Friday, October 26, 2012

Finding Enchantment in Your Own Backyard

"In that moment I knew I had a magic all my own here in Charleston. I stepped back onto the patio and sat on the cool stone, letting my gaze soften, watching the wax myrtles ruffle in the breeze. Not expecting, just waiting. A quote came to mind, something I'd come across this past summer from T.S. Eliot...
We shall not cease from exploration. And at the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time." - Faery Tale 

The neighborhood pond I visit on walks.
The shed and flowering Jessamine, taken from the patio.
 When I left New York City in search for enchantment, I was convinced that it was out there to be found, if only I could only go to the right place to find it. But what I learned by the end of my journey was that rediscovering enchantment in your life isn't about visiting magical or exotic places or even catching a glimpse of something paranormal that can't be explained away. I came to learn that enchantment already is.

Enchantment is the miracle of existence, not just the possibility of spirits or other dimensions, other worlds, but enchantment is in every mundane earthly moment, right alongside all the mysteries and magic that come along with it. It's in the miracle of each breath we take, how the oxygen fuels our lungs, our heart, it's in the unfurling of a flower in the front yard, in the way the clouds move across the sky, it's in the connection we have to our families, our friends, and our adorable and oh-so-loveable pets.

And that's only the tip of the enchanted iceberg.
Lucy gives kisses on a winter night in the sunroom.
My problem was I was in such a fog of grief and inner-discontent that I just couldn't see it.

I hear from a lot of wonderful people who are longing to make a trip to England or Ireland, Scotland or Isle of Man, in search of similar experiences - but some can't afford the time off, can't sneak away from family responsibilities, or just can't afford the steep price of an airline ticket. For me, travel elicited my awakening. And for those of you who are longing to journey, keep the dream close! It will become a reality, it's just a matter of when.

Something I think some readers may overlook, though, is the fact that it wasn't as much the places who spurred my awakening as it was the illuminating stories and conversations I was having along the way. It was the people and the wisdom they offered. All of which I shared with you - ergo, you've got everything you need to get you started (I hope) within the pages of my book. And the best place to start is actually your own backyard, because that's where you spend most of your time. That's where you'll receive the most benefit from connecting with the spirits of the natural world, because that's the environment you marinate in everyday.

I didn't see anything that October night in my yard, now nearly three years ago to this day. But I've seen and experienced a lot of magical things in my own backyard since. Always when I was least expecting it. Often it's been when I reached out most earnestly, in times when I needed it most. These days I like to keep my spiritual experiences close. But the point is, it isn't so much the where as it is the how. Recently I heard from a reader in Louisiana (Jess) who'd begun leaving offerings around her property and had been experiencing a very real and (I daresay) enchanted connection to the land she lived on as a result. When we do put this kind of magical focus on our own space, it almost seems to come awake itself - a connection or bridge is formed, communication is opened this way. That's when the cool experiences happen.

Acknowledging and doing something energetically to actively appreciate your local natural surroundings is the most important thing. Plenty of people go to Glastonbury each year, and spread their magical juju all over that place. But how many people make the pilgrimage to your backyard, to connect with the beings and plants and animals there, to offer trinkets and positive vibes and to give thanks for all it does?
Just you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

After the Faery Tale... Book Two!

I don't know how many of you saw my chat session with novelist Alex Bledsoe, but we talked a great deal about inspiration. As a writer it's foremost on my mind, because without inspiration, there is no magic to infuse a project, no faery dust to make it sparkle, touch people, to bring it to life. (To read that interview, click here.)

Faery Tale was such a guided book - there's no other way to describe it. I didn't feel I was writing it so much as I was trying to follow a loose thread back to its source. I learned to pay attention to synchronicities in life, because those are our keys - what are we noticing and why? Is something striking us and why? Who are we encountering in our path, why do they intrigue us, and what wisdom might they have to offer? What are they reminding us about that might have been long forgotten?
These things matter. I learned to pay attention.
Obeying the Muse
Usually these are the things that touch that magic of "source:" that thing which needs to be reclaimed. The purpose, or inspiration of the work.

It's because Faery Tale was a guided work that it finds people. Sometimes it feels like the book almost seeks out the people who need to connect to it. As though it has a life of its own. None of this was my doing, I'm merely the scribe. But I've had the enchanting pleasure of hearing from the people this magic has reached and it's probably been one of the biggest gifts any scribe like me could hope to receive.

This is why when readers asked me what I was doing next, I felt a certain amount of terror. Would inspiration find me once more? I turned again to the things I'd learned about life through the journey I took in Faery Tale.
And that's when I realized the story had already found me.

