Pointing to the Moon: Look Beyond Candidates’ Words

lunaditoThere’s one thing nearly every person is aware of at this very moment: the world is shifting and changing, faster and greater than ever before. As people and as humanity we are in the process of accelerated evolution, which is a fancy way of saying we’re all on a freight train speeding over a hill and where the track goes beyond that is as yet unknown. In the US, our current contest for who can convince enough people to vote for them is the most poignant proof of the conflict that typically comes with change. It is shining an unflattering spotlight on our foibles and flaws as a country and society—most obviously the often alarming push-pull between our desire to connect and our fear of getting too close to people different from ourselves.

As I watch our political season play out in all its splendor, an image keeps popping into my head. The candidates are lined up on a stage, all standing behind a podium, their mouths open but no words are being spoken. I know it’s difficult to believe, but they’re actually silent for a minute; just go with it. Each person’s arm is raised towards the darkened sky and pointing to their own individual moon. It took me a minute to figure out why this image meant something, but I remembered something I learned about an ancient teacher, originally in the appendices of the beautiful novel A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. (Find out more about her and her writing here.) I’ll explain.

Is the truth in the words?

Political candidates are constantly talking. Then people talk and write about what they say. Then they say some more and the cycle endures. With each discussion, the original meaning and energy of those words are distorted a bit more, often to support the viewpoint of whomever is now speaking. A twisted messaging telephone game.

Words are powerful, particularly in politics. A few well-timed and expertly delivered speeches can win a black man with a Muslim middle name the presidency. Twice. (The best example can be found here.) As a writer, I am hyper-aware of their usefulness and magic. Words can inspire and motivate. They can broaden perspectives and open people to new ideas. They can create change.

But they also can manipulate. They can validate fear. They can light a fire beneath underlying resentment. Words can transform a crowd wishing to connect with people who share some of their beliefs and hope for the future into a mob incited to reject and eject, literally and sometimes forcefully, those they feel threaten these beliefs. (Watch one example here.)

They are powerful, but they aren’t everything.

Over the years, the details of politics have become less and less interesting to me. I have very smart, knowledgeable, passionate friends and family who believe that politics is won and lost in the minutiae. What does the letter of the law actually mean? What can we actually put on the ground as a result? That used to light my fire. Let’s break it down into bits and determine how we can actually create change using well-crafted policies, government funding and human-generated power, and how I can get my hands in there.

As I get older, politics has become more of a personal philosophical pursuit. The actual acting on my beliefs is still important. I just don’t want to spend hours debating them, dwelling on the words and defending their meaning, and I’m not sure effective solutions are found within government and political discourse as much as I used to.

Still, as much as I’d like politics to be something separate from my time here on Earth, it isn’t. Nothing is, really. How and whether I vote, what I say about it, what I believe about certain candidates, what I believe the role of society should be in supporting those in need or those with diminished rights, how I treat my fellow human beings as a result of my beliefs, how I believe our laws should or shouldn’t support that, how I believe equality and justice should play out. It’s all tied to who I am as a person. And I am, as we all are, a person who lives, writes, thinks, believes and behaves in the world based on where I am in my own personal evolution.

Political candidates are no different from all of us in this respect. Knowing, as best we can, what their true intentions are is more important to me than what they say they will do. Many of my friends and family might call me naïve, and some of them have. Nevertheless, unlike some popular candidates (see story, including video, here), I believe that if the convictions don’t shift, if the pre-programmed mindsets don’t alter, neither will the system. Hands follow the heart. That’s how true change occurs.

If a candidate’s heart is genuine and ego reasonably managed (as much as a politician’s can be), the “doing” will come from the right motivation. They will play the long game and things that can truly and positively impact our society will materialize from the resulting policies—perhaps not immediately, but inevitably.

Herein lies the rub… Before anything can happen, we have to talk about it.

The Sixth Patriarch of Zen (Read more about him here.), who was illiterate, said looking for truth in books (e.g., words) was like seeking truth in the finger pointing to the moon. The moon is the truth, and words can only point the way. Writing is a beautiful and powerful art, but it’s a terrible way to communicate if you’re trying to do so indisputably. Speaking charismatically is a wonderful skill, but the words you choose are only a sliver of the truth. And for some, it’s only a version of someone else’s truth they wish you to believe is theirs.

