Brigit Anna McNeill’s Prose on “Winter”

“We are approaching the threshold of winter.

Life is being drawn into the earth, painlessly descending down into the very heart of herself.

And we as natural human animaljessicaboehmanearthpic.jpgs are being called to do the same, the pull to descend into our bodies, into sleep, darkness and the depths of our own inner caves continually tugging at our marrow.

But many find the descent into their own body a scary thing indeed, fearing the unmet emotions and past events that they have stored in the dark caves inside themselves, not wanting to face what they have so carefully and unkindly avoided.

This winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this period of descent into our own darkness was so necessary in order to find our light. That true freedom comes from accepting with forgiveness and love what we have been through and vanquishing the hold it has on us, bringing the golden treasure back from the cave of our darker depths.

This is a time of rest and deep reflection, a time to wipe the slate clean as it were and clear out the old so you can walk into spring feeling ready to grow and skip without a dusty mountain on your back & chains around your ankles tied to the caves in your soul.

A time for the medicine of story, of fire, of nourishment and love.

A period of reconnecting, relearning & reclaiming of what this time means brings winter back to a time of kindness, love, rebirth, peace and unburdening instead of a time of dread, fear, depression and avoidance.

This modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, bad food and consumerism.

And yet the natural tug to go inwards as nearly all creatures are doing is strong and people are left feeling as if there is something wrong with them, that winter is cruel and leaves them feeling abandoned and afraid. Whereas in actual fact winter is so kind, yes she points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards the darkness and potential death of what we were, but this journey if held with care is essential.

She is like a strong teacher that asks you to awaken your inner loving elder or therapist, holding yourself with awareness of forgiveness and allowing yourself to grieve, to cry, rage, laugh, & face what we need to face in order to be freed from the jagged bonds we wrapped around our hearts, in order to reach a place of healing & light without going into overwhelm.

Winter takes away the distractions, the noise and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire & light to our hearth.”

  • illustration by Jessica Boehman
  • words Brigit Anna McNeill
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The Pretender

Sure, I could SO go there!

The obvious reference to this title would be the brooding hulk occupying the oval-office desk chair; when he’s not on the golf course, that is.anatomymiraclebookcov.jpg

But I was actually referring to a Jonathan Miles book I had just completed called Anatomy of a Miracle: A Novel*—The True* Story of a Paralyzed Veteran, a Mississippi Convenience Store, a Vatican Investigation, and the Spectacular Perils of Grace (with TRUE being the questionable descriptor in this story because it is, after all, a novel—meaning a work of fiction).

So my biggest question at the end of the story was is the book actually based on verified facts or is it simply fabrication pretending to be based on actual accounts?  I still can’t determine that, but I’m guessing it is fiction that reads like fact because we want it to do so.

jonmilesauthor.jpgAs the NY Times review suggested:  “…the genre that Miles is aping applies fiction’s methods to real-life stories, “Anatomy of a Miracle” offers the Victor-Victoria frisson of watching a novel impersonate a work of journalism impersonating a novel. It’s a difficult balancing act that Miles for the most part pulls off, and his book is best appreciated as a highly entertaining literary performance.”

Personally, I thought it was an astounding character study exploring the ulterior motives of everyone involved in the telling of a paralyzed vet’s miracle of suddenly rising from parkinglotstorefronthis wheelchair after four years of confinement to it–and doing so in the parking lot of the Biz-E-Bee convenience store in Biloxi, Mississippi while he waited for his helicoptering sister, Tanya, to purchase their daily smokes, beer, and Cap’n Crunch.

I’m always in awe of a skilled writer, and Miles is so gifted: intellectually, philosophically, and linguistically. He makes me want to study his techniques for topic exposition and subject exploration—how he carefully weaves the plotline into the unraveling research directions of the phenomenon; not to mention what an amazing perceiver/recorder of human nature that he is.

Then I went to the Amazon reviews of his book and was astounded by the depth or more appropriately, lack thereof, in the reviewer’s comments on it, and thought can people really be that shallow that they missed the point entirely?

biloximisscar.jpgA novel is far more than plotline. This was social comment all the way. Anatomy of a Miracle was an astute observation on what makes an unexplainable, sudden change in the human condition considered a miracle—with the word “miracle” implying an intervention by a force greater than ourselves.  Even the Vatican gets involved in considering the incident as such primarily because of reasons far too shadow-dependent to call it a holy vindication of God’s possible hand in the healing process.

