April 19, 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

Today is my beautiful mother’s birthday, so I decided she should have her own post! That’s the wonderful thing about running your own website…you do what you want ;)

And really my incredible mother deserves more than just a day of celebration, but we have to start somewhere, right? ;)

To say that I love my mother…or that I’m so very proud of her…would be an understatement. As I’ve read my latest book over and over (during the editing process), I’ve come to realize the strong theme of motherhood that flows throughout (don’t worry, Dad…there’s a bit of fatherhood too! Haha). Each of the major characters are profoundly impacted by their mothers…or their experience (or inexperience) of motherhood. Such a thing could only be created from my own experiences.

Watching my mother having a profoundly positive impact on the lives of others was hugely inspirational. I also think that fun times doing things like dancing and singing around the house with our parents was wonderful for me and my sisters. We were encouraged to do our best and help others. These are seemingly simple lessons, but I see it manifested clearly in my sisters to this day.

I know that everyone was not as lucky as we were, and that is unfortunate. But I also believe that we, as spirits, pick our mothers. Our experience with them is meant to prepare us for transcendence. They give us experiences that help us unlock what we need to get free. I guess, in this life, I picked the easy round ;) Thanks Momma! ;) I love you!

Xoxo!

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Photo source: Me and my beautiful madre…fun time spent parasailing…all smiles without a care in the world! Except for the freezing cold waters of the Pacific Ocean! Lol

 

no mud, no lotus
April 18, 2018

SLOW DOWN

I’ll start with a disclaimer…most of what I write, I write for myself haha! I’m terrible about slowing down.

I always want to get things done quickly…and I also want things done perfectly. It’s contradictory, I know…but it’s my real life haha

When I look back on situations I rushed through, I realize that I could have slowed down. For instance, when I first moved to the island, I was crazy about getting all of my furniture designed and made right away. I could have relaxed and taken it slower…it wouldn’t have changed much about the result. But when I think back to the situation, I know that I couldn’t have been made to understand that. As a result of my rush, lack of language skills (I knew very little Creole back then), and the resulting miscommunication, some mistakes were made. They were minor…but one of my headboards was made to the wrong height specification (not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things), and 80% of the furniture was not coated with a sealant (I fixed it later by paying carpenter to come out and paint everything…it all dried on my balcony).

And now, as I work on my book, I get consumed with finishing edits as quickly as possible. So, I continue working late at night, when my attention is not at 100%. I know for a fact that I’ve made mistakes while fixing other mistakes. And even though I know I should slow down, it’s just not in my nature.

But, sometimes I should. When we slow down, we have a chance to look at things objectively. Instead of responding with our gut reaction, we give ourselves more time to consider the situation from different angles and make decisions that are based more on logic. We can consider other inputs and calmly reflect on things.

Even though it sometimes seems that something has to be done right away, I don’t believe that is always true. We pressure ourselves into thinking something must be done immediately or we’ll miss an opportunity. But, sometimes, the truth is that perhaps the timing didn’t work out because there was an opportunity better suited for us that we were meant to have.

There are no right answers, but I feel inspired to share the message to take things slow and know that you will get to the place you were meant to go…at the exactly the time you were meant to get there. All is well.

Namaste.

love,

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Photo source:  Out of the mud  by dannety

seven lives manuscript
April 14, 2018

FEELING OVERWHELMED

I feel like every stage of writing my latest book has been overwhelming. I’m even taking a break to write this post because I feel overwhelmed haha I don’t know that what I’m about to write will help with the feeling, but I hope to look back on this post one day and laugh about it all haha!

It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was deep into the process of writing Seven Lives. I remember, vividly, the sleepless nights…and the endless ideas. I recall running out of notebook and ink in my pens as I tried to capture every thought. There were even some nights when I ran out of steam and used a voice recorder app (usually around 3am) to capture future ideas that I didn’t want to forget. Ah…those were the days! haha

I repeated this pattern and wrote furiously here in Cabo Verde…then in Lisbon…New Jersey…New York…before finally finishing in LA, around four months after I began. I remember a brief moment of shock before I celebrated this news with my friend Linda. I remember treating myself to a massage the next day because my body desperately needed it. My Vietnamese Mama Lien infused me with great energy during that massage…and that helped as I had to face the reality of the 27 notebooks I’d created.

The next part of the mission was to type the notebooks. I started the process in LA, while I was designing/publishing my second book! I laugh as I think of how crazy I was to tackle both of these projects at once haha! Somehow, my amazing design, Dillon, helped me to get my second book,unbreakable, done in a month’s time. But I still had many notebooks to type up.

