Feeling Whole, Feeling Peace

What would it feel like to feel complete within yourself? Is there something that has been holding you back? A fear? An old wound?

What if…you were able to dive into that fear, down into the belly of that whale, and then re-emerge again safe, whole, and healed?

Think it’s not possible?
Think that nothing ever changes?
Well, then it’s your thoughts that are the real problem…

In the silence between the thoughts, anything becomes possible. Take the chance…Try sitting in silence for 5 minutes today and see what happens.

If thoughts intrude, don’t be discouraged! That’s what brains do. They create thoughts. Good news! You’re human! Simply acknowledge that your brain has a thought and return your attention to the silence in between.

Even if you are only able to do this for seconds at a time, it is still a few seconds of peace. Peace from thoughts of fears and projections. Peace from any interpretations of who you are.

Simply peace…

Heat, Prometheus, and the Nature of Change…

Welcome to Summer!

Here on the East Coast, we’re a-broiling!

From a Mythological/Depth Psychological perspective, heat brings about alchemical reaction. Where there’s heat, there’s a burning away of the old; a sweating out the toxins of things that no longer serve us.

Keep in mind, the same sun that helps things grow, and then causes things to wither away, gives us Vitamin D, and causes skin cancer, is a big ball of gaseous fire!  And fire, as we learn from the tale of Prometheus…brings CHANGE!

Change in the way we live our lives, a transformation of the “old” ways of doing things, and ushering in an aspect of Enlightenment in our lives. Yes, granted, Prometheus paid a terrible price for his generosity and his disobeying of Zeus’ direct orders, but often those who bring about change and enlightenment to others, risk ticking off the establishment!

Prometheus, the Trickster Titan, knew that fire would be integral in the development and evolution of humankind, so he took that risk. What old patterns in your life will you allow to burn away in the alchemical heat wave we’re having?

Heinrich_fueger_1817_prometheus_brings_fire_to_mankindAs for me… The end of this month will bring about the completion of a very long process, the awarding of my PhD. This road took me into self-doubt, and out again; into the space of nonduality and into the depths of depression; moving house four times and finding community; leaving classroom (middle school) teaching and beginning college/university teaching; starting a business and taking on a ridiculous amount of student loans; losing my beloved grandfather and gaining new friends and closer relations with family; losing a lot of weight and gaining it back again; and through it all, nothing has really changed, not in the depths of who I am. All that changes is fleeting, wrapped up in an identity of who I believe myself to be. The never  ending rollercoaster of life, spinning and dipping and twirling around, always coming back to the place where it began…in the stillness of non-motion – in the pause between the rides. We choose to get on the ride, whether we consciously realize it or not…so enjoy it! 06-21-08_2055

Let the alchemical heat transform and burn. Grow and shift! After all, the things that change are not who you truly are, they are the amusement park ride we’re on…going through the rings of fire and back again.

Welcome to Spring!

PersephoneA time for rebirth, creating oneself anew, and the beginnings of the creative force of spring!

The Greek story of Demeter and Persephone celebrates the springtime. Persephone, who had been spirited away beneath the earth by her uncle, (they did that in those days…) Hades, to become the Queen of the Dead, returns in the s11232155_demeter-ve-persephone-kore-mtolojk-hkayeler---xfisiltixpring to reunite with her mother, Demeter, the Goddess of Fertility and Harvest. This return to the light and the world of the living, mirrors the return of longer and (hopefully) warmer days. That which had been dead is now reborn, along with tulips, daffodils, and Cadbury chocolate eggs!

What will you do now that you are entering this time of renewal and emergence into the sun? Is it time to write that book you’ve always had burning inside you? Is it time to learn more about who you really are? Or, is it just time to sit on your deck, porch, or lanai and let the sun gently caress your face, enjoying the sound of the birds chirping and lawnmowers beginning their springtime rituals…

You Are Perfect Just As You Are!

The words below from the film Hugo speak to the importance and interconnectedness of everyone and everything…You exist exactly as you should and your life will unfold perfectly. (That doesn’t mean you will get everything you want, but the story of your life is always an intricate masterpiece of sheer perfection!)

00000074 “I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”

Getting Sucked Back in to the Drama

Experiencing the world from a Non-Dual perspective, or in other words, through the understanding that nothing is actually happening other than the manifestations of mind, does not exempt one from “falling back into the drama again.”

