The Journey of Enlightenment by Ann Purcell

The Journey of Enlightenment by Ann Purcell

By Ann Purcell, guest blogger

Many artists get asked the question, “What is your creative process?” I think most artists would say that it just happens and that they don’t have a particular process. Why some people are artists, musicians, writers etc. and others are athletes, business people, social workers etc. is a magical mystery.

I never considered myself a creative person, nor did I grow up in an artistic atmosphere. I was raised near the ocean where outdoor sports was the way of life. I played tennis; my parents were golfers and my brothers surfers. In school, I excelled in sports and did not pursue writing, music or art. Artistic pursuits weren’t even a consideration.

In 1972 I learned the Transcendental Meditation technique. One of the first things I noticed as a result of the practice was that I had all this extra energy, which needed to be directed into some channel. I took up cooking. After about two years I started to hear words and phrases in my head. I began a journal to write down what I was hearing. Sometimes I would write prose and on occasion I wrote a poem. In time poems, or the first couple of lines, began to sound inside my mind.

Soon I started to hear melodies as well. I did not consider myself to be musical. I never even thought of trying out for the school singing groups as I did not have a strong voice. However, I had a passion for listening to music and alone in the car, I would sing away to the songs on the radio. I also listened to my records for hours in my room.

 

What Unleashed My Creativity?

What was happening inside me? Why was I starting to hear and write songs and poems? During my meditations, I experienced a deep level of silence. It was like a crystal, still pond that I could also visually see. I realized I was accessing the source of all sounds, words, and music — the field of infinite creativity. Also, the surface noise in my head — anxiety, pressure from work, to do lists, etc. — was dissolving as stress was released due to the deep rest I gained during TM.

Accessing this field of pure silence twenty minutes twice daily in my TM practice unleashed this flood of creativity. Being clearer headed was allowing me to perceive the stream of creativity that was rising from this very still level within.

 

The Source of All Creativity

In his book, Catching the Big Fish, the great filmmaker David Lynch describes this creative process:

“Here’s how it works: Inside every human being is an ocean of pure, vibrant consciousness. When you “transcend” in Transcendental Meditation you dive down into that ocean of pure consciousness. You splash into it. And it’s bliss. You can vibrate with this bliss. Experiencing pure consciousness enlivens it, expands it. It starts to unfold and grow . . . . You can catch ideas at a deeper level. And creativity really flows. It makes life more like a fantastic game.”

Many artists and musicians describe this effortless experience of creativity in which they feel they are not doing anything and the process of creation is happening by itself.

The following poem called “Am I the Poet?” expresses this effortless flow of creativity.

 

Am I The Poet?

 Am I the poet of this poem

of each expression rising from within?

Silence stirred, an impulse heard

beyond all meter, beyond all word . . .

 

Am I the writer of these lines?

Each phrase appearing on my screen

is just a seed sown for silence to flow

in any way the wind blows . . .

 

Am I the composer of this song

of the sounds of silence singing?

Wholeness bent, on self-intent

for me to be silence’s instrument . . .

Some people are naturally born with specific creative abilities and also seem to have a deep connection to the spring of creativity within themselves. However, I know now first-hand that anyone can develop their creativity if they first tap into the field of silence and infinite creativity by practicing TM.

 

All Life is Creative

Creativity is not just limited to the arts. Mothers have to be resourceful every day in raising children. In business, creativity is the name of the game. Every act of life can be a creative endeavor. The flow of creativity is intensely joyful. If you want to unleash the waves of creativity in your life, dive into the depths of your consciousness to the infinite source of all creativity and you will soon enjoy the effortless flow of a more creative, happier, and fulfilling life.

Ann Purcell is the author of the book The Transcendental Meditation technique and the Journey of Enlightenment. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. In addition she is a singer-songwriter and has produced many CDs including her recent release, You’re a Hero— Songs for Children.

 

 

BY LINDA EGENES

The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of EnlightenmentAnn Purcell didn’t start out to write a book. A teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique since 1973, she taught Transcendental Meditation and advanced courses in many countries around the world. She also wrote songs about her experiences of transcending.

“My best songs are those that were totally unplanned and just suddenly, spontaneously bubbled up inside of me—the melody and the words seemed to write themselves,” she says.

