December Newsletter - Pruning Trees, Words, & Life

Dear readers,

My land here in Hawaii is bordered by a guava thicket. The first year I lived here, I gathered entire buckets of the round, fleshy fruit, and spent many happy afternoons making juice and jelly. The following year, I eagerly awaited the return of guava season, only to discover that the harvest was rather smaller. The third year, I hardly gathered any guavas at all—the ones I found had all fallen from a great height, smashed open on the ground, and rotted. 

I was puzzled by this change in my guava fortunes. The trees were healthy and fast-growing. Why wasn’t I getting the abundant fruit which had so delighted me in Year One? 

After consulting the internet, I found my answer: Guavas only grow on new branches, not on old wood. With every passing year, the trees were growing taller, and the new branches were appearing higher and higher off the ground, until the fruit was so far out of reach it was as if the trees weren’t fruiting at all. 



I researched how to prune them. I felt some trepidation about cutting off so many apparently healthy branches. But the sources I consulted were clear: when it came to getting healthy, accessible fruit, the old wood had to go. I added some bar oil to my smallest, handiest chain saw, sharpened my loppers, and went to work on my guava thicket. Before I knew it, I was standing next to a pile of branches nearly as tall as I was. Where the thicket had been dense and impenetrable, it was now airy and open. I could see the sky where the over-tall trees had blocked it before. Returning my tools to the shed, I felt a flicker of nervous excitement. What had I done? Had I gone too far? Would this really work? 

I thought it would take months to see new growth on the guava trees. But a flush of new branches appeared almost overnight, skinny and smooth and shining with clean new leaves. I picked some of the young leaves, which are highly medicinal, and brewed them as tea. Meanwhile, I waited for the next crop of fruit to appear. When summer came, the new branches had thickened, and round yellow guavas appeared within easy reach of where I stood on the ground. Far from damaging the trees, the heavy pruning had stimulated them to grow. 

Sometimes, the fruit we long for is waiting to appear—as soon as we cut off the old wood. This is true in life as well as in horticulture. I think often of the times in my own life when I’ve pruned old wood, whether by moving away from a beloved town, leaving a relationship in which I’d invested heavily, or setting aside a project which had consumed my energy for years. I remember the trepidation I felt at the prospect of each pruning: How can I take down that branch? What if I kill the whole tree?  

It took me a long time to understand that, just like the guava trees, my life would not only grow back, but flourish in the wake of every shock. We tend to think of loss as a negative thing, but skillful deletion is a highly creative act. Empty spaces hum with potential. Although the forms of life can be altered or destroyed, the force of life remains undiminished. Life wants to grow back. All we have to do is let it.  



As an editor, I’m keenly aware of the ways that courageous pruning can allow a book’s true message to emerge. Sometimes, we have to bravely wield the saw, cutting off entire sections of a manuscript which may have been necessary in the first draft stage but are no longer serving a purpose in the final version. No matter how interesting or well-researched a given section may be, it needs to go if it’s not giving readers something nourishing, memorable, and necessary—in other words, the branch gets pruned if it’s not producing fruit. 

Just this week, I took a two-hundred-and-eighty-page manuscript and trimmed it down to a hundred-and-seventy-five pages. Even though I am confident that this pruning will result in a beautiful, focused, productive book, I must admit I felt a few moments of vertigo as I watched the word count dropping precipitously with every cut. Would the author be shocked when she saw the enormous pile of branches I’d removed from her tree? Or would she trust me when I told her that the tree was now stronger, healthier, and soon to be overflowing with fruit? 

As a project moves along, the prunings become more subtle: a sentence here, a word there. It always amazes me how even these subtle deletions can dramatically alter the feeling of a book, lifting unnecessary weight, injecting lightness, and allowing the beauty of the language to shine through. It’s tempting to think that an extra word or sentence won’t make any difference, but as the extraneous material falls away, I swear I can hear a book breathing. 



This Thanksgiving, I was invited to stay on a remote piece of land in a part of Hawaii that few people get to see. Accessible only by helicopter, it is the site of an ancient Hawaiian village, and has many beautiful waterfalls and archeological features, which a small team of stewards are restoring. One of the stewards took me for a walk around the land, showing me the rock walls he’d rebuilt, the agricultural terraces he’d restored, and the ancient stone walking path he’d uncovered from under layers of brush. 

This person had lived and breathed this restoration project for several decades. His knowledge of plants, aquaculture techniques, and archeological features was exhaustive. I commented on the fact that he seemed intimately bound to the land, to the point that I could scarcely imagine the project going on without him. I was stunned when he shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Nah. One of these days, I’m going to walk away, and they’ll carry on without me just fine.” 

It was humbling to listen as this master stonemason explained to me that when he rebuilt a wall or restored a terrace, that was it—he was done. Why hang around and gaze at his creations, impressive as they were? Those branches had fruited, and were now spent. It made no sense to linger for the sake of lingering, to hang on to what was finished when life is constantly urging us to begin again. His love for the land was deep and genuine, but he had no fear of leaving it, knowing there were an infinite number of places he could love. 




I realized that the artists and spiritual teachers from whom I’ve learned the most all share this quality of detachment. It’s novice writers who cling to the words they already have on the page, not trusting themselves to generate equally good or better material to replace what has been deleted—master writers can cut with confidence, knowing there’s more where that came from. The spiritual masters on whose books I’ve been lucky enough to work at Hierophant emphasize the importance of embracing change. They remind us that our lives come with us wherever we go, and whatever we do.  

This quality of detachment requires a deep trust in life. At the same time, practicing detachment is the best way I’ve found to gain trust in life, if you don’t already have it. Cut a paragraph or chapter from your book, and you’ll find that you do, in fact, possess the skill to write something even better. Accept a change without resisting it, and you’ll discover that life rushes in to fill the empty space. When a thing is complete, bow and move on. By learning to let go of specific things, we embrace the infinite, discovering more and more to love. 

 I look forward to pruning my guava thicket in another month or two, and I look forward to puttering around in the garden of words here at Hierophant, tending the many excellent books we’ll be releasing in the upcoming year. May you all be happy and safe, and may your buckets always overflow with fruit. 


Hilary Smith, Senior Editor








Looking for guidance for pruning your own thicket of words? Check out Think Like a Publisher by Hierophant President Randy Davila. This detailed guide for authors explains the basics of the publishing industry in clear and concise language, including what publishers (and readers!) look for in a manuscript, the importance of a good editor and how to find one, author platform building, marketing strategies, and even how to find the right self-publisher for your manuscript.

November Newsletter: The Magic of Nature

Hello dear readers!

As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter (which you can read here if you missed it), I am the new senior editor at Hierophant Publishing.

One of my first tasks in this role has been to familiarize myself with our catalogue by reading as many Hierophant books as possible (which gives new meaning to the quote, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”). And while I eagerly devoured books like The Mastery of Self by don Miguel Ruiz Jr. and Warrior Goddess Training by HeatherAsh Amara, when I saw that Earth Witch: Finding Magic in the Land by Britton Boyd was next on my review list, I must admit I was a little reluctant.

Before reading this book, I would never have thought of myself as a witch.

True, I live deep in the forest of rural Hawaii, in a strange little cabin I built by hand, and can often be seen gathering herbs and mushrooms, a handwoven basket slung over my arm. I spend a suspicious amount of time conversing with trees, stones, and bodies of water, and am partial to candlelight, incense, and dark, windy nights.

But a witch? Never.

Like many of us, I associated that word with my fourth-grade teacher’s Halloween costume, pointy hat and all, or with certain trendy Instagram accounts wherein witchcraft consists of skincare routines and home décor. I’ve never, to my knowledge, cast a spell.

Indeed, witchcraft has always struck me as dizzyingly complex, with its elaborate tables and charts—moon phases, obscure qualities of herbs and gemstones, the proper combinations of ingredients for various workings, etc. If you challenged me to either cast a spell from one of those manuals or change the head gasket on my truck, I’d probably have better luck with the head gasket.

Please let there be no charts, I thought as I downloaded the manuscript onto my e-reader and got down to business.

