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Archive for the ‘Virtual Book Tour Guests’ Category

Fix Your Diet Fix Your DiabetesTitle: FIX YOUR DIET FIX YOUR DIABETES
Author: Tony Hampton, MD
Publisher: Windy City Publishers
Pages: 168
Genre: Self-Help

BOOK BLURB:

Want to fix your diabetes? In this book, I share with my diabetic and borderline diabetic readers that they have the power to reverse or prevent diabetes simply by changing their diets. It starts with how you think. By removing old beliefs to new ones that better serve you, the path to recovery from diabetes can be that simple. Once I provide the rationale for changing old beliefs to more productive ones, I then share with you ways to stay motivated as you journey to a new way of eating. You are then given a deeper understanding of why so many people have diabetes. This knowledge will allow you to remove thoughts you may have had where you blamed yourself for having diabetes. You are then given tips on how to maintain the motivation needed to make a successful transition to a diabetic friendly diet. Additional knowledge is given about the many complications which could occur when this condition is not well controlled. Empowered with the understanding of why diabetes occurs and its many complications, you will be given a case for changing how diabetes is treated. This is done by changing the focus of diabetes management away from the symptoms (elevated glucose), which is how we currently manage this condition, to treating the cause of the disease (insulin resistance). You are then given the rationale for increasing healthy fats in your diets while reducing starchy carbohydrates and processed foods. Once this is explained, examples of foods that should be considered for smoothies, snacks, and dinner are given so you will know how to choose foods which are best. Finally, tips on how to avoid being fooled by marketing labels and claims of so-called healthy foods provide the framework by which great dietary choices can be made. This new approach to reversing diabetes with diet will reverse diabetes in nearly anyone willing to make these simply lifestyle changes.

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Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Chapter One:

Fix Your Motivation

“If someone is going down the wrong road,

he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up.

What he needs is education to turn him around.”

~Jim Rohn

Answering the WHY Question

So what is your motivation for reading this book? Is it because you feel it’s time to finally win your battle with diabetes and are looking for the steps you need to take to get you there? Or is it because the world has convinced you that the reason you have this condition is because you have not taken personal responsibility for the lifestyle decisions you have made? If only you would eat less and exercise more, right? That’s what you have been told for so many years and yet no matter what you do, you have not found a path to success.

I have some good news for you. You are not the problem. If that was so, we would be living in a world of unmotivated individuals unwilling to make the necessary changes to improve their overall health. I don’t believe this at all. My experience with patients is that most want to be healthy and are willing to do what’s needed to get healthy.

So if that’s true, what’s been keeping them from finding success? The answer is simple. It’s not a lack of motivation but a lack of information. Yes, the path to success is understanding how our bodies work, which is becoming clearer as more and more research is being done.

In the pages of this book I will share a way of viewing your diet that perhaps no one has taught you before. With this new information you can take the steps needed to make changes in your diet and lifestyle. As you learn how to approach your food options, you will give your body access to the right nutrition. This will help you keep your blood sugars down, ultimately reducing the need for insulin, whether it comes from your pancreas (your insulin factory) or the pharmacy (medication). And yes, eating healthier can be done affordably, as long as you are open to eating some of the things you normally walk away from when shopping.

As a physician, there were times when I blamed my patients for not being at their ideal body weight until I realized one important reality. Maybe their behaviors didn’t lead to their inability to process glucose biochemically, but rather their biochemistry led to the behaviors. You may want to read that last sentence again. In other words, relax and stop blaming yourself.

Once you understand how sugars affect your decisions, you will stop blaming yourself (or anyone else) for your diabetes or the effects it has on your physical condition. You will also learn that all calories are not the same and that some calories are good while others are bad.

For example, calories from sugars are not the best way to receive nutrition, no matter what you’ve been told about how much of your nutrition should be coming from sugars or carbs. In fact, an International Econometric Analysis of Diet and Diabetes found “sugar availability is a significant statistical determinant of diabetes prevalence rates worldwide.”

To put this in perspective, a 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of total sugar, which is about 9-1/3 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) has put together a maximum intake allowance for sugar, and according to the AHA, women should have no more than 6 teaspoons per day. Men can have up to 9 teaspoons of sugar daily. So, whether you’re male or female, drinking a single 12-ounce can of Coke goes over the maximum sugar allowance for the day.2 The average American consumes 22 teaspoons daily.

Keeping these facts in mind, it would not surprise you that drinking just one soda per day increases your risk for diabetes by 29 per-cent, regardless of your current weight. So I ask the question again, are you lacking motivation or lacking knowledge? I think you know the answer. Now let’s start by looking at ways you can stay motivated as you work toward your goal of fixing your diabetes.

