It wants your attention. It wants to be free. Have you heard it whisper?
You know what it is. It dances through your dreams. It causes you to be late because you’re mesmerized by a cloud formation that looks exactly like the city in a story you want to write. In a rare moment of silence, it says, Come, follow me, I have a story only you can tell. An image only you can paint.
It offers impractical ideas, suggesting you compose a poem or a symphony. A ludicrous idea. After all, you’re a busy person. Who has the time for frivolities? Ridiculous. But, is it?
The call of the Creative Self is real. It means that something inside you wants to be born into the world of time and the light of day.
The seeds of inspiration reside within us. Often just beneath the level of awareness. It takes a receptive attitude to invite those seeds into our lives so we can shape them by creative acts into a poem, a story, a drawing, a clay pot.
Children have unfettered access to the messages of their Creative Self. They draw on walls, paint on their toes, and sing at the top of their small lungs, simply for the joy of it.
As we grow, we learn what pleases our parents, teachers, and friends. We want to fit in, to be loved and praised, so we learn to follow the rules. We don’t fingerpaint when we’re supposed to be studying. We don’t eat dessert before the meal. We don’t spend nearly as much time watching clouds drift by.
Even though we learn to ignore its subversive messages, the Creative Self does not disappear. It is always waiting.
When it makes itself known, it can burst out like thunder, impossible to ignore. Or it may whisper, faintly, its voice only discernible in the vague moments between sleep and waking. Don’t be fooled by volume. The faint voice may have more to say.
Humans create biologically. We also create the conditions of our lives, with our choices, our willingness to learn, observe, and investigate what lies beyond our immediate surroundings.
- Every explorer wonders what waits beyond the horizon.
- Every athlete imagines the heights of skill she can achieve.
- Every artist practices her art to faithfully reproduce the images of the imagination.
People who perform at the highest levels of their sport, art, craft, or profession have an inner drive urging them on. They might call it inspiration or ambition. The words don’t matter. The vision that urges us to keep us moving forward comes from the Creative Self.
You can do it, the Creative Self notes, because it knows you can.
No matter how loud or soft, how often it comes, or how clear its message, the voice of the Creative Self is what you are waiting for.
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
My new book, When Spirit Whispers: a journey of awakening, is a winner in the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards! I am excited and gratified to be honored by this excellent organization.
The book was a labor of love, my small offering of aid and inspiration to those traveling the path of personal discovery. Writing and publishing it was a lot of work and the award got me thinking about what being a winner means.
Awards and recognition are great, of course, but not the whole story. I haven’t entered many contests, partly because the submission fees can be considerable and the wait times long. I decided to go straight for publication and focused on getting short stories published while I was finishing my first novel.
After struggling to learn how to write publishable work, my first published short story was a huge win! My work was in print! And accompanied by beautiful art! It encouraged me to learn more about the market and how to hone my stories so they would be interesting to editors and publishers.
In the last twelve years, I have published many short stories, personal essays, and three novels. I also self-published a collection of short stories, The Way Home, several short pieces of fiction, and now, two nonfiction books, When Spirit Whispers and the When Spirit Whispers Workbook.
I appreciate being recognized by industry professionals, but even with the fancy sticker I get to paste on my book, it’s the reaction of my readers that warms my heart. When readers tell me how they react to my book, some finding validation and inspiration in its pages, all the struggle to write and publish is worthwhile.
So what is a win?
Awards, yes, of course. And getting your words in print, yes, is fun and validating.
But, wins take many forms, like:
- Finishing a book/story/screenplay/poem
- Expressing yourself in writing, art, dance, song
- Enjoying a career you love
- Creating a loving family
- Surviving difficult life events
- Surviving loss in any form
- Getting through and adjusting to any difficult medical diagnosis
- Healing old trauma
- Thriving anew from the lessons of trauma
- Finding the friends, healers, and playmates who see us for who we are
- Speaking our truth
- Allowing love to guide us, even when the world is careening off its axis
- Learning to forgive
- Finding joy in work, play, nature, animals, and all the wonderful people who are standing in the light of love
How do you feel about winning? What gives you pleasure? What is joyful? What are you proud of?
If you can name even one thing, then you’re already a winner.
About 50 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia in 2021, but the total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and a staggering 152 million in 2050.
For Kate Kunkel, the tragedy of this disease struck three times. Both grandmothers and her mother passed away with dementia, inspiring Kate to embark on a mission to understand why this ruthless disease was haunting her family. During this process, Kate made some startling discoveries and has devoted her life to sharing them with as many people as possible, in the hopes that she can spare others this terrible fate.
Kate’s book, Don’t Let the Memories Fade, is for anyone looking for ways to improve their health and stave off the dreaded diagnosis of dementia. No matter your age, the information and suggestions in this book will help you live a healthier life and feel better!
