The Writing Life

Book Review: Quantum Creativity

There’s an annual tradition I hold as a year closes. I find something to read that I think will set a meaningful frame for my personal transition into the next year. This time I found that in Amit Goswami’s Quantum Creativity.

Quantum Creativity Image

You may remember this author as one of the researchers and physicists featured in the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know? Dr. Goswami was also a senior scholar in residence at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and has taught at Pacifica, Philosophical Research University and elsewhere as well as written a number of books for the layperson on quantum physics related to consciousness.

If you’ve ever had the experience…

…of teaching and suddenly find that something has overtaken your vocal chords and words are being delivered at a depth you wondered afterward where they came from…

…or you’re writing a book and find it all laid out in front of you as though you’re watching a movie and realize your job is to merely scramble and write it all down as fast as it’s happening…

…maybe you’re painting and enter a space where the subject matter itself seems to be directing your brushstrokes and effect of the colors you use…

…then you realize this is one of the great wonders of the Universe.

The experiences I mention are mine. But most of us have had such things happen to varying degrees. And it brings a sense of true reverence and awe to the creative space. When it happens to me I know I’m touching something much larger than myself. That I’m somehow communing with the Collective Unconscious. I define these occurrences as one of the Great Mysteries. And I want to fine-tune my capabilities to open that portal more so.

I don’t know that it’s possible to call upon such a gift by will. But I am sure we can all develop ourselves to be in a state of readiness for when it does insert itself.

In Quantum Creativity Goswami goes a long way in explaining the quantum physics that informs the creative process.

…when subtle energies engage with consciousness, then creativity is possible, even likely. In their quantum aspects both the brain and the mind consist of possibilities from which consciousness can create the endlessly new…The presence of consciousness in itself does not cause potentiality to actualize. Collapse [manifestation] occurs when an observer with a brain is present as well, with the intention to look…

 He also confirms that having a consistent intention to look is like exercising a muscle. It develops strength to support the endeavor. It supports the wisdom of ritual. You have to religiously show up with your readiness. It’s not a sporadic thing, not something for dabblers.

There’s also the argument for daydreaming, mind wandering⏤something many of us were probably chastised for in school.  And for time in nature or meditation. Creativity shows up in the space between the thoughts.

Consider the composer Richard Wagner’s account of his discovery of the overture to Das Rheingold. Wagner came home after taking a walk and went to bed, but could not sleep for a while. His mind wandered through various musical themes and eventually he dozed. Suddenly, he awoke and the overture of his famous Rheingold came to him in a creative outpouring.

 As much as this book is a primer for quantum physics in general it also offers the relevance to the creative process specifically and how to set yourself up to receive it. If you want to enhance your own process, then this is a book to assist your development. Of course, you still have to do the work involved yourself. The first step is showing up for that exhilarating ride.

Quantum Creativity is widely available in print and ebook. Here it is on Amazon. Highly recommend if you’re interested in self-development of any kind.

 

 

 

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Sacred Reciprocity, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fierce Quiet Place

We give a gift to ourselves when we allow connection with our innermost being. This is the one untouched by circumstances but fierce in its inviolate sanctity. The silence in this place is so loud you can hear it, so palpable you can feel it. And yet there’s no adequate way to express the comfort and inspiration it brings. Comfort here meant as nurturing. Coupled with inspiration, it urges us on…through…and beyond…to what we can’t yet know. And the circumstances of our lives⏤the challenges⏤fall away. It doesn’t mean they’re not there but are approached differently. A state of grace through the chaos and surrounding confusion.

And that Fierce Quiet Place wants expression in any way we can. It creates a portal and finds its way into the material world through narrative art, music, poetry and prose, ceremony and ritual…a touch…complete presence we give to others. It’s funneled from non-ordinary reality that exists out-of-time to land here.

This is what I’ve recognized more and more. And knowing that when I give myself over to that Fierce Quiet Place the most beautiful things happen. I live from a deeper place. I meet people who hold similar expression. I want to introduce you to one of them through the way it happened.

