December 18, 2006 at 8:05 pm #211
Circles in the Sand
E.J. “Samadhi” Whitehouse
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to introduce myself as the author of Circles in the Sand, which has been described as
“a breakthrough non-fiction with all of the passion and drama of fiction. A soul is a beautiful thing to see, and that is what Samadhi’s writing shows us. “
The journey through family and the Middle East brings a new vantage point to those of us who have been wounded, veiled in our own oppression, and unable to have the freedom to speak our truth. I now look at the tumultuous events within my lifetime as a gift, allowing me to share a deeply personal–yet communal–journey from darkness into light.
Veiled oppression of Arabian women was the crucial mirror needed to see my reflection. The stark emptiness of the desert echoed my own internal emptiness – until I saw the oasis. Follow my search for what I thought was lost – my soul.
E.J. “Samadhi” Whitehouse
Author’s Book Synopsis
A personal memoir of a woman’s emotional and spiritual journey — from troubled teenage years in the ’70s to spiritual enlightenment in the new millennium. Her soul wounded by her father’s incestuous advances toward her, the author travels through several Middle-Eastern countries — an odd choice for a woman on a quest for sexual and self-identity, healing, and escape from her family — particularly her father. Without family support, she struggles to find spiritual wholeness, love of self, and her own truth.
In the war-torn Middle East, she encounters volatile political situations, the constricting laws of different countries and religions, as well as a confusing mix of social and moral behaviours. Throughout her travels, the poverty, terror, and brutal female oppression she often observes heighten her own sense of self-hatred. Meanwhile, her teenage pregnancy, the baby girl she was forced to surrender, and her father’s inappropriate actions haunt her memory. Her personal struggles with being gay, as well as denial, rejection, and harsh treatment from her family, further convince her that she is worthless as a woman — and non-existent as a child of God.
But as she looks through the windows of her past, and into worlds many of us will never enter, she slowly begins to understand that her introspective journey has led directly to her soul. And this insight brings her to an acceptance of being gay, to her own belief in spirit, and to a sense of belonging.
For all its raw honesty about many painful subjects — including the rape and execution of women in the Middle East — Circles in the Sand evokes the exotic tastes, sounds, and beauties of Arabia. And it shares with us the poignancy of women engaging together when temporarily apart from men — and briefly freed from their forced restraints.
The author’s journey into the light of self-acceptance — from a dark place where her sexuality kept her in chains — will resonate with the many who have struggled with becoming open and comfortable about their homosexuality. Her lifetime quest to have her voice heard will speak to a wide range of today’s women, whose internal struggles for acceptance are the same.
The cycle has not yet been broken, but that time will come, as the young women of today listen to the voices of the past — and discover the wisdom of those women who have already walked a labyrinth of Circles in the Sand.December 18, 2006 at 8:13 pm #278
If you would like to review this book, your book club must be listed with our website, and regularly updated. Please send us an email as listed in this link.January 4, 2007 at 12:00 am #279
I will review this book.January 25, 2007 at 7:46 pm #281
If you always wanted to understand chakras, Circles in the Sand will step you through the seven themes. But I would recommend pulling a chakra chart off the internet before reading E.J. “Samadhi” Whitehouse’s first page. Whitehouse writes her autobiography from 1974 at age 17 over a 25 year span. Using a visual graphic for each chakra, Whitehouse links each story element with a chakra. I would have preferred simple identification of first chakra, second chakra, etc instead of visual graphics. I had to consult the legend to identify which visual with which chakra, then on to how a chakra related to the story.
Chakras are energy wheels, whether meta- or biophysical, located in seven different body sectors: root of the body (Coccyx Perineum), spleen, stomach, heart, throat, brow, and crown. Each chakra has an associated colour, psychological functions, emotions, glands, body parts and physical dysfunctions. For example, if you have a particular type of illness like diabetes, you would have a problem with your third chakra located in the stomach. If you work on the psychological functions of your third chakra, then you may ameliorate the disease of diabetes. The psychological functions are around personal power, will, knowledge, wit, laughter, mental clarity, humour, optimism, self-control, curiousity, and awareness. So then knowledge on the foods you are eating, and self-control with the types of food you eat can ease the physical dysfunction of diabetes.
Conversely, if you have intense guilt problems with some of your past history, you should focus on the fourth chakra of the heart. This would identify potential physical dysfunctions such as high blood pressure, lethargy, asthma, emphysema, or chest pain, to name a few. Work and mediation on all areas of the fourth chakra could hamper any physical dysfunctions. Further, some chakras experts recommend focused mediation and work on each chakra to minimize or nullify any physical dysfunctions.
