Book Review : The Narrow Way by Chris Lemig
“The Narrow Way” by Chris Lemig is a book that took me back to the feelings I had when I first read ‘Dharma Punx’ by Noah Levine. I was hit with a profound sense of hope and of joy that these two intelligent, exceptional men could put themselves and others through such hell and come out the other side to embark on a path of self-discovery and healing transforming them to the core. The horrors of drug abuse and the psychological pain that each recount in their respective memoirs make both essential reading for those who are part of this modern age and the specific deliciousness and grotesqueness of samsaric suffering that can befall the modern-day human. We have a different flavour of temptations than what surrounded the Buddha back in the day.
Lemig’s flavours of choice were drugs, alcohol and porn and right from the first page, the reader is dropped into a hardcore scene reminiscent of that right out of the film “Requiem for a Dream”. In many ways, while reading this book, I reflected on how the descriptive nature of this book is quite cinematic and noted how in a comment on the book jacket, another reviewer mentioned that this book ‘isn’t Eat Pray Love’. I would venture to say, that this book is a bit of “Eat Pray Love” mixed with “Requiem for a Dream” and a dash of “Ma Vie en Rose”.
Being able to cite what films this book reminds me of demonstrates that the author has such an exquisite and descriptive writing style that fully transports the reader into both the filth of a druggy rock bottom and the brilliance of the most holy of locations in India where the Buddha walked. The juxtaposition of both hell and heaven that Lemig witnessed in his life is defined by his ability to describe his journey from both realms and his open and radical honesty in laying bare what he had held in shame for much in his life. The peacefulness of the present contrasted with the agony of the past in the author’s writing shows how transformation can occur from practice and study. Some books of this ilk drift into the realms of the preachy or of the know it all dharma student who writes a cautionary tale of samsara but this is not the case with “The Narrow Way”. It is a story in which you truly are rooting for the hero and just want to reach into the page and give him a hug. Lemig’s grasp of the dharma and his free and easy, non-ego tripping style made it a pleasure to devour this book in one sitting. I have to say that the true measure of a book is indeed if I can read it in a day/weekend so kudos go out to the author.
Yes. Much of the Western Buddhist canon in this era may be remembered for white guys tell-all tales of their drug-addled, journey to wisdom and coming to Buddha stories, however what makes Chris’s contribution to this library different is that he is bringing the voice of one who was so very troubled by his homosexuality, held himself in the closet and as part of his path to awakening was brave enough to clearly see that he could embrace his sexuality in a healthy way and develop love for himself. This unique contribution to the LGBT Buddhist community (and LGBT community at large) makes me hopeful that his painful path to coming out will help others see how their self-destructiveness can be met with compassion and wisdom, overcome and transformed to be of benefit.
Chris. You succeeded. This book is an incredible piece of writing. It is honest. It is bare. I don’t doubt your sincerity. Your writing touched me profoundly in that my heart broke reading about your suffering and soared when I read your blog posts now and see how far you’ve come along. If you’re recruiting a tribe of sober, Bodhisattva fag hags – you can call on me
I wholeheartedly encourage you to pick up this book when it’s released. You can also follow Chris’ journey via his blog over at The Narrow Way.