Sanctuary Violations

My wife and I live in a Tudor-style house that was built in 1927. My home office sits on the second floor of the house. It’s a cozy nook lined with cherrywood book cases. In one corner sits a cushy leather wingback chair facing a fireplace, a perfect place to read in the fall and winter. At the other end of the room is a cherrywood roll-top desk, where I do the majority of my writing. In the room’s center, that’s where I meditate. This room is my sanctuary, one of the places on Earth I feel safest and most grounded.

One thing about 1927 is that they didn’t have the electrical appliances that we do today. Like most of the houses built in that era, my house had a good deal of the old, two-pronged electrical sockets. My wife and I always knew that someday we’d get around to replacing them, but eighteen years slipped by without us making it happen. That is until last fall, when I was poking around the attic while wiring the place for Ethernet, and actually saw the old wiring with its crumbling cloth coverings. Okay, I thought, it’s time.

For anyone who has ever looked into doing this, you’ll know it can be hugely expensive. I felt a little better about it, since we’d been told by the home inspector who looked at our house when we bought it that only the upstairs needed the wiring update. Of course, this meant that electricians would be invading my prized upstairs sanctuary, but only for a week. What could go wrong?

I spent the weekend before the electricians arrived moving everything out of the upstairs that might conceivably be in the way. Over everything else, I threw plastic tarps, including meticulously taping them to the floor to protect the carpets. Okay. I was ready.

Having had work done on our house before, I have a little formula that I use to try to harness my expectations of what will be completed when I get home from work.  I imagine what might be reasonable for a given day’s work, then divide that in half. But even I wasn’t prepared to see my walls full of holes and only one overhead light rewired. Good lord, I thought, this is going to take weeks!

 By the end of day three, the upstairs still wasn’t quite done. But there was worse news. Except for some dedicated circuits that we had had installed over the years, the entire house had been tied into the old knob and tube wiring. Ninety-percent of the downstairs would also have to be replaced.image

I crouched there in the plaster dust and bits of ancient insulation in the ruins that had been my sanctuary. In most places the plastic tarps had pulled up from the carpet, littering the exposed corners with grit and attic filth. My sacred place had been violated! Then the dawning realization: This chaos would soon hit the entire downstairs and basement. No place would go untouched.

The next three weeks were akin to camping in my own home. I’d spent the entire year up until now meditating every day, listening to positive visualization, honing my ability to zero in on positive things. Now that was all out the window. Circumstances had infiltrated my sanctuary, my Jedi temple.

I am happy to report that after three weeks the place is fully rewired, the holes patched, the patches painted. Keith of Greener Northwest Carpet cleaned up the floors for me, and I spent the last weekend moving all the furniture back in place. I am back to meditating again, grounded, back  to center, but it does point out a significant flaw in my system. I need to have an alternate Sanctuary on hand as backup or, better yet, many sanctuaries where I might learn to center and focus. I like to believe I’ve learned my lesson now.

One thing still looms to knock me off center again. I am still waiting for the bill.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Vision Journal

Quantum physics theorizes that there are countless parallel universes that exist simultaneous to our own. Perhaps some alternate decision you made in one of those alternative realities led you to becoming a doctor or an attorney, rather than what you are doing now in your current profession. Perhaps in another of those alternate universes, you are a farmer or in the military. Maybe in another of them you are even a road warrior in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max kind of scenario, battling on the deserts of Australia for a few measly drops of petrol.  The possibilities are inexhaustible.

imageOr maybe, in a parallel reality not far from our own, you are a fabulously successful author.

I have a theory about positive affirmations and visualizations, goal setting and vision boards. The typical explanation behind these activities is that they reprogram our thinking, changing our beliefs in such a way that we begin to subconsciously do things to bring about our new, desired reality. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I see it in a slightly different way. I believe visualizing the future we want, now, as if it has already happened, is actually just our way of changing our spiritual frequency, bringing our conscious awareness into harmony with that parallel universe that already exists. In essence, we are redirecting our focus until we zero in on that version of our future selves.

There are all kinds of ways to visualize the reality we want to manifest, but for writers like us, perhaps the most powerful exercise toward manifesting our goals is to keep a vision journal. If you have never done this, it is one of the quickest, most fun ways to align your consciousness with the future reality you wish to experience.

Simply set aside five to ten minutes a day to write in your vision journal (although in reality you’ll end up taking more time, because the exercise is so fun). Put a date at the top of each entry. Including the year is optional. Now recount the experiences you want to have in your future, as if they just happened today. Put yourself in 2016 and explain how long the line was for your book signing and what that felt like. Recount attending the premiere of the movie version of one of your novels and what it was like to meet the actors who played your characters. Or imagine yourself writing in your ideal home in your ideal part of the world and what it was like to have that experience.

