INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR SKYWALKER STORYTELLER

Ultimate Wonder Cover jpeg copyThe Ultimate Wonder: World Stories Illuminating Death by Skywalker Storyteller 

Skywalker is a storyteller, writer, poet, and nurse. She has lived and worked in many places in the US. Currently she resides in Homer, Alaska (the “cosmic hamlet by the sea”) where she participates in the circle of life by delivering babies and caring for those who are dying. Skywalker’s latest book is called The Ultimate Wonder, World Stories Illuminating Death. I found her online recently when I posted the piece on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Her book contains a wealth of wisdom about death drawn from cultures throughout the world. In many ways, it’s a very brave book given that we live in a society that avoids any discussion of death. I hope readers will seek out this unique book and bring these stories into their own lives to open up a dialogue about death. Skywalker has done an amazing job in selecting these tales and retelling them in a way that makes their inherent wisdom accessible to us all.

Welcome Skywalker and thanks for agreeing to do the interview!

Skywalker Storyteller

Skywalker Storyteller

I haven’t come across a book with a collection of stories about death before. How did the idea for the book come about?

Ellis, thank you for inviting me to talk about my work. You are right, when I researched books on death, I could find nothing like The Ultimate Wonder, even among storytelling collections. It evolved from a storytelling program I did as podcasts on my website a couple of years ago.

In December, we commemorated the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. That event touched many of us in a deeply profound way and you dedicated this book in part to the victims. Can you talk a little about how it affected you?

I was working as a school nurse in an elementary school when that tragedy occurred. So, I really felt the loss, the horror, the sadness. But, I also saw it as a reflection of this country failing, as individuals and as a society, to recognize our responsibility for such crimes. That this country continues to hold the “right” to own a gun above the commandment to treasure life only assures we will continue to endure these tragedies. Yet, on the spiritual side, whether one believes in Christ’s heaven or Buddhist reincarnation, none know the merit and grace those sacrificed earned. However, we, the living, are the ones left to grieve and to strive to prevent such disasters. Only through our own courageous efforts to create a society that recognizes that guns are more dangerous than cigarettes or drugs to our society and that everyone needs to be guided with wisdom and compassion.

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I love that you grouped your stories by theme (Death is a Nurturing Woman, Die Before We Die, Laughing in the Face of Death, Death Embraces Everyone, Resurrection). Did you specifically go looking for stories to explore each theme or did your favorite stories just tend to fit the themes?

These are stories I had told or wanted to tell over many years. Some I have never told because people do shy from stories about death – and that is why I chose them. When I did the podcasts I used different groupings. The themes developed as I looked at the stories I had chosen and found I could group them by the similar themes they possessed.

Does your experience as a nurse give you a different perspective on death than maybe most of us?

Nurses learn to accept death’s reality more easily than other people, even more so than doctors. We try to relieve the suffering of people whom we know are dying, sometimes even before doctors or family members want to admit what is happening. Being a nurse, I have seen that intractable pain and invasive procedures – that do not lead to wellness – can be worse than death. And I have seen a restful peace on the face of many immediately after death.

I naturally loved the stories you chose from the Buddhist perspective. Which stories resonated with you the most and why? Do you have a favorite you love to perform?

Among my favorite are the Buddhist and the African stories. I like Kisa Gotami because it is short and I think a story that can be used to comfort anyone, especially those losing a child. Three Wondrous Answers is one I’ve told several times. It’s important because it speaks of the importance of recognizing that all we have is now in life and we should not squander it. Transcendence is special to me because it is a love story. For that same reason I really like the African stories too, because they combine both love and death. But I like to perform all of the stories.

Photo by: James Heilman, MD

Photo by: James Heilman, MD

We live in a society that shies away from talking about death. How can your collection of wisdom stories help open a dialogue about this largely taboo subject?  

Another reason I decided to write this book, was a comment I received from a friend who listened to the podcasts. She told me one of the stories helped her to talk about death with her little niece. I know that these stories, just by their nature, will open up a dialogue because that is the power of story. So, I’m really trying to market the book more, and eventually want to produce a print version. In addition, I’m making some informative free brochures to offer people to open dialogue and help them prepare for the end of life.

Can you tell us a little about your previously published book? Are you working on another book at present?  

