Interview with Author Sandy Corcoran

It’s truly inspiring to have the opportunity to have Sandy speak about what the essence of writing is for her. Sharing about what has been given to her and how she’s chosen to give back to others is a motivating factor in not only writing, but in how we choose to walk in this world. Thank you, Sandy, it’s an honor!

What was the motivating factor that started you writing?

At the death of my daughter in 1983, my feet were put to an entirely different path. Through the Native American women that stepped into my world, and eventually other indigenous mentors, my world-view  was altered and a new and richer life began with the spiritual understanding that we are all connected and united, in ways great and small, and the only thing that prevents that is making a choice to awaken to our soul’s calling.

 What is your genre and who is your intended audience?

Those interested in renewal, shamanism, mind-body-spirit and those who wish to delve into the incredibly rich landscape that lies within their dreamstate, the world of living energy, the luminal realms and the ability of all human beings to bring it into our physical knowing.

What are you currently writing?

I have recently completed Between the Dark and the Daylight: Awakening to Shamanism

Published in February 2012 through Balboa Press/ a division of Hay House

How do you make time to write?

Some days it comes easily, flowing freely and unannounced epiphanies, whereas other days I had to discipline myself to set aside time. I find, for me, I can write for long periods at a time when the words just tumble forth. I also discovered that when I forced the material, I always changed or discarded it.

What inspires you to write?

Finding the heart centered words to connect with others in the hopes of alleviating some of their pain by witnessing my own; and sharing the joy and rebirth of spirit which always follows those deep and very human struggles that we all have in common.

What would you have done differently in your writing life, if anything at all?

Nothing. What I learned though was not to push my story until both my heart and mind were ready to join together to give it form.

Tell us about your marketing strategy.

Unfortunately I lack both the experience and where-with-all of where to even begin. But my hopes are that someone will come forward and assist me to organize the best methods of spreading the word, while also not wearing myself too thin in the process. There are many other things I wish to continue to do, like my shamanic practice with clients as that is where I feel I am offering the best of what I have been taught and what I have to share.

Does your spiritual life influence your writing? If so, how?

Absolutely, without Spirit nothing exists for me, and nothing would have unfolded in my life the way it has without Spirit’s guidance and direction. For that, I am most grateful, as I know there are others who feel a lack of connection or a lack of direction in finding and trusting that “voice” within themselves.

What’s your literary community burning desire?

My burning desire, in all seriousness…if we are 6 degrees of someone, I want this book to touch those who have lost their way or experienced deep loss, so they can find renewed faith in themselves or their dreams….and maybe, have this book make its way into Oprah Winfrey’s hands. For two reasons, I respect her honesty and drive, and I know she has a spiritual understanding and wide audience of people who trust her suggestions.

http://www.amazon.com/Between-The-Dark-Daylight-Awakening/dp/1452544018/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334926233&sr=1-2

Time Takes Time

Writers lament about blocks, character names and whether or not to self publish. My worn out yearning is that of not having enough time to write as often as I’d like.

I tend to glance at my watch all day long. The clock hands turn whether I’m watching a ‘woman’s movie’ or my fingers are flying across my keyboard. Breakfast must be made, as well as lunch and dinner. My nine hour work day is shared with my run and dog walk. The hour or so I spend with friends a few nights a week compete with the time I reserve for food shopping and my commutes. Dare I add in shower time or that five minutes I use for plucking my eye brows?

I could create a mad lib exercise specifically for the outlandish and outrageous uses of time. I’d be remiss not to add the hours I use for praying and meditation- or for thinking about prayer and meditation.

Sitting at this airport awaiting to board, I realize now would be the one perfect opportunity to write. It will make up for a week of evenings on the porch with my octogenarian Dad, afternoons walking on the tiny sunny sidewalks of Aguada, PR and morning runs with my spouse and dogs on Playa Punta del Pico. Nothing, writing included, would fill my heart as listening to my father’s evening tales of the family not being able to buy rice during WW II because they didn’t have an ‘in’ at the grocers and other abject tales of poverty one generation ago.

