Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The Sun Shines On

February 28, 2011

“How do you feel?” Jorge Luis Delgado asked me as we sat together on the bus that would take us back to the hotel.

It had been a long day. The Solar Disc Activation ceremonies were over. We had made our good-byes to our host families, boarded our boats, spent the next three or four hours in happy chatter as we sailed back to shore, and made a memorable stop at one of the floating islands. Now we were headed back to the hotel for dinner and celebration.

“You know,” I replied, “I guess I must be tired, but mostly what I feel is . . . just . . . good.”

It was all I could say, really. There weren’t words for how I felt, which seemed almost ridiculous for a woman who is a professional writer and editor. But there it was. No words. Only delicious peace and internal glow.

“Do you know why that is?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” I said.

“When we work with our hearts open, we do not get so fatigued,” he replied.

I knew he was right. His words washed over me and settled into my bones as truth. I thought about the shamanic work I did with clients. I often did journey work with clients on Friday evenings, after having gotten up at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. We wouldn’t finish until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. sometimes, yet I would come away from the work high as a kite. I’d always found it curious, but I’d never tried to explain it to myself, other than assuming it was the result of doing the work and seeing its impact on the client. But he was right. I was not only fully present with my client during the work on such nights, my heart was always wide open.

The same was true for the shamanic clearing work on houses and the spiritual coaching. As I reflected on his words, I saw that it was also true with the writing coaching, editing, and other work I did. When my heart was open, the work didn’t deplete me. Yes, body and mind needed some rest at the end of a long day, but it was more like adding juice to a battery that still had plenty of charge to it than trying to recharge a dead battery.

I recalled my days in corporate America. I’d held management positions that required ten to twelve hour days, demanded broad expertise, and provided endless helpings of stress. I was good at what I did and I always strived to serve the greater good. But it depleted me and I was never at my best when overwhelmed by stress. I’ve no doubt that more than one person who reported to me in those days would be able to attest to my being a pretty demanding boss.

When I left the corporate world, I realized—not immediately, but after a time—that no amount of money and no promotion would have provided what I sought and staying in that world would likely have eventually killed me. It had never been an environment in which I could work with an open heart, at least not for long. In fact, the more open my heart had become in that world, the more problematic that world was for me and the more problematic I was for whomever I reported to.

One of the most telling experiences I had in the corporate world happened months before I left the last company I would work at for any length of time. It was 7:00 p.m. or so. Everyone had left but the President, the Vice-President of Client Services, and me. The V-P of Client Services and I were sitting in the lobby, talking through some issue. The President came out and joined in the discussion. At some point, one of them presented a scenario and asked me what I would think about it if it was offered up. My heart bypassing my brain, I told the truth, instead of what was politically correct.

“I guess I’d ask what love would have me do next,” I replied.

The V-P of Client Services, a good friend as well trusted colleague, looked at me quizzically for a moment and then said, “Oh, I get it. It’s like, ‘What would Jesus do?’”

The President? He looked from one to the other of us and said nothing. But the look on his face said it all. We were nuts as far as he was concerned. I might as well have suggested that we consult the tarot or pull in an astrologer or even call up Warren Buffet for advice. My spontaneous comment was way too heart-centered. I couldn’t be trusted.

Of course, he already suspected that of me. I was gone after a time and my colleague was gone a while later. We weren’t calculating enough and we couldn’t be trusted to sacrifice people—including ourselves—for the sake of his agenda. We were toast.

Sitting next to Jorge Luis Delgado on a bus driving from Puno, Peru to our hotel in Chucuito, I realized that I wouldn’t have changed anything in my life. Everything had led me to a life and a body of work that allowed and even required an open heart. In that moment, sitting next to Jorge Luis, I was in a state of grace and no words were needed between us. We sat in peaceful silence. The sun had set . . . but it was still shining within.

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall

Like, You Know What I Mean?

August 26, 2009

She was using the word, “like,” like a machete hacking its way through a jungle tangled with subjects and predicates. If verbs were the equivalent of jaguars stalking her and nouns the equivalent of screeching birds, it could be said that she was slicing her way through that jungle with heart pounding, trying to make her way to safety as quickly as she could.

Unfortunately her machete was as dull as the typical answer to the social media question, “What are you doing right now?” Why? Because the word, “like,” is little more than a substitute for, “Uhm,” when used multiple times in a sentence–every sentence–on and on and on until the listener just might hope that the jaguar gets her.

In her defense, I suspect that the woman I overheard chattering away at the gym was a young mother who probably spends the bulk of her day interacting with small children with vocabularies that total about fifty words. She might simply need a regular dose of adult conversation to reclaim the English language. Or not. I found myself contemplating how the next generation will use the English language if what they are getting from their mothers is a daily dose of “like” that is enough to give them verbal diabetes.

