Category Archives: spirituality

Digging into New Books this Mother’s Day

books

I’m digging into these gems this mother’s day! Last night, after teaching my hot yoga class, I went to a book store and walked around. I had cancelled on a friend who offered to take me to the Trocadero in Hollywood since my nanny had cancelled. I really wasn’t that upset about it. Yes, it’s the quintessential ‘Hollywood spot’, but I’m not that into Hollywood. I’m more into creating and dreaming. So, I decided to treat myself to a dream walk, exploration, of the book store isles sans kiddos for an hour. A top expert in publishing, an agent for 20+ years, told me in an interview last week that trying to get published in the genre of literary fiction, is nearly impossible for new writers today (via traditional publishing houses.) Hmmmm. There’s a lot of fear in that statement. And I’m not one who needs to mire in fear or let it inchworm inside my head as I write my 4th novel. I respect his opinion, but it is not the definitive voice deciding whether or not I will ever get published. So I took a stroll down the isles and among the ‘new voices’ and low and behold, there are many in both literary and women’s fiction. My new intention is to read a ‘new voice’ every month until next mother’s day. Why? Because I want to support my fellow writers and new voices who are trying to give birth to their babies in this daunting publishing arena. So, I picked out The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney published by Harper Collins in 2016. It is Sweeney’s first book to be published by a major publisher, and soon to be made a movie. Family drama, addiction, inheritance, sibling squabbles, are all contained within its pages. I can’t wait to start!

My other books I purchased last night are bite-sized spiritual instruments of wisdom to inspire my meditation practice, which helps me focus on what I can do and create, and stay out of fear. I can turn to a page, within The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba or the Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Mysticism, and read one teaching by these masters daily. Here are two examples. I adore Ueshiba’s art representing movement as I’ve never been able to separate movement of dance and yoga with the spiritual. That’s why meditation was hard for me to embrace five year ago, yet dancing and yoga have always been my conduits to calm my mind, improve my mood, let go of fear, etc.

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Dala Lama’s ‘little book’ is perfect to inspire meditation themes as it’s just enough to start the conversation that can be released to the Divine within meditation. For example:

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Busy moms don’t often get to spend hours at a time reading on a Sunday. But I got a few hours in this morning and I’m grateful. I’m now off to the California Science Center to explore King TUT’s tomb with my nine-year-old. It’s the perfect Mother’s Day for me as it started with books and poetry (poem by my little guy); will marinate with wonder at the museum, will move with music, as we go to a concert this evening, and end with picking up my oldest at the airport. It’s my first mother’s day in 16 years without my wonder William. I can’t wait to give him a big hug!

I’m sending so much love to all my fellow mums. May you feel at peace with yourself and with your Dharma. May you feel inspired to reach for your dreams. May you feel healthy and supported. May you always feel your divine light and self worth. And may you always, always embrace your sense of humor—God knows we all need it!

Love & Light XOXO

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Can Balance Cultivate Inner-Peace?

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This Thomas Merton quote was brought to my attention this week and it makes a lot of sense. I am rarely happy, serene or at peace when my life is moving at mock-speed with demands that are out of my control. I read somewhere that one of the highest stressors in life are during times when other people’s emergencies suddenly become our problems demanding immediate attention. Maybe you have been in that sort of environment at work where a boss suddenly throws a situation at you to fix, frustrating you as you need to finish your own work? Maybe you’ve had family members or loved ones with addictions or health care issues or lots of drama that suddenly require immediate help? This sort of intensity that is injected into our lives, requiring us to stop, drop everything and run,  is a false sense of excitement, leaving us breathless, winded, exhausted, and off center. Raising children in America can certainly feel that way at times, when coaches change game or practice times and venues at the last minute, requiring parents to leave work or change plans. Kids get sick, hurt, forget their lunches, homework, etc. too, and we often have to drop what we are doing and run to their assistance. This, I don’t mind so much. But you get the idea. When I feel out of control, I feel off-center, ungrateful, out of balance, and out of sync. Some of my relationships have been this way too. I’ve had a knack in my life to choose men who don’t choose me, or don’t choose to honor our agreements. The last minute cancel; the last minute change in plans; or the worst: being an hour late for a date or dinner, has been a theme with everyone I have ever been with. It’s an out-of control feeling as it’s outside of me, reflects them, but it requires me to be inconvenienced and stressed. My past job as a full-time editor and journalist, felt a little out of control too: stories change, publishing dates get pushed back, re-edits are requested based on outside interests. I think I have become used to rolling with the punches. I think I have become a master of juggling and staying calm. But it isn’t peaceful.

As an artist, it’s super important for me to squeeze in a schedule, a routine, a rhythm that I try to adhere to every day, so I can balance my time spent writing, with time spent assisting to the needs of others: editors, yogis, children. Lately, I’m finding more balance through a regular meditation practice and sitting with my feelings as they arise and not reacting to them. Yoga, deep breathing is powerful. Walks on the beach, in nature, help to connect to beauty and God.

Art is an amazing source of peace for me. Writing, instantly drops me into that place of calm, allowing me to authentically co-create with the Universe. From a sense of calm and peace, I can feel centered, balanced and less stressed about the future, about ‘being on track.’ From this quiet place, I can allow ‘happiness’ to bubble up to the surface.

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In my youth, I chased excitement. Happiness was this unauthentic, elusive feeling that erupted from attention given to and received from others. It sprung from crazy demands and switching up venues or travel. I loved writing three of four stories on deadline and racing to get them done on time, then going for a run with tunes blasting, later meeting friends for drinks while dressed up in heels and a short skirt, maybe flirting. You get the idea. My source of happiness came from outside sources, sometimes caffeine or wine and always adrenaline. Today, it springs from time in quiet, listening to my inner guides, my intuition while I write, meditate, do yoga or listen fully to a friend, share from an authentic space with another soul. It may not seem as intense, or as exciting, but it’s a way for me to create a balance and a rhythm and an order to my life that feels closer to nature, closer to God.

Admittedly, my life has been out of control for most of my life. I can’t control a spouse leaving. I can’t control someone choosing to be violent, or those who chose to kill friends, or drunk drivers killing friends, or disease taking friends and family. I can’t control others who spiral into addiction and hurt themselves and others. But I can control my breath. I can control my schedule and get up early and meditate, giving thanks for another day. I can control whether I stay in a stressful job that hurts my health. I can control whether I continue with unloving, unbalanced relationships. I can choose to pause and not react. I can choose to eat and drink what will support my mental clarity and wellbeing.