Set a Goal

The first step is to define your goal. Your short-term goal may be to get your Hemoglobin A1c under 7. Or maybe you have a long-term goal of preventing many of the complications of diabetes, like blindness or kidney failure. Either way, defining your goals will be an important step in reaching them.

Keep your goals realistic and focused. Goals that are out of reach only create an unrealistic illusion. For example, I’m a tennis fan and dream of playing at Wimbledon someday. But the reality is that I am at an age and skill level where this is an impossible dream. Likewise, if your goals are not focused, you may find yourself trying to accom-plish more than your brain can handle. This results in mental fatigue, which will sap your confidence.

Now let’s look at the benefits of sharing your goals.

Share Your Goal

I must admit, this is risky. Even your friends and family, who should be your greatest source of support, can sometimes be your greatest source of discouragement. Many times they are not aware that they are harming you. They want to limit your expectations so they can protect you from failure. All the same, friends and family can be our greatest ally as we work towards our goals. We want them on board when we are trying to accomplish anything, so talk to them and let them know you are determined to change and succeed. They will help keep you from falling off the wagon whenever a little motivation is needed. Your diabetes control may depend on it.

Introduce Your Goal to Your Refrigerator

In a world where stainless steel is becoming the norm, I hope I don’t upset anyone with the idea of putting anything on that fancy refrigerator door. But this may be the best way to find the daily reminder you’ll need to stay motivated. Most of us will pass by that big ice box at least once daily. Why not repurpose it as a reminder of your personal goals? Such a reminder could be exactly what you need to get your day started on the right foot. Consider a picture of your diabetes medicines with a big X over it. This could serve as your aspirational goal of using your diet to get off medicines.

Partner With Others to Help You Reach Your Goals

Have you ever thought, “If only I had a life coach?” Imagine having someone to help you as you take your journey to a place you’ve never been before. How secure would you feel knowing that you’re not alone, but have a built-in support system to help you along the way? Partnering with someone can make this all possible.

Partnerships create an accountability that for some of us is not easily achieved alone. Not only will you benefit, but you will be return-ing the favor by providing the same support for the person you’ve created your partnership with. You are now accountable to each other, sharing both your successes and failures. Even the most successful motivational speakers, like Anthony Robbins, have life coaches. Think about the people in your circle and see if someone could fill this role in your life. If you can’t find one in your circle, consider hiring a professional life coach or joining a diabetes support group in your area.

Focus on What’s Important to You, Not What’s Important to Others

The reality for many of us is that we spend too much time focused on other people’s agendas—whether it’s doing activities you really don’t want to do, not knowing how to say no, or allowing others to dictate how you should live your life. The key is to reflect on your own goals and allow those goals to set your day’s agenda. Once you remove distractions caused by others, there will be plenty of time to do the things that are meaningful to you.

If you rarely feel motivated, making this shift could correct your energy levels. When you’re doing things for yourself, motivation will naturally be high because you’re doing what your own spirit desires. Doing other people’s work will never create the motivation you need to accomplish anything.

Be Careful of the Words You Use Daily

You are what you think or say you are. If you use negative words to describe yourself or your capacity to reach your goals, you will likely fulfill those negative expectations. When was the last time you recall a negative-thinking person accomplishing much or inspiring others? This doesn’t happen. Understanding that our thoughts become our reality is one of the most important keys to creating an environment that fosters success. If you believe you can fix your diabetes, you will.

Create a Positive Environment to Nurture Your Spirit

I listen to inspirational messages daily. Messages from those who have mastered the art of positive thinking. They are so easy to find— in books, with an Internet search, or on Youtube. This has changed my life and it will do the same for you.

All you need to do is take a few minutes each day to get the positive juices flowing. This will enable you to counter the negative forces you will certainly face each day. Whether it’s the local news, a negative co-worker, a mean boss, or an unsupportive family member, your ability to manage the negative energy they are emitting is made easier with the armor of positive thoughts in your head.

So take a moment to think about all your activities and the time and resources they use. Then start the process of removing those activities which don’t add value or help you reach your goal of better controlling your diabetes. By replacing activities which don’t serve you with activities that do, you will find it easier to reach your goals. Will you have the courage to take away those activities which have been part of your routine for so long? Sometimes it’s what we don’t do that harms us the most

Take a w a y s

  • Reflect and decide WHY you are motivated to fix your diabetes. Your motivation may be a person, or it may be a goal you are trying to reach.
  • Set a specific goal with a defined date to reach it.