By this point, I remember that the notebooks completely filled up my carry-on luggage. I was so nervous about losing them…and they were so heavy! I decided that I wanted to finish up all of my typing while I was in Austin. That way I could leave the notebooks behind and not worry about my carry-on luggage being too heavy for international travel back to Africa. I spent so many days and nights typing. I’d usually stay up until 3am typing so I’d have time during the days to spend with family and friends. I remember my hands and body being so sore from all of the typing.  My Mom was so sweet to celebrate every time I finished typing a notebook, but I didn’t feel successful until I finished all of them. And somehow I did. My gift to myself was a manicure/pedicure treatment, with all of the extras…plus a ninety minute massage. It helped tremendously. My parents supplied the celebratory vegan ice cream which was also amazing.

Then I remember having the typed file…my book in digital form! Except it didn’t look much like a book. There were large blocks of text…without chapters or paragraphs. Somehow, I had to turn all of that into a book. But after time in Austin, I had some great days with my sister and then I took a month off from all book related work. I got back to Africa and slept for weeks.

Around October, I started up again. I measured the progress of my edit and tried to keep myself encouraged. The first edit took ages. (And with the benefit of hindsight, I should have started with reading the Chicago Manual of Style before I went through the editing process haha More on that later.) Finishing the first edit felt great, but I knew immediately that a second review would be necessary.

The second review turned into a third…and then forth review. I was reaching complete burnout. I’d accomplished my goal of “completing” my book within a year of starting, but it still didn’t feel finished. I realized I’d need outside assistance and hired an editor to do a review and help with putting together documents to get an agent. At the same time, I was able to get my manuscript printed (pictured) and bound on the island. I decided that I should do the fifth review using a paper version. It was probably one of my best decisions, and I managed to read the entire manuscript, and make edits, within two weeks…a new record!

But then I discovered that my formatting was all wrong (I’d added a space between paragraphs instead of indenting…plus I had some dashes and quotations to fix, in accordance with the style guidelines). I told myself that I could fix these things while making other editing changes, and so I continued.

Now, I’m about halfway done…and feeling bleak haha A 1,200 page manuscript is a monster of a document, and I think I’m challenged by the reality that none of these stages of the process can be done overnight. It all feels overwhelming and I’ve asked myself–more than once–what I’m doing. Why am I doing this?! But this project begs to be completed. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put forth my full effort to get it done right. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel overwhelmed.

The work is tedious…and often mind-numbingly boring. But I know that if I don’t do it, no one else will. And I know that if I hired someone else to do it, it wouldn’t feel like my project. I think books are like babies for authors…we want to raise it ourselves. Since I’m looking at going the traditional publishing route, I know that I have to prepare myself for feedback and suggestions that might require major edits…and I admit that I can’t wrap my mind around that haha But that’s something for another day.

For now, I have a stack of pages with changes that need to be translated to the digital version. All I know is that I just want to get through that. Hopefully, I’ll be wise enough to celebrate that milestone too :)

So now that I’ve unloaded that burden onto you (haha!), I think the message is that there are times when we feel completely overwhelmed by something we’re going through. But if we look more closely at that thing, we’ll recognize the pattern–it likely resembles something we’ve (successfully) gotten through before.

More than anything, I think these moments test our will–how bad do you want it? Often the thing that we think we’re working on is really just a metaphor for something else. For me, it always seems to be freedom. But happiness, peace, independence are all just as noble. Achieving whatever that is requires perseverance that has associated costs. Letting go of things and people (and places)…pushing through fatigue…and being uncomfortable are all possible side effects. We grow during the journey…and, if we are wise, we are able to recognize successes and take some moments to celebrate ;) If we don’t do that, life can feel like an endless struggle..and no achievement will ever feel like enough. And in the words of the wise Taoist master Lao-tzu: “Only those who know when enough is enough will ever have enough.”

I wish you peace during challenging times; the fortitude to push through when needed; and the wisdom to rest when you must. Knowing that everything is happening for our highest good, may we embrace our path and help to uplift others on the way ;)

Namaste.

<3,

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writer's life
April 9, 2018

ABOUT WRITING AND ART

I fell into writing. I never thought that I would be a writer full time! My college degrees are in Engineering and Business, and I figured that I’d find some way to parlay that into a long career in Business, Law, or something else that would allow me to take over the world…you know, the traditional way.