I'd come across some new scholarship on an ancient legend that had gripped me beyond belief. It was a story so epic, so beautiful, so powerful, and so deeply moving that I became nothing short of obsessed. I began reading every non-fiction book on the subject that I could get my hands on. Through research of my own (which is on-going) it became clear to me, as I wrote in Faery Tale that, "...within every legend lies a kernel of truth." I felt a deep and incredibly emotional connection to a family I was reading about that I couldn't explain but also couldn't question. They had lived out the saga in real days on this planet long ago, and yet it was this very family -- whose lives were at the epicenter of this huge moment in history--who had been methodically, intentionally (and frustratingly) effectively extinguished from the historical record.

It was then I knew that I wanted to tell their story.
That I was meant to tell their story.
And this is how I found myself writing a historical novel.

I can't say more about the subject now than I've said above, for which I hope you'll forgive me, but so many of you have been kind enough to wonder what I might be working on, I wanted to share something of its nature with you. If I can pull off this "fiction writing" thing, I know you'll love it.
Because I'm not so much writing fiction as I am trying to remember a true story that happened long, long ago.

Right now I'm working on completing a first draft, which I'll be sharing with my agent in early fall. Depending on her feedback, I'm hoping to shop it with publishers shortly thereafter. If I can sell it, that's when a publication date would be assigned.

I want to thank you so much for your interest and most of all, your support. In the meantime, Faery Tale continues to stretch its wings. I find myself quite occupied with corresponding with the wonderful people it's reaching, the freelance work I'm doing, and my new commitment to blog every week! Stay tuned for an autumn filled with recipes, soap making adventures, tales from my trip to Sweden, renovations to the backyard shed (which we're transforming into a writing space for yours truly) and more.

As soon as I finish the novel I'll be working on a very neat side-project related to the book that I think many of you will be pretty excited about too.

In the meantime, thanks so much for sharing in my excitement. I'm sending love and thanks to you all and hoping you have a glorious Friday filled with enchantments all your own.

- Signe xx

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Beat Writers Block

I presented these tricks to a group of women when I was asked to speak at the Lowcountry Romance Writers Association Beach retreat last winter. They're an amalgamation of tricks I would tell my writers to do when I was editing, and more so, tricks I've learned to help myself in times of need.

Writing Faery Tale was one thing, and I used plenty of these tactics. But I also do the occasional travel writing for publications, food reviewing, and articles I want to pitch to national women's magazines. These tricks have become not just solutions to blockages, but a way of life. So I wanted to share them with you, in hopes they might help you should you ever find yourself stuck - with any creative endeavor!

1. Make Time to Meditate
It may sound whacky if you haven't tried it, but meditation offers so many benefits for writers and artists, too, I'd imagine. It helps me ease my anxiety. It helps me quiet my over-active mind, which tends to go and go and go at night until I've worked myself into a frenzy of what-if's and I-can'ts. Most importantly, when we meditate, we are placing ourselves in a mode that is receptive. My friend Shaman Jon made a great point when he discussed with me the difference energetically between meditation and prayer. I think writers tend to pray a lot: "Please, please let me finish this book," or "Please, please let my agent like it," or "Please, please let me see that I sold more than 1 copy in all of America this week." Sometimes we pray to give thanks, or of course to try to help others in need. Whatever it is, when you pray, you're sending energy out. (Often desperate energy, too, I might add.) When you meditate, you are making yourself open, receptive, quiet, calm. You're putting yourself in a completely different energetic state - it's an active state. Meditation, on the other hand, is open. It allows. It doesn't fight, it doesn't block, it prepares the ground to receive its seeds. Meditation creates the space for us to watch, listen, and become passive observers of both our own thoughts and the world around us. This, I think, is the best state to be living in if you want to be inspired.

2. Create the Perfect Environment
Do you write best at a desk? Need a room of your own? Propped up on the couch? In a coffee shop? (I absolutely cannot write in coffee shops. But they can be a great place to go if you feel stuck, miss human interaction, need an "office" or need a change of venue. Then it's back to my desk.)

Do you write best morning, day, or night? It's important to study yourself in productive mode like you would an animal in the zoo. What does Writer-You like best to eat when Writer-You is writing? etc. I spoil myself when I'm on deadline for something, and it really does help me get it done.
Other things that help create atmosphere:
- a nice scented candle
- clean burning incense
- ear plugs (I actually have them in right now)
- or music (if the quiet bothers you)
- turn off your internet browser (leave any research points blank and designate them for a day when you're stuck in your writing. Then you can surf and library away.)
- a fancy bar of chocolate, hidden so no one can find it but you, when you really need it.
- delicious tea or strong coffee. Brew a cup, then butt in chair.
- special jewelry. Think of it as your talisman. I have certain things I wear only when writing.
- for goodness sake, turn off your cell phone. Off! There's nothing quite like a ringing phone or bleep of a text message to wrench you from your glorious receptive state of creative bliss and then you've got to start all over again.
- close the door. And tell your friends and family that when the door is shut, you mean business.