I actually have two other published books. My chapbook of poetry, I Am That We May Be, was published by Third World Press many years ago. I’ve posted a lot of those poems on my blog and eventually intend to release another book of poetry. My other e-book, Illimitable Beauty, is a Kindle Single. It’s a novella in which a woman has out-of-body experiences which take her around the world, into deepest spaces of the universe, and down beneath the earth’s surface. These experiences lead her to realize the power of her own diamond consciousness.Illimitable Beauty Cover

I have several ideas for other books – but right now, my primary goal is to lead readers to The Ultimate Wonder. So, my next haiku project, I’m working on now, for my WordPress Blog, is 365 haikus on the theme of the ultimate wonder.

People can learn more about The Ultimate Wonder and obtain informational brochures by visiting my website, http://www.skywalkerstoryteller.com

You can follow my blog – http://rigzenchomo.com

Oh, yes, The Ultimate Wonder, World Stories Illuminating Death is available, currently as an e-book only, at all on-line retailers, for direct links just visit http://www.skywalkerstoryteller.com

Illimitable Beauty is available on Amazon Kindle Books.

Thanks for the invitation Ellis.

And thank you Skywalker for all the gifts you bring into the world!

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SHAMAN ELIZABETH Joins Me for Author Interview- Get her FREE Book Now

FREE “Shaman Stone Soup” eBook — Limited Time!

Shaman Stone Soup

Shaman Stone Soup

Shaman Stone Soup is an Enchanting Memoir Featuring 20 True-Life Stories of Miracles. It’s available free on Amazon.com during a special promotion on January 4-8 (Kindle eBook) to help promote her new release, Dreams of Dying.

In Shaman Stone Soup, Shaman Elizabeth Herrera shares personal stories of spirit guides, angels, and enlightened beings answering calls for help through miracles. You’ll read about the spirits of ancient wise men who provided a miraculous cure from cancer for a friend; Elizabeth’s vivid dream of a pastor who needed guidance and their later “chance” meeting; a client’s husband, who was visited by three spirits showing him the past, present and future; and many more!

“Unique and captivating!” — Awareness Magazine

“Clearly written from the heart.” — Sandra Ingerman

“Beautifully written and heartfelt stories.” — Hal Z Bennett

Shaman Stone Soup will take you on a journey to the mystical side of life, where miracles and healing are natural occurrences. 

FYI: the Kindle app can be downloaded to computers and smart phones.

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WELCOME BACK FRANCIS

 

St. Francis, 13th Century

St. Francis, 13th Century

A couple of years ago I listened to one of those Great Courses lectures on St. Francis of Assisi. I patiently waited through all the talk about his early beginnings, his military experience, his illness, his rejection of society, and his eventual creation of a new order. Most of it was dry and rather matter-of-fact. Where was the meat? Where was the mystical Francis I’d heard about? Where were the stories, the hagiography, that made Francis one of the most loved and recognized saints of all time? I walked away from the lectures shaking my head in disappointment. It wasn’t until later that my reading caught up with the reality. I had been very naïve believing a history and art professor would ever broach the subject of mystical experience. It wasn’t done; even an academic degreed in comparative religion would shy away from this discussion. How sad because isn’t that what many of us hunger for?

Francis has whispered from time to time to me. A statue in someone’s garden, the visit of the Pope this fall to Assisi, a well-known spiritual teacher planning a workshop there, St. Francis hospital visible from my new house. Then recently, Pope Francis was proclaimed Time’s Man of the Year. Francis is present in ways he hasn’t been in a long time. What can a twelfth century saint have to say to the modern world? Maybe a lot.

St. Francis in Ecstasy Caravaggio, 1594

St. Francis in Ecstasy
Caravaggio, 1594

Let’s dispense with the relevant historical details (and don’t worry it won’t take twelve lectures) to seek out a deeper meaning for Francis in our time. Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone around 1181. Born into a wealthy merchant family, he enjoyed all the advantages of his station and even went off to war fighting for Assisi. Some kind of vision compelled him to return home where he subsequently lost his zeal for the kind of life he’d been previously living and he began to reject it. He left his father’s silk business, took to serving the poor and lepers, and gained a following. Francis eventually went on to found the Order of the Friars Minor, the Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of St. Francis.

It was in San Damiano that Francis had a powerful mystical experience which was to frame his life’s work. While praying before an icon, he had a vision of Jesus who spoke to him and said, “…go and repair My house which, as you can see is falling into ruins.”  Francis’ interpretation resulted in him raising money to repair the physical church he was in. Of course, Francis’ mission was not a literal one and called him instead, to restore the institution of the Church.

