Guest Blogger Bella Mahaya Carter writes about courage, love, and intuition.
In fall 2014, I attended Hay House’s I Can Do It! Conference in Pasadena, California. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend what was being advertised as a “mind, body, and spirit retreat.” The conference featured luminaries in the fields of self-help, personal growth, and spirituality. Looking back over that experience, I felt like a kid in a candy store with a twenty-dollar bill in my pocket.
I’d been scared to go. I was just coming off a year of grief and debilitating anxiety. I’d felt like I couldn’t breathe, and an irrational thought that I’d quit breathing and drop dead in public haunted me. So the thought of being at a venue with three thousand people unnerved me. Why was I going? I asked myself. What was I looking for? What did the words I Can Do It! mean to me? I wasn’t sure, but I felt drawn to the event, and I knew I had to face my fears and go.
The conference helped me identify three staples in my life that have a big impact on my writing: courage, love, and intuition.
As a poet and memoirist, I have to dig down deep inside myself and come to terms with the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have to make peace with my terror, accept what hurts, and understand that a broken heart is an open heart. There’s strength in vulnerability. I often tell my students people don’t care about you, per se, but if your writing is honest and closely observed, they will care about your writing because they’ll see themselves and their own lives reflected in your words. We all have challenges. We all struggle. We all long for freedom from our fears. I love that the root of the word “courage” means heart. It was the first staple I identified, and I want to live more from my heart than from my head. I want to release fear and be guided by love.
Love was the second staple of my writing life. Anita Moorjani, a Hay House author who had a remarkable near-death experience and then wrote Dying To Be Me: My Journey From Cancer, To Near Death, To True Healing, said at the conference, “Love yourself as if your life depends on it—because it does.” Loving yourself means staying by yourself no matter what. It means being your own best friend. It means believing in yourself when nobody else does. It means giving up the idea that you must win the approval of others.
“Don’t dance for the people whose approval you don’t have,” Anita said. “Win your own approval by following your heart.” She also said that many people seek approval from the one person who won’t give it to them. Boy, could I relate. I spent my childhood trying to gain the approval of my stepfather, who couldn’t see or appreciate my gifts. Then, as a young writer, I sought the approval of my father-in-law, whose response to my work was that I should write male characters, because “Not everybody wants to read about women all the time.” If only I’d realized these men were not my audience—and never would be! I wish I’d trusted myself more as a young writer. I wish I’d validated myself, and honored my instincts and intuition. I’ve come a long way, but I’ve learned that valuing and appreciating myself is an ongoing and ever-deepening practice.
Attending the Hay House Conference, even though I wasn’t sure exactly why I was going, and despite my fears, was a sign of growth. I followed my heart and my gut and—as is usually the case when people listen to and act from these body parts—was rewarded. One highlight for me was attending a talk by David Kessler, an expert on grief, death, and dying, who happens to be an old friend. Our kids went to kindergarten together. It was wonderful to reconnect with him after many years, and hear him validate that much of what I’d been going through in my grieving process was normal.
Sometimes we don’t know why we’re drawn to a place or to a project, or to a situation or event. Following my intuition was the third staple in my writing life. This requires trust and faith. I often tell my students that even though they may not be sure where they’re going with their writing, when they follow their instincts, when they listen to that small voice inside, and to the voices of their characters, the work eventually reveals itself. All we have to do is pay attention, though sometimes paying attention is difficult. Distractions uproot us like seaweed in a turbulent sea.
In retrospect, I know exactly why I went to the Hay House conference, and what I hoped to gain from the experience. Inner peace topped my list. And I wanted to feel like myself again, like the person I’d been before my mother died. I wanted to move forward with the writing and teaching careers I’d spent my entire adult life building. I wanted stability, strength, and clarity. I wanted to heal, and to live a calm, inspired, and courageous life. I wanted to quit feeling sorry for myself, stop feeling like a victim, and find some joy. I can do it, I thought driving home from the conference that Sunday night in November—I am doing it!
Marlene’s Musings: Bella wrote a fabulous article called, “8 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself while Writing Painful Memories,” in SHE WRITES. Definitely worth reading these important tips.
Bella Mahaya Carter is a poet, author, teacher, and coach. In 2008 Bombshelter press published her poetry book, Secrets of My Sex. Her poems, stories, essays, and articles appear in dozens of print and online journals. Bella is currently writing a memoir, The Raw Years: A Midlife Quest for Health and Happiness. A practicing Spiritual Psychologist, whose mission is to heal herself and others through creative work, Bella serves clients around the world with her transformational classes, workshops, and coaching. She’s a featured columnist at SHE WRITES, an international online organization serving over 25,000 writers, and maintains her own blog, Body, Mind, Spirit: Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness. Visit her online: www.bellamahayacarter.com.