As much as I love language, it is inherently flawed. Shared stories and ideas are limited, a reflection of one person’s perspective. They will be received the same way, through a filter of the other person’s experiences, memories and beliefs.

Words lined up into powerful messaging statements or in the most pleasingly logical order so our brain can comprehend them only wrap us in a comforting blanket of reality that doesn’t exist. They make solid something that is of the air. Truth is just floating out there, waiting for us to see it. Words manifesting as phrases, anecdotes, doctrines, plans, policies, speeches, books and all the rest of what we believe we need to understand things, just get in the way of us seeing and knowing it.

So, we need to look beyond the words.

Here’s what the image reminded me to consider… The intention and energy behind what someone says and writes is more important than the language. And what you see reflected back to you is just as critical. We need to look closely at both, with clear eyes.

It is crucial to know if a candidate is speaking frankly because they don’t want to waste time getting to the core truth of the matter or pretending to speak frankly to build credibility with a crowd disillusioned after decades of political doublespeak.

It makes a difference whether this straightforward rhetoric contains substance, ideas, thoughtfulness and empathy, or simply uses words they know we will identify with—probably via focus groups, political operatives and crafty polling.

It is vital that there be something other than verbiage to support these ideas, such as past or present behavior, established or appropriately rejected relationships, a sense of the person behind the image (for the many of you who trust your intuition on such things).

It is paramount that the intentions behind the words and the actions to follow be positive and not only motivated by ego, fear or desire for power.

With every speech, debate, rally, interview and opinion piece, we need to understand that a candidate’s words are pointing to something, but the finger is only a finger. The moon is what we should be looking at, and which one we choose is up to us.

It is a reflection of us.

Who you trust and how you vote is up to you.

It is a reflection of you.

Make sure you aren’t following the finger that simply sounds the most familiar or rousing.

And make sure you can live with the person standing beneath it.

om

Butterflies & Bridges

A friendship survives transformation
& discovers unconditional acceptance

two butterflies

 

When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.

—Dean Jackson

Transformation can be as small or as big as you are prepared to undergo. If you want it to, any manner can have a positive effect. A new hair color. Cutting back on meat. Five minutes of meditation every day. Smiling at your child and telling them you love them the next time they do that thing that drives you up a wall for the seventeenth time. If you sit differently, your dodgy hip will feel better after eight hours in front of the computer. No one else may notice a thing, except that you seem less cranky at happy hour.

When the changes become more obvious, when you begin to see and hear and function differently in the world, the first people to notice are those nearest and dearest to you. When you shift, you shift everything and everyone around you, so they’re bound to notice, even if unconsciously. These are the people who have invested time and energy into understanding this person they’ve known for years, even decades, and into building a relationship with them. The new you, the more authentic you, the you that speaks your truth, as happy and comfortable as you may be, can appear to be a stranger.

Those around you are suddenly faced with an unanticipated grief, an opportunity to mourn their loss, and a choice. Do I embrace the transformed person before me, or do I let them go?

Often they let you go.

I’ve lost more than a few friends over the years, even though I’ve never considered myself a controversial character. I was never the most popular or influential in any clique that would have me. I never stole anyone’s boyfriend or snitched on them to the boss. I’ve spent entire social occasions talking to only one person and sneaking out before anyone else noticed I was there. The only controversial thing about me is my Truth Teller. She is spirited and wily and sings like a bird when she sees that scar, that bright red button flashing at her ripe for pushing. She knows it’s waiting to be pushed. It needs to be pushed. It can be my own or someone else’s. It doesn’t matter. The Truth Teller arises, puts on her cape and boots and third eye tiara and has to push it. Well, I don’t have to, but I usually do.

When The Truth Teller speaks, sometimes people go away.

Even after the losses, I have a small but treasured, time-tested and forgiveness-ready group of confidantes scattered near and far. They are a diverse lot, and I don’t speak to some of them more frequently than once a year. But they are my extended tribe. I have walked through the fire with all of them. They have heard my true voice and been on the other end of the truth sword more than once. I brought one to tears over breakfast a few years ago. She eventually asked me not to blurt out stories from her tragic past lives any more. Despite many incidents like this, my tribe accepts and loves me, and I am grateful for their loyal friendship.