I particularly like two things about this book:
One, it’s written for the general reader in clear, simple language and from the perspective of someone who has lived through the heartbreak of assisting a family member with Alzheimer’s.
Second, the suggestions it offers—on diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and creativity apply to anyone who wants to live healthy—especially at and after midlife.
Following the suggestions offered in this book will reduce your chances of developing not only dementia but the other diseases of older age—heart problems, cancer, arthritis–any condition where inflammation is a factor.
Research on the microbiome points to the detrimental effects of the typical American diet, stress, and environmental factors. But simple lifestyle changes can reduce the inflammation in our bodies and give us new hope.
We affect the level of health we experience. It isn’t always easy to change our ways, but the benefits are enormous. Even if you have dementia or other inflammatory diseases in your genetic line, you can change your future and beat the odds! People are doing it every day. This book is a great place to start investigating how to live healthier and preserve your memories.
We know now that cognitive growth can occur at any age. Neurogenesis is the study of how new nerve cells develop. We can learn new tasks and make new memories well into our nineties if we work on exercising our brains! Learn something new. Learn something new that’s hard and you’ll notice how much more alert you feel!
Each chapter has a “checkup” so readers can assess themselves on the topic discussed. Included are practical steps to improve health. Kunkel ends the book with an 8-week program for improving brain health. It includes suggestions for diet and nutrition, exercise, and lots of yummy recipes. A list of resources is included for those who want to know more. Check it out! You have nothing to lose but your old habits!
Kate consults with people to improve their brain health. You can see her podcast at Brain Health Matters.
New Mexico author Jean Stouffer has written a moving memoir of healing from the effects of growing up with an alcoholic mother.
But Sometimes I Cry is not just another recounting of a child caring for an absent parent and the self-esteem and abandonment issues that ensue. This memoir uses personal history, myth, and poetry to convey her journey from a traditional wife and mother who could not express herself to a woman who speaks her truth and accepts how she feels.
She tells her story in short chapters organized into five sections as she works with a therapist to unblock her emotions and uncover her true self.
Most sections are told in the third person, from the point of view of many charming fictional creatures—mouse, cloud, stone, owl, baby bird, beaver—who stand in for the author. Only the sections about her beloved dog, Molly, are conveyed in the first person. They are among the most moving accounts in the book.
She also gives the reader short progress reports in the third person, which tie together the fictional and poetic chapters.
When I asked about that choice, Jean said that writing in the first person was too painful. Her fictional characters conveyed her meaning and gave her the distance she needed to write about her experiences and process.
Jean did not publish this book for thirty years. Jean said she wrote it for herself, to process what she was feeling, and, at the time, never considered publication. Years later, a friend read the manuscript and encouraged her to put her story into the world. Sometimes I Cry came out in 2021.
“Writing the book changed me,” Jean said recently during a phone conversation. “It improved my relationship with my husband and helped me realize I had value beyond my traditional roles. After that, I became a hypnotherapist and got a lot of satisfaction using my skills to help people through difficult times. Going through the healing process and writing about it helped me understand that it is okay to have emotions, to be an independent person with my own feelings and goals.”
I asked Jean what she hoped readers would get from her book.
“Hope,” she answered. “Maybe my story can encourage others. Facing the darkness isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. I ended up a much happier person. A stronger person who could offer my gifts without losing myself.”
You can purchase Sometimes I Cry in paperback and e-book formats at Amazon.
You can reach Jean at www.JeanStouffer.com
When the pandemic of 2020 crashed down like a tidal wave, I retreated into my home to wait it out.
A writer and teacher who works at home, it wasn’t a stretch to teach classes online and restrict communications to telephone and Zoom sessions. Enforced isolation seemed the perfect time to w0rk on ideas I’d been gathering for a new book. No more excuses. Time to write that book.
For the first few weeks I believed my own story. Kept my commitments. Participated in online meetings and classes. On regular bike rides with my dog, Zena, I spoke to neighbors I had rarely seen. Everyone was eager to say hello, pass the time of day, and relay how they were coping. At the park, passersby were friendlier than usual. I sat under a ramada near a favorite tree while Zena rolled on the grass. Dogs trotted over to say hello. People waved. It was interesting how being forced to separate brought us closer together.
Weeks passed. I taught my classes, worked with students, completed editing jobs, and wrote. My writing practice is decades old, so I always write, but the new book’s focus eluded me. Anxiety kept me moving but also made it hard to sit and concentrate on an intensely private subject: my relationship to Spirit.
Fiction was easier to write, so I did that. Sent out short stories. Got a couple published. Still, I felt like a skittish animal running in ever-tightening circles around the one thing it wanted but feared to approach.
Facing my new book, which my mind had told me would be short and easy to write, I trembled.
An optimist at heart, I believe we have more freedom than we realize. We aren’t victims of our genetics, family upbringing, finances, politics, or experience. These things shape us, but at every moment, we have the choice to change. No matter our circumstances, we can embark on a fresh path.