I can ultimately choose to live a different life than what I witnessed, experienced in childhood and in my youth. Today, I am embracing this shift, letting go of the chaotic past, creating order, balance, harmony, so I can continue to create my art, my novels, while making space to forgive myself and everyone in my life.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Namaste x

Diane Frank Reaches Beyond Romance: Erotic, Lyrical, Cultural, Poetic Fiction

blackberries

A few novels cross genres with perfection. Diane Frank, however, weaves multiple genres to create a tapestry of writing that could almost become a new category of its own. Blackberries in the Dream House, her first novel, is described as magical realism, yet some could argue that it is a form of poetry, erotic romance, mystical and or spiritual fiction, new age, historical/cultural, pseudo-paranormal romance or romantic fantasy. You get the idea. I am fascinated when an author boldly crosses boundaries within genres, as well as cultures and periods of history, with such precision that it is barely noticed. It’s much like watching a prima ballerina who makes strenuous work appear elegant and effortless.

I met Diane Frank Valentine’s week at the San Francisco Writers Conference(SFWC) where we spoke at length, like old friends, touching on a variety of subjects. We are both writers who are meditators and yogis. We are both fascinated by Japanese and Buddhist culture and art. We both love music and dancing. We have a little in common. Diane’s first book was a bit of risk, in terms of publishing in the 21st century, as her main character is a Japanese geisha from 150 years ago. The writing is poetic, erotic, spiritual and infused with musical, historical and Buddhist overtones. Each chapter is short, and could read like an individual poem or a recounting of a lyrical dream. Some agents today might consider this novel daunting to represent—as agents at the SFWC admitted trepidation over representing first-time novelists who write within differing cultures or gender viewpoints. (To read more, see Voice, Authenticity & the Right to Write.).

 

With that said, I strongly believe readers will always resonate with powerfully artistic writing that transcends such constricted boundaries. Which is likely one reason why Blackberries in the Dream House was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Diane has published nine books and is currently writing another, while also teaching creative writing and poetry in San Francisco and Iowa. I interviewed Diane recently about Blackberries in the Dream House: her process when writing it and her advice to other budding authors willing to tackle subjects and characters outside of today’s defined publishing norms.

 

Q. What first inspired you to write about a geisha and a Buddhist monk in Japan? Can you pin point your first ah ha moment that sparked your journey toward creating Blackberries in the Dream House?

A. I’d like to begin by telling you how this book came into being. While I was still living in Iowa,  The Winter Life of Shooting Stars, my fourth book of poems, was published. When I called my Grandma Helen to share the good news, she said to me, “Diane, I don’t understand poetry.  Could you write a novel?” I said, “Sure, Grandma, I’ll write you a novel,” even thought at the time I didn’t know what the book would be about.

I don’t know how it is for other writers, but I feel that the story I tell in Blackberries in the Dream House chose me. It began with a deja vu in my bathtub. The tiles turned deep blue, and I felt like I was in Kyoto in a public bath during the late Edo period. The geisha and the monk were there, and the story started telling itself to me until it was told.

Blackberries is a forbidden love story about a geisha and a Buddhist monk in Kyoto 150 years ago. It’s written in the genre of magical realism which means that extraordinary things can happen in the waking state. The story is told from inside the soul of the geisha, and it begins with an epigram from Rumi…

“Lovers don’t meet along the road somewhere.

They’re in each other all along.”

Blackberries in the Dream House comes from a deep place in my soul.  My strong intention is that this book will have a gift for everyone who reads it.

2. Are you a Buddhist?

I’m not a practicing Buddhist but am strongly influenced by Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy – especially Tibetan Buddhism but also Zen. I learned to meditate when I was twenty years old and continue to meditate twice a day. My spiritual practice takes me to a place of deep peace and provides a grounding I maintain as I live in the world.

Traveling in Japan and Nepal strongly influenced this book. I loved living among the Buddhist people.  I deeply admire the Dalai Lama and have been strongly influenced by his teachings. When I was trekking in Nepal, I had the opportunity to ask the Tengboche Rinpoche (the High Lama at Tengboche Monastery) a question that was important to my spiritual growth, and his answer has guided me for many years.

When I was in Japan researching Blackberries in the Dream House, all of the people I met believe in reincarnation and felt that I was returning to Japan from a previous life. The Noh Sensei (Master teacher of Noh drama and singing) asked me, “How does it feel to be back in Japan?” The geisha from Kyoto who mentored me had me walk in her maiko (young geisha in training) sandals to see what I would remember when I wore them. Walking the streets of Pontocho, the geisha district where my novel takes place, was non-stop deja vu.

My 400 mile trek in the Nepal Himalayas was a spiritual quest. I write about this in Letters from a Sacred Mountain Place: A Journey through the Nepal Himalayas, which was published two weeks ago. My new book takes you into the mountains, with stories, poems and 53 color photographs. My early readers have told me that my new book has a similar feel to Blackberries, especially with my “Buddhist friend,” who is like the inner lover in Rumi’s poetry.

3. There has been much dialogue about the risks authors take when writing outside of their nationality, gender, sex, or even period of history. Yet Yukiko’s and Kenji’s voices are authentic and every scene within this book is believable. How much research went into crafting the elements within the dialogue to create believability? For instance, knowing the various Japanese musical instruments and art techniques of the day, or describing the temples.

I believe that as human souls, we have lived in many times and places. But yes, I did a tremendous amount of research. Years ago, I was drawn to a book by Liza Dalby called Geisha. It’s the definitive anthropological study of the geisha community of Kyoto. I’ve also written several scripts for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, multi-image presentations to introduce their traveling exhibits. These included “Footsteps of the Buddha,” to introduce an exhibit of Buddhist art and sculpture, and “Japanese Ink Painting,” an exhibit of the Japanese Sumi-e artists through the centuries. Yukiko, the geisha in my novel, is a Sumi-e artist, and this is how she meets the young monk, as part of her training. My research for LACMA educated me in the subtle aspects and techniques of Japanese ink painting. My book also has a subtle layering of Tibetan Buddhism and Kabbalah, which I have studied.

After I began writing my novel, I had a hunger to read everything I could find about Japan, Japanese art, Zen Buddhism, and the geisha community. I also had guidebooks and maps so I knew the shrines, the streets, the rivers, the mountains.  I worked with two Japanese advisors, who were students at the university in Iowa where I was teaching. Izumi Nakamura made lists for me of names appropriate for my characters in the late Edo period. I would give her the sound I wanted, and she would give me a choice of names with those sounds. She also made lists of flowers and trees that grow in Japan. Paul Shimura shared his experience growing up in Japan and saved me from a few cultural mistakes. In the late Edo period, there were no mirrors. People used water to see their reflection. No clocks – people told time by the ringing of the temple bells. No mangos in Japan – use a persimmon. He never gave me praise – which is the opposite of the way I teach – but made sure I stayed within the Japanese culture as I wrote. Later, when I went to Japan, Izumi hosted me and translated.

