DEGREES OF GRATITUDE

We’re all just walking each other home.
― Ram Dass

THIS TIME of year various themes arise in conversation. Gratitude is one of them. And while there are many reasons to feel grateful, today I want to mention the boundless contribution of spiritual leaders who have graced our planet. The lovely contrast they offer to all things mundane and superficial is a priceless gift. When the world is focused on overworked media stories, for instance, enlightened voices remind us of the “big picture” … the poetic, silent realm that is unseen, undervalued, and underestimated. Like joining an instant spiritual retreat, we can sit down and open the pages of a book by Eckhart Tolle, for instance. Or maybe read a little Ram Dass. There are so many others: Dalai Lama, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Thomas Merton, and so on. xmasfence2013 Plus there are a multitude of voices not associated with spirituality, per se, that also uplift us with communication that inspires and resonates deeply. Poets, musicians, authors, artists, and all the people out there who see something more, something seemingly hidden from view.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m going to be seeking out those voices more than ever before. Even though I’ve experienced a profound spiritual journey myself, written about it in depth in my memoir The Silence of Morning, I will always challenge myself to grow in wisdom. To transcend the daily experience we call “life.” To focus more completely on the underlying story, the one that speaks quite loudly despite the incredible “noise” of existence. As I wrote in my book …

  • Thoughts can be as empty as barren land, but living through hardship connects us to our soul like a laser. We must know pain firsthand. Innocence must be relinquished to grow spiritually.

And once we begin to develop and grow in spiritual ways (often committing to a path of growing awareness and presence), there is no turning back. Even when we feel out-of-step with the world around us, it can’t be helped. We look through a different lens, one that has less to do with the roller coaster of daily news, the glitz and glitter of a ridiculous celebrity culture, the dark and troubling political games of the moment, the warped definitions of “success” that flutter almost aimlessly through the air.

So … I wish everyone, especially during this season of gratitude, the willingness to stretch and expand in the spiritual sense of things. Once we perceive life events and destinations with greater depth and equanimity, we will have more to give others. A poetic cycle of renewal and growth begins to dominate our days. It’s certainly worth a try, right? ~ dh

What spiritual voice can pull you along until you find your own?
What kind of gratitude do you want to know and experience?
What kind of lens do you want to see the world through?

How often do you seek inspiration from within?

cropped-cropped-IMG-20121225-00790-2.jpgWe’re all just walking each other home.
― Ram Dass

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. Next post, early December.

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TALKING WITH LAURIE BUCHANAN

 

Empowering beliefs are ideas that launch us forward and help us to become the person we want to be. Empowering beliefs are freeing, encouraging, and inclusive; they nurture and uplift. When we find ourselves harboring a limiting belief, we need to replace it with one that cultivates joy. —Laurie Buchanan, NOTE TO SELF

When someone we know releases a book, we are curious, aren’t we? What’s it about? Who will decide to read it, share it, recommend it? Why did they write it? What life steps led to this moment? Where do I find a copy? And when someone we don’t know releases a book, we are also very curious. Should I read it? Will I like it? Does the subject intrigue me? So here, per my interview with someone I do know and hope you’ll want to know, is insight into the work and motivation of author Laurie Buchanan. I know you are curious about her and her new book, Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth. 

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Admittedly, I’m usually not a big fan of overly prescriptive books or methods, but NOTE TO SELF is the exception! Exploratory. Inviting. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Laurie has created a unique book, in fact, that speaks to all ages and backgrounds, especially if you are looking for some new ideas to brighten your path. I endorsed Laurie’s book with a cover quote, which I am sharing with you at the close of this blog post. It was my honor to contribute to this project!

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Welcome, Laurie! Thanks for taking the time to respond to a few questions.