This could be a target level of hemoglobin A1c.

  • Share your goal with someone who wants to help you reach it, to create accountability.
  • Write your goal on a sticky note and place it on your refrigerator as a daily reminder.
  • Get yourself a life coach.
  • Focus on your own priorities and not the priorities of others.
  • Speak encouraging language to yourself and others.
  • Make sure your day is started with positives messages.

 

 

 

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We’re really excited to be hosting Marguerite Ashton’s HER FINAL WATCH Book Blast today! Leave a comment below to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

 

Title:
HER FINAL WATCH
Author: Marguerite Ashton
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Pages: 296
Genre: Crime
Speaking
second-hand truths can be deadly …
Detective Lily Blanchette will stop at nothing to solve a murder. Her current
case involves the killing of an undercover cop working to bring down the mob
for prostitution and drugs.

But Lily’s usual laser-like focus on the case has been disrupted.

Two weeks earlier, she learned she was pregnant by her murderous husband whom
she’d killed in self-defense. Unsure whether to keep her baby or place the
child of this cruel man up for adoption, Lily keeps the pregnancy a secret from
her colleagues.

Under mounting pressure to solve the case, Lily arranges a sit-down with a
local mob boss only to find out her suspect is also wanted by them. But before
Lily can warn her team, she and her new partner, Jeremiah, are shot at, and
another body is found.

When she discovers Jeremiah has a connection with the underworld, she is pulled
into a conflict that swirls around the boss’s son who’s hell-bent on revenge.

To add to the complexity of the situation, Lily learns that her victim might
still be alive if it wasn’t for opportunistic Assistant District Attorney, Ibee
Walters, who has a twisted vision of justice.

As Lily gets closer to finding the killer, she unravels ugly secrets that point
to Ibee and Jeremiah – placing Lily’s life and her unborn child in danger.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

 

 

Detective Ariel Weeks stabbed at the small block of ice
until it split into several pieces across the counter. She tossed the jagged
cubes into the glass and made her client a drink.
In less than twenty-four hours, Ariel would no longer have
to use the name Jasmine and keep men company to protect her cover. All she
needed to do was make it through this last night and she’d be allowed to be who
she was; a mom just doing her job.
After gathering evidence and recording all the data she had,
it would be hard to detah. Towards the end, she’d learned things she wished
weren’t true, leaving her stomach in tattered knots.
Back at home, there were two reasons Ariel would never take
on another undercover assignment.
Click.
Ariel ground her teeth as the door to Cabin D opened and
closed. She could feel Mikey Surace, the mob boss’s son, staring at the
backless white dress she wore at his request.
The man who smiled at the sight of blood was standing behind
her, breathing heavily.

 

When Marguerite Ashton was in her twenties, she took up
acting but realized she preferred to work behind the camera, writing crime
fiction. A few years later, she married an IT Geek
and settled down with her role as wife, mom, and writer. Five kids later, she
founded the Crime Writer’s Panel and began working with former law enforcement
investigators to create; Criminal Lines Blog, an online library for crime
writers who need help with their book research.
She’s a workaholic who hides in her writer’s attic,
plotting out her next book and stalking Pinterest for the next avocado
recipe. 

A member of Sisters in Crime, Marguerite grew up in

Colorado, but is now happily
living in
Wisconsin and playing as much golf
as possible.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

 

Marguerite Ashton is giving away a
$25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering
    the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner
    will be chosen via Rafflecopter
  • This giveaway
    ends midnight October 31.
  • Winner will
    be contacted via email on November 1.
  • Winner has
    48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Robert Parker is a new exciting voice, a married father of two, who lives in a village close to Manchester, UK. He has both a law degree and a degree in film and media production, and has worked in numerous employment positions, ranging from solicitor’s agent (essentially a courtroom gun for hire), to a van driver, to a warehouse order picker, to a commercial video director. He currently writes full time, while also making time to encourage new young readers and authors through readings and workshops at local schools and bookstores. In his spare time he adores pretty much all sport, boxing regularly for charity, loves fiction across all mediums, and his glass is always half full.

His latest book is the crime/thriller, A WANTED MAN.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

Would you call yourself a born writer?

No, I wouldn’t at all. I’d say I was a fairly imaginative kid that was exposed to lots of fun stories when he was young, and all I ever wanted to do from then was the same thing.

What was your inspiration for A WANTED MAN?