Her writing also unfolded effortlessly. One evening as she drifted off to sleep, a flood of ideas washed over her, and she got up to write them down. The flood of ideas continued almost every night for a month, and by the end she had a manuscript.

That became the first edition of her book, (published under the title Let Your Soul Sing: Enlightenment is For Everyone). Soon a publisher acquired the book and issued a new edition with the new title The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment. Ann also added an intriguing new chapter called, “Mother Divine: The Divine Feminine.” Here she explains how we can access the divine feminine in our own lives.

Linda Egenes: How would you explain the “divine feminine”?
Ann Purcell:
The divine feminine is a term that refers to the creative, evolutionary force within nature itself. It is the all-nourishing power of natural law which governs all life in a progressive, evolutionary direction. Because this creative energy is not man made, we can appreciate it as divine. It is within each of us, within the silent depths of our Being and can be enjoyed as a natural part of our daily lives.

Some people call it “the goddess within.” The term is quite ancient and comes from many traditions throughout time. For example, the common term “Mother Earth” symbolizes balance, healing, renewal and restoration. The divine feminine is that aspect within every woman that reflects the qualities that are nurturing, loving, understanding, compassionate, insightful, intuitive, creative, forgiving, healing, steady, patient and wise. Men also possess this quality because it is a fundamental constituent of natural law itself. But women more readily express it in their natural tendency as the mothers of the world to nourish one and all.

Linda: How does this concept of the divine feminine relate to our busy lives here on earth?
Ann:
Women want to access more nurturing, intuitive, creative feelings that are deep inside—but unfortunately in this day and age, the stress and day-to-day activities are so overwhelming that many women have lost access to their finer feelings. Women today are busy managing their homes or jobs and trying to balance both. Most women want to be nourishing to their families, but they might get so tired that they start to disconnect from their deeper feelings and get easily angry or stressed out. They’ve lost touch with the more refined levels of feeling, where the inner qualities of the divine feminine are predominant.

Linda: So you’re saying it’s a woman’s natural state to express the finer level of feeling?
Ann:
Of course men also have a nurturing, creative side. But women were born with the capacity to give birth to a child, so they naturally have those precious instincts and that nourishing power. It’s natural for a mother, and most women have those natural instinctive qualities. It’s not that men don’t also have these qualities, but it might be a little more natural for a woman to have those tender, motherly, nourishing instincts.

Certainly a mother has to be creative in the household. You might not think of that as creativity, but a mother is always drawing on her creativity, her inner resources to meet the needs of the children, the home, the family.

And of course, women in the workplace are also solution-oriented. Recent research shows that businesses were able to raise their problem-solving ability or “collective intelligence” just by adding more women to their teams.

Linda: How is intuition an important feature of the divine feminine?
Ann:
I think it’s important to consider the question, Where does creativity come from? And where does intuition come from? We’ve all heard that creativity comes from within. Sometimes something from the outside can cause creativity to flow, but ultimately it comes from inside us.

At the source of thought of every human being is an ocean of silence. We can call this ocean of silence a field of infinite creativity, a field of creative intelligence that pervades the universe. This is the creative intelligence that I was speaking of earlier that is our divine inner essence. Tapping into this creative energy is what produces the connection to our finest feeling level.

The feeling level is closest to this ocean of silence. Most of us are aware of very subtle feelings within or flashes of intuition. That feeling level is on the border—on the junction point, on the level closest to the field of silence from which all creativity wells up. If we have a natural awareness, a quiet attunement to those feelings, our intuition is more sharp.

I think everyone has had the experience of saying, “Oh, if I’d just gone by my feeling.” They know that their feeling is right.

Parents often tell their children to learn to listen to their inner voice, to listen to their inner feeling. “Don’t go by what your friends are saying,” they might tell their kids. “Listen to your own inner voice, because that will guide you in the right direction.”

What happens is that people have that inner feeling, a flash of intuition, but don’t always go by it. Then they find themselves getting into a little trouble—in a work situation or a social situation.

Linda: How can we break this cycle of stress and express these beautiful qualities of the divine feminine in our daily lives?
Ann:
One simple way is to be more rested. I know that’s a challenge for many people. There is a growing body of research on the impact of sleep on cognitive functioning and health. Many people may have heard Arianna Huffington coming out strongly on the importance of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is important for natural well-being, but being rested also helps us act from the fine feeling level. When we’re feeling happy and relaxed, there’s less noise in the mind, and we can access those fine feelings of love, understanding, compassion, insightfulness, intuition, creativity and patience. So getting more rest is one basic, fundamental way to make those finer feelings more accessible.