All of them know we are meant to witness each other’s transformations and see that our souls are happier, glowing, more comfortable in our skin. We recognize the natural blossoming of someone who’s been masked for years. When you’re meant to share this, you feel each other’s delight and reach out a relaxed but strong hand when the tectonic plates start to shift beneath our feet.

Those who were meant to be part of our past, but not part of our continuing evolution, painfully peel off and out of our lives. My hope always is that our paths will at some point meet again, but we all know this is usually not the case. If we are awake in our lives, and sometimes when we’re not, we are able to recognize when our relationships no longer nurture one or both participants. If we listen, the universe, our higher selves, our heart and anyone or anything else with a valued voice on the subject tells us when it’s time to let them go, or when it’s worth hanging on.

One dear friend—let’s call her Zoe—and I have known each other for thirty-five years. At the ages of seven and eight years old, we chased each other around the church parking lot during vacation bible school. Around the same time, we discovered we took piano lessons from the same little old lady in our neighborhood. Zoe was the musical savant of the group who never practiced, and I was an average pianist who thought I could get away with never practicing but was reminded every week about hard work being my path if I ever wanted to be great.

We drifted in and out of each others’ lives for years, but we didn’t become good friends until junior high school when, both knee-deep in adolescent hormones, we dated brothers. Her boyfriend was the older, blond, handsome high school senior who played trumpet and the lead in the school musical. She was beautiful but also funny, eccentric and intentionally individual before it was popular to be such things. She loved the offbeat icons of the time like John Waters and Prince and wore hot pink pants rolled up to her knees. The best singer in our performing arts school with the charisma to match, she was clearly ahead of her time and distinguishable from miles away.

When she started dating the older brother, survival of the fittest demanded that me and my beau get shoved into the seatbelt-less back seat of his pea green Chevy Nova on the way to the movies or peeling away from church on the Sunday nights we all played hooky from church youth group. Technically, Zoe was the outsider in the car. The brothers’ family and mine had been good friends for years, but seniority had been established, and Zoe did not want to be an outsider in her boyfriend’s car. Luckily, she was good enough to never throw it in my face that I clearly wasn’t any competition for the honor, and we became fast friends.

I was her Angela Chase and she was my Rayanne Graff.

Long after the brothers tapped out, our friendship remained. Our lives diverged but our evolutions always were something at least vaguely familiar to each other. We sent crazy postcards and wrote hysterical letters to each other throughout college as she pursued her singing career and I dreamily contemplated what kind of journalist I’d most like to be. We almost always ended our winter breaks by sharing a crockpot full of processed cheese dip on New Year’s Eve and kissing each other at midnight after we kissed whichever boy was in our lives that year.

During an impromptu post-college visit, I found her red-faced and waiting for a mental health hotline callback from a psychological counselor. He later diagnosed her with the chemical imbalance we’d suspected for years. Not long after, she gave up singing professionally for good. As she was trying to figure out what her new life would look like, mine also was suddenly stalled by chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Still our friendship remained.

One Christmas, she showed up on my parents’ doorstep with a large, smiling man in tow.

“This is my fiancé,” she said. “Will you be my maid of honor?”

“Of course!” I said.

Four years later, I called her from New York. “Will you be my maid of honor?”

“Of course!” she said.

She was thrilled when Larry and I “finally” moved back to Ohio and, for the first time since high school, we lived in the same city.

“I’m having a baby,” she said.

“How exciting!” I said. Her beautiful, quirky daughter was born, and we both cried happy tears filled with joy and fear. Considering her history, we braced for the likelihood of postpartum and tried to laugh as she walked bravely through it and began to recognize all wasn’t well in her world.

“I’m moving away,” I said a year later.

“I know you’re unhappy here,” she said. “I’ll miss you. I understand.”

“We can stay in touch over email and the phone!” I said enthusiastically in response to her grimace.

“Sure,” she said.