But what does this sudden life change mean to the protagonist who has supposedly received this amazing proof of God’s Divine grace now bestowed upon him? And how vetchairflag.jpgdoes it likewise affect all those closest to him? As the camera pans out from the now-standing vet with the twitching legs, to how everyone around him interprets what has happened to him, and most importantly—how each proximal character determines in their own way what this supposed miracle means to each of them—how others try to use this strange phenomenon for their own personal motives—use it as their own vehicles to a personal lifestyle change for themselves also—use it to substantiate their own faith or belief in the possibility of miracles existing; and how this phenomenal  situation benefits/affects individuals, institutions, and cultural trends in general as it becomes simply the commercializing of miraculousness.

money god miracles.jpgOne of those key questions seems to be:  “What’s the quantity of dollars you can make from a miracle, directly or peripherally?

The other key question seems to be “How can I personally cash in on that guy’s ‘miracle’?”

I called this post “The Pretender” not because the protagonist faked the miraculous regrowth of his spinal cord that allowed him to stand up out of that wheelchair in the Biz-E-Bee parking lot, but because during the process of all those people so closely scrutinizing his life, he finally stood up for the person that he was pretending NOT to be all those years prior.

He simply stopped pretending to be something other than who and what he was. That was a miracle in itself.

 

Simple Words

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums (1958)dharma bums.jpg

 

From Barnes & Noble page “Published just one year after On the Road, (Dharma Bums) is the story of two men engaged in a passionate search for Dharma or truth.

Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen Way, which takes them climbing into the High Sierras to seek the lesson of solitude.” (It’s suggested that one read On the Road first for proper context to this novel which could be considered Part 2 of the first one.)Kerouac.jpg

If you haven’t yet read either of his novels, you may have studied Jack Kerouac’s influence on modern literature, as well as his documented pursuit of spiritual clarity for himself and for others.

For those who wish to glean techniques from other writer’s talents, assessing Kerouac’s rawness and meaning refinement throughKer quote 2 (2) simple-living description is a solid path for a writer’s own self-discovery and inner-world exploration.

It follows the most important writer’s dictum: Keep it simple, clear and concise.

Using Kerouac’s poetic example in The Dharma Bums, his theory on “good writing” is being as artistically precise as a Japanese Haiku.

Because both books were written at the rise of the Beat generation that preceded the Flower Child (Hippy) generation, there are rough attitudes expressed that might appall a sensitive reader.  But Kerouac’s vision and the handling of his subject matter are a study in distilling thought to poetically capture and convey life’s most precious moments.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple,” he said.

I agree. That statement is my primary creed as well.

Writing is a communication between/among two or more “readers” to share thoughts, concepts, or instructions.

Writing can convey emotions over a distance—where deepest feelings are often captured best in similes and metaphors because those appeal more to the intuitive right brain than the analytical left. That’s the value of Haiku—it bridges the brain hemispheres between word symbols and emotive imagery.basho quote

Haiku is thought essence crystallized.

As Kerouac suggested in The Dharma Bums, if you want to capture the power or beauty of a moment use a Haiku to transcend earthly limitation.

But it also requires artistic discipline to craft the proper phrase, while utilizing a writer’s higher resonance with the subject matter.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Yes.

A Little Sunday Morning RUMI…

rumi.jpg

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

~Rumi

The Creative Writing Process

pro write.pngBackground info dump: Among my many careers, I’ve taught Technical Writing at the community college level. I know the nuts and bolts of teaching students to communicate their thoughts and feelings—specifically like how to package those thoughts within a structured, cohesive report meant to convey a clear message for their intended audience, while doing so within the confines of grammatical expertise.

That last sentence is why I am no longer teaching Technical Writing.

Technical Writing is purposeful but restrictive—structured but confining; and while skilled, technical proficiency is useful at getting your point across, especially in the business environment, it can also be creatively stifling to a writer. That’s why I truly admire and celebrate a gifted writer—I know how hard it is to write effortlessly—it requires tremendous self-awareness on multiple levels.

As both a writing teacher and a writer myself, I also know that how I actually write, you cannot teach. You simply have to DO.

