My spirituality group that meets on Monday nights is quite the band of traveling misfits. This, I’m sure, would make them laugh. We laugh a lot. A doctor and his wife, a nurse, an IT gal, a mystical mother, and an older couple who natter and nag at each other: one is a pastel artist, the other is retired and spends some of his days writing to prisoners in New York and telling them jokes. He is a card. I love them like they are my family and I barely know their stories.
We laugh a lot because life is insane. Our days of repetition are insane: checking email, texts, Facebook notes, Insta-blam of this and that. It’s the showering, the brushing, the shaving, the needy co-workers, the vet, the store and what the hell is for dinner? Then it’s the kids — the picking up, the dropping off and did someone feed the dog? Our days can be filled with this and, at times, if you are breathing and have a pulse, you may ask, “Why?” I do. I ask why all the time. I won’t get into the news or politics . . . I’ve gone rogue on myself . . . that is spiritual-rogue and it is booming, thundering like a train through me to you.
I was led to this group via my love for many of our spiritual leaders of the day — notably Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and others whose words have guided and shaped me and molded me. When I got to the Course in Miracles group, I was introduced to Helen Schucman and her cohort in miracle crime, William Thetford. I am reading her biography now and am amazed that a Jewish-Catholic Atheist could have scribed what she scribed from 1965 to 1972. The work has saved me.
So, two years ago, during a particularly difficult time in my life — I had lost a good friend to cancer and my gifted therapy dog, River, to the same disease. I was also losing my eyesight. I was losing two days a month to migraines. Something had to give.
I began to meditate in earnest and writing them down. It saved my life along with my new love for A Course in Miracles. One of my classmates said, “a miracle is a correction in perception.”
I know now, I will never be blind. I have my mind to thank for that.
Two years later, I am proud and elated to say that my sixth book is almost here. It is called Spirit Home. It is a nonfiction spiritual book told through the lens of anecdote and description. I use a train as a metaphor for spirituality and have written in stories so anyone who wants more information on spirituality and what this life means can find a springboard. A simple train to find a seat on. Spirit Home is it and my new publisher in California is only about an hour from the Foundation for Inner Peace. How cool is that?
Next week, I will be signing books and reading from a few of them along with my new one: Spirit Home.
So, on Thursday, March 6th from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Artworks (320 Hull Street, Richmond, Virginia) I will be reading from Spirit Home . . . feed the dog first.
In A Course in Miracles, it slowly but surely–like a wise prince was once told–paints a vivid and compelling argument that has changed my course in the platitudes of relationships and situations and the events of life. I thought I was on course but I am afraid not. My ship has still not left my harbor. At 47, I am thinking I should have gotten to the first channel marker by now. Nope.
Here’s why I am anchored.
On page 468 of the student workbook — that’s me, back in school — the book lays out seven words I have become quite attracted to. It states very clearly that “conflict is asleep and peace is awakening.” What does this mean? Well, it means that peace is here. How cool is that, right? Peace on earth? Uh-huh. How do we know for sure? Well, my studies and my experiences (experience is key) are that when I do peaceful actions, like look lovingly at the flowers in the garden, or when I forgive a family member for not living up to my expectations of who they should have been, Jesus! or when I find a lost dog (my own) and don’t berate her or use malice, or when I am patient in line at CVS waiting for the elderly lady to get her eight boxes of candy canes and her box of wine and don’t pass judgment because I don’t drink anymore–breathe, Ruth–all of these tidbits create peace. Even just thinking peaceful thoughts means that we are all awake to peace.
The sandman: conflict’s drug of choice. We all fall asleep in our consciousness when road rage appears, or that bristle in our stomachs churns when someone is anti-whatever-you-don’t-think is right. Any irritant is an example of how I (you) are asleep. When we fight against anything small or large, it is a way of showing that we have fallen asleep. Just the other day, I was talking to a friend who went on and on and on about how that person did this to that person and then she did this and then she did that on top! I just couldn’t believe it! Can you? I thought. Peace. Peace. Her racing thoughts and emotional vomiting were a prime example of what we do daily at the office. Sound asleep. Her actions and words were full of conflict and fear and jumpiness. Unconscious on the floor. I forgave her for her sleepiness. It was all I could do because that’s all I am suppose to do. Forgive and Love.
Nelson Mandela’s jailors were asleep. When Mandela invited his jailors to the front row at his Presidential inauguration, I am not sure what they were thinking or feeling. However, the symbolic gesture of forgiveness to invite your jailors is akin to me inviting Anita Bryant over for a glass of orange juice. In my world, at least. Mandela was released and so were his jailors…released from the sleepiness of conflict. Had he done anything untoward to his jailors, Mandela, too, would have been still asleep. Conflict breeds conflict. It lives in our sleepy unconscious minds even though it does not appear that way. Which, of course, is a whole other lesson.