In February I completed This Is My Walk in Life, an oil painting. Over the course of its creation, it came to life. The portal opened. A silent dialogue ensued and conveyed itself as best I could onto canvas. It was not a casual process.

This is my walk in life

Title: This Is My Walk in Life Oil on canvas, 20×24. ©2016 Carla Woody. All rights reserved.

This is the description I gave it.

We all have a walk in life, perhaps chosen before we set our feet on Mother Earth. And amidst hardships there’s unexpected joy. If we open our eyes to it, there’s magic in fleeting moments when we truly experience what life is. This painting is inspired by the Lacandón Maya women of the rainforest village of Nahá in Chiapas, Mexico.

Then at the end of March I met Laura Weaver. She came from Colorado to take part in the fire ceremony guided by Tat Apab’yan Tew during our Spirit Keepers Series. I didn’t know she’s an accomplished poet. I’m quite sure she didn’t know I’m an artist and writer.

Then a few weeks ago I saw a poem she wrote in March.

 A Way of Walking

There is a way of walking

from point A to point B

as if there is nothing

of significance in between.

 

We have been taught to move

in straight lines, to lay life out

along a grid of efficiencies.

But there is another way to navigate.

 

This way carves a serpentine road

full of mysterious meetings.

Along this path, the directives come

from the world itself speaking

 

through all of its voices. And because

something else is guiding us—because

we are listening—at the next crossroads

we turn left instead of right—

 

and find a never before seen village

where an old man harvests golden apples

he offers to those who pass by. And over

the silken hills, cowbells sound out

 

like ancient monk song, and the last

of the sunlight breaks through the rainclouds

so that everything is shimmering and awake.

And the oak tree that cracked in last

 

night’s storm is dripping with honeycomb

and bee hum. And as this moment swells

and blooms open with its own fullness,

suddenly the idea of Point A & Point B

 

makes no sense at all. For now

you have no idea who you are

or if you have arrived. You only know

that you are everywhere.

I couldn’t help but note the strong similarities in the titles of our respective works and common message. Then yesterday I read her poem Making Passage which reaches an even deeper platform. I urge you to read it. It will speak to your soul.

I don’t think I’m presuming. When the Fierce Quiet Place is fully expressed we all say the same thing. Only the variation in our medium is different.

Earlier I described Laura as an accomplished poet but that’s not quite sufficient. Her words have a way of gently, persistently making their way inside us on a path all their own and touches the universal. And—in my experience—I feel heard. Even held.

 ♦♦♦

♦︎ The reprint of A Way of Walking is used with permission. Subscribe to Soul Passages and receive Laura Weaver’s poetry as she publishes.

♦︎ My original oil This Is My Walk in Life is currently available. Inquire for more information. Archival prints are available here.

 

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Spiritual Evolution, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

An Inspired Life: Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

In late 2013 Xavier Quijas Yxayotl—Huichol composer, musician and artist—shared his life story with me. It was a real privilege to hear of his origins, struggles and inspirations. The thing about Xavier is that you’d normally never know the details of his backstory. But maybe you would pick up there’s something deeper. He carries a sense of humility that typically only comes by having gone through hard times…survived…and having instilled great meaning in his life, touching others through his craft and presence.

Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

Portrait of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl with one of his handmade ancestral flutes. ©2015 Barry Wolf. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

With permission I turned his disclosures into a narrative that was picked up in 2014 by Still Point Arts Quarterly for their Fall 2015 issue. I thank editor Christine Cote for giving this important story space. I can now share the story in its entirety here as Xavier told it to me. I hope you are as inspired as I was.

 ***

 Through the Dark

 The boy fidgeted. He was in foreign territory, held prisoner by his mother’s hand on his arm. They sat side-by-side in matching chairs before the great divide of a massive desk. His mother’s voice rose and fell. Words tumbled over each other as though, if she didn’t get them out fast enough, the man considering them would summarily swat them out the door, no different than pesky insects.

An hour before, his mother pulled him along inner city streets into a massive building. They finally stopped in front of one door among several down the long hall. She smoothed her skirt and combed fingers through his black hair. With a deep breath, she opened the door. The secretary looked up.