But my path changed, and I just flowed with it. And now I find myself spending hours, days, weeks, months…and now over a year, working on my latest book. I’ve read it so many times that I get mad when I find a mistake. But then I’m happy that I caught it before it was published. (I was like that with my first two books, too! Occupational hazard haha) I can’t imagine my book being in the world with a mistake! So, yes, I’m a perfectionist…but more than that, I think that errors distract from substance. They take the focus away from what you’re really trying to say. So I forge on like a crazy person.

But back to me somehow becoming a writer. I was telling my parents yesterday that the last English class I took was AP English…as a senior in high school! I still remember bits of Ms. Racine’s class. And somehow I still remember the poem I memorized and recited in front of the class! The poem was called The Most Vital Thing in Life by Granville…I can’t remember the full name, actually. Here’s what I remember:

When you feel like saying something

That you know you will regret

Or keenly feel an insult

Not quite easy to forget

That’s the time to curb resentment

And maintain your mental peace,

For when your mind is tranquil,

All your ill thoughts

Simply cease.

It is easy to be angry

When defrauded or defied,

To be peeved and disappointed

When your wishes are denied.

But to when a worthwhile battle

Over selfishness and spite,

You must learn to keep strict silence

Though you know you’re in the right.

So keep your mental balance

When confronted by a foe,

Be it enemy in ambush

Or some danger that you know.

If you are poised and tranquil

When all around is strife,

Be assured that you have mastered

The Most Vital Thing In Life.

I still love that poem! Though I’m not sure that I remembered it exactly right (it’s been almost 20 years!), I still feel lucky to have picked that poem out of the huge volume of poems that we had to choose from. (Or maybe it picked me!) It still feels relevant. [I looked it up…it’s by Grenville Kleiser. The link to the poem is here, though for some reason it’s repeated twice! I wasn’t too far off ;) ]

Art is like that. It has this ability to get into the vibers of your being and take you over. It can inspire you to reach new heights…or help you to break free from your lowest lows. If someone else did it, we subconsciously reason, we can do it to! We are comforted and somehow we feel understood through our shared experience. (Like hearing a song that expresses your exact mood! Or reading a story that literally reads your life!) Art is how we come to know ourselves, and it connects us all because it reflects the human experience. We gravitate to art that feels like a reflection of ourselves…even if it’s just in a particular moment.

I love visual art…I love music…I love photography…I love film…but somehow writing chose me. I, recently, decided to choose it back. I’ve only been doing the writing thing for a few years. I write about things I know and I write about things that I’m trying to understand. I write about my own experiences and I write about things I’ve never experienced. I don’t know why…it just happens.

Like any artist, I do believe that there are many writers who are more skilled and capable than me. But art doesn’t care about that. Your art may be meant for an audience that you would have never considered. It may even be an audience that you never knew existed. It could only be meant for one person. Your art could change the life of one person. Think of that! Even if it is only one person, that is huge and terrifying and beautiful notion. But even that doesn’t matter! You can’t worry about who that one person is as you create, because your work must remain authentic. And also because you never know…maybe that one person is you. ;)

So create without hesitation! Create without fear! And create even when you don’t think you’re ready. Because you are ready. You wouldn’t have been given the inspiration if you weren’t meant to act on it ;) That is how you know.

With love,

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Photo source: Writer’s workplace by Dina

ponta do sol
March 13, 2018

COMPLETION

The journey to complete my third book, Seven Lives, has been both thrilling and exhausting! I set a personal goal for myself, sometime in January, that I wanted to finish the manuscript within a year of starting. Here’s a bit about how that went ;)

Outwardly, this goal seemed achievable. I started the book on March 6, 2017 and I finished it in July of 2017 (4 months of writing in Cape Verde, Lisbon, NYC, and LA!). However, since I wrote the book by hand, it took me another two months (in LA and Austin!) to type it. Still, by the end of September, I had the basis of the book.

Then, I spent October – December creating paragraphs and chapters…and completing the first edit. It was a lot more work than I expected! After traveling for half of 2017 and working on the book nonstop, by the time the holidays hit I was exhausted! Still, I was determined. After a few days rest here and there, I forged ahead.

My first edit showed me that I’d need another. And then another. I would go on to spend January – March completing three more edits of the 1,200 page (3 book!) manuscript. As I creeped closer to March 6th, I didn’t sleep much. I began to feel crazy for making such a firm goal, but I didn’t stop. I wanted to enter the #PitMad event with a manuscript that I felt was polished. Eventually, I met both goals. And I’ve tried to remember to celebrate that a bit when I’m not resting ;)

One thing I’ve learned about writing a novel is that it always feels like there’s more that can be tweaked or improved. On March 5th, the day I ‘finished’, I still felt like I could benefit from another review. Indeed, every time I read part of my book, I seem to find a word or phrase that I could change. It feels a bit like an endless loop. But I knew that I had to stop. I had to admit to myself that I’d taken my book as far as I could take it…and that I could benefit from professional expertise to get it the rest of the way.