All sorts of things, in truth! Eighties action movies, fatherhood, the futility of war, disillusionment with government, crime stories, my home city of Manchester, mob movies. It started as a terrible action movie screenplay when I was 16, and I went back to it when I was 30 and thought ‘hey, I can do something with this finally!’.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

The ordinary smashing up against the fantastic. The real versus the outlandish. Normal splashed with amazing. Anything that surprises and satisfies in equal measure. Aside from that, I find myself writing about fatherhood a lot, but with two young kids and a third imminent, I suppose being a dad is never far from my daily thoughts!

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Well, after I picked it back up as a screenplay out of the drawer, and started a first draft, it was 6-7 weeks. Then after that a further three years of rewrites, so that draft 46 is the one you have in your hands.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I try to be as strict with myself as I can, but I love the fact that being a writer lets be spend a lot of time with my kids, and they always come first. But usually, I’ll be up early doors with the sprogs, they’ll go off to school, then it’s coffee and writing the rest of the day, breaking for lunch, the gym and errands. Family time again 5 until 7pm, then if we’ve got a quiet evening planned, I’m straight back at it until my eyes fuzz.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

The patience I suppose. I’m fit to burst with my next book, and the next and the next, so that when I kept having to rewrite (and then because it’s actually a book and it takes a fair bit of time to read) it felt like it took longer and longer to get there. But now I’m so glad it did, because the book is literally the best I could make it, thanks to all the time it took me to get it here.

What do you love most about being an author?

The ability to create everyday, and the joy and freedom that comes with that. That and the fact that it lets me spend a lot of time with my family, which is a complete blessing I know how lucky I am to have.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I self-published originally, until I hooked up with my agent, then we went hunting a publisher. Then it was a question of taking the best offer. I’d have got nowhere if I didn’t self-publish though, and would recommend it to anyone who is struggling to find an audience like I was. I loved that process, and I really enjoyed the thrill of self-publishing – people look down on it, but I know it was how I got started. I’ll always be grateful to it.

Where can we find you on the web?

All over!

https://www.facebook.com/robertparkerauthor/

https://twitter.com/RobertRParker45

www.robertparkerauthor.com

https://www.instagram.com/robertparkerauthor/

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Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning crime fiction author and consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent sociopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists.

Her latest book is the crime thriller, Dead Cold.

 

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

About the Book:

                                                              

Title: DEAD COLD
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: JEC Press
Pages: 326
Genre: Crime Thriller

BOOK BLURB:

What happens when one California community has a disturbing spike in homicides? It catapults cops into a deadly game of murder. Frozen human body parts hideously displayed at the crime scenes offers a horrifying interpretation that only a sadistic serial killer could design—and execute.

On the hunt for a complex serial killer, vigilante detective Emily Stone must face her most daring case yet. Stone’s proven top-notch profiling skills and forensic expertise may not be enough this time.

Young and ambitious, Detective Danny Starr, catches the homicide cases and discovers that it will test everything he knows about police work and the criminal mind. Can he handle these escalating cases or will the police department have to call in reinforcements—the FBI.

Emily Stone’s covert team pushes with extreme urgency to unravel the grisly clues, while keeping their identities hidden from the police. With one last-ditch effort, Stone dangles someone she loves as bait to draw out the killer. She then forces the killer out of their comfort zone with her partner Rick Lopez, and with help from a longtime friend Jordan Smith. A revelation of the serial killer’s identity leaves the team with volatile emotions that could destroy them.

The killer continues to taunt and expertly manipulate the police, as well as Stone’s team, and as they run out of time—they leave behind everyone and everything—in Dead Cold.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?

Books and fictional stories always fascinated me ever since I was a young child. I loved all types of stories and how it could transport you anywhere at any time. I’ve always written stories, and then later screenplays, but it wasn’t my main occupation.  As things changed in the publishing industry, I jumped in and wrote my first professional book in 2008, and I’ve never looked back.

Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie?

No. When I’m reading or watching a movie, it’s for escape and entertainment.

Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later?

It’s always been a passion and continued to grow through the years.

Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?

One of my personal nemeses of writing is procrastination. I’ve learned to refocus my attention to my writing project(s) to not let anything unimportant get in the way.

What hours do you write best?

My best writing hours are late afternoon and nighttime. I’ve tried to be a morning writer, but it doesn’t work with me.

How often do you write?

I write something every day, except Sunday.

Are you an avid reader?