Whitehouse’s book can be a case study on discussing chakras and understanding its layered meanings within her autobiographical experiences. On page 316, she summarizes all her illnesses and how each illness works into each chakra. I wished her various illnesses could have been weaved more into the book, such as she did with her heart surgery. Then Whitehouse and the reader could have delved deeper into the chakra theory. But this book is not written as a chakra teaching tool but as an autobiography.
I found the first part of the book painfully hard to read. I could feel the writer’s pain and bewilderment with her family. There appeared to be very little interaction with the eight other siblings, or at least that was related in the book. Whitehouse does point out that all of the children have problems, not surprisingly as everyone has problems. But I would have liked to hear more about the other siblings, their problems, their hierarchy, and their roles within the family. For example, this last child who was adopted by Whitehouses’ mother and father, what is the story behind that child and his entrance into the family? Many times, I was left with more questions than answers. Since the author concluded her book at age 42, there is much more of her life to live, and to understand.
Growing up in a family with eight children would have been tremendously difficult. Having all the children survive intact, meaning alive, is a miracle, for any family. After giving up her baby for adoption, Whitehouse felt internal damage from her parentsâ€™ handling of her pregnancy and her forced adoption. Then she had to ward off her father’s incestuous advances resulting in more emotional, psychological, and physiological damages. Throughout the book, the author focused on her father’s behaviour as central to all her problems. But if we timeline her illnesses, the physiological damages Whitehouse experienced started much earlier. Using the chakra theory in conjunction with her childhood illnesses, her father’s behaviour was a pivotal point, but not the root of her problems.
Just after Whitehouse’s heart surgery at age 36, other siblings suddenly remembered sexual abuse, and not only from Dad. This would have been a time for Whitehouse to tell us more about her siblings. The opportunity is attempted but lost. She says, “I was stunned, surprised, and angry. All these years, and no one had truly supported or honoured me, and now, half my siblings laid claims to abuse. No one called to say they now understood because they, too, were abused. It was as if the “Dad-thing” had never happened with me, because now, it was all about them. I didn’t want sympathy — I just want to be part of my family — I just wanted to be heard. I couldn’t stand it.” Then she hurtfully responds, “they seemed to deliberately keep me out of the situation and their confrontations with Mom and Dad.”
Of course, it was all about them! Of course, each sibling would keep others out of his/her confrontations with the parents! Involving the whole family would have opened a Pandora’s box. She should have been thankful that the other siblings had finally found the strength to remember and confront. Her siblings confessions confirmed Whitehouse’ experiences with her father. It was a time to be thankful that none of her siblings asked her to be there for the confrontations. It was a time to be thankful that she had been strong enough to say no to her father.
I did not always agree with what she thought was her self-control in dealing with her father. When her father remarked incestuously and snidely, she thought she exhibited self-control in clamming up. I wanted her to scream at him, and tell him in outright terms what she thought. The only time she appeared to confront is in letters. I did get tired of her written explanations to her father and other family members. I understand she wrote to resolve her inner turmoil. When other family members revealed her writings, she was surprised, shocked and hurt. I kept saying, “No! No! Don’t send it!” In a dysfunctional family, a written or taped confession is a hefty weight to add to power dynamics. It will be used at sometime, and not in the way an author intends.
Control is a major theme running throughout the book. Every family member attempts to control each other. Towards the end of the book, we see and understand how the mother controls. Then it made me wonder about the whole relationship between the parents especially since the father was a former alcoholic. I also wondered about the relationships between the siblings. Which parent really pushed Whitehouse to put her child up for adoption? What was the hierarchy in the family? What were the power dynamics? Did she look like her mother when her mother was young? What did Whitehouse think her father needed from her, beside sex? Was he looking for understanding and compassion that he felt he could find in his daughter? The author hinted at details that remained unanswered. Details that I thought were important. Details that I thought would help me understand why.
Whitehouse wanted a confession from her father admitting his incestuous attempts, and asking her forgiveness. No one can control what another person does, such as admitting guilt and accepting blame; we can only control our own choices and behaviours. I believe the author has not forgiven herself for that time in Montreal. I believe she did admirably well warding off her father’s advances in the hotel. It was time to tell herself that back in that moment she was a good person and did well.