Snuggled up with a pot of guava leaf tea, rain falling on the metal roof of my cabin, I began to read:


Magic lives in the soil, in the backwoods, in the bones of the dead, and in seemingly desolate places in nature.”




When I read those words, something in me nodded in recognition. Just that morning, I had dug up a fresh ‘awa root to share with some visitors, the soft and fragrant soil falling away to reveal the pale white lateral. Nearby on the Pali, or hillside, the bones of my neighbors’ Hawaiian ancestors have been resting for hundreds of years, rocks piled carefully to mark the sites. The forest where I’d gone mushroom hunting the day before was lonely and storm-tossed, with many broken branches littering the trail, its towering trees charged with mystery. What was the feeling I experienced when I spent time in these places, if not magic?

A few pages later, I highlighted these words:


“It is only with time and an erotic merging of the land and ourselves over many seasons that we can experience something real and profound.”




I recalled the many times in my life when I moved: from British Columbia to California, California to Washington, Washington to Oregon, Oregon to California, California to Hawaii. With each of these moves, I felt a sharp loss as the land, plants, and animals which had become dear to me were taken away. In each place, I had to undergo a sometimes-difficult process of getting acquainted with new land, new plants, new animals, and new magic. It took many seasons to complete this erotic merging: many seasons of slow and intentional practice before my body was at ease with the coldness of the river or the current of the ocean, my eye adept at spotting the shapes of the herbs in the forest, my tongue familiar with the taste of the berries, my nose quick to identify the scent of wildfire and mugwort, candycap mushrooms and rotting cedar, night-blooming jasmine and wild ginger.

I’ve never felt quite at home in a place until this erotic merging is well underway. Until that point, I feel lonely and disconsolate, excluded from the web of connection which is so central to my well-being.

This was especially true when I first moved to Hawaii. The tropical plants were utterly inscrutable to me; lush and beautiful as it was, the natural world felt like a locked door, and I couldn’t find my way in. Although I lived in the forest, I couldn’t feel the forest. I was a stranger there, and this state of separation was painful to me.

One day, my next-door neighbor came over to visit. She had a question for me. “Do you talk to the land owners?” she said.

“The land owners?” I said, thinking perhaps she had mistaken me for a renter. “No, I bought the land from—”

My neighbor shook her head. “No,” she said, “the land owners. You have to talk to them. Give them offerings. Tell them why you’re here.”

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that when she said land owners, she wasn’t talking about the people whose names were on a title chain down at the county records office. She was referring to the real land owners—the spirits of the ancient, sacred land we were lucky enough to call home. My neighbor explained that the land owners were always watching, always listening; it was important to ask their permission before entering a new part of their domain, and to pre-emptively ask forgiveness for any clumsy mistakes I might make while I was there. It was good to leave gifts for them, too—they were partial to strong liquor—but mostly, it was important to talk to them. To be in relationship with them. It would be both odd and rude to cut through my neighbor’s yard every day and pick fruit from her trees without ever acknowledging her presence; failing to engage with the land owners was just as anti-social.

The next day, I took a walk in the forest. “Hello, land owners,” I said out loud. “My name is Hilary. I honestly don’t understand how I ended up here, but I’d like to do a good job of living in this place. Please teach me how to live here. I’m sorry for all the things I’ve already done wrong.”

I felt something inside me change when I said those words. Some little tendril of connection became established. Suddenly, I wasn’t a stranger anymore. I had introduced myself; no matter how shyly, I had entered the web.

From that point on, the erotic merging I craved began to happen. My ears picked up the many different moods of the stream running along the edge of my land, telling me if the water was high or low. I began to sense when it would rain, moving my laundry inside just seconds before a downpour. When I walked in the forest, edible and medicinal plants made themselves known to me, and I always came home with my basket full of exactly what I needed. I found myself talking to the land owners more and more frequently, pouring out tea for them in the morning, or wine at night. This magic had nothing to do with charts and tables; it was as natural and obvious as talking to my “regular” human neighbors.

As I write this now, another natural and obvious fact is staring me in the face: I’m an earth witch, and have been one all along.

Real magic has little to do with gemstones and magic wands; it’s in the quality of our attention when we move through the natural world, and in our capacity for relationship with neighbors both seen and unseen. I’m grateful to Britton Boyd and her fabulous book for calling these facts to my attention, and reminding me that whether or not we identify with the word “witch,” we can all engage with the magic of nature, give ourselves joyfully to the service of the earth, and walk a path of connection, communion, and reciprocity with all forms of life.

I’ll share more of my journey next month, and until then, I encourage you to find the magic and mystery in the land you call home, wherever that may be.


Hilary Smith, Senior Editor






Earth Witch: Finding Magic in the Land by Britton Boyd

Interested in exploring your own magical connection to the sacred land around you? In Earth Witch, author Britton Boyd invites you to seek out the deep and mysterious connections with the earth that lie at the ancestral roots of witchcraft. This book provides those new to witchcraft with foundational practices on which to build an organic spirituality rooted in the natural world, and challenges seasoned witches to renew the ancient relationship with the earth that lies at the heart of their craft. Packed with stories, spells, and rituals, Boyd encourages all of us to live in service to the planet we call home.

Learn more and read two free chapters from the book here.

October Newsletter: The Hawaiian Tradition of Pau Hana

Hello! My name is Hilary, and I’m the newest editor at Hierophant Publishing. Over the coming months, I’ll be working behind the scenes to bring you fantastic books from some of your favorite Hierophant authors. You’ll also be hearing from me in our new monthly newsletter. I am thrilled to join such a passionate community of readers, writers, spiritual seekers, and creatives, and I can sincerely say that this is my dream job.

I live off-the-grid in rural Hawaii, where the daily tradition of pau hana still holds strong. Pau hana can be translated as “stop work” or “work finish,” and that’s exactly what it means: it’s not a break from work or a brief respite before catching a second wind and cranking out a few more hours, it’s stop work. Although in urban areas pau hana can take the form of an American-style happy hour at a bar, in my tight-knit farming community it refers to the time when everyone wanders over to the circle of chairs under the monkeypod tree — beer, ‘awa, kombucha, or sugarcane juice in hand — to talk story and let the dogs run around.



It took me a long time to become a pau hana devotee. Coming to Hawaii from the mainland, I had little concept of “stop work.” Even as a teenager, I would rise at five AM to practice piano, then go to school, attend sports practice, do homework, then practice piano again. My parents would work at the office all day, then spend the evening getting a jump on the next day’s tasks. From my perspective growing up, it was as if the point of life was to squeeze out every last drop of work your body and mind could manage.

When I saw my neighbors gathering under the monkeypod tree each evening, I used to wonder what they had left to talk about day after day. Hadn’t they already caught up on each other’s news? Wasn’t it a little much to hang out every single evening? Sometimes, I’d be tempted to join them, but then I’d think to myself that I should really mow the lawn, or finish painting the shed, or tackle the next item on a never-ending list. Yet all of my neighbors had off-grid homesteads to take care of, too. I wondered why they didn’t meet at seven instead of five, thereby squeezing out two more daylight hours in which weeds could be whacked, boards painted, and fruit picked.

There I’d be, banging away on a project, the only person still spinning the wheel of work while everyone else had transitioned into relaxation. The dogs would be chasing each other through the stream, my neighbors would be gazing contentedly into the sunset, and I’d be up on a ladder with a hammer or paintbrush, putting those last hours in—while oblivious to the importance of the ritual on which I was missing out.

Then one evening, I was firing up the weed whacker when I spotted the pau hana circle in the distance. It occurred to me that the last thing any of my neighbors needed to hear after their own long days of farming, carpentry, or truck repair was another roaring machine, reminding them of the physical labor they’d just set aside for the day. Not only was my insistence on working through the pau hana hour obnoxious, it was also oblivious: my neighbors had all been living this lifestyle for many decades. If they observed pau hana every day, it must serve a pretty important function. Life in our isolated stretch of island can be tough—maybe pau hana was the key to my neighbors’ strength, resilience, and closeness as a community.



