1. Your new book, Awake in the World, includes 108 practices to live a divinely inspired life. Why the number 108?
The number 108 is considered sacred by many wisdom traditions. It’s the number of beads used in a mala (a string of prayer beads similar to rosaries). Hindus, Buddhists, and even Sikhs and some Japanese practices use the malas with 108 beads. The number "one" to me represents Oneness. This is the aim of many spiritual practices—to realize the oneness and interconnectedness of all people and things. The "zero" represents emptiness. To reach an understanding of the Divine, we need to shed many things and become empty of the mental clutter, desires for useless things, and negativity. I like to think of the "8" as a symbol for infinity. By doing spiritual practices we tap into our inner wisdom and realize our infinite nature beyond the body.
2. What was your inspiration in implementing these practices in your life? How did you discover them?
Pain, chaos, and suffering all pushed me to start doing spiritual practices. I lost my job, my husband moved out, and I fell ill. The rug of my comfortable existence was pulled out from under my feet and I fell flat on my face. The only way out was to begin to go deeper than the material existence and strive for something that had more meaning. The practices came to me synchronistically. I began meditating and recalling dreams. Tibetan Buddhist Lama Sogyal Rinpoche gave instruction nearby and I went to study with him. I also learned of Edgar Cayce and his emphasis on dreams for guidance. Later I traveled to India and spent time in an ashram. I’ve used all of the practices in one form or another, including walking labyrinths, blessing pets, discovering secret gardens, and more.
At age fifteen I had an ulcer. The doctor prescribed tranquilizers (this was pre-ulcer medication days) and I could not study or think clearly. I decided that since my mind had caused the ulcer, I could use my mind to cure it. I started meditating every night. By the next x-ray a month or so later, the ulcer was gone. I lost touch with the practices for a while and pursued career and status, but it all returned in the right time.
3. You use the term "divine" in Awake in the World; how do you define "divine?" Do you associate it with a deity or particular religion?
The "Divine" is in everything and everyone—only we don’t realize it. It’s that spark of light, life, and energy that permeates absolutely everything. For many people across different cultures, it’s easier to see the Divine in a particular form, like Mother Mary, Shiva, Buddha or Gaia. Forms are many, but God—that essence that permeates it—is One and indivisible. I agree with Mahatma Gandhi’s view that there are as many religions and interpretations of the Divine as there are individuals on the earth.
4. Awake in the World contains 108 things we can do to live a more spiritual and fulfilled life. Is there any preparation needed, or can readers jump right in?
All that is required for doing these practices is desire and energy. Jump right in and open the book to find out which one will draw you. These practices have been drawn from many wisdom traditions and adapted for everyday life. The best thing about many of them is that you can do them while at the supermarket, in the office, or preparing a meal.
5. What advice do you give to those of us who are looking to find fulfillment in our lives?
I find that we spend too much time trying to find the answers outside in the world around us. We have the answers right here in our own hearts. Spiritual practices like one-minute meditation, dream work, and walking labyrinths can lead us to listen to that inner voice. When we listen to it and put it to work, amazing changes take place and we grow. We all have so much power and we all have our unique gems to contribute to the world. Don’t listen to what media tells you and don’t let it play on your fears and insecurities. Follow your heart and walk to your inner drummer. Combine your dreams with a sincere desire to serve humanity. This is the best way to find meaning and satisfaction.