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The Scenic Route to Freedom: A Book Review

The same weekend I read an advance copy of Hiro Boga’s To Be Soul, Do Soul, my wife and I went for a Saturday drive to the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett, Massachusetts. The winding roads led us through the late-October countryside, past old cemeteries, crooked farmhouses, and an occasional dog lounging in a driveway, watching the leaves fall.

The experiences were uncannily aligned; both invited me to slow down and experience the pure poetry not only around but within me. At the Pagoda, a gleaming white dome greeted us against a perfectly blue sky, the unblemished golden prayer wheel turning ever so subtly at the top. The opening pages of the book offered a similar experience, an invitation at once simple and vast, so that I knew immediately I was in the realm of the sacred. Hiro’s voice is as solid and real as if she were sitting next to me on one of the slightly sloping benches made of wood or stone, one thousand prayer flags flapping in the fall breeze.

The further I ventured into the writing the more connected I felt to what Hiro so confidently names soul. Without so much as a hint of contrivance, she shows her readers that soul isn’t something other, but rather deeply embedded within each of us, an earthy, multidimensional source of renewable wisdom.

Hiro’s exquisite one-liners are often so delightful and surprising, one can’t help but leap at the invitation: “Be the honey in someone else’s tea. Be the fire that cooks someone else’s stew, the oven that bakes their fragrant loaf of bread.”

It may be poetic, but it’s not all metaphor. She guides us towards asking questions related to power, creativity, and social change. “Write the story of the last day of your life. Live it today,” Hiro offers, but “take the scenic route.” Here, there is no rush, and the effect is one of tremendous permission that brought me to places within alternately calm, enlivened, moved, and awakened. The utter lack of agenda allowed me to fully explore joy, grief, story, and nature in embodied, sensual, and often surprising ways – ways that revealed new doorways to me to better understanding myself and allowing for a more spacious relationship to creativity and consciousness.

It’s important to note that all of this occurs in ways that don’t bypass reality but urge us to dive into it, exactly as it is and as we are. That may in fact be the book’s real superpower: Its utter embrace of possibility, rooted in the tangible, “in our own lives, in the body politic, and in the world.”

Many of the pages begin with imperatives – Write, Dive, Rest, Invite, Release, Open, Run, Listen, Notice, Saturate, Explore. Hiro seamlessly weaves stillness and action, movement and meditation, inquiry and experimentation; no matter a reader’s background or reason for choosing this book, she will discover whole inner worlds and new ways of interacting with the outside world, too. Hiro reminds us that we are all inherently beautiful, powerful, and whole, and that joy and integrity are byproducts of curiosity and the creative process.

Without a hint of dogma, Hiro holds that we each have the ability to transform our own suffering into a “balm to heal the world’s wounds.” Her writing – lush, grounded, and often breathtaking in its precision – makes poetry out of liberation, reminding us that we are ever-changing. This work calls us to look closely and unflinchingly at the systems that shape us and that we in turn shape, and offers practices that help us untangle ourselves from these very titles and roles. In Hiro’s words: “Make a plan. Put it into motion. Begin today.”

Part poetry collection, part how-to manual, this book transcends easy categorization – which is exactly what makes it so unique. With the steadiness of water against stone, Hiro’s gentle voice encourages us, again and again, to let go of that which holds us back and to move towards authenticity. Some of the pages here have just a single line, and I found the white space itself as potent an invitation into contemplation and exploration as the words themselves. Soul riddles, intended not to stump but to challenge our usual ways of processing and analyzing information, plunged me into participation in ways that surprised and changed me. “Stand for the world in which you want to live,” Hiro instructs, with an authority that makes me trust her – and myself.

Use it as a guide on the path of becoming, the path of freeing ourselves from a lifetime of accumulated beliefs, the path to greater understanding of ourselves and how we meet the world, the path to true healing and accountability, and ultimately, to allowing our innate creativity to shine.

This powerful book lives up to its subtitle, Adventures in Creative Consciousness. It has the ingredients to change not only your life, but the world – but each of us must roll up our sleeves to experiment with our own recipes. I can think of no better companion than Hiro Boga and the gift of this book.

To Be Soul, Do Soul is available to purchase now. Order your copy by December 31, 2017, and receive two exclusive bonuses.