I'm delighted to say I was invited to talk to a wargaming site about the mental health benefits of classic wargaming. No, this is not video war stuff. This is something far different, closer to the sort of things the military do when they wish to discuss tactics and so on, and they build models to work with. As such it can have surprising mental health benefits.
If you've been following along, you'll see that my page "The Fiction Project" has reached its initial target of fifty. The aim was to produce a short piece at the rate of at least three a week until I'd done fifty.
The rules were simple -
• Spend no longer than 45 minutes on each piece;
• No revising and no agonizing after that (unless typos popped up!);
• Put it up for all the world to see as soon as it's done.
So what, you may ask, did it prove?
The first thing I discovered was that I had plenty of stories and events to write about. Previously I might have discarded them by saying, yeah, there's no future in that one. And yet there might be a present in it, whatever it was. By giving myself permission to write small things I discovered just how many stories I could notice and generate. Some may yet prove to be the start of something longer.... If you do this exercise you'll discover you're more creative than you think.
Second: With an exercise like this one has to let go of judgment (see item 1) and self-editing, which is really self-censoring. One just has to get on and do it.
Third: It gives you the freedom to do something silly, to fail, to miss the mark, and sometimes it's when we do this that really good notions and emotions emerge. And after all, who cares if a piece fails? It's one piece better than nothing at all.
Fourth: It banishes the fear of the empty page/blank screen very effectively.
Fifth: It deals very effectively with the desire most writers have to tinker, to alter, to get out the dental tools and fiddle. There's a time for that, but we often go into it too soon. Decorate the house when you want to, but first make sure you've built the walls.
Sixth: It turned out to be fun! I thought it might be a grind, a bore, a dreadful weight to have to shoulder. It wasn't. Thoughts would emerge during the day and I'd write them when I had a moment. I'd tapped into my Unconscious, my deep creative self, and it had a lot to tell me.
Seventh: At times it proved itself to be rather emotional. Perhaps the heart of a good story is not an idea but an emotion. And you have to give a space for the emotion to emerge into. That's what this did.
Eighth: At the end of the day there is something to look at, to share, to ponder. And that, my friends, is not only satisfying (no matter how inexpert the product) but it's also 100% better than not having anything on a page at all.
Ninth: Invention is more fun than biography. It gives you more elbow room.
WRITER | COUNSELOR | PROFESSOR OF LITERATURE | MEMOIRIST’S MIDWIFE
An introduction to the list… or the experience…
Choosing only ten books out of the many that have been in my hands is a task that feels all but impossible. What I’ve noticed over the years is that books find me. There’s a synchronicity involved. When I need them, they seek me out, and sometimes it’s only a few pages that I really need to read to get a grip on what it is I’m wrestling with. I think that’s why I pursued a career in English Literature in the first place.
When I was a young man I was moved and astonished by poets like William Wordsworth – a man who had touched the sublime as a child and spent the rest of his life trying to recapture it. His notion of ‘spots of time’ – moments when time becomes eternal, felt absolutely true. Just similarly William Blake’s visions of eternity in his mundane world took my breath away – and inspired my spirit. “To see a world in a grain of sand…” This has become a cliché today; but when you actually do see the world in the grain of sand, then you’re never the same again.
Here, in no particular order, are ten books that have shaped my life.
Allan Hunter’s work explores the intersections of literature, memoir-writing, ancient wisdom, and the ways of the heart. He is a professor of Literature and a counselor, with a doctoral degree from Oxford University. British by birth, he traveled extensively in Europe, India, Africa, and Peru before settling in Boston, Massachusetts.
He’s published twelve books, including Write Your Memoir: The Soul Work of Telling Your Life Story. His most recent book, Gratitude and Beyond: Five Insights
for a Fulfilled Life looks at moments of change in our lives, and how gratitude can lead us to deeper understandings about what it means to live well.
He has spent much of his professional life exploring how literature and story-telling (including soap operas) tap into the deep and unarticulated needs of society, and especially the ways of the heart. It is from these powerful influences that we shape our lives and ultimately our destiny. email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
My 10 Best
(In no order of suggested reading or importance)
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
I re-read this book regularly and I’ve always found it immensely helpful personally and in my counseling practice. It’s a short book, but so precise I could cheer each time I read certain sections. Perhaps the part that resonates most for me and for my clients, is: “Don’t take it personally.” The ego is always ready to take any event personally, which simply stops us from seeing the true value of that life lesson, and so blinds us to what life could be.
