Why do we worry?

Someone (marc snowman) asked me, “Why do you think you worry?”

Of course, I didn’t know the answer and I started to worry about it!

His reply was, “Because it makes you feel like you’re doing something about it.”

Aha moment…if I worry about something, I feel like I am doing something about what I’m worrying about. I am letting myself seep into the illusion of control, instead of doing what I can about a situation and then letting it go because I have no control over the outcome.

My mind went to my worries and I felt like those worries were bigger and needed some control — about my kids, my book, my renewed fear of flying etc.  But the truth is, my level of worry is always high, even if it is about being five minutes late to an appointment.  Can you relate?

Emma, my character in “Inside the River,” worries.  She created a bubble around her for many years and so bounced her worries off of it and let it come back inside.  She cradled the wounds of her past like a newborn, as if each new situation would end up like her painful memories.  Her worry became her armor and it gave her a sense of control…as if she was doing something about it.  She is written in first person and so her worry is related to the reader as it happened, without the distance of a narrator.  You feel it with each private outburst that I let the reader witness.  You know those moments when you unleash your tension when you’re alone?

As Emma says,

I walked into my room and turned on some music.  I closed my eyes and let myself surrender to the rhythm.  I was feeling and hearing the music in a new way and allowing my limbs a response.  My feet stomped against the floor.  I made sounds.  Grunts.  Sighs.  Exhalations of all that was not needed any longer.  The movements of my hips were fluid.  I twirled around and around, and let my wild mane whip against the air.  Inside this dizzying attempt to find the butterflies, I stuck out my tongue and moved with freedom.

Then the tears came, quick and hard, like a sun shower. I cried as I continued dancing, my movements more aggressive as if I could lash out at the sadness washing over me.  I kicked the air with my legs.  I punched the space around me with my fists.  My sensual dance looked like a seizure, my body stuttering with anger.  If Antonio walked in to witness my outburst would he regret sharing his precious story?

 

 

Going inside, “Inside the River”

  • The earth is like a terrarium in that it rarely loses or gains matter.  This means the same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still on earth today.
  • There are more than 2100 known drinking water contaminants that may be present in tap water, including several known poisons.
  • Water molecules are very attracted to each other and stick together,  giving water a high surface tension.
  • Water is the only natural substance that exists in all three states of matter–liquid, solid, gas.  What’s amazing is that when water freezes and becomes solid, it expands, but then becomes lighter and so floats on the water.

I’ve always been attracted to the magic of water, as if it were people wanting their stories to be heard.  The interesting facts about water permeate my book and support Ana and Emma.  If the same water exists from long ago, perhaps so do our stories, relived and retold over and over –stories of love, suffering, sickness and strength.

What happens when our stories get contaminated, like the water we drink inside our bodies that are made up mostly of that water? How does that contaminant effect our stories?  How does Ana live differently than Emma because the water is more pure, where the magic around her can be seen?

Just as the polarity of water attracts itself to another water molecule, so are we attracted to each other.  What do we attract into our space?  And how does our thoughts and actions attract in a pattern that serves us or doesn’t?  These are questions I thought about while writing their characters.

The amazing quality of water becoming solid to become lighter is a concept translated into my book.  How do Ana and Emma find their strength in order to expand and become buoyant to catch the flow of love?  Love is lightness in its highest vibration.  It is the union of stability and transcendence, strength and surrender,  effort and grace (as I have learned on my yoga mat).

Ultimately, inside the river, rests all our stories, attracting into each other, connecting and causing tension (oftentimes) but also elevating into different states of matter.  How do we protect our stories from contaminants and negativity?  What do we want to pass on and around and back to each other again?

“How could drops of water know themselves to be a river?  Yet the river flows on.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

 

 

 

When there is a strong woman character in a story – that always grabs me. Ang Lee

Ang Lee said this during an interview about the making of Crouching Tiger Hidden DragonI think many of his movies have dealt with the relationship between tradition and modernity as well as the hidden emotions within the relationship of the self.  He has an intuitive sense of the human condition and chooses to explore its intricacies.  If I could use a yoga expression, I believe his movies make us think less and feel more…our true intelligence originates not in our mind where there is so much unreal thoughts, but rather our heart, where we can feel the sensations and understand our place, and our alignment with the elements around us.