Another way is through the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM), which allows the system to get very deep rest. Due to the deep rest, stress released by the nervous system, and when there is less stress and fatigue, the mind is clearer. The deep rest through TM is like a broom that is sweeping away all the stress and the internal, mental noise, the chatter of “I have to pick up my kids,” or “I have to get to work”—all the worry that goes on in the mind. Research shows that with the regular practice of TM, happiness naturally grows, harmony grows, creativity grows—all those qualities of the divine feminine start to shine.

There is another important way that TM can help. The practice of Transcendental Meditation takes the mind from the surface level of thinking to finer and finer and finer levels of the thinking process until it transcends even the finest level of thinking and experiences the source of thought.

That means that the mind, through the process of transcending, becomes habituated to experiencing the finer feeling levels through the process of transcending. So not only is the stress swept away along with the noise in the mind, but you’re also accessing the finer levels of the thinking process, so more and more you’re able to pick up thoughts on that finest feeling level—including the creative thoughts, the intuitions, the tender feelings of the heart. And you’ll be able to use those creative, finer feelings and thoughts to accomplish what you need in your daily life.

Linda: That’s a beautiful point, that TM not only clears the noise from the mind, but it allows the mind to become more refined.
Ann:
And this experience creates a strong feeling of self-empowerment and self-reliance. Because everything we need, all the wisdom we need, is there inside us, in that silence. Our own inner silence is the greatest gift we can draw upon to guide us through the stormy aspects of life. And the beautiful things that happen as well—we want to be just as creative during the good times as the challenging times. We want to be able to draw on those creative, nourishing, intuitive qualities in every aspect of our lives.

Also, the more creative we are, the happier we are, the less stressed we are, the more we’re able to transform our outer environment as well. If we’re calm, our family and the people around us tend to reflect that calm. If we come up with creative solutions to the challenging situations of life, we’re better able to diffuse problems, more able to contribute to accomplishing any tasks, any jobs. So it has many many benefits in daily life.

This is the real meaning of self-reliance or self-empowerment—when we’re not dependent on anything from the outside for our power or strength or resilience. It’s all there inside. If a storm comes, and if we’re securely anchored down, we’re not going to get tossed about by the stormy waves. We’ll be very resilient, firmly established within, where nothing from the outside can shake our inner stability and inner joy and inner well of creativity.

Linda: It seems that when more and more women are experiencing their divine feminine, we could really change the world to become a more peaceful, happier place.
Ann:
Exactly. In fact, a few years ago we established an organization to specifically reach out to women, called the Global Mother Divine Organization (GMDO), which is part of the worldwide TM organization. GMDO has opened TM centers just for women, allowing women to enjoy the nourishing quality of being with all women. Many women report that the softened atmosphere allows them to completely relax and be themselves.

And that creates a situation conducive to experiencing the silence inside. Transcending is an extremely nourishing situation in itself, but when you come to group meditation with other women, it’s enhanced exponentially.

Also, GMDO has outreach programs to many different women’s groups—nursing programs, educational programs for women and girls, cultural programs, programs for women in poverty and programs for self-empowerment. I just read today that this is a worldwide trend—for women to gather together, and organizations for self-empowerment are sprouting up all over the world. What better way to empower the self than to be in the Self, which is the all-empowering field of silence, the power of bliss, the power of creativity?

And the beautiful thing is that it’s our own inner nature. It’s our own Self. If every woman can access this level, they will create a huge transformation for society through enlivening that inner silence. Real change begins within.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, May 28, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

Here I am writing at  the Oakdale Farms Writer's Retreat Photo by Cheryl Fusco Johnson.

Here I am writing at the Oakdale Farms Writer’s Retreat Photo by Cheryl Fusco Johnson.

It turns out I have a job that puts me at risk for depression. Writers, artists and other creatives are on a list of the top ten jobs linked to depression posted on Health.com in 2012. Understandably, caregivers, health-care workers and teachers are in the top ten, but writers? The article cites irregular paychecks, uncertain hours, and isolation as stressful elements of the job.  Creative people may also have higher rates of mood disorders, with 9 percent reporting an episode of major depression in the previous year.

