Thursday, 30 January 2014

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Dance!

Every few years I like to go back and look at some of my oldest posts, to see how far this journey has taken me. This week, Hubby reminded me of my very first blog post, written back in April 2007. Even now, seven years later, it's still one of my most favourite blog posts. It still holds all the truths of who I am as well as the journeys I've taken over the years, both personally and with my book writing. I've pasted the post here, but added pictures to it, for this Thoughtful Thursday.




Last year I watched a TV documentary series called "Extraordinary People". The episode I enjoyed the most followed the life of a blind brain-damaged young man who is a musical savant. He has the intelligence level of a four year old and yet he plays jazz like a genius. At one stage he was given the chance to listen to an entire orchestra. He then "translated" the entire performance into a piano solo. It was awesome!


He flew from the UK to Las Vegas (with his beanbag toy elephant for company), to do a concert to raise money for disabled kids. There he met a boy with autism, who is also blind and plays classical music, and two other gifted musical kids: a blind girl on a violin and another autistic boy who plays the keyboard. Together they had a jam session that rocked the roof off. They were brilliant. The one psychiatrist studying them said that they are now thinking that music is the "Universal code" that drives us at a deeper level than language or any other sense-related ability. It makes sense to me. I've always loved music.

Three years ago I popped on some soothing music to try to meditate. I've always liked the idea of meditating, but my mind doesn't understand the concept of emptiness. It is a cage full of budgies, all wanting to scream their latest word the loudest. But this one time I actually got it right, one of those rare perfect moments when things just click together. Maybe it was because I didn't try so hard? Maybe it was because I was desperate for an answer that my conscious mind couldn't provide. 

I was desperate for an answer to a crossroad I'd reached in my life regarding my religious/spiritual beliefs. I was born into a family that, counting both my mother and father's sides, span almost every variation of Christianity out there. As a result my parents had a more laid-back attitude to church attendance than many. Being a church-goer was never viewed as the only road to Heaven. I grew up with the unspoken message that all religions lead to God and therefore were of equal value. 

It was only when I went out into the world that I began to realise that not everyone was as open-minded. I was warned I was "in danger of being a Pantheist" by a teacher, when I was in Junior school. I had to go look it up in a dictionary at the time. I had to admit, what I read did sound a lot like me. It was the first time I remember feeling both relief and a vague guilt/unease at who I was. So I was a Pantheist... why was that a dangerous thing?

In high school and college, more devoted Christian friends tried to convert me to their "way". Although they meant well they left me feeling less acceptable and worthy. Sometimes depressing. Sometimes annoying. Why do some people think they know what is best for you better than you do? It's like they see you happily being a square peg in a perfectly geometric world of your own and simply cannot stop themselves from trying to squash you repeatedly into a round hole. Or, worse still, they whip out all these abrasive words in a desperate attempt to file the corners off your square soul. Words that imply you are "wrong", or "bad", for simply being true to yourself. Ultimately there are only two people who know you: yourself and God. Other people have a right to their opinions, but that is all they can ever be - opinions.

That was why I found myself trying to meditate three years ago. To try to find the "me" I had lost along the long journey through so many other people's opinions. As a child, I'd known who I was and been happy. In my twenties, I'd faced confrontation and fought back, the way you do when you are young and rather full of self-righteousness. In my thirties, I'd expanded my friendships to include a wonderful range of equally wonderful people from a variety of different belief systems: Neo-Pagan, Wiccan, Buddhist and Native American Shamanism. My thirties were a time of tremendous personal expansion, but it was also a time where I started to wobble... like a spinning top that has hit the edge too many times.  

By my fortieth birthday it was clear I had wobbled so far off the path that I didn't know how to find my way back. A friend suggested meditation to clear my mind and see the way home. I tried... nothing. Or to be exact, too much! I'd sit there and my mind would gabble and chatter about everyday life until I either fell asleep or got bored and gave up. Then one day, I was pottering around the internet and read a woman asking similar questions. She was a Catholic considering becoming a Neo-Pagan. She was standing at the edge of everything she had been taught to believe was good and evil. She had left a message asking for help, and someone had replied, "Pray for guidance - then listen."

Seemed fairly sensible advice. I decided to try it myself. For once and for all, I needed to know if being ME was okay with whoever/whatever was "Up There." I said a small prayer to that extent and sat down to wait and listen... and for the first time EVER all those manic budgies in my brain finally shut up. 

Silence

  Real silence

  Cellular level peace and quiet



Was this meditating? I closed my eyes and let the silence take over... I found myself standing at the edge of a lake at sunset. Someone was walking across the water towards me. A bearded guy in a long robe.

Jesus?

Hell...  Jesus?