“Please, I would like to see the director,” his mother said.

“Do you have an appointment?” The secretary appraised them, noting their dusky skin and worn clothing. When she shook her head, the secretary motioned them to a row of chairs against the wall and picked up the phone. They waited.

The man behind the desk was impeccably dressed in a gray suit matching the color shot through his dark hair and mustache. The lines in his face softened as he listened, shifting attention from the Indian woman before him to the boy, eyes downcast, clutching a notebook in his lap.

“Maestro Caracalla, I am Señora Isabel. This is my son Xavier. He’s different, a good artist. In school he always fights because no one understands him, not the teachers, not the other kids. He’s always thinking. Since he was old enough to hold a pencil, he always draws and writes about everything. He’s like an old person in a little boy’s body!”

The woman continued at length relating how, in the last two years, her son kept running away to live on the streets. Xavier slept in parks, skipped school, survived by selling newspapers and shoe shines. Terrified, she would search and drag him home, if she was fortunate to find him. But the next day he’d be gone again. He wouldn’t do what his father wanted: to set aside these silly pastimes, to work making shoes to help support the family.

“We have seven children. Xavier is the youngest boy. We are very poor. But he is so different and I’m afraid what might happen to him. Is there something you can do?” She finished softly.

Maestro Caracalla gestured to the boy’s notebook, “Is this your work?”

Xavier froze in his chair and prayed to disappear. He didn’t think the Maestro would hit him like his father did, but he dreaded the reprimand he knew would come. He whispered, “Yes.”

“Show it to me then.” The room was silent save the sound of Maestro Caracalla slowly turning pages after scrutinizing each one. Finally he closed the book. Looking over wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes seemed to bore into Xavier’s very soul. He gazed at Señora Isabel then back at the boy, whose reddened face was moist with sweat. “Señora, I don’t think you have any idea what a beautiful child you have. What ideas! His writing doesn’t match his age. He’s not a normal child. You have to do something with him. We have to help him!”

Maestro Caracalla told her to bring the boy back the following Monday, handing over a long list of art materials to buy. There’s not enough to eat! How can we buy art supplies? Guilt flooded Xavier’s mind. He was certain of a dead end. But at the appointed time his mother delivered him to the Maestro. She could only muster a clean new drawing tablet and 6B pencil, keeping even that small expenditure hidden from her husband. The secretary ordered a sandwich for Xavier, although he said he didn’t need anything.

“Ah, there you are,” the Maestro swept in from his office. He took Xavier by the hand and led him down the hall. They stopped in all the classrooms where he spoke to the teachers, “I want to introduce Xavier. He’s coming to take classes.”

That is how an eleven-year-old Huichol Indian boy from the streets came to attend Escuela des Artes Plásticas, the art school in Guadalajara, Mexico—the youngest pupil ever to sit alongside regular university students. They became his peers and friends. Maestro Caracalla continued as his benefactor for six years, making sure he had all the classes he needed: writing, painting, art history and more…

Xavier Painting 1

Painting by Xavier at the age of 18. Photo courtesy of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. All rights reserved.

 

Xavier painting-2

Xavier with one of his painted pow wow drums. Photo courtesy of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. All rights reserved.

Continue reading Xavier’s story here and find out how he returned to the Huichol roots denied him as a child, and went on to resurrect ancient instruments lost to time through visitations from his ancestors.

Categories: Indigenous Wisdom, Interview, Music Review, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Book Review: Traveling with Pomegranates

Traveling with PomegranatesI had just finished reading The Invention of Wings and was so taken with its sensitivity and historical significance that I went online to see what else Sue Monk Kidd had written. That’s when I discovered Traveling with Pomegranates, a memoir written by mother and daughter. What initially attracted me was its framework: spiritually oriented travel to sacred sites. Since I sponsor spiritual journey programs myself, it was a natural draw. I found so much richness in this container.