Before completing the novel, I knew I had to go to Japan and spend time in the geisha community. When I wrote to Izumi, I did not know that the Japanese people revere their teachers or that I was her favorite teacher. Izumi invited me to stay with her family, and she offered to travel with me to Kyoto, introduce me to the people she felt I should meet, and translate, since I don’t speak Japanese. She offered to plan my whole visit, and as an art-centered person, she wanted every day to be beautiful. At that time, she was studying music with a Noh Sensei who lived in Kyoto. Her Sensei arranged for me to be mentored by a famous geisha in Kyoto – you can find photographs of Masukiyo on my website,   If you enter the pages that feature Blackberries in the Dream House, I share a lot of information.

It is almost unheard of for a Western woman to be allowed into the geisha community, but as a gift from the Noh Sensei, that door opened for me. Izumi asked three of her friends to come with us and help her with the translation, as she had never become completely fluent in English. Masukiyu, the geisha who mentored me, shared many things about her life and answered provocative questions. She has a beautiful singing voice and has entertained visiting dignitaries and the Prime Minister of Japan. Everything about her is deeply feminine and artistic – her lovely voice, the way she moved in her green silk kimono, and her skill in making everyone feel comfortable around her. Even the simple act of watching her serve green tea and mochi was deeply pleasing. Before I left, she asked me to try on her maiko sandals to see if I would remember anything. They fit my feet perfectly.

Geishas take the mystery of being a woman and push it all the way to the edge. They are artists and feisty independent women. If they have a lover, it is their choice. Blackberries in the Dream House is narrated from the soul of the geisha, but what surprised me most when I was in Kyoto was how well I knew the monk. I went to Buddhist and Shinto temples every day, but as I approached Ryoanji, which in older times was called Oshidoridera, I immediately knew that the monk lived there.

And about the musical instruments . . . When I was writing about Japanese ink painting (sumi-e) for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, I listened to every recording of Japanese music available in San Francisco at that time. I know the instruments; I know the way they sound.  Also, because I am a cellist, I know the discipline it takes to learn and master a musical instrument.

My book has been praised as having an authentic Japanese voice. I think you have to love Japan to do this, but I don’t think you have to be Japanese. I think the novel feels authentic to you because it comes from such a deep place inside my soul.

4. The eroticism and spirituality weave together flawlessly. Did you intend to write such an erotic love story?

The whole process of writing a novel is mysterious to me, but the weave of eroticism and spirituality is at the center of the way I view the world. I believe that sexuality is sacred and can open the way to the spiritual. As you can tell from reading my novel, I don’t believe in a separation of the erotic and the spiritual.

One more thing …  I was living in a spiritual community when I wrote this book. Many of the men in the community thought they were monks or tried to be monks, even though they were not this way by nature. It gave me a lot of material for this book. I think many people who are deeply involved with a spiritual path get confused about their sexuality. When Blackberries was featured in Tricycle magazine, a popular Buddhist journal, their topic was “Where is the Edge?” They used a chapter of my novel to explore this.

5. What/ who are your influences?

As a poet, my major influences are my teachers – Stephen Dunn, Kathleen Fraser, Robert Bly, and Daniel J. Langton – and the poets I love – Rainer Maria Rilke, Mirabai, Rumi, Kabir, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield, Thomas Centolella, William Carlos Williams, Yehuda Amichai and too many others to list here. Because of Robert Bly’s teaching and his translations, the Spanish language surrealist poets have been a powerful influence – Pablo Neruda, Antonio Machado, Cezar Vallejo, and Juan Ramon Jimenez. My life is filled with poetry.

With fiction, I’ve been strongly influenced by magical realism, the Spanish language poets and novelists, and authors who do similar things in English: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude; Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate; and anything by Tom Robbins, but especially, Jitterbug Perfume. While writing my novel, I also read Damage, by Josephine Hart, as a model for writing with short chapters; and novels that gave me permission to go way out there, like Hard‑Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami. 

Pierre DeLattre, author of Walking on Air and Tales of a Dalai Lama, was a major influence. This is what he wrote about my book: “What would happen to us if we were to undertake the discipline of turning our life entirely and self‑consciously, into a poem? Through Yukiko, who becomes both a contemplative Buddhist and a geisha skilled in the refinements of sensuous pleasure, Diane Frank allows us to live within the soul of a young woman who has undertaken to create a life imagined and expressed as a poem, in every moment, waking and sleeping, making love or meditating. With its power of language, Blackberries in the Dream House will seduce many readers into considering whether a prosaic life is the only choice we have.”

6. Do you have advice for other poets who want to make the leap into lyrical fiction?

My huge breakthrough came when I realized that to write beautiful prose, you need to work the language the same way you work every line of a poem. Sentence by sentence, I did this. Since I am primarily trained as a poet, I had two rules while I was writing – one extended metaphor per chapter and every sentence has to be beautiful. I worked the language line by line, the same way I work the language of a poem. 

I feel that a novel, like a poem, is a magic spell. As an author, I feel a responsibility to take the reader to a positive place by the end of the book – regardless of where I’ve taken them during the journey.  Most of my books have a long dip into shadow material at some point in the narrative, but I like the bring the reader back up transformed.

I use an intuitive writing process instead of planning the whole book in advance. In that way, the book surprises me and delights me as I am writing it. There are times when I finish a chapter and start weeping about what just happened. And times I am filled with gratitude. When I start writing, I fine-tune the previous chapter, and then ask myself, “What comes next?” Then the soul of the novel starts speaking to me again. It’s a mysterious and wonderful process. The other thing – since novels take more time than poems, you need to put yourself on a writing schedule.

When I began writing Blackberries in the Dream House, it felt like remembering something. But early into the book, the characters took over and created their own lives. They did unexpected things and frequently surprised me. The inner world of each character flooded through me day by day until my life became transparent. My visions, conversations, and dreams poured into the novel. I felt like I was Japanese as I was writing, and over time the novel became large enough to embody every important image and insight I have ever known.

My major advice to all writers … Make your writing a messenger for what is in your soul. Work your language so that it is powerful and beautiful. Work each line until every line sings.

I hope you enjoy my novel, and I would love to hear from you. I’m available to come to your book club, your favorite book store, your writers group, your library, or a university where you live. To schedule readings and workshops in your area, please get in touch with me!

Mysterious Temporary Amnesia

Dizzy-Reflection

Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I belong? What is my purpose?

These are existential questions that I find myself asking from time to time—especially after a crisis or the death of a loved one.

But can you ever fathom asking these questions literally? What if you lost yourself— utterly and completely—all at once? Imagine that suddenly you have NO idea who you are, or where you are from, and your surroundings are completely foreign to you. Your sense of self and location vanishes in a wash of temporary amnesia. What would you do?