3. But... Know When you Need to Leave Your Environment
Everyone has their own unique tricks that work for them. I know a lot of writers who force themselves to write words on paper, even if it becomes stream of consciousness, to keep from getting stuck. That has never worked for me. I have a rather "Type-A" relationship to the page, and I absolutely refuse to degrade it with: Oh what will I have for lunch today? God, I wish I could write something... blah blah blah..

I just can't do it, it makes me cringe. When I get truly stuck, I've found things that help me to still move forward in a positive direction. Once I discover the well is dry that day, I'll instead designate the time for research. There is a stack of about 10 books on my desk for the current project. You can also find documentaries on Netflix about your subject - those I tend to watch nights or weekends. Still technically work, so long as your learning something and you take notes. Movies can be a great source of inspiration for clothing styles and character traits for fiction, I've found. Changing your venue can also work. Get up and go for a walk. Get present. Notice the things around you. This gives your brain a break and also gets you out of that "I'm stuck I'm stuck I'm stuck" mantra that you're sitting in the chair beating yourself over the head with.

4. Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help
You can get help from a friend (though I would warn you to be very careful who you speak with about creative projects. Sometimes you can get too many cooks in the kitchen, and it can throw you off track.) From a professional editor, OR from "out there."

The "out there" sort is a favorite of mine. Think of it as inviting the muse. I truly believe inspiration for creative projects comes from somewhere outside of us too - it's not ours, we don't own it. This is why we say we were "inspired." Ask for help. Maybe even make an offering of flowers, incense, etc. Then pay attention to things that cross your path. Be receptive. See how your story unfolds - where will inspiration find you? It could be a story you notice on the news, something somebody mentions to you in passing, but it'll grab you. When you're struck by something, when it grabs you, write it down. Don't question it or try to make sense of it. Trust that you wouldn't be struck by it if it wasn't somehow a piece to your puzzle. It's of value.

5. Remember that We are Only the Scribes.
There are so many stories out there waiting to be discovered. All they can do is knock on the doors that lead to our visions - this miraculous thing we call "imagination." We just have to allow ourselves to receive it. Our job becomes to get up and open the door.
Then, step gracefully out of the way.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Healing Power of Reiki

I'll just come right out with it: 
Raven Keyes has written a book, and it goes on sale today! So today we celebrate the mystical healing art of Reiki, and the launch of Raven's book, with a sit-down with the new author. 

Raven Keyes
Those of you who read Faery Tale will remember my good friend Raven, who you met at the beginning of the book. She was renting my apartment during the day to conduct Reiki sessions with her clients. I would come home at the end of the day to the soft smell of incense and this nearly indescribable sense of peace, calm, that I hadn't noticed before. In an effort to help me understand and experience Reiki, she's given me Reiki more than once, and every time it's been nothing short of blissful. What surprised me most was the warmth and the physical pulsing I could feel coming from her hands as she gently lay them on my body. You really can feel the healing energy as it passes from the practitioner's hands into you. (Any of you unfamiliar with Reiki can read Raven's description below.) Each time she and I did a session, she also received some pretty interesting "information" as she calls it, from the spirit realm, which she would share with me after the session. It was always right on, and often helped me to gain some insight into a particular area of my life that held important meaning for me. Raven's calling in the world of Reiki has led her to work in some large arenas - with the National Football League, in the operating room of Dr. Mehmet Oz, and if you can believe it, even more. She's written a moving, absorbing and fascinating account about Reiki and her otherworldly experiences with it: messages from the spirit world, incredible spiritual encounters, but mostly, her book is offers story after moving story of the incredible results Reiki can deliver to those in need of healing, no matter what the ailment. 

A fascinating glimpse into the life and experiences of a Reiki practitioner

It was Raven, of course, who first told me she felt the presence of faerie spirits in my apartment, bewildered as it made me at the time. Imagine if she and I hadn't met - would I ever have begun the journey that would utterly change my life? Later she arrived in Glastonbury to stay with me at the Chalice Well - a place I'd selected to try and have an encounter based upon a few of the experiences she had reported having there, and well... you know the rest! 

The book is truly absorbing - I finished it in two days. Not to sound cheesy, but I really hope you'll get a copy and discover what Reiki might be able to do for you. I caught the new author for a cyber-sit down to talk Reiki - I hope you'll enjoy our conversation below. Click here to order.