In order to explain to “others” how a shift in perspective can reveal a change to the storyline of their lives, words and dialogue are often used to bring about an understanding. There is usually wonderment that these friends/students/colleagues can’t see how simple the shift is, and seem to cling to these stories of problems and people doing them harm. In real detachment, it is possible to see one’s/the Self as everything, and the stories the mind conjures to interpret the world and its phenomenon, merely phantoms and silliness.

But…when one is in that place of story and of identifying themselves as a person in conflict with another, it is quite amazing how the ego mind creeps back in and grabs a hold of us once more!

Recently, I had this experience. Old dynamics at play with a family member triggered an emotional reactive response. I spent days trying to figure out how to respond to possible verbal/emotional attacks and how to express to this person how they made me feel. I was exhausted and wary and defensive and annoyed. I began to think about how I could “fix” it or avoid it…whichever proved easiest and most permanent, but to no avail, because the emotions wouldn’t leave me. It was then that I remembered what my teacher had once said to me,”Feel the emotional story of your conflict, not the details of the story itself. It is never about the ‘other’ person.” It is the same teaching I now offer to others. But it is easy to forget when our own mind’s triggers arise. Once the emotional story is connected to, we can realize that the “other person” is nothing but an actor in the play of your life, offering the opportunity to experience any old unmet emotions, long since repressed deeply into your psyche. It is an embrace of the difficulty, so that old energy can be healed. And even in that, there is no need to heal anything, as it is consciousness itself causing it and sustaining us simultaneously.

I recognize that this post may resonate with some and be disturbing to others. It is not for me to convince anyone of anything. But on this Thanksgiving week, I am grateful for these teachings, as they offer me the tools to navigate life; a chance to awaken further, to peel away yet one more layer of the onion to reveal the Self in all its glory.

“I’m a Fabulous Writer. Why Do I Need an Editor?”

This common refrain is heard often in the editing and publishing world. What authors may not know, is that the process of editing is much more than grammar, punctuation, and a spelling check; though those are necessary tasks for any copyeditor or proofreader.

Editing is the single most thoughtful-pen-writing-24581037-2560-1702important component of the writing process.Careful and thoughtful editing can elevate your manuscript from “really good” to “extraordinary.” Often authors make the mistake of thinking that their book is finished once they’ve written a few drafts, and then they’ve checked it through for simple errors of English language usage.

The real crafting of a manuscript is done in the revision phase.A good developmental editor can help you take your raw material and fine-tune your voice and structure, making sure that your story is clear and coherent. Continuity of thought and the consistency and depth of characters are worked with, so that your readers can follow along easily without having to go back and forth in your manuscript in order to figure out what is happening. In a non-fiction manuscript, an eye to the overall development of the intended message is key to keeping your readers informed and interested.

Though the process is different for fiction and non-fiction books, all manuscripts need to be looked at by an objective expert.“Why?” you may ask. It’s because writers (all of us, including myself) get very attached to our writing and we are sometimes unable to see our errors clearly. We also tend to suffer from what Steve, my writer friend, calls “the hungadunga,” (the term is in actuality an obscure, non-related reference to the Marx Brothers’ movie “Animal Crackers”) the tendency to skip over key descriptive pieces in our writing because we, the author, already know what we are trying to say, or where we are going, with our work, but a reader may not be able to follow us as easily. The continuity exists in our brain, but not on the page. That’s a key place where a developmental editor can help.

No matter what stage of writing you are at, from brainstorming, to organizing and outlining your manuscript, to writing your first draft, to revisions, and onward, it is important to keep in mind the following questions:

1) Why am I, personally, writing this book?
2) Who will read this book?
3) Is this book a standalone or part of a series?
4) Would I benefit from writing with someone else, or enlisting someone else after I finish my draft?
5) What do I hope to accomplish with this book?The answers to those questions will help greatly in focusing your intentions on a successful book. A book that is written well and is written with clear intention, has unlimited marketability.Good luck on your writing journey!

See you Beyond the Story…

The Wisdom of Rumi

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. 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.”

The mind is an extraordinary tool for your remembrance of who you truly are…if you are willing to embrace the possibility that what you think is real undisputed truth, is but a dream. As Rumi wisely pointed to, if every experience felt in the body (whether joyful or heart-wrenching, ecstatic or rage-provoking) is an opportunity to see the illusion of the mind’s stories, then we get multiple opportunities every day to see through them to what is really there. For one moment, ponder what your response would be if every experience, no matter the emotional story that arises in you, is experienced as Love. Even the nasty painful stuff. What if that love took the form of suffering? If everything is one, and everything is that consciousness, or God, then how could anything not be Love?

