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5 & 5 GUEST POST
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Narissa Doumani
I’ve been skydiving twice, both tandem jumps. The second one was from 14,000 feet and I have a hilarious video. What’s so funny is that most people scream and swear during freefall, but I was silent, and the expression on my face is one of pure bliss. I was feeling the freedom of flying through a vast expanse of sky. These days my search for freedom is more an inner one, but you can see I’ve always loved the idea of spaciousness!
As a child, one of my favourite movies was The Purple Rose of Cairo. There’s a great scene where a character in a movie walks off the screen into the real world, and things get a little complicated from there. I always remembered it as an old black and white film, perhaps because it was set during the Great Depression, but years later I found out it was actually a Woody Allen film released in the 1980s.
I don’t like beetroot or pickled things. I’m vegetarian and not terribly fussy about my food—I mostly enjoy simple cooking—but I’ll always pass when those are on the menu.
My mum used to own and run a Thai restaurant in partnership with a friend. I worked there waiting tables when I was a student and really loved it. Sometimes while I was clearing plates, customers would start telling me their life stories. I’d be standing there with my arms full of heavy plates, but I was too fascinated (and too polite) to ask them to hurry up and finish their story. So if the restaurant wasn’t busy at the time, I’d put the plates down again and just listen.
Two places I’d love to visit but haven’t yet been are France and India.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About A Spacious Life
I lost a chapter. I’m usually good at backing up my work, but I was so engrossed in writing one day that I only saved the document, but hadn’t been backing it up on an external device…and then my laptop died. I wasn’t able to recover the data. It was a good lesson in diligence and I was more careful after that!
I wrote it in two countries. Most of the book was written at home in Melbourne, Australia, but I took six weeks off at the end of 2013 to work solidly on a redraft, and flew to Bangkok to do it. My mother is Thai and it’s always felt like my second home. There were fewer distractions for me there, and being there brought back many sense memories so it was great for working on those sections that were set in Thailand.
There were at least a hundred times I wanted to quit and throw it out. I’m sure writing any book is heart wrenching at times. Memoir particularly so. And for a first-time author, well, the self-doubt and torment can be almost too much to bear… but I’m glad I finished it in the end.
I almost started a cookie business instead of writing it. For real. I had a business plan and had even invested a little money in it. But I kept coming back to the idea of this book. I realised I didn’t have the time and energy to do both things well, so I needed to make a choice. In the end, writing the book felt more meaningful to me. No matter how many or few copies may sell, I’ll never regret it.
It was called A Spacious Life from the first day I started writing it. Try as I might, I could never come up with any alternative names that felt right.
‘Meditation and mindfulness are tools for working with the mind, but where they have led me is to a blossoming of the heart…’
What does a spiritual seeker look like? Could you pick one in a lineup? If you said yes, chances are you weren’t imagining this meditating model. Born in Sydney, Australia, Narissa Doumani grew up well loved, well educated, and (reasonably) well dressed, but for years grappled with what she admits is ‘the ultimate first world problem’: how to be truly, deeply happy in any lasting way. In this intimate memoir, she explores the creative process, traverses the heights of romantic love and the despair of self-doubt, and comes face to face with her own fragile mortality. But it’s in a cave in a Thai forest, where she meets the Buddhist yogi who will become her spiritual guide, that she learns to unravel the messy states of mind and heart that had kept her from living a spacious life—and thereby begins to uncover the happiness, meaning, and connection for which she always yearned.
A Spacious Life is a heart-warming, honest, and at times surprisingly humorous look into the quest for meaning beyond materialism—and its relevance as an essential condition for well-being and fulfilment within modern-day life.
(From Chapter 9: The Model Life)
Now and again, I worked with challenging personalities, such as the German photographer who wanted to tape my ears to the sides of my head. She was six foot tall and cut an imposing figure. The prospect of standing in front of her lens was intimidating.
I pulled myself together and walked onto set with the steeliness of a seasoned warrior. My armour was a shoulder-padded polyester blend, my war paint MAC Studio Fix C2. But when the German took a test shot of me and barked, ‘Those ears. They are sticking out too much. Can you all see that?’ her words hit me like a well-timed jab-right cross combo. My confidence, along with my ego, was sent reeling.
I was supposed to look like a corporate worker, so the hair-and-makeup artist had slicked my hair into a low bun, and the tips of my ears were protruding, pixie-like, in a way she obviously found less than perfect.
‘Can’t we do something? Bring some gaffer tape!’ she shouted.
I started shrinking. I couldn’t afford to shrink. The client was counting on me to get a good shot. I also couldn’t retaliate. It never pays to antagonise the creative team whose job it is to make you look good. So I took a silent, mindful moment and came back to my breath. In and out, in and out, it connected me to the present.
I considered my ears, two small, moulded lumps of flesh on the sides of my head. Ears were instruments for hearing. Mine worked very well indeed. Why should I be ashamed of them? They weren’t particularly beautiful, but were any ears truly beautiful?
AUTHOR Bio and Links
Narissa Doumani is the student of a reclusive Thai yogi, and a dedicated practitioner of mindfulness, meditation, and the Buddhist path. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne, Narissa spent nearly a decade working as a model and presenter in the world of commercial advertising, using the circumstances of her everyday life to cultivate clarity and peace of mind. Born into a Thai-Lebanese-Australia family, she is a strong advocate for diversity, tolerance, and finding one's own authentic path. Her debut memoir, A Spacious Life, invites us all to do just that, and to live with meaning beyond the material.
Author Website: http://narissadoumani.com
Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/narissa-doumani/a-spacious-life/
Narissa will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn host.
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