Do this daily and you’ll find yourself looking forward to the exercise in ways that will astound you. It will be the most fun you’ll have writing all day.

Two tips: Only write down circumstances you want to experience. Conflict is fine in your stories, but unless you really want to attract it, leave it out of your journal entries.  Also, while you are describing future scenarios, do not recount how you actually got to the point you are in the journal. You pick the experiences you want to have and let The Universe figure out how to get you there.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Paradise Interrupted

I’m on my way home from Hawaii as I write this. I’ve just spent a luxurious week at the Grand Wailea hotel on Maui, a resort that boasts a swimming pool about which I had previously only dreamed. Various swimming pools at different elevations are connected by canals and water slides. It’s amazing, like being at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, but without the boat.

Living in Seattle doesn’t give me much opportunity to swim, so I was in the water as often as I could. I haven’t played in a pool like that since I was a kid.

imageOn day three of the vacation, circumstances intervened. I was splashing down the largest of the water slides, feeling weightless and exhilarated. When I plunged into the swimming pool below, I turned over in such a way that water sloshed in one of my ears, abruptly cutting off all sound from that side. It was like hearing everything through a long and narrow tunnel.

The last time I had water in my ear I was ten years old, but I remembered that if I turned my head and made a suction cup out of my hand, the water would trickle out and all would be well.  I tried this and to my relief, the sound came rushing back, only to be blocked again when I oriented my head back to normal.  I tried several more times, but no luck. I had no choice but to wait for it to self-correct.

About an hour later the same thing happened, but this time in my left ear. Now sound was cut off completely. Everything sounded distant and far away, the way it does in war movies when artillery detonates next to the film’s protagonist.

Again, I tried to coax the water out, with much the same results. The sudden loss of my hearing, even though I knew it would be temporary, was utterly disconcerting. Even more so at dinnertime, when I was still plugged up. The live music drifting over the restaurant balcony sounded like a dissonant murmur. The exotic birdcalls from the nearby trees had been reduced to a cloudy warble.  It’s going to self-correct, my wife insisted. Don’t worry about it. But it didn’t help that she sounded like she was speaking from the bottom of a mineshaft.

When I woke up the next morning, still plugged up, I tried not to freak out. I called the consulting nurse in Seattle, but she gave me the same sort of witch doctor like advice that I’d already received from the Internet, which included the suggestion to direct a hairdryer on low heat level at or near my ear in the hopes that the water within would somehow evaporate.

That morning at breakfast I was disconsolate.  Nothing else about my situation had changed. It was still warm. The sun still shone. There was a plate of tasty food in front of me. A day of fun lay ahead. Yet I couldn’t get past the loss of my hearing, a faculty that I had for all this time took for granted.

By that evening I’d managed to locate eardrops that solved the problem. The vacation resumed, but the trauma lingered.

Intellectually, I’d known everything was going to be okay, yet still I’d let fear blot out all the good things around me. Trying to find some lesson here, I thought about my daily writing sessions, how well things go when I’m in my regular routine, but how quickly things fall apart when life gets out of hand or some major project begins to intrude on every aspect of daily living. My writing sessions always seem to be the first thing that I cut from my agenda.

I realize now that they are all just distractions masking a deeper fear. Maybe in truth there is some as yet unidentified plot problem haunting me that I am unconsciously avoiding. Maybe I am trying to follow some writing advice with which I do not agree and the inner conflict is sending life distractions my way.

The truth is, despite outer circumstances, I can always choose my focus, how I think and react. If nothing else, writing time can be spent journaling, allowing me to explore creatively what fear I am trying to avoid. In the end it’s Butt in Chair time that counts.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Channeling the Muse

If you’ve followed my other blog entries, you know that I’ve been concentrating my efforts on thinking positively and feeling good. Toward that end, I’ve had great success using recorded affirmations for setting my thinking on the right course. I’ve also used my feelings as a kind of weather gauge to make sure that my mental focus is on track. But I’ve recently discovered a very powerful tool for not only staying positive, but a tool that’s helped my writing as well: Meditation.

imageFor many years the idea of meditating seemed utterly boring. Why would anyone waste perfectly good waking time thinking and doing nothing? I’d heard about the benefits of meditation — lower blood pressure, increased immunity, emotional balance — but there was one benefit I didn’t understand until I started to do it regularly: It’s helped me tap into my inner muse, opening up creativity to amazing new levels.

At its core, meditation is about relaxing and focused concentration. The goal is to remain completely present and in the moment.

If you think about the concept of Fear and Worry, they both amount to an individual focusing on a perceived future negative outcome. But when you practice staying mentally focused on the current time and place, that means you’re not thinking about the future, and thus not worrying or thinking negatively.