Skeptics wonder if temporary amnesia is possible. Many say the condition must be a hoax dreamt up by those who seek an escape to their circumstances. Others argue that temporary amnesia is some sort of subconsciously-triggered chemical reaction within the brain in response to extreme stress, or blocked memories of violence or childhood abuse as they begin to surface.

Neuroscientists and psychologists really don’t have an explanation for the documented and treated cases of temporary amnesia that have occurred around the world. But they do happen. And I’m completely fascinated by them. At one point in my life, eight and a half years ago, I slipped for a few minutes, into the unknown. It was only for a few minutes, but it was terrifying. Walking my then 7 year old to a play-date, I said good bye to the mom and then turned to walk back home. Suddenly, nothing was recognizable. NOTHING. The street, the street name, the houses. I turned and walked down a street, lost, then turned around again, not knowing how to get back home, where my baby was with a sitter. I sat down and began to hyperventilate. Now I didn’t forget who I was, but everything else was a blur. I was under extreme stress, so I’m convinced that my brain was on tilt. I had just discovered the night before (via snooping) that my husband was continuing his affair that he had promised was over. I had little sleep, as my baby was colicky.  Later that week, before my husband had returned, I fell, while holding the baby. While on a walk, picturing him with his mistress, I just couldn’t breathe. I became confused and suddenly stopped breathing, passing out. I came through due to the baby crying, but walked home in a fog, getting lost several times. I didn’t have amnesia, but definitely a mild state of dissociation from severe stress. Those days are long gone, thankfully.

But I am forever fascinated by them, and the stories of others who lapsed into complete amnesia. In fact, they have inspired my next novel (working title Orbiting Jupiter). My protagonist develops temporary amnesia while on vacation, and for three months, believes she is someone else—while everyone in her family thinks she has been kidnapped or has died. That’s all I’ll reveal now, as I delve into mysterious aspects of the self she identified with for three months.

While my novel is pure fiction, real cases have existed and been documented. In all of them, the person who develops amnesia, suddenly becomes someone else. After a period of time, they just as quickly come back to their original identity, with NO knowledge of the past days, months, or even years, while living as someone else.

How is that possible? Is it mental illness? Is it past-life transgression? Is it some sort of worm hole in time that a person slips into? (Can you tell my son is obsessed with Dr. Who?!) Those who study physics will say time is an illusion anyway. Is it possible, then, that someone could literally slip into another period on their soul journey—either past or future—by mental slip, or accident? Or is it just pure unfathomable stress that triggers a brain-chemical reaction spurring this lost identity?

Take Agatha Christie’s case. The famous author developed temporary amnesia and went missing for eleven days. Already quite famous in her mid-30s, a massive manhunt ensued to find Ms. Christie, even recruiting other famous contemporary authors, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and Dorothy L Sayers. author of the Lord Peter Wimsey series. I’ve read a few accounts of her mysterious missing days, as nearly every paper covered it, including The New York Times. Theories vary as to why she ‘lost her self,’ but unequivocally, she did. Friday, Dec. 3, 1926 at 9:30 p.m., after putting her daughter to bed, Ms. Christie got into her car and drove away. The car, later discovered abandoned, but in good condition, showed no signs of accident. Apparently, Ms. Christie then walked to Harrington Yorkshire and began staying at The Swan Hydro Inn, under the name of Theresa Neele, one of her husband’s mistresses. According to all reports, she referred to herself as Ms. Neele the entire time. Eleven days later, someone recognized her at the hotel, yet she didn’t recognize her name or her pictures in the newspaper. After her husband picked her up, she had no memory of the past eleven days, nor did she know exactly who she was or who he was. Perhaps Ms. Christie snapped due to the stress of her husband’s infidelities, as well as her pressure to write more best-selling novels, while also taking care of her daughter? We’ll never know. The author never spoke about her disappearance.

Temporary amnesia, however, doesn’t always occur due to extreme stress. While doing more research, a friend sent me this New Yorker article about a woman who continued to experience temporary amnesia throughout her life. Hannah Upp disappeared for weeks at a time. In one instance, she left her Manhattan apartment to go for a jog. Wearing a jogging bra, shorts and running shoes, Ms Upp shifted mentally during the run. That’s all she reported. She went missing for weeks—her friends and family thinking she had been abducted. Tapes within an Apple store show the young woman looking at computers, still wearing her jogging gear, but looking a little raged. The school teacher had no keys, no wallet, no phone, no identification and must have wandered around New York City aimlessly. She was found floating in the East River, remarkably still alive, but not knowing who she was until she came through while receiving treatment in a hospital. Ms. Upp’s story is intriguing because in two of her cases, only mild stress could have triggered her lapse of identity. The beginning of the school year is hardly a major life stressor. Yet that was when these situations occurred. Both parents reported that she had no abuse or trauma in childhood. Her father, however, was an evangelical minister, perhaps she had a conflict within her faith? We’ll never know. Her last jaunt into the unknown, tragically is still happening, as she is currently missing and considered dead. Just before she ‘left’ Ms. Upp had said goodbye to her boyfriend and was helping the principal of the school where she taught in St. Thomas, prepare for another storm. The principal reported that Ms. Upp was responding to her in a monotone tone of voice while providing one sentence responses—something not usual for the friendly, chatty woman. Some speculate that Ms. Upp slipped into a state of dissociation before completely transitioning into amnesia.

Another bizarre case is that of Ansel Bourne (the inspiration for the character Jason Bourne). Ansel Bourne was an evangelical preacher from Greene, Rhode Island, who took a trip to visit his sister in Providence on January 17, 1887. However, for unexplained reasons, he ended up withdrawing his savings instead and traveling to Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he opened up a variety store and started a new life as Albert J Brown.

When Bourne woke up on the morning of March 15, he had no idea where he was. In his mind, it was still January 17 and he had no memory of being Albert J Brown or owning a variety store. Ansel found his way back home and back to his family, resuming his life without any recurrences of Albert J. Brown. It was documented that he had suffered from a psychiatric disorder described as a ‘fugue state.”

What do you think? Is it possible to just suddenly forget who you are? Can a person slip into another identity and over time come back to their original one without any memory of the lapse? And if so, how do they pick that identity? It’s a mystery. And one I’m exploring. I hope you’re becoming as intrigued, as I am!

Laura

 

 

When Did You Last Have a BIG HUG?

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Photo by: by ラルフ – Ralf RKLFoto

When is the last time you received a big bear hug? The kind that doesn’t release instantly? The kind where you feel accepted, supported and loved for who you are?Fake, pseudo LA hugs where a person lightly touches your shoulder-blades and releases, while looking away to see who witnessed it, doesn’t count! I mean, good friend hugs.

And when did you last give a big bear hug, and to whom?