Christianity, or at least the version related by Whitehouse, is also all about control. She brilliantly exemplifies Christianity’s control tendencies with her experience as a fundamentalist missionary-in-training in Switzerland, her missionary work in Lebanon and Israel, and then her deprogramming experience sponsored by her parents. Control is full of paternalistic power and authority. The religious groups and parents mistakenly believed that they knew what was best for Whitehouse; Whitehouse also believed that others knew best. Within those external boundaries, Whitehouse tried to control her life and work within the system. Should she have worked within the box, or should she have exploded outside the box?
Whitehouse provides us with two other major themes: peace and conflict. Being in the midst of the Middle East conflict, she would have seen that peace does not come from ‘ignoring conflict’. Her personal life and travel experiences illustrate both states of mind/being. When she was given a exclusive tour of the Palestinian refuge camp, she decided to keep that experience to herself instead of sharing with the missionary group. I think it was an opportunity lost in NOT telling the others exactly what she had seen, heard and felt while walking through that misery. What could have been gained? What might have developed with the individual observations shared among the missionary group? By NOT telling them, nothing was gained.
After watching the cultures clash in the Middle East, I wished she could have pulled these experiences into learning how to deal with her father. When he confronted her in the kitchen, she clammed up thereby ‘ignoring conflict’. Just as she clammed up and ignored the conflict after walking through the refugee camp. Was it an opportunity lost in NOT telling him exactly what she thought, alone in that kitchen? One thing we can be sure of is by NOT telling him in that moment, nothing was gained, not even peace within herself.
Does peace come only from confrontation? Middle East history should scream no to violent, physical confrontation. I think peace comes when we have peace within ourselves. Do victims of crime find peace in criminal trials? Does the victim find peace when the justice system finds the criminal guilty? Do we find peace when we demand others to accept blame and responsibility? Or does a person find peace when she realizes she did the very best she could at the time with her skills, experiences and abilities evident in that snapshot of time?
When it comes to her life, I find that Whitehouse looks at her glass as half-empty rather than half-full. She can find much to be thankful for. And in that action she will find peace within herself. She can be thankful that she put her child up for adoption instead of having to grow up with dysfunction relatives. She can be thankful she was not a teenage mother struggling to raise a child, understand, and cope with her family. She can be thankful that her father incestuous advances stopped at that, and did not move to the actual stage of physical contact. She can be thankful for the strength she had at the time that helped her to say that, ‘it’s not right’. She can be thankful that she had the desire to travel, instead of being bound to an everyday existence in close proximity with her parents. Although her earlier life holds much sadness, Whitehouse has much to be thankful for in her past.
I enjoyed the second part of her book once she starts to travel. Whitehouse contracts to work in hospital administration in the Middle East. She vividly paints the culture, her travel adventures, the daily grind, and personal struggles. I almost felt part of her exploration of the dramatic landscape and the emotional rollercoasters between two cultures. She describes the interactions between men and women, the trials of women eating in restaurants, the torments of non-Arabic friends who love paternalistic Arab men, and tours to spots that I can only dream about.
The theme of control, external and internal, is illustrated again with Whitehouse’s travels to the Middle East. A Muslim girlfriend believed that women should be held responsible for men’s lust. Whitehouse aptly responds, “How the religious law convinced women that it was entirely their fault for men’s lust is beyond me, but convinced they were… Personal accountability on a man’s part was a totally foreign concept that she couldn’t wrap her mind around. It reminded me of Christianity’s foundational belief in Eve being responsible for Adam’s choice to eat the apple.” And that was the gem for me as a reader! Whitehouse’s familiarity with both religions, Christianity and Islam, paralleled the fundamental bases between two sects: how both religions absolve men of personal responsibility and place the blame on women!
This same flaw parallels in her personal life. Her father demonstrated how he could absolve himself of responsibility and place the blame on his daughter. Whitehouse tried desperately to get her father to admit personal responsibility and accept personal blame for his actions towards her. This is the crux of her dilemma and her struggle. In many of her interactions in the Middle East, this control issue played out repeatedly. Whitehouse sought to understand the patterns through a counsellor. Understanding grew when she broke her big toe and could no longer run away! Interestingly, the first or “root” chakra has the feet as one of the associated body parts. When the root of her body had trouble, she was finally able to understand the root patterns of her life.
It is easy to use hindsight to analyze a person’s past, easier than having to live through it. Readers can glimpse missed opportunities for understanding and growth. We can see how the larger social struggles reflect in her private struggles. Moving with the author along the chakra theory, we can glimpse inter-relationships in her life. Finally perhaps, we can reflect and gain some understanding of our own lives.
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