What makes a strong woman character? In my book, Inside the River, I have written two strong women characters who parallel, magically interact, and learn from each other even though Ana is set in a world no longer and Emma is set in today’s world. I think the strength of their character rests, not in the success or failure of their life, but rather their reaction to the current of their lives.  Grace and the yearning for grace permeates my book as defined by the “simple elegance or refinement of movement.” And here is where I hold the vision of Ang Lee making the movie version of my book (although he doesn’t know it yet).  He has visualized that unfettered expression of grace which we all strive for inside the moments of our lives.

It would be simpler to break it down into success or failure, happiness or anger, fear or love, triumphant or hopeless…but I think the depth of characters both on screen and on the page becomes limitless when we explore how the character tries to refine herself, the process of removing unwanted impurities, whether it be other people, a situation, or the negative thinking that is so toxic to well being.  The strength comes, not from the success of feeling grace, but the striving for it, and oftentimes the failure in that attempt.

We want her to feel peace, to overcome the conflict and rise above and we forgive her when she fumbles. We become invested in her display of strength even in a silent moment or the steadying of a trembling hand.  There is also a part for us, the reader of the book and the movie audience.  We are the witnesses, the recorders, the messengers of the story. We are in the darkness but for the light to know itself, it must enter a dark room.  That is a strong woman character, for me at least.  She learns that she is the light.

What is a strong woman character for you?

 

 

Ahimsa inside “Inside the River”

Very often yoga consists of cute clothes, a fun colored manduka mat, a hip playlist, and a power class where arm balances are the party trick entrance to an advanced practice.

But the asana practice, the physical poses of yoga, are the third of the eight limbs of yoga as put forth in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the foundational text of yoga.  Traditionally, before you even practiced, you were expected to master the first two limbs of yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas.  They are sort of the ten commandments of Yoga.  The Yamas represent the moral restraints and the Niyamas are our self restraints.

The first Yama is Ahimsa and it means non-harm.  I believe Ahimsa is the umbrella onto which all the other “commandments” find shelter.  What is the concept of Ahimsa, non-harm?  The obvious answer is “thou shalt not kill” and thus many of us yogis have flirted and/or embraced vegetarianism.

When we embrace this concept of Ahimsa in all aspects of our lives, we transcend our separateness, our ego — we get to see ourselves in others.  In every situation we adopt a sense of compassion and consideration for others AND ourselves.  Negative thoughts about others and ourselves are harming.  On the yoga mat, pushing ourselves past our edge because we were able to do hanumanasana (a full split) twenty years ago is harming.  A kind person who generously gives to others at the expense of herself is not practicing ahimsa.

Ahimsa has boundaries and a voice.  It is pure love, universal love.  Ahimsa is forgiveness.  Ahimsa is strength.  It is beyond intellectual power, it is the cultivation of the heart.  Tests to Ahimsa occur every moment of every day, especially when caught in the current of anger, revenge, greed, disloyalty, addiction, sadness, and shame.

There is a vigilance to Ahimsa, a devotion to our intentions that demands truthfulness at the deepest level of ourselves, our spirit, our mind, the energy inside which animates us, the care of our physical self.

Ana and Emma, the two main characters of my book, “Inside the River,” interact, butt up against, fight, and surrender to this concept as their lives move forward. I don’t believe you can hook into the authentic flow of your life if you are not consciously choosing non-harm.  Ana and Emma are faced with a suffering beyond their control.  The story does not center on their pain, but rather the choices they make (we all make) afterwards.  Choosing Ahimsa is hard…it sucks sometimes, but it is the only path to freedom.  And as one of my yoga teachers once said (the origin I don’t know) “Paradise is a walled in garden,” thus the Yamas and Niyamas are restraints.

I would love to hear your thoughts about Ahimsa…

 

Please follow my blog! And here’s why (and that includes you, Ang Lee)

I decided to start this blog as a spontaneous dip into the social media world. Writing a book is a lonely business and my desire to have others read my work led me to this bridge of sorts.

I have no idea how to successfully blog and so I googled how to get more followers and here is what I found:

I’ve been looking for readers in all the wrong places (I tried to read more about that on Derek Halpern’s great blog page with over 45,000 followers, but I started singing the Johnny Lee song and decided to make a chai tea).

Kasia Mikoluk says that it pays to be extraordinary.  I am extraordinary, so please follow my blog!

WordPress told me that each time I publish new content on my blog, my followers receive an update, either on their read blogs page or via email.  Isn’t that reason enough to become a follower of my blog — it’s so convenient!

Lots of sites said I should shamelessly plug myself (and if you look back on my first blog, I actually say “shameless plugging.”)  Seriously, go look it up and hit follow while you’re at it!