I dismissed the thought as stupid, but as he walked up the shore to me I could see the holes in his hands and feet. I didn't know what to do. So I was honest and I said, "You're the last person I was expecting to see."

He burst out laughing and it was such a joy-filled infectious laughter that we both fell about laughing for a while. Then he took my hands and we walked out onto the water together and we danced. With stars above and stars reflected in the dark water below, we danced. And as we dance he "exploded" into the stars and became the Universe itself...


...and then I found myself back on the shore.

I'm not sure how long I stood there before he appeared, walking back across the water towards me once again. Only this time he was carrying something. A crow. He said, "This is for you," and the crow hopped from his arm to my shoulder.

I opened my eyes and I was back in the same room in my same house.

I have a Native American friend who had sent me an internet link to totem animals a year before. I went and looked up crow. I saved some of the bits I found there. Can't give credit to the author as I lost the links a few years back so apologies for that.

"Human law is not the same as Sacred Law. More so than any other medicine, Crow sees that the physical world and even the spiritual world, as humanity interprets them, are an illusion. There are billions of worlds. There are an infinitude of creatures. Great Spirit is within all."

"Crow is the totem of the Great Spirit and must be respected as such."


The bringer of the Holy Spirit had brought me the symbol of another culture's Great Spirit.

Now, I keep thinking about those supposedly "disabled" kids and how they've tapped into creativity and Creation at a level we can only daydream about. Music and Creation. Music and life itself. Dancing on water and amongst the stars. Ancient peoples used dancing and singing to connect to the Source...

Is faith merely (re)learning how to dance on water?
Was the world created in seven days or seven notes?





I think I really like that idea! Holy and Great, Human and Sacred exploding together in a universe of infinite possibilities. Different music, different steps, but always the same Dance. 

 I have found my way back to the Dance.

I hope you have found yours.

Monday, 27 January 2014

I've Got it Covered

I was chatting to a friend about my book cover and I thought it might be fun to show how I made it, using a lot of different photos. 

Most of the photos I use are from a great place called morguefile. The sky is from Scotland, which is appropriate! I put that in first, changing the colours slightly, since this isn't a sky on Earth. ;-) Then I added in the "beam of light". It's actually made up of three white stripes, one wide and two narrow. I made the wide stripe partially transparent before I fused all three together and then added a white glow around it.

Then I added in the building dome. This has been altered and had the colour changed as well. 


Next was the park. The original photo had no grass, so that was taken from another photo.


I had to lighten it a little, as the printing comes out darker.


The only photo that was paid for, from a professional site, was the two models for the characters on the cover.As you can see, they had no clothes! I had quite a time finding a dress, but the man was easy. I already had a smashing jacket, worn by a facebook friend, Jesse. He's let me use his photos before, for my book video.

I also "removed" the woman's modern make up and had to find hair for the top of the man's head (another photo). The woman's dress I had to change the colour and add shadows. Here it is, half way done...

All in all the couple took five photos to create and the background took another five plus the light beam. A lot of work, but well worth it. I'm very happy with the end result. :-)

Friday, 24 January 2014

Walking on Sunshine

The reviews for Wisdoms of the Light have begun to trickle in. It's always exciting to hear what readers think, even the negative views are worthwhile, since they teach you where you went wrong and/or can improve. Only an egotist (or an idiot) is offended by criticism. Of course, I am meaning honest criticism as opposed to "sour grapes" or spite. That's something quite different. 



I'm putting up my favourite review of the moment. This one means a lot to me, since it comes from a talented young writer who knows her way around words. ;-)

*Whew* well... I officially have a book hangover. You know, when you read a book that's so incredibly good, and you finish it and suddenly your life seems empty, and you don't know what to do and everyone else around you is carrying on as if nothing had happened? Yeah. One of those.

I've been waiting for this sequel for a long time, and I can honestly say I wasn't disappointed. Wisdoms of the Light takes you on this twisty roller coaster ride emotionally and spiritually. Just like in First Light, you follow the lives of the characters so intricately that you feel involved, as if you were there with them, living it and breathing it. Michelle Frost has outdone herself! 

What I like most about this book, which I also loved about the first book, is that it surprises you around every corner. You think you have something all figured out and then you get a few chapters on and suddenly all is not what it seemed. That and the way the characters unexpectedly pull together and connections are formed where you don't see them forming.

In conclusion, from day 1 the book was glued to my hands and I only put it down when I really had to work, or, you know, to get 2 hours sleep. I highly recommend this book (and the first one!) to anyone who really enjoys a thoroughly good, can't-put-this-down read.