I began to join my neighbors under the monkeypod tree, bringing a jar of water, some treats for the dogs, and a headlamp to help me navigate the stream crossing on the short walk home. It was like joining a table of bards. The stories flowed without end, each person’s memory complementing the others. Night after night, the neighbors invoked a web of shared references: cousins, grandparents, employers, long-dead pets and broken-down trucks fondly remembered, earthquakes and hurricanes collectively survived, weddings, funerals, and other notable events. They also talked about current events—who was putting in a new lo’i, or taro pond, who had gone to the last meeting about the road, and so on.

Sitting under the monkeypod tree, we shared fruit and other snacks, developed inside jokes, and made plans to help each other out with homestead projects. How could I have been so blind? It was clear to me now that the “work” taking place at pau hana was far more important than sneaking in a last round of weed-whacking. By placing appropriate limits on work, my neighbors had carved out space for social bonding, celebration, and the pure enjoyment of life.

Throughout history, humans have relied on community rituals to mark the division between work and rest. In India, people gather by the banks of the Ganges for aarti, ringing bells and chanting at sunset to mark the end of the day. In Spain, siesta is a non-negotiable block on the daily calendar. In elementary schools, the ringing of the bell announces recess—a time to let loose, bond with friends, and generally direct one’s attention to anything but work. These unmistakable divisions allow us to truly relax and let go, which in turn replenishes our souls (and our ability to be productive when the moment calls for it).

Whether you live in Hawaii or elsewhere, you can embrace the spirit of pau hana by going for a walk or run at sunset, getting together with neighbors, attending a yoga class, or meeting friends at an outdoor café. Socializing with friends and neighbors doesn’t need to be a rare event, but can be a daily source of sustenance and pleasure. Formally acknowledging the end of every work day restores us to our full humanity, reminding us that health, friendship, and the capacity for joy are the true wealth in our lives.



As an editor at Hierophant, I look forward to helping bring inspiring, enlightening, and life-changing books into the world. By day, you’ll find me poring over manuscripts in my studio—but when it’s pau hana time, I’ll be sitting with my neighbors under the monkeypod tree.


Hilary Smith, Senior Editor





The Grind Culture Detox

If the crushing urgency of work is preventing you from experiencing the healing tranquility of pau hana, check out The Grind Culture Detox by Heather Archer.

Grind culture refers to the false belief that to be considered valuable or worthy in our society, one must be productive. Lurking in the shadow of capitalism, grind culture is accepted as normal, even necessary, and most people aren’t even aware of the harmful ways it impacts us.

In The Grind Culture Detox, author Heather Archer exposes grind culture in all its complexity. Utilizing nontraditional approaches such as somatics, sound healing, herbalism, and more, The Grind Culture Detox is an invitation to experience an inner revolution—one where you recognize yourself as a sacred being and acknowledge you are worth far more than what you produce.

Creativity goes well beyond making stuff...

Cultivating the Art of Aliveness

by Flora Bowley


I often say that creativity is an essential part of being human.

To understand this, quickly take a moment to imagine life without it. We would miss out on things like music, poetry, dance, literature, theater, new inventions, and so much else!

However, there are also more integrated and subtle ways that creativity shows up and elevates our day-to-day experiences—things you might do naturally without considering them to be creative acts at all.

For instance, imagine walking down the street and reveling in the way light and shadows dance across the sidewalk. What about composing a letter or text message to someone you love? Or arranging the items in your home to reflect more of your personal style?  How have you used creative problem solving to come up with new solutions in your personal relationships?

Creative adventures don’t need to be fancy, groundbreaking, or even take a lot of time to be effective. In fact, simple acts of creative expression and innovation woven into daily life have an incredible way of soothing, stirring, and reminding us what it feels like to be alive. In turn, flexing our creative muscles fortifies our ability to be more tuned in, observant, and adaptable in all parts of our life.

In my experience, creativity goes well beyond making stuff. It’s a mindset—a way of being that is the opposite of productivity for productivity’s sake. Creativity synthesizes our life experiences and inspires us to dream things into being. Take a moment to reflect on the many ways you already infuse your daily life with creativity:

Of course, many of us have what I call “creative wounds,” or times when courageous creative endeavors did not go as planned. We might experience shame or be discouraged from pursuing our creativity any further. These tender experiences can lead us to stifle our impulses in certain areas, or even abandon creative pursuits altogether.

If you’re reading this and feeling disconnected from your creative spirit in some way, I invite you to begin the journey back to it. When we engage in creative practices, we move the energy of life that is within us. When this energy is sparked, we can’t help becoming more open, present, and connected to possibilities that exist beyond the obvious options laid out before us.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again in the painting retreats I teach. A student arrives feeling disconnected from her creativity and source of inspiration. She begins the process of midwifing a blank canvas through rich layers of color and mark, dark and light, feeling and sensation. Through the dance of letting go and allowing back in, becoming unstuck, and breaking through, a spark returns to her eyes. With each brushstroke and sway of her hips, the flickering remembrance of a primal creative capacity makes its way from her hands to the working surface. As she brings a painting to life before her very eyes, she’s reminded that she also has the innate ability to bring herself to life.

While painting provides a tangible way to meet ourselves in the space where hand, paint, and canvas collide, living a creative life doesn’t require any art supplies at all. Creating the work of art that is your life is available to anyone willing to embrace the tools of aliveness, even if your hands never find their way to a paintbrush.

Cultivating the art of aliveness means choosing to be courageous, intuitive, spontaneous, and discerning. It also means embracing contrast, being willing to start over, taking one small step at a time, and allowing space for the mystery of the moment to unfold.

It means choosing life.

If your innate creative potential, either in art or life, feels buried beneath years of old stories, stagnant patterns, or forgotten dreams, please know that it’s never too late to remember and revitalize these parts of yourself.

To support this process of remembering, I invite you to do some dreaming with me. Without feeling limited by logistical or earthly constraints, take some time to get comfortable and dream into the most realized creative version of yourself you can possibly imagine. This is a time to dream big. Don’t hold back. Don’t move to the back of the room.

In this practice, anything and everything is possible. Let these prompts get you started and see where your imagination wants to wander. I encourage you to have fun with it! You don’t have to commit to anything, make it perfect, or even believe it’s a good idea. Just try these ideas on and see how they feel.

In your most wildly creative dream life, where do you live? What’s the view like there? What are you creating? How does your body feel when you wake up in the morning? What kind of clothes make you feel the most inspired? What kind of food feels the most nourishing for your creative practices? Who are you surrounded by and are they creating things as well? What kind of impact do your creations have in the world? What do you do for fun? What kind of thoughts do you tell yourself to support your creative process?

While your most realized creative life might not be entirely doable for one reason or another, it’s important to let yourself dream big in order to discover what’s lurking beyond your more rational and limited ways of thinking and being. Maybe you didn’t even realize you wanted to live on a cliff near the sea, wear only red velvet jumpsuits, make abstract sculptures out of clay, and eat fresh fruit from your trees. When you allow yourself to get a glimpse of these bigger dreams, you can begin to orient yourself in their direction and start taking small steps forward. On the other hand, if you never let yourself imagine these things in the first place, it can feel challenging to even remember what’s possible.

Just like painting or any other creative practice, creating your life is an act of perseverance, trust, and letting go. Each day presents new opportunities to wake up and catch yourself from sleepwalking through this grand creative act.

After all, there are only a certain number of colors on the color wheel or musical notes on a scale, but there are infinite ways to combine them. The same is true with how you create your life. My book, The Art of Aliveness, A Creative Return to What Matters Most, is about remembering your options.

The canvas of your life awaits.

The above was adapted from The Art of Aliveness, A Creative Return to What Matters Most , by Flora Bowley, available now anywhere books are sold!

Also, Flora Bowley, along with an amazing lineup of other artists, writers and creatives will be offering workshops in two upcoming events you won't want to miss!

Painting, Writing and Inspiration

An interactive online weekend event

April 16-18, 2021


The Gathering of the Creatives in Santa Fe, NM

September 3-5, 2021

Click the links above for more details and registration info for these amazing events!

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Find Your Center…



These are unprecedented times.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching and complex, and no matter what your personal circumstances may be, it is easy to become overwhelmed by it all.