I shiver when I think about my luxury problem of not having enough time to write because I count on a paycheck for a living. The blessing I forget is that I collect it after providing service for people living with various measures of mental illness. I’m aware that in itself is a luxury- treating depression instead of debilitating diseases of malnutrition.

I’m on the plane now with all sorts of plans. I will complete the next set of revisions for my current manuscript, add to the second novel I began a few months ago and call my Dad to let him know how much he is loved. I will return to that post vacation place of ‘not having enough time’ and forgetting that I’m just where I’m supposed to be and that time takes time.

Prosperity: A Golden Meditation

New Year cards often end with a wish for prosperity. Ka-ching!  This past year I’ve decided to look at what Prosperity actually means for me. I pay the bills, save a teeny bit for a rainy day and try to enjoy the work I do to the best of my ability. I don’t, in fact, work five days a week anymore. This is by choice. I decided that I needed to take more time for my writing. I understand that my experience of prosperity isn’t limited to my financial state. This endeavor keeps me feeling full, whole, satiated and prosperous. The deeper spiritual translation of this is that I will always be provided for. It will be created by some parts me and always my higher power.

I’ve played with placing a blank in sentences where I might seek to place the word prosperity. Invariably, the word that seems to suffice these days is the word “happy.” While, for today, that defines prosperity for me- I realize that it’s a far cry from what I thought it should mean. Prosperity always bought images of droves of money to me. A co-worker once told me that I had gold in my aura. She said that when people saw me that’s what they were attracted to. At the time that was probably the furthest I ever felt from the abundance of such realized prosperity.

Combing through Julia Cameron’s The Prosperous Heart I’ve tried to take some of her suggestions. She speaks of certain strategies that we can take that will aide us in becoming aligned with prosperity. The suggestions she makes include writing daily pages upon awakening, recording what is spent during the course of the day, taking walks by one’s self and, lastly, taking a couple of short breaks throughout the day. Because I already take short breaks I decided to do something that would differentiate these breaks. I designed what I call My Golden Meditation.

I put my phone timer on for five minutes. Center, ground myself and take my deep cleansing and then relaxation breaths. With eyes closed, I imagine myself sitting embraced by the infinite Universe. I am small-sitting there like Buddha.  I imagine the golden energy of the Universe coming to and through my being. I sit and welcome the beauty that comes to me.

Instead of seeing coins the first time I tried this, I experienced the figures and faces of my loved ones- relatives and friends coming to me and embracing me. Each entity came individually. Each hugged me with their personality fully intact. A bear hug from one. I quick embrace with a kiss to the head from another. It was a thoroughly satisfying, safe and prosperous meditation. I had no idea how blessed I was until each showed up and shared a tiny moment of love. At the end there was no feeling or sadness about who might not have participated in this enterprise. It was utterly perfect as only the Universes can be. This was yet another time that I allowed my intuitive self to tell me what to do, I did it and am glad that I listened.

Take time and allow yourself the blessing of partaking in The Golden Meditation. Five minutes. How simple and divine.

I’d love to hear about your experience with this meditation.

The Grief Train

The monstrous carriage rolls into the station. Its metal wheels screech to a halt. The doors open and the conductor yells out, “All aboard!” I stand at the edge of the platform, take a deep breath and just as I’m about to enter, I stall. Not again.

One thing about grief is that it just doesn’t do its thing alone. It dredges up every last death I’ve mourned. It surprises me in its depth. It shakes every bit of intellect I have and throws me into the dark waters of emotion.

Our dear friend crossed over to the spiritual world a few days ago. Because she wasn’t my sister or my mother, this time, I don’t have to tend to the particulars. Because she wasn’t my coworker, who died suddenly at the age of forty four, I don’t have to hold a support group for fifty clients whose mouths were gaping at the wrenching news that had come ten minutes before I was informed I’d be supporting them in their grief.  This time I’m not ten and I don’t have certain responsibilities, like sitting quietly as I make sure that all of my family members are all right- pretending that I don’t mind that no one is asking me how I feel.

