Briefly Noted: ‘My Yehidah: A Journal into the Story of You’

We often hear people say they’re feeling centered or feeling uncentered and take such comments to mean they’re having a good day or a bad day. True enough, but for those who want to know the true unity of the self, there are deeper personal explorations and stories to discover, tell and experience.

As I often suggest in my fiction, discovering the transcendent magic of oneself is often difficult in a science and technology world where we’re directly and indirectly taught as children that “the answers” come from books, experts, and the latest polls.

Years ago, we used to say that everything that influenced a child to seek answers outside himself/herself was akin to programming, and that by the time one reached adulthood those programs were often “running in the background” and very hard to get out of one’s system.

That said, I’m pleased when I see fiction and nonfiction for children that encourages them to think outside the box and discover the power and joy of the imagination. That’s how we get to the unified center of ourselves. The words “My Yehidah,” in Melissa Studdard’s new book My Yehidah: A Journal into the Story of You refer to an individual’s essential essence.

Studdard’s writing prompts, in combination with artist Cheryl Kelley’s illustrations, offer children—in and out of classroom or camp settings—a wonderful and lighthearted way to take exciting trips into the worlds of their imagination. We might call this a personal voyage of discovery.

The book can be used in combination with Studdard’s novel Six Weeks to Yehidah (reviewed here in August), showing young readers how the fairytale protagonist Annalise learned to explore her magical dreamscape; or it can be used as a standalone volume with or without adult mentors (parents, teachers, camp counselors, workshop facilitators).

The workbook was a joy to read and almost made me wish I was a kid again with no pre-programed horizons in front of me, setting off on my journey into my own center with a box of stories, some crayons and colored pencils and a copy of My Yehidah: A Journal into the Story of You as my private drawingboard.

Malcolm

Breathing in the Land

Virginia Falls - NPS photo

During the summers I worked in Glacier National Park, I hiked the same trails many times, partly because they served as feeder trails to longer hikes, or somebody suggested going for an after breakfast walk, or the sky and the air seemed to be offering an invitation.

Over the course of three summers, I learned a lot about my favorite trails. Most of it was five-senses knowledge. The number of miles between one place and another. The steepest climbs. The best-tasting water. Mountain sheep meadows. Wildflowers. Birds. But, over time, a fair amount of what I picked up was intuitive knowledge. I came to know those trails the way one knows any good friend. And, like what we know about a good friend, that knowledge as in large measure a felt thing.
In earlier times before we became entertained and enslaved by such distractions as cars, cell phones and the Internet, people walked the same paths everyday to get to school, work, the high pasture, the fishing hole, or to buy supplies. While the walking was focused on the practical need to get somewhere and do something, it nonetheless became a ritual, supplying the individual with a great deal of felt knowledge over time.
Breathing in the Land
Glacier cedars - NPS photo

As a writer in love with symbols and metaphors, I like thinking of what I learn about the land as breathing it in. It takes time and commitment to breathe in anything or anyone. You don’t walk into the woods once and come away with a head full of knowledge any more than you learn everything about your prospective soul mate on the first date.

Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson calls this breathed-in-over-time knowledge a longitudinal epiphany. In her book Peripheral Visions: Learning along the Way, she likens this knowledge with what a husband and wife experience from taking time to have breakfast together every day for 40 years or in making it a habit to go somewhere and watch the autumn leaves falling every year.
Our attention spans have become too short for very much ritual whether it’s formal, as in a religious service or a meditation, or whether it’s informal as in eating dinner with one’s spouse every night or hiking between Many Glacier Hotel and Grinnell Glacier every morning while in the national park.
Bateson writes that “Rituals use repetition to create the experience of walking the same path again and again with the possibility of discovering new meaning that would otherwise be invisible.” One has to walk the path, I think, to gain the knowledge; you don’t learn it by reading what somebody else experienced on the path or by using MapQuest or Google Earth to look at the path.
A Favorite Tree or Meadow
One need not visit their favorite national park and can hike, for example, around Lake Josephine every evening at dusk or listen to the water at Virginia Falls at the break of day. Like the Glacier Park cedar in the photograph, the old oak tree in your backyard will work or, perhaps, a meadow, lake or stream in a nearby park.
Decide how much time you can spend, and then sit in or walk through or around this place once a day, once a week, or once a month. Listen, observe, smell, touch with nothing on your mind other than where you are and what you are breathing in with your five senses and your  intuition.
Don’t expect a psychic experience the first night that fills your head with a hundred years worth of history nobody knows about the place. Instead, experience the changes from visit to visit.In time, you will form a relationship with that place.
You will trust it and know it because you have made the commitment to go there and be there. In time, you will know that place through the loving ritual of your walking and your breathing in everything you encounter.
–Malcolm
contemporary fiction set in Glacier Park

Favorite Place of Relaxation

Some guided meditation techniques begin with the leader/facilitator saying, “Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and as you slowly exhale, visualize your favorite place of relaxation.”

