Friday, October 30, 2015

The Prayer Cycle

In July of this year, I finished writing Half Mortal. I felt the wonder of that achievement. Then the sense of standing on a precipice swept over me. I was preparing to write the final installment of this “work” that I’ve devoted so many years of my life to. I wanted to move forward, but I also wanted to cherish the final stage of this particular journey. I paused, took a deep breath, and began listening to The Prayer Cycle each morning.

The Prayer Cycle is a nine-part contemporary choral symphony in twelve languages created by film and television composer, Jonathan Elias. I picked up the CD in London soon after its release and immediately fell in love with it.

Here’s a great 4-min clip of Elias discussing the creation of The Prayer Cycle.

And, here’s a video of the first movement, Mercy, featuring Alanis Morissette and Alif Keita singing in Hungarian and Swahili.

The eight other tracks are: Strength (German), Hope (French), Compassion (Latin), Grace (Italian), Innocence (French), Forgiveness (French), Benediction (German), and Faith (German).

I’d planned on listening to this particular choral/orchestral work as inspiration seed for War & Grace for quite some time, and was looking forward to whatever it might open up in me, creatively.

Not surprisingly, after a few mornings of absorbing it’s beauty, a deeper hunger that had seemingly slept soundly for years re-awakened. It soon became clear that I longed to return to the depths that had nourished and sustained me in my twenties.

Although what I experienced this summer was dramatically different than that trying time, I began to realize that I was spiritually depleted. I’d made a promise to myself to write War & Grace in an atmosphere of devotion, joy, and love. But I knew, in order to do that, I’d need to reorient myself at a deeper level.

Tricky stuff, that.

Earlier in the summer, I’d discovered Elephant Journal, an online magazine, and had enjoyed reading some of their articles. It was there I came across a video about 5 Pitfalls of Spiritual Awakening by Kiran, Mystic Girl in the City.

As I sat there that morning and listened to Kiran’s short talk, walls came down.

She was speaking directly to what I’d experienced those five years in my twenties, in a way I’d never heard anyone speak to it before. Back then, whenever I’d tried to share what I was going through, meds were most often suggested.

Because what I was feeling, the grief I was experiencing, was so intense.

I, however, steadfastly ignored the suggestion to medicate myself, just persisted in my blind stubbornness, and more and more, found myself spiraling inward on my own.

In the end, when almost everyone had fallen away, three unexpected but cherished companions remained. And with them, in a place where the sun ruled the skies, and the endless horizon of the desert fed my bereft spirit, dwelling in a city that sat on one of the most humble of international borders, I found that stable center.

Inside of me.

I came to call it my soul flame, that light that burns inside me, that light that burns inside us all, that flicker of divinity that we are free to nurture.

Flora fiddled with her kerchief. “Mortal bodies are dense. Much denser than the bodies of any creature in Faerie—or the enchanted world. If mortals don’t tend rather vigorously to their soul flame, their spirit and awareness gets dampened. Muddied,” she said. “They lose the ability to see clearly and make all sorts of regretful decisions. But when the body falls away in death, if the mortal’s soul flame has any strength at all, it survives."Half Mortal, (Daughter of Light Book #2)

On Tuesday, I'll be addressing how "spiritual language" complicates things.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Spiral Inward

I had my first spiritual shift when I was in my early twenties. After receiving some rather devastating news, the person I knew myself to be up to that point in my life simply fell away. It was abrupt, disorienting and disconcerting, like walls crashing down, and me left standing there, defenseless. When I turned out the lights and crawled into bed each night, a single blazing question haunted me: Why am I here on this planet?

I didn’t know. Nothing made sense anymore. The conveyor built of my lift had broken down. While my peers pursued careers, relationships, and began having children, creating families of their own, I would sit tongue-tied among them. Until I stopped sitting among them at all, because it was simply too uncomfortable for all of us.

I was being pulled more and more inward. But I had no idea about how to proceed. Even so, I applied a blunt stubbornness to this seeming anti-drive consuming me. I say anti-drive because it didn’t appear that I was being driven toward anything, I was only being driven away from everything that I’d thought was normal up to that point.

