wealth of other resources. But even if children are not a part of your present life, Circle of Grace serves as a reminder to us all that prayer, in its essential simplicity and naturalness, is primarily a language of the heart.

    - Nancy Paradis is a Times staff writer.

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