As always, but especially now, we encourage you to treat yourself with gentleness, compassion, and care. Take time to rest in simple silence, and consider the idea that any answers you seek are already inside you.

This resting in silence and finding the wisdom within is the foundation of Buddhist meditation.

If you would like to learn more about this timeless practice, then our new title, How to Meditate Like a Buddhist by Cynthia Kane, is a perfect place to begin this work. Backed by years of experience as a mindfulness and meditation instructor, Kane has crafted the ultimate beginner’s guide to Buddhist meditation. Straightforward and easy to read, this powerful book answers many common questions from first-time meditators, and offers clear instructions on how to begin a regular, lasting practice.

An excerpt from How to Meditate Like a Buddhist by Cynthia Kane:

Maybe you believe, like I do, that some opportunity, a signal flag marking a new path, will often appear in your life when you need it most. Mine came in the form of a note from a friend…when she forwarded me an email about a writing and meditation workshop at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York. I had never been to the place, or even heard of it. But the idea of writing about my loss coupled with the meditation benefits they described felt like it might be a port in the storm for my hurricane mind.

That very first night at the Shambhala Center I began a meditation practice that, over time, would change my life. Today, I’m happy to report that I spend the vast majority of my days away from the path of the hurricane mind. I am calm, present, relaxed, joyful, and connected in a way I could only dream of before. And while I still have anxious and stressful moments, they are moments instead of days—and, most importantly, these feelings no longer paralyze or derail me. If you had told me eight years ago that I would find peace in my life, form deep connections with others, see beauty in the world, stop judging and evaluating myself constantly, and change my relationship to fear, death, stress, and anxiety, I would never have believed you. Yet, here I sit, writing this book to let you know that this is exactly what happened, and that beginning a meditation practice was the cornerstone to this new way of life.

The impact on me was so profound that in no time I became a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor. And for those I work with, meditation has had similar benefits, helping ease their social anxiety, insomnia, and stress. I’ve seen meditation help people tap into their creativity, be more productive at work, and find overall well-being greater than they have ever felt before. I’ve seen marriages grow more intimate and loving, and parents connect with their children and grow more peaceful within their families. I’ve seen people accomplish more with less effort, reduce their blood pressure, start sleeping better at night, and reset their relationship with food. Many say that they’ve started taking the worrisome thoughts that occur in their minds less seriously, which has created more joy, laughter, and adventure in their lives. Just imagine for a moment what any one of these benefits could mean for your life.

In addition to my own experience and that of my students, countless studies have measured the benefits of meditation on the body, mind, and spirit. In fact, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to find a scientific study that hasn’t concluded that meditation is good for you. A cursory internet search will deliver a variety of peer-reviewed studies showing physical, psychological, and spiritual results.

On a physical level, meditation can make you healthier:

On a psychological level, meditation can change the brain:

And finally, on a spiritual level, meditation can enrich your practice:

In addition to all of the above, there are some key benefits to meditation from a Buddhist perspective. We will go deeper into these in the chapters that follow, but for now I’d like to start with the idea that meditation helps you to rediscover the quietness that lies inside you, and provides access to an awareness and presence that is not affected by your past or the uncertainty of the future. Through meditation, you begin to connect with the inherent goodness within, or what Buddhism refers to as your Buddha nature. While you may be accustomed to looking outside yourself for answers from others, Buddhism contains the radical idea that you already have the answers you seek, and meditation is a tool by which you can access your own truth.

Buddhism also teaches that each of us has the power to relieve our own suffering. We are our own healers, and we have everything we need within ourselves. Suffering in this context refers to anxiety, discomfort, pain, embarrassment, shame, and/or self-loathing. Meditation is a way to change your relationship to this suffering, because it changes your relationship to your thoughts and your emotions. By practicing meditation you become a witness to whatever is happening, no longer attaching yourself to it or resisting it, but simply observing it. You are able to observe difficult thoughts and emotions and allow the sensations to be there, without letting them lead you. The more you observe and the less you judge, the more you heal.

Meditation invites you to find out who you are, and to be who you are, exactly as you are, without judgment. In my experience, meditation can help restore what stress, anxiety, and overwhelm has taken from you, by bringing back peace, tranquility, and meaningful connection with others, as well as ease, energy, and joyful living. During meditation, we learn to be with ourselves in the best and worst of times. We accept ourselves as perfectly imperfect, dynamic, and ever-changing. This in turn allows us to see others in the same way, bringing a sense of compassion and connectedness into the world.

You may not believe that the practice I will teach you in the following pages can bring the same to you. But if you’re willing to commit to it and stick with it, meditating like a Buddhist will change your life.



Ready to read more about how to begin your own regular meditation practice? How to Meditate Like a Buddhist will be released on April 28, 2020 in all major retail outlets and on our website.


The Transformative Power of Unconditional Love

February, despite its chilly weather, is the season in which we take some time as a culture to celebrate love…but what about the love of self? Much of the time it feels like the hardest person to love is the one we live with every second of every day of our lives…ourselves.

Below, two leading teachers of personal transformation share their thoughts on the importance of unconditional love for the self, which of course ultimately leads to the ability to extend unconditional love to others and out to the world!

Unconditional Love for Yourself

(Excerpted from The Mastery of Self by Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr.)

In the Dream of the Planet there are two powerful forces that shape all our agreements, attachments, and domestication. In the Toltec tradition, we call these forces the two types of love: unconditional love and conditional love.

When unconditional love flows from our hearts, we move through life and engage other living beings with compassion. Unconditional love is recognizing the divinity in every human being we meet, regardless of his or her role in life or agreement with our particular way of thinking. A Master of Self sees all beings through the eyes of unconditional love, without any projected image or distortion.

Conditional love, on the other hand, is the linchpin of domestication and attachment. It only allows you to see what you want to see, and to domesticate anyone who doesn’t fit your projected image. It’s the primary tool used to subjugate those around us and ourselves. Every form of domestication can be boiled down to “If you do this, then I will give you my love” and “If you do not do this, then I will withhold my love.” Every form of attachment starts with “If this happens, then I will be happy and feel love” and “If this does not happen, then I will suffer.” The key word in all of these statements is if, which, as you will see, has no place in unconditional love.we construct the Dream of the Planet, we have a choice to love each other unconditionally or conditionally. When we love each other unconditionally, our mirror is clean; we see others and ourselves as we really are: beautiful expressions of the Divine. But when the fog of attachment and domestication clouds our perception and we put conditions on our love, we are no longer able to see the divinity in others and ourselves. We are now competing for a commodity that we have mistaken as love.

At its core, domestication is a system of control, and conditional love is its primary tool. Consequently, the moment you start trying to control others is the same moment you place conditions on your love and acceptance of them. Because you can only give what you have, the conditions you try to impose on others are the same conditions that you impose upon yourself.

When you self-domesticate, you are attempting to control your own actions based on shame, guilt, or perceived reward rather than unconditional self-love…

Unconditional love is the antidote to domestication and attachment, and tapping into its power is a key step in becoming a Master of Self.

Purifying Your Heart

(Excerpted from Warrior Goddess Training by HeatherAsh Amara)

Your heart is the strongest muscle in your body, and it will beat 2.5 billion times over your lifetime. Energetically, the heart’s ability for giving and receiving is endless. However, for many of us the heart is usually one of our most guarded areas...

We protect our heart in numerous ways: physically by rounding our shoulders and sinking the chest in; emotionally by closing down our access to feelings for fear of pain; mentally by believing we can be broken or destroyed unless we stay isolated. This type of protection gives us the illusion that we are in control and safe.

The glass barriers we put around our heart cause us to fear being shattered. But the heart is wise and strong beyond measure when we give it space to unfurl…

So how do you access your heart’s wisdom? At its core, your heart is a great teacher and friend. But around this core of truth is a gnarled web of mental lies and fears. When you bring your awareness into the light of your true heart, you can illuminate and release the mental stories that close your heart…

This journey of opening the heart wider than our fears takes time and perseverance, as you have spent years training it to do the opposite. The next time you notice your heart starting to close off or become scared, the medicine to feed yourself is compassion and self love. Following is an example of what I mean by this.