I’m not as much an avid reader as I used to be. There aren’t enough hours in the day—unfortunately. Now, I have to budget my time for reading.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading The Kill Room by Jeffrey Deaver. My Kindle is full of great books waiting to be read.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on the second book of the Chip Palmer Forensic Mysteries, Scene of the Crime, which will be out later this year.  I’m outlining the next Emily Stone Thriller, Dark Lies, which will be out early 2018. There are a couple of Novellas that I’m considering for short Emily Stone cases.

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Jennifer_Chase_-_Postcard_Front


Inside the Series

Title: EMILY STONE THRILLER SERIES
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: JEC Press
Genre: Crime Thriller

Vigilante detective Emily Stone hunts serial killers and child abductors, covertly and under the law enforcement radar. She uses her fine-tuned skills of criminal profiling and forensic perceptiveness to locate predators that cops cannot or will not find. She is trained, she is tough, she is serious, and she gets results.

With Stone’s toughest cases yet, the killer immediately crosses her radar and sends her into the dark territory of a serial killer’s mind—tothe point of no return.

Take your pick of any of the award-winning, stand-alone books and tag along with a serial killer hunter.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

 
Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning crime fiction author and consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor
degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent sociopath,
providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. 
She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic
Criminologists.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

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https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/-OmTskvZNoI?rel=0

Title: DON’T CALL ME CRAZY! I’M JUST IN LOVE WITH GOD
Author: Swiyyah Woodard
Publisher: Swiyyah Productions, Inc.
Pages: 229
Genre: Inspirational / Motivational / Romance / Christian

BOOK BLURB:

Because of God, nothing will stop Anika from marrying the love of her life, not even paranoid schizophrenia.
You don’t want to miss this spiritual journey filled with inspiration and power.
This book is insightful and perceptive. Inspired by a true story. Few people consider the God factor in mental health. Join Anika and journey with her as she receives revelations from God while on her walk to overcome mental illness and naiveness towards religion. Required reading for High schools and colleges.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon | Barnes& Noble

 

Swiyyah Nadirah Woodard was selected as a Bay News 9 Everyday Hero, which was seen by two million viewers, for
publishing a book and teaching the community about her own battle with mental
illness. She was hospitalized six times and misdiagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Her first book, Don’t Call Me Crazy! I’m Just in Love, became required and suggested reading in Reading, Writing, Abnormal Psychology, and General Psychology classes at a four year Institution.

She was born in the housing projects of Saint Petersburg, FL. Her father left when she was three so she was raised in a single parent home. At the age of five she was molested by her eight year old brother. She later started school, she had slurred speech and didn’t care to make friends so she was bullied by her peers. At the age of eight, she wanted to kill herself because a girl wanted to fight her. She looked into the medicine cabinet for medication. Thank God, she couldn’t find any.

As a teenager she was physically abused by her step dad. The abuse was so severe, God blocked it from her memory. At the age of 20 the brother that molested her committed suicide, which was devastating to her and the entire family. Swiyyah has always viewed herself as normal. She never received any disciplinary problems in school, made good grades, and received her BA degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida.

When the doctors misdiagnosed her with the most debilitating mental disorder known in mental health, paranoid schizophrenia, she denied it. She questioned their expertise. She refused to take medication. She was then hospitalized six times. Her family took a picture of her at her worst and that’s when she knew she needed help. She has been taking medication now for ten years without a relapse.

She is now a published author and a National Inspirational Speaker. Her first book is entitled, “Don’t Call Me Crazy! I’mjust in Love,” and is inspired by her true story. 

She was raised Muslim and the revelations she received from God and placed in her books, didn’t make any since until she meet her Christian husband 14 years after her first relapse. 

Please contact Swiyyah to book speaking engagements, life coaching, author and speaker coaching, radio and TV
interviews, or to purchase her books at 727-495-3217, Swiyyah@swiyyah.com.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

 

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If Truth Be Told

Title: IF TRUTH BE TOLD: A MONK’S MEMOIR
Author: Om Swami
Publisher: Harper Element
Pages: 256
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

If Truth be Told is an extraordinary memoir of the making of a spiritual life in today’s demanding and baffling times. The book unravels the true life story of Om Swami and his journey to becoming a monk. In the 1990s, an eighteen-year-old heads to Australia to realize his worldly dreams. With little money or support, he strives to make ends meet. Two years later, he’s earning an annual income of $250,000. By the age of twenty-six, Om Swami’s a multi-millionaire. But, the pull of the ochre robe is such that the boy whose hair Shiva had stroked in a dream and who at times could peer into the future of a complete stranger, gives up not just a multimillion dollar business, but every pleasure ever known to him. He renounces, in search of God.