Tatiana L


Monday, 20 January 2014

Soul

This amusing and amazing TED talk, by Guy Hoffman, is really worth the effort to watch. Guy is in the process of revolutionising the world of artificial Intelligence, but what he is discovering goes far further than that. If you can't be bothered to watch the video, I've put enough below for you to understand the basics of why Guy's work is so exciting.


Guy wanted robots to be like the ones he loved on the Pixar movie. He wanted them to be creatures with personality and emotion, so he stepped out of his job and went to study animation and acting. 


What he discovered was that body language is a vital part of human interaction and connection. He used this to create robots that did three specific things:
1. They are programmed to be playful, curious and willing to make mistakes.
2. They move in ways that are emotionally expressive. 
3. They are reactive - they watch what the human does and interacts with them.
He built several types of robots, but they all share the same basics listed above. At a simple level these robots are cute; they have charm and personality. At a scientific level, the people working with these robots connect with them emotionally. Guy discovered that the more his robots interacted with people, the more people saw the robots as intelligent and useful. They work and problem solve, they even rap and play improvisational music together.

Guy discovered that humans empathically connect to robots that have "soul". The old style robots, no matter how intelligent, did not seem as intelligent to people as the robots that were empathic and eager to learn. The quirky, programed to make mistakes and try again, robots were seen as far superior and easier to work with. Guy also noticed that it was these playful and curious robots that people began to call He or She as opposed to It.

But what I find just as exciting is what this tells us about ourselves. Guy's experiments have shown that people see "soul" in robots as a sense of playful curiosity, an eagerness to interact, learn through making mistakes and be helpful. As Guy says, "A little less than perfect are just perfect for us."

And what about animals? Science already classifies several animal species as highly intelligent; such as dolphins, crows and dogs. Using these three as an example; they are all well-known for their desire to play, explore, and interact with other species. They share that same spark of empathic playfulness that Guy's test groups described as "soul" in his robots.Guy's robots are nothing like us in shape or size and yet the people working with them connected and began to see them as friends and helpers.

Guy's robot experiments prove that us seeing another as created "in our image" is all about empathic interaction and nothing about species. What does that tell us about our own souls and our own creation? If we are made "in the image of God" than that can only mean that the Creator is playful, curious, eager to learn and interact. Is our eagerness to create merely an echo of how we were created in the image of our own Creator?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Best Stories are the Worst Moments

Have you ever noticed how many really funny stories relate to people's worst possible life moments? I received one of those "moments" in an email today. It was an email about most embarrassing first dates. I enjoyed the laugh and passed the email on. It's one of humanity's greatest gifts; the ability to look back at embarrassing moments, laugh at ourselves, and then use those stories to make others laugh as well.


What really amused me was that, about an hour earlier, I had sent out two emails to friends about my own dumb-funny life moments. Mine related to DIY and trying on clothing in a store. Both places where things can go badly wrong! ;) In my case the events were instantly funny rather than humiliating, but I have had those "I want to die" moments that make great stories years later. I've regularly shared my less-than-perfect life moments on my blog, like for Moments of Mud.

By now you're probably wondering what stories about myself I emailed today. The first one is easy. MY DIY moment relates to my natural clumsiness. Not that I look clumsy. I have learnt to hide it well.  Or, as an old school friend once put it, "You fall a lot, but you do it so gracefully." I wrote about that in Falling with Grace.

Back to DIY. I was varnishing a book case and I managed (how???) to get varnish on the back of my leg and knee. I was sitting on the floor, went to get up... and found out then that the varnish had glued my leg in a bent position. I fell face forward onto the book case.


The second story is more complex. Trying on clothing... you see, I'm both short and curvy. This is not something most fashion stores cater for. So trying on clothing has been a nightmare since I hit puberty. This particular time was over Christmas in the 1980s. I was in a shopping mall and noticed this really sexy party dress in a shop window. It looked a lot like this, except it was dark gold and shorter.

I wanted that dress! So I went in to try it on. The changing room was tiny and the dress was tight with a zip up the back. In other words... it was a bit like trying to wrestle yourself into an anaconda backwards. Sweating, struggling, I never had time to look up into the mirror until it was done. I smoothed the shimmery fabric over my hips... and looked up.



The dress fitted perfectly... from the hips down. Problem was I'm short and the designers clearly aimed their creations for much taller girls. The waistband of the dress was a crushing band around my ribcage. My breasts was flattened to oblivion due to the fact that the wired cups were ABOVE my bust line. The dress top cups were like two little silk and lace balconies, almost under my chin.




I burst out laughing and could not stop. I don't know what the other shoppers thought. I was in tears of laughter and the more I laughed, the more I gasped, and the more those sad little empty "balconies" jiggled about. Getting the dress off was just as hysterical. Not a Worst Moment, but certainly the most I have ever laughed in public.