A friend was driving me to a workshop, and I was having a rough day. When she asked me what was wrong I started crying and shared all the ways that I was overwhelmed and scared about some changes coming up in my life. Her response was, “OK, Warrior Goddess, you know you always land on your feet. It’s time to step up and walk the talk.”

In the past my judge would have used my friend’s words to say, “Get over your whining and get a grip! What is wrong with you?” Result: closed heart to self, a pushing down of emotions, and attempting to bully myself into making the change.

Or I might have taken her words and said, “No one understands what I am going through. It is all too much and I can’t do this!” Result: closed heart to self, and feeling more victimized and overwhelmed.

I chose to take the Warrior Goddess path. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and opened my heart to me. From this openhearted place I let myself feel my emotions completely and witnessed what was arising. I felt the overwhelm. I felt my judge’s frustration and sense of being out of control. I felt my victim’s terror of not doing it right. Then I went inside and soothed the part of me that was scared. “Hi, scared part! There is a lot going on right now, but it is going to be OK. I’m here with you. It’s going to be OK.” I stopped judging myself and chose to just be present in this moment. This self-compassion created a release in my being, and I could then look for what was working and what were my next steps, all from a loving place. When I opened my eyes again, I told my friend, “OK, I’m ready to go!”

Being a Warrior Goddess does not mean you never have emotional meltdowns, or that you never have a difficult day, or that you avoid heartbreak. Being a Warrior Goddess is about falling in love with all of you: with your judge self, your victim self, and your wise Warrior Goddess self. You are worthy of love, and the heart healing comes when you stop looking outside for love and open to the immense love your heart has for you.



Eager to explore more about The Mastery of Self? This bestselling title is available from all major retailers, AND registration is open NOW for Don Miguel Ruiz Jr.’s three-day intensive retreat on the Mastery of Self in Sedona, AZ!

Intrigued by the invitation to become a Warrior Goddess yourself? Warrior Goddess Training is the first book in the series that has sparked a worldwide movement! AND registration is open NOW for HeatherAsh Amara’s three-day intensive retreat, Shamanism & The Divine Feminine in Sedona, AZ!


Don’t miss this incredible opportunity
to dive deep into wisdom and personal power
with one of these two amazing teachers this upcoming May, 2020!



Learning to Dance with the Natural World…


(An excerpt from The Medicine Bag, a new book by bestselling author Don Jose Ruiz)


Every spring my father, my brother, Miguel Jr., and I travel to Sedona, Arizona, for an annual event called the Gathering of the Shamans. Just a short distance from the Grand Canyon, the area that is now called northern Arizona is sacred to many Native American tribes, including the Hopi, Yavapai, Havasupai, and Navajo.

If you ever visit, it’s easy to see why. The red rocks of Sedona are a unique combination of beauty and power. Home to many vortexes (energy centers), Sedona has long been a destination for seekers to help accelerate inner exploration, meditation, and healing. The more well-known Grand Canyon stretches on for over 220 miles, having been carved into its breathtaking and dramatic shape by the movement of the Colorado River over the course of millions of years. The canyon leaves thousands of visitors each year speechless with awe in the face of the sweeping dance of earth and sky, and the immeasurable power of water to wear down seemingly immovable stone. Its sheer immensity is at once humbling and inspiring.

While seeing this magnificence of Sedona or the Grand Canyon can stop the thinking mind in its tracks, you don’t need to travel to northern Arizona to experience the beauty and benefits of communing with nature. Nature is all around us—it is the literal air we breathe and water we drink, and we are in no way separate from it. We are nature, and nature is us. To be human is to be a part of all life—complex, evolving, interconnected. To live in a way that reflects the truth that all life is fundamentally connected is to walk the path of the shaman.

Because it is life, the natural world is replete with power that both creates and destroys. Water may arrive in the form of life-giving rain, or terrifying floods. Fire may cook our food and keep us warm through winter, or it may decimate entire forests. A cooling breeze may be welcome on a hot summer day, but tornadoes and hurricanes wreak unimaginable damage every year. And earthquakes shake our strongest buildings, even as we depend on the stable earth beneath our feet every single day. For these reasons and more, nature deserves our gratitude and our respect.

Nature is also a great healer. Even modern science is catching up to this ancient wisdom in measurable ways. The New York Times reported in 2018 that a variety of small studies have suggested that exposure to trees and plants may strengthen the human immune system, and also lower stress hormones and blood pressure. This would be no surprise to the shamans of my family’s tradition, especially my grandmother, who taught us a powerful ceremony to tap into the energy of trees that she often used in her healing work.

She would point out that fallen branches and leaves, which are often considered “trash” in the modern world, are important symbols of the power of nature. They have grown through the power of Mother Earth and Father Sun; they have been caressed by wind and drank deeply of the water. The thinking mind very often takes for granted nature’s unmatched ability to create. Even the most incredible structures or fascinating technology built by humans can never compete in complexity with a single leaf. For this reason, I would like to begin this chapter on nature with a ceremony based on what she taught us.


Communing with Nature

Prepare and gather:

To begin, find a quiet place in nature where you can be alone and undisturbed for at least thirty minutes. While the more remote, the better, this can be done in your backyard as well. Collect two or three small branches that have fallen from the trees nearby, ones that have some leaves still on them.

Once you have gathered a few branches with leaves, place them in a small pile in front of you. Take a few moments to reflect on how these branches came to be and what they represent: it all started with a seed, which took root in Mother Earth, was christened by life-giving water, touched by the warmth and light of Father Sun, nurtured by the air, and grew up, extending toward the sky. Think of how important the leaves are in the process; they take in the water, photosynthesize energy from the sun, and pull in carbon dioxide from the air. Now they have fallen to the earth, where they will decompose and help fertilize the soil for new growth to occur. These branches are miracles, representative of the power of life and Mother Nature. These branches are symbols of life and its cycles.

Next, open your container of water and pour a small amount over the branches, including the leaves. Let the water soak in for a few moments, and then say the following mantra:

Let these branches embody this truth:

that all things in nature make their way in cycles,

transforming from one thing into the next,

forever and ever, for always and right now.

I thank them for their gifts, for sharing their energy and power,

and I return them to the earth they came from.

Next, remove some of the leaves and gently rub them up and down a small portion of your arms, inviting the power of nature into your heart. You are now communing with the branches, a symbol for all life, and welcoming their energy into you.

When you have finished rubbing the leaves on your arms, sit quietly for as long as you’d like, absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of nature as you do so. This is your true home, the cradle for all life.

To close the ceremony, scoop some soil from the ground with your trowel and partially cover the pile of branches with it. In this way you are symbolically returning the branches to the ground. They don’t need to be fully buried, as nature will determine their best course. As you do so, offer a prayer of thanks and gratitude to these branches, and to all the elements of the natural world for making them possible.

You may choose to place a leaf in your medicine bag, and when you are in a big city or a place that seems far removed from the splendor of nature, it will be your connection. Or set it on your altar as a reminder of the awesome power of nature. One day this leaf will dry and crumble, and then you will know it is time to do this ceremony again.




Ready to read more about the healing and transformative power of ritual and ceremony?

The Medicine Bag is available now from the publisher (with free shipping!),
and will be available from all major retailers on February 4, 2020!

To learn more about this book, and to read the foreword, introduction and Chapter One for free click here.



What does it mean to write a successful book in today’s publishing environment?

(An excerpt from Think Like a Publisher by Randy Davila)

Writing a book will change you.

As a matter of personal accomplishment, it is unparalleled. My friend and fellow author Jacob Nordby says, “Holding up your completed book to the world is a watershed moment in your life.” I couldn’t agree more.

Creating a good book requires the intersection of four things: art, inspiration, craft, and marketing. Many of the writers I meet have a good start on the art and inspiration, but they need improvement in the departments of craft and marketing. If one of your goals is that your book reach as many people as possible, you will have to hone your talents on all four fronts. And if you want to make a living at publishing, you will really have to develop what I call the Author Business Model.