The content is drawn from the personal journals of Sue Monk Kidd and daughter Ann Kidd Taylor as they journey to sites in Greece, Turkey and France, touching down in-between at home in South Carolina, over a few year period. Mother is poised on the cusp of her fifties. Daughter is barely twenty. Both face age-related life events, desires and the all-too-often wrestling…internal questioning… that comes as a result. I suspect they would have engaged with these universal aspects anyway. But the process was marked out in two ways that probably intensified it and kept it rolling. First, it was the awareness they gave to each other during their travels, based on their relationship, even as they were going through their own worry and self-discovery. The perspective and emotional content based on age was prominent.

The other significance had to do with the way each of them engaged the iconic historical and mythological feminine figures based on their travel to particular sacred sites. And how the unfolding carries forward over time, strengthening itself through further focused intent and journeying. I know this through my own experiences and witnessing others in my travels who do the same.

The special treat for me was Sue Monk Kidd’s disclosure of her own process as a writer—inspirations and tribulations. At that point, she was known for nonfiction, kicking up a bit of a fuss in theological circles with The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. Yet her heart called out to write novels. She’s frank about the self-doubt but finally plowing forward anyway. We don’t often think about bestselling authors or others of acclaim in that light. It makes her human in our eyes, encourages us to stay the course.

This is a book that caused me to reflect on my own stage of life: where I’ve been, the Great Unknown yet to unfold, and opportunities to embrace living even more fully.

Available in print and ebook on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

 

Categories: Book Review, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

We Are All Artists

When I’m especially taken with a book, I greatly anticipate the author’s next one. This was the case with one of my favorite novelists, Jim Fergus. Visits to his website had promised one for several years, even with a specific title and subject matter that is of interest to me. But each time I checked … nothing … and I’d log off disappointed. A few weeks ago I checked, this time discovering he had a new one out. I promptly ordered it. Yet again he’d produced a story that touched me in tender places, as much as it informed. I did something I don’t normally do: I emailed him to express my gratitude that he’s writing again.

He responded. It started a conversation.

Jim told me the book had been published in France and done quite well. But when he went searching for a US publisher, no one was interested. Unbelievable, I thought. This is a writer whose two previous books—One Thousand White Women and The Wild Girl—were bestsellers! But with this new one? He’d stepped out of his genre of The West and Native Americans. He was no longer in the neat slot US publishers had placed him—therefore, a risk.

He went on to say the specific title he’d named on his website, Marie-Blanche, was published in France in 2011, currently in development for a mini-series there. Same problem with US publishers. Jim finally decided to self-publish The Memory of Love, the novel I’d most recently read … just to have a new book in print in my own country.*

This goes to show that even widely celebrated writers—and any such artists really—don’t necessarily have it made, as our fantasies tell us. They’re subject to the same tight restrictions and imperious whims if they depend upon the old-school bureaucracies and structures.

Now he’s writing a sequel to One Thousand White Women, the genre he’s known for, accepted by US publishers. There’s no doubt I’m wildly anticipating its publication. And I’m quite sure it will be a commercial success.

However, the unconventional part of me automatically made an appearance. I shared that I’d written three books and had chosen to self-publish specifically to avoid all the nonsense traditional publishers try to lay on you. I don’t have the time or energy to deal with it. Those who have found my books receive them quite well. **

I also mentioned that it’s the same with most art galleries. To accept an artist’s work, they want to make sure you’re consistent, no matter your talent level. Consistent in this definition means same general subject matter and media, same slotting as above. I’m fortunate to have found two galleries who are happy to show my work, no matter how much I experiment. And I do. I’m not a production line.

All aspects of my work—mentoring, spiritual travel programs, writing or art—appeal to a particular small niche, not the mainstream. And I’ve got much gratitude to those who engage with any of it. It means we’re part of the same tribe.