1. First of all, for the layperson, what exactly is Reiki? 

Reiki as a practice is the absorbing of healing energy from the universe by a practitioner who then shares that energy with their client through gentle hand positions on or over their client's body. What the energy called Reiki actually IS cannot really be described. These days, I'm often in the operating room during surgery with doctors and technicians who have never heard of Reiki, and when they ask me about it, the way I describe it to them is probably the best I can do: I tell them that I, as a Reiki master, am the delivery system, like a hypodermic needle, that gets filled up with healing energy - energy as impossible to describe as love - which I then pass along to their patient through my hands. This explanation seems to satisfy them, and I hope it's helpful here.

2. Your book is entitled THE HEALING POWER OF REIKI: A Modern Master's Approach to Emotional, Spiritual & Physical Wellness. What can readers expect to glean from reading the book that might differ from another Reiki book out there on the market? 

I've had the opportunity to bring Reiki onto world stages, so I have many stories to tell that are unique. Most books on Reiki in the market today describe it in a more text book like manner. Although I do share information about Reiki, that's done mostly to clarify the stories I tell about real-life experiences I've had throughout the years. The readers get to travel with me and to experience firsthand the operating room with Dr. Oz, the locker room of the New York Giants, a big event with the NBA, cancer patients, those suffering from PTSD, family members of victims of 9/11, rescue and recovery workers behind the police barricades at Ground Zero... and readers also get to meet regular people just like you and me. There is no other Reiki master in the world who has performed Reiki in the combination of places to which I've been able to bring my work; therefore my stories are truly unique. Readers have said they couldn't put the book down, and one person even said it was like reading a thriller, which really surprised me.

3. What do you think the biggest misconception about Reiki might be?

For those who don't know anything about Reiki, it might be thought to be religious, which it isn't, or woo woo, which it isn't either. Reiki is more in line with universal law. Einstein understood that there was more going on in the universe than he could put his finger on, try as he may. However, scientists had a recent big break through in Switzerland at CERN this past summer when they discovered the Higgs Bosen particle that some labeled the particle of God. It's interesting to note that I have a scientist friend who claims that the word GOD is really an acronym: Geometric Order of Divinity = GOD. In any case, this intangible energy that heals called Reiki is just beginning to be researched to discover its underlying nature, which probably can't ever really be understood. However, this research is being championed by doctors who have observed the clinical results of Reiki's use with patients and in hospitals. These doctors are working to get the funding for the research necessary to find some answers that will allow Reiki to be used more widely to help patients to heal, and possibly to even be paid for by insurance.

4. What was the most difficult challenge you faced in writing this book? 

I'd have to say the greatest challenge for me came in the the actual writing process. My book sold on a proposal, which meant only a few of the chapters were already written. I wrote the other chapters that were listed in the table of contents in the book proposal. Shortly after I turned in what I thought was the final manuscript, I received 13 pages of notes from my editor, with instructions to scrap chapters of what I had written. This meant that 25,000 words were now out of the book, and I had to make them up in new chapters that my editor now wanted instead. I remember how panicked I was! I remember sitting at the computer crying and telling my husband, "I can't do it! I can't write all these other words!" Of course I did in the end, and the book turned out to be much better with the new chapters, because there was a more natural flow to the overall progress of the book.

5. You and I have obviously shared a great deal of exploration into the world of faeries together. What do you think, if any, is the connection between faeries and Reiki? Is Reiki something you think is also implemented by the faerie realm?  

A wonderful question, Signe! Reiki is really unconditional pure love from the universe that those in the know (like you & me) can SHARE with the faeries so that we can feel truly connected to each other. Last year at summer solstice time when you & I were in Glastonbury, England with the ladies who came on our retreat, we shared Reiki energy with the Holy Thorn Tree, with each other, in the Chalice Well Gardens, at the White Spring ... and in response to all the love we spread around out of our Reiki hands, we saw the sparkling lights of the faeries two nights in a row! These days, I sit on the back porch of my country house and send Reiki out of my hands into the trees. I always think to the Fae, "here is some love for you, I love you, all is love," while holding my hands up. More times than not, they respond by showing me their sparkle! And I also feel the energy of love coming back toward me from them ... it's truly wonderful when these things happen.

Raven Keyes is a Reiki master, teacher, certified hypnotherapist and guided meditation instructor. She was part of the original Complementary Alternative Medicine program at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital led by Dr. Mehmet Oz. In the world of professional sports, Raven has brought Reiki to athletes in the NFL and NBA.  Featured in national magazines such as “Vogue” and “W,” she was named “Best Reiki Master in New York” by New York Magazine and was televised as “New Yorker of the Week” on NY-1 for providing volunteer Reiki services for 8 ½ months after 9/11. Raven lives in New York City with her musician/composer husband, Michael Pestalozzi and their dog, Murphy.