For the person who I’d been, very focused, very linear, the experience was disconcerting. Everything I’d believed myself to be, every image I’d envisioned for my future, the people who’d formed the core of my life, were gone. No longer available to me. Because an inward force was pulling me away from all that, toward what?

I hadn’t a clue.

At that time, I experimented with returning to the religion of my youth. However, once again, it didn’t take. I floundered through 12 step groups, astrology readings, consciousness raising groups, psychotherapy, depth psychology, new age philosophies, yoga, varieties of bodywork … whatever held out some hope of helping me restore a stable center. Because, really, that’s what I was searching for. Born from sheer desperation, rather than any quality of saintliness or desire to be “spiritual”, I was seeking a stabilizing force.

At the core of that journey was a deep grieving for the loss of the relationship with my mother. The woman who’d taught me to pray at night:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

My mother and her family were steeped in religion. My father and his family were not. I was always blessed with seeing the merits of both arguments: The one for God; and the one for faith being only a fantastical pursuit which, in the end, would yield nothing.

That inner conflict has always set me at odds with organized religion. On the one hand, I’ve had my own personal experience of the divine (thus, ordinary mystic) but I’ve always found the attitudes of organized religion to be onerous, whether it’s been the use of guilt and/or fear as primary persuaders or the hypocrisy and hunger-for-power of its all-too-human practitioners.

The religious/spiritual landscape more often than not has left me feeling turned-off. Yet I’ve never been able to suppress this yearning, this hunger, completely. And I’m most centered, joyful and productive when I’m engaged with THAT THING, call it whatever you like. In my heart, and in my head, and in my writing, I call it many names: God, the divine, that energy, the infinite, THAT THING.

And yet, I tend to wander off the path.

About five years after my initial shift, I began to re-engage with the external world. The experience of the divine, my connection with THAT THING, eased from the center of my life to the periphery. It never went away completely, but nor did it consume me as it had for those first five years. My life unfolded, and it seemed that the “inner gold” I’d mined in those precious five years, kept me going for over two decades. I no longer searched for a spiritual home. And since I’ve never had faith in spiritual teachers—there are just too many horror stories of students being led astray and/or abused by all too human gurus and/or priests—I was content to muddle along my way, mostly on my own.

And then … (Come back for The Prayer Cycle on Friday!)

Friday, October 23, 2015

It FEELS LIKE a Spiritual Renaissance

If being spiritual is not being weird, it’s at least being uncomfortable. We’re so rational, savvy and technological. Everyone is so mesmerized by artificial intelligence that any open discussion about divine intelligence these days is viewed— at best—as cliched dated quaint trivial—at worst—backwards ignorant politically incorrect unenlightened; regardless, it’s a bullet on a “What’s Not Hot” list written decades ago.

We couldn’t care less who made us or why we’re here.

Wait a minute.

What’s this? All these articles about … gasp! Religion, Spirituality, and things otherwise Ethereal.

Computer Generated Spirituality by R. P. Nettelhorst I’d invite R2D2 and C-3PO to the church potluck.

Godman as Rockstar by Udhav Naig A guru paves a road to Hinduism through Bollywood.

Five Approaches to Interspirituality by Carl McColman I’d add a sixth, spiritual voyeurism.

Oprah Finds Reasons to Believe The same week she acquires a 10% share in Weight Watchers. Just sayin.

Spirituality and the Hookup Culture by Rachel Snodgrass Apparently, the rigidities of casual sex aren’t tantric.

Snapchat Spirituality: How Technology Can Be a Force for Religious Good or Evil by Jonathan Merritt Biceps and Dimples, and Jesus, oh my!

Let’s Stop Being Embarrassed by Spirituality by Jay Michelson A journalist does his mea culpa for writing a book about spirituality. Hugs.

