Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In chronicles the spiritual journey of Anjali Kumar, a mother in search of a spiritual awakening for herself and for her young daughter. Kumar started her search upon the birth of her daughter, Zia, in order that when Zia started to ask the big questions such as “why are we here?” And “is there a god?” Kumar would have an answer. I enjoyed this book for a number of reasons, but if I had to choose just one, it would have to be that I, myself, am also on a spiritual journey, albeit one with a more limited budget. As I read Stalking God I lived vicariously as the author recounts visiting Machu Picchu and attending Burning Man.
Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a different leg of Kumar’s spiritual journey. Originally limiting herself to just one year of spiritual exploration, the story picks up when Kumar realizes that there can be no real time restrictions when discussing a true spiritual journey, which can last a lifetime. Kumar’s search is equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. Her wry humor and capacity to poke fun at herself while still showing the reader what she has learned from each experience made all that she discussed within the text fresh and relatable.
The text contains numerous ups and downs, and through it all I deeply empathized with Kumar, who bared her soul in her description of being spiritually untethered, a feeling that I know all too well. When reading her admittance to the fact that she was on this journey for herself as much as for her daughter, I felt a deep connection as I remembered how I felt when I realized that I needed to find a spiritual path for myself, and in a way I combined our mental states while reading.
While reading this book was very much a subjective experience for me, from an objective viewpoint I appreciated Kumar’s even-handed approach. Even as Kumar at times criticized certain aspects of religion, in every instance she recognized how differences in culture can cause us to misunderstand the “other” and that what seems strange to one person is a norm for another and vice versa. I particularly liked how every time that she encountered and tested for herself a new form of spirituality she afterwards recognized what did and didn’t work in her life, and gave no substantial criticism toward those who live theirs differently. That she is willing to combine spiritual practices, and keep searching even after having found one that fit in some places but not others, is a beautiful practice of spiritual openness that I find inspiring.
Kumar’s discussion of the placebo effect in spiritual practices is one that I believe she puts forth well, and I enjoyed the back and forth she had between herself as to how she would go about the journey she was on. That she did meticulous research is obvious, both in her prose recounting of events and the fact that each chapter includes notes, citations and further reading. The structure of it all enhanced rather than inhibited the emotional experience of the book, because in treating her spiritual journey with rigor, Kumar allows the reader to look at her experiences with a measure of objectivity in addition to the subjective narrative, as her perspective includes both the present narrator and the past experiencer of each tradition that she experiments with.
Overall, I found Stalking God to be a powerful and moving text, one that I would recommend to anyone, and particularly to those who are investigating and pursuing their own spiritual journeys.