I receive a lot of requests to review books. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read them all even though I would very much like to find myself lost in books both day and night. Donna Lee’s Up the Ladder: Buddhism, Bikram, Bhakti intrigued me as it was presented as a woman’s spiritual journey up the ladder, or “‘The process of linking oneself with the Surpreme . . ..'” (XI).
An interesting life which seems to go from one extreme to the next, the reader follows Lee from a seemingly loner, but not lonely, childhood to a teen birth to the human-potential movement to an unhappy marriage to a sighting of Lord Shiva’s bull. Lee’s life is nothing if not fascinating, and she expresses her successes and failures in all aspects of her life throughout her memoir with much honesty.
Early on, Lee takes an objective look at her comfortable life with those seated around her at the dinner table and realizes “. . . the conversations are mean-spirited and the humor was not nurturing, but always at the expense of someone else” (47). Thus, shortly thereafter, Lee’s immersion into Buddhism began. For me, Lee’s ability to identify the catalysts in her life and then act on them kept me turning the pages.
Years later, Lee opened her own Hot Yoga studio on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Teaching two classes each day and one on Saturday to a constant turnover of students, Lee continued despite her exhaustion learning to “. . . show up when . . . [she] didn’t want to . . . [coming] to know yoga as a metaphor for our lives and at some point our lives become the reflection of our yoga” (89).
When reflecting on a former romantic relationship and how painful it was to have to walk in front of his new home with his new lover, Lee finally came to the realization that “Love doesn’t go away. Love exists, regardless of one’s state of mind” (159). In other words, Lee was now able to look upon that past relationship as a “loving expression” (159).
Lee is the kind of author one wishes he/she knew personally in order to have a front seat to her life’s adventures, and her memoir probably deserves a second reading for a full understanding of her studies and chosen paths. What I did wish she discussed more was her relationship with her children. With a brief mention of tension with one daughter, it would have been interesting to know her children’s existence in Lee’s path up the ladder.