Stigmatization of St. Francis Matthias Kargen, 1664

Stigmatization of St. Francis
Matthias Kargen, 1664

Although never ordained, Francis’ calling was manifested in a simple life of poverty emulating the life of Christ. His followers were “To follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and walk in his footsteps.” He was devoted to his spiritual practice and at times would withdraw from life to develop it. He had guiding visions throughout his life, was seen levitating, and was the first recorded person to receive the wounds of Christ (stigmata). Francis was a mystic, but he was also a mystic who brought back what he learned and shared it.

St. Francis leads the wolf of Gubbio. HJ Ford, 1912

St. Francis leads the wolf of Gubbio.
HJ Ford, 1912

Two of the most widely known miracles told about Francis involve his ability to work with animals. In the town of Gubbio, a wolf threatened the townsfolk. Francis intervened and made a pact with the wolf. Thereafter, the wolf remained peacefully near the village and the people fed it. The other story concerns an incident where Francis was trying to preach over the noisy chatter of swallows. He asked the birds to be silent and to the amazement of the crowd, they did. That famous story is the reason why Francis statues and art depictions often have a bird. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment.

As we draw near to Christmas and many churches display a nativity scene (Francis is credited with creating the first nativity scene), I hope you will remember a simple saint who lived an exemplary life devoted to poverty and service. His mystical connection to the Universe (God, if you prefer) was the powerhouse of his practice.

For More:

Canticle of the Sun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canticle_of_the_Sun

St. Francis Peace Prayer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_of_Saint_Francis

Book: The Life and Prayers of St. Francis

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Prayers-Saint-Francis-Assisi/dp/1484938984/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387403109&sr=1-1&keywords=st+francis

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INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR EDWARD FAHEY

THE MOURNING AFTER by Edward Fahey

mourning after)

Seeking other writers who write on spiritual topics, I was drawn to Edward Fahey’s work. His recently released novel is a treasure and I want to share it with a larger community of bloggers and others who have gifted me with a very special audience. Edward has created a beautiful, mystical work using his own brand of poetic prose which captivates and delights. His writing excels for its descriptions, character building, and tone. Come; dig into the magic and mystery as we follow Denis, M, and Waters who will eventually discover who they truly are.

Here’s a brief synopsis of The Mourning After:

Nightmares of war and death from lost centuries torment a young boy with ever more devastating detail until he can’t separate fantasy from reality. Denis meets a child he calls M, who seems to know his dreams intimately. She asks him, “Do you … remember?” He grows into adulthood amid disturbing evidence that his fantasies have been ancient memories. He finds a decrepit cabin in the woods where they start coming real. Outside is a grave for one of his “imaginary” childhood playmates, Enoch. Someone has been tending a garden over it. Through life after life Denis and M have loved each other with increasing desperation. He keeps dying young; leaving her grieving into lonely old age. Enoch, always in the background, somehow holds the key to ending this cycle of suffering. Denis now searches for M, as she fights her own haunting mysteries back to him. He meets a quiet, mysterious man in the forest…. You will believe in reincarnation. Probably before the narrator can. You will know that broken relationships can be mended, and that tragedy can lead to triumph. But most of all you will fall in love. This is a tale for those who never quite fit in. It’s a story of passion, where that which can’t possibly be true weaves through wonders that can’t be denied, until love makes everything real.

In a world where death is but another beginning, you must trust in what you cannot believe.

Welcome Edward and thanks for being here.

Author Edward Fahey inside Merlin's Cave.

Author Edward Fahey inside Merlin’s Cave.

Thank you, Ellis. I feel like The Mourning After is my gentle-natured baby, so I love that she is touching the hearts and lives of so many readers. It’s like we are an intimate and growing family. I’m thrilled you’re now part of it.

I know this novel is a reflection of your own spiritual path and I wonder if you could share how the idea for the novel came into being and how it grew over time.

My mom, dad, and great-grandmother returned as ghosts. People in my family don’t always stay dead. I’ve had past life memories of being given as a small child to the church in medieval times, and of being burned at the stake as a high priest. Since childhood I’ve sensed lingering spirits in old homes and graves. So you might guess I rather naturally came by a certain curiosity about what lies beyond.