Yeah, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I keep a lid on my own spirituality in my daily life, because:

  • It’s really personal.
  • It’s nobodies business what I believe.
  • I don’t want to offend anyone.
  • I don’t want to open the door to conversion, evangelization, or proselytizing. Really, I just can’t stand that. You know, you just sit there, teeth gritted, while they bear down on you with their quoted scripture. Like you’ve never heard it before.
  • Since we constantly grow and change, but not necessarily at the same rate, or in the same direction, we’re not necessarily going to be on the same page. The conversation could get tricky.
  • I don’t want to step in the shit of your self-righteousness.
  • You’ll probably think I’m weird if you really know what I think about all this.
  • I’m so over westerners ditching christianity for buddhism and then claiming they’re not religious. Dogma is dogma. Indoctrination is indoctrination. No, I did not just say that. But, if the higher ups are wearing robes …
  • I’m so sick of women being 2nd class citizens in otherworldly paradigms that I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than listen to your tired-ass rationalizations for male superiority. I mean, really? Are you kidding me? YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT?
  • No, I did not just say that, either.
  • All of the above.
  • None of the above.

Really, I’m okay with whatever you believe, as long as you don’t inflict it on me. And I’m okay if you don’t believe what I believe, because it’s very possible that what I believe will change. If not next year, then maybe over the next decade. I’m old enough to know that. I’ve lived it. More than once. Yes, I’m that old.

It’s possible that online affords us just the right amount of distance and anonymity to have the conversations that we don’t dare have in our bedrooms, classrooms, and work places. Check it out … all over the web … all over the world … people are taking advantage of cyberspace to engage in discussions, exchanges, musings, and outpourings about God/not god, the divine, the infinite—THAT THING.

It definitely feels like a spiritual renaissance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is Being Spiritual Being Weird?

I made the changes to my social media accounts and website to prepare for the Sunburned blog series on the evening of October 12, 2015. That morning, I realized a new moon was pending, so I searched Youtube for some insight. Astrology often gets a bad rap, and I’m not here to defend it’s limitations, but “on earth as it is in heaven” [the lord’s prayer, christian], “as above, so below” [hermes trismegistus, pagan] … a little spiritual riffing there, hehe … so, on occasion I enjoy listening to the astrological mystics.

And that morning, I stumbled upon this crazy, weird, and completely wonderful video created by Timothy Halloran of Rasa Lila Healing [rasa-lila roughly translates to "the dance of divine love”, hindu], which I’ve embedded below. And as I watched the video with a huge grin on my face—for sure—I thought yes … Yes … YES!

Because, unless you’ve been super busy and/or massively overwhelmed you’ve probably noticed “the times they are a changing” [bob dylan, singer/songwriter].

What was it about this video, on that morning, that so enchanted me?

Well, if I had to narrow it down to a single quality, it would have to be it’s exuberant weirdness! And if there’s one word I’ve fallen back on to describe myself again and again throughout my life it’s: weird. So … I felt a really special kinship with Timothy’s passionate call to embody [I’ll be creating a glossary with my current definition of spiritual terms along the way, soon …] our own special brand of weirdness, because …

"the uniqueness that makes us totally weird is our individual brilliance and we cannot suppress any of that if we truly want to live in harmonious relationships”

I totally concur with this point of view, and it was awesome to connect with such an impassioned expression of it on the day I embarked on a new endeavor … which might be considered: kind of weird!

Other issues Timothy addresses as he walks us through the astrological aspects occurring in the skies are: equality, the divine feminine and masculine principles, our need to listen to others’ points of view to evolve, and what it’s like to live on the edge of profound change.

In the end, he touches on another concept that is near and dear to my heart: Bridging. He addresses bridging on two levels: within the individual—the bridging of our highest spiritual ideals with our mundane, “selfish” desires; and within community—the bridging of the “unique autonomous individual, doing my thing in the world, and my thing that I’m doing in the world is simultaneously contributing to the benefitting of others”

This video is such a great share for kicking off Sunburned, because the essence of what I believe spirituality is:

“By giving my uniqueness I create harmony in the world”

Allow that to settle deep within you.

Thank you, Timothy for helping me kick off this series. Everyone else, take a 30-minute break and enjoy the dance of Rasa-Lila’s vibrant cosmic perspective yourself. I'll be back on Friday.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Why Sunburned?

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

The end of Summer and beginning of Fall became an interesting time for me. When I settled in to write the final installment in Daughter of Light, there were a lot of questions on my mind as I reflected on the series as a whole.