Practice what you preach, I exhorted myself as I created a new spreadsheet and listed my chapters. I forged ahead with another draft—wrote, edited, researched, and organized. But something wasn’t right.
It was time to examine my own beliefs. One More Time.
After serious meditation and journaling, I uncovered the face of my resistance—my lifelong reticence to write about who I am. Not in the external sense. What was uncomfortable was writing about my inner world, which is far more real to me than what I do “out there.”
I am one of the lucky ones. From early childhood, I have wandered the inner world. I also knew that, if I spoke of it, the outcome would be ridicule and shaming. So I kept my counsel until I got older and found safe spaces to be myself.
The roots of my personal challenges were buried deep. Not “out there” in an unmarked grave but inside my psyche and body, what I call the “biofield.” Because of early trauma, I’ve berated and second-guessed myself, agonized, and rationalized when deciding about jobs, relationships, business, writing projects, and finances. I doubted my inner perceptions and the common wisdom. Anxiety was a constant companion. No matter what I did, I judged myself, taking on more responsibility than was mine to bear, experiencing the exquisite torture of teetering on the line between worlds.
Struggling with a book I couldn’t grasp, an epiphany burst forth. I realized that, at this moment, only what’s important counts—and what’s important is what I’ve learned from sojourning with my inner self. The lessons were not complicated, but I’ve been a slow study, so it’s taken time to re-member them
- There is a path through life which we chose before birth.
- We walk our own path, whether or not we know it.
- Our inner self guides us, whether or not we notice.
- Life is easier when we heed the messages from within.
- When we listen to the messages of our inner self, it grows into a Wise Inner Guide.
- Spirit possesses infinite patience.
- It’s never too late to listen and learn.
The book, When Spirit Whispers, a journey of awakening, will be published soon, along with an accompanying workbook. This article is an amended version of its preface. I plan to write two more volumes, Visions of Healing and Doorways to Healing.
Going forward, I will use this monthly blog to write about healing, trauma, and writing, the three subjects that intersect to form my path. I hope you will find it useful
If you would like to be an advance reader for When Spirit Whispers, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send you an electronic copy of the book. If you enjoy it, I hope you will be kind enough to leave a review.
I thought my dog Buddy would enjoy a companion because he loved playing with other dogs at the dog park. But when I brought Zena home one scorching August day in 2010, I learned I was wrong. Buddy was jealous, annoyed, and intimidated by this big Shepherd/heeler female who had suddenly appeared in his kingdom.
I worried about how they would get along, but after one altercation instigated by little Buddy, Zena let him have his way. Although half her size, Buddy assumed the position of top dog. He stole her toys, hid her treats, and commandeered her bed, so Zena slept on the rug. Six years old, shy, and abandoned by her family during the recession, she was so happy to have a home she didn’t care. I didn’t realize then how very loving she was.
No matter how much Buddy teased and plagued her, Zena never snapped or growled. She accepted every new situation, dog, and person with shy anticipation, followed by enthusiastic wags of her long tail. She was a big gentle girl, patient and forgiving, without a trace of competition or jealousy. She had none of Buddy’s annoying habits. She didn’t rummage in the trash or steal food. When she wanted something, she sat and quietly asked for it. When Buddy beat her to the punch, she sighed and walked away. I learned to offer their treats separately.
Zena tried to play with Buddy. Sometimes he would engage with her, but most of the time she was forced to impersonate a lone wolf.
From the first, Zena was on the job, making a show of fierceness with her deep throated barks at anyone approaching the front yard. She took her role as guard dog seriously.
She needed no training to stay at my side on our walks and trotted along beside my bike as if she had always been there. She never tried to escape the yard, as Buddy routinely did, or dash away when I took her to the bosque or mesa trails. Sometimes she joyfully charged after a rabbit (in vain), but always returned quickly at my call.
She never chased Bosco, the cat, and as an elder, cautiously accepted the arrival of Clio the kitten. They soon became fast friends.
Walking in the bosque one day with both dogs, when Buddy was in the early stage of dementia, I learned more about Zena. I couldn’t find Buddy, and when Zena heard my frantic calls, she took off searching. She found him and brought him back to me. I wrote a story about that experience, called Angel Dog, which I’ve posted on my website. It’s a true story about how I learned to see Zena more clearly.
After Buddy left us, Zena moved into the dog bed I had bought for her and continued as my faithful companion for another four years. She was a happy dog who took pleasure in small things—a cat friend, peanut butter treats, a house to protect, and the occasional rabbit to chase. She loved me and Buddy and the cats, and although she was shy with new people, she enjoyed every person who visited us. Her tail wagged constantly. She came here to love and to serve, and she did both perfectly. Now my beautiful girl is running free.
On February 4, Zena left this world as peacefully as she had walked upon it.
Zena, Beloved Friend, 2004 – 2021