Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our Progressive Growth

Recently I watched a CNN segment about the “recycled” Long Performing Arts Center in Austin, Texas. Clips showed comments from the architects, and pictures, before and after. I was inspired by the quick dose of reality where imagination and creativity produce something new which builds upon the old in a way that enhances the “eternal memory image” of both. The archives of Austin and of performing arts, including the performers and all appreciators, will be influenced by this creation, and from what I’ve seen and heard, the influence is beautifully positive and inspiring. Builders recycled 95 percent of the material from the Palmer Auditorium and reused it in creating the Long Center.

I’ve learned through living, and from what Spiritual Philosophy has defined for me, that growth and change are two of the most difficult maneuvers that our minds have to deal with. And that we can wrestle with the confusion and perhaps short-lived thrills of “producing” for years on end, as we labor to enhance our life, our survival skills, and our lifestyle.  I understand better than ever why our “fear of survival” becomes our most negative influence until we know ourselves well enough to trust the progressive pattern of growth and change that is our inherent design and begin to consciously support that momentum as change and growth. Good parents are role models for all of us. They are the ultimate Producers!

I’ve been reading Jonah Lehrer’s book, How We Decide. Here’s two bits from the chapter on The Predictions of Dopamine:  “Even when we think we know nothing, our brains know something. That’s what our feelings are trying to tell us.” Yet, as he writes, we can’t coast on these cellular emotions. Neurons need to be continually trained and retrained for their predictive accuracy to stay consistent.  Our emotions and feelings teach us, as thinking minds, as we are open to learning, to listening.

Another news story was about a hospital in Iowa that is saving money by going back to traditional methods. The reporter interviewed the hospital administrator as they strolled the halls, talked with a young woman whose baby’s delivery was imminent, and they spoke about the exact cost savings that were showing up as they followed this plan of “progressive growth.” They cut back on machines when they determined how to maximize the use of fewer and use the funds for other things. Guttenberg Municipal Hospital's CEO, Kim Gau reported that she experienced a revelation when she noticed a shift in mind-set at the hospital when managers no longer viewed quality as a to-do list item, but instead they began to regard continuous quality as part of the hospital's everyday culture.  

This is what I am experiencing as I study Spiritual Philosophy in the world as I know it, and as I remember and live. I can get overwhelmed by "to-do lists" and feel very behind in what I want to produce in a day. When do I feel happiest and most at peace? When I'm experiencing the joy of satisfaction: thinking, when thinking of my family, in communicating with someone with joy, sharing life stories (whether a moment or more), in laughing at life's little curves, in watching the ballet of butterflies. Listening to the music of life. Flavors, sleep, scent. Joy. Compassion, communication, commitment, truth, love, equality, humility. To feel good about all I create because I know myself truly, which means I keep learning, puts a to-do list in its place. And it does have a place!

By progressive growth, I now mean following a plan to create externally what supports us and our positive-life-support internally.  The recycling project in Austin – the eureka moment, the architects said, was when they realized they could re-use so much of what was the old landmark.  Tons and tons of steel melted down and re-used, the cost of materials cut by 70-80%? Not just a few dollars, this price tag, but a crowd-pleaser all around. Crowd-pleasers all around support the Ethical Values which make up our internal design.

I have been thinking about what it means to learn all of my life. I’ve learned a lot about learning!  What have I truly learned, beyond tons of information that can be gleaned from sources galore, present and past, always with new physical tools that we call technology? That unless we appreciate (use, understand) what we learn, then our knowledge never becomes wisdom. It never enhances our personality. When we truly learn something, we become excited, and we share some aspect of what we learn, if not at the information-specific level, then just because we are energy beings and our energy constatnly emanates from us in constant motion. Every thought becomes its own “reality show,” and the number of those engaged in that thought energy depend upon the collective strength of minds supporting and sharing that energy stream.  We can keep changing channels and see what the trends are. We choose! This is true about every aspect of our life, because we are energy beings!

