Enlightenment for Idiots: A Novel (Paperback)
A yoga teacher finds new life in India–just not the one she was expecting.
Nearing thirty, Amanda thought she’d be someone else by now. Instead, she’s an ex-nanny yogini-wannabe who cranks out “For Idiots” travel guides. True, she has a sexy photographer boyfriend, but he’s usually off shooting a dogsled race in Alaska or a vision quest in Peru—or just hooking up with other girls. However, she’s sure her new assignment to the ashrams of India will change everything.
What she finds, though, is an ashram run by investment bankers, a model-obsessed guru, tantra parties, and silent retreats. India, it turns out, is not the spiritual refuge she’d pictured. But she finds a friend in Devi Das, a redheaded sadhu who refers to himself as “we.” And when a holy lunatic on the street offers her an enigmatic blessing, Amanda realizes a new life may be in store for her—just not the one she was expecting.
About the Author
Anne Cushman is the director of the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California, and teaches regular retreats and courses. Previously a contributing editor to both Yoga Journal and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, she is the coauthor of From Here to Nirvana: The Yoga Journal Guide to Spiritual India.
A Booklist Top 10 First Novel of 2008
A Washington Post Media Mix Best of 2008 pick
"Each character is ripe for a little satire, which makes the novel a fun read, especially if you're in on the joke (and even if you aren't). Cushman also manages to capture the heart of their teachings, which gives the book another level of meaning...When you read between the lines for the wisdom that is woven throughout Cushman's fun romp, this book serves as a call to enlightenment and an introduction to yoga philosophy."
“[A] bright new novel.”
—Marin Independent Journal
"If you’ve ever pursued enlightenment–or just toyed with the idea–you’ll see a bit of yourself in this playful but introspective first novel by Anne Cushman, a contributing editor to Yoga Journal and Tricycle whose writing also appears regularly in the Shambhala Sun. Enlightenment for Idiots follows Amanda, a prototypical questing Californian with a passion for yoga and a weakness for unreliable men. An unenthusiastic travel writer, Amanda finally sees a chance to get it all together when she lands a job to research and write a guide to spiritual sites in India. But the actual pursuit of enlightenment–hunting gurus and chasing poses and escaping irritating fellow seekers–turns out to be a bit mundane, if not downright disappointing. It’s Amanda’s own life that demands her attention, and as more chaos is heaped upon her, she’s forced to look inside for the answers she has been seeking. Cushman’s send-up of the New Age American dream is both thoughtful and wise."
"Cushman’s engaging debut novel follows Amanda, a 29-year-old yoga teacher in northern California, on a tumultuous journey to India and back again as she researches a guidebook on finding inner peace. Her quest becomes as much a personal journey as a writing project as she attempts to shake her attachment to her fickle photographer ex-boyfriend, Matt, and discover her own role in life. While in India, Amanda meets Devi Das, a celibate hippie with flowing dreadlocks who is looking for meaning in life following a personal tragedy. Together, they travel to ashrams and yoga centers from Bangalore to Mount Arunachala, all the while searching for elusive enlightenment. Cushman brilliantly interweaves snippets of Buddhist teachings with the mishaps and successes of their journey, infusing the book with wisdom and humor. Devi Das, an amusing philosopher-king who uses the royal “we,” helps her accomplish this goal. As for Cushman’s protagonist, when unexpected circumstances arise and Matt turns up in her life again, Amanda is forced to reexamine her search for enlightenment and where it may take her. Over the course of her quest, she realizes enlightenment may be closer to home than she imagined."
—Booklist, Katherine Boyle
“You don’t have to know a Downward Dog from a cocker spaniel to fall in love with Enlightenment for Idiots. Anne Cushman takes you to India, offers up adventures both spiritual and earthbound with characters that will make you laugh, then break your heart. And, in her heroine, Amanda, she gives you a travel companion you’ll want to bring home long after you’ve turned the last page. This enlightening, entrancing novel is nirvana for smart readers.”
—Mameve Medwed, author of How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life and Of Men and Their Mothers.
“The amazing thing about this first novel is that you feel as though you are reading about your own life. The details are so honest; the writing so clear and sure-footed, sprinkled with great humor. Kudos to Cushman--this is a wonderful debut.”
—Natalie Goldberg, author of Old Friend from Far Away and Writing Down the Bones.
“Charming, honest, and laugh-out-loud funny, Enlightenment for Idiots explores the very essence of what it means to be a seeker. Anne Cushman has taken her considerable knowledge of the yoga world and transformed it into a work of fiction as smart as it is moving.”
—Dani Shapiro, author of Black & White and Family History.
“Equal parts Sex and the City and Eat, Pray, Love, Cushman's novel sparkles with both sass and insight.”
—Debra Galant is author of Rattled and Fear and Yoga in New Jersey.