HE’S LIKE A PLANET that returns into your slice of the sky from time to time in a good way: direct, forceful, and something you can’t overlook, a happy nudge to go ahead and do something already. For me, here Jonathan Ellerby comes again. When “More” magazine decided to excerpt my new book in its March issue, from more than 80,000 words that contain relatively few other human characters (but lots of frogs, snakes, birds, other forces of nature, and a certain semi-wild cat), “More” selected a section that included Jonathan, a PhD in comparative religion and former hospital chaplain. Meet him, and get a glimpse into his writings (and a chance to win his last two books, which I’ve bought to share).
I met Jonathan years ago when I was in the Arizona desert, on a retreat from my job burnout. The photo above is how he looked to me: luminous! That tale of our first encounter is part of the “More” excerpt, which you can read over at this link. But before you rush off to do that…
When Jonathan and I first met, he hadn’t written either of his books yet. The wisdom of what would eventually become “Return to the Sacred” and the newer “Inspiration Deficit Disorder” were what he taught in the workshops I attended, though, and colored the thread of the correspondence and friendship we’ve maintained for six years.
I certainly needed to return to the sacred in my own mad, mad world corporate former life, and I was also sorely lacking in inspiration—trying to think my way through everything, rather than work from the heart.
In Jonathan’s words (from “Inspiration Deficit Disorder”):
“As a spiritual counselor I see many people that are successful and have accomplished a lot, but few who are inspired. Typically, it is the lack of inspiration that is at the heart of why they are still seeking happiness, peace, and meaning.
“A lack of inspiration is one of the most crippling ways to live. When we lack inspiration, we lack a sense of meaning, intuition, and purpose in life. We live from the outside in, and not from the inside out. We live in reaction and not in response.”
Sound vaguely familiar?
IN OUR FIRST TIME TOGETHER, Jonathan challenged me to make lists of what I was afraid of—a tricky exercise that proved the start of positive change as I began to name the things rather than let them just have their way with me.
But more than anything else, I am thankful to Jonathan, who for the last few years was director of spirituality for Canyon Ranch (his full bio), for this:
Because of his own intimate relationship with nature, starting in childhood then fostered in 15-plus years of mentoring with a Lakota Sioux healer, Jonathan was the first person to tell me to stop merely thinking about nature—and just let it in, the more the better.
From the book excerpt, a slice of a conversation we had a few years back, when I had just left my job and found myself in the country with a lot of frogs, birds and snakes almost literally knocking on my door pretty much nonstop, then explaining it all away scientifically:
“You have a shamanic way of seeing the world, Margaret,” [Jonathan] says, “but why do you have such a resistance to stepping into the metaphysics of nature—to accepting that you are a gatekeeper of it? In the shamanic world, it’s not a choice to be a gatekeeper; you just are.” Say what?
Just as quietly and matter-of-factly, as if we are talking about matter-of-fact things any child would understand, he continues:
“You are willing to connect to the science of nature, of your garden plants and the creatures in your environment, but not the psychological dimension. Frogs, birds, snakes—they are all aligned, don’t you see? The frogs and birds—they are liminal creatures, Margaret, like you: They live, and move, between worlds. And snakes are all about the transformational.” Twice-borns, every one.
And then the clincher:
“If we honor our gifts, Margaret, awareness will arrive, and we can live with more congruency, closer to our true self. Pay attention to the signs, as they say.”
Those of you who have read “And I Shall Have Some Peace There” know that I did, and do. There are much scarier things a girl can be than in love with nature.
How to Win the Books
IAM SO THRILLED that “More” chose the bit of my book that they did, and for every chance to talk with (or about!) Jonathan Ellerby again. I’m also happy to offer you the chance to win one of two sets of “Inspiration Deficit Disorder” and “Return to the Sacred” that I bought for this giveaway. Entries close at midnight Sunday, March 13.
Simply answer this question in the comments below to enter (or just say “count me in” or “I want to win” if you’re feeling shy):
What is/are your source(s) of inspiration? Is there enough of it in your life today? You know my answer: I only need to look out the window, or heavens permitting, step outside.