1) What is going through your heart and mind as you savor the release of your new book, NOTE TO SELF?
I would love to tell you that I’m collected, poised, and graceful. But in reality, I’M OVER THE MOON with giddy excitement! This book has been quite literally years in the labor and birthing process. Now that the baby’s arrived, I’m beyond tickled giddy-with-excitement pink!
2) When you wrote your book … did you have a certain audience in mind, a specific message you wanted to impart … or did the motivation spring from a more literary perspective, i.e., a strong desire to write? 
While NOTE TO SELF appeals to both men and women, my target audience is women. Why? Ninety percent of my client base is comprised of women, so it made sense to write in that direction. The message I want to impart to my readers is that you don’t have to live encumbered with heavy baggage that weighs you down. In NOTE TO SELF, I share actionable tips and techniques to offload debilitating life luggage so people can live lighter.
3) If you were to sit down with a group of people to explain the key themes of your book, how might you begin?
I’d begin with the 50-word “elevator pitch” that all authors learn to craft for their book at writers conferences:
“Baggage! We all carry it with us through life. And no matter how we dress it up, it’s frustrating, inconvenient, and slows us down. Chock full of real life examples and actionable techniques, NOTE TO SELF is designed to help you offload emotional baggage and discover a lighter, joy-filled you!”
4) How did you stay inspired during the writing, editing, publishing phases? Any advice for other authors?
I’ll be the first to tell you it wasn’t all merry sunshine. I shed my fair share of tears. That said, I’m also the kind of gal who “picks myself up, dusts myself off, and is willing, able, and ready to start all over again.”
The advice I gave to writers at the most recent Writers’ Institute at UW-Madison was three-fold:
  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Concision

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5) Turning back in time … is there a voice from the past that has stayed with you over the years? A philosopher, spiritual leader, author? 

Yes, indeed. The Dalai Lama’s response to the question, “What is your religion?” has never left me. He responded, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” That resonated to my core and has made a huge, positive, lasting impression.
6) In a chaotic, unpredictable world, what can readers glean from your book in terms of solace and wisdom?
Readers will glean from my book that HAPPINESS is based on externals; it fluctuates up and down every day. JOY, on the other hand, is internal; it can be cultivated and nurtured. We can be joyful even in the midst of a chaotic, unpredictable world.
7) How can readers find your book?
NOTE TO SELF is available wherever books are sold. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and if your local bookstore doesn’t have it, they can order it for you, or request that your local library acquire a copy. If you’d like a SIGNED copy, please call my local bookstore—Rediscovered Books—at 208.376.4229 and let them know you’d like to purchase a signed copy of Laurie Buchanan’s NOTE TO SELF. They’ll ship it to you within 24 hours.
8) Anything else that comes to mind … !?
I’m excited to share that NOTE TO SELF is a 2016 Idaho Author Award winner in the Inspirational category. The reception/ceremony was on Nov 1, NOTE TO SELF’s official release date. I love serendipity!
lbaward
Author Bio
Board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Laurie Buchanan is
a holistic health practitioner and transformational life coach. Her areas of interest include
energy medicine, inner alchemy, spiritual awareness, writing, and laughter. Definitely
laughter! Embracing the belief that life is an expression of the choices we make, Buchanan is a
teacher and student of purposeful living. With tremendous respect for the earth’s natural
resources, she strives to leave the slightest footprint on the planet while at the same time
making a lasting impression on its inhabitants—one that is positive, uplifting, constructive,
and healing.A minimalist by intent, Laurie Buchanan, Ph.D., lives a beautiful life with
fewer things—simple yet full. Please visit her blog, Tuesdays with Laurie. And look for her
on Facebook and Twitter. Her new book is also on Goodreads.
“Regardless of the religious tradition, spiritual path, or personal perspective we choose to embrace, the potential exists for it to encourage and uplift every aspect of our being and to affect the types of goals we may choose to set for ourselves.” — Laurie Buchanan, NOTE TO SELF
Thanks so much, Laurie, for being my Studio Guest today.
Wishing you a successful book release and many moments of joyful gratitude!
“While we are all passengers on a planet called Earth, we can choose to enhance the way in which we travel: emotionally spiritually, intellectually, and physically. In fact, we can, through the pages of this book, discover new ways to travel that are lighter, more fluid, and life-enhancing. The author, a wise and dedicated traveler, is also the right kind of guide–caring, inspiring, uplifting, knowledgeable–for your journey of self-discovery. I recommend this tremendous book to anyone seeking the companionship of good energy and joyful presence. A five-star read in every way!” –D.A. Hickman, author of The Silence of Morning, A Memoir of Time Undone 
the other Mccrory Garden (26)
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you again next week!

