3 out of 4 stars
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Do you ever crave a peaceful escape? Do you fantasize about a soul-healing getaway where birdsongs beckon, rose gardens entice, koi ponds soothe, and the wind rustles gently through the trees? Digging for God by Tom Hillman is a 19-page exploration into one man’s experience at a remote mountain retreat in the hills of Southern California.
A magical three-week stay at this spiritual resort takes ashram visitors on an unforgettable spiritual journey. There are bell gongs and chants, wandering monks, and stretchy displays of pre-meditation calisthenics. An on-site chapel offers a place of reflection and repose, while the entire location is kept deliberately celibate as an estrogen-free zone. There is no talking permitted while residents consume the vegetarian fare, but foreign accents fill the air during the morning gardening sessions. There are occasional invitations to movies, lectures, and sporting activities, but time is primarily spent in thought bubbles of deep contemplation. There is a rigorously meticulous schedule that must be adhered to, primarily consisting of basic meals, ‘farm’ work, and thrice-daily meditation sessions.
The author compares his spiritual journey to the motivations many miners must have felt during the Gold Rush Era. Focused, incentivized, every man for himself… But while they were actively digging for gold, Hillman finds himself ‘digging for God’ amidst rich veins of ‘thought ore.’ Readers can envision the ashram as “a one-stop fulfillment center, where you have the spiritual, the material, and the physical all in one place.” It's a garbanzo paradise that assists residents with learning to redirect negative thoughts, relieve stress, and embrace forgiveness.
I greatly enjoyed the author’s use of descriptive imagery and humorous reflections, and there was a believable sense of brotherly love and camaraderie evident throughout. I also loved the poetic simplicity of phrases like “the contemplative clinking and methodical chewing…” The storytelling pattern simultaneously overlaps two different time components. As Hillman utilizes advancing sections to describe the segmented portions of the typical daily routine, he also includes seasonal variations and mentions certain specialties that are unique to each day of the week. When readers reach the end of the book, they’ve effectively experienced one entire day’s itinerary and the passage of three full weeks.
I did encounter a notable quantity of minor errors, primarily relating to compound words and hyphenation, so another round of thorough editing would be advised. There is no presence of inappropriate language or sexual content. While there is mention of God, Mother Earth, and prayers, this book is far more non-denominational devotional than it is religious. Agnostics would be pleased.
I award Digging for God a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. Other than the errors, I loved everything about it! This title is a quick, informative, and entertaining read. If the editorial concerns were corrected and addressed, I would gladly award this book a full-star rating. I feel it would be appropriate for all ages and backgrounds, especially those who are curious about what routinely occurs at a gender-specific spiritual retreat.
Digging for God
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