Of course, “like” is not the only word that is abused in the English language. “Awesome” is another. The view from the top of a fourteen thousand foot mountain is definitely awesome. Heroic acts can be. So can sunsets and mystical insights. But whether we like it or not, everything is not awesome. Has the overuse of the word come from the practice of trying to level the playing field for humans so much that every child gets a prize after the competition is over (whether or not her team has actually won) and every handcrafted item is called “art” (whether the crafter has talent or not)? Or is “awesome” just another machete hacking its way through the English language.

When it was suggested that there was “trouble in River City,” the culpret was identified as that deadly destroyer of morals . . . pool. The anidote offered was the musical instrument.  Is telvision the new pool? If so, what is the antidote? Books? And can life really be reduced in this way? I think not.

On the other hand, I have had to turn off the television more than once to save it from the hatchet when I heard one more basketball player utter, “Know what I’m sayin’?” or “Duhyuh know what I mean?” When I began to hear those phrases coming out of the mouth of my youngest sister (who rightfully could be considered the woman on the street, though I, of course, think she’s special), I knew things were seriously out of hand.

When I heard “like” coming out of my own mouth a bit too often, I knew it was even worse than that.

I’m a professional writer and editor. Words are important to me. Words strung together in sentences that make sense and paragraphs that ring true are more tastey to me than anything the finest Denver or Boulder restaurant might provide. And sometimes a book is, indeed, awesome. I want my own spoken language to have some merit because I know that the words falling from the fingertips become compromised when the spoken language gets sloppy. I also know that when I am inundated by sloppy spoken language, it seeps into me like ground water making its way through the cracks in my foundation of words.

I’m not willing to sequester myself because I have to interact with the world to spark my internal writing mechanisms. What is a writer to do? I’m not sure. But this little post is a plea sent out as a request for mercy. Sharpen your machete and I promise to sharpen mine.


Copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall

My Father’s Daughter

June 20, 2009

I sit at my computer, staring at the blank Word document, the nascent rumblings of an idea beginning to spark along the neural pathways of my body–beginning not at the brain and moving outward, but at the heart. By the time the idea actually hits the brain, my fingers are already moving on the keyboard. This isn’t exactly the way my father said it would be, but on a good day, this is how it works.

It’s not that I have no familiarity with what spills out onto the computer screen.  Whatever is spilling out has often been forming somewhere inside of me for days, weeks, or months. I have a flickering thought and seem to work with it, deep within my body, for a time. But I’m less like a brood hen, sitting on her eggs, giving them the heat of her body and the time needed to hatch, than like a monk going about his daily chores and somehow meditating at the same time. 

Sometimes I’m in the shower when the flicker of an idea comes wandering into my consciousness. Or driving my car. Or meditating. Some inspiration–that is, some drawing into the body of an idea–begins the internal process that, in turn, gives rise to what spills out from my fingers and onto the keyboard. When the words come, when they hit like raindrops onto the screen, they seem to pouring from my heart.

Heart to brain, back to heart, and then back to brain. Is that how it works? Or is it 8th chakra (the one outside the body) to brain to body to heart to brain? I’m not sure. But I know that however it works, my father never described it to me.

I’m sorry for that. We talked about books and writing when I was growing up. He was, himself, a writer. Something of a frustrated writer, because he was never published, but a writer, none the less. I think it must have pleased him when I learned to read and the first little sparks of interest in the written word quickly blossomed into a nice campfire, then a conflagration.

Writing is like fire (at least as much as it is like rain). We’re consumed by the flames that come from our pens and keyboards in a conflagration of the spirit.

I’d like to think it was that way for my father and I believe it was. He wrote at night, when most of the family was asleep. He sat at his desk (an arts and crafts dark oak one when I was small, then an industrial gray metal one later on), chain smoked cigarettes, drank beer, and sat in what appeared to the observer to be a meditative state–or at least a pensive one–for long periods of time. The quintessetial brooding Irishman. Of course, that “observer” was likely to be nothing more than a mouse, out from hiding in the quiet of the night, or me, back from a date or out of my room to get a glass of water during a late night of study.

He wrote thoughts and observations on scraps of paper and advised me to do the same. “When you get an idea for a story or anything you might want to write on later, put it down in writing, right then,” he told me when I was still a teen. “Even if it is just one good sentence . . . or two good words . . . write it down.”

It would be years before I understood, through my own experience, how important that advice was. Ideas are sometimes like dreams–ephemeral, disappearing as soon as you turn your head if you are not careful. It is important to capture them, like dream butterflies, in the net that is the pen or keyboard. Beautiful sentences are that way, too. I have lost many a beautiful phrase, sentence, and paragraph because I failed to stop whatever I was doing (that seemed more important at the time) and write it down.