This time around, the train is here at the station, but it’s different. I have a spiritual family who is hugging me and I am hugging them. I am at the disposal of her children, who are all warriors in their own rights. I get to remember how she nicknamed our dog and how she was persistent and got the landlord to change that stupid countertop she hated. I get to remember how she calmed me down and told me not to worry because I hadn’t done something perfectly. I get to remember how she tended to me as I was initiated into my bountiful spiritual practice. I will remember how she wasn’t afraid to tell the truth, that she complained when she wasn’t happy about something and that she started exercising in her sixties-telling me we can always change and be open to new things.

This time I don’t think I’m going to get on that grief train. I am going to do my best to keep her love for life within me. I will miss her but she will always be with me. Sometimes the tritest sayings are actually the most healing. Today, I will easy does it. This is the day my HP has made- I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Illness as a Second Language

Illness has a language all its own. Health care has a culture all its own. In the past, I spoke the language fluently and felt right at home in the hospital’s fishbowl atmosphere. I’ve shared a great deal about my transitions to writing and realize just how much I’ve changed. I’m not that gal in whites with rubber soled shoes, sporting a white cap anymore- for a really long time. This is where I insert a *big sigh*.

A dear friend of ours became ill about a week ago. Well, that’s not really true. We found out she was ill last week but she’d been feeling her symptoms for about a month. Finally, hauling her feverish body to the clinic, she saw her doc; he took one look at her and sent her by jet (really by bus) to the hospital. It was a few days later, in a bored febrile state, she called us. I ran across First Avenue and spent some time with her. We laughed, between awful coughing fits, about “hospitals” and “powerlessness over others,” conveniently forgetting about powerlessness over ourselves. We did lick our lips over the cannelloni and carrot cake muffins I brought- that she looked forward to munching on for a late night dessert.

A couple of days later, we returned to find her in the intensive care unit, intubated, intentionally paralyzed with medication so she wouldn’t fight the ventilator and really, just plain old, awfully sick. We met her son. He had spoken to the doctor and hadn’t really understood the medical jargon he was offered. I tried speaking with the nurse, who blushed, shook her head, and said she couldn’t explain anything to me. I was not a relative. She refused to talk to me. Forget the fact that her son was standing two inches away from me. He knows I’m a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Understood I hadn’t done bedside nursing for many years but that I had at one point. We both understood laws of confidentiality. My fellow nurse quickly drained some tubes attached to my friend, washed her hands and scooted far from our little group- whose coats filled the one chair at the bedside.

We were allowed to close the curtain and do a bit of energetic healing work for her. We were grateful for that. When the doctor came, he explained some things in Medicalese. I interpreted as well as I could. The sense of alarm, bewilderment and suspicion had already taken root.  Simple answers to regular people would have done a world of good. Too bad that hadn’t happened.  We rang our hands a bit. We whispered loving words in our friend’s ear, they say the hearing is usually turned on when the person is in a comatose state. We hugged and went our ways.

I went back the next day. This time I was without my friend’s son. She looked worse. I put on my required mask, went in and prayed really, really loudly and did some more energy healing. There was a load of medical and nursing staff there but I knew it would be useless to try to obtain any information.  One nurse asked me who I was; I told her I was a close friend. She zoomed by me to get onto her next task. I wished I could tell her that I am really “that patient’s” adopted spiritual daughter, that I have a PhD in Nursing, that we love our friend and that I promise to call her son and daughters and share everything they want because they don’t understand Medicalese…that… that…  Instead, I picked up my bag and coat, went to the bathroom and ran cool water over my face, hands and the back of my neck. I said another prayer and went home. There is no ending to this story. Yet.

Christmas Reflections

 

One of our friends seemed concerned when we told her we are planning to lay low this holiday season. The children and our parents aren’t boarding airplanes, we aren’t either.  It’s actually a good thing. My spouse and I plan a quiet time at home with our dogs- something that we love to do. Maybe we’ll build a fire in our stone fireplace or do something else just as lovely.

The memory of Christmases for my children makes me laugh and shudder. There was so much stuff! Staying up until 4am assembling a bike-only to be awoken at 5 because Santa had arrived, piles of discarded wrapping paper, and climbing over toys to make a pancake and sausage breakfast made for a chaotic but happy time. A Santa doll at the top of the steps clanged a welcome for us at my parents’ house late on Christmas mornings. The charm of these Christmases stays with me and always will.  

