Do you ever feel someone else’s words rattle around in your brain?
I’ve been thinking all week about these words by Richard Gilbert from last week’s post. Richard makes the case, eloquently as always, that the craft of writing may be less important than the spiritual sources of writing, but it has one great advantage: it’s concrete enough to be discussed. Here are his head-rattling words:
Because I don’t know how to help anyone else find, and barely know how to nurture in myself, the place from whence art arises, that wellspring below mere ego that produces work with heart. What to read, where to go, what to do, whom to love? Craft isn’t nearly as important as spirit, but neither one by itself is sufficient. And we can discuss craft, which is the gateway to art.
How to find, and even harder, to discuss, “that wellspring below mere ego that produces work with heart”? Fortunately, I have another friend who is trying to do something like that in her new book Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit: Nourishing the Soul When Life’s Just Too Much. She may not tell you whom to love, but she offers what writing teachers also offer: practices.
I know you will love this interview with Karen, whose love of life bursts from both her smile and her book. Also, check out her website.
Q: Please summarize your book’s main idea and purpose:
A: “Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit” is a book about staying connected to what matters most even when life is busy. I was motivated to write it after crossing the threshold into motherhood and realizing that as my cup was now overflowing with all the good things I had aspired to bring into my life, I also felt an ache from how difficult it was to find time to slow down, listen within, and tend to my inner-life. I noticed that many of my clients and students could relate to this dynamic, and it inspired me to look for creative ways of balancing the demands of life’s busyness with time for genuine self-care.
Q: What did you learn by writing this book?
A: It helped me gain some perspective on my own predicament—to see the humor and to embrace the humility of feeling overwhelmed by life. It also provided a wonderful opportunity to pull together the theories and practices from psychology and various contemplative traditions that I‘ve found most helpful in my professional work. In doing this, I’ve gained greater clarity about what resources I most value, want to share with others, and apply in my own life.
Q: Were you able to “practice what you preached” as you wrote about spiritual practices?
A: This required quite a bit of creativity and flexibility given the scheduling demands of my psychology practice, other professional commitments, and my family life. I think it helped that I felt 100% committed and passionate about writing this book. I had spent many years writing smaller pieces (some of which found their way into the book), but when I finally knew that this book was really going to be birthed, my excitement fueled my ability to write almost anytime and anywhere when I wasn’t engaged in other activities!
Q: How have your readers responded and used your book?
A: The book is organized around six shifts, which I see as representing the ingredients that are most essential—and often forgotten— in carving out a life that holds meaning, joy, and balance. The shifts are honoring our rhythms, turning within, filling up, fully inhabiting our days, remembering lightness, and embracing difficulty. The first two, in particular, focus on simplifying our lives. It’s been fun to hear from readers and to look at readers’ reviews and see how different shifts speak to different people. For some readers, the whole idea of slowing down and taking time to be quiet has been hugely important. For others, it’s been the focus on fully showing up in our day-to-day life and lightening up that has been most helpful.
Q: What connections do you see between spiritual practices and the writing of memoir?
A: I consider writing memoir to be a spiritual practice because I think this type of writing moves us directly into the heart of our human experience and helps us embrace the mysteries of life with a sense of both awe and honesty. Although my book is categorized as “self-help,” I was thrilled to find an editor who allowed me to wear my memoir hat along with my psychology hat, and to weave these threads together in the book. My favorite type of writing is developing tales (which I hope have a bit of thoughtfulness and humor) based on my experiences in everyday life. I would love to continue doing more of this writing!
I can recommend Karen’s book, since I used it in my morning meditation practice during my last weeks of revising my draft. My cup of inspiration and stamina filled as Karen, my gentle, persistent, spiritual guide, helped me find “that wellspring below mere ego that produces work with heart.”
What connections do you see between the two kinds of practices: writing and spiritual? What role does memoir play in your favorite spiritual books? Vice versa? If you want to explore more, see April Yamasaki’s interview on this blog. Please comment below.