Hugs are so healing. And when life is kicking you when you’re already down, you really need one. Amma the Hugging Saint lives her life giving hugs to relieve suffering (while also raising money to support charities working to reduce poverty and help the environment). But if you, like me, find yourself rarely hugging others deeply and authentically, ask yourself why? Or do you, like me, often pull away before the hugger is done, feeling embarrassed, or uncomfortable because you weren’t raised in a hugging, loving environment and aren’t used to letting others hug you?

I’ve come to know a few things with complete certainty. One is that if you didn’t receive hugs as a child, you need the power of hugs in your life today. Start by giving them and receiving them. Hug your children. Hug your best friend, sibling, parent, dog, deeply today. I gave my sister five hugs yesterday. It felt amazing!

To give and receive love requires compassion. In a me, me, and more me-focussed world of today, let go of yourself and your needs for just a moment and embrace mindfully, focussing on the other person with complete compassion. What a gift! To do so says: ‘I see your pain, I feel your pain, and I wish I could help.’

A big hug, like the best gifts in life, doesn’t cost a thing, and is exchanged on a deep, emotional level without the need for words.

This virtual hug is from me to you.

Have a beautiful Sunday.

Laura xo

To Self Publish or Not … One Writer’s Positive Experience

WofGrace

Today I met with a talented poet and artist who self published her first book in 2017 with Amazon, for less than $2,000. That’s amazing. And it’s gorgeous. Shani’s Whispers of Grace is a delicious compilation of paintings and spiritual poetry, inspired by her time in silence “with Shiva” at the holy hill of Arunachala in Tamil Nadu. Mystical, lyrical and emotional, Shani could have sought out an agent and tried to publish traditionally. Instead, she chose to self publish and to hire a friend to create her cover. As we chatted today about her next book, now in the works, we both began discussing the pros and cons of the self publishing route. As most of you reading this know, I’m pitching agents and have written three novels, now working on my fourth. Intrinsically, I worry about the costs of self publishing and managing all the self promotion, printing costs, pr costs, platform management and search elevation, contractual issues, etc. by my self. I’ve always held agents in high regard and read experts advice such as Shawne Coyne (who published this article today lauding what good agents can do: What it Takes: Art + Commerse = Better Art.).

 

But after speaking with the kind-hearted and spiritual Shani today, I see that in the end, whether a writer decides to self publish or pursue traditional publishing, it all boils down to expectation and time. Shani is happy to let her book grow organically through word of mouth referrals (including mine, buy it please!). She allows placement to happen organically within appropriate settings, such as spiritual book stores, or yoga and meditation retreat centers. As Shani said: “if I touch one soul, I am happy.” She isn’t bogged down by what frightens me: all the time consuming PR, self promotion pitching and travel and speaking engagements. And her work is doing just fine since she kept creation costs relatively low.

I love her perspective and choices. Because in no way does her choice to self publish affect the quality of her craft. In fact, I think this journey of Shani’s has allowed her to focus 100% of her time on her art, and perfecting that art, without worrying about the business side. She lets her art speak for itself—and it does.

I love this last line of her poem Song of the Self: “It is only the Supreme non-dual “I” that destroys ignorance and pure Knowledge shines forth as Self.”

I think all of us writers could learn from Shani. When one continues to write for the sake of writing and for the gift it gives us by honing the craft—while enjoying the journey—the writing will intuitively and intrinsically get better. And it is more likely that an author will make deep connections with her readers as well. From the heart-felt intention of creating an inspiring piece of art, for the sake of art, that art, in turn, will flourish and the right organic opportunities will arise.

Thank you Shani for your words of wisdom today. I can’t wait to see your paintings and your next book!

Namaste ~

Laura xo

 

The Artists Guide to Finding Time Step 2: Trust the Universe

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Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

Hmmm, what does THAT mean, I imagine many of you fellow writers and artists asking. When a yogi says you need to “trust the Universe” it can sound vague at best and spiritually superior at worst. But as a writer for 25 years and a yogi for only 8, I can tell you that trusting the Universe requires specific actions in order to create more, produce more, and live in an abundance consciousness that can create a vibration of attraction and opportunities. And it’s a daily achievement, as each day will be different. But if you, like me, are focussed on your art and know that it is what you are born to do, then trust your instinctual voice and your universal guides—even if you aren’t completely sure you believe in their existence. If you do, you will banish your FEAR that is ultimately what is standing in your way in the first place, right? The FEAR of not being good enough. The FEAR of ‘who am I to think I can be X (insert: published, artist with gallery exhibit, musician with record deal, etc.)? The FEAR of what if I don’t make it? The FEAR of what if I can’t pay rent?

These are all serious concerns, for sure, but what you focus on grows. I’m not advocating everyone throw caution to the wind and go bankrupt, but there is more time in a day than we actually realize. There are ways to find more time to slip into a creative space on a daily basis. There are ways to minimize fears, produce more effectively and live with more joy—while you’re reaching for your dreams. This way, you can enjoy today, the moment, so much that reaching your goal almost doesn’t matter. Why? Because you’re living your art, living authentically, and enjoying your life more. Here are tools that are currently working for me:

  1. Reduce the hours at work in your day job so you can focus more on your art. Over the years I’ve encountered this lesson time and time again. At one point, I left a high paying consultancy gig with a New York PR firm. Why? Because it was taking up all my time and I couldn’t actually finish my 2nd novel. (The first I wrote in graduate school moons ago, so this was my second attempt to return to fiction in more than 12 years!) I also recently let go of co-managing a yoga studio because the hours were long, the work labor-intensive in the heat (a hot yoga studio) and I was exhausted after taking care of the kiddos every night and not actually writing. So now I just teach yoga classes and write for magazines when an editor reaches out. Yes, the money is less, but I finished my 3rd novel and am now jamming on my 4th! My days feel yummy. I enjoy the hours I write and I love the balance I’m creating.
  2. Start your day early and set positive intentions. If you aren’t a meditator, consider it. You can literally download free guided meditations from DavidJi (one of my favorite human beings) or from The Chopra Center and just listen for 15 minutes with ear plugs. All have messages to light up your agni (internal fire) and help you tap into your intuitive, creative center to manifest your dreams. We often have to let go of mental baggage, or negative fear-based programming from childhood, that trigger our less-than thinking. We have to let go of that and embrace our Divine right to infinite possibilities.
  3. Commit to your art every day, even if some days that means a mere 30 minutes. This is hard, I know. Some days I don’t write or work on my fiction. Those days are usually consumed with a sick child, or work from a day job that required extra time. But I’ve realized that the more I try to stick to this goal, the easier it is to achieve. By letting go of social media and 15 hours a week at a low-paying day job, I’m able to find an hour or more every day to write or pitch an agent, or enter a contest…getting me closer to my goal of publishing traditionally.
  4. Put aside art-focussed weekends. If you are single without children, you can really do this. 🙂 If you are married or a single parent, this can be a little challenging. I’ve asked my former mother-in-law to watch the children for weekends when I needed to get away, flying her across the state to help, even if I just went down the road to write. I’m also considering swapping kiddos for a few hours every other Saturday with another single mother who is an artist, so we both garner more time and our kids get to play. Find creative solutions!
  5. Take breaks to exercise & breathe deeply. This is important, especially when fear is creeping back in. If you can’t afford yoga classes or a gym membership, exercise in your house, or jog or take a walk. And breathe. Take 3 deep breaths, holding them at the top, then releasing slowly, visualizing all the stress melting away with the breath.
  6. Pay attention to the energy you surround yourself with. If you listen to the news first thing in the morning, or read your social media scroll, or check your email—before meditating or planning out your day—you may sink into a fear-based mentality. If you often talk with relatives or friends who doubt your abilities and don’t support your artistic endeavors, think about cutting down your time with them. Start to allow in other artists or supportive friends if you aren’t all ready. Find them via Meetup groups or start your own. Cut off the news and turn on music that inspires you when you’re home. Create the energy that fosters creativity.
  7. Read from the experts! Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and many others, is beyond inspirational. Check out her Ted Talk video: 12 Truths I learned from Writing and Life. Steven Pressfield, author of 17 books, is another favorite of mine. The Art of War is Pressfield’s eye-opening book that explains why artists and writers often stop or get discouraged, just when they’re on the verge of a breakthrough. He describes it as the Universal Law of Resistance that manifests in procrastination, self-sabotage, fear, arrogance, self-doubt. His weekly advice can be emailed to you as well, a helpful tool of inspiration!

Believe in yourself. Be good to yourself. You are on this planet for a reason. I’ve come to believe that art is the universal language of love and compassion. It is a worthy endeavor. Anyone who tells you differently, must never have cried during a movie or at the end of a novel or when finding that perfect song that speaks to his soul. And isn’t that sad to imagine? To me, nothing trumps that soul connection via art.

Have a beautiful day. As always, thank you kindly for reading my humble suggestions and prose.

Laura x

The Heart: Submerged in Mystery

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Photo by Toni Frissell

“You were a risk, a mystery. And the most certain thing I’d ever known.” ~ Beau Taplin.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” ~ Albert Einstein.

“Love is the way Messengers from the Mystery tell us things.” ~ Rumi

***
Underneath the surface of our daily lives—concealed beneath a hundred smiles and practical choices—its faint heart beat lingers, quietly pulsing and pulling us back into its orbit of truth. The mystery of love: for all its impractical, unwise, and disruptive qualities, contains an element of the mysterious, surviving in an eternal space beyond the physical realm. It is a timeless, yet terrifying space, that intellect strongly neglects, and the heart fully embraces and recognizes. It is the ‘Ah, it’s you,’ feeling upon the first hug, the first touch, the first scent that lingers at the nape of his/her neck. It tells you you’re home. It belies logic. It lives within the waters of intuition. And it exists within you long after the physical experience or relationship ends.

Australian poet Beau Taplin captured its essence for me with this line: “It’s a frightening thought that in one fraction of a moment, you can fall into a kind of love that takes a lifetime to get over.”

Maybe not everyone experiences this kind of love in their lifetime? But I’m convinced they know if they have. That’s been my experience. When it ends, it’s shattering. The idea of never touching, seeing, or being with the other person is brutal. It’s hard to go on. And what happens within that space of misery, is also a mystery. Trying to avoid pain, many of us can try to make intellectual ‘safe’ choices, like being with people we don’t love in the same insanely passionate way. Or maybe some choose to be with someone because of what they can do for them, or because they would be more accepted by family, or it just feels like a safe bet. But it could be farther from the truth as it short-changes your heart. Not taking the risk for love, over time, haunts us. Memories of our true love, or the longing for this love, will linger within us and bubble up to the surface eventually. Even if our safe relationship lasts a lifetime—think of the married couples who are miserable, treat each other with disdain, yet stay together for the sake of the children, or due to financial fears. What lingers underneath the surface? Who do they think of at night when their partner barely touches them anymore? Love will find a way to survive. It resides deep within us, like a longing whisper.

This mystery is what I write about in my novel Between Thoughts of You. An old man on his death bed, finally admits to his hospice caretaker, who happens to look like his true love, that for 60 years he has never stopped thinking about a Japanese woman he fell in love with during World War II. Riddled with guilt for leaving her, the old man, now in the final stages of lung disease, keeps having lucid dreams of his true love, forcing him to face the truth. Here’s an excerpt from my novel, that I’ll be sharing with agents and publishers this weekend in San Francisco (wish me luck!). In this scene, the old man recovers from a vivid dream and reveals his secret to his caretaker.

Excerpt from Between Thoughts of You: Chapter 3

忘れられません

Wasure raremasen: Unforgetable

“She’s here. I mean, I smell her. It’s so God damn real. You know what I mean?”

Lulu thought of her sweet Lani’s smell. The scent had been so real in her dreams that it often lingered a few seconds after she had awakened.

“I might,” she replied softly. She started to take his pulse and placed the oxygen reader on his finger, ensuring that his oxygen levels were OK. The old man began to cough, too.

“Take it easy,” Lulu advised, sensing that the conversation might rile him up. When she reached for the nebulizer, Pops put a firm hand up saying no. With a sense of urgency on his face, Lulu decided it could wait a few minutes.

“My dreams of her are so real, I can even feel her touch as I’m waking up. I feel her soft hand on mine. She had the softest God damn little hands. They were like doll hands. Light as a feather. And I smell her. Jesus I smell her!”

Pops closed his eyes and breathed in. Lulu couldn’t help but smile in response to his dramatic energy.

“She smells like goose down. I know, odd. But that’s her smell. Soft and innocent. I wake up needing her so bad.”

The old man’s eyes looked searchingly into Lulu’s. 

“I even heard her voice this morning, calling me Yuki. She called me Yuki,” he explained with a sheepish smile.

“So he does have a secret,” Lulu thought. Most of her hospice patients told her at least one secret. Some might be small, such as secretly not liking a cat that a daughter had given her. But some were huge, like being gay and never telling their spouse. She had gotten used to hearing and keeping secrets. It was part of the job as a hospice nurse; to listen and not to judge.

The old man’s head fell back slightly onto his pillow, as his right hand instinctively lifted. His index and middle fingers straightened and touched, rubbing back and forth like he was rolling a cigarette between them. Lulu imagined that he often had long conversations with friends, while smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails.

“Who are you talking about?” Lulu finally asked, demanding more clarity.