In most groups, a fair number of people will choose real or imagined sunny meadows, mountain valleys, quiet ocean beaches, and silent lakes. These are soothing places.

I tend to pick actual locations for my favorite places of relaxation because they are so easy to visualize. And then, if the meditation–or shaman’s style journey–calls for me to move around, I can quickly see myself walking along an actual trail I know well.

Whenever I return to that place “in real life,” I find that a psychic bond has been created via my frequent visualizations of it. In ways difficult to describe, I am closer and more attuned to the land, the animals, the trees and the flowers in that location than I would be if I had never visualized the spot in meditations and dreams. The favorite place of relaxation has now become a place of power.

The land “gives back” in response to our appreciation of it. As we honor it, it honors us in return and in greater measure.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Malcolm R. Campbell

On the road to Thanksgiving

The excesively polarized political debate in recent years focused the consciousness of the nation on negatives, on what we purportedly lacked, on what we didn’t have, on what somebody somewhere was doing wrong. During this time, the country and our lives were not without value, yet the daily whining tended more than anything else to obscure what we could have been and should have been thankful for.

My belief system is quite unwielding on one point: What you resist, persists.

To our detriment, lack–even before the nasty political bickering of the last eight years–has long been a favorite topic of conversation, in barber shops, over the backyard fence, on street corners with strangers, beneath satin sheets with lovers, and one could almost laugh at it as the tragicomedy of the human experience if it weren’t making such a mess of our lives.

If one’s lumbago wasn’t acting up, if it weren’t too cold or too dry or too wet or too windy, if the President hadn’t just said something idiotic, if the promotion hadn’t gone to company clown, if the neighbor hadn’t just painted his house pink with green stripes, if if if if, then for goodness sakes, there was veritably nothing to talk about. Lack, for many, makes the world go around.

Like attracts like, the gurus tell us, and so it is that those who focus a fair amount of their waking thoughts–not to mention their dreams–on lack seem forever surprised on the constant deluge of additional lack into their lives. Many, as we have seen, have been quite willing to mortgage their souls as well as all of their temporal assets in a blind attempt to escape from lack.

When we focus on lack, what we already have is slid onto the back burner. We don’t think about it. We’re not grateful for it. We take it for granted. We even hide it on purpose because–should it be seen–it might diminish our argument that fate and other people have cast an unfair amount of lack into our lives.

As Thanksgiving approachs, a large part of our daily conversation remains focused on lack, on just how bad the Black Friday sales figures are likely to be or on how early we need to get up on that day after Thanksgiving to get to the store before anyone else does so we can beat them to the sales tables and get rid as much of our lack as possible at the lowest possible cost.

The cost, I think, is far too high regardless of the amount we spend, and the consequences of worshipping the daemons of lack are far too dear to leave the house with credit cards in hand.

I have an alternative proposal. It’s not my invention. Thousands have already said it and said it better. Stay home with what you have rather than going out in search of what you think you’re missing. It’s a difficult habit to break, I know, but it’s the only way to your heart’s desires.

Each day on the road to Thanksgiving, we have an opportunity to ponder that which we are likely to be grateful for if and when we give it a clear focus within the mind’s eye. What we have requires more of our attention than what we don’t have. Perhaps it’s a warm coat or a lover or a house filled with friends or a job or a perfect weekend or a full pantry or a pleasant disposition.

Gratefulness leads to more gratefulness and thanks leads to more thanks, do you think?

Seriously, I’m Not Really James Bond

When my friends answer their phones, I’m likely to say, “My name is Bond, James Bond.” Then, after they say, “Malcolm, I know that’s you,” we get on to the real reason I called.

In my heart of hearts, I realize I’m not James Bond. For one thing, my psychologist Dr. No Way has informed me that it’s “wrong” to pretend to be who you’re not. Years ago, Kurt Vonnegut warned that such pretense is dangerous.

What is less clear is who I really am.

Yes, I do know my name and I’m happy to tell you I remember it most of the time. But that name is merely a convenient label, perhaps like a brand such as Coke or Pepsi and General Motors or Ford. You know what’s what with such brand names, but with Malcolm Campbell you may be less sure, and I would agree.