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
This wonderful work came to me some time after I’d suffered my near life-ending illness and it allowed me to consider that disease was often a manifestation of inner imbalances, longings, and pain. It was, in fact, very often something we were doing to ourselves – and that was true for me at the time. We can manifest many things, including things we don’t realize we’re manifesting, such as illness. It’s a book that has helped to redefine my approach to wellness and western medicine.
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
I read this book and emerged from it in a daze. How, I asked myself, could I not see that I was constantly not being here, now? How had I got so busy in my mind, at the expense of my soul? The title of the book has since become a mantra. Can I be here, now? What would it take to let go of all the past concerns and future worries? It’s a guide to letting go, and allowing joy in.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
This fictionalized account of the life of Buddha is a short, entertaining read, of extraordinary depth. I originally used it in my college classes to reassure my students that, like Siddhartha, they could choose to live a life that was not the one their parents and their society prescribed for them. With each class I taught, I became more poignantly aware that this was a lesson I myself needed to take to heart.
The Bhagavad Gita
The story of Arjuna’s struggle to know what is right has deep resonance for me, and I found myself using it to help me through some difficult moral crises. Should I do what is ‘right’ and risk alienating others? Or should I do what is ‘kind’ but clearly cowardly? It’s the kind of struggle so many of us encounter when we witness injustice and prejudice, and wonder what we can do about it. It helps us to redefine what our duty is to our immortal souls.
The Grimm Brothers’ Tales Translated by Manheim
I began reading these ancient tales, wondering why they were so grisly and harsh, and why Disney had softened them so unashamedly. Reading the original tales, I quickly uncovered their powerful insights about what it meant to be human, today. Not all tales are very deep, and many seem to be different versions of each other, but when we read the finest of these we can see that the plot exists not just to find the prince or princess, but to seek completeness in one’s soul. If we are open to them, these are powerful stories of the soul’s journey.
Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil
This book came along when most needed – and it allowed me to see that healing from disease was always going to have a substantial spiritual component. Once we recognize that we can heal ourselves, if we choose, and in the process grow our awareness that we are more than just bundles of flesh and sinews.
Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani
Anita Moorjani is a modern and well-documented example of spontaneous healing. She was dying of fourth stage cancer, and her family was summoned to her bedside to say goodbye. In what was expected to be her final moments she had an out-of-body experience in which she realized she had to be herself to fulfill her purpose in life. Within days she was cancer-free, the tumors all gone, no trace of disease in her blood. Joy returned to her life. Now she lectures and teaches about the ways our minds can destroy our bodies and our souls – unless we take back our sense of personal responsibility and become who we are – rather than what we are expected to be.
The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu
This very short book, famously recently interpreted by Wayne Dyer, has a central message that we all need to hear – and that I needed to know in my heart when I first read it. That is, we do not make progress by forcing things to happen. We make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others by allowing things to move as they must. Progress is not about us as individuals; it’s about what can happen when the energies change.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Tolle’s very famous book came to me as a reminder that the present moment is all we have. So much of our lives is spent not being in that space, as the ego seeks to flood our senses with more and more urgent activities that merely rob us of our sense of wonder at the world we’ve been blessed to be born into. If we can let go of this busy-ness we can begin to be acquainted with our souls. And that, after all, is what we’re here to do.BROWSE MORE 10 BEST LISTSREAD SANDIE'S BOOKWORMSDISCOVER MORE 10 BEST LISTSYES! I want to join the club
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If you want to save time, money, and energy in your search for the best resources to support your personal evolution, at no cost to you, check out Sandie Sedgbeer’s cool new creation: The No B.S. Spiritual Book Club. Concerned by the dumbed-down nature of what you get from some of the latest books in the spiritual arena, Sandie is offering the gift of her years of experience to create greater ease in your journey!
Have you noticed that the more mainstream spirituality becomes, the more challenging it is to identify the authentic, reliable voices, empowering tools, and genuine, skip-the-B.S., guidance that expands your mind, shifts your perceptions, and accelerates your evolution?
As an editor, author, writing coach, 13-times book judge, and Talk TV/ Radio host, Sandie Sedgbeer has consumed literally thousands of books. Every day, new titles cross her desk and new pitches fill her inbox. Lately, she’s voiced a growing awareness that much of what she’s getting is lacking in substance and clear direction.