But before we delve into the nuts and bolts of the publishing world, I would like to thank you for picking up your pen, or more likely sitting behind your computer, and writing your book. You see, I have had the pleasure of working with authors from around the globe, both well-published and not-so-well-published, and the one thing they all have in common is that through this sacred craft of writing every one of them is attempting to make the world a better place (even if they may not realize it).

Whether you are writing a self-help book, a history book, a memoir, a novel, or a book in any other genre, the goal of a writer is to educate and entertain the reader, and in so doing contribute to the betterment of humanity. The world needs people like you, so I thank you for showing up.

Whether your book finds an audience here and abroad or you share it with just a few loyal readers, know that your writing will help at least one person—you. Writing is by definition a creative endeavor, one that energizes the mind and nourishes the soul. Although some authors don’t realize this at first, writing is one of those conscious creation activities that makes us feel alive, and that’s why we do it!

So by writing, whether you are conscious of it or not, you help others and yourself. This is why I often say that every book ever written, in some capacity and regardless of genre, is a self-help book.

A quick peek at history shows that what we are doing as authors does matter, that we are making the world a better place. We are privileged to live in the most literate time in the history of humanity, and literacy and education are inextricably linked. More people have the ability to read today than at any point in our past, and the collective education of this planet has never been higher. Undoubtedly we still have a long way to go, but much of our progress has been made through sharing ideas, and those ideas are recorded in books . . . books that would not exist without the authors who wrote them.

What a debt of gratitude we owe the authors who have come before us, who were brave enough to publish new ideas that expanded our thinking even when they were unpopular or posed a great risk to their reputation. While there are countless examples of this type of heroism in authorship, one example that comes to mind is Dr. Brian L. Weiss, author of the international best-selling book on reincarnation titled Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives.

With degrees from Columbia University and Yale Medical School, Dr. Weiss was the head of the psychiatry department at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach when he wrote Many Lives, Many Masters. Dr. Weiss had much to lose when he began writing about the subject of past-life therapy in the mid-1980s. Well respected by his peers in traditional psychiatry, by his own admission Dr. Weiss had no use for “alternative” methods of treatment like past-life regression therapy. But then something happened to change all of that. While using hypnosis to help recall traumatic childhood memories, one particular patient went back “beyond” her childhood, remembering a total of eighty-six previous lives over the course of her months-long treatment. Although Dr. Weiss was very skeptical at first, the healing benefits this patient experienced as a result of excising past-life traumas, combined with the knowledge she received about Weiss’s own life from “masters on the other side,” convinced him that reincarnation was real and that past-life regression therapy could be a useful healing tool.

Despite the objection of many peers in the mainstream medical community, Dr. Weiss made the bold decision to risk his credibility and his career when he decided to publish his findings in a book. No one could have predicted, least of all Dr. Weiss, that the book would go on to sell millions of copies, bring reincarnation and past-life regression therapy into the spotlight, and change so many people’s lives in the process.

In the genre of fiction, there are numerous examples of books that use storytelling to not only entertain readers but also challenge existing societal beliefs. Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vince Code not only captivated millions of readers with its suspenseful twists and turns but also reintroduced the idea of the divine feminine and its influence on mainstream Christianity. The firestorm that ensued after its publication was notable, to say the least.

These are but two examples, and there are numerous others as well, that we authors are a courageous folk. We put our hearts onto paper, risking the ridicule of critics and sometimes even our financial stability all in an effort to share our ideas with the world. Now comes the challenging part, and the likely reason you are reading this book: What can you do as an author to help your book reach the widest possible audience and make the biggest impact on the world?

Well, the good news is that there are many, many things you can do to help accomplish this goal. And that is the purpose of this book, to educate you, the author, about the essential steps necessary to reach as many readers as you can. As you will see in the following pages, there is so much more to being an author than just writing a book and either submitting it to a traditional publisher or self-publishing. At the conclusion of this book, my hope is that you will understand why I often say “Being a good writer in one thing; being a well-published author is something else entirely.”

What Is Success?

If you notice, I have not yet used the term “successful.” I have not said, “do this and make your book a success.” Before I begin stating things such as “make your book successful,” the first thing I want you to do is evaluate your definition of success.

Many first-time authors define a successful book as one that sells thousands if not millions of copies and earns the title “best seller.” (We will discuss more about “best seller” claims and definitions in Tip #21.) And you can be sure that as a publisher my hope is that every book we produce will sell thousands if not millions of copies. But before we go any further, we must ask ourselves: Is the number of copies a book sells the only metric in determining if it is “successful”?

Not by my definition, and when you are done reading this, I hope not by yours either. I would like to offer you a different set of metrics for determining whether a book is successful or not. Defining success in terms other than number of copies sold means considering a few things. First, do you as the author feel good about the contents of your book? Will you be proud to see your name on the cover? I hope that is the case for you, and if it’s not, I would strongly encourage you to get your manuscript into the best possible shape before it goes to print, because once your book is “out there” it will take on a life of its own, one that you want to be proud of forever.

Second, does your book help or educate people? Does it add value to the lives of its readers? When someone is finished reading your book, will the information you have shared or the story you have told enhance that reader’s life in some way?

To me, these criteria are far more important when it comes to calling a book successful than the number of copies sold.

Now I will prove it to you.

Looking back over your life, there have undoubtedly been a handful of books that had a big impact on your worldview and your individual perspective. Dare I suggest that some of these books were even life-changing? On your list of favorite books I bet there is at least one, if not more than one, which you could hold up in the middle of a crowded shopping mall, scream out the title, and no one would have ever heard of it. In short, this book was important to you and your journey in life, but when compared to other books, it is relatively unknown.

At the same time, I am sure you can think of a time when you picked up a widely publicized best seller with great anticipation, only to find out that you couldn’t get through the first chapter. Yet this book has sold millions of copies, and by that measurement, it is clearly a success.

In hindsight, which of these two books was more “successful” to you?

I hope this little exercise illustrates that success should not be measured simply by the numbers of copies sold. Furthermore, my experience with authors, including the widely published variety, is that if your only metric of success is the number of copies sold then ultimately no amount of copies sold will be enough. So please remember when I use the term “successful” throughout the rest of this book, I mean far more than just the number of copies sold.

One of the best things you can do for yourself as an author is to become educated about the publishing industry. You will want to know as much as you can about the publishing business from the perspective of writer, promoter, and salesperson for your book. Because as you will see in the following chapters, in today’s publishing world, you need to be all three.



Are you ready to learn more about how to be a successful author? Think Like a Publisher is available now from all major retailers and on our website. To learn more about this book, and to continue reading the next few tips for free, click here.

PLUS, Randy Davila, author of Think Like a Publisher and President of Hierophant Publishing and Hampton Roads Publishing, will be offering his Publish YOU Masterclass online for authors who want to take their project to the next level. Registration is open now!


Reclaim, Recover and Reawaken…


What’s the difference between a friend and a lover?


The distinction is so simple, yet we often don’t consider all that it entails.

Past lovers, whether they were with you for a night or for decades, leave impressions that can linger long after the relationship is over—and in many cases dramatically affect your self-esteem, your capacity for future intimacy, and your emotional well- being. Whether we like it or not, there is rarely, if ever, such a thing as casual sex.

In the current cultural climate, where sexual relationships swing between careless impulse and overly moralized repression, our society has lost the pulse of what truly healthy and vibrant female sexuality is. We no longer know what to do when a sexual relationship falls apart, leaving the wreckage of betrayal, abandonment, neglect, or even abuse in its wake. So many women are suffering—from mild discomfort to full-blown anxiety, from depression to total sexual shutdown; from desperate loneliness to recklessly empty promiscuity.

As women we are capable of so much more, but we are rarely, if ever, shown the way.

Female sexuality is a unique weave of physical energy, emotional connection, mental engagement, and spiritual communion. Sadly, this weave has been ignored, invalidated, or even demonized by much of our society over time. As a result, the mysteries of female sexuality are buried under mountains of oversexualized cultural patterning, dismissal of the rich heritage of deep feminine reverence and power, and ignorance of the vast inner terrain that lives within women.