If you've read Half Faerie and/or Half Mortal, you know that each has a distinct tone, and I intend for War & Grace to continue in that vein. The feedback from readers has also confirmed that each book is better than the one preceding it, and I'm determined that the culmination of Melia's quest doesn't disappoint.

So, I've been digging deeper. That exploration circled me back to the roots of why I began telling this story in the first place; and all the dreams, hope, and love that I've invested in these books since 2008. I want to honor and celebrate all that. Plus, I've made some fascinating discoveries along the way that I'd like to share. To that end, I'm creating Sunburned, a blog series about spirituality to accompany this last phase in my journey of writing Daughter of Light.

Why Sunburned?

Becoming sunburned in the physical sense results from being overexposed to sun-Light. Blistering and painful, tender reddening occurs.

It's not uncommon to become overexposed to religious and spiritual ideals, as well. Being subjected to doctrines and concepts again and again can feel like—and in some instances is—brain-washing. We run in the other direction simply to avoid the parroted language and uncomfortable emotions these kinds of experiences invoke.

On the other hand, spiritual experiences and realities can be mesmerizing. Perhaps, we forget ourselves and play on the beach of other dimensions too long. Losing touch with the mundane, we return to the every day with a different sort of sensitivity.

What about the "Great Awakening?" I haven't had one, but listening to the experience of those who have, the resultant burning away of mind and/or personal identity can leave behind an altered sense of universal truth that can take months if not years to integrate.

And since they speak directly to our inner life, when religious and spiritual ideals are false, they can cause inner damage akin to a burn. We shut down.

For the past two months, I've been immersed in discovering the abundance of spiritual resources available on the internet. It's left me wide-eyed. The internet didn't exist when I had my first spiritual shift. I was both lost, traveling without a guide, and determined, stubbornly and blindly throwing aside every voice except the one within.

But it was hard for me. So I'm thrilled to find that the beliefs I've thought about and questioned and grappled with so much of my life in private, the concepts that fuel my writing, are now being talked about and debated in a very "public square." And I looking forward to participating in the discussion.

Some of the many questions I’ll be exploring in Sunburned are:

  • Is the internet ushering in a spiritual renaissance?
  • Who are the new spiritual leaders and what are they teaching?
  • What’s fueling this spiritual boom?
  • How can these resources support our individual hunger for deeper connection, truth and union?

I’ll also be drawing from themes in Daughter of Light—specifically the spiritual nature of Melia’s journey and the evolution of consciousness as the essence of the Whole—and my own story to expand the discourse.

Please join me and be inspired to pursue your own truth as we tread the road to taking our Selves and our Beliefs more Light-ly.


P.S. If you haven't already, please participate in the POLL!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Book Maven Reviews Half Faerie and Half Mortal

Thank you The Book Maven for reading and reviewing the first two books in Daughter of LightHalf Faerie and Half Mortal!

She had this to say about Half Faerie:

This was a fantastic new world. I truly enjoyed the story and the complicated characters. Melia really develops well throughout the story. She and the other significant characters propel the book further into the world that Heidi Garrett has created. The detail and excellent storytelling allows the reader to fully dive into the world of Faerie. As the characters make the difficult choices, the reader will feel as though they are making the choices with them. If you like the idea of faeries, pixies, brownies and many other mythical creatures you will enjoy Half Faerie.

Read the full review HERE!

And here are some of there thoughts about Half Mortal:

This was a great continuation to this story. It really propels the story into a new realm of excitement and intrigue. I really liked the addition of Jade as a contender to host Umbra. I thought it really had you guessing what would happened between her and Ryder and what would happen with Melia’s idea of hosting Umbra herself. I also enjoyed the deepening of Ryder’s story within this second book.

Read the full review HERE!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What do you believe?

It's been an interesting couple of months since Half Mortal has been published. And as I've approached the first draft of War & Grace, I've been driven toward my interior life. Along the way, familiar questions and ideas, inspiration and longings have surfaced.

It seems like this inner spelunking has been necessary to make the final installment of the Daughter of Light trilogy what I want it to be.

And it's made me wonder ...

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