And a Fool Shall Lead Them: The Popularity of Fake News Shows and the Battle Between Truth and Truthiness

(This article was originally written in 2008, though it is still relevant today…)

For decades, since the advent of television and, even perhaps with the popularity of radio, Americans tuned in to hear the day’s news from highly respected and serious-minded newscasters. This ritual brought the world closer, as from the comfort of their homes, the average person could be informed about what was occurring in both his or her own country, and in countries around the world. The most respected newscasters had a sense of gravity about them: a resounding voice, a reassuring manner, and an almost parent-like authority. But by the 1970s, a changing trend began in earnest. What first started with Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” sketch, soon morphed in the 1980s into HBO’s Not Necessarily the News, and then to the current Comedy Central “fake news” shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. While political humor and satire were ever-present in the work of many comedians and writers, fake news shows presented a new level of socio-political satire, presented tongue-in-cheek and with farcical perspectives on the actual news of the day.

In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Washington, DC, participants were asked questions pertaining to news of the day, both political and human interest (Pew Research Center, par. 2). Many news outlets were included in the survey, including newspapers, internet sites, cable news outlets such as CNN, NPR, network morning shows, local news, and more. Interestingly, the comedy news shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report were included on the list. While they are formatted like traditional news shows, or pundits like Bill O’Reilly, both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are intrinsically comedy programs. According to the results of this survey, when measuring the knowledge level of the audiences of each “news” outlet, the two comedy programs topped the list at 54%, tying them with major newspaper outlets, and putting them just ahead of News Hour with Jim Lehrer (Pew Research Center, par. 50). Now, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report audiences are more knowledgeable than the other audiences because participants were able to list multiple news outlets and therefore could be represented by more than one category. The interesting depth psychological importance of this poll was that these comedy shows were being considered on a par with traditional news shows in terms of informing the public. Tricksters and Fools pretending to be serious newsmen are now educating the American people, apparently rather effectively.

The appeal of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are especially evident with the younger demographic of television viewers. These are viewers who tend to get their news directly from the internet, on-demand and up-to-the-minute. They’ve lost patience with authoritative parent-like information dissemination, and look instead for easy relatability and transparency. Merrill Brown, the former editor of MSNBC.com, states on PBS.org’s online article, Apathetic or Unimpressed? Where Generation Next Is Taking the Media, “In this new world of journalism, young people want a personal level of engagement and want those presenting the news to them to be transparent in their assumptions, biases and history” (Read, par. 31).

In a post-9/11 world, the American psyche is waking up to realize that not everything we are told is truthful. Though America prides itself on freedom of the press, little awareness was previously paid as to how the press could still be manipulated and biased. According to The Center for Public Integrity, studies have been done about the allegations and repercussions of false statements leading to the Iraq war:

“The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war,” the study concluded. “Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, ‘independent’ validation of the Bush administration’s false statements about Iraq,” it said. (Lewis and Reading-Smith, par. 10)

Whether this study is itself biased is a matter of perspective, but it does reveal a slow, but growing distrust of information dissemination and of hidden political agendas, which, in turn, has created a space for the success of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. While at one time, Americans may have laughed along with the keen comedic insights into the news of the day with SNL’s “Weekend Update,” they would have most certainly, turned to a newspaper or the network news to hear the “real” news. Today, that trend has shifted. The appeal of a show that can entertain and educate all in one, provides a sense of relief from the hardships of everyday life; a life shadowed by a controversial war, a difficult economy, the undercurrent threat of terrorism, and seemingly increasing natural disasters.

Enter the Trickster, or perhaps its close archetypal relative, the Fool. It is easy to see in Stephen Colbert, who plays a character named Stephen Colbert, a politically conservative pundit, as the Fool at King Lear’s court. The Fool, though he acts silly and inane, is definitely the wisest person in the court, and can see through the illusions that the King, his daughters and the others of his court are lost in.  Or perhaps Jon Stewart of The Daily Show is the little boy who declares that the emperor has no clothes; his punchlines delivered with a meaningful look and a smirk. Through his jokes he shows us what is happening beneath the story, to a truth he wants us to understand. Both Stewart and Colbert have written best-seller news-themed comedy books, the former’s America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction, and the latter’s I Am America (And So Can You!).  Both satirize political themes and enable us to laugh at our own self-importance, a trait indicative of the presence of the Fool.