At first, we sent detailed emails, and even caught each other online for an occasional live chat. She congratulated me on our adoption decisions and eagerly helped in a myriad of ways. She always asked lots of questions about our life in California, so foreign in many ways from what she knows as a life-long Ohioan.

Soon the questions came less frequently and it became clear that our often deviating but somehow recognizable paths were becoming too…divergent.

I could feel her energy leave me as I described some strange or beautiful aspect of our life–a day spent writing on the beach, a celebrity encounter at one of Larry’s work functions, weeks of nearby wildfires, eighty-degree weather in February, my massage therapy clients. I could tell she was trying to listen as a supportive friend, but often she didn’t respond to significant parts of my emails or found a quick reason to end our instant message chats when my opinion on something veered off her reservation, especially when it came to religion or spirituality.

A life-long devoted Lutheran, she and I have differed in our spiritual perspectives most of our lives. Both our childhoods were largely shaped by time spent within a strong church community and in families who valued religious connection. She happily remained a church-goer in adulthood while I began to drift toward less definable views. In my twenties, I described myself as an agnostic. Zoe called me an atheist, and I always corrected her.

“In the constant pursuit of truth and understanding,” I said as I told her about this new Unitarian church I’d visited and smiled as she rolled her eyes. “I believe in God, or something like God, just not in a way that’s ever been described to me before.” My searching made her uncomfortable.

“I just know what I believe. Doubt is for those who just can’t figure it out,” she said, looking at me through her eyebrows and hoping for a reaction. Unlike Tolkien, she believed all who wander are lost.

She admitted to me over time that as the years passed and the freedom of youth gave way to utility bills and relationship challenges, she found solace in the perceived clarity of “right and wrong,” “good and evil,” “fact and fiction.” She couldn’t understand why it was taking me so long to stake a claim and stick a label on it. She wanted to know what to call me, what box to put me in and how to filter what she heard. Like her, I’ve never fit perfectly into any one box in my life. Her life was so different from what she’d imagined. She began to rely upon the stark blacks and whites she knew and could control more vigorously. She couldn’t see the beauty in her multitude of gray areas any more.

I feared she wouldn’t be able to see any in mine, either. Descriptions of my explorations certainly would help her ascribe more labels, but not any I was comfortable with. Never one to judge folks quietly, I’d born witness to her sharp wit and even laughed heartily at it over the years. Those she didn’t understand were first to feel its point and, to her, folks with a metaphysical sensibility might as well have been sitting around a cauldron on brooms wearing pointy hats. News of my evolution—a new energy healing practice, formal exploration of my own and everyone’s inherent clairvoyance—went untold.

Our regular phone calls became about work stories, family dramas and news about friends from high school we’d reconnected with over social media. One such friend was her high school love. He was a charming, popular, boyishly handsome chap whose notoriety combined with unexpected life choices made him a hot topic on the high school rumor mill for more than a decade. At one point during college there was a rumor he was gay, which eventually was discredited, ultimately because everyone realized we didn’t give a flying fig if he was or wasn’t. Then unsubstantiated stories circulated about weeks spent in the wilderness, meditating with gurus, joining a commune. He eventually decided to study Chinese medicine and start a healing practice in Colorado, all using the middle name we’d teased him about throughout high school.

The years had transformed the goofiness of his youth into optimism and the openness of his spirit into a healer’s life. When we reconnected over social media, the confusion about his changed appearance and name quickly became recognition of a kindred purpose and familiar voice. Years before, he experienced the cracking open that results in a more authentic life that I was still in the midst of, and for that I admired him. In a strange way, and only in the non-patronizing way you can feel toward those you knew well when they were young, I was proud of him.

I cringed as Zoe spoke of this mutual friend, her adoring beau and silly Snoopy of old, wondering if he’d somehow lost his way. She didn’t see the opening up and settling into himself that I did. Instead she was concerned that his whimsical nature had transformed into a hippy-ish, ungrounded lifestyle she didn’t recognize. What on earth is she going to think when I start to tell her about me? Would she be able to hear me? It became like a bandage I just had to rip off.