Overnight, from a CEO Swami becomes an ordained monk in India. Reality hits him hard when he faces starvation and neglect at his guru’s ashram. A resolute Swami leaves for the Himalayas to burn his mind and body in the fire of intense meditation, to manifest God or die trying. A chance meeting with a mystical female tantric reinforces his faith in the existence of the divine. In the snowy and secluded reaches of the Himalayas, in terrifying silence and solitude, cut off from the world, Swami spends thirteen months in extraordinary, intense meditation. There in the woods, beyond the incessant chatter of the conscious mind, diving in the quietude of supernal bliss, the unimaginable happens: looking down at him are the effulgent eyes of the Empress. The Divine Mother.

If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir, is a true and inspiring story of success, renunciation and self-realization. It will light up your path wherever you are on your life’s journey.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

ONE

The First Step

I checked out of my lodge and stepped out onto the crowded street. Spotting a cycle rickshaw, I waved it down. ‘Where to?’ said the rickshaw driver. ‘Ghat.’

‘Which ghat? There are so many here.’

I wasn’t prepared for this. How was I to know there were many ghats in Varanasi?

‘Just take me to any ghat.’

‘I can’t take you to just any ghat, sir. Then you will say this is not where you wanted to go.’

‘Alright, name a ghat.’ ‘Dashashvamedha Ghat.’ ‘Fine, take me there.’

I hadn’t been on a rickshaw since 1995. Back then, fifteen years ago, I was a teenager attracted to, and working towards, materialism. Now, at thirty, I was doing exactly the opposite. The vehicle hadn’t changed but the direction had; the person hadn’t changed but the priorities had.

I presumed I was headed to a quiet riverside but I couldn’t be more wrong. The ghat was crowded beyond description, like an agitated mind crowded with thoughts, like ants gathered on a dead insect.

India was hardly new to me; I had spent the first eighteen years of my life in this country. But, rather naively, I had expected a different India in Varanasi. An old image was locked in my head, an image I hadn’t seen but conjured up while reading medieval texts: Kashi by the Ganges, an ancient town full of scholars, saints, tantriks, yogis and other spiritually inclined people.

I roamed about for a while, not knowing where to go. A long time ago, I had heard about Telang Swami, a realized soul who had lived in Kashi more than a century ago. There was supposed to be a monastery at the site of his samadhi. I visualized a quiet monastery by the Ganges, where noble sadhaks sat under the shade of old banyan trees and focused on their sadhana under the guidance of a venerable guru. I enquired, but no one knew anything about the monastery.

I thought of visiting the only other place I’d heard of in this city— Manikarnika Ghat, a cremation ground by the river where dead bodies were burnt round the clock. I hoped to meet some tantrik, sitting there and performing esoteric rituals by the burning pyres. I marched back to the main road and stopped another cycle rickshaw. It was nearly noon and the heat was biting me. I tried to tell myself that it was only mid-March, but this intellectual balm failed to soothe my body.

‘Will you take me to Manikarnika Ghat?’

‘Yes sir, but I can’t go all the way there. I can drop you at the nearest point.’

‘How much?’

’Rs 20.’

I hopped into the rickshaw, which moved slowly but steadily on the busy road. Several times, the rickshaw driver had to actually get down to manoeuvre it through the crowd. I noticed he was barefoot even though the sun was spewing fire and the road was like a field of burning coal—it just exuded heat.

‘Why aren’t you wearing any slippers?’

‘They got stolen at the temple the day I bought them.’

‘I don’t know this area. Please stop by a footwear shop. I’d like to get slippers for you.’

‘I’ll manage, brother.’

‘What is your name?’

‘Mahesh Kumar.’

‘Don’t worry, Mahesh, I’ll still give you the money for the ride.’

A little later, I spotted a small shoe shop. Mahesh wasn’t keen on stopping, so I practically had to order him to halt. Getting off the rickshaw, I gestured to him to follow me into the shop. He came in after me sheepishly.

‘Hello, sir,’ the shopkeeper said, and asked me to sit down. I beckoned to Mahesh, who was hovering near the entrance, to join me on the sofa. He did so extremely reluctantly.

A young worker at the shop offered me water.

‘Please give it to Mahesh,’ I said, ‘he’s your customer today.’

‘Do you want sandals instead of slippers? That may be better,’ I said to Mahesh.

‘Whatever you think is best.’

The sales assistant went to the back of the shop and returned a few minutes later with a pair of sandals. Beige in colour, with dark-brown straps and shining steel buckles, they looked very comfortable. He handed Mahesh the pair.

‘Please put them on his feet like you would do for any other customer,’ I said.