It is the Fool that enlightens and entertains us; who shows us just how silly we are, especially in those moments in which we take ourselves too seriously. He is a trickster and a clown, whose schemes and plans poke and prod at the carefully constructed “reality” around him. He questions authority and the status quo, though he is essentially non-threatening, and he often appears when old modes of thinking or living are not serving us anymore.

Though Jon Stewart preceded Stephen Colbert into the world of comedic news, Colbert has taken his role as America’s own personal Fool to new heights (or perhaps depths). In 2005, Colbert coined the word “truthiness,” to “describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or ‘from the gut’ without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts” (Wikipedia, par. 1). “Truthiness” went on to be named Word of the Year in 2006 by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, though it has yet to actually appear in the reference book (About the Show, par. 1). As Stephen Colbert stated, “Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you” (Stephen for President, video clip). The underlying satirical point is made by referencing news that is presented to the public as fact, but may actually have no validity whatsoever; Once again showing us the crafty wisdom of the playful Fool archetype.

Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have reported on controversial topics, and they have also both hosted many politicians on their shows, including presidential candidates, but only Stephen Colbert was willing to take the satire further. In 2007, in a Fool’s stroke of genius, Colbert decided to run for President, not solely as a sketch on his program, but as an actual candidate. Granted, he decided to attempt to get on the ballot only in his home state of South Carolina, but he played out all the trappings of a candidacy for the enjoyment and, in some senses, education of his viewing public. For instance, on his October 16th show, Colbert decided to run as both a Democrat and as a Republican (Stephen for President, video clip). On the following night’s show, he shared with his viewers his realization that it only cost $2,500 (or a petition signed by 3,000 registered Democrats) to register to run as a Democrat, but it cost $35,000 (including late fees) to register as a Republican candidate in South Carolina. Therefore, this ultra-conservative character decided it was better to run as a Democrat (Stephen for President, video clip). Colbert made up t-shirts, bumper stickers, and buttons, and made public appearances kissing babies and other clichéd political candidate public relations mainstays, including accepting Doritos as a presidential campaign sponsor. Ultimately, on November 1, 2007, Stephen Colbert was denied from actually appearing on the ballot in South Carolina, as the state’s Democratic Party committee did not think that he was a serious candidate; Both he and his audience mourned the loss of his candidacy on his show that night (Stephen for President, video clip).

During this past election period, Colbert once again found a way to teach the viewers about the political system through his unique, court jester style. Colbert created a Super PAC and proceeded to raise quite a bit of money for charity and other organizations. He guided his audience through the opaque, yet inane world of campaign finances, showing the world what was happening behind the scenes in the political world.

The need for Fool-delivered news and reality in the modern age, perhaps indicates our collective psyche’s desire for the truth beneath the rhetoric. A lightening of the heart as we face some serious challenges, all the while appreciating that we are let in on the joke, rather than taken in by it. It is ultimately a sign of a cultural transformation, a shift in awareness. We are embracing the Fool, and in return, we are the wiser for it.

Nicole K. Miller  ©2013 revised


About the Show/The Colbert Report/Comedy Central. 6 July 2008.             <http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/about.jhtml&gt;

Lewis, Charles and Reading-Smith, Mark. False Pretenses: Iraq-The War Card. The      Center for Public Integrity. 23 Jan 2008 <http://www.publicintegrity.org/warcard/&gt;

Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information             Revolutions: What Americans Know: 1989-2007. Pew Research Center for the             People and the Press. Washington, DC. 15 April 2007<http://people-            press.org/report/319/public-knowledge-of-current-affairs-little-changed-by-news-and-information-revolutions>

Read, Oliver. Apathetic or Unimpressed? Where Generation Next Is Taking the Media.   The Online Newshour: Generation Next/PBS. 19 June 2006.             <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/generation-next/demographic/media_06-19.html>

Stephen for President/The Colbert Report/Comedy Central. (video clips). 6 July 2008. <http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/videos.jhtml?collectionId=12389&gt;

Truthiness-Wikipedia,The Free Encyclopedia. 6 July 2008             <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness&gt;