The perfect opportunity arrived. After years as a preschool teacher, and after riding the bumpy rollercoaster herself, she understands young kids and parents on a freakishly intuitive level. When an early adoption referral fell through, she was ready with emotional support and unqualified empathy for our heartbreak. She braced for months of grieving, a general disillusionment about the process and turmoil over whether to go through with it at all. When we decided so quickly to move forward, she was confused and skeptical.

“How?” she asked.

“Do you really want to know?” I responded, then I spat out the whole story before waiting for the okay. I told her my spiritual opening played a key role in moving through this strange time. My developing skills as a clairvoyant reader helped me see the long game—this situation’s place in the larger arc of our parenting story. It provided immeasurable relief and hope.

Silence.

“You’re a clairvoyant now?” she said. “What exactly does that mean?”

I told her about chakras and how we’re all just balls of energy masquerading as bodies and healing is as easy as releasing a lightning bug and clairvoyance is as easy as being ready to see and how important it was to heal my heart so I could be my authentic self. I finished my soliloquy and gasped for air.

Silence.

I could feel her confusion, and it went at least seven layers deep. There was no outright judgment expressed, but the lack of questions, the lack of curiosity, the quick dismissal. I believed they revealed her discomfort and a doubt of my sincerity.

Determined to fully be my authentic self now that I could, I forged ahead with the friendship with a fresh attitude. If this life is about manifesting the divine here on earth, about speaking your truth no matter what, I want to do this in every part of my life, I told myself. My language became more the words I used around the house and less the ones she was used to hearing. I stopped omitting the stories about Henry laughing with his dead grandpa after we leave the room at night and how Larry and I can communicate our grocery list telepathically. Most of all, I happily told her how I thought everything in our lives happened because we chose it somehow.

There it was. It took a few phone calls, but The Truth Teller finally found the line and crossed it. Zoe reminded me she cared for too many people she believed to be victims of all sorts of terrible things.

“God would not choose such pain for us,” she said with absolute certainty.

“God doesn’t,” I said. “We have free will. That’s why I’m saying suffering, to some extent, is our own choice. Our world, our lives. They are our own making. It could be an intuitive choice made out of sacrifice, protection or love. It could be a deeply spiritual one to ensure that the greater good is served. But it’s still usually a choice.”

She reared back and lobbed what she believed would be the nuance I hadn’t considered yet. “So, you chose to get cancer?”

Without hesitation, I replied. “Yes.”

Back in the day, even years after I wrote my first memoir, I’d refused to look at how or why I’d gotten sick. Blame is pointless, I told myself. Indeed it is, but an unexamined cause is a repeated effect. If I didn’t learn all that I was to learn from that particular challenge, I was certain to repeat it until I did. Uninterested in more chemo, I chose to use my newly acknowledged clairvoyance to find the roots.

I found them. Many of them. But Zoe was gone before I could explain.

There was nothing for months this time, and her silence became my anger. Why should I have to change who I am so she’s more comfortable?

“You shouldn’t,” I heard. “Just be prepared for whatever comes.”

Out of desperation and a lot of frustration, I ignored this wise advice from my higher self. The Truth Teller, fully unprepared for what may come, picked up her pen and wrote an email explaining in detail every source of my anger. I am still a reasonable person. I’m still her old friend, I said. I was confused why she couldn’t see I’m not a nutcase. I’d like to be able to talk about my life honestly and openly. If she can’t handle it, if she can’t respect my beliefs, then maybe we shouldn’t be friends.

The minute I sent it I regretted it.

The gist of Zoe’s response: “Maybe we shouldn’t.”

The chasm between our basic philosophies about the world, life and the source of all things couldn’t be enough to keep us apart, could it? The fact that our transformations didn’t match threatened to crumble the bridge of understanding we’d built. For a short time we both feared our long friendship forged on the slippery seats of a green Chevy Nova was over.

I’d fallen down a dark and lonely cave of pride and issued an ultimatum I had no intention of substantiating. Meanwhile, my ego—an awkward cousin of The Truth Teller with a penchant for cruelty—laughed and laughed. I was so sanctimonious, so angry at her for not listening to me, so eager to jolt her into some measure of acceptance of my truth, I’d stopped listening to hers. And I stopped listening to my higher self, who now was yelling at me over the din.