Were I teaching Creative Writing to students I would explain only my own inner process: that when I sit down to write it’s usually because I feel a desire to say something, but I may not consciously know what that something is because the simple desire-to-express is the primary driving force within me.message.jpg

I may not even have a particular message to convey as I am often surprised at what comes out on the page—surprised because I had not realized that on another level of consciousness I had seriously dissected the subject matter.

My here-and-now conscious mind may only be aware that there is some nugget of truth that desires further exposition, so I grab that truth-nugget and run with it.  It might be some tangent of my personal take on life that has burned an escape-hole outward to free itself from my being.

So I give it the freedom to dash and weave, to leap the fallen tree and climb the gnarly hill. gnarly hill.jpgIt can choose the escape path it wishes without restrictions. I cheer it on saying, “Go where you need to go—say what you need to say—I’ll just go along and chart the territory that you cover.”

Then when it appears that the escapee is winded and needing to rest a bit, I review the path covered to straighten out the zig-zags and eliminate the missteps. The message always goes where it needs to go—to feel FREE—to breathe the fresh air of non-confinement, to feel the blood racing through the body.

And when “the message” is free, I actually feel a pressure release within me knowing that some higher aspect of me just communicated its thoughts using me as its medium. I say this because the desire to say something that I once felt has dissipated. What needed to be written, was.

For me there is no judging the message that escaped my being—a message whose path I charted on the page before me. But there is a choice I make in whether I share that message with others. That is MY decision to make—the writer of the words you read.

journal.jpgMy suggestion to other writers who are still developing their skills and voice is to write daily: journal—do free-association rambles—whatever thoughts are scrambling your head, get them out—let them all flow where they need to go; and in the process of logging all that verbal dysentery you will grow more comfortable with yourself.  It will help you understand WHO you truly are and WHAT you really want from your life.

After a few years of doing this you’ll develop quicker methods of getting to the point, you’ll slip into more natural similes and metaphors, and your vision will clear to better see the world in your own unique way.

The last main point I wish to emphasize is that if you really want to write in multilevel prose, you have to strengthen your connection to your Higher Self to transcend your limitations of contextual meaning.

So aspiring writers, if you really want to write, then WRITE.high self.jpg

But if you want to be a writer with a message that resonates, you need to strengthen your higher connections.

When you can simply allow your Higher Self to speak through you without translating its message, your writing will be more powerful, more impactful, and a lot less work.

Only Words

(originally posted 8.3.12 in my previous blog)

As a writer, words are my craft, my mode of expression, my connection to the masses who share these common symbols and meanings, my attempt to explain the unexplainable; and yes, even more,…it’s the only way I can share my subjective experience with others in some mutual form of empathic resonance.

As an energy therapist, I know the importance of light frequency and sound vibration. I know the power of words and their intended (as well as subtle) meanings on others, whether read or spoken.

Words are why you are here today perusing this blog. Words can touch your heart, they can inspire, and they can do far more: words can shift your energy lower or higher.

Long ago on my  Facebook page, the Tao and Zen folks had a great graphic of the Yin/Yang symbol that often represents the Tao. On the dark side were all the “shadow” words that instill fear and sadness in our hearts; and on the white side, were all the “love and light” words that instill joy, contentment, and that “feel good, safe and secure, hugged by a loved-one” inner peace we all strive to find in our lives.yinyangwords.jpg

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another graphic or image that better conveys a sense of what a low-frequency focus (darkness) and a high-frequency focus (light) really look and sound like in our culture—in everything we read, view, and hear around us, 24/7/365.

These “words” can make you feel bad about yourself and each other, or they can make you feel good about yourself and each other, because they represent what a fear-focus (darkness) means to us, and what a love-focus (light) means to us.

Whenever you speak, hear, or experience the darker side of this life, you know one of those fear-focused words all too well. So if your life is tinged or flooded with any of those darker word symbols that represent actual affects and emotions in your life, you are being adversely affected by fear in some form.

Likewise, if you speak, hear, or experience the lighter side of this life, you know the love-based words and make them your focus no matter what others say or do, because to live from those “light” word symbols, you truly have to shift your perspective higher and keep it there, no matter what the world around you implies or projects at you. High-frequency living is very much a choice and a goal for many of us, because it doesn’t necessarily come easily.