From another perspective, just being a woman puts me at risk for depression. Nearly twice as many women suffer from depression than men, research shows, most likely because the female brain is wired in a way that makes women more susceptible to stress. Women are affected by lower levels of stress than men, produce more stress hormones than men and recover from stress less quickly.

Depression can take different forms for women than for men. For instance, depression in the winter months, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, hits more women than men, as does depression caused by hypothyroidism. Women are also more likely to suffer from “atypical” depression. This means that the normal signs of depression are eating less, sleeping less and losing weight, but in many women, the opposite happens: women who are depressed may sleep more, eat more and gain weight.

Reading this makes me grateful that I started the TM technique early in life, at age 19. Because the TM technique lowers stress, it helps protect the brain from many psychological diseases, including depression. In fact, research shows that the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique reduces the risk of depression by almost 50 percent over the period of a year. That is significant for women of any age.

Radio host Howard Stern tells the story of his mother’s struggle with severe depression on the David Letterman show. “I was 18 years old. I was in college. My mother was severely depressed—her sister had died and she took it very, very hard. I was worried about her. I get a call one day from this happy, elated woman and I wonder, ‘Who is this?’ and it’s my mother. She tells me she was watching the Johnny Carson Show and she saw Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and she went on and learned Transcendental Meditation. My mother sounded transformed. She said to me, ‘Come on, I want to take you down to the TM Center.’ I did it. And it’s the easiest thing I ever did. I have been doing it since I was 18. I love to do it after the show. I find it very relaxing.”

Like Howard Stern’s mother, many women today find themselves overwhelmed with depression at some point in their lives (79% of antidepressant prescriptions are written for women, and 1 out of 3 women who visit a doctor leave with a prescription for an antidepressant).

If you know someone who is exhibiting signs of depression (see the signs below), encourage him or her to get help from a medical doctor immediately. This is especially important if someone has been depressed for a long period of time, because suicide is a very real risk of chronic depression.

Typical Signs of Depression (from WebMD):

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

There are many causes and types of depression, and while the Transcendental Meditation technique cannot cure all of them, it can be an effective adjunct to medical care, because it is a natural and enjoyable way to prevent and relieve depression without the negative side effects.

According to Dr. Nancy Leibler, author of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way, “Severely depressed people often believe they will never feel better. Because the TM technique gives us a feeling of fulfillment and calmness, it also gives hope.””

Linda Egenes is a health writer, blogger and author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, July 1 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

UnknownI was listening to an NPR interview of a woman writer explaining how she keeps her muse happy by talking to it. After a while I realized the woman being interviewed was Eat Pray Love’s author Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I consider to be a writer’s writer, one of my favorites because she crafts her words so beautifully.

I loved this notion, that you need to talk nicely to your muse or it might not treat you so nice in return. In the interview Gilbert (or should I call her “Liz” as she referred to herself in the interview?) explains how she talks to a book if she’s going to be away from a project a while. “I talk to it every day,” she says. “I say, ‘Listen, in April I will be with you. I want you to stay. Don’t let me wake up and read in the New York Times that someone else wrote you.’”

This is another idea I resonate with—that ideas are there to catch, and if you’re open you can catch them and run. But if you don’t act on them, but let them wither in the dust, they might just pick themselves up and turn to another, more alert writer.

These are all reasons for a professional writer like me to sit down at my computer and write every day, to treat my job with respect, to keep slogging through the dry spells as well as flying with the highs. Because you never know when your muse is going to give you a perfect ending to your story, or a great idea.

It’s also a reason to cultivate your mind to catch the big ideas, to be open to your muse, as filmmaker David Lynch says in his book, Catching the Big Fish. For me, the most effective way I know to heighten my receptivity to the cauldron of creative ideas that bubble up from within, is to experience the silence of my own mind through daily meditation. Lynch, too, recommends Transcendental Meditation—it’s such an important part of his creative life that he’s never skipped it for 40 years.

And I guess that’s a different way to look at your muse—as a part of yourself that needs to be nourished and cared for. As my mentor Kristi Holl writes in Writer’s First Aid, when you’re a writer, your own mind and body are your tools. So you need to take care of yourself. And you know how to do that—eat well, sleep well and stay fit—to keep your creative mind at its peak.

So either way—whether you believe your muse is outside you or inside you—this Valentine’s Day, give your muse a hug.

Listen to NPR’s Radiolab interview of Elizabeth Gilbert and Oliver Sachs, Me, Myself, and Muse, here. The Elizabeth Gilbert part starts about two minutes in. 

Listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on Your Elusive Creative Genius here.

To the New Year
January 26, 2014
IMG_1115

My friend Carol Olicker wearing her sparkly Cinderella slipper earrings

One of my favorite ways to revitalize my writing is to spend an evening sinking into the soft couches of my friend Christine’s living room and journaling with our women’s writing group. We’ve become super close over the years, sharing our birthdays, triumphs and setbacks. Some of us write or teach professionally, others write for the pure joy of expression.

Our formula is simple: we start with a writing prompt, such as a poem or exercise from Natalie Goldberg’s memoir-writing book Old Friend from Far Away, and let our writing take off from there. Here’s a poem that poured out of me during our last session, where we used the beautiful poem “To the New Year” by W.S. Merwin as a jumping off point.

 

To the New Year (Inspired by the poem by W.S. Merwin)

by Linda Egenes

“With what stillness at last you appear”—this I love.

Somehow this line will forever be entwined in my mind with the sight of our Carol,

looking like a benevolent Christmas elf in her red tank top and green polka-dotted socks,

adorning herself with red camellia—not one but two—behind the ear,

inserted in her hair with deft, effortless care,

hanging on her ears the emerald-green dangle earrings

somewhat in the shape of Native-American dreamcatchers

and finally uncoiling on her wrist a diamond-studded watch

with a thick, white plastic band.

 

She does this matter-of-factly,

like she is used to getting dressed at the party,

her face relaxed, her blond curls set off perfectly by the ruby flowers and tank top,

her earrings catching the eye in perfect unison with the green socks,

even the white dots echoed by the white watchband.

 

I do not know how these small acts of adorning herself like a human Christmas tree make my heart swell in a chorus of appreciation for Carol,

for her honest and flower-blossoming heart,

for her daily acts of sparkle

and her compassion that shines forth in the darkness like a Christmas star,

but somehow I know that these are the moments,

untouched and sweet,

that make up a life here in Fairfield,

where every moment is true and zooming forth from one heart to another,

where all the moments link together

to make me feel loved and in love

with Carol and everyone in this room and the snowy streets beyond,

to make me feel that here, here in this 150-year-old room,

wrapped in the healing tonic of Christine’s cushions and throws

and Bud’s slow breath

and Ellen’s clear and soft vision of unity

and all our shared moments of 40 years together,

that here, here we are living the best of all lives

and anything is possible,

anything at all.

 

 

 

Goin’ to the Country
July 9, 2010

Me celebrating the 4th with new friends Pakshi Raj and Vaj

Last weekend my husband and I were invited to a 4th of July celebration at the home of Claudia Petrick, my editor at the Iowa Source. Tom and I drove a mile or two north of Fairfield, turned onto a country road, and entered another world. Claudia lives on a five-acre spread with organic gardens, a pear and cherry orchard, and horses.

These guys are living in horse heaven

Soon after arriving, I follow my friend Cynthia Arenander to the cob house barn where her impressive dressage steed, Pakshi Raj, boards with Claudia’s handsome Arabian, Vajrashrava (“Vaj” for short, meaning “thunderbolt” in English and “diamond” in Sanskrit, a perfect name since he has a white diamond on his forehead). At first I’m intimidated by Pakshi Raj’s immense size and mythical horse energy, but when Cynthia places a flower on his head I can connect to his playful side. I feel even less intimidated when Cynthia tells me that her husband Alarik plans to film Pakshi in a Mr.-Ed type video for their line of organic anti-aging products.

Cynthia has a mythical force of her own–she was given this spectacular steed when a horse whisperer told its owner that he would prefer to live with Cynthia. “I’ve been around horses all my life,” she says as she slips on the horses’ bridles and leads them to the front yard where they graze in idyllic beauty next to Claudia’s lily and bee balm garden.

Cynthia, Claudia and I relax on Claudia's deck while the horses graze behind us

It’s soothing to spend an evening in the country, and my mind and body relax in a way they can’t even in the low-stress environment of our home on the Maharishi University of Management campus. I wonder again whether we shouldn’t move to the country, despite the fact that my husband doesn’t like to garden or mow or work in the yard. I grew up on a tall oak forest about 5 miles from Naperville, IL, and found solace in nature—but also some loneliness from living so far from friends. Not to mention the work that goes into keeping up a country home. I know my own limitations, and I’m completely in awe of what Claudia has created. The question on everyone’s lips all evening is “how does she do it?”

Back inside there’s a vegetarian feast for the eyes and palate waiting, mostly prepared by Claudia: wild rice salad, mung bean cakes with a tangy tahini-lime juice-tamari-turmeric sauce, a golden quinoa salad, steamed beets, tomatoes with pesto. For recipes, Claudia says, “The wild rice salad comes from Miriam Hospodar’s Heaven’s Banquet, slightly altered. The rest is sort of made up. For the sauce, I started with tahini, and then added the other ingredients and a little water ’till it tasted right.”

Others have contributed: Dolly Donhauser with a creamy potato salad from Martha Stewart, the Arenanders with a green salad from their garden, Maggie Squires with crispy sweet-and-salty middle eastern crackers.

Claudia brings in the boys

After the meal, which ends in a sumptuous homemade fruit shortcake, we trail outside to put the horses to bed. “We treat our horses better than we treat ourselves,” says Claudia with a laugh. They get vitamins, organic food, loving attention, regular brushings.

Shepley, Pakshi Raj, and Maggie make friends

Fireflies spark the sky as Claudia and Cynthia take turns showing their horses canter around them in a circle. When the horses leap we “oooo and ahhh” in unison as if the horses were fireworks.

In the deepening twighlight we stand at the end of Claudia’s driveway and gaze at the fireworks display over nearby Cypress Villages, an up-and-coming eco-development of Vedic architecture homes that are LEED-certified. Beside it the Jefferson County fairgrounds fireworks also light the sky—and soon we spot the golf course display south of town, and in the far distance Mt. Pleasant’s. What better way to celebrate the 4th—with light in all directions.

Stories Behind the News
November 1, 2009

I once visited the farm and mail-order bookstore of an Amish author named David Wagler. An intelligent man with traditional white beard and a habit of challenging whatever you said, he wrote and self-published his own books.

Amish - Stories Behind the NewsDavid also was a contributor to the weekly Amish newspaper called The Budget, a collection of newsy letters written by a designated reporter from each Amish community across North America (and one or two in South America as well). The weekly letters, which usually start out with the weather, keep far-flung relatives and friends abreast of each Amish community’s births, deaths, visits, travels and other important events. Some people call The Budget the “Amish Internet,” and a recent NY Times article likened it to blogging and Twitter.

An excerpt from The Budget, from my book Visits with the Amish:
LUDINGTON, MI
Nov. 25—27º this morning with a light blanket of snow on the ground again, and sunshine. Received the snow yesterday.

The non-Amish neighbor bought a heifer recently at a sale, which seemed to have been someone’s pet. But it did not want to yield to authority and butted him down, in over the electric fence. Thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt.

AmishUsually the letters follow a regular formula, but David Wagler liked to pepper his with long discourses on the moral dilemmas Amishmen face as they walk a fine line between the “English” and Amish worlds. Much to his dismay, the editor of The Budget usually cut these discourses out. But David had the last word—he gathered them into a thick book, Stories Behind the News, which every Amish person I ever met seemed to be reading.

I think of this blog a little like that. In my books and magazine articles I write about green and healthy topics, but there’s always so much more that I want to say. This blog serves as an outlet for my compulsive need to interview cool people wherever I go. In the past—true confessions here—I’ve been in Italy or California or anywhere, Iowa, and found myself gripped by the thought, “I’ve got  to write about this!”

Sadly, once I get home I don’t always have the time to query a magazine, or worse, the magazine I’m thinking of rejects my idea. So there I am with photos and recorded interviews and notebooks stuffed with observations and ideas—and nowhere to put it (not to mention that I’ve wasted the other person’s valuable time). So now I can ask them if they want to appear in my blog—and from there I can always take it to the level of an article or book.

One thing I want to be clear about—I’m not setting myself up as a person who is perfectly healthy or already living a completely green and sustainable lifestyle (just one look at my raggedy garden will tell you that I have a long ways to go in the green department!). Like many of you, I’m on a very personal journey to make my life more healthy inside and out. And I’m hoping that by connecting with you, we can help each other live a more sustainable life.