By Annette Hinkle
As a young bride in her early 20s, Rivvy Neshama’s mother gave her a collection of recipes to bring to her new marriage.
It was really quite a heartfelt and touching gift because if you think about it, recipes, are really short bits of wisdom and insight. Depending on the taste of those making them, we are invited to take them or leave them — and are often encouraged to strike out on our own by adding a unique twist to spice things up.
That’s exactly where Neshama is coming from with her new book “Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles.” Comprised of meaningful anecdotes, well-considered personal memories and words of wisdom offered over the years by friends, acquaintances and spiritual leaders such as the Dali Lama or Deepak Chopra, each chapter is a self-contained “recipe” which readers are invited to embrace or, if it doesn’t speak to them, pass over. Which lessons resonate has everything to do with where the readers are in their own lives at that time, and Neshama speaks with the voice of a gentle, well-meaning friend, whether it’s to remind us to take notice of the beauty in life, consciously connect with a stranger on the street, or withhold judgment of others.
All of it came from Neshama’s personal experience and though the book just came out in November, it’s already garnering a good deal of attention. Neshama thinks she knows why.
“I do think it’s because of word of mouth,” says Neshama. “I also feel it’s an old fashioned book.”
By old fashioned, Neshama means it encourages face to face encounters. Life lived through experience — not via social networking.
“I felt the book was for others and not just me,” she says. “People are so over connected we’ve lost true connection.”
Connecting is vital for Neshama and this Saturday, she will be in Sag Harbor to meet with readers at Canio’s Books and share stories and insights from the book.
Neshama, a native of Philadelphia, lives primarily in Boulder these days. But her children are on the East End and she keeps a home in Sag Harbor. Moving around comes naturally for Neshama who admits she gets bored easily and is always on the look out for a new path to follow.
“I used to go back to school every 10 years,” she says. “I’m always changing jobs or searching for guidance in a way.”
It was a search for guidance that started Neshama on the road to becoming a book author a decade ago. It all began with a quiz in a book which invited readers to discover their highest purpose in life.
“I’m a patsy for those kind of quizzes,” explains Neshama. “It asked you to visualize things, remembering the times you were happiest in your life and what were the elements. I took it and I was surprised that my highest purpose was to live a sacred life.”
“I do believe the book came to me through divine inspiration,” says Neshama. “I believe very strongly when you have an intention and affirm it and point yourself in a certain direction, it starts a miraculous unfolding of events.”
“One night, I affirmed my highest purpose was to live a sacred life — things followed and it led to a book.”
Neshama notes that as a result of her quest to live a sacred a life, she began living with intention — and attention. That led her to taking notice of things which in the past might have been overlooked, and in turn, some amazing life lessons came her way. Random interactions became linked as coincidences, people offered words of kindness and support on days when she needed it most and simple observances became part of the miracle of living every day. And Neshama took notes along the way — amassing a collection of stories, tidbits and wisdom that ended up being her book — though she didn’t know it at the time.
“I wasn’t thinking to publish it. It was a way of teaching and showing me,” she says. “I wrote it over six years. I wasn’t in a great rush and didn’t contact publishers right away.”
But with the publication of “Recipes for a Sacred Life,” Neshama is now able to share those insights with others and she finds her book is attracting a wide-ranging readership.
“What I’m finding is that it’s appealing to everyone,” she says. “Men are loving it, women, parents are reading at night to children and teens. One woman in her 60s gave it to her 80-year-old mother-in-law whose 90-year-old sister grabbed it and they are fighting over it. It’s for people who are just beginning to question their spiritual life. Maybe they’ve been doing yoga and want to go in a different direction. People are also giving it to those who are sick or dying.”
“With marketing a book, you’re supposed to know your target audience,” adds Neshama. “I feel it will reach all those who it’s meant to reach … but I am surprised 19 year olds like it.”
“My book is for every day life, just making that connection we all have,” she says. “I don’t consider myself more spiritual than others, but awareness is a big thing. When you’re aware of where you are, you see more beauty.”
And in the end, does Neshama feel that she is living her highest purpose?
“Yes. Like anything else, there are moments we’re not sacred,” she says. “But part of having a spiritual path is falling off it. More and more I’m doing what I learn and teach. ‘Spiritual’ and ‘sacred’ feel like heavy words. But maybe a sacred life is just being kind.”
Rivvy Neshama will talk about “Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles” at 5 p.m. this Saturday, January 25 at 5 p.m. at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor.