From Bagels to Curry
by Lila Devi
About The Book
NEW from Lila Devi: a spiritual memoir (her fourth book, and the first not about flower essences). Here, the founder of Spirit-in-Nature Essences shares a more personal journey with universal undertones–from formal religion to spirituality. Taking pre-orders for availability in June, 2015.
—Swami Kriyananda, author, composer, playwright, and founder of Ananda world brotherhood colonies“We often find what we have always been searching for by embracing and breathing in what we have. Such is the mysteriousness of life’s journey, so rarely rendered in words with such power, humor, grace, humanity, compassion, humility, and awe as is offered with deep love by Ms. Devi in this gift of From Bagels to Curry. I thank you for sharing your spiritual symphony.”
—Gregg Benson, MA, LCADC, Clinical and Training Consultant
“I highly recommend From Bagels to Curry . . . the reader gains a deeper understanding of the human heart.”
—Nayaswami Jyotish Novak, author, Meditation Therapy, and spiritual director of Ananda Village
Read a sample chapter
My Father’s SmileThe hot sun burrows into the cracked pavement of Chicago’s slum district as a young boy weaves between pickups and cars of the mid-Thirties: Flathead V8-engine Ford Coupes and Sedans, Chevys, Buicks, Cadillacs, and an occasional Bugatti making its way to more upscale neighborhoods. With eight years to his name and as many coins in his pocket, Aaron is already honing the skills of an astute salesman that will someday help him provide for a wife and five kids. The boy flashes a perfect smile. Getting down to business, he rolls up the sleeves of his threadbare shirt with button holes that outnumber its buttons—though no buttons ever seem to be missing.Keeping time with the predictable thump of a poorly syncopated two-step, the wagon cart careens from side to side, heaving a sigh beneath its cargo of frosty soda pop cartons. Wheels squeak and bottles clank. There are no coolers, no refrigerators, no soda machines to chill the drinks. Aaron buys several bags of ice while people all around him melt into the heat in a frothy slow motion. Nothing beats a frosty drink in the scorching squalor. Everyone loves the sodas.What a treasure on the grimy Windy City afternoons!To keep food on their table, Aaron’s parents brainstorm the business idea while across the nation banks fail and stocks crash, riveting into the black hole of the Great Depression. The global woes preceding the next World War are barely half-spent. At twenty-four bottles to a case, the boy’s mother and father buy the sodas at two cents each. Aaron vendors them at five cents a bottle. A single Sunday might earn them a hefty ten dollars in loose change that clatters like the thick-necked bottles, with the sale of as many as twenty cases.Life’s rhythms, full of possibilities and promises, sprawl before the young boy like a board game with new moves, clever strategies, and endless challenges. He will tackle them all in the years to come without missing a beat.I can almost hear the squeaky wheels on the blistering pavement and see the bottles bobbing in the melting ice water. I can see Aaron’s big smile as he sells his wares to the grateful patrons, his shirt pasted with dampness across the bony hollow of his chest.
“That was a lotta money back then,” Dad says with a grin.Forever in my heart is burrowed my father’s smile.
About the Author
Lila Devi (lee-lah day-vee) has always had a romance with words and began writing her first novel, songs, and poetry in grade school. She sees stories everywhere, waiting to be written or simply enjoyed in the moment—a quality modeled by her father—and views life as a work of fiction with a recurring theme of developing higher consciousness. With a passable command of the English language, she’s now focusing on Italian and prefers to stay mainly in the present tense. Halloween is her favorite holiday when she plays “the world’s most authentic fake gypsy palm reader,” astounding the children who visit her booth with her infallible inaccuracy.
Lila received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in English, psychology, and a secondary teaching certificate from the University of Michigan; founded Spirit-in-Nature Essences in 1977, the oldest flower essence company outside England (spirit-in-nature.com); authored The Essential Flower Essence Handbook and Flower Essences for Animals, available in several languages, and Bradley Banana and The Jolly Good Pirate, the first in a series of 20 children’s picture books, each personifying the uplifting quality of a flower essence; and has lived at the Ananda communities worldwide forever.
She loves a good bagel and has developed a taste for curry.
Interview with the Author
Robert Yehling: You’ve already produced a wide range of books — with more to come. The Flower Essence books, the 20-children’s book series on which you’re working, and now, From Bagels to Curry, the memoir about your life and experiences with your father during the final months of his life. What moves you to write in such a wide variety of genres and audiences?
Lila Devi: Writing is a wonderful medium for reaching out to people. The purpose of From Bagels to Curry, my first non-flower-essence book, is to help others who may be struggling with similar issues—losing a loved one or following one’s own path, or both or neither—as well as simply to entertain. Why be limited to a single avenue of writing?
I didn’t write this book to preach or to instruct. Its purpose is to say, “This is my story, and I hope you find it helpful in some way.” Both writing and reading have the power to inwardly transport us to transcendent places. Both can be cathartic. If this spiritual memoir touches readers’ hearts, then it has served its purpose.