What's your Best Worst Funniest moment? :-)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Speaking Out

In 2011, I wrote a small poem to promote Blogblast for Peace. I have it on my blog in a post titled Battle Cry.



Peace Warrior
Peace stands up when the rest sit down,
Peace steps forward when the others turn and run.
Peace shines a light in the darkest places,
no matter the danger in what it faces.
Peace is a warrior, do you understand?
Peace is a warrior within your hands.

Michelle Frost 2011

    

I was busy signing a petition this morning, when it struck me... this is what my poem was all about. I am a Peace Warrior. I step forward. I stand up. I keep on trying to shine a light, in the darkest places. 

Will my signature on that petition help? I have no idea. Some petitions bring change, but some don't. But one thing is for certain... if we don't stand up, step forward, sign those petitions, then nothing changes. All we can do is try.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Saints and Martyrs

I thought I'd post one of my poems, for a change. This was first published on the Kenyan Poets Lounge in January 2012.



Saints and Martyrs

“Where were you, when the world ended,
and everything was suspended,
and the angels came?
Did they call your name?”

He held my hand and smiled,
like a child who has seen
the other side of magic.
Nothing tragic in this sharing,
his bearing was that of a man
transformed.

His grip was firm; an old man’s hand,
grained by life and turned on the wheel,
as we turned on the wheel
in spinning snow; his eyes the axis and centre
to a world I could not enter. His eyes
surprised me into surrender and I stood
and looked beyond what was safe to see.
Him and me spinning time
down.

down… the softest feathers, the lightest snow.
down… the spiral sane men fear and madmen know.

Snow, like angel wings, enfolded us
in silence. I held his hand, he held my gaze
and I, amazed at my own composure,
unsure how to leave yet knowing I could not stay,

longing to stay... I walked away.

The sadness in my eyes, so close to tears,
were fears not for his sanity, but mine.
The likes of me condemned to be too grounded
in this well founded world to stay.
I walked away well floundered, I grieved
that meeting; that all too fleeting glimpse of
Paradise in his eyes.

copyright author Michelle Y D Frost Dec 2011

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Visionary Fiction

For this week's Thoughtful Thursday I'm going to explain the new badge in my blog side bar. I have been accepted as a member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance.

My husband found the site while browsing the internet recently, and said, "This place reminds me of your writing." 

I went to take a look and liked what I found. The whole concept is very exciting and fits in perfectly with the reasons I write. The Visionary Fiction Alliance have a book store and a blog, with some excellent inspirational articles and book reviews.
Here's a quote from their home page, about the concept behind visionary fiction:

Visionary is a tone as well as a genre. The ‘visionary’ element can technically be present in any genre and set in any time.

Characteristic Features of Visionary Fiction:


  • Growth of consciousness is the central theme of the story and drives the protagonist, and/or other important characters.
  • The story oftentimes uses reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal events, psychic abilities, and other metaphysical plot devices.
  • The plot [or story] is universal in its worldview and scope.

So in short, the emphasis is on our limitless human potential, where transformation and evolution are entirely possible.
How could I resist that? Their list sums up my books and short stories, even some of my poems.  I've never had a genre that all my writings fitted within before. Now I do - Visionary Fiction. I love it! 

Do check out their list of visionary books, movies and TV shows. I saw a lot of old favourites there, but also found some new recommendations.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Fluffy like Concrete

I'm revisiting an older post for my very first Thoughtful Thursday of 2014. Why? Because it's also my New Year's Resolution - to be fluffy like concrete.

Several years ago an online acquaintance accused me of being "fluffy New Age." In his opinion my spiritual views were vastly inferior to his own. Basically, his religion was darker and less forgiving than my viewpoint. He saw my optimism, my belief in a generous and kind God, as... fluffy.

At the time I was shocked. I had never thought of myself as New Age and I’d never thought of my spiritual beliefs as “fluffy.” I felt very insulted, until I remembered something my husband once told me. My husband once worked on a building site with a Welsh guy who used to work the concrete mixer. He'd admire the concrete and say, in a thick Welsh accent, “Nice and fluffeeee!”

I remember that and it all clicks into place. I think spiritual faith should always be fluffy like concrete – soft, gentle, loving and compassionate, but built on a strong personal foundation. Being gentle is not being weak. Standing in your own personal faith does not have to be done with aggression.
 


 It is possible for the meek to inherit the earth... if your heart is fluffy like concrete.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit for January

Happy first day of January!


January birthstone is Garnet.
Birth flowers are Carnation and Snowdrop.
The zodiac signs for January are Capricorn and Aquarius.

And 
HAPPY NEW YEAR
to everyone!