I’ve meditated off and on in the past, but until doing it consistently every day (five minutes is all that’s required to get the benefits), I missed out on the positive effect that it’s had on my thinking.

Just as cool has been the increase in my writing productivity. Practicing concentration has honed my ability to stay “on task” during my daily writing sessions, reducing the risk of getting distracted. Moreover, quieting my mind has allowed me to more effectively channel the muse. You know those great writing sessions when your writing seems like nothing more than translating some inner voice? Imagine having that all the time!

The steps to meditating couldn’t be simpler. Sit cross-legged on the floor with your back as straight as possible. (I sit in front of my reading chair so I can lean against it, thereby supporting my back.) Keep your knees as level with each other as you can. This will allow for good posture.

Put your hands, palms down, on your knees, keeping your arms loose at your sides. Now relax and close your eyes. Breathe normally.

It helps to choose a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Before you start, set a countdown timer for five minutes. All you need do is sit motionlessly for five minutes, focusing on the four parts of your breath cycle: the inhale, the pause, the exhale, the pause. Shut off all inner dialogue and keep your mind quiet and in the present time and place. Five minutes is all that you need, but I’d recommend increasing it over time to a maximum of twenty minutes. (It quickly becomes addicting!)

Sound boring? Actually, time bends in strange ways when you’re meditating. It will be over before you know it.

The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning. This is because your body is already relaxed and your mind relatively clear. Get out of bed, use the restroom, feed your pet, then go to your meditation spot and focus on your breathing. This works especially well if your daily writing session is in the morning. Meditation helps you stay on task and channel the muse in amazing ways, if you do this consistently over time. Channeling the muse is all about quieting your mind and listening, and that is what meditation is all about.

If this still sounds like torture, you might consider getting a meditation CD. I’d recommend Kelly Howell’s The Secret Universal Mind Meditation II CD. I used this when I started meditating. It has two tracks, one with positive affirmations, the other with mind-soothing music designed to put you into a light meditative state. I found tremendous benefit using this to stay positive and feel good throughout the day. If you decide to use this CD, I found it most effective to focus my full attention on the deep bass note that plays in the background.

Have any of you used meditation to enhance your writing? Please comment below and relate your experiences.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Beyond and Back

I’ve been watching I Survived… Beyond and Back on the Biography Channel, a television program profiling people’s near-death experiences (or NDEs, for short). The show weaves the stories of several people who have reportedly died, experienced a glimpse of something beyond death, and then revived to relate their adventures.

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It doesn’t take long to identify a pattern to the NDEs: Someone experiences physical trauma of some sort, his or her body ceases to function for a time, then that person crosses over into a new, almost invariably euphoric plane of existence that doesn’t require a physical body in which to function. If he or she was hurt or sick, they no longer possess injury or illness. Their new environment is fueled by what they can only describe as Love Energy and the NDEer comes to understand that Love is really all that matters, that the purpose of life on Earth is to let go of fear and to learn to express unconditional love. Often, the NDEer is met by relatives or friends who have died previously, and/or a God-like figure that informs him or her that it is not his or her time, that they have work still left to accomplish and that they must go back. The person shortly finds him or herself back in their physical body, miserable for having departed that wonderful place.

Two things stand out about his oft repeated sequence. The first is that, at the very core, loving and helping others is our true mission in life. It isn’t fortune and fame. It isn’t personal success, however we define it. The heart of all our missions is the same: Simply, to love and love well.

The second is the revelation that the NDEer is often told that he or she has work left to do, or put another way, that he or she has a destiny yet to fulfill. It suggests that life isn’t merely a series of random events but something infused with purpose.

I’ve concluded that we are all given a life quest. It might be to raise a family. It might be to teach people, directly or indirectly. It might to write fantastic things that move people or entertain them. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be to find the magic ring. The quest itself is unimportant. It is only an excuse to meet and interact with people, to learn to let go of fear and to love and love well.

When I think about my own writing life, the successes and failures, I realize how blessed I am. At least I’ve found my quest. How many people in life haven’t recognized what their quest is and, if so, haven’t the ability to pursue it? Even if everything I’ve ever written hasn’t been instantly green lit, at least I know I am following my bliss. I’m doing what I’ve been sent here to do.

More importantly, I realize that my quest is just an excuse to meet people and love well. How many people wouldn’t I have meet if my first novel had immediately been agented, published, and a best seller? How many people wouldn’t I have helped (and how many people wouldn’t have had the chance to help me) if everything that I’d written had been golden?

The magic ring is out there, whatever that ring is for you. Just don’t be distracted by grasping it. It’s the path to finding it that matters.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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