For more than 60 years, he had not said her name. Not once. When he did, it came out as a whisper: “Kiyomi.”

A sense of relief seemed to wash over the old man’s face after he spoke her name aloud.

“She was the one. I mean, no one has ever come close. You know what I mean?”

Lulu blinked, wondering if Akoni was her one and only, then decided not to go there.

“Of course, when you’re young and with the ONE, you’re just, you’re-I mean, you’re so God damned young and stupid you tell yourself that there will be other women like her. Like they’re just waiting for you everywhere, on every street corner and bar. But they aren’t.”

Pops looked contemplatively over Lulu’s shoulder, out the window facing the driveway lined with cypress trees. He placed a cloth up to his mouth as if he would cough, but just cleared his throat politely.

“I was so stupid to let her go. I mean. I knew. Deep down I really knew she was the one the moment I laid eyes on her. It didn’t matter that I was only 20. She was like this Japanese princess. I laid eyes on her and just couldn’t breathe. Like now,” the old man laughed a little. “Like God damned now.”

The conversation was riling him up. Pops started coughing so violently, his shoulders crashed up and down on the bed frame. Lulu had no other choice but to give him his nebulizer and to leave the room to finish making his breakfast. If she stayed any longer, he would just keep trying to talk.

It had turned out to be a gorgeous morning, so after his treatment, Lulu decided to wheel Pops out to the patio for his favorite brunch: eggs benedict and orange juice and toast. Apparently, on Sundays Pops liked to re-create the regular brunch he had in New York. The old man adored traditions. Yet, Lulu noticed that he hadn’t seemed to miss his homes in Rome or Manhattan—or his boys, or his wife—much at all. That perplexed her at first. Now that she had heard his heart was with another— and for nearly sixty years—her curiosity was peaking. 

Once the old man settled into the patio area and ate at least half of his meal without any signs of distress or coughing, Lulu leaned in. “I have to hear more about this Japanese princess. Where were you? Who was she? I thought you had been married forever?”

So, the old man started to tell his long love story. But in his fashion, he began telling it a bit lop-sided. He started the tale of his greatest love affair, after it had died.

“I married the boys mom, but I didn’t love her.” Pops looked around like he was at his favorite restaurant in New York or Rome, fearing someone might overhear his confession.

Lulu instinctively placed a hand on top of his and said, “You can trust me. I won’t tell a soul.”

Pops smiled and blushed. He really loved Lulu. He couldn’t explain how or why, but it felt as if he had known her before, or in another life. Or maybe he was just old and dying and needed to finally tell someone? Either way, he knew he was safe with her, so he continued:

“I mean I liked their mother, but Fran didn’t hold a candle to Kiyomi.”

Lulu wasn’t able to hide her quizzical expression. She just never understood why or how any man could ever marry a woman he didn’t love.

“See these were different times. I returned from the war and suddenly was making money. I mean, Real money. That’s a long story for another time. But, see, my mother was very patriotic. You’d think she’d been born in America, the way she acted.” Pops began to giggle, then continued in a high-pitched voice, imitating her: “‘No son of mine’s marrying a Jap! Just get over her.’ She had said that to me so many times it should have painted it on the kitchen ceiling!” The old man sighed.

“See, I made the mistake of telling my mother, after I returned to New York, that I was in love with this Japanese girl. My mother went Bofo. She went crazy. It took her less than a week to start rounding up pretty Italian girls in the neighborhood for me to date.”

The old man rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, like what could I do?

“I was only 22 then and making a lot of money and really stupid. I mean, the boys’ mother was a looker. I’ll give her that. But nothing made me want to hold her. I mean, she was bossy and flashy. And LOUD. So loud. Key could barely whisper and I’d always hear her, or lean in so I didn’t miss a word. Fran was always yelling. I don’t know.” He shrugged his shoulders again and then took a sip of his orange juice that Lulu had poured into a champagne flute to be festive.

The old man then shifted into a more serious mood and looked off in the distance, as if sizing up how to best explain what he’d say next.

“If I could do it all over again I’d change everything. That’s why the boys can never know. Never. See, I’d marry Kiyomi. I still love her so much it hurts inside. Isn’t that crazy? It’s been what, 50, no 60 years. Nuts.”

The sun had risen, getting too bright, causing the old man to squint. Tuscany in September could still be hot. Lulu helped lift Pops out of his chair and handed him his walker. “Lets get a little exercise around the property, before going back to bed,” Lulu suggested. Walking on the gravel would be tricky for him, she had decided, but it would also be a good way to provide a focus for the old man. He’d have to concentrate fully on exactly what was before him, and not behind him. Lulu loved the moments that were fully present, like dancing or painting—neither the old man could ever do again. This little treacherous walk would require all the focus he could muster.

They stopped in the shade by the pool, so he could catch his breath. The old man had been panting and trying to hide how hard the walk had been for him. Lulu wondered if she had pushed him too far.

The old man leaned into an old knotted olive tree and looked up at Lulu with such love in his eyes it caused Lulu to blush and look away. Although he hadn’t told her, Pops had been thinking that if he had married Kiyomi, they might have had a daughter, or granddaughter that would have looked like her. The old man touched Lulu’s face gently, turning her gaze back to his, before asking an impossible request:

“I want to die smelling my Kiyomi. Feeling her hand on my hand. I know you understand. I can feel it. I don’t want the boys here. Just you, me and Key, OK?”

Lulu touched the old man’s hand with her own, tears welling in her eyes.

“I promise,” she said, making a promise that she had no earthly idea how to carry out.

###

 

 

Kindness Week Challenge!

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This week, January 22 – January 26th is “The Great Kindness Challenge” at my son’s elementary school, Hermosa View. We’re taking it very seriously in this household, as I’m encouraging both my sons to participate. Yesterday, I put a few extra quarters in my meeter before I left and today gave a nearly frozen homeless man my Starbucks gift card with $12 remaining. Ideally, we’re supposed to check off all that’s on the following list. Wouldn’t it be great if more adults participated? Want to join? Here’s our list:

-Smile at 25 people.

-Take a treat to your local firefighters.

-Do a household chore without being asked.

-Donate something to an animal shelter.

-Take a board game to play at a senior center.

-Read a book to a younger child.

-Make a thank you card for your librarians.

-Entertain someone with a happy dance.

-Create a family gratitude jar.

-Cheer for every player on both teams. (good luck Super Bowl Sunday!)

-Deliver a special gift to a child in the hospital.

-Make a new friend or welcome a new neighbor.

-Send a card or gift to a military family.

-Walk a pet, ask first.

-Go a full day without complaining!

-Hold the door for someone.

-Learn to say thank you in 3 languages

-Embrace your family with a big hug.

-Teach something to a younger sibling

-Write or draw a loving note for someone.