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A POWERFUL GIFT

at the end of a long political drama, what can we do to salvage our peace of mind?

Some of the most important distinctions in life are subtle. Very subtle. We sense these distinctions on an intuitive level … when we are aware, mindful, and paying attention to something beyond our own mind chatter. But, sadly, these subtle distinctions are often ignored, missed, minimized. So how can we become more aware of subtle differences that point to something we actually need to know?

For one thing: read. Books often draw on important distinctions — fiction and nonfiction. Even poetry.

The book you don’t read won’t help.

Jim Rohn

Yes, I know. We hear about a world that doesn’t read all that much anymore. We hear about technology and its grip on our time. We also hear about shortened attention spans due to a constant barrage of snippets of information found online, via television or smart phones. But we don’t have to accept this troubling trend. We can continue to read real books, the kind that draw subtle distinctions … make us think … and give us pause. We don’t have to join those who insist there is “no time to read.” Make time in creative ways! Even a page a day … eventually gets us through an entire book.

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.

–Marcel Proust

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JUST as the trees of autumn only show subtle differences of color at first (eventually the colors deepen, turn bright and artistic-looking), subtle changes in our daily lives noticed early on, before they hit us over the head, can be quite helpful. Perhaps they alert us to something critical in the offing. Perhaps (if our health is at play) we can prevent a major health issue from developing further.

A book is the only place in which you can examine
a fragile thought without breaking it
.
–Edward P. Morgan

Besides reading books of substance more frequently (making it a regular and important part of each day), what else might we do to increase our ability to perceive subtle, but telling, distinctions?

WHAT about tapping into the stillness within, so we can hear or sense more on an intuitive, knowing level? Do you feel it’s difficult to become truly silent, the mind running on like a wild river? Of course. We all feel that way sometimes. But if we are willing to work at learning about the merits of internal solitude and quiet, we can grow in awareness. We can deepen our perspectives. We can begin to discern the subtle aspects of life that are all around us and often pointing the way.

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I’m reminded here of the close of chapter one in my memoir, The Silence of Morning: A MEMOIR OF TIME UNDONE. I had only a day or two earlier learned of my son’s loss … it was dawn, the morning of his funeral, and this is what I wrote: “Dawn arrived as a fuzzy continuum of then and now. Vague resistance was all I could manage, as harsh, unrelenting circumstances penetrated my awareness. Walls, draped in shadows, the cave I never wanted to emerge from. And, across the room, fragile flowers. Their colors sadly depleted. An unspoken mission–to console, to soothe–laid bare by this glaring day of black and white. The silence of morning, a cavernous, mocking echo reveled all of this, and more. Viscerally, I felt its cold, eerie precision: its force. Merciless. Absolute.”
  • Silence speaks to us quite loudly at times, doesn’t it? Sometimes underestimated in importance, it is usually trying to tell us something if we will only tune in. Listen. Try to grow in awareness. 

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence. –Thomas Hood

Have you identified anything in your life to help you stay more alert to silence? Have you experienced profound insights when silent? What have you learned about trying to quiet the ever-chattering mind?