“Why does it matter so much what she thinks?” I heard. “You be you. In case you’ve forgotten, that’s why you’re here.”

There’s a deep satisfaction when witnessing the natural cycle of life and death, the shedding of snakeskin, the fall of autumn leaves, a discarded cocoon, the moment a wound’s scab is no longer needed for protection. It’s all just change. It hurts when friends depart your life, but when you no longer serve each other the falling away happens naturally.

Everything about this felt unnatural.

When I sensed I’d lost Zoe, when I looked with clear eyes and listened with an open heart, I knew our lives were meant to intersect a while longer. My own insecurities and doubts about the ethereal energy I now put my faith in had come rumbling to the surface. Instead of trusting what I knew, I risked a life-long friendship to prove a point.

My heart screamed with regret and visions of shared tears and joyful celebrations to come, and it just kept screaming. Luckily, hers was screaming too.

It took less than a week of our individual panic attacks before we realized our bridge was worth repairing. I reached out, we both apologized, and over time we both discovered what we were meant to…

If we fill the chasm with love and a desire to meet each other in the echoes bouncing between its cliffs, we can weather any perceived differences. If we are comfortable in our own skins and brands of spirituality, it doesn’t matter what even our most trusted confidantes believe about them. If we tame our egos and open our hearts, whatever the butterfly’s wings look like once the transformation is underway will be gorgeous in our eyes. If we recognize it’s not the beliefs and the labels we respect but the soul with whom we share a beautifully complicated connection, we will always be okay.

I started self-editing just enough I didn’t feel I was hiding, but I wasn’t knowingly making her uncomfortable either, and she started asking questions again and often saved her jokes about crystals and wizard hats until after she hung up the phone. We allowed the other’s individual evolutions to continue at their own pace, in their own way, and we learned to admire each other’s singular colors and light.

It wasn’t (and isn’t) perfect. We continued (and continue) to work on our friendship, but knew (and know) we are true and dear friends. Perhaps we needed to walk through this particular fire together and learn where our conditions lurked before we knew that.

Two years later, Zoe called. “I’m getting a divorce.”

“I’m here,” I said. “What do you need?”

“Can you give me a reading?”

om

The Life Cycle of Truth

dandelion_life_cycle_greeting_card-r917a25e735d04a3d81d6f384a09faea3_xvuak_8byvr_324 - Version 2Nothing makes me smile wider than when I hear a perspective or idea I once offered to someone — a friend, a family member, a reader, a client, a child — offered back to me with both confidence and no recognition of where or when they first considered it. The moment the pilot light ignited is a clear and happy memory for me. For them, the energy of it is so internalized that they only know it to be true. The moment they learned it or, perhaps more accurately, recognized it is long forgotten.

I hope those who first introduced certain truths to me, the many teachers whose offerings I don’t recall, also smile when they see things I now know in the space in the center of my head, in the movement of my cells, in the pulsing of my heart. The things I’d forgotten or rejected until I watched them lived with conviction or heard them said using the words I could hear in the right moment with the right amount of clarity.

They are mine now because they were once given freely and with love. They are yours because you are open to seeing and, like me, hungry for truth.

The cycle continues as long as one being is willing to share with another.

And so it goes.

om

A Writer Lets Go: Knowing When It’s Time to Move On

Floating Books by Fanny Brennan
Floating Books
by Fanny Brennan

Writing is a turbulent journey. When you do it for long enough, you attempt nearly every kind of piece imaginable, all with varying degrees of success. Writers learn to discern quickly when something meets the need of the moment, the client, the assignment, the vision, the expectation, the expression, even the higher purpose when a greater objective is at stake.

It can be difficult to see when it doesn’t, and even harder to let it go.

Most of our work is so personal, filled with love and pain and secrets we wouldn’t tell unless the story benefited. They are that friend who demands attention at the least convenient moments, who forces you to see and make peace with the thorn in your heel you pretend you don’t feel any more, who leads you by the hand through tearful memories and makes you laugh at your own ridiculousness.

A book is a stimulating, even if infuriating, confidante. The one you need right then. Some are not meant to be with you until the end.