“The Mourning After” also grew out of a profound romance, including shared past life memories that totally changed me in my twenties. When it ended, a victim of loving beyond the stage of self-sacrifice, almost to that of soul-demolition, I knew we’d have to meet again in some future life, because we weren’t done loving each other.

I marinated in this conviction for years until “Mourning” was finally born.

I just returned from six months in Europe, touring powerful ancient centers of spirit, mysticism, and magic, along with ancient graveyards. Exploring other realms has been a lifelong passion of mine.

Photo by Daniel Case

Photo by Daniel Case

Throughout the book, you use extracts from The Mountain Journal. As a reader, I questioned whether these poems were specifically created for the book or if they were from your own journals collected over the years.

Great question. It was actually some of both. I’ve had readers tell me my characters are so alive they have dreamed about them. Well just imagine how they shove and nudge about through my own days and nights. When I finish writing one novel, I have to spend months letting that world dissolve before I can find an open  place in which to start building, or discovering, the next world.

But while they are alive, we eat, sleep, and dream together. When I watch trees fade into darkness, I see them through the eyes, spirit, and mood of whichever character is coming through me at that time.

For example, I heard a dog echoing through the woods one night. I live in the woods, and had heard that before, but this time I was sitting with Denis, a lonely, painfully sensitive, isolated soul who had lost everyone he’d ever loved. He was troubled by nightmares that could have been ghosts, could have been past life memories. So I feel it was he, more that I, who wrote:

      Dogs don’t echo in the city.   

Under a low, sodden moon,

one far distant and solitary beast

called out to a world that had turned away.

His plaintive baying haunted me,

echoing unanswered through the wooded hills.

His loneliness drew up into a soft little fist of tears inside my chest.

The evening was just gathering;

this poor empty creature would have a long time to cry uncomforted.

- Then I sensed forsaken spirits

wandering lost among the trees around me,

keeping silent company,

themselves uncherished and unanswered.

As these nightmares and mysteries gather ferocity, slashing at him, insisting he figure them out, he can feel something big, maybe even fatal, coming at him. So when I listened to the winds as he was went this, it was as if it was he who was listening: 

Far off I heard ominous winds gathering force,

churning trees with massing ferocity;

while around me

all things held and were still.

Except for the anticipation.

As I looked out on cold grey day as he suffered, I shared his mood:

     Outside the clouding windows,

a few weary leaves

shivered off their last dying hopes

as fragile wood fingers danced back the winter.

I would love to take credit for these passages, but they grew out of the passions and needs of the characters moment by moment.  Many have said this book has a life of its own, and I’ve just helped set it free. I may have been wandering the woods around my mountain cabin, observing and gathering thoughts; but once the world of any one book has formed around me, I am never alone, and what I write seems a shared effort.

Alone, I can only write the first draft. After that, the characters take the reins from me, and carry each tale to places I could never have imagined on my own.

One of my basic rules of writing is that I must surprise myself, or I could never surprise the reader. When these characters come fully alive, in all their psychological layers, they are just full of surprises.

 Your novel begins with Denis as a child. I enjoyed the way you blended the fantasy play life of this boy with the stirring of past life recall. Did this come naturally to you or did you research children who exhibited past life recall?

 I have researched reincarnation and what lies beyond. I am quite sure, since before my own birth. I’ve had ancient memories both under hypnosis, and spontaneously. In The Mourning After, there are scenes where a young couple recalls Native American village life from another time. These were based on recurrent memories I enjoyed from as far back into my childhood as I can remember.

Mountain Flower, photo by Rennett Stowe, USA

Mountain Flower, photo by Rennett Stowe, USA

I know we share a background in Theosophy. There are many aspects of the story which resonate with those ideas. What other ideas or influences helped you to create The Mourning After?

Students of theosophy may recognize certain moments, like when a ghost writes a message to a friend in trouble, and the words seem to bloom inside the paper, rather than being written on the surface (as with certain Mahatma Letters).

There’s another scene where a deceased character gathers a tiny seed of heaven and memory before being pulled back into the world of the living. This is how I see the concept of the Sutratma.

But beyond theosophy, and my own life, I think there have been unseen influences. Sensitive friends have told me that when I read passages of this to theosophical groups, unseen beings, spiritual teachers, gather around and listen in. Sometimes they nod, as though they had tried to influence or inspire me as I’d been writing it, and I may have gotten some of it right.