One day Ang Lee will be making the movie version of my book (although he doesn’t know it yet) and you can say that you were one of my first followers!

Okay…if you have a blog and follow me, I promise to follow you!!!

Please send me helpful tips and comments (lots of sites say I should be engaging with my followers and include them in the conversation).

 

Who Knows?

A Chinese farmer lived with his son who helped him work the fields.  One day their only horse ran away.

All their neighbors came over and said, “What bad luck you have that your only horse ran away.”

The farmer replied, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows.”

Two weeks later, the horse returned with a herd of wild horses.  The neighbors returned and said, “What good luck you have that your horse returned with lots of horses.”

The farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows.”

Two weeks later, while the son was breaking in a wild horse, he fell off of the horse and broke his leg badly.  Once again the neighbors said, “What bad luck you have since you can’t work the fields without your son.”

The farmer replied, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows.”

Two weeks later, a war broke out.  The army conscripted every young man in the village, except for the farmer’s son because he had a broken leg.  The neighbors said, “What good luck you have.”

The farmer replied, as calmly as always, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows.” (another incredible zen story)

 

My hope each day is to be like the farmer, detached from the idea of luck, from what’s good and bad.  The only constant in life is change, and our suffering comes when we fight the change.  The farmer didn’t react to the change in a good or bad way.  He understood that he couldn’t know if a bad situation was bad luck or if any good situation was good luck–it just was what it was.

There is something really present moment/awake/conscious about living your life without too much rehashing and labeling.  I think we title a moment that has passed as good or bad because good feels good and bad feels bad.  When we “un-cling” our life from these titles and get beyond these sensations with a sense of calm, life gets to flow in a way beyond the suffering and the joy—free from the worry of “this is too good to be true” or “when will my luck change.”

Ana, from Inside the River, has that quality, intuitively.  I didn’t overtly write her that way, but I hope readers of the book will imagine her as the farmer, calmly living in the moments of her life (the joy and suffering) without drowning in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Facts About “Inside the River”

I love to read about the writing process of authors of my cherished reads.  I thought it would be fun to share some of these with all of you and to better help Ang Lee as he reads my book and imagines it on the screen (although he doesn’t know it yet).

Here are some fun facts about Inside the River:

  • The name Emma would have been my younger son’s name if he was girl.
  • Throughout my life as  a reader, I’ve been incredibly inspired by the Latin writers and magic realism, especially Isabel Allende.  For the past decade, I’ve been obsessed with Haruki Murakami and the devastatingly bizarre and intoxicating worlds he creates in his novels.  And to the American publisher of his books, could you translate his latest book already!?!
  • There was no outline for this book. I wrote and rewrote the book three times and let it unfold.
  • The first draft was written at a Starbucks community table (silence distracts me).
  • The book is set up into 6 parts: it goes Pt 1 Ana, Pt 2 Emma, etc.  Each part has 6 chapters, each chapter has 10 pages.
  • Ana was always her name, even 20 years ago when she was written as a short story.  But as Emma was enlivened 4 years ago, I realized I wanted both their names to end in “a”, with their names being pronounced out loud with the energy going up, like most of the sanskrit yoga poses.
  • My first draft had a third person narrator as well and the chapters went up and back between Ana and Emma.  It was such a difficult read and it was hard for me to let it go and rewrite it.
  • I hope the environmental theme comes across to my readers.  My belief is that there was more magic in Ana’s world because the water she drank was cleaner, and what we drink affects the purity of our thoughts.
  • The title was always Inside the River, even when it was a short story.
  •  I have a problem with writing the word ‘that’ in many of my sentences…I’m working on that.
  • This is a complete work of fiction.  I have never seen singing fish or a girl with blue hair (although I would love to).
  • Regardless of the success of this book, I have accepted the truth that I am only fully alive when in the act of creating something with words.
  • I reread Tess of the D’Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy, every five years since 1990.  My next reread will be 2015.  On the inside cover of the yellowed paperback is a list of all the words in the book that I didn’t understand when I first read it in college.
  • One year, while leaving a performance of Alvin Ailey, I was standing behind Toni Morrison (the greatest American writer of our time, in my opinion) and I froze.  I still wouldn’t know what to say to her, besides thank you.
  • Fear has been the greatest obstacle in my writing.  The mantra I’ve used to help me is: I no longer say yes when I mean no. I no longer say no when I mean yes.  It’s all about saying what you mean when you mean it.  The fear grew when I held my words inside.