I encourage you during times of stress, pain, and confusion to consider leaning on the silence within. The quiet distinctions may bubble to the surface. The gentle nudge may be heard above the noise of life. Answers may come. Ideas may flow. Creativity is nurtured. Peace of mind may seem possible once more. Perspective may be regained. Your sense of purpose, compassion, and personal strength also can be enhanced. Though mysterious, learning to trust silence is a powerful gift. –dh

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When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze. –Thomas Carlyle

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. –Henri Nouwen

Even in the most beautiful music there are some silences, which are there so we can witness the importance of silence. –Andrea Bocelli

  • Have any memorable experiences with silence you would like to share here? 
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you November 4th, when I’ll share my interview with author Laurie Buchanan. Her new book, Note to Self, releases on the 12th.
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READING LEIGH NEWMAN

EACH TIME I pick up a captivating memoir, I’m further convinced of the value of books that share pivotal pieces of our lives. Memoirs that elevate the conversation, that provide thoughtful insight into what it feels like to experience something universal yet only vaguely understood, that shine a light on an author’s decision-making process.

“Moving from place to place, you develop routines to ease any confusion. Like never opening your suitcase your first day home. An open suitcase only leads to long hours doing load after load of tedious laundry… .” ~ Leigh Newman, STILL POINTS NORTH: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home (Dial Press, 2013).

cover_stillpointsnorth

I also find it fascinating how so many of us manage to stumble across books we end up reading, and loving. Call it serendipity, chance, good fortune, dumb luck, spiritual intervention, the manifestation of mysterious energy patterns, or even destiny, but rarely do I read a book that seemed to simply walk across my life path and not enjoy it. Trusting these intuitive nudges, this gentle guidance from within, could be the key. I try to take those nudges seriously, don’t you?

When I saw the cover for Still Points North, for instance, I immediately thought looks interesting. A young girl near a body of water. A small plane. A man with his head bent, busily doing something. A blue cooler planted on the shore. And the young girl was wearing an orange hat, standing beside some yellow wildflowers. Intrigued, I soon tracked down a copy of the book and discovered the world of Leigh Newman. Yes, she was somewhat known to me before, but only cursorily from social media outlets. One day though, she posted something on Facebook that touched my soul. I sensed empathy and understanding from her post and knew this was someone I wanted to know a bit more about. Then, of course, I discovered her memoir.

Having published a memoir myself recently, I am drawn to books in this genre that capture life experience in a way that is somehow unforgettable. Certainly many of the details in books don’t “stick” (and that’s okay and normal and good), but in the end, I still want to find something lasting in any book I devote my time and attention to. If I can’t sense the author’s spirit coming to life as I read, I won’t keep turning the pages; more importantly, the story will fade from my awareness very quickly.

Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.
–John Green

In her memoir Leigh writes about her wedding: “The minister stands beside him, adorned in casual interfaith raiments. Daisy garlands and twinkle lights distract from the broken boards and gutters. A bug-bomb jammed down the pump has wiped out the wasps.”

Doesn’t sound like the traditional church wedding, does it?

Rather, it sounds like something real … something without the familiar trappings of feigned perfection so many traditional ceremonies seem intent on projecting. Fortunately, there are many other distinguishing elements of the author’s story that make Still Points North a most compelling read. Universal feelings and events shaped by unique personalities and circumstances…the kind that helped me connect with well-remember feelings of confusion, quiet despair, and innocence common to every childhood.

  • How, for instance, would you navigate the turbulent, somewhat dark and frightening, waters of your parents’ divorce as a young girl? How would you love and learn from a beloved grandmother, a final and inevitable good-bye hovering in the background? And while you are busy growing up, you learn a troubling fact: that your grandmother lost a child, your father’s sister, to suicide. How would you make sense of such a troubling event when it’s not openly discussed by the adults around you? And because of your fiercely independent spirit (Alaskan style!), you wonder how to survive an American culture of tradition and conformity, a world that expects you to behave in predictable, possibly less-than-satisfying or inspiring, ways?

On a purely fun level, given my first name (my grandmother was also a Daisy), I loved the many mentions of “daisy” throughout Leigh’s memoir. “I drew a daisy on the waiting list.” And her mention of “ding-dong” also resonated with me. I thought I was the only one on the planet who used the expression! Not so, apparently. “I stared at the untied lace of my wader boot. I knew what I looked like to him: a big liberal ding-dong from Baltimore, a hypocrite who no longer understood the reality of the food chain.”