 

Theosophical Society Seal

Theosophical Society Seal

 

Can you tell us what you’re currently working on? Is a new novel in the works? 

Until The Mourning After was actually published, I had no idea how profoundly it would affect the lives of so many. For example, I had no idea how many mothers out there have had their children tell them things like, “Remember when we lived on the farm, and you were my sister?” It doesn’t make the news, or even common small talk among friends, but there is apparently a lot of that out there.

When Dora Kunz first became president of the American Theosophical Society, she asked me to join her at headquarters, which I did for over a year. She and another beloved friend and mentor, John Coats, used to say Theosophy was mainly being presented to eggheads, that someone needed to breathe some life and youthful energy into it.

Now I’ve seen the wonderful reaction of everyday folks living ordinary lives, but loving my mystical little story. There seems to be a real need for presenting ancient truths to normal people in entertaining, easily assimilated ways. Single moms raising kids. Families and individuals dealing with AIDS, cancer, poverty, alcoholism… If these ancient truths are real for any of us, they must touch the lives of all of us.

So I want to continue offering messages of hope and theosophical principles through magical and entertaining stories. To these ends I am currently writing a book called “The Gardens of Ailana,” through which readers may learn how to heal and be healed. It will be based on my time studying Therapeutic Touch with Dora in private lessons after hours in the occult library at Olcott, with Dee Krieger, and the folks at Pumpkin Hollow Farm, and the New York T. S.

I am gathering ideas for another book so far titled, “Facebook Mystic.” It will be about people feeling isolated in their own lives, but who touch and bond through the internet. They find themselves guided more and more through undeniable synchronicity and developing awareness that could only come from some Higher, knowing, intentional force.

My life has been a strange one. Living with ghosts, healers, psychics, and mystics. Traveling out-of-body to the hospital rooms of those in need. Camping in deserts and living on cruise ships. Massaging celebrities and suffering poverty. Working myself up from suicidal depression to a life of joy and fulfilment. I have roughed this story out in a book called, “Entertaining Naked People,” but have stuck this on the back burner for now as I develop the others.

I’ve also written a political thriller, “The Soul of Hatred,” which will also have to sit on a shelf for a while. In this one, we show a dystopian future under a totalitarian government. The mega-rich have taken over everything, even re-writing The Bible to suit their agenda. America is lost to Dickensian poverty and ignorance as their mouthpiece “news” network encourages violence and racism, hoping to bring on Armageddon.

When they do, though, and God fires his first warning shots across the bow of humanity, the fascists find out they are on the wrong side.

 For more information on Edward Fahey’s work, please visit his sites.

 Website: http://bobedwardfahey.com/the-mourning-after/ 

Amazon Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Mourning-After-Edward-Fahey/dp/1484157427/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386184086&sr=1-1&keywords=the+mourning+after+edward+fahey

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robert.fahey.16?ref=tn_tnmn

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PHILIP K DICK: MYSTIC

Philip K. Dick Portrait by Pete Welsch Washington, DC

Philip K. Dick
Portrait by Pete Welsch
Washington, DC

Most people know Philip K. Dick (PKD) by way of two main venues- either his science fiction novels or his movies (Minority Report, Blade Runner, etc). If fact, he is more famous now then he ever was in life. Such is the nature of being a visionary- the art world is rife with this. The thing I find fascinating about PKD though, is something most people have never heard about. PKD had many mystical experiences and he wrote about them.

His first encounter happened in Feb. 1974 and what followed would direct a line of inquiry for the rest of his life. After oral surgery and under the influence of sodium pentothal, he opened his door to a delivery girl who was wearing a gold necklace with a pendant in the shape of a fish- an early Christian symbol. The sun glinted off the fish producing a pink beam. The resulting mystical experience involved an encounter with an intelligence which allowed PKD to receive wisdom and clairvoyant messages. Throughout Feb. and Mar., the experiences continued with visions and more encounters. At one point while in trance, PKD received detailed medical information about his son and a life-threatening condition. Rushing the baby to the hospital, doctors indeed confirmed the condition and saved the boy.

exegesis

In the years of exploration and searching that followed, PKD kept detailed journals, totaling some 9000 pages. Whittled down to 900 pages, Exegesis is a collection of his mystical experiences and the author’s attempts to make sense of what was happening to him. It makes for fascinating reading. There is real passion and honesty in his efforts to understand and deal with what was going on. On one hand, it’s very inspiring but on the other, it’s unsatisfying too. PKD never really accepts any one answer and scholars who view the material are also at a loss. What really happened to PKD during the period known as 2-3-74 (and after) and what did it mean?

