Where the Light Begins is a memoir by Christy Elmendorp who shares her intimate and courageous journey in finding out how she wants to live her life.
‘While I have always longed for freedom, there was equally an innate desire for me to belong.’
The statement says it all, it is the kind of conflicts that most of us must be struggling with.
I went to a Convent School for my secondary education. During our final year in secondary school, we used to have weekly or fortnightly lessons conducted by our English teacher , Ms J. Phun, during which time we read some essays from a textbook entitled ‘ Sense of Belonging’ (if I remember the title correctly.) In this distant memory from decades ago, I recall that our English teacher was telling us that everyone needed and desired a sense of belonging. It was part of the civics learning curriculum so it was probably taught in the social context. I remember her describing me as flighty and the remark stung then because according to thesaurus and dictionaries, flighty means fickle, capricious, unreliable, whimsical, irresponsible, changeable, etcetera, etcetera. I would settle for whimsical and changeable. I was restless but seemingly everyone else knew where they wanted to be next, get married, get a job or go to college, get a degree or some qualification and then started living as adults.
Most of us follow rules, do whatever we have been taught and told since young ; we religiously fall into steps with what our elders have done because we find it easier to obey or that we think it is safer that way. We do not want to disappoint our loved ones for fear of not being loved , we try to live up to social norms because we are afraid of falling behind or falling out with the rest of our families, our tribe or community if we do not do as told. Students who do well at school are commended upon and those who excel at the universities are applauded and sought after by top notch employers when they graduate. It is apparent that these high achievers individuals look set to earn big money and succeed in life and perhaps even be the envy of the rest of their pack. But there are fearless individuals who follow their own inner voice, question, quest and forge their paths in their own time as they journey through lives. Naturally we must know that not all brains are meted out equally, we need to have enough self -awareness to find out for ourselves what we are made of , our strengths and our weaknesses.
Where the Light Begins is about a woman’s courageous journey in finding where she belongs and more importantly, who she is. In her memoir and travelogue, Cristy begins with narrating about her childhood and growing years first with her own family and then with a Christian sect called The Family in Bucharest. Christy’s father who was a missionary was of Indonesian and Dutch descent and her mother was an Indonesian Muslim thus Christy’s parents’ union was not straightforward due to cultural and religious differences. Since young, Christy struggled with what her father believed in. She spent her adolescence years living with ‘The Family’ in Bucharest when her parents separated and subsequently returned to her family when her father settled in Thailand. She shares her personal experience in first growing up with a Christian discipline and then at aged twenty-one, she left home with Ian, aged forty-seven an academician and travel writer who was very much into Eastern philosophies, Buddhist teachings and spiritual practices.
Christy was restless and though she was uncertain about what she wanted, she was eager to adapt and please her father and later on her partner, Ian in assimilating into their respective lives. She lived a fairly comfortable and adventurous life with Ian in Katmandu. ‘ His house is a celebration of indigenous culture and perhaps also an indication that making money in a foreign currency allowed you to live above average in Nepal.’ Christy had always wanted to further her studies and had felt that her intellectual level was not on par with Ian and his circle of friends. After having putting it off for a few years, it was then she finally decided to take the entrance exam for entering the varsity in the Netherlands and passed and studied English literature.
She finally began to find her own ground unlike previously, in her words,
‘ I had grown dependent on him to look after us financially, and Ian had become dependent on me as one would with a personal assistant. I would help book his travel, oversee the house construction in Koh Samui, and fill my days with basic errands such as laundry and grocery shopping.‘
Due to her unassuming nature, Christy met fascinating and eclectic people and had the most amazing globe- trotting life living in Phuket, Koh Samoi, Kathmandu and travelled through exotic places such as Western Tibet, Myamar, Thailand, Vietnam and learnt about Buddhist teachings. She was always curious and open to new learning experiences. Her life seemed like a magical ride as she experienced different ways of expanding her consciousness including DMT, LSD, and also learnt about meditation. She had also been in the audience with the Dalai Lama and listened to his speech.
Here is an excerpt from the book. Christy writes:
‘As I watched the Dalai Lama speak, I appreciated the warmth that he emanated. I noticed he had an openness and a dedication to serve, but at the same time there was also a wall around him that was probably his way of barring people from projecting onto him all their hopes and dreams.
He had a composed presence where he would frame his responses as if to say, “Don’t look at the messenger. Instead, look at the message and see if it rings true for you.”
At the end of his talk, we could all receive a blessing from him before we left to make way for the next group. I felt fortunate to not just be able to meet the Dalai Lama in person, but also to be able to stay right in the home of the person organizing the whole event.‘
Christie is free-spirited, intuitive and eager to learn.
In her memoir, she refers to the Flight of the Garuda.
What is freedom?
Why do some of us fight for it relentlessly And others give it away so freely?
Can one ever find true freedom?
Is freedom found in the moments between the cracks of thoughts when time stops? Is freedom found in joy
when your heart feels vibrant
Is freedom found in nature
when far removed
from an unnatural rhythm?
Or is it in death,
something we can never be free from, that is perhaps when true freedom starts?
The writing is prolific and easy to read but I find the earlier part of the narration a little confusing in the beginning. Elmendorp‘s growing years are unorthodox and you will be drawn to her account of what she has encountered and experienced in the spiritual realms.
I like this statement in her book : ‘Randomness or fate, one thing I learned is that truth has a sound. It is a silent vibration deep inside your soul that only you can hear. And when you heed that call, no matter how crazy, an opportunity for magic happens.‘
Elmendorp‘s story affirms what Jiddhu Krishnamurti said :’ Truth is a pathless land. ‘
WHERE THE LIGHT BEGINS a seeker’s journey for Truth, Freedom and a Place to call Home by Christy Elmendorp is a fascinating memoir.
I received an advance review copy of the book and I have enjoyed reading it. The review is entirely my own.