DOWNEY - Growing up in Kansas the youngest of six siblings, Elaine A. Piha witnessed her five older siblings "struggling through their formative years, all the while utilizing every possible coping device," and surmising that, in this situation, "issues of perfectionism were brought to the forefront, I learned very quickly which path I was not willing to travel and what I felt was necessary to maintain both my individuality and my independence."The above quotation is from her book titled "What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering" (Balboa Press), which came out last month. Some 100 pages long, it's about Piha's take on spirituality, the lessons suffering ("It's actually a gift") can teach us, compassion, free will, her belief in reincarnation (or "pre-birth planning"), the duality of life ("Where there is happiness, there's also sadness," "Without darkness, one cannot comprehend the light," "yin and yang," etc.), the law of attraction, karma, the need for balance, Buddha's Four Noble Truths and his Eight-Fold Path, the impediment of the Ego, the spirit world and the transcendence of "living in the moment." Couching her ideas with the use of sentences heavy with philosophical and mystical overtones, Piha buttresses her statements with passages and thoughts attributed to just about every sage and noted personality through the centuries. The context of the particular quotation above is what the book's chapter 2 is about, among other things, pre-determination or reincarnation. Piha, who is 42 and of Czech extraction, illustrates how (presumably) she chose to be born into a mid-western family where "a particular rigid religious belief was dominant," while she saw lots of hypocrisy in the church-going folk. This turned her off and set her on a personal path that she says has since been lined with true happiness. "Since my 'awakening' (or 'enlightenment')," she said, "I don't struggle with life, I don't struggle with suffering. My philosophy is living every single moment." What's more, being judgmental of others is an absolute no-no. The reason, she says, why she didn't encounter any real difficulty writing her book, her first, is because she got in the habit of writing down her thoughts at all moments in her journal. Quotations she thought relevant to her subject she transcribed too. She is today on her 17th journal, which she carries around wherever she goes. Even while still in college, she started to question her Catholic upbringing ("its harping on sin and guilt") and so "I read and read about it, read book after book, thinking about alternatives, etc." Ultimately, she says she found solace in New Age thinking, which gained prominence in the mid-60s. Authors and the writings of Edgar Cayce, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, and Deepak Chopra, Paolo Coelho, don Miguel Ruiz, as well as those of authority figures like the Dalai Lama, now resonate in her consciousness. Her college career was a distinguished one. She earned two bachelor's degrees, one in accounting from Pittsburg State University, and a second one in both secondary and physical education from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, as well as a master's in athletic administration from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. All the while she balanced her studies with athletics. She both played (all-conference) and coached volleyball and basketball (she was all-star in high school). She also taught in the recreation, physical education and health departments at Missouri Valley. Arriving in Los Angeles in April of 2004, Elaine almost immediately hired on as recreation assistant with the city of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Division. She has worked there ever since. Currently she serves as recreation facility director at the Elysian Valley Recreation Center, working with youth. Blessed with a wonderful writing ability (her resume boasts "strong articulation, writing, organizational, problem-solving and management skills"), and "wanting to get the word out about the availability of alternative beliefs," certified life coach/holistic healing counselor/domestic violence advocate/inspirational speaker Elaine was driven to write this book. She says it has gotten good response. She says she's convinced that her search-and findings-about the meaning of her life can help others with their search for the meaning in their lives. Elaine doesn't try to shove her insights down the reader's throat, knowing full well how each person is the product, as she writes in the book, of "all [his/her] past experiences, combined with all of the knowledge that [they] have previously acquired and infused with [their] personal attitudes and prejudices… Thus no two interpretations (perceptions) are the same…" Quoting Shakespeare, she says, "There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so." She says she, too, like Job, in the beginning agonized over why she was visited by affliction and often asked, "Why me, Lord?" To be sure, according to Wikipedia, "Mainstream religious institutions have been largely critical of New Age spirituality" even as the Roman Catholic Church in 2003 criticized such New Age practices as yoga, meditation, feng shui, and crystal healing. This hasn't deterred Piha from following her individual belief. Fiercely independent, she afffirms, "Life is my bible," and, quoting the Dalai Lama, "My religion is kindness." She says she's working on her next project, a book on near-death experiences. This will be followed by a book on the "psychology of weight loss."
********** Published: June 16, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 9