I often listen to Krista Tippett’s On Being interviews when I’m painting. I find them inspiring, and they sometimes inform the piece I’m working on in the moment. Right on the heels of the conversation I relate above, I listened to her interview with Seth Godin on The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating. No coincidence. Here are some relevant take-aways … ***

  • The assembly line is going away. The things that used to make you feel safe are now risky.
  • Putting something new into the world? The industrial order doesn’t want us to do that.
  • Change comes from the margins.
  • When you do something out of the box, you’re not going to be picked by the old regime.
  • Bottom-up change is the future, not top down.
  • One person can make a difference. You matter.
  • Find people who agree with you and lead them to greater depth.
  • You’re an echo of your art if you’re not making new art.
  • Do it as the gods would do it: with intent, no holding back.
Mystery School in process on the easel.

Mystery School currently in process on the easel.

This is the time of year—as we’re on the threshold of the next one—when I remind myself of these truths by viewing Sean Connery’s rendition of Ithaca by C.P. Cavafy, featured in this blog before.

It reinforces my intent.

 Engage your passion. Fine tune. Put it out there.

 

 ***

 *My conversation with Jim Fergus was relayed here with his complete permission. This is the review for The Memory of Love I uploaded to Amazon and originally sent to Jim with my first email:

Truly, Jim Fergus is one of my favorite novelists having also read  ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN and THE WILD GIRL. This book is indeed a departure but at least equal to the others. I was personally touched by Chrysis’ striving against convention and evolution as an artist, and Bogey was portrayed as though the writer had lived inside those very emotions. The foreword shared why a man could write this way about love, and only at the end did I realize the characters had actually lived. I’d been waiting a long time since THE WILD GIRL for Jim Fergus’ next novel. I’m very glad he’s writing again. Now I’m looking forward to MARIE-BLANCHE.

 **To view my books and readers’ reviews on Amazon, go here. To view artwork online, go here.

***I recommend listening to the unedited versions of On Being interviews with Krista Tippett. They’re much longer but without the fine polish that editing brings. They’re real.

Categories: Arts, Book Review, Creativity Strategies, Interview, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Energy That Finds Its Source

Sometimes it’s powerful to change things up in your geography, to experiment and see how you may further engage creativity…and The Muse. In the last several months, I’ve done just that—albeit unknowingly—and have been fairly astounded at what has unfolded.

I meditate first thing in the morning, usually before dawn. Over the last thirty years of doing so, it’s set the stage for my days and provided a consistent segue for insights, higher guidance. But I’d never considered using it as a tool for my artwork. It happened accidentally.

I would undertake my daily ritual in the back room, sitting cross-legged with straight back, always in the same spot for as long as I’d lived in this home, an anchor to the process. One morning for no apparent reason, I chose to meditate in the front room. Whenever I feel complete, I come back with “soft eyes”…slightly defocused…slowly returning, integrating the state with my day ahead. That morning my gaze came to rest on the easel and canvas I’d been painting for a while. And suddenly I experienced the piece in a whole new way. I saw things I hadn’t seen before. I felt a previously undetected presence, perhaps waiting until I’d opened a door and it could reach through and guide me. I’ve continued this change in geography while keeping my long-time meditation ritual. My artwork has more depth and meaning. I feel the intent of pieces is coming across in a way I’d just hoped for before. I had the beautiful feedback from a couple from Canada who approached me—after seeing My Magdalen Heart in person—saying they’d experienced the piece literally speaking to them.

The Inner Chamber

The Inner Chamber
Mixed media on canvas
©2014 Carla Woody

People have puzzled over the creative process for eons. Some ascribe to a belief that the source of creativity rests within the self absolutely, which places enormous pressure if you find not so much coming through. Others are certain it comes from another source, perhaps a higher power. Author Elizabeth Gilbert spoke eloquently on TED regarding this controversy.

I believe it’s a combination of the two. First, I have the choice to say “yes.” Then it’s a matter of showing up consistently, having faith that something will be delivered…and being patient with the process. I recognize that I’m a vehicle. I’ve chosen to develop certain skills. But, for me, there’s no mistaking when I’ve tapped into another realm entirely outside myself that moves beyond the mundane. My senses are heightened and the energy moves—whether through brush on canvas, fingers on keyboard…whatever the art form—to find ground. There’s a distinct collaboration…and it’s something else again when your subject matter starts communicating with you. Strange as it seems, that’s how it’s happening for me these days.