I wrote a book. Another one, that is. Another memoir — this one named Laugh at the Sky, Kid, inspired by the Buddhist saying. I took my time. I wrote a draft, worked on it, sat with it, offered it to both professional and trusted amateur editors, revised it, honed it, fed it, talked to it, gave it time to breathe, then took the big step of adding FINAL to its filename and my address to the cover page.

It is challenging and joyful, full of jagged truth and flowing hope. It is an invitation to anyone lost and searching in the beginning of their personal spiritual journey, as I once was. It lights one path toward greater grace and purpose, and therefore illuminates the limitless number of paths available to everyone.

I love it. Most of the people who have read it love it. Friends and family, of course, but even the writers and influencers who I have shared it with have been enormously supportive. It’s one of the reasons I hung on to her for so long.

The publishing industry, not so much. The book is difficult to place neatly in a category, making it seem tough to market despite my willingness to travel non-traditional marketing paths on my own. But right now publishers don’t have patience for noncompliant, even if enthusiastic, writers.

No bother, I said. And I meant it. I was committed to this work’s message. It had something to say beyond words and I believed it was created to be shared.

I’m smart, I said. I know people. I’m willing to spend the time and money to do this “right.” I can do it myself, get creative with distribution models. Start beneath the soil and nurture a beautiful independent commerce blossom, bright enough to be seen by anyone who needs to see it.

And so, in 2014 I committed to self-publishing in 2015 if no publishing deal was struck by then. By mid-2015, I changed the date to 2016. I believed it was because I was saving enough money to do it professionally and in a manner reflecting the purpose of the book. As the second half of 2015 arrived and self-publishing seemed more imminent, I decided to re-read this beloved manuscript that had been sitting in my laptop untouched for months.

Hm.

It needs…something, I thought. It doesn’t speak as clearly as it once did, I admitted. I’d evolved as a writer, and to revise it accordingly would require a significant amount of work, but that wasn’t it.

I’d evolved as a person and a spirit. The book, forever fixed in time, hadn’t.

This invitation I issued from my heart and soul back in 2014 doesn’t speak the same language any more. The words are identical, the ideas and stories unchanged, but everything around them has shifted, including me. Especially me. The story doesn’t resonate the way it once did. My life continues, my perception of it changes as it goes, and the world turns and evolves faster with each passing moment. Our collective human tale has transformed just enough that this particular version of mine no longer contributes to it in a way that is meaningful, or at least meaningful enough for me to spend the time and energy to publish and promote it.

Forcing it would only shove something into the world simply because that was the plan all along. If it doesn’t resonate with me anymore, it won’t resonate with anyone. If it feels compulsory, that’s how it will read.

So, through tears I concluded it’s time to make space for something else.

I will miss her, but I have no regrets. I’m glad I wrote it. It accomplished what it was supposed to. I am a different, more aware, more confident, more conscious human, parent, writer and coach for completing it. I am stronger for having struggled through the tough days. I am wiser and happier for what the process revealed. The days I soared and swam and scampered through the literary wilderness, my eyes widened with wonder, I remembered why I do this at all.

Without this piece of writing, I would not be in this place and time, open to what is to come. I will always love it and always be grateful to my dear friend for walking with me for a while.

Thank you for everyone’s interest, support and help over the last few years. It is not wasted energy. I carry it with me moving forward. New ideas are bubbling up and old ideas are showing up in new clothes. I’m just going to pause a minute before I take the next leap. It’s a big step, and I’ve learned over the years to choose my friends wisely.

om

To find out more about Rebecca’s writing coaching services, visit rebeccagifford.com or email her at giffordrebecca@gmail.com.

Happy Holidays: A Ho Ho Ho Meditation

hooooooThe hustle and bustle leave my mind and body as I sink into this chair, reserved for this time and this way. My heart opens. It knows what it needs to do.

I take in a deep breath of pine, cinnamon and family. I breathe out obligations, worry and shipping charges. I close my eyes and let the energy run.

Today I welcome abundant Santa, warm menorah candles and the unconditional love of a boy born in a manger. I choose the sparkly silver that fills the car as my son and I sing about cows and sleigh rides on the drive to school. I free the jaggedy chartreuse of world events and bizarre violence becoming too frequent to be shocking.

