By Shana Aborn
Doubleday, 192 pp. Anyone who has surfed through late-night infomercials, perused bookshelves reserved for sensational titles, or read the covers of magazines stocked by supermarket checkout counters knows one thing: A lot can happen in 30 days. Previously generous thighs shrink to supermodel-size stilts. Ab muscles appear where none dared pulse before. Marriages marred by decades of strife are resurrected. Bald heads sprout whole forests of hair. Now, thanks to Shana Aborn's "30 Days to a More Spiritual Life," TV junkies and mall rats, harried mothers and overworked execs, can shed their jaded outer shells and lead a more spiritual life. All in 30 days. The whole concept should have cynics crawling out of the woodwork, but once they do they might be surprised at what they find.
As 30-day evangelists go, Aborn is likeable. She seems to bumble through life the way we all do. The slightly self-deprecating humor that weaves through the book makes her a spiritual guide apart from the norm. And she advocates flexibility in faith and practice--something she attributes to her own upbringing. Aborn's parents raised their family in the Jewish faith, but always strayed from convention. One example: her brother's bar mitzvah ceremony was held in a Catholic school. Her own path to a spiritual life was marked by long periods of indifference, alternating with nostalgic dips back to the Jewish faith of her youth. When a desire to be part of something religious began to gnaw at her, she committed to that faith. Then this spiritual everywoman--with a husband, a job, kids, and pets--jotted down a detailed roadmap for anyone else who might be interested in cranking into spiritual overdrive.
The elements of this roadmap first appeared in an article Aborn wrote for the Ladies Home Journal, where she is an editor. Her vantage point at a magazine that promises surefire crowd-pleasing recipes shaped her quest: to write a book that would allow anyone, in almost any circumstance, to craft a more spiritual life of his or her own design. Though her instructions borrow from traditional and New Age approaches, her regimen is neither denominational nor trendy.
Writes Aborn, "Most of us have never been touched by an angel and probably wouldn't realize it if one were poking us with a nail-studded two-by-four. Wearing crystals and totems may be spiritually fulfilling for some people, but for others, these types of rituals may seem too unfamiliar to bring us closer to our concept of a Higher Power. It's hard enough finding the energy to clean the house on a semi-regular basis, much less clean our chakras. And though we may put in an appearance at church or temple every so often, are we coming away feeling refreshed down to the soul, or just satisfied that we've done our duty for the week to rack up some heavenly brownie points in an unseen ledger?"
To get you refreshed down to your soul in 30 days, Aborn divides her instructions into four one-week sections, each emphasizing a different theme, and she gives you specific exercises to do during the week. Week One, for instance, is aimed at making you see yourself more clearly. During that week, Aborn asks that you sit down and write a credo stating just what you believe in. She asks you to do everything mindfully, from cutting grapefruits to brushing your teeth, to pray any way you want to, to meditate, to visit a church, to start a spiritual journal, and to listen to that small voice that nags at you from time to time--something she calls listening to your soul. Then, if the Archie Bunker in you hasn't made you abandon the book on a subway bench, you're ready for Week Two.
Over the course of the book, Aborn guides you through the expected (like reading religious texts) to the less expected (like having sex). By Week Four, it appears, anyone following all the steps on the 30-day path will manage their workday like a budding Zen artist, spend a lot of time singing, listening to music, bonding with their pets, communing with nature, and doing good deeds, like building houses for families in need, delivering meals, volunteering in animal shelters, or giving blood. It all sounds great, but there's a kicker: After just four weeks, you will, says Aborn, not only be ready to expose your newfound faith to family and friends, but you'll also be ready to guide others. She suggests you begin this process by inviting a few friends over on a regular basis for "discussions" and in the process jump-start them on their own quest to religious enlightenment. Even for our spiritual everywoman, it seems, the path from seeker to missionary is a short one.
Ah, the miracle of a month!