When I was writing Portals to the Vision Serpent my practice was to begin writing after meditation, at least five days a week for at least three hours at a time. Again, I didn’t realize at the time I was accessing my craft through an altered state of being. It was as though I watched a movie and wrote down what unfolded in front of me. One day I reached a point in the book where I needed to get a main character down to the rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico but had no idea how. Within a few days, a completely new character stepped forward to introduce himself from the shadows where he’d been hidden. It turned out that he provided the way; the novel moved on.

The poet Mary Oliver said, “…The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—the heart of the star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone…Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself—soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all…”

If it hasn’t yet happened for you in the way you desire, I believe it can. It means opening yourself up, stepping outside your comfort zone, changing up your geography. It’s an agreement you make…an intent you hold…and then let go.

Such an energy finds its reciprocal Source.

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Make Your Characters Come to Life

Gallery shot

Patiently waiting for life.
Photo credit: Carla Woody

One of the biggest challenges fiction writers have is to breathe life into the characters of their stories, to make them believable. This is particularly true if your book is character-driven. You want readers to connect with the story and those in it, to love or hate them. A reader of my latest book Portals to the Vision Serpent wrote to say how she couldn’t stand Sybilla, who features prominently in the novel—until she really understood her. Then she had great empathy. Even if the book is plot-driven, you want the characters’ actions to make some level of sense from their standpoint. 

We all have a specialized, individual template that we live by. Here’s a quick review on how that happens. Your brain codes experiences you have. The original coding usually takes place early in life. The coding becomes your perceptions, which translates to the beliefs you have about yourself, others, the world in general, and what’s possible. This template also becomes the filter through which you experience your life. You develop strategies for thinking and living that further reinforce the original beliefs—those that support and those that get in your way. When something significant happens to disrupt the old beliefs, things can shift dramatically.

Your characters are no different. Here’s a way to uncover their templates by “stepping into” different perspectives.

  1. From your “self” position as the writer, note how you experience different characters: the nonverbal signals, the way they speak, your own response to them.
  1. Now taking each character at a time, imagine you can slide right into their body, look out of their eyes, become them—rather than witnessing them—and answer these questions: What is their family of origin like? Based on what they unconsciously ingested then, how do they experience their own identity, who they are? Note the trickle down effect: What beliefs were generated? What about capabilities? Resulting actions? How they experience their environment? This way you can really get inside the hearts and minds of the characters.
  1. Then step back. By being a detached observer you get additional valuable information. Given what you discovered about your individual characters, now you can really get a bead on important dynamics between the major players and incorporate them into your writing.
Antigua bells

Antigua bells.
Photo credit: Carla Woody

By using a method like this, you also invite your reader to tag along through your writing, to undergo the same discovery and identify with different characters playing out the human condition, no different than the rest of us. We are all who we are based upon where we’ve been. But when something of great enough significance interjects itself triggering a change in one character…it also affects the others in close proximity. That’s how things get shaken up; the story becomes so much more interesting; the characters can grow in various ways.

Of course, you can use what I’ve written here as a guideline to explore aspects of your own life, not just writing. This is a brief primer toward self-discovery and relationship dynamics that I use with clients as a springboard for transformation. I’ve adapted the content of this post from my mentoring program Navigating Your Lifepath, which guides folks on how to live through their deeply held values—and thrive.

What are ways you can imagine exploring perspectives would be useful to you? Let me know your ideas or experiences in the comments below.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Creativity Strategies, Healing, Healthy Living, NLP, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Book Announcement and Goodreads Giveaway

I’m so pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of my new novel Portals to the Vision Serpent on June 17, 2013. As a gift to subscribers, Facebook friends and Goodreads readers, I’m giving away 10 signed copies. The giveaway is managed by Goodreads. Go here, scroll down, and click to win through Goodreads until June 17.