For this reason, and others, I’ve decided to seek out a literary agent to partner with to bring Seven Lives into the world through a large publishing house! Though I have enjoyed the autonomy of publishing my first two books exactly as I’ve wanted them, I’ve been spreading myself too thin. My joy is in the creative process and in the discussions I have with audiences once the book is in the world. I’ve come to realize that I’m simply not left with enough energy to properly manage the marketing and sales of the titles, too.

Still, I am fortunate to have learned from the process of doing it all with a beautiful hardcover coffee table book (Meditative Questionsand a print on demand paperback (unbreakable). I’m more familiar with the industry now and I’ve had the beautiful experience of seeing my book in the hands of others!

As I embark on the journey of finding an agent, I again have the feeling that maybe this is a never-ending process! I’ve now traded in manuscript edits for query letters, pitches, and synopses…but I keep reminding myself that this is all forward motion. And I tell you truly that I wouldn’t be able to focus on these elements if I had not decided within myself that my last edit was great enough to move forward with. I don’t say perfect…I say great…because I do believe that perfection can be the enemy of greatness.

And so I say to you that no matter what you’re working on, I hope that you give yourself permission to believe — at some point — that what you are working on is great, even if you don’t feel it is perfect.  The world needs your art! And for the world to experience it, you must — at some point — believe that it is complete. Sometimes just acknowledging to yourself that it is complete will help you move forward to the next steps of getting support, where you might need it, to get you the rest of the way there. I send you love and light as you work your magic! ;)

Namaste.

 

Photo source: My mobile phone ;) From a beautiful day here in Ponta do Sol, Cape Verde

March 7, 2018

THE INVITATION

Why are people reluctant to devote an hour to a spiritual video of exploration? Perhaps it is because not everyone is ready to wake up to themselves…or they have not met a teacher that speaks in a language that they understand.

One of the things that I love about Mooji is that his messages are so accessible! And I find that this video is particularly special because he takes care to discuss his teaching in the most simplistic language possible.

His call is simply an invitation. As always, it is your choice to accept it. But secretly, I hope you do ;)

love,

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selena sage cv
February 4, 2018

NOW IS THE BEST TIME

Yesterday, my place was being repainted so I decided to go on a road trip around part of my island. It had been a while since I’d done this and I was overdue for this time deep in nature. The views were stunning and I was happy to be away from the paint smell (and chaos haha).

After I returned home, I cleaned up a bit and walked outside to throw away garbage (in the dumpster). As I did this, I saw the sweeping ocean and mountain views that make up my neighborhood and I was reminded again of my great fortune. I also had this thought that one day I was going to look back on my time on this island and think those were the best times.

So often I think we get caught up in the destination. We think: When I get there, everything will be okay. But the reality is that there is never any there…there is only here, and there is only now. And “the now” manifests in different and unexpected ways as we move forward.

Even in the midst of difficulty, I think we have to find a way to recognize that now is the best time. We must find gratitude for something until we experience gratitude for everything. Even the difficulties are meant to assist in your transformation and return to Source.

As you pause throughout the day, develop the habit of simply saying thank you…to yourself and to the Universe for everything. Recently, I’ve found myself saying thank you three times before bed and three times in the morning and it’s a beautiful feeling.

There is so much to be thankful for. As gratitude fills you, I think you’ll find that your worries will diminish. As always, I wish you peace and love…and I’m sending you love and light! <3

Namaste.

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Photo source: My unofficial pick for “About the Author” photo for book 3 ;) Taken here in Cabo Verde, on my beautiful island…Santo Antao :)

zanzibar-children-playing
February 1, 2018

ALL THE WORLD IS A GAME

I am so privileged to live on a remote island in a situation where I have no real problems. And if there are “problems”…they are self created. Like maybe I didn’t eat enough…or I should have done laundry…or I have a headache from spending too much time editing my book. I have a poverty of desires, which Seneca once called the greatest wealth. I think he’s right and I feel tremendously fortunate.

Since I spend most of my time alone, I have a great deal of time to think, reflect, and meditate on life in an uncomplicated way. I have a lot of time and freedom here, so it naturally happens. While I was just making cabbage (one of my main staples, besides chocolate — which I’m convinced is because of the calcium benefits and vitamins haha), I reflected on a concept that I think really reflects my third book (Seven Lives):

All the world is a game and the object is to break free.