My mother spared nothing to give us the Christmases beyond our wildest imaginings. She grew up in a hospital because of a back ailment and wanted to be sure that our lives were different. Invariably, on her annual visit, her mother would gift her with a dress that was too small for her to wear. Mom said that she would cut the fabric around the arm pits to make it fit. She told me about my father who’d, as a child, spent days searching for hay for the Three King’s visit- celebrated in Puerto Rico. He never found it.  When he looked under his bed on Epiphany, there was nothing there and he was terribly disappointed. Years later, I remembered her telling me that he’d actually found a dime under his bed. I think I made up that dime because it was too painful to imagine his sadness at Christmas- and I gather, many of his days as a child, living in poverty.

Mom made sure that we woke up to a fully lit tree surrounded with mountains of colorfully wrapped gifts. I have one picture where my sister and I could be mistaken for a couple of the dolls we sat amidst. Santa’s cookies were gone and the crumbs, rumpled napkin and the half full milk glass thrilled me with enchantment and magic.

There were some years as a young adult that I so unhappy with some gifts I received because I felt as though the people who’d given them to me had no sense of who I was. They probably didn’t. It’s taken me years to figure out who I am. I was unimpressed by the silver tea set my mom gave me one year. I lived in a small apartment and probably scoffed at it. Now it sits on my server in the dining room of the house I believe she hoped I would one day have.

Times changed. My mom and dad were able to create something different in their lives and so have I. Having the ability to treat the holiday season in a sober manner makes all the difference. Happiness. Check. Love. Check. Peace within. Check. Those are the things that are most necessary to provide me with an inner sense of fullness that no outside object can ever bring. Did I think this way years ago? No, but for today I am different and grateful.

Happy holidays to you all!

Feeling Safe

It was about 6 am, still dark and there I was skulking on a street corner, hunched over by an auto.  A squad car snaked its way down the avenue with its siren off but its red lights flaring. It slowed down when the officer who drove it spotted me at the curb. I could feel his eyes on me for a long moment. I was wearing a dark jacket and pants. He kept going when he spotted my two fluffy dogs- they were engaged in their morning duty. I wondered whether he’d initially thought he’d finally caught the Park Slope groper. He hadn’t. It was me. For a moment, maybe it was the early hour, I thought, well, maybe I am the guilty party. As I said it was just for a moment, but I didn’t like being looked at in that manner at all.

The next morning, I was off from dog duty, and was making my way toward the park for an early run. It was again dark as night. As I walked toward the corner, I saw about eight policemen standing near a man who could easily be taken for the Park Slope groper. I made eye contact with one of the officers and quickly went on my way. It took me a moment to shake off the feeling I had. Was that the groper they surrounded or someone who fit the profile? There are a lot of men in my neighborhood that fit the profile of the groper. That got me to thinking, why was this gentleman actually stopped? Was he on his way to work? My imagination soared. Was he a cook, or was he one of those bicycle delivery guys who risk their lives getting breakfast for the rest of us who barely manage getting ourselves a cup of coffee- the rest of us who don’t look like the artist rendition of the groper.

When I first heard of the assaults in this very quiet neighborhood I was just as frightened as everyone else. I began to feel safer when I saw the added patrol cars driving up and down the blocks- making U turns at the intersections. Then suddenly, I realized that I hadn’t been aware of police presence before because, well, how do I put this diplomatically? There was none. I can argue that since it was a “safe” neighborhood, we didn’t need it. Now it is a given there will be men patrolling on their bicycles or a couple of Guardian Angels will be standing at the corner of the dog park on any given day.

I guess the groper is not going to be wearing a tee shirt that says, “Hello, it’s me!” He will look like the countless other assailants who go around under the guise of normal. He will probably look like me, wearing a dark jacket and pants and he’ll look kind of busy and no one would ever have thought that they were in danger around him. That’s the problem- most criminals don’t look the part. Maybe, like me, they get up in the morning, walk their dogs, drink a cup of coffee and go to work. The difference is that they do a little illegal activity and go about their day, no one the wiser. I do hope if the gentleman that was picked up the other morning is truly innocent that he got to go home and isn’t being held because he “looked the part.” I really can’t wait for this to be over.

