new book and old friend jonathan ellerby in ‘more’

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.

More to Explore:

  1. Laurel says:

    My sources of inspiration are nature, wild and wooly, and bringing those lovely cycles of nature into closer contact with people: reminding them, through the beauty of design and gardens, that nature accompanies us all.
    I am humbled by my two small children and the brilliance of my husband, my late dad and my still shiny mom. These people inspire me to trust myself, my voice, my innate abilities and the grace of the universe. Through them and my daily interaction with the forces of Mother Nature, I remember that I am a living loving being with a gift to give to others. (And that I need to shut up and listen)

  2. Peggy says:

    I had a 30-year career as an RN and was continually inspired by the people I encountered who so often coped with crises with such grace, dignity, strength, and often humor, and thus helped me put my own small worries in perspective. Since I retired several years ago, I have had some difficulty finding my bearings, so busy with the needs of my family, including the death of my father after the slow decline of Alzheimer’s, I have felt spiritually bereft. I am just finding my way back to enjoying some interests I’ve always had such as gardening and thus I found you and now you have led me to Jonathan Ellerby. Ah, I love the serendipitous, often circuitous routes back to where I started, my long time interest in comparative religions and in holistic healing. Thanks! Oh, and I do look to the hills here in western NC and find much peace. And the daffodils are blooming!

  3. Joan Weed says:

    The natural world has inspired me and when I think of what I’d most like to be doing at any given moment, it involves being out of doors. Poetry is another source of inspiration. Perhaps it is because it usually reflects the poet’s innermost thoughts. My garden is my way of being out doors. I think I find it hard to just “be” outside so as long as I have jobs to do out there, I’m good.

    new topic, did you know that your book is mentioned in a quickie excerpt in the new Reader’s Digest? I picked it up at the pedicurist’s and opened to your page!

  4. Jean says:

    Today I was inspired when I happened to glance out my window and see the 3 rich brown peaks of my compost piles emerging from my snow-covered yard!

  5. Laura Hanks says:

    My inspiration believe it or not was being widowed at the age of 39 in 1990 and being diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago! I was so inspired to move forward and be a witness for my children, family and friends as to what inspiration is all about and that is pure faith in God and the Universe, knowing that it is all the plan and we are part of it and we must share love and inspiration and peace with all to know and live this.

  6. Susan says:

    My source of inspiration comes from many places. My family, my beautiful home,
    the beautiful bayou that flows behind my home. the amazing people I have shared
    my journey with, letting in and living in divine energy, helping others, tiny flowers popping
    up in my new garden: life in all its richness.
    Thank you for providing another source of inspiration.

    Susan Brazell

  7. My sources of inspiration are nature, my garden, as well as my friends’ gardens… and the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Taking the good with the bad and understanding what the lesson is in each problem that comes our way pushes me to have an open mind in many areas of life.


  8. Deborah says:

    My herbs…….there isn’t a day that they don’t impact my life somehow. When I’m down all I have to do is touch or smell them and I feel better……

  9. Donna says:

    Nature and my son and daughter are tied for being inspirations in my life. Also, being around little children in nature…there is nothing better than watching a wee one’s face discovering all the wonder of nature for the first time. Things we take for granted can be renewed by seeing things through their fledgling eyes.

  10. Michelle says:

    For inspiration–besides getting my hands in the dirt, starting a new batch of seedlings or deadheading –which I find very relaxing….I turn to my Science of Mind daily meditations…a dear friend gave me a subscription to this little jewel of a magazine several years ago–and I haven’t missed a month since….great stories, inspirational works and lots of spiritual readings and materials to order.

  11. Dolores Dean says:

    Working in a garden for children (a kindergarten)! Always inspiring, hopeful and full of joy!

    Which allows me to have summers off and be inspired by all the outside elements!!

  12. Vickie says:

    I am inspired by the beauty of nature, and I feel fortunate to be able to contribute to that beauty in my own garden. I have a small city lot, but grow what I can. I am especially inspired when I can grow food and then use it to create wonderful dishes in the kitchen. The simple things of life are truly what inspire me.

  13. Linda MacGregor says:

    I would love to have these books! My inspiration comes directly from God and is realized through family connections, painting & drawing, growing ‘things’ both inside and out, playing music, reading and teaching. I am truly blessed and ever thankful.

  14. Justine Ickes says:

    My sources of inspiration are my children, music, and gardening. When I’m lucky enough to get them all at the same time – say, singing while planting bulbs with my kids – I feel triply inspried!

  15. Skye says:

    My inspiration is the natural world, the plants, animals, water, sky, etc. which brings me peace of mind and which makes me feel connected to the true ways of the world as we are meant to function. Being outdoors in the garden makes me feel happy and whole.

  16. Barbara S. says:

    My inspiration is to create beauty wherever I go. I teach middle school, and I’m as passionate about bringing beauty into my classroom, as I am about bringing beauty to my home and yard. A beautiful day, like I am blessed with today, inspires me to create the most out of what I have, and share it with others.

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