For today, during this time if you can take seven words and apply them to your heart and mind. Conflict is asleep and Peace is AWAKENING. I will put it even better. Just live as if you were awake in peace every step of your day. Awake in Peace. Three simple ones.
We have seven billion people or more on this earth. Some are very sleepy. Some are awake, rowing their boats gently down the stream. Today, I untether my harbored boat and go gently down the stream in the hopes I won’t forget and begin to beat against the current…float, Ruth, float.
On a personal note, I’d like to say that Nelson Mandela was still in jail when I was twenty-two years old and had my first poem ever published in the VCU newspaper’s literary section. It was a poem about him. A spin on the Lord’s Prayer called, “A Man Dela.” I wasn’t sure if they would take it…when I opened the paper in 1988 to see my first poem published, Madiba released me from my shackles of writing fear.
I pressed on.
Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth — for everyone.
Writing takes a lot of internal listening but, sometimes, the music must go on.
Recently, I have found that I am going back to my college days and my first years of teaching to recover the music I lost. My nephew showed me a new free app you can download called “Music Maniac.” Free music. Okay. So, I downloaded some piano music from George Winston and a few songs by Elton John and one that I discussed in my book, Piper’s Someday: “Fool in the Rain,” by Led Zeppelin.
I have no idea why I enjoy this song so much. I guess it reminds me of the kinder, gentler days of my youth when–from time to time–my brother and I would actually get along and listen to music: his. Saturday mornings in my youth were dizzying with the speakers from our very inexpensive sound system vibrating the walls of the townhome where the hostages were me, my sister, and my mom. How she allowed the decibels to reverb our underpants off while making Bisquick pancakes, I do not know either. But now, as I listen to it and write this, I want to be John Bonham playing the drums (in my underwear) and be Jimmy Paige playing the guitar, sweat dangling from my brow. As for Robert Plant, I just want to wear his bell bottoms.
In my early twenties, when Melissa Etheridge hit the scene, it felt like I had come home to a hot, “Janis Joplin-like” sound and she was on my team to boot. Now I wanted my bra off. Hands in the air, screaming “yes, yes,”: maniac me. If you have ever seen Melissa Etheridge in concert, you know the kind of vibe she creates in two hours of play. It is cosmically orgasmic. You leave certain you can change the world with her and everyone there. Your body and dreams elevate way beyond the ethers of this world. You are sure that if heaven is like this, then let’s go there and get that party started. She’s the mistress of rock and roll.
I have an idea why I like Melissa. I can relate to her and her lyrics and I have dreamt on more than one occasion that I might want to pen one of her songs. Melissa…if you get writer’s block…call me. Index finger to my ear. Pinky to my mouth.
Truth be told. I think both Zepp and Etheridge do two things in their music. One is that they write lyrics that are true and different and spot on. The other is that they practice and practice and rehearse and tweak and cut and add. When they have it right: they deliver.
Like a good book.
When I got sober, I learned about doing the “next right thing,” in the rooms of AA where my friends showed me how to let go of me, me, me and serve others. One of my first sponsors told me that sometimes the next right thing was just going to the bathroom. Get up and make your bed, Ruth. Get on your knees and be thankful you never hurt anyone by driving drunk: dumbass.
Don’t overanalyze any of it. Give it over to God. She can handle it like most African-American women can.
Recently, however, I found myself in a severe slump and although I didn’t pee on myself, it was hard to surface from the crags of events that send us all over the edge sometimes — without a rope, not even a filament. My business had done well most of the year, but I am at a point where I re-thinking getting that part-time job in order to pay for my exorbitant healthcare. I have had an assortment of clients but nothing steady to keep my heart free from the shackles of worrying about financial security. The bills, the vet, the gas, food, the need for a new roof. The first mortgage — that lovely equity line, too…yahoo!
I’m sure I am talking to you. You out there in the same place I am.
Then I found a book, a line really, that saved me from thinking I was giving up the battle and ready to stand on the corner with the vets holding a sign (well-written, of course) about my plight. Prostitution is the one job I have not had. It crossed my mind but I don’t think I can stomach the dregs of working a truck stop. At least not yet.
Do the next right thing.
I went to the book store and picked up a book called the Law of Divine Compensation by Marianne Williamson. I’d seen her on Oprah and had liked her and wanted to read one of her works.
On Sunday night, I was on page 21 of her book. It states this, “If you cannot see this now — if despair and anxiety hang like a veil before your eyes, preventing you from mustering any faith in God at all — then in this moment lean on mine. One mind joined with another, regardless of their position in time or space, can remove whatever chains would find us and deliver us to that sweet, sweet realm where things come full circle and there is always a chance to begin again.”