The trends show us how the weather is – the emotional weather report, as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and so many more have said. Then, what makes that emotional weather report? Spiritual Philosophy, like the ocean waves, reveals us to ourselves, if we look long enough – we begin to not only know what we’re looking for, but to understand what we see. The rhythms, the sounds, the smells, the smiles, the absolute power begin to coalesce into a conscious appreciation and understanding of “synesthesia” as the natural human design of experiencing our world and our reality- being Creative beings.

The floods in Pakistan, the mudslides in China and elsewhere, the earthquakes, the fires, all “natural disasters” are tragic in their many ways, particularly the human ways. They teach us to pay attention.  Earth takes care of business. How do we define “sensitivity”? An awareness of? I watch the news reports and the statistics give me new images of the human scope and scale of these changes as they accumulate. The Earth changes we will see as we are open to seeing the changes that have become part of our once familiar landscape. The CNN special on New Orleans Rising, what’s happening in New Orleans post-Katrina, is one great example.  Each example can show us the vitality in those who harness their energy and actively create changes, no matter how small the beginning. The dreams are big, the energy effects huge, even though at times the actual physical results may take time and more attention to notice.

These are profound lessons. Some bodies act as weather vanes. Arthritis can play a difficult tune in joints that intimately know the nature of air pressure, wind changes, barometric shifts.  These are not exceptions, simply examples to remind us that we are energy beings. When I wade into the water to swim, I feel the absorption within my cells instantly, and the way the water envelops me, then caresses my skin as I move. As I climb out I feel the differences in the air, in my breathing, in every step, until I adapt, dry, to the air as I remember it. My cells breathe as the bellows of the clouds that envelop me as I move. Kindness is never random. True kindness is persistent, consistent, truthful, firm in its energy presence. Healing. Like the Long Center for the Performing Arts, if I really think about it, I can re-fashion all my brain already knows and use it productively to create what I need now, enjoy the arts of life all the more. Creative minds show this every day. Quick lists are everywhere. What do they tell us about hwo we are and how far we've come? Revelations continue!

"If we think about any part of our life in fear, we are not living as an integrated thinking mind and loving emotions, which gives us the tools to plan and execute our physical lives with excitement and joy." (Spirit Consciousness, 288)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 09, 2010

Oh my Goodness!

Oh my goodness! I heard Shirley Temple exclaim from the television ad last night as I watched. Her smile brought mine, just because so many associations of “goodness” came to my mind in an instant. My favorite lately are the Geico ads, in particular the one with the drill sergeant turned therapist. They entertain me, and they cast a light of humor on the pathos with which we see our lives and also the art of “helping.” Which, to me, now means the art of Love.

Between house and office, clouds cover nothing but some part of the glare which reflects from my eyes. Beyond that the blue imprints itself into me and my tangerine-colored shirt sings almost with its sweet color, mingling threads of color with the peachy roses in the blue-swirl vase on the table with the red tablecloth and the sunflower place mats. Stacks of paper sit where I’ve put them, but oh these figs call to me with their perfect shapes, their perfectly ripe colors, and the absolute pleasure of their taste.

My friend runs in for a moment, having forgotten something he needs to travel, calling out, too, he left a present (sparkling mineral water) in the garage. I smile. Others call, and with each voice, each sound, I think of love, I remember love, I intend love to be my world. I read about Spirit Consciousness, the energy that creates us, what energy I am, and I want to leave this gift, to share this delicious chocolate drop of truth with each person I think of. Let this citrus burst spray, let this ripening begin, continue, and bloom. Some of the figs had fallen to the ground. Still, we picked hands full, and each has its fullness, its presence, and oh, its taste.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

An Interview with Author Stacey Cochran

I met Stacey Cochran at an event introducing, a local print-on-demand company. I was and am inspired by his persistence in promoting, supporting, and expanding the causes and joys of writing and publishing and the importance of community networking. He's opened my eyes to some of the uses of technology tools for persistent writers.I read CLAWS 1!  Even though it takes a village, momentum has to begin with one human..

Stacey Cochran was born in the Carolinas, where his family traces its roots to the mid 1800s. In 1998 he was selected as a finalist in the Dell Magazines undergraduate fiction competition, and he made his first professional short story sale to CutBank in 2001. In 2004, he was selected as a finalist in the St. Martin's Press/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Dr. Susan K. Miller-Cochran and their son Sam, and he teaches writing at North Carolina State University. His books include CLAWS, CLAWS 2, Amber Page, The Colorado Sequence, and The Kiribati Test.