The Zen of Porch Painting

 

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Painting the porch today I had lots of time to think. Wax on. Wax off. You original Karate Kid fans would appreciate that. I also thought of Tom Sawyer and how he abhorred whitewashing the fence. Since I’m not a young boy I figured I could handle this. Well, instead of being zen as Mr. Miyagi would have suggested, I started letting those negative thoughts get to me.

As an adult, I was a student of Karate until I was ready to test for my black belt. Anyone who’s undergone the process can talk about the extreme rigors of it. Due to a turn of personal events, that included me learning energetic healing techniques in which I used my hands, I decided to step away from the martial art of “empty hand.”  I couldn’t use my hands as both a healing and hurting tool. For me, I said, just for me. There is no judgment coming from me towards those who are able to do both. I respect martial arts- and much of what it provides.

Thinking about fighting led to thoughts on bullying. A segment on television this week told the story about a bully who became victim when the target lost control and retaliated in a horrendous way. Of course, being me, my thoughts turned to writing. I voiced them to my spouse. “I guess all bullies don’t turn out to be Mr. Nice Guy (or Ms. Nice Gal) when they grow up, do they?” I told her about having a research article published a few years back in a well respected journal. It was part of a job duty I had at the time. After presenting it at the staff meeting, a senior person picked it up and sniped “This is what we paid for?” Those words stung but I kept moving forward. In Doctoral school when I presented my chosen dissertation project, a handful of students declared with disgust, “Why would you want to study that?” My topic was about the spiritual practices of people living with HIV/AIDS. I completed the study anyway. My PhD is framed hidden on some shelf, somewhere, but it’s actually in my chest. Karate, graduate school, scathing critiques are part of my arsenal of defense. Defense against my negative thinking that comes forward when I’m in the middle of porch painting. In my heart, I hear encouragement to move forward.

When I was tiny my Mother used to tell me a story when we were sitting on the stoop or I wouldn’t stay still for my nap. She told me that she wanted me very much but it took me a while to show up. She told me it was because God had been looking and looking and looking for the right heart for me. When he finally found it, I was then ready to be born. Today, this carries significance for me in so many areas. When the timing is right, it will be. Persistence and perseverance are the keys. Follow your heart and you can’t go wrong. In my child’s mind when my Mom told me that story, I imagined myself sitting on the side of the road on a rock, waiting for God to show up with my right heart.

Sometimes I continue to sit there. Sometimes by myself but most often not. I wait until the time is right. Wax on, wax off.

 

 

Psychic Psychiatry

When I’m not bopping between blogspots I have a couple of day jobs. As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I talk with lots of people every day. We talk about how they’re eating, sleeping, what they’re moods have been like and how they feel about their family members and their jobs. You know, the mundane- that wonderful place that exists very close to the paranormal that I’ve mentioned before. On other days, I sit in my spiritual room and do psychic readings for the people who find their way to me. I use tarot, oracles, cigar smoke, water, you name it, I scry it.

Sometimes these people share things with me like their views on their religions, faith, dark nights of the soul and, sadly a little less frequently, their illuminated lives. Sitting with them I help to determine whether I can offer help and in what form. Tapping into my intuitive side, I guide them into delving a bit more deeply into the way they are experiencing their lives. It’s not often that I receive everything they say at face value. There’s a reason why people come to see me. Psychic or psychiatric- they want to know more about themselves.

Every so often I have a therapist ask me whether I can see a particular client of theirs because I’ll find them interesting. These are the people that believe they are seeing clairvoyantly and not experiencing visual hallucinations. They are the ones that hear spirits talk to them and aren’t disturbed by auditory hallucinations. These folks admit that they feel the presence of someone else in the room that’s not visible to most others. They aren’t really paranoid-a term that we use very loosely.