Long story short: read Leigh’s book. I believe you will find yourself on the pages of this beautiful memoir, and that is a good test of most any book. But especially of memoir. Too often misunderstood by critics who miss the point entirely or reviewers who lack the empathy or compassion to take an authentic interest in how others suffer, struggle, grow, or simply manage to navigate profound life challenges, I believe a well-written memoir is an important bridge to understanding the intricacies of the world around us. Offering insight into the vagaries of the human condition, we are permitted a genuine glimpse of the human soul.

What more could we possibly want … ?

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Out walking our dogs one summer day, I noticed this chalk art on the sidewalk. Most children love to draw, and maybe the straightforward message here is a good reminder. Maybe love is what really carries us through our early days. We may not see it that way at the time but, in retrospect, love probably helped us power through difficult days that, as kids, we typically thought should be more fun, more better, more something.

If you’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to be a kid in a grown-up world, Still Points North will take you back, while still  managing to release you intact and renewed in today’s current. The stream of life rarely stands still, except when we manage to capture moments and hours within the pages of a book. The gift of connection offered by artists and authors like Leigh Newman is another reason we need and benefit from memoir. To appreciate life stories we merely have to care about our fellow man and woman in a world that often sidesteps the profound importance of knowing and practicing genuine concern for others. Though our contemporary culture often seems intent on producing the steady drumbeat of narcissism, reading memoir can help us to remember our shared journey to the same final destination.

As I wrote in The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone, a memoir about my spiritual quest to understand the deeper message of loss, the very mysteries of existence, “We are all challenged, through the various life catalysts that show up, to find peace, contentment, and greater spiritual awareness in a world focused on everything but.”

So in the end … it’s not about getting the challenges we face “right” … it’s about something much more profound and lasting. It’s about encountering ourselves in those steep life passages and discovering that we are multi-dimensional and forever connected to the human family. ~ dh

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can
only think what everyone else is thinking
.
–Haruki Murakami

img-20120929-00295How do you make sense of your younger years, or is this ever really possible?
Describe a moment in your life that you now view as pivotal.
What life experiences remind you of the collective nature of existence?
Does memoir help you understand the human condition?
What insights are you seeking; what puzzles you about your life?

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
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READING EDWARD HIRSCH

His son was named Gabriel, and when esteemed poet Edward Hirsch decided to write about his son’s untimely death, the elegy grew into a book-length poem. Of course, it is called Gabriel.

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For me, this was a captivating piece of work. Like an artist painting a portrait with features so very real, Hirsch describes his son in vivid detail, often including snippets of conversation. The words exchanged with Gabriel are telling. I sensed the energy of the continual “trying” that seemed to envelope their relationship; Gabriel’s restless behavior patterns encumbering them like an unwanted third party in their familial relationship. Attempting to  connect with someone in this context can be exhausting. Like trying in vain to see a person’s face through a dense fog. Like imagining personal lifelines that are frayed, or nonexistent. I also sensed the love that existed between father and son. Despite it all, there was enormous caring and concern. I hope you’ll read this book. Offering profound insight into the human condition, Gabriel: A POEM, is much more than a wonderful literary contribution. It is a story of loss that conveys the tragedy of what can’t be fixed or healed for reasons unknown. And many things in life are like that. Human limitations abound. It’s just who we are: all of us. ~ dh

Edward Hirsch has published eight books of poetry, five books of prose. He is also president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. From the book jacket (Knopf, 2014): “His landmark poem enters the broad stream of human grief and raises in us the strange hope, even consolation, that we find in the writer’s act of witnessing and transformation.”

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Has grief shaped your artistic efforts?
Has loss found its way into your life?
Can poetry help us to better understand the fragility of the human condition?
 
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
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