I wept at the part where she said, “then in this moment lean on mine.” The words went straight to my heart and for the first time in many weeks, a writer from California (I think) saved me.
It takes a lot to save a big girl from Virginia. But, I put the book down and closed my eyes and imagined myself on a gurney in a dark room where Marianne was by my side. IV’s full of fluid called things like “Faith,” “Hope,” “Don’t take yourself so seriously,” were inserted into my veins and she just watched over my…held my hand…and helped me sleep.
We need each other.
The world needs more thinkers like Marianne Williamson. Today, I will pray for her and her family, her mission — through the airways of space and time, my words go to her.
Thank you, thank you, thank you — in an IV labeled so.
Writers have the fun job of unzipping their souls and spilling out the poetry of their lives to titillate the souls of the readers who pick up their stories.
Most writers, I imagine, drink a cup of courage before they begin showing, revealing, and dumping their ideas and emotions out on the page through characters and events. Recently, I was editing a nonfiction book and found that the writer had been locked away by her parents in a small anteroom so they–the parents–wouldn’t be bothered. Having children sometimes interferes with drug use and alcoholism: we wouldn’t want that now, would we? It horrified me but it was real and it was good and I was carried away. Carried away by the fact that it wasn’t happening to me but had happened to a young child of five or six. She unzipped and showed me. I was reminded momentarily of the three women recently found in Cleveland who had been harbored, tortured, and harangued for ten long years.
Readers make associations and are glad, internally, that it wasn’t them who endured a grisly gruesome event. Or, perhaps, the unzipping of a writer will allow for the reader who has been through a similar devastation a chance to heal knowing he or she isn’t alone during dark nights of the soul. Someone else has been there, too.
When I read Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, An Unquiet Mind, many moons ago, I was released from the bondage that I was the only person in the world who had been gang raped in the brain by bipolar disorder. She unzipped and she unzipped good. Years later, I had to unzip, too, when I wrote my third book about a character gone mad.
Our world is complex and painful and dark. But, when we let go as writers and readers and tell the bone truth about a difficult time or even a particularly joyful time, then the web of connection vibrates from author to reader, reader to author. We are lifted by each other.
Next time you go to write, think about sitting in your chair naked. There is a small invisible zipper at the top of your throat that moves down your body all the way to the floor. Tug at it. Inch by inch, slowly move it down to your belly and then see what flops out onto the page.
Whatever flops out is what I want to read.
I’m up for air.
I have been entangled in a computer web of word files and the rap-tap-tap of a keyboard since January and now, I am crawling out. I am itching the Times New Roman (12-point font) out of my eyes and my right thumb is in a sling from hitting the spacebar 4.2 million times. Not to mention the pads of my fingers have no more visible fingerprints…if the FBI needs me, it will have to be a retinal scan. At this juncture, however, my retina and macula are ready for a view from a mountain top somewhere and not a blinking cursor.
Ahhhh. The life of an editor and a writer. It is a bit sadistic. Even now as I’m scurrying off to run an errand, I figured, it would be a good time to chat about, well, writing.
I started a writing group back in October: The Featherstone Writers’ Group. I did it for two reasons. Other writers need assistance with what we “other” established writers already know. Writing is solitary–we all need help on the sea of doubt and the sea of exaltation. Writing is anchored in both vast bodies of water. The second reason is I needed to get back in front of people and talk. My talker was rusty and I wanted to get it oiled up.
Apprehensive at first, I find that now, months later, I look forward to the burgeoning group. We have a section called, Writerly News. Each writer is to bring in a tidbit of news about writing, a passage or an anecodote or a piece of wisdom.
I bring something, too. Show and tell. Or rather…show only in the writing world.
I found something the other day in a writing book I’m beginning to lean on. The writer, Stephen Wilbers, talks about being a bulldozer and not a bricklayer when writing your manuscript. The bricklayer has to make everything perfect before he or she can get to the next paragraph. The color of the hat, the lilt in her voice, the passerby’s act of gratitude. The bulldozer barrels right through from parapraph to paragraph not caring about the color of the ladies hat, not caring about any lilt in the voice, and not caring about a passerby–the passerby isn’t even in the scene. The bulldozer gets finished. The bricklayer wears out.
Today, I’m going to bulldoze through this. I don’t care if it sounds right or looks right or even has any meaning. When I edit, or when you edit, your magic palette will appear to do the spackling and the bricklayer will still be stuck on paragraph six of chapter one.
Since I’m up for air, I am now offering more free sessions as I did last fall. If you are a publisher or a writer looking for assistance with me and my arsenal of bulldozers and such, then shoot me a note and we’ll set up a time.
I’m down for more taps on the keyboard…more blinking cursors making me open my Times New Roman and font it for you. Font is now a verb.
Verbs are good. Active ones. So, is air…out to breathe for a bit.