Masha Malka begins her beautiful little book The One Minute Coach with this question: “Whose life are you living?” I’m not sure I can answer this question correctly. What about you?

The psychologist Eric Berne, widely known for his work with games and scripts, suggested that when we were young, we accepted so many of the “you should” and “you ought” admonitions from parents and other adults without question and that we still accept them today as gospel. Consciously, we might exclaim: HOW CRAZY IS THAT while subconsciously we still believe “you’ll never make anything of yourself” and “dreams like that are only for rich people.”

In a similar vein, author Nancy Whitney-Reiter says in her recent book (Unplugged: How to Disconnect from the Rat Race, Have an Existential Crisis, and Find Meaning and Fulfillment) that there are reasons most people aren’t happy even though they’ve achieved many of the goals we set out to achieve. Among them is the fact that we’re shoved into the school system and then into the world of work with goals that are programmed into us by parents, friends and society. We don’t have time to ask, “Do I really want to be a highly paid CEO of a giant company who lives in a million-dollar house and drives a $100,000 car?”

How many of us are trudging ahead from school to marriage to kids to jobs following either the expectations of others or the expectations we accepted without question?

Reiter urges us to “unplug” from the hustle and bustle of every day life, take some time for ourselves, and learn who we really are and what makes us happy. Malka urges us to spend time each day taking action steps that will lead us toward an authentic life. Why don’t we do such things?

We just don’t get to them, right? Remember all the things you told your friends you were going to do some day: learn another language, go back to school, maintain a savings account, lose weight, stop smoking? Like New Year’s resolutions, they sounded good, but they took a effort and seemed to be such endless processes that we didn’t get anywhere. So, whose life am I living? Whose life are you living?

In his e-book The Principles of Successful Manifesting, Thomas Herold observes that we’re going to make progress in those areas where we place our attention. This echoes a question that has been asked by Silva Method instructors: “If you spend 15 minutes three times a day thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your goals, but then spend the rest of the day thinking negative thoughts about your life and your job and your relationships, what kind of result will you end up with?”

Indeed. If we’re not attending to ourselves and our dreams, I don’t think we’ll find either of them.

If we had started that savings account 25 years ago, it might be worth something now even though we could only deposit a little bit of money each week. If we had started learning another language ten years ago, we might have some fluency in it by now even though we only had time for one lesson a week. Had we placed more of our attention on learning who we really are and what we truly desire, we might now be free from parental admonitions, the un-verified assumptions, and the expecations of those who embrace the consumer matrix version of “life.”

Malka asks where we’ll be next year at this time. “Will you be doing the same things, going to the same places, spending time with the same people, wishing the same things, and realizing that with each year that passes, those wishes will probably never materialize?”

Those of us who have noticed that we might not really be who we want to be are told by friends and co-workers, “that’s the breaks” and “that’s just the way it is” and “you’re stuck now, so let’s just go grab a couple of beers and watch the ball game.”

We’re hearing more and more these days from more and more people that we’re not stuck, that we do have choices, and it’s not too late. In 1902, James Allen wrote his ground-breaking and inspiring book “As a Man Thinketh.” My father had an original-edition copy on his bookshelf and I read it as a young man thinking what a wonderful dream. Problem was, I saw it as a dream rather than a reality. One of the more positive developments I see in a time many are describing as chaotic, is that thousands of people are finally catching up with the beliefs Allen stated over a century ago.

Our choices are real and viable. Unlike tasks requiring bricks and mortar, Allen’s beliefs–and those of his modern-day counterparts–do not take years and years of painful 24/7 effort that are beyond are schedules and our capabilities. Seriously, they’re relative quick and painless if there’s a lot of passion behind them and oh, so little time.

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.

                                         –James Allen

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell who takes this philosophy neither shaken nor stirred.

Join me on December 11th for a discussion with author and publisher Shelagh Watkins. She’ll be here to talk about Forever Friends, a new poetry and short story anthology released by Mandinam Press in October.

Do you agree that perception is reality?

“Most all of the current brain research is leading to one conclusion. Most of what we consider to be happening ‘out there’ is really occurring ‘in here’ within the confines of our own head. Perhaps this is why mystics refer to the external world as maya, or an illusion. It’s interesting to note the word ‘illusion’ is derived from the Latin root ‘illusere,’ which means ‘innerplay.'” –MaAnna Stephenson in The Sage Age, Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom

What do you make of this quotation from MaAnna Stephenson’s new book?