PKD’s last novel was entitled The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. It is considered to be one of his best, and truly, it is a metaphysical work. Reading Exegesis and then Transmigration, the reader is encouraged to search for their own answers and fully engage the mind. Happy reading!

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WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIE TO FIND OUT?

    THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD

Tibetan Book of the Dead

In 1927 American anthropologist, Walter Evans-Wentz published a bestseller he called The Tibetan Book of the Dead taking his lead from the Edwardian fascination with all things Egyptian. Only five years earlier Howard Carter had discovered King Tut’s tomb. Evans- Wentz’s book or subsequent translations can be found in most bookstores and the original has never gone out of print. During the rebellious Hippie days, the book was re-interpreted by Timothy Leary at Harvard to guide and justify the use of LSD. How can an eighth century Buddhist text still capture our imagination? Simple really. It might just hold the key to what happens after death.

Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup & Walter Evans-Wentz, circa 1919

Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup & Walter Evans-Wentz, circa 1919

Not that this book will ever really be mainstream. How could it be in a society perpetually captivated by youth and the denial of death? Americans do not talk about death. It is taboo. People die in hospitals and nursing homes, and we like it that way. As a society, we are all about acquiring stuff and death has its upside. Maybe we’ll inherit something. That’s probably about as deep as it goes. We muddle through funerals and try very hard to get back to normal. It is the odd fellow who contemplates his own death. So if you are a typical American, this is where you go look for something ego-comforting and fluffy elsewhere on the web.

Ah, but what if you’re not typical. Come closer because we are about to examine the origin of a mysterious text and answer some questions about what happens to you when you die.

PADMASAMBHAVA, wall painting in Bhutan, Baldiri, 2007

PADMASAMBHAVA, wall painting in Bhutan, Baldiri, 2007

Sometime in the eighth century the famous Indian saint, Padmasambhava entered Tibet. Today he is known for converting the indigenous demonic spirits of Tibet to Buddhism, doing healings, and producing miracles. He also wrote a funerary text which he called Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State. Some scholars have called it the first how-to book, but today we  know it as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Upon reflection, Padmasambhava felt he couldn’t release the book to a population of newly created Buddhists. He hid the book keeping it safe for future generations. Six hundred years later, treasure revealer (terton), Karma Lingpa had a vision and was able to recover the manuscript.

The book is a guide for what happens to your consciousness as it passes from this life to the next. Reading it before death allows for preparation and familiarization with the process.

For, at this singular opportunity, you could

attain the everlasting bliss (of nirvana).

     So now is (certainly) not the time to sit idly,

     But, starting with (the reflection on) death, you

should bring your practice to completion.

In Tibet, the text is read for the dead by monks during a forty-nine day transition period. After encountering the light (similar to what NDE survivors report), the deceased is faced with three bardo states. Each phase offers the opportunity for liberation (enlightenment). Rare individuals who have been well-prepared avoid subsequent phases having mastered the understanding of consciousness, avoid rebirth, and become enlightened. Others pass through the bardo stages where various peaceful and terrifying beings appear arriving at the third which concerns itself with rebirth. A person’s karma then directs rebirth into one of six realms. The human realm (although not the most comfortable) is considered to be the best because it offers the possibility of eventual enlightenment. The deceased has the ability to choose his parents and the best situation for the next incarnation.

Zhi Khro Bardo Thodol: Mandala associated with The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Zhi Khro Bardo Thodol: Mandala associated with The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The value of The Tibetan Book of the Dead does not lie in its vivid descriptions of the entities the deceased meets along the way because those can be viewed as cultural constructions. Interestingly enough though, it might explain why Christians meet Jesus or Muslims meet Mohammed as reported in near-death accounts. The bardos are constructions of the mind, self-generated, and culturally dependent. You can only create what you are familiar with and what scares you the most. So the value of this profound and lyrical text is an overall familiarization with the process of death as a transition of consciousness. From the Tibetan standpoint, death doesn’t have to be a scary unknown. It is knowable and everyone can prepare for it. What would it be like to live a life not fearing death? How would our world change?