Portals to the Vision SerpentDescription:

Preston Johns Cadell is tormented. He attempts to outrun discontent and the void in his heart. His mother is hardly around. His father’s origins and disappearance are shrouded by family secrets. His sole remembrance of his father is flying through the stars nestled in his arms.

Any comfort Preston derives is from an unseen advisor who teaches him of the invisible world. Now he is coming of age. Memories arrive from long ago when a brown-skinned woman cared for him. But she, too, vanished. Finding the buried remains of his father’s altar, Preston must answer the draw to his destiny, to discover his lineage—even though he has no idea how or where it will lead him.

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a Hero’s Journey into the realms of shamanism and the Maya world. Interwoven are the struggles of indigenous peoples to preserve their way of life and tragedies that often come from misunderstandings. Through a family saga of dark wounds and mystery, spiritual healing unfolds.

Published by Kenosis Press
ISBN-13: 978-1-930192-03-4
Soft cover, 282 pages


Editorial Reviews

“The search to find one’s True Self is a journey that often challenges cultural preconceptions and assumptions. Portals to the Vision Serpent takes this journey deep into the heart of the True People, delivering a story of longing and mystery woven like a story cloth between two worlds.”

— Sharon Brown, Publisher, Sacred Fire Magazine


“Bloodlines are story lines. In Portals to the Vision Serpent, Carla Woody invites the reader to explore the mysterious, ever-unfolding tale that each one must tell with our lives — one chapter at a time. Step into these pages. Invoke your true name. Re-member who you have always been.”

— Jamie K. Reaser, author of Sacred Reciprocity: Courting the Beloved in Everyday Life

and Note to Self: Poems for Changing the World from the Inside Out


Portals to the Vision Serpent is a transcendent spiritual adventure of a soul’s inner and outer journey into the rainforests of Guatemala and Mexico and brings awareness to the struggles of native people amidst the onslaught of cultural genocide.”

— Matthew J. Pallamary, author of Land Without Evil


Trade paperback available through Amazon, B&N and other online bookstores as of June 17. You may also order the book from your local bookstore. E-book available through Amazon.

Remember: Enter to win a signed copy through Goodreads until June 17.

Winners are determined by Goodreads.

While you’re there, I’d invite you to add me as a friend and write a brief review

on Goodreads and Amazon for Standing Stark and Calling Our Spirits Home if you’ve read them,

or put them on your bookshelf to read.

Categories: Giveaway, The Writing Life | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Refrigerator Poetry

At the tail end of National Poetry Writing Month, I want to sneak in this story of a way my creative juices were unexpectedly activated. Several years ago I traveled to L.A. to participate in a group experience. A friend of mine flew down from Denver to accompany me. We would be staying with friends who had recently bought an old mansion in an area undergoing gentrification. It was an incredible place—three stories’ worth—with a conservatory and even a library. The new owners envisioned it as gathering place for the arts community, avant-garde thinkers and adventurers, as well as their home. They were intent on bringing it back to original condition.

While I went to the event, my traveling companion—a horticulturist by profession—had volunteered to design a garden and brought his computer for that purpose. When I returned a day later from my group activity, I discovered that things hadn’t progressed as planned. It would be some hours added to our original departure point. There wasn’t much room for me in the design process. Everyone was crowded around the computer screen in the breakfast room. I was more interested in enjoying the ambience of the house anyway.

Next to all the design activity was a huge old-fashioned kitchen, a big island in the middle and a formal butler’s pantry. My eye caught the jumble on the refrigerator door: hundreds of words on little magnets, arranged into witty sayings, others silly or downright gross. That was the first time I’d seen magnetic poetry—and I was intrigued.

The longer I stood there looking at the possibilities, words became fragments and then merged to form a thread. After an hour of fun, this is what presented itself.

We must be mad

soaring playfully like a thousand storms

under the winter moon.

Will you think me crazy

for smearing my skin with a diamond symphony?

Ache deliriously, run frantically

when I shine,

drunk on beauty.