Concerned by the worrying trend towards dumbed-down “marshmallow spirituality” … and frustrated by how many of the truly helpful, authentic books and teachings are getting submerged beneath the heaps of rehashed, lightweight, and diluted material now flooding the market, Sandie has come up with a unique offering. Bringing together her years of knowledge, experience, and considerable network of contacts in the spiritual/new thought arena, she’s using her expertise to help eliminate the challenge of having to sort the really worthwhile stuff from the “not worth wasting your time” B.S., with the launch of
THE NO B.S. SPIRITUAL BOOK CLUB
The premise is simple. There are no ads, no joining fees, and no B.S.
Just an ever-growing library of discerning suggestions and recommendations for books worth reading and authentic voices worth hearing, thoughtfully curated for you by seasoned spiritual explorers with decades of experience working and exploring at the leading edge of science, consciousness, nature, and spirituality.
Each month, Sandie invites recognizable names and respected teachers to compile their personal lists of the “10 Best Books” that had the biggest impact on their own spiritual journeys, and why and how thoses titles made their 10 Best List.
She also conducts regular interviews with them for her Face To Face With… Video Meet-Ups, in which contributors share more intimate details about the challenges, epiphanies, and breakthrough experiences behind their choices. And best of all, there will be open mic sessions where YOU have the opportunity to ask them your questions!
Membership to The No B.S. Spiritual Book Club also includes free book excerpts, audio clips, exclusive discounts, special offers, and Sandie’s own Bookworms (i.e., the rare books out of the hundreds she reads each year which resonate so deeply and offer so much, that she has to share them with all her friends).
So, whether you’re a newly-awakened beginner dipping your toes into the self-discovery waters, or a seasoned traveller on the road to awakened consciousness, your search for self-awareness just got a lot easier. Join The No B.S., Spiritual Book Club at https://www.sedgbeer.com/the-no-bs-book-club/
(And yes, you can bet you’ll be seeing MY 10 BEST LIST there!)
I was having a snack - bread dipped in olive oil because we'd run out of butter - when the words of the New Testament came to me. I'm not much a person for religion, but these echoes stick around from one's childhood. So this is what I remembered: Jesus, at the last supper said "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me." (Matthew 26.23)
I always thought that this was odd, because wouldn't it immediately single out one person? But then the disciples all start asking if it means them, so it can't mean that. so what does it mean? That leaders are always betrayed by someone in their inner circle? That's not really news. At the time all the men ate their food from the same big bowl placed before them. And that might be a clue.
Or perhaps, I thought, it means something else. Perhaps it means that we all betray the Jesus message of love and kindness and compassion, and we do it even with those who are close to us, eating from the same bowl, because we are ordinary, selfish and fearful. We betray the Jesus message every day when we fail to accept the poor and the destitute.
Take a look at the tab above and, if you like the idea, see what I've been up to. The aim has been to write a short piece, averaged at three a week (more if the spirit moves me) until I have 100. The only rules are to spend no more than 45 minutes on a piece, no agonizing, no revising. You might want to try this yourself.
What does it tell you? What it's told me is that I have more stories hanging around me, waiting to be written, than I'd ever realized. Not all are Major Pieces, not all are entirely perfect, but that's not the point. The point is to notice that there's always more creativity in you than you think.
Re-reading is one of life's great pleasures. At present I'm revisiting Margot Livesey's wonderful book about writing (and reading) The Hidden Machinery. What a pleasure it is to read such intelligent insights! What deftness of touch! And how beautifully she conveys really important information, with a lightness that is utterly beguiling. If only I'd read this book about two decades ago (alright, it wasn't in existence two decades ago, but I think you know what I mean) I could have been a much better writer and a far more appreciative reader, too.
If you're interested at all in writing and reading, rather than in simply decoding words to follow a plot, this is a gem to be treasured.
I'm thrilled to be one of fifteen artists and writers selected to be in Carla Sonheim's year long on-line class "Words and Pictures". You can see what Carla has to say at carlasonheim.com, and see who else is teaching. It'll be fun! I'm giving away one free class. Send me your name and contact email address by Jan. 15, 2020 and I'll pick a name out of a hat.
Actually, I'll have my granddaughter pick a name, because she can't read yet, and I want to ensure strict impartiality....
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