-Make and display, “Kindness Matters.”

-Raise funds and donate to your favorite cause.

-Breathe, stretch and think a happy thought.

-Cut out 10 hearts and leave them on 10 cars.

-Donate needed school supplies.

-Thank a bus driver.

-Leave a flower on someone’s doorstep.

-Be kind to yourself and eat a healthy snack.

-Call your grandparents or an esteemed elder.

-Walk or bike to school or work, to be kind to the environment and your body.

-Say thank you to a police officer.

-Bake cookies and share with a neighbor.

-Say good morning to 5 people.

-Pick up and recycle trash in your neighborhood.

-Take a family walk.

-Volunteer in the community.

-Say hi to someone who looks sad.

-Write a happy message on the sidewalk with chalk.

-Paint a kindness rock and randomly place it.

-Share food with someone who is hungry.

-Let someone go ahead of you in line.

-Help plant a garden.

-Reflect on kindness you have seen throughout the day.

-Create your own kind deed. 🙂

Sneaky Depression & Forgiveness

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I’ve been teased and complimented (equally) on my smile. I am often smiling, even when I’m faking it till I’m making it. I smile to fool my kids when I’m sad. I’m smile to keep striving, to keep working toward my goals, to keep working, when I’d rather stay home in bed. I snapped this picture on a day when someone stood me up for a date. Yup. It’s happened three times in the past month that I’m tip-toeing out into the dating world again. I’m determined to not take it personally, keep a sense of humor, and not let them have another chance. SO rude! I’m glad I heard Marianne Williamson tell her story (over New Years weekend) about being stood up and saying over and over again “I forgive you, I send you to the Holy Spirit” until she no longer cared and of course, the guy called again and she said NO. That happened exactly the same way with me three times with three different men and when they all called later asking for another date, I was able to laugh and say no thank you! LOL That is really for a story about online dating, but I snapped this pic to remind myself to keep smiling, to keep laughing, to keep taking care of myself, to keep connecting to my inner light, to stay trusting, yet to set firm boundaries that represent self love. But trust me, that smile was not a super joyous one, LOL.

Why am I fessing up to my inconsiderate potential dates? Because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about depression and its causes, roots and the difference between clinical depression and blues. Why? Because depression runs in my family AND some dear friends suffer from it. Plus, one friend was a bit upset about my last post, where I outlined Marianne Williamson‘s best quotes from her New Years Eve retreat on forgiveness. Specifically, he didn’t like this quote:

“You must have already decided to not be joyous if that is how you feel. Recognize you actively decided wrongly. So choose again. Ask God to help you. HE will listen to your slightest request, your slightest willingness.”

It felt too simplistic to him. He was convinced that the person who wrote this, said this, must never have lost a child, lost a spouse, endured a major illness, tragedy, attack, war, etc. Clearly, we can’t be joyous all the time. When I had a seven month old baby to care for all by myself, after losing my job, losing my dog (seriously, this was the biggest loss), losing my mother’s mind to advancing Alzheimer’s and losing my husband…lets just say I could barely function. Was I joyous? Hardly. But I recall looking into my baby’s eyes as he smiled a wet gooey post breastfeeding grin, and being humbled by how much love was between us, and how pure his light was. I shook with the realization that that moment was perfect and precious and exactly as it was meant to be. Of course, moments, days afterwards, especially when I was severely tired and not taking good care of myself, mindless, negative and pity-party thoughts ruled, triggering me into the blues.

Why am I sharing this? Because life throws us hard balls and sometimes we land on our asses without anyone familiar to comfort us. We aren’t supposed to be joyous all the time. But I’ve come to accept what Marianne Williamson meant by that paragraph (and she has certainly experienced many losses in her life). I think it means to let go, to surrender, and to allow more light in by focussing on the present moment—while also taking responsibility and accountability for our roles in each situation. Maybe you didn’t cause a specific situation, like a family member with cancer. or a death in the family, but what can you do to get through to the shores of peace again? Can you reach out for help? Can you pray? Can you drink more water? Can you take deep breaths and eat healing foods? Can you get more sleep? Can you find something meaningful to do to give to others? Can you take long walks or say no to obligations? Can you say kind and loving affirmations to yourself?

I read in a blog post recently the ego is behind all depression as when we are in our ego, we are in alignment with separation from God and separation from others. The ego embraces criticism, fear, cynicism, the belief of lack, the belief of not being worthy, the belief in a punishing God, the belief of sin and loss of innocence, isolation, confusion, permanent death, disease, pain, … etc. As I read this long list, it hit me that really the ego is just the mindless voice of criticism in our heads, like a bully on the playground. It is the voice of fear. And fear always lives in the past. Always. To be in the present requires letting go of the past with forgiveness right?

It is radical to forgive. It is also radical to believe that God loves you so much, He/She put a bit of GodLight inside you. That GodLight exists in everyone. Not just some people, but EVERYONE. Not forgiving, or bad-mouthing, is not forgiving yourself, or badmouthing yourself. That’s a hard concept to embrace, I know. Nothing you do. Nothing you say, takes your light away. It is the same with others. When I am in fear, I am not loving to myself or others. If someone ‘wrongs’ me, it represents their unloving choices, not their lack of light. So if love is the only thing that is REAL, if I am unloving by not forgiving and holding onto grudges, judging, or talking smack, I am participating in more unloving nothingness. Think about it. Depression is connected to this concept. According to experts, depression’s roots come from a lack of enthusiasm for life, a feeling of isolation, a belief in the inability to stop chaos or out-of-control situations or pain from entering our lives. It is connected with a lack of love for ourselves, God or others. It is connected with a lack of purpose too…Therefore, negative thoughts—especially obsessive looping thoughts of lack, of fear, of criticism, of re-playing past conversations or past events—has to be especially damaging. If they trigger bad choices, like letting in people who are not loving, or trigger negative habits like drinking, or isolating, or eating fattening foods, or not exercising, being hyper critical, etc. it can have the powerful domino effect of creating bad physical feelings in the body to springboard more sadness, confusion, feelings of emotional lack. It’s a cycle that perpetuates the myth of unworthiness. It hijacks from the present moment. It re-iterates the mindset: “Why bother? It won’t work anyway.”

I know, I’ve lived it. For me, it ALL boils down to forgiveness. Forgiving myself. Forgiving others. Then finding ways to ‘feel good’ in my body: yoga, walking, dancing, listening to music, eating fresh, healthy foods, etc.

Thanks for reading my meandering thoughts this Sunday, six months since I’ve been off ALL social media by the way! I’ll end with the beautiful Maya Angelou:

“Forgiveness. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody. You are relieved of carrying that burden of resentment. You really are lighter. You feel lighter. You just drop that.”

XOXO