“The Recovering Materialist left me wishing it had a thousand pages.” —Readers’ Favorite
Print book size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
Page count: 222
Publisher: Opium of the Masses
Genre: Spiritual memoir
At 14, Tuomas runs away from with no clear understanding why. There’s a vague sense that he needs answers to the big questions of life, and that maybe getting some distance might help with that. This episode drives a wedge him and his parents, who struggle to understand their son’s erratic behavior.
On the eve of his 18th birthday, Tuomas has a chance encounter with a Hindu monk in front of a local grocery store. The monk convinces Tuomas to take a book of bhakti-yoga philosophy which ends up changing the course of the young seeker’s life. He has finally found the direction that was missing.
Tuomas’ girlfriend, parents, and friends can’t relate to his newfound path. He struggles to put together his spiritual aspirations with the expectations and duties of family and society, and eventually falls in the crack between the two separate worlds.
Seven years after meeting the Hindu monk in front of the grocery store, Tuomas goes to his friends’ place to listen to a Swami from California, and this Swami utterly blows Tuomas away. The intense spiritual yearning he had felt years ago but since gave up on returns with explosive power. He quits his band, quits school, breaks up his engagement and moves across the globe to a Hindu monastery in California.
Expecting the leaving to be the difficult part, he’s surprised to learn that the difficulties have only begun. His attachment to his old life and the people in it grabs him with gargantuan force. The greatest battle of Tuomas’ life begins, and he begins to lose faith in ever being able to life for his highest ideals.
After a year and a half of intense struggles with his internal demons as well as the challenges and austerities of monastic life, the monastery staff begins building a new temple. This project turns out to be the redemption for Tuomas that he has been waiting for. His focus narrows and his resolve grows alongside the new temple that’s taking shape.
But there’s more trouble in the horizon that might ruin it all.
On the writing process:
Officially, I started this book on the 18th of October 2019. So by that calculation, it took me a little over four years to publish. But in fact, I started scribbling down memories, loose timelines, and scenes in 2016.
A good part of me didn’t want to write this book. I thought it would be too much work; too much heartache and trouble to go back to those tough years; it would expose too much of me. But for some inexplicable reason, I couldn’t shelf the project. I would put it aside for months sometimes, but it kept calling me from the drawer, from the back circuit of a hard disk, and I got sick of trying to ignore it. So I kept coming back to it.
To say that the writing process was painful would be an underestimation. Some famous writer has said, “Everybody knows how to tell a story—until they try to write it down.” That was precisely my experience. Never would have I guessed how difficult it would be to write an entertaining and engaging book that would also touch on deeper themes like spirituality, belonging, authenticity, and resilience. If the final product seems effortless in any way, it’s only because I spent an enormous amount of thought and ass-in-chair to write and rewrite and re-rewrite the story. I could have stopped honing the manuscript a lot earlier—as indeed some of my friends tried to convince me to do—but I took my cues from David Sedaris instead, who is known to work his material endlessly.
To all the new writers out there: do not let your desires for a published book override the tedious path to a polished end product! Although it was arduous and often frustrating to keep honing the story, I’m so grateful to myself for sticking to it. The book ended up being infinitely better than even my fifth or seventh draft. To write insightfully, you have to “reside” with the text. You have to keep looking at it to make the connections that are only obvious after you’ve known someone for a long time. The thoughts and ideas that come during the first several drafts are the same ones that everybody else would come up with. It’s the resilience that separates good writing from the mediocre.
On the other hand, to say that the writing process was nothing but pain would be a lie. On many mornings, when I closed my laptop after an hour or two on the page, my feet weren’t touching the ground. I floated out of my cabin to the midst of the towering redwoods whose tips were painted yellowish orange by the morning sun, and I felt such expansion that I believed I could reach around our blue globe and touch my fingers on the other side of the world. Some writers claim that writing is not cathartic, but I have my own experience to prove that they are wrong. Some of those writing mornings remain the most euphoric and cathartic experiences of my entire life. I think the reason is because when you go through your life methodically and look for connections and the red threads and the story archs, you will gain an appreciation for (almost) everything that has happened to you—you see it all in context. If you’ve tried to live your life according to your true aspirations, it’s a profoundly satisfying experience to see the congruity and symmetry.
The thing is, you forget about the symmetry once you stop writing about it or contemplating on it. And that’s why I’m already sketching out my next book, an auto-biographical novel. I want to feel that expansive harmony again.