How did you come to write Living a Life of Gratitude?
I’ve always been interested in writing in this format—a collection of short stories that weave a single message throughout. This book, suggested by my publisher, was the perfect opportunity to work with prose. And of course the topic is one close to my heart.
Have you always had an "attitude of gratitude"?
At the risk of sounding Pollyanna, I would definitely say yes. Being optimistic and grateful seems to be part of my personality. I certainly have my share of emotional flux, but to me, life is such a miracle, and so interesting that I am quite grateful to be here.
This book is filled with 88 stories. What are your favorites?
I love all the stories for different reasons, but I especially love “The Karma of Pie,” which tells the story of pie making skills passed down from great grandmother to great granddaughter. I also really like “The Red Thread” which talks about an ancient Chinese idea of how we are all connected by an invisible red thread.
This book is personally very revealing. Can you tell us how that felt to open your life that way?
When I was writing it, I didn’t think too much about how revealing it was. But now that the book is out, I realize that I did open up a great deal. I think this is okay—the more we share our thoughts and feelings with each other, the more we realize that we are the same, and we are One.
In the book, you talk about your mother's illness and near death. Was it hard to write that?
I wrote the book during my mother’s illness, and it was an extremely hard time. It’s hard to see a parent so ill, and in so much pain. It was very hard to write, and yet I knew it had to be included. So many of us have had these experiences with people we love.
In the book, you talk about your father visiting you beyond the veil. What was that like?
My father passed away almost 14 years ago, and he continues to visit me in spirit form. I was happy to include his “additions” to the book! I believe that our departed loved ones are always near, and I was happy to share my experience so that others can know this is not unusual—it is common.
You're a spiritual teacher and intuitive. How did that inform the book?
I look at things from spiritual perspective, or what I sometimes call soul perspective. Intuition is really just the foregone conclusion of spiritual perspective—if you have spiritual practices for long enough, you become intuitive, and vice versa. When we see things this way, we look at life’s events—even the hard and difficult things—from the soul path. It changes the entire landscape from petty concerns and mundane worries, to understanding we are all infinite beings—Divine beings in human form.
In the book, you discovered you had cancer. What was that journey?
I found out I had melanoma right as I was doing the final draft of the book, and I had two surgeries as I completed my revisions. Cancer was a profound spiritual journey from me, taking me to new understandings that I hadn’t know possible. I’m glad to have been able to include at least part of that journey in this book.
In the book, you talk about finding true love. Has that happened for you?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve been blessed to connect with some very lovely people in my life, and my current husband is a soul mate. With true love, there’s this sense of coming home and of being able to move forward karmically to a new level with the partner. It’s a great adventure to go through life with another person like this.
What are the main blocks to gratitude that you find affect most people?
In modern society, it’s all about being too busy, and too distracted, and filling our time and minds with things that don’t matter at all. Slowing down and really, really noticing is the first step to lifting this block.
How can we become more grateful in our lives?
Slowing down, doing nothing, hanging out, relaxing. All of these are ways of being we’re taught to avoid in our life. And yet this the way to start noticing what’s really happening. We need to give our hearts the time and space to open.
How does living in gratitude change our lives?
It sort of creeps up on us. We start to open a little, then more, then more, like a flower unfolding into the sun. And then suddenly we notice that the more grateful we are, the more beautiful our life is. The path of gratitude leads to more things to be grateful for.
There are questions at the end of each story. How should readers use them?
I wanted people to have time to think about each story not as my story, but how it relates universally, to each of our lives. The questions pull you into your own reality, and help you reflect on your own experience. They can be used in writing or in meditation.
Do you only teach gratitude, or other spiritual concepts?
I teach what I like to call direct connection to the Divine, which means anyone can have a direct, two-way back and forth conversation with the Universe/God/One/All/whatever name you like to use. This shows up in concepts of intuition, spiritual awakening, life’s purpose, life’s path, compassion, connection, love, and authenticity as well as gratitude.
If there was one message to this book, what would it be?
When we really look at our lives, it is impossible not to become overwhelmed with joy, thanks and appreciation. Our lives are miracles.
You live in nature. How does that inform your work?
Nature teaches with slow miracles. You have to slow down to see them. The passage of a tree through the seasons is something that I am intimately aware of where I live; the way the wind blows, or the air feels. I live in this, and so am able to notice it carefully, all the time.
You have four children. How does being a parent inform this work?
Well, for one thing, anyone who is a parent understands the joy and heartbreak and miracle of having kids. But being a parent also teaches selflessness in very fast way—you don’t get to skip that step. And that helps us step out of ourselves, and learn to care for each other. You don’t to be a parent to learn that lesson… it’s just one way many get there.
You had a near death experience in 2000, and you call your cancer journey another near death experience. How does that shift your perspective?
The moment you really understand that you’re mortal—the minute or second you really, really get that—your whole attitude changes. You just want more life. It doesn’t have to be excitement or adventure. Just the simple, every day things in life are overwhelmingly wonderful.
Do you think gratitude is something we can learn?
Yes. It is a practice, like playing the piano or learning to dance or learning to pray. The more we do it, the better we get. When you get really good, gratitude becomes a constant and continuous prayer in your life. It’s there all the time.
What spiritual practices are the best for learning to live in gratitude?
I think whatever spiritual practices a person finds easy to use, are the best. Some people like prayer, some like nature, some like service. I myself like to connect with the Divine in meditation and using spiritual intuition techniques, which is something I teach. I also like to just BE; to relax, slow down, pay attention and just notice. Everything is revealed when we simply notice.