In an true game, there must be obstacles to success. The game is usually fun because there is a potential for a tragic loss or an epic win. We’re taught from a young age that winning is the goal. Loss is seen as devastating, and hearts are broken when the envisioned goal is not achieved. Die hard sports fans rise and fall emotionally with their teams. But someone without an attachment to a game or team can look upon that same match with disinterest. That person may merely view it as a contest with ups and downs that eventually comes to an end. Out of the die-hard sports fan and the disinterested party, who is more free?

It is an interesting concept to consider…and in many ways, I think it parallels life. If we become attached to our personhood, our emotions will naturally rise and fall with every up or down. Everything feels real.

To an observer, the world is constantly rising and falling and they have a feeling that it will continue to be that way. If they see it all as nothing, perhaps that might cause them to seek the source of everything. Or maybe they just don’t care…haha But I have the feeling that the person who is uninterested in sports is interested in something else. And that is usually the window.

The window could take the form of a win…but I think it usually presents as (what we consider) a loss. The lose drives us to understand. It could be death that drives us to understand what really happens after death. Or it could be the loss of a job that causes you to reflect on what you love and what’s really important. Or it could be the loss of a relationship that prompts you to heal yourself.

If we can see loss as opportunity, we can progress in our evolution. Sometimes losing is the very thing we need to kick start ourselves to make a strong comeback. We become motivated to beat the team that blew us out before. Or we become motivated to find what’s really real so that we don’t feel that pain or those setbacks again.

In this game of life, I think the object is to break free of our own “personhood” and discover true freedom. It is to find that which is constant and unchanging. It is to see that all the world is a game. If we can do that, we can see loss as a way to push us forward. We become motivated not to allow ourselves to get stuck. We know that the world is constantly in turmoil, but what’s real makes it all okay because it is all.

After that feeling of freedom comes, I think it inspires one to help others break free through. I don’t know that I have the exact prescription (haha!), but I’ve been inspired to share my progress. There are levels to the game, but I’ve come to believe that each stage of progression requires letting go. And that letting go could include people, things, or ideas.

I believe that if we can challenge ourselves to see the bigger picture, it gets revealed because we are simultaneously the player and the creator of this game. We are it, and, deep down, we want to beat our own game. We want to be found. And that is the game. Thankfully, great sages and masters have come before us to show us that the game is winnable ;) Let’s not give up!

Namaste.

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Photo source: Joy of Life (Zanzibar) by Gabriela Iacobuta

sintra
January 16, 2018

YOU ARE THE SAGE

When I was in Lisbon with Mooji, I remember wandering into the bookstore during one of the Satsang breaks. There was a display with a collection of Mooji’s books and I casually opened a few to get a feel for the content. I opened one of the books and read one of the most powerful statements I have ever seen:

You are the Sage that you have been waiting for.

After seeing that, I didn’t feel like I had to read anymore of that book. I felt like that was what I was supposed to see.

This morning, I was thinking about some of my past speaking events. I have been so lucky to have an amazing group of people at every event I’ve had! The energy vibration has been high and I’ve found the resulting discussions to be rich.

Perhaps I get this trait from my grandmother — a prolific public speaker — but I never prepare remarks beforehand. I usually have a general idea of a topic to start with, but I let the energy take me where it wants to go.

It has been my experience that I never quite know if I’m connecting with the audience haha But I keep going anyway! And I have the feeling that something I say — even if it’s one thing — will connect with someone in the audience and possibly inspire them.

But really, I believe Mooji. We are the Sage that we have been waiting for and we have the key to unlock any answer that we need. However, when we feel overwhelmed or confused, we feel like we need help. But in reality, we know what the next right move is. We’ve just gotten accustomed to ignoring that small voice that comes to us in silence.

The beauty of meditation…of taking a moment to bring ourselves back into the present…is that it helps us silence the other noise so we can hear the voice telling us what we need to do next — our inner Sage.

I pray that you will have the patience to listen for this voice and the courage to follow it. The answers you are seeking are within.

Namaste.

Bonus content: In this very moment, you can access that voice. Here are 5 simple steps:

1. Close your eyes

2. Breathe deeply in through your nose

3. Hold your breath for as long as you can

4.Exhale rapidly when you can’t hold your breath any longer

5. Repeat 3-5 times

This process will stop your spiral of stressful thinking and bring you silence. In those silent moments, listen ;)

Photo source: Sintra, Portugal (my mobile phone)

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