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.
Many of my students sign up for a writing course because they have an urge to bring forth their experiences.
They want to write stories, poems, memoirs. Many have never written before. They don’t know where to start. What to write about. How to choose fiction or nonfiction. Many have confidence issues. Fearing judgement, they hesitate to share their work.
I understand the tenderness of the beginning writer, the courage it takes to put forth embryonic work and place it under the light of scrutiny.
Even though I had written professionally for years, when I was ready to put out my first fiction, I was terrified. The marketing and training books I wrote, the manuals, web text, and scripts, even the ghost-written articles—none were as personal as fiction. It took stern conversations with myself before I started sending my work to magazines, accepting the inevitable rejections, and sending it out again.
Now, after publishing many short stories, three novels, and a few personal experience narratives, I tell my students that I learned the most about writing from the effort to produce publishable work.
My writing teachers taught me much. So did the students in the classes and workshops I attended. Every editor I hired to advise me before I sent out a piece taught me something new.
Some magazine editors were kind enough to say why they rejected my piece. Some even suggested changes. Every time I looked anew at a rejected story, I found ways to improve it. And of course there was the exquisite pleasure when an editor said they liked my story.
The whole process was a learning experience. It toughened me and eventually became fun. Not to say I enjoy rejections, but they no longer stop me. It’s not personal. It’s the work. Which can be improved.
What’s important for new writers, especially those who start later in life, is to honor the urge to create. To bring forth and shape the nascent idea nagging at you. The images you know are part of a story. The characters who spring to life in your mind. The feeling that your experiences matter. Which they do.
We live our lives according to the story we tell ourselves. We change our lives by changing our stories. Whether we fictionalize our experiences or write searingly honest memoir, the benefits of getting them out of our heads and into the world are enormous. It helps us, and it helps others.
The drive to create is in everyone. It’s part of being human. Honored, it makes us more human. Our Creative Self urges us onward. It wants to be expressed. It wants to dance, with joy and abandon. Honor it.
So, write! Sing! Dance! Paint! Make a poem! Outline your novel! Decide you’re going to tell about all that you’ve learned! I promise, you won’t be sorry.
Shaking hands with ourselves can calm our emotions and reduce stress, but how do we do that?
Last week I talked about Themis, the ancient goddess of reconciliation. When she was a member of the Greek pantheon, there were two words for soul.
Psyche, the soul of the breath, has come down to us in the concept of spirit. Thymos is the second soul, of the body, the blood, the emotions.
In the west, we have lost the concept of the body having soul. When we think of intelligence, we focus on the upper realms of mind. But for the Greeks, wisdom also emanated from the emotions or instincts. It is called the “blood-soul,” the mind of the body and is associated with the heart. We experience how our body speaks to us differently than the voice of transcendence from above.
The idea of two souls was known in Egypt, the individual ba and the ka or universal soul. The Chinese have the concept of yin and yang. Western antiquity had the Eros and Logos. These traditions honored the balance of complementary energies, male and female, electric and magnetic.
In the west, though, body and spirit became antagonists. (The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.) As reason dominated emotion, we lost the intelligence of the body. We disregarded messages from our bodies as “unscientific,” “illogical,” and the purview of fringe thinkers. Many suffer a mind/body split which contributes to the depression, anxiety, and stress illnesses so prevalent today.
Current physiological research is bridging the gap. Neurocardiology reveals that the heart is a vital organ of sensation. It codes and processes information within the autonomic nervous system. And it’s not alone.
There are many “little brains” in the body, clusters of neurons that regulate the functioning of the liver, stomach, kidneys, and intestines. Many correspond to the ancient eastern knowledge of the chakras, the energy centers of the light body.
When we express emotions, the heart has clear, rhythmic patterns. The experience of anger, frustration, and anxiety produces heart rhythms that are erratic and disordered. With emotions like appreciation, joy, love, compassion, the heart expresses an orderly or coherent pattern.
We experience subjective coherence when we are in positive emotional states. We feel “together,” “in the flow,” “integrated.” This could be the working of Themis energy.
From this research, I learned that if we can appreciate the “negative” emotions and listen to their messages, the act of appreciation helps heal the mind/body split and allows the heart to serve its natural function of reconciliation.
In my life, I noticed that even though I accept the information my body offers, I often feel annoyed. Here we go again, is the thought that streaks through my mind.
With appreciation, I can release my judgment of emotions that are inconvenient or unpleasant and bring myself into a state of greater coherence, which feels a lot better.
So, the next time, you’re upset, angry, or frightened:
- Sit down in a quiet place
- Calm your mind
- Focus on your physical heart
- Gently breathe in and out as if the air is moving through your chest
- Imagine something you appreciate having—a person, an object, a state of being
- For a few minutes, breathe through your heart, staying focused on what you appreciate
This simple exercise will calm you, help you come out of judgment, and bring your disparate parts into resonance. From that place, you can decide what action, if any, is appropriate.
It’s simple. Shake hands with yourself in your heart.
Accessing our heart’s natural intelligence can create an energetic field of unconditional love and harmonious interactions – helping humanity to realize we are one Earth, one yard, one people.
Doc Childre, HeartMath Founder