In simple terms, this means that female sexuality is both powerful and vulnerable, and it is unique in a way that almost all healing modalities, therapies, religions, and even spiritual paths don’t fully recognize. For as necessary and potent as such practices can be, they have gaps in their understanding about some very core concepts related to women. Those gaps become unbridgeable chasms when it comes to reclaiming our female sexuality, caring for that nature, and understanding and clearing lingering sexual experiences.

If you are like so many of the women I work with, you picked up this book because you are carrying heartache, grief, pain, and unmet longing—all of which can be traced back to one or more past lover-ships. These experiences may also have resulted in the formation of sexual habits that don’t fulfill your deepest needs, such as shutting down your sexuality, or overgiving to your partner. For so many of us, after enough heartbreak and disappointment, the desire to love deeply, securely, passionately, and with integrity ends up either dimmed almost to extinction or enflamed with a frustrated anger that burns almost everything it touches.

We must remember and honor the fact that we were created to be sexual creatures, freed from the pendulum swing of oppression and reaction to that oppression. Liberated from all that push and pull, we have the opportunity to recover and know the radical truth, wisdom, and sexual wholeness that    is our birthright. This is not a cultural, social, or personality-based liberation. This is a recovery of deep feminine power and knowledge that will free you regardless of circumstance.

Think of “breaking the grip of past lovers” as code for freeing yourself of deeply unconscious limitations and misunderstandings you have inherited about what it means to be a woman—particularly a woman of sexual desire, longings, emotion, and passion. The breaking free process will require you to be more vulnerable and more sensitive with your- self. The good news is that the freedom that awaits you is vastly more powerful and healing than you can imagine.

My Story

In my case, the journey to shed the residual impact of past lovers was not a well-intentioned choice toward self-improvement. It was a necessity born of devastation.

When I was in my mid-thirties, my marriage of seven years (my second), was falling apart. After enduring multiple betrayals, I had accumulated a convincing distrust of intimacy—both with my husband and with anyone else I might be romantically close to after that. I was lost inside a tangle of grief, depression, longing, and isolation that was coloring everything, stealing the passion from my life, and relegating me to the kind of subtle despair and unmet longing that I had witnessed in so many other women. I was exhausted from the pressure of single motherhood and shattered by the experience of witnessing what had once been touching love devolve into chaos, dishonesty, and heartbreak.

Despite all of this—and because I didn’t want to lose the relationship we had built, because I was afraid of being financially on my own, and mostly because I came to deeply feel that receiving his full attention and sexual fidelity was how I would feel whole again—I ended up staying despite my partner sustaining an intimate dynamic that eroded my sense of self, my trust in men in general, and my hope of ever finding a full and honoring sexuality. As a result of that relationship, I shut down emotionally and sexually. I became jealous and paranoid. And I came to believe that I was not (nor would I ever be) “woman enough.”

I also lost important time and presence with my son in his younger years because I was emotionally distracted. I got further and further from my own sense of my beauty, my worth, my fullness, and my pleasure. I had panic attacks most nights, and significant depression. I can remember countless experiences of finding myself crumpled up on the floor crying, fighting, in desperate emotional pain. And then the terrible confusion created by all of our “good” times, when I would remember how much we loved each other and believe again that we could make it . . . only to be shattered by more dishonesty. On top of it all, I was so deeply ashamed and humiliated by what was going on in our relationship that I hid the truth from all of my friends. They would have loved and supported me, but in my state I could only imagine feeling humiliated and exposed. So I isolated myself from their support and fell even deeper into my sense of unworthiness. I was so desperate for the relationship to work out that I was hiding the truth from anyone who might call it what it was and hold me accountable to either radically change or to be brave enough to leave the dysfunction that I was tolerating.

Before this unhealthy dynamic, I had generally felt very nourished by my sexuality. Not perfect, by any means, but I had come to a place in my life and my sexual expression where I was free of insecurities that had plagued my younger years. Yet by the time I finally ended our marriage, I felt fractured and unworthy of love or fidelity. My light had dimmed, and I was deeply suffering from maintaining and allowing an intimate relationship that was very much in opposition to my core values.

My pain and shame, mixed with an almost forgotten hope that I would one day have the kind of honoring and passionate intimate relationship I deserved, led me to explore esoteric teachings on the sacred nature of female sexuality. I fell in love with what I found, and over a period of years I walked myself through the disentangling of my relationship and the restoration of my deep feminine nature. It was then that I began a commitment to personal cultivation practices in this area that continues to this day.

Because of the transformation I experienced, I began teaching and supporting other women to do the same, and, lo and behold, I discovered an unspoken epidemic of unresolved intimacies that most women were just tolerating or muddling through. It was stunning how similar our stories were, how devastating and confusing past sexual relationships continued to be, and how much we were all feeling compromised, stuck and lost to ourselves, some- times years after a relationship had ended. What I learned in my own journey and from helping other women recover is what you will find in the pages that followed.

When I look back now, after metabolizing the residual impact of my past lovership and recovering my sense of self, I see that what I experienced was a type of initiation. It was not one I would have ever chosen, but it was one that taught me the importance of honoring my personal power and commit- ting to never relinquishing my sexual sovereignty to the control of someone else again.

In one sense, my failed relationship had cost me a version of innocence. But as I moved through the initiation, I gained a state of personal power that now never leaves me. It was as if losing my power and reclaiming it were necessary steps on the journey to true sovereignty.

The gifts of this, including a present relationship that meets me in my values and takes them even further, have been abundant in all aspects of my life. I would never say it was an easy road, as I spent years feeling lost before finding my way back home, but as I moved through the initiation and stayed commit- ted to it, not only did I clear all residual impact of my past loverships, but I discovered that finding my freedom gifted me the ability to hold reverence and respect for myself regardless of the circumstances that may arise.

Your Story

As you consider what you have experienced in past relationships, can you sense a golden thread of initiation

running throughout them, no matter however difficult they may have been? For instance, on the other side of betrayal may be the gift that you will never again betray yourself. On the other side of neglect may be your commitment to never again neglect your own essence. On the other side of manipulation may be a radical cultivation of discernment that will never again let you ignore your intuition when it signals that something isn’t right or you are not safe.

I invite you to take a moment—let the costs of past relationship choices serve as fuel for your commitments to what you will choose  now and how you will advocate for yourself so that you never lose power like that again. Initiations born of past loverships change us forever, but the full fruit of these is greater love, greater power, and a fierce commitment to our own feminine essence. In my experience, this type of self-commitment actually needed an initiation born of loss and challenge in order to fully evolve. When you complete this type of initiation, you become a sword so tempered by the fire of life’s passages that you cut through any habit of self-rejection and become the greatest friend and ally you have ever known.

You have a life to live, love to share, children to raise, pleasure to experience, and so many gifts still to explore, but if you haven’t cleared the residual impact of past lovers, you are losing time, energy, power, and joy. Tens of thousands of women have now worked with the process in this book,  and  their stories are full of hope and full of compassion for themselves, for their past lovers, and for you as a woman who must also find her way through the tangled devastation of a broken sexual relation- ship. They are healing fully and finally from emotional neglect, betrayal, infidelity, mistreatment, and vicious manipulation, and so can you.

No matter how bleak or stuck you feel when you think about your past lovership or how deep the cost of a past relationship may have been, there is some part of you that can and will create pure gold from the anguish of it all. This is the spirit of a queen who knows her worth, and who has matured through hardship into a woman who will never abandon her throne again.

This is what you were always meant to be and what you are destined to become. You are both powerful and vulnerable, and by reclaiming both your beauty and your pain, you will free yourself to know more of your own happiness, fulfillment, peace, and pleasure than the world has told you is possible. As women of these times, we are turning the tide from habitual dysfunction to grace-filled empowerment, from collective amnesia to full remembrance of our own mysteries. I am honored to be on this journey of liberation with you. So let us begin…



Break the Grip of Past Lovers compassionately addresses issues of regret, remorse, low self-esteem, and broken trust, while guiding the reader in healing from betrayal, neglect, and manipulation, as well as from experiences that were so beautiful they have left grief and irreconcilable longing in their place.