Mahesh looked at me nervously. I looked into his eyes and nodded. Immediately, his face broke into a smile and he stuck out his feet so that the assistant could put on the sandals. I looked at Mahesh’s beautiful, dark face, his yellow teeth, slightly deformed and stained, his big eyes full of contentment, and felt very warm inside. His smile simply made my day.

Mahesh pedalled with renewed enthusiasm now, while his dusty, worn feet seemed to come alive in the new sandals. As I watched his feet pushing the pedals up and down, everything else faded for a moment—the shops, the noise, the heat. All I could see were those feet, which seemed to be performing a cosmic dance. Now a pedal went up and now a pedal came down; every movement seemed effortless, in perfect synchronization.

Mahesh dropped me off at the point closest to Manikarnika Ghat.

‘If you go to the temple again, don’t leave your shoes outside,’ I warned as I got off the rickshaw.

‘I won’t,’ he said.

I offered him a fifty-rupee note.

‘How can I take money from you, sir?’

‘Please keep this. It will give me great joy if you do.’

He came around from his rickshaw and reached down to touch my feet. I caught his wrists and pulled him up. ‘There are only three places you should bow your head,’ I said. ‘In front of God, in front of the elderly and in front of your guru.’

I thrust the money into his hands and walked away, thinking that Mahesh was not designed to be a rickshaw driver. He could have been a clerk, a watchman, an officer, an executive. For that matter, no one deserved to live a life that sought to break the body as well as the spirit. This man was living in a democratic country but did that make him a free man? The state did not provide for him and his fellow countrymen did not respect him. He did not have the freedom to own a roof over his head or break away from the harshness and drudgery of his daily routine. I don’t think Mahesh ever took a vacation or enjoyed any luxury in his life except perhaps the luxury of needs; he would never run out of needs. Come to think of it, there was no difference between him and me: we were both fettered by our needs. His were more tangible and essential for survival, while mine were more abstract and self-imposed.

I navigated my way to Manikarnika Ghat. I doubt if anywhere else in India there existed such tight streets as in Varanasi; at least, I’d never seen them. If you had a slightly bigger nose and turned your head, you were likely to hit something. Well, almost. I don’t know how I managed to reach Manikarnika Ghat, but I finally did.

A pyre was burning; another had been mostly reduced to ash, occasionally lit up by smouldering embers. Pieces of broken clay pots lay scattered around. Breaking a pot full of water at the time of cremation is a Hindu custom

signifying that the soul of the deceased has severed all ties with the human world. The pot symbolizes the human body, and its breaking indicates the liberation of the soul that has trapped within.

There were no saints to be found here, no practitioners of the occult sciences, no evolved tantriks or yogis who beckoned to me to join them in a journey to self-realization. Instead, around the pyres, dealers sat selling wood; beside them sat paanwallahs and chaiwallahs. Milling around were countless people, cows, dogs and cats.

The ghat had turned out to be a disappointment, so I began asking about Telang Swami’s monastery again. Of the many souls I asked, one seemed to know. He pointed in a certain direction. I walked down narrow streets with decrepit buildings ready to crumble and shops selling all manner of things. Dodging the maddening traffic, I found myself in winding alleyways, going past houses standing cheek-by-jowl and children playing beside parked two-wheelers, doing my best to avoid stepping into puddles of animal urine and dung.

After forty-five minutes, feeling tired and hopeless, I stopped. I couldn’t see the monastery and I couldn’t find anyone who had ever seen it. I sat down on the kerb and wiped the sweat off my forehead, wondering how to proceed. After a few minutes, I raised my head and there it was, on my right, a sign written in Hindi: ‘Telang Swami Math’. It was a temple.

I went inside. A middle-aged man was sitting on the pujari’s seat. Everything about him was round—head, face, torso, belly, hands, feet. A barber came in behind me, took his kit out of his bag and began shaving the priest. I watched quietly, enjoying the coolness of the temple after the searing heat outside. After a few minutes, the barber picked up his things and left; no money exchanged hands. Perhaps they had some kind of monthly arrangement.

I asked the priest about Telang Swami and his lineage, and about the monastery. He said there was no disciplic succession or ashram. This temple was all there was and there was no arrangement for anyone to stay even if they could pay.

I felt betrayed, although I was not sure by whom.

‘Telang Swami is buried there.’ He pointed to a corner of the temple compound. Walking across to Telang Swami’s tombstone, I prayed, ‘Please guide this lost soul, O Swami, so I may attain what I’ve set out to do.’