Magnetic words now grace my own refrigerator door. I couldn’t wait to get home and purchase some. I keep some finished pieces displayed. Others are phrases lodged there to remind me they could be worked more when I’m in the mood. I threaten to publish them all one day in a little book called Refrigerator Poetry, maybe illustrated with my artwork. Magnetic wordsBut what I like best is how these word magnets work on your creativity. They’re almost irresistible. And I always chuckle when I discover some poems or messages that friends left, unbeknownst to me. The latest was a brief note from my latest house sitters, discovered weeks after I’d returned home. P1040134If you can’t wait to have some of your own, you can find magnetic words here. But I warn you: You’ll find yourself dawdling in front of your refrigerator consistently—not to tempt yourself with ice cream or pie—but to feed your inner poet!  

This story recalled through The Daily Prompt: Unleash Your Inner Dickinson.

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, The Writing Life | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Respite

 

I take daily respite in the morning. It’s my habit to arise quite early, usually before the sun is up, and sit cross-legged facing the east, to the hills just across the way, above the preserved land below my home. Then I go into meditation. I no longer use any technique as I did years ago. Going into meditation became automatic. The energy and stillness just arrive. When the sun comes up over the hills I know it immediately, not only from the strong light that plays against my eyelids, but also because the sun’s vibration is palpable, adding to what I was already experiencing on my own.

For more than thirty years, I’ve started my day this way, in different homes through time but essentially the same process. The fruits of this ritual are potent. It sets the tone for my day; it’s a benefit to my health; insights and guidance are offered: something explained, inspiration given, direction that becomes evident. But most importantly perhaps is the feeling of Presence, a sense of the sacred.

Hoodoos

Hoodoos, Mt. Lemmon

I have another respite that I’ve come, over the past few years, to treasure equally, with the same benefits. It’s turned into a habit as well. Every several weeks, five women convene at a home to share a meal and deep communication. I am one of them. We come from different walks of life, life stages and range of experiences and talents. Not all of us even knew the others when we began to gather. Yet we are a homogenous group in that we all seek the same thing: a safe haven where we can let our hair down, talk about tough nuggets we encounter, explore new ideas and celebrate each other. I think I can speak for all of those involved in saying: We’ve become significant to each other, a family of choice.

Santa Catalinas

Santa Catalinas

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise with seared ahi with thanks to our gourmet chef who has mastered champagne camping.

Two years ago, we added an annual camping trip. I have to laugh because we have different ideas of what camping is and the activities involved. But we came to consensus, and this days-long respite has become paramount, too. Last year we camped in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah. Two weeks ago we were in the Catalinas north of Tucson. We were early this year, and those of us in tents, rather than the camper, froze some nights. Indeed, when I got up at 5 a.m. there was frost blanketing the outside of my tent. But the sun came up. The coffee was hot and the conversation warm. As normal, we undertook our individual pursuits—reading, napping, hiking in quiet places and birdwatching, writing, one-on-one time—and gathering as a group for meals or when we felt like it for deep conversation. It’s fully free and easy.

It was to this group I entrusted the initial reading of my forthcoming novel Portals to the Vision Serpent, to test the flow and story. Any author will understand what it is to let others view their work at that early stage. I knew I could let them hold my fragile newborn, and they would make it dear and be honest. I made changes based on their feedback.

 So, I also knew that I could test an idea I have for the next novel with them. I’ve been mulling it over for the past few years, bits and pieces coming to me over time. It’s fairly complex and pushes the boundaries of a religious doctrine. Right before our camping trip somehow I stumbled upon an actual person who may serve as the inspiration for the main character. It finally seemed time to share, even though the framework wasn’t fully formed. I was grateful I had their full attention.  After listening to my somewhat disjointed dissertation, they agreed the idea had sturdy legs. Now I’m further inspired.

I’ll end here by relating what I’ve learned to be true:

       Daily respite enriches life and is a necessity to mine;

       Gathering regularly with intended community encourages risk-taking, provides comfort and is a sacred respite in itself;

       Even though I live in a wilderness area where silence prevails, leaving home and work for retreat invites further Presence into my life.

This post is dedicated to my Moon Sistars.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healthy Living, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Solitude, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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