Are you ready to explore more of how you can reclaim your personal sovereignty? This powerful book by author, healer, and priestess Jumana Sophia is available now from all major retailers and on our website. To learn more about this powerful book, and to continue reading the first chapter for free, click here.


Has Science Proven the Ego Is an Illusion?

Stop thinking, and end your problems.

-Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation)


Who are we? Why are we here? Why do we suffer?

Humans have grappled with these questions since time immemorial. Philosophers, spiritual leaders, scientists, and artists have all weighed in on them. In Western philosophy, the best answer to the question of who we are is that thinking is the defining characteristic of humanity There is no more concise example of this than philosopher Rene Descartes' famous statement cogito, ergo sum, or, "I think, therefore I am."

This reverence for thinking is in stark contrast to the tenets of Eastern philosophy found in traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and certain schools of Hinduism. These traditions at best advocate a distrust of the thinking mind and often go further to claim that the thinking mind is part of the problem rather than the solution. Zen Buddhism offers us the saying, "No thought, no problem."

The brain-powered individual, which is variously called the self, the ego, the mind, or "me," lies at the center of Western thought. In the worldview of the West, we herald the greatest thinkers as world-changers. But who is this? Let's take a closer look at the thinker, or the "me," we all take for granted. This definition will be essential throughout our discussion.

This "I" is for most of us the first thing that pops into our minds when we think about who we are. The "I" represents the idea of our individual self, the one that sits between the ears and behind the eyes and is "piloting" the body The "pilot" is in charge, it doesn't change very much, and it feels to us like the thing that brings our thoughts and feelings to life. It observes, makes decisions, and carries out actions-just like the pilot of an airplane.

This I/ego is what we think of as our true selves, and this individual self is the experiencer and the controller of things like thoughts, feelings, and actions. The pilot self feels like it is running the show. It is stable and continuous. It is also in control of our physical body; for example, this self understands that it is "my body" But unlike our physical body, it does not perceive itself as changing, ending (except, perhaps for atheists, in bodily death), or being influenced by anything other than itself.

Now let's turn to the East. Buddhism, Taoism, the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, and other schools of Eastern thought have quite a different take on the self, the ego, or "me." They say that this idea of "me" is a fiction, although a very convincing one. Buddhism has a word for this concept-anatta, which is often translated as "no self'- which is one of the most fundamental tenets of Buddhism, if not the most important.

This idea sounds radical, even nonsensical, to those who are trained in Western traditions. It seems to contradict our everyday experience, indeed our whole sense of being.

This book will explore strong evidence suggesting that the concept of the self is simply a construct of the mind, rather than a physical thing located somewhere within the brain itself. Put another way, it is the process of thinking that creates the self, rather than there being a self having any independent existence separate from thought. The self is more like a verb than a noun. To take it a step further, the implication is that without thought, the self does not, in fact, exist. It's as if contemporary neuroscience and psychology are just now catching up with what Buddhist, Taoist, and Advaita Vedanta Hindu­ ism have been teaching for over 2,500 years.

This may be a difficult point to grasp, chiefly because we've mistaken the process of thinking as a genuine thing for so long. It will take some time to see the idea of a "me" as simply an idea rather than a fact. Your illusionary self-the voice in your head-is very convincing. It narrates the world, determines your beliefs, replays your memories, identifies with your physical body, manufactures your projections of what might happen in the future, and creates your judgments about the past. It is this sense of self that we feel from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we close them at night. It seems all-important, so it often comes as a shock when I tell people that based on my work as a neuropsychologist, this "I" is simply not there-at least not in the way we think it is.

On the other hand, this will come as no surprise to those who have studied Eastern religions and philosophical movements, since all of these take as a basic premise the idea that the self as we most commonly think of it does not exist. If this is true, one might then ask, what is left? This question is definitely worth pondering, and we will look at it later after we approach the idea of "no self' through the landscape of scientific findings that point to the unreality of the self and the possible presence of a different model of consciousness.

As I mentioned in the preface, the great success story of neuroscience has been in mapping the brain. We can point to the language center, the face processing center, and the center for understanding the emotions of others. Practically every function of the mind has been mapped to the brain with one important exception: the self. While various neuroscientists have made the claim that the self resides in this or that neural location, there is no real agreement among the scientific community about where to find it-not even whether it might  be  in the left or the right side of the brain. Perhaps the reason we can't find the self in the brain is because it isn't there.

Yet even if we accept as true that there is no self, we cannot deny that there is still a very strong idea of self. While neuropsychology has failed to find the seat of the self, it has determined the part of the brain that creates this idea of a self, and we will examine this in detail.

Why does all of this matter? In much the same way I found myself deep in suffering after the loss of my father, each of us will experience plenty of mental pain, misery, and frustration in our lifetimes.  Mistaking the voice in our head for a thing and labeling it "me" brings us into conflict with the neuropsychological evidence that shows there is no such thing. This mistake-this illusory sense of self-is the primary cause of our mental suffering. What's more, I contend that it blocks access to the eternal, expansive thread of universal consciousness that is always available to us.

To be clear, mental suffering is different from physical pain. Pain occurs in the body and is a physical reaction - like when you stub your toe or break an arm. The suffering I speak of occurs in the mind only and describes things such as worry, anger, anxiety, regret, jealousy, shame, and a host of other negative mental states.

I know it's a big claim to say that all of these kinds of suffering are the result of a fictitious sense of self. For now, the essence of this idea is captured brilliantly by Taoist philosopher and author Wei Wu Wei when he writes, "Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 percent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself-and there isn't one."

The Structure of This Book

We will start by looking at the brain, its left and right side, and its effects on human cognition and behavior.3 There are certainly other ways to organize and divide the brain that are important to the process of cognition, such as the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex mentioned in the preface, but it is my aim to make this topic understandable and enjoyable for everyone. For simplicity's sake, we will mostly talk about the left and right sides of the brain and how they affect our thoughts and behaviors.

First, I will explain the idea that the left brain is an interpreter or story-maker. Pattern recognition, language, mapmaking, and categorization are all located in the left brain, and the evidence suggests that it is exactly these types of functions that collectively lead to the sensation of a self and the strong belief in its absolute truth. We will explore how the unique functions of the left brain give rise not only to the sense of self but also account for why it is so difficult to see beyond this illusion and why this sensation creates so much suffering in the human condition.

Once we understand how the left brain operates, we will take a closer look at the  right  brain and how  it works, which includes things such as finding meaning, our ability to see and understand big-picture ideas, expressing creativity, experiencing emotions, and spatial processing. These are all functions that rely on the right brain. After we have examined both sides of the brain and the processes associated with each, I will speculate on what this information may mean for consciousness and how it could also point beyond the ego illusion and toward the mystery of who we really are.

At the end of each chapter, you will find a section called Explorations. These are exercises or simple thought experiments that provide a chance for a deeper, more hands-on understanding of the concepts dis­ cussed. Through these Explorations, I hope you will be able to access the central ideas of this book in novel and exciting ways that go beyond merely thinking about them.

What we discuss here will show that specific studies in neuroscience and psychology strongly suggest what Eastern philosophies have been saying for millennia: namely that this idea of "me" or the "self'' that most of us take for granted doesn't exist in the way that we think it does. This may be a new idea for you, and before we begin, I want to make clear that I am not simply trying to convince you that your ego is an illusion by heaping mountains of research on you. Rather, I want to guide you to new experiences and open pathways to using different parts of the brain so that you can determine for yourself whether all this is true or not. Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created it. In this way, the sense of self created by the left brain cannot be unveiled by hammering away at it with even more thinking from the left brain. My wish is to guide your consciousness to a different way of looking at your experiences and, in so doing, allow you to go beyond the thoughts of the left brain. I believe this can greatly reduce your mental suffering, as it has mine.

As the ancient Zen axiom states, "No self, no problem."



No Self, No Problem shows how findings in neuropsychology suggest that our sense of self is actually an illusion created by the left side of the brain and that it exists in the same way a mirage in the middle of the desert exists: as a thought rather than a thing.


Intrigued? This title will be released on September 10th and will be available from all major retailers!