“I am now a depth psychotherapist, and I wrote this book as a personal myth, an individual’s story for making sense and meaning of the world,” writes Stephen Rowley in the beginning of his new book, The Lost Coin: A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny. “My own telling is woven together by personal and professional strands of imagination, intuition, and life experience. As Rilke wrote, I am living my questions, and perhaps someday without noticing, I will have lived into the answers… My experiences with Buddhism, shamanism, depth psychology, and dreaming have conspired to open the shutters of my perception. They have led me to much greater spiritual and psychological awareness.
As a young man, the mystery of my adoption weighed heavily upon me. Today, I recognize that it was the intense feelings of yearning and disconnection that propelled me through each stage of my life. I have at last learned to accept the blessings and the pain of being an adoptee, holding both like the energies of yin and yang in circular symmetry. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I had to travel to faraway places to return to where I needed to be all along: to my home and to my soul.”
As he promotes, Rowley’s background in psychotherapy helps alleviate any excess in a narrative requiring a distinctive balancing act. While in many ways I interpret the experience of reading The Lost Coin: A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny as just that — memoir — it also feels like self-help, or leadership advice. Through sometimes painfully personal experience, Rowley is able to provide an emotive roadmap to self-determinative quality. I really enjoyed what I call his ‘pragmatic vulnerability(ies)’ as a writer.
His ability to use his own experience somewhat analogously, while also incorporating emotional intelligence principles and pantheistic interpretations, is commendable. It makes something that could be either too partial to his own experience appealing for a wide and target audience, concurrent to personalizing things so you feel an emotional connection too often lacking in books focusing on emotionally engaging issues. “While writing this book, a particular Zen kōan was present for me: The coin lost in the river is found in the river,” Rowley writes. “It reminded me of the many mysteries of my life. Who am I? To what extent did simple twists of fate shape the contours of my destiny?
Over many months, I came to understand firsthand that the purpose of a kōan is to tease the mind while pushing it beyond the limitations of reason and explanation. I came to accept that the teasing of my mind with my haunting questions was akin to opening nested Matryoshka dolls, one after another. Opening one doll or question revealed another in the waiting. The irony of the Martyroska doll analogy is not lost on me, as the traditional Russian dolls represent the mother carrying the family legacy through the child in her womb.”
He adds, “The coin lost in the river is found in the river. The meaning of life, if there is one, may be like a coin that is lost in clear river water. But due to the distortion and refraction of light, it may not be where we think it should be. And searching in the murky waters of life, it may be nearly impossible to discern. Sometimes all we can do is to fumble blindly in the dark.”