Stacey is currently touring to help promote the release of his latest novel CLAWS 2, which is available as an eBook-exclusive through the Amazon Kindle store.

Paperback versions of the first novel in the series are available here:


MARGARET: So what exactly is a Blog Tour?

STACEY: A “Blog Tour” is the online equivalent of an author’s book tour. In a traditional brick-and-mortar book tour, a publisher pays to fly an author around the country (or world) to visit a number of cities and bookstores and libraries. The goal is to get the author face time with booksellers, librarians, and die-hard readers in order to help create word of mouth. Sometimes author events at bookstores lead to newspaper articles and radio or TV interviews in the local areas the author visits. All of this is meant to help sell books.

A Blog Tour on the other hand is done completely online. Instead of visiting bookstores and libraries, an author visits a number of prearranged blog sites in order to do interviews like this one to help generate word of mouth and interest in his/her book.

For my CLAWS 2 Blog Tour, I am visiting upwards of 30 blog sites between July 1 and September 30. It’s cost-effective marketing.

MARGARET: How well does it work?

STACEY: So far July has been my most successful sales month in a year. So the preliminary evidence indicates that it helps a lot. What’s been especially interesting is to see how the first book in the series CLAWS has seen a strong surge in sales. I didn’t really anticipate this because I’d never published a closely linked series book like this and toured for it. It’s interesting to note that the original book is actually outpacing the new release at a roughly 5:4 ratio. Folks are likely discovering me through the web and blog tour and its various 3rd-party effects and are willing to give the first book a shot. Plus the first book is priced at 99 cents as an eBook, and the new release is priced at $2.99. The lower price point on the older title may be influencing its higher sales numbers.

MARGARET: Why the difference in price?

STACEY: Great question. Amazon Kindle incentivized a higher price-point this July by offering U.S.-based authors a 70% royalty rate if they listed their book for $2.99 or higher. The old royalty rate was 35%, and Amazon is keeping all books priced under $2.99 at that rate. So my motivation to bump the price of my new novel CLAWS 2 to $2.99 was based on the fact that I’d be drawing 70% royalty on all domestic sales. I basically would have to sell seven books at the 99 cents price and 35% royalty rate to match how much I make on the sale of one book priced at 2.99 and earning a 70% royalty rate. Like I said, CLAWS is outpacing CLAWS 2, but at a 5:4 ratio, not a 7:1. So I’m making much more money on the new book, even though it’s selling slightly fewer copies.

MARGARET: So what are the books about?

STACEY: CLAWS and CLAWS 2 are wildlife thrillers. Each book features a biologist Dr. Angie Rippard as the protagonist, but in each novel Angie is in a different setting and the books feature different animals as their focal points. Mountain lions in Arizona in the first novel; grizzly bears in Colorado in the second novel. Both books feature similar plots: a ruthless real estate developer has designs to develop a resort community too close to wilderness lands. This leads to animal attacks on humans, which brings Dr. Rippard into the investigation.

I have plans for a third book, CLAWS 3 to feature spotted leopards in the U.S., but I have not written it yet. My hope was that I would be able to sell the series to a major publisher, but that has not materialized. If I’m ever able to sell the series to a major publisher, I could probably turn out at least two more novels in the series. Maybe sell it as a five-book deal.

MARGARET: So how can we help?

STACEY: Well, it’s generous of you to offer to host me on your blog. If there are any readers out there who have good followings on their blogs and are reading this, you could drop me a line to let me know you’d like to host me. I still need to fill out my tour toward the end of September.

More than anything else, though, I need well-written reviews of CLAWS 2 on Amazon. And by “well-written” I just mean that the reviews need to be informed by actually reading the novels. I don’t mind a negative or critical review as long as it’s written by someone who read the book. In fact, reviews that point out areas for improvement can actually be very helpful.

MARGARET: Thanks for visiting, Stacey.

STACEY: Thanks for having me.