Seeing where it came from is worthy. Playing a role in where we’re headed is imperative. But right now is nothing more than space. And the space I occupy is loosely wrapped in tinsel.

Today my heart is bright red and green and tinged with laughter. My holiday table is overflowing with love and abundance. There is plenty to share. It flows out peacefully, covering the earth. It soaks through the dense cities and rolling countrysides, through fault lines and tree lines, all the way to the fire in the belly. It rises up and out in a jubilant rush that fills every molecule, every dark place, every light place and all the spaces in between, and it doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch. A smile. A soft jingle of a bell.

Happy holidays, world.

om

A Meditation for Peace

worldI can feel it already. That familiar spot in that quiet place. Peace is less normal in our world these days, but this time, this space, this chair doesn’t know that. My weight drops into it. Blessed relief.

Take in a deep breath of silence. No news, no chatter, no pictures that aren’t of my own making. Only truth. Breathe out whatever else there is. Close my eyes and let the energy run.

Today, welcome the perfection of the present moment, the confidence of your knowingness, the pure intention of your nature, the wisdom of your soul. Cry for humanity’s hubris and foibles, and celebrate its terrible beauty.

My heart is filled with love and a desire to ease suffering. It is overflowing. There is plenty to share. It flows out, covering the earth, sating the hearts of all those in pain. It soaks through the dense cities and rolling countrysides, through fault lines and tree lines, all the way to the fire in the belly. It rises up and out in a jubilant rush that fills every molecule, every dark place, every light place and all the places in between, and it doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

Love is a tether to the limitless. It is the limitless. In truth, it is all there is. Just keep saying it, I hear. Live it. Be it. It will, eventually, become humanity’s truth.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch.

Much love to you all.

om

Call for comments: Are we too reliant on technology?

cellphonesIt’s in vogue these days to be critical of most people’s frequent use of and strong reliance on smart phones. Even in the broadest sense, it’s a hot topic. The careful balance of power between modern technology/science, human interaction and intention, and traditional (even ancient) beliefs in our modern society comes up more and more frequently in the media and among those in my circle.

The Huffington Post recently published a column by Hector L. Carral that went viral, called Stop Saying Technology Is Causing Social Isolation. I posted it on Facebook along with my story below and asked for comments. As expected, people had things to say. So, I’m posting the link to the article here, and after that you can read my little personal story below if you like. Please feel free to comment or send me your thoughts. Happy typing!

A few years ago, after just moving to Seattle, I took my then-two-year-old son to the beach for some fresh air and a break from the temporary housing. While there, I received an important and potentially volatile email from a client requiring an immediate response. I sat in the sand, typing on my device periodically while also responding to my son when he needed me, as I crafted my reply.

A fellow toddler, his mother and his grandmother wandered over and started playing with Henry. I politely said hello and returned to my task. They played with him for a while and I took little breaks to interact a bit and make sure my son was okay. But really I just wanted a minute to finish my email so I could focus on him. They stayed for a little, completely distracted by the fact that I was typing away, then walked away in a huff, judging me in full voice for finding “texting with my friends more important than playing with my son” and other ways my rudeness illustrated the technology-driven downfall of humanity. Once they left I was able to finish the email quickly and then focus entirely on H for another hour or two of peaceful midday beach play time.

Modern technology offered me the opportunity to diffuse a touchy professional situation (immediately) for a few minutes while sitting in the sand with my son on a lovely day. Once done, I was free to fully engage for as long as I wanted and needed to. It helped both my son and me have a more pleasant day and I accomplished two critical things at the same time. Without knowing the full context of what was going on (since I didn’t want to take the time to divulge it to strangers) the people around me assumed I was being a selfish slave to my phone.

It’s all about perspective and intention. We use the tools and technology we have to accomplish what is important to us–now much more quickly and conveniently than we used to. It’s up to us to decide what we do with that power.

Thoughts? And before you come to my defense saying these people were just judgmental thingamobobs, etc., know they are not alone in their attitude. Society is already judging me, you or anyone they deem too attached to their technology. It’s not about my little story. My son and I are fine. It’s about the larger themes it illustrates. Thanks for reading!

om