Do you view perception is reality as figurative? That is, psychological in tone, warped or clarified by our attitudes, preconceptions, philosophies, likes and dislikes.

Or, do you view perception is reality as actual? That is, literally concrete, dynamic, and totally synchonistic with your intentions (conscious or otherwise) and mission here on the planet.

Or, do you view the notion as merely interesting and/or absurd?

We can step into a labyrinth here, suggesting that if you believe perception is reality, then it is, but that if you believe perception is not reality, then it isn’t.

Perhaps your perception of perception has a great impact on your view of how things work in the world, whether it’s a jungle or an oasis, whether it’s filled with hate or love, whether goals and intentions create the “future” or whether fate and the purported stronger wills of others bring tomorrow into actuality, whether there’s more room in our lives for fear or for hope.

As the Christmas song asks: Do you see what I see? I’m suggesting that you may or may not see what I see and vice versa, and that problems between people often occur because they presume their perceptions of reality, while necessarily synchronous in many basic respects, are hand-in-glove matches. To know, better yet to understand, another person or another group requires, I think, really seeing what they’re seeing, that is to say, knowing quite literally where they’re coming from and where the “live.”

Does this make sense? How do you perceive such ideas? Are they foreign or are they an integral part of your reality? Either way, I’m suggesting that the universe is responding to your opinions and your imagination. Or, it may be better to say, I perceive that it is within my reality.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Embark on the Journey, Follow the Fantasy, Create the Reality

The Sun Singer, new age literary fiction by Malcolm R. Campbell

Buy the e-book for only $5.33 at Powell’s Books

Sun Singer Interview

Yesterday, I enjoyed stopping by Yvonne Perry’s Writers in the Sky weblog to talk about my fantasy novel The Sun Singer. The interview was fun and it was nice to see a couple of folks from the long-gone WritingUp blog community stop by an say “hello.”

A New Age Fantasy
A New Age Fantasy

The day before, writer/reviewer Geri Ahearn posted a very positive review on her site, Amazon and B&N. Here’s my favorite part:

Malcolm R. Campbell takes the reader on a magnificent, magic carpet ride to the past, the present, and the future. The story is enlightening, and tugs at the reader’s heart as the adventure becomes a journey that strikes a chord in every reader, while looking back into the years of growing up. This novel is packed with riveting intensity, and is hauntingly powerful. As each page in “The Sun Singer” fits another piece to the mysterious puzzle that Robert is determined to put together, the story becomes more entertaining, and touching. The author created a brilliant, must-read fantasy that makes you crave for a sequel. –Geraldine Ahearn

Last month, I took part in a 24-hour read-a-thon to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of a book store in nearby Gainesville, Georgia. Our profits were donated to the county’s literary alliance. It was fun talking about the novel again in a reading/signing environment. We had a good group of people even though it was a rainy night.

As an author, I see such things as gifts, for when a book has been out for a while (four years) one isn’t involved in the heady hoopla of promotion attendant to launch dates. It means a lot when, for example, a person comments on a weblog and says they lent the book to a friend who liked it and lent it to another friend or family member.

Writing is a rather solitary profession, and those of us who don’t get out much and who don’t know how to act when we do get out, relish the moments when somebody rings the door bell or shows up at a book signing or leaves a review on B&N or Amazon or stops by a Facebook or a Myspace profile and says, “hey clown, I hope you’re having a good weekend.” 🙂

What this blog is all about

A friend asked in a recent post on her MySpace blog “How Do You Define Success?”

Essentially, her answer was finding the freedom to be herself and to follow her dreams. The challenge for her–for many of us–was that while following our dreams requires a measure of security and financial well-being, if we spend too much time or stress establishing that, we may not ever get to our dreams.

My answer to her question was similar to hers. Success to me is doing what I’m here to do: making an inner journey and writing about it. This blog represents my random thoughts, and a lot of yours, about the challenges we face and about the things we see along the trail.

I’m influenced, as many of you can tell, by the work of such writers as Edward Abbey and Colin Fletcher and by the dedication of volunteers in such organisations as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. I’m also influenced by Jane Roberts’ “Seth Books,” by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Caroline Myss.

As we walk the trail, we learn–as Carlos was taught–that our outer journey is a reflexion of our inner journey and, conversely, that if we are impeccable in what we do in the physical world, we will be more centered within.

For me, success is being on the path and experiencing what I find there and then putting those feelings into words on the page.

What about you?

–Malcolm