On my way out, the priest stopped me to ask exactly what I was looking for. I told him I was in search of a guru and wanted to take sanyasa diksha, initiation into the life of a renunciant. He said there was no need to renounce the world or look for a guru, and that I should get married and lead a normal life.

Normal life? There’s nothing called a normal life. What is normal from one’s viewpoint may be most abnormal from another’s. A yogi thinks that the world is abnormal and people live like animals, mostly focused on feeding and fornicating. The world thinks the yogi is a fool who wastes his life sitting around doing nothing, enjoying none of the many pleasures life has to offer.

Naturally I didn’t say any of this to the priest. I had no interest in pursuing a conversation with someone who could understand neither my desperation nor my intention.

I went towards the ghats again. It was nearly 3 p.m. and the sun was even hotter now. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. In the morning, I hadn’t been able to find any place to eat where the food wasn’t deep-fried. In the afternoon, I was busy with my self-realization business. My water bottle had been empty for hours and the reality of hunger was tugging hard at my stomach.

Lacking a sense of direction, I didn’t know if I was heading towards the ghats or away from them. When I saw the number of people on the streets reduce significantly, I knew I was heading in the wrong direction. Coincidentally, I saw some lodges there and asked a few if they had any vacancy. I just wanted to lie down in a cool, quiet place. Oddly enough, at each place, they asked me where I was from, how many people needed the room and for how many days. Then they would tell me there was no room available. I was intrigued. Why would they put me through a whole heap of questions if they had no room available?

I walked on and eventually found myself by the river. The Hindu texts talked a great deal about the sacred significance of ‘Ganga Maiya’. Well, her ‘children’ had polluted her beyond imagination. Seeing the filthy state of the river flowing past me, I shook my head in as much disgust as disbelief. I had seen the Ganga till Haridwar, where it was clean, but what had happened here in this holiest of holy cities, the Kashi of my imagination? I decided I would not bathe in the river here. Inwardly though, I paid obeisance to the sacred Ganga. A ma remains a ma, no matter how she’s dressed.

‘Massage?’ I looked up to see a man standing near me.

‘No massage. I need a guide.’

‘Sure, sir. I’ll be your guide.’

‘You do know this area well?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘What will you charge? I need you with me for the rest of the day. And maybe tomorrow as well.’

‘You can pay whatever you like.’

‘Rs 250 per day?’

‘Okay, sir.’

‘Let’s go.’

‘I’ll take your bag,’ he offered kindly.

It took me a few minutes to realize I was free of the load. That’s the thing with baggage—you get used to carrying it around. You know it’s heavy but the weight has a way of becoming a part of your life. Only when you take it off your back and feel the lightness does the awareness of the load hit you.

Manish took me to a couple of guest houses and I got the same questions there too. Finally, my guide solved the mystery for me by explaining that when the employees at these lodges weren’t busy with work or occupied watching a cricket match on TV, they longed to chat with people as a way of passing their time. They didn’t have any rooms available but a conversation with a stranger was welcome.

Not getting very far in my search for a place to stay, I asked Manish to take me to a bigger hotel, but he said there wasn’t one. I realized that he didn’t really know the area; he had lied to me. Anyway, I was starving now. We managed to spot a vegetarian Jain dhaba that served meals without onion or garlic. I avoided eating onion and garlic, so the menu was fine with me but the food wasn’t; it was tasteless. I was too tired to fuss and my head hurt. I swallowed whatever I was served, though my guide seemed to savour the meal. After we left the dhaba, I bought two chilled bottles of water from a small provision store. Opening the first one, I washed my face and poured the rest on my head. The second I guzzled right away.

It was nearly 6 p.m. by the time we resumed our hunt for accommodation, and we finally got lucky at Pooja Guest House, where they gave me a room. I let Manish go and asked him to come again the next morning.

Even though I had a room now, I couldn’t sleep because of the fatigue and dehydration, which was evident from the colour of my urine. I hadn’t known I was so fragile. There was a time not long ago when I had played badminton daily, spent hours at a stretch on the golf course, pumped iron and run 12 miles regularly, and all this had felt effortless. But today, just one day spent in the ‘real’ world, and I found myself stretched beyond what I could take. My belief that I was fit and strong seemed merely a conceited notion.

I realized that my body was far from ready for the hardships of monkhood. If I couldn’t even tolerate the heat of a day, what chance did I have to endure the rigours of meditation and the harsh life of an ascetic? I had no idea how to prepare my body for intense penance. Yet, I knew that life would teach me. I had only to be open and willing.

I lay there thinking about my worldly journey thus far.

 

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