To attain that goal means we must reduce and eliminate, if possible, the “darker” words from our lives. We do this with intention and dedication to living in a high-frequency world because that’s the world we choose to live in.

If you choose “love and light” the white words represented here, are for you to shout from the hilltops and to emulate daily in all manner of human expression.

So, perhaps in one graphic image, you can conceive a personal road-map for raising your frequency and recognizing shadow-thoughts and behaviors when they arise or when they attempt to influence you; both in your own thoughts and behaviors, and in those of others around you.

Being aware of what low-frequency and high-frequency looks, sounds, and feels like, can be pivotal to recognizing your own feelings and choosing how you wish to spend your time—in the shadow or the light.

A Short Story Collection of Rick Bass

Rick Bass.jpgShort stories capture little vignettes of life as compared to a novel’s more-lengthy theme exposition and character development.  A good short story is every bit as difficult for a writer to master as is a good novel because you have far fewer pages to make your point and show your world view. It requires great clarity of vision and a high degree of literary skill. In other words, it takes discipline.

Do NOT consider short stories as the Reader’s Digest version of a novel. They are very different genre and as such offer a unique and rewarding reading experience. To me they are like browsing a buffet of favorite foods all stretched out before you to sample a bit of this, and then try a little of that until eventually you’ve sated your appetite. This book is the buffet grazer’s banquet.

And as mentioned previously, I really love a good writer—a word-magician who can string a few random syllables into multi-dimensional prose with such ease and grace that is effortless to read while being transformative in the process.For a LIttle While

This book I’m now exalting is called FOR A LITTLE WHILE: New and Selected Stories of Rick Bass.

As a short-story writer, Rick Bass could be the resultant love-child of Jack London coupled with Ernest Hemingway—birthed and nurtured by a Jungian midwife. His writing style is succinct, precise, sensory stimulating; and often depicts his characters’ intimate, dependent relationship with their environment.

Bass often shows how the environment has shaped each of the characters in his stories because the characters and the land itself often seem interchangeable with and indistinguishable from each other.

As a writer he subtly captures the depth of human interaction/emotions by describing actions (it’s what you DO, not what you SAY that counts). A character’s speech or dialogue might reveal conscious, flowing thought but actions reveal the unconscious motivations at work that drive the plot (and the life).

Overall I think Rick Bass really goes places that most writers never go—into the psychological core of basic human belief that drives their behavior—a spiritual connection to the land, which he often then parallels to animals of the same region.

tree tops.jpgIn fact in this collection of stories, there is an overwhelming oneness of every living thing interacting with their environment. That natural interdependency is often ignored in the prose of other writers—perhaps because of other writers not recognizing it. Bass, however, reveals the basic matrix of life itself—exposing the soft underbelly—with all its species interconnections and dependencies.

But more importantly is that as a really good writer he does it all so simply and elegantly—and that’s what just blows me away.

He doesn’t get salacious with his story line. He doesn’t go all horrific or deranged. He takes a rustic setting with simple born-of-the-earth people and examines each character’s internal machinations that translate into daily doings in such a way that it reveals WHO those characters are as human beings.

He shows the reader that WHAT his characters are swans on lake.jpgdoing in response to life’s challenges and grind are reflective of WHO they are; but it also helps us to see WHY that should matter to any of us. Bass deftly unveils how our simplest daily actions define our lives—it frames how we view each other, discloses how we treat each other, and clarifies what true life-lessons are learned during our journey here, whether separately or together.

rooted humanYou won’t read a Bass line claiming that life is fair or unfair; only that it is LIFE with all its beauty, tumbles, and bruises. He frequently shows how those strongly-rooted-to-the-land individuals derive their very life-essence from the land itself—how those “firmly planted humans” with feet to shuffle rather than burrowing filaments can more easily flow with and/or resist the life challenges that might test us lesser humans to the limit of our strength and stamina.

Anyway, I could go on and on here, but I think the book is a great short-story collection, especially for nature-lovers. The writer, Rick Bass is a phenomenal talent, and I’ll be reading more of his offerings soon.th

It comes as no surprise that he is an environmentalist.  He writes of nature and the land that supports us like an adulating lover extolling his beloved’s attributes.