Writing this memoir was the last thing I ever thought to do. It began as a diary—journaling being a powerful way to process one’s experiences. It then morphed into a manuscript for my brothers and a few close friends. Finally, it gathered the momentum to become a full book. Chronicling the blow-by-blow, day-by-day account of Dad’s last months allowed me to impersonalize, step back , and “perspectivize.” Journal-keeping helped me to cope, expand, grieve, and heal as I felt him slipping away from my life as well as his own. Even though the book is no longer a personal diary, I believe it holds true to that intimacy and immediacy.
RY: I believe it does, too, in the way you bring us right into the room with you and your father.
LD: My hope with From Bagels to Curry is to involve the readers. They too can feel that they’re actively rejoicing with my father, a survivor of the Great Depression, when he clips a newspaper coupon that saved him 50 cents on a frozen dinner at the supermarket; or to sit at his bedside when, barely able to speak, he jokes with the hospice nurse about her ability to sing. And through these little “vignettes of preciousness,” I hope they will tap into their own inner joy.
RY: A fascinating connection is that your father was a successful medical technology and supplies salesman — and you’re a successful salesperson of a health-related line of products, though much different. What did you learn from him that we see in the book, and that you have applied with Spirit-in-Nature Essences?
LD: My father loved life, like nobody’s business. He taught me about the dearness of living, that it’s all about singing, dancing, and storytelling. You might say he was born happy. In some ways, he died that way too, despite the immeasurable suffering that resulted from his refusal to take drugs that would numb his pain and, along with it, his awareness. Dad’s finest message to me was when he jumped off the chemo prep table to teach the nurse how to dance.
About our similar successes: the apple not falling far from the tree? Yet look at the number of different varieties of apples. I suppose what we learn from our parents may be more by example, osmosis, or their essence as people. Though their words can be instructive as well.
Dad was a kind-hearted man. His salesmanship was always ethical, customer-oriented, and based on supplying doctors with the equipment and medications they needed to improve their practice. Spirit-in-Nature Essences is run similarly, as a ministry of service—to people of all ages, animals, and even plants—to help them find, as our byline professes, their own perfect well-being.
RY: In From Bagels to Curry, you referred to your flower essence products as “my 20 babies.” What decisions did you make to go with this particular group of 20 essences — and in what ways have the books expanded the knowledge of your marketplace when it comes to essences?
LD: These 20 essences—or my kids, as I sometimes call them because our bond is deep and somewhat maternal —are all interpreted by Paramhansa Yogananda. In the early-to-mid part of the last century in America, he advised people to eat certain fresh fruits and vegetables to reap the benefits of what he called their “psycho-spiritual nutrients.” Eat oranges, he said, to develop enthusiasm. Grapes can help us express divine love and devotion. Yet it’s the blossoms of the fruit trees and vegetable plants that, botanically speaking, contain 90% of the prana, or life force, of these plants in a highly concentrated, vibrational form. Since 1977, we’ve received countless direct testimonials and case histories substantiating Yogananda’s wisdom. Because flower essences are not yet as mainstream as, for example, aromatherapy, educational literature is extremely important.
That’s why I decided to write the two flower essence books. In my first book, The Essential Flower Essence Handbook, I present a 10-page chapter on each remedy.
Flower essences for animals is a fascinating subject, and also the title of my second book. We often see remarkable behavioral changes in pets and animals with the essences, which can allow them to positively redirect their energy. Both books, also the texts for my Home Study Courses, are designed to promote a deeper understanding of these easy-to-grasp essences.
RY: How widespread is Spirit-in-Nature in its distribution and availability? And what types of testimonials have you received over the years?
LD: Spirit-in-Nature Essences are used globally on every continent. Currently, they are more popular in certain pockets of the world than in America—Japan and parts of Europe, for example.
As the oldest flower essence firm outside the UK, where flower essences originated in the 30s, we’ve expanded our customer base organically, mostly by word of mouth. You’ll find on our website: a strong educational focus as well as online shopping; my first 2 books available online; significant educational literature and resources; archived online classes; monthly blog posts; and, as mentioned, our world renowned Home Study Courses.
Our office receives a significant number of reorders, a strong indicator that people are pleased with the results they’re seeing. About 90 percent of our clientele is women. Flower essences, being water-based and prepared from blossoms, are very appealing to women, who seem to have a sixth sense about how to use them.
As for testimonials, of course I have some personal favorites that are charmingly illustrative of how flower essences work.
Cherry Essence, for cheerfulness, was recently used by a holistic practitioner in Australia to deal with the trauma of local flooding that had submerged her garden. She reported that, instead of “falling into the mass fear that was gripping the country,” she found herself “rising above the situation and seeing all the positives that are coming out of it.” A very Cherry response!
(Editor’s Note: In Part 2 of the interview, Lila Devi talks about her next book, From Bagels to Curry, as well as the distinctive combination of playfulness, creative intensity and purpose that have defined her work as an artist, musician, businesswoman and writer for more than three decades).