I have, actually, pulled over to the side of the road to write something that would not wait. I have also rummaged in the nightstand for scraps of paper and scribbled something that nagged at me enough to prevent sleep. And I have captured my thoughts on paper when I was supposed to be attending to a meeting. It’s glorious when it happens like that, but it doesn’t happen that way as often as I would like. Still, I imagine my father smiling on the other side when it does happen.

My father tapped out his stories on a little Royal typewriter. I used that typewriter when I first cranked out papers in college and I inherited it from him. It gathers dust in my office closet but I couldn’t give it up any more than I could give up the old LP of Bing Crosby singing George Gershwin. He loved them both and so do I.

If my father were alive today, he would love tapping out his thoughts on a computer and he would marvel at the mystery of the machine. He would love its efficiency and he would love that delete key. He didn’t live to see a personal computer, let alone long enough to see his daughter’s name on a book cover, but I felt him behind my left shoulder (along with St. Germain) when I wrote my first book. And even though it was nonfiction, instead of the fiction he dearly loved, if he had lived long enough to see it, he would have surely claimed me as my father’s daughter . . . and I would have shook my head in agreement and whispered that it was also probably that brooding Irish anscestry.

copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall


April 25, 2009

No doubt about it: the internal guidance system is a major tool for navigating life. But using the internal guidance system requires something else, too: faith. I have been reminded of that, again and again, over the past few weeks.

When I listened to my internal guidance system and kept driving forward through that snow storm, as reported in the last post, faith was required of me. The road behind me was quckly becoming impassible. The road ahead was uncertain, except insofar as I was willing to have faith in what I heard through my internal guidance system. I’m happy I had faith that day. Otherwise, I would have missed my own talk.

Last weekend, I again found myself in circumstances that required faith. Actually, those circumstances really began in February, when Melisa Pearce (Touched by a Horse) and I decided to offer a workshop together in April. We both knew that April is a fickle month in Colorado. It can be clear and in the sixties one day and snowing enough to make the Easter Bunny think he’s covering for Santa the next. We each trusted our intuition and set the workshop in the geographic center of April (about as close as the Four Corners Marker is to the geographic meeting place of four states–which means just a bit off center). This was the first time I would be offering my Shamanic Writing Workshop and to do it with Melisa and her talented healing horses was a gift of grace. We did our marketing and had faith that those perfect for the workshop would sign up.

They did. We had a very good response. People were coming from out of state as well as within the state of Colorado. It seemed we were on to something.

The weather was wonderful a scant week before our workshop and all looked good, apart from that pesky storm that was working its way towards Colorado. Our workshop was to start at 6 p.m. on Friday the 17th. The day before, it rained. The forecasters believed that rain would turn to snow sometime after midnight and predicted either slushy roads or a major snow storm. We were right on that liminal edge between the two.

I needed to have faith that all would be well for the workshop, but I must admit that my faith slid sideways on Thursday. I was opening my house up to an old friend who had a four-day commitment  nearby and wanted my home to be her port in a storm. It was a very reasonable request and one with which I happily complied, though I pointed out that I might need my own port in a storm if the weather turned ugly. I would be out in the wilds of Colorado, between Boulder and Lyons. I knew I could stay at Melisa’s ranch if necessary, but what about our workshop attendees?

Friday morning brought rain turning to snow in much of the Denver metro area. I left for the ranch in the morning, set myself up for the workshop, and waited. A couple of people cancelled. A couple of others called to be sure the workshop would go as scheduled (Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday). Two women had driven in from Utah on Thursday, the storm tracking them.

What was it doing at the ranch? Raining. Just raining. We seemed to be in the metro bananna belt, in a manner of speaking. There was a bit of magic to it. When I went inside and slid beyond that part of me that feared a workshop at risk, I kept hearing a voice that said it was all much ado about nothing. I needed to have faith that all would go as planned and I chose faith over fear.

The workshop did go as planned. Apart from two or three cancellations, everyone was there. One woman had even come from what would turn out to be “snow central” in the mountains. Some brought clothes so they could bunk at the ranch that night (the equivalent of praising God, but tying down your cammel).  No lives had been at risk and no one whined. There was an undercurrent of faith in the group, faith that we were all exactly were we were meant to be and with the people we were meant to share that time.

The workshop was a huge success. There were moments of breakthrough for some participants, moments of profound self-realization for others, and many moments of pure joy for everyone.

We’re planning another Shamanic Writing Workshop together and I have faith that it, too, will unfold beautifully and perfectly.


Copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall