(Author of Depression Hates a Moving Target) Nita Sweeney interviews fellow author Lynda Allen about her fantastic writing journey.
I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick and why they write the books they do. Lynda Allen regularly attends the weekly Mango Publishing Heart Wisdom author panels. Her insightful questions and caring approach to any topic impressed and intrigued me. Certain you will want to get to know her too, I asked her to participate in this series.
Nita Sweeney (NS): Tell us about your most recent book.
Lynda Allen (LA): My newest book is Grace Reflected, a collection of poetry and essays.
NS: What made you want to write this book? (do this project, take this journey, etc. etc.)
LA: Writing is part of my being. So, there was no one thing that made me want to write the new collection. With poetry, I simply write as I go along through my days, especially during my morning writing time. Then there seems to be a point when I feel that the poems reach a tipping point and want to gather together in a collection. Once I get that feeling, I look back through the poems I’ve written and start listening for the order and flow.
NS: WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS TAKE AWAY?
LA: I hope the words of the poems and essays will speak to the reader’s heart, will share insights with them, and will challenge and inspire them. The collection is a journey through the places I find grace reflected in my life. Sometimes I find it reflected in nature and in moments of spiritual connection, and sometimes I find it in the depths of grief or in spiritual activism.
The words surprised me over and over again with their beginnings in rage or sorrow and their endings in steps on the path to healing and forgiveness. Those forces come together through love in the words of these poems – empathy and anger, rage and forgiveness, the words offer me a path that can hold them all and allow them to coexist in a way that encourages action from love or grace.
That’s why the title for the collection is Grace Reflected. It’s not only a reflection of the sources of grace in my life, it is grace itself moving through my heart in the form of words offering me that path to healing and a reflection of wholeness. It is a reminder that is also found in the image on the cover of the book.
While the reflection of the swan looks different than the swan itself, distorted by the movement of the water, if the swan became still, the reflection would then show the swan, unbroken and whole. So, my hope is that these poems and essays will offer a reflection of what is unbroken and whole within each of us and the healing and hope that knowing offers.
NS: What led you to this path?
LA: I never imagined myself as a writer or poet. It happened, quite literally, overnight. One day I wasn’t a writer and the next day I was.
ONE DAY I HAD NEVER WRITTEN A POEM BEFORE AND THE NEXT I STARTED WRITING POETRY AND NEVER STOPPED.
It happened when I went through a spiritual discernment process guided by the friend. It was a process that invited me to listen for a question through meditation and stillness that my heart wanted to ask and then listening again for an answer. The question that arose for me at that time was, “What is mine to do to be happy?” The answer I heard was only one word: write. I had no idea how writing would make me happy, especially because I wasn’t a writer!
All I knew was that I was willing to find out what it meant. I believe that willingness and the yes that accompanied it, were the keys that unlocked one of my soul’s greatest joys. The very next morning I began to write. It was as if a dam had burst, and my heart was flooded with words. It was a powerful and slightly disorienting experience!
NS: Writing (and life) can be stressful. How do you take care of yourself?
LA: I have a short writing and meditation practice that I begin most days with. I make sure I spend time in nature observing, learning, communing, and absorbing. Finally, I take walks for exercise, for listening to audiobooks, and for the time spent outside.
NS: Do you have a motto or slogan you find helpful? If so, how did you arrive at that?
LA: My motto is to Live Heartfully! For me, that means following my internal Heart Compass. The image of the Heart Compass is an image I carried around in my mind for a while years ago and one day finally drew it on paper. I showed it to a friend, and she said it would make a nice necklace, which hadn’t occurred to me! So, I had it made and wore it every day for a couple years as a daily reminder of my intention to live from and create from the heart. It helped me transform how I live.
NS: Tell us about your other work.
LA: In addition to being a writer, I am also an artist and make jewelry. Last year I decided it was time to figure out how to make the Heart Compass necklace available to others to help them transform their lives too. So, I set about learning how to solder sterling silver, and now I make the necklaces for others!
As an artist, one of my favorite things to paint are what I call Animal Wisdom Journals. I feel a very deep connection to animals of all kinds. So, years ago I put together my connection with animals and my art in the form of these journals. They are custom made for each person. I sit in meditation while holding the person in my thoughts and invite an animal to come forward to work with that person in the form of the journal. Then I paint and burn the image of the animal into the cover of a leather journal. On the inside I also include information about the animal and the wisdom it offers.
NS: What is one thing about well-being you wish you’d learned earlier?
LA: I wish I had learned the practices of mindfulness and meditation earlier. Learning to live mindfully and developing a regular meditation practice helped transform my life and how I live it in such positive ways. My days are much more peaceful. My greatest, ongoing mindfulness challenge and peace practice is driving!
NS: Do you have a writing tip for the writers out there?
LA: For me, writing is all about listening. So, I would say, practice your listening skills. There are stories all around us all the time waiting to be told. There is wisdom and insight within us waiting to be shared.
BE STILL AND LISTEN FOR BOTH.
NS: Has your life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?LA: Absolutely, and in too many ways to list! The biggest surprise was discovering that I am a poet.
NS: What are you currently reading for inspiration?
LA: Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchell and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer
NS: What wellness book could you not put down?
LA: Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is a book that changed my life. I learned so much about how to bring peace into everything I do, which some days I’m more successful at than others!
NS: What’s next for you writing wise?
LA: I’m currently seeking representation for a mystery novel, which is the first in a series, and I’m always writing poetry.
NS: Mermaids or Goddesses?
LA: Mermaids. I love the ocean!
NS: Toast or bagels?
LA: Either, because in the end they are both just vehicles for butter!
NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?
LA: It’s too difficult a choice. I could narrow it down to ocean and forest.
NS: Leggings or jeans?
LA: Jeans, definitely.
NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?
LA: Sloths. I adore sloths. If we’re talking strictly pets, then cats.
ABOUT LYNDA ALLEN
Lynda Allen is first and foremost a listener. All of her work whether it’s writing, art, creating Animal Wisdom Journals, or leading meditation begins with deep listening. Lynda listens to her own inner knowing and wisdom, the natural world, and the still, small voice of the Divine in the silence. She listens. Then she creates. In all of her creations she strives to inspire others to open their hearts and embrace their journey, both the dark and the light, with gentleness, love, and joy.
Her new collection of poetry and essays Grace Reflected is now available.
How Running With My Dog Brought Me Back From the Brink (Running Depression and Anxiety Therapy, Bipolar)
It’s never too late to chase your dreams. Before she discovered running, Nita Sweeney was 49-years-old, chronically depressed, occasionally manic, and unable to jog for more than 60 seconds at a time. Using exercise, Nita discovered an inner strength she didn’t know she possessed, and with the help of her canine companion, she found herself on the way to completing her first marathon. In her memoir, Sweeney shares how she overcame emotional and physical challenges to finish the race and come back from the brink.