Watch a History Channel Documentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead:

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ermcc6iDqQA

FOR MORE:

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Pilgrims of the Clear Light- Biography of Walter Evans-Wentz by Ken Winkler

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INTERVIEW WITH NAOMI C. ROSE, AUTHOR OF:

WHERE SNOW LEOPARD PROWLS

Tibetan Wildlife Cover.2.indd

This is my first author interview and it seems fitting to welcome Naomi as my first guest. We met several years ago when I was first working on Into the Land of Snows. Naomi was a children’s author/illustrator who had already published a book on Tibetan culture and I sought her out for guidance. She graciously supplied it. I am happy to welcome her here to talk about her fourth picture book entitled Where Snow Leopard Prowls.

Thanks, I’m very honored to be your first interviewed author!!

NaomiRose

Naomi, your first three picture books dealt with Tibetan culture and Where Snow Leopard Prowls marks a change for you. This book is all about wildlife on the Tibetan plateau. Can you talk about how your vision shifted and you were drawn to paint these images?

I’ve had the joy of creating books for children for many years. Two of my previously published books are wisdom tales from Tibet. Several years ago, while painting the illustrations for these books, I found myself painting more and more Tibetan wildlife into the scenes. And as I painted, I felt more and more endeared to these animals. When I finally painted a snow leopard, I knew the animals were calling me. It was time to create a book for and about them. 

I’ve always thought of picture books as a child’s first introduction to art. The time and care that goes into the production of a picture book is amazing. How long was it from the time you decided to write and illustrate this book until you held it in your hands? What was the process like?

I think it was about five years from conception to birth. I really try to give each book the time it needs, to let the inspiration, the art, the book itself lead the way. When I first felt the call to do a book on Tibetan wildlife, I envisioned an activity book. But when I had completed that, I realized there was something more wanting to emerge. So I switched gears and created a full 32-page picture book. Then I posted the activity book as a free companion book off my website.

Baby Leopard

The paintings also evolved in an interesting way. I painted Snow Leopard’s portrait first. To my surprise, I felt very compelled to paint Snow Leopard’s eyes before any other feature. This was NOT how I was taught to paint portraits, but I couldn’t resist the urge. Once the eyes were painted, it felt like Snow Leopard was watching me paint, and guiding me on various details of its portrait. This turned out to be the case with each portrait, culminating in a deeper connection with each animal. 

Some of the animals in the book readers may be familiar with but there are some that were new for me. I’d never heard of a Himalayan Tahr, for example. Was there an animal you researched that was totally new to you? I know the book is full of animal facts and I wonder if there is anything in your research that surprised or even shocked you.

Many of the animals were new to me. Himalayan Tahr is a good example. I don’t remember what drew me to this particular animal, but somehow Tahr popped out at me as I studied the animals and the land of Tibet. Once Tahr showed up on my radar, I had to paint it and give it a place in the book. That’s sort of how it went. I think the animals found me as much as I found them. I had great fun learning about them and finding fun tidbits to put in the book. They’re all so amazing!  These animals became so personal to me that I had to treat them as individuals, thus referring to them by name (“Snow Leopard” instead of “a snow leopard”).

You’ve talked about the importance of having children connect with wildlife. It is in that connection and caring that we may be able to do a better job protecting whole environments. Can you outline a few of the factors that threaten some of the species in your book?

That’s a really interesting question because I ended up choosing to not study those factors.  When I first worked on the book, I focused on how these amazing animals were at risk of extinction as a way to motivate children to care for Mother Earth. Then I realized that approach wasn’t right for me.  I wanted to motivate from the same place that motivated me to do the book, a growing personal connection. I believe that’s another way to motivate; by fostering a love, respect, and connection with wildlife and nature, children will naturally grow to care about Mother Earth and her precious animals. In hopes the book has motivated children to care, I’ve listed things we can do to help in the back of the book. I’ve also listed activities for cultivating a personal connection to the natural world. 

Baby Monkey

My favorite illustrations were the baby snow leopard and the red panda. What animal or animals were the most fun for you to paint and why?

I loved painting them all, of course. But I had a special fondness for the baby animals. They are all soooo cute!  And painting Mama Snow Leopard was especially powerful.  I invite folks to see more of the animals in the short video on my website:  http://www.naomicrose.com/books/wslp-books

Thanks, Naomi for sharing your wonderful book with us. Please visit Naomi’s sites to see more of her beautiful work.

Website link(s):  http://www.naomicrose.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/naomicrose

Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/naomicrose

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