My doctoral thesis was all about the paranormal- another word I take issue with but it’s one that society has decided explains these phenomena quite well. It’s no surprise that a client recently offered me the name of a title of a book I should read that is about two adolescent siblings-one schizophrenic. My book Covering the Sun with My Hand is about twins- one is diagnosed with schizophrenia when they are teenagers. My client didn’t know I’m writing this! Serendipitous you might say. That’s how my professors described it in school.

While writing my book I kept sitting back to ponder whether some of the scenarios were too far-fetched. I wondered how much I was making up and how much was a result of the absorption of information I’d gleaned over the many years that I’ve been working in psychiatry. Well, I never had to sit and obsess too long. There was always someone coming in and telling me about a situation they’ve dealt with that was very close to a scene in my novel. Not only were they sharing their experience with me, I firmly believe that my spiritual guidance was telling me to chill out and relax. It’s all good.

Many of us were brought up learning about roots, sitting at the misa table watching spirits channeled, or sitting at the kitchen table listening to our mothers and aunts talk about those “coincidences.” My mother didn’t mind that I talked to my toothbrush and had imaginary friends. Superstitions, old wives tales, Bewitched’s Samantha Stevens twitching her nose. They all point to the truths of who we are. I searched for “something more” through a doctoral program in research and theory development. I started in a library, online and in journals. I found it in regular people’s living rooms, in train stations and on the street. I found the “something more” within me and can comfortably share about it today. My inner guidance tells me I can.

Have you been listening to your intuitive side, your inner guidance, the voice that whispers in your ear? What does it say?

Keeping the Balance

Cycling at 17 miles per hour during the Tri-Sprint last week, I saw there’d been an accident up ahead. I had to carefully find my way through a very narrowed lane in order to avoid an ambulance, two EMS persons and the injured party. She was lying on a wooden board with her head immobilized. Her bike was still on the ground somewhere between her and me. I got through there pretty easily. I realize that 17 miles an hour on a bike isn’t fast for some people but it is for me. I’d only dusted my bike out a couple of months ago after not really feeling great about cycling. I’d never really learned as a kid because I was terrible at letting myself go and still maintaining my balance.

I found out the woman who’d fallen off her bike had somehow lost all control of her handle bars. Not having the ability to know what she was feeling, I’m sure of some things I am feeling. My whole life is a balancing act. I’m afraid that I will lose all sense of control and end up immobilized. Watching her I saw the strength in her face, the adept way that the other cyclists skillfully avoided her and the quickness in the actions of the emergency workers. In my estimation, from my bicycle saddle, she was being taken care of. Sometimes when we let go, we will lose our balance. We are not in control of all things. It could be a bumpy road, a letter that arrives in the mail, a phone call at 2am, or a pink slip at work. Even as I write this, I feel a slight intake of my breath and a heightened sense of anxiety. What will come next? The point is that we don’t know what’s next.

Peering down at the injured woman I knew that she could be me. I fell a couple of months ago and skinned my knee when my friends and I had just mounted our bikes. I cried and sat down on a big old rock. My friends scurried for water to clean my wound, they found a bandage and they all gave me hugs. They made sure I was composed and ready to roll when we climbed back on our bikes. Yes, I did fall but I was taken care of. It somehow made up for some past falls I’d made as a kid. I was famous for falling and creating gaping holes in new leotards. I remember once tumbling and gasping, “oh, my knee” and the grating laughter of an older kid who mimicked my reactions. I was ashamed to have fallen and having the nerve to be in pain about it. I was four. It would have been okay to cry and have my booboo kissed and I probably would have gone about my business. Instead, I stayed with shame for a really long time. Shame has kept me away from a lot of good things.

In the bigger picture of my life, I fall, get up again and keep at things that I have determined are important for my growth, my life and service to others. When I started writing I was ashamed to “show my paper” to anyone. At first I didn’t want anyone to read what I wrote, criticize my words and, especially, tell me I’d made a mistake. Fortunately with enough spills and rejections I am aware that I feel vulnerable but truly, no one really wants to hurt me. In fact, many want to help me. My writing and my bike riding have improved. How do I know that? Well, if I depended on my feelings I may not know it. The facts tell a different story. When I ride with 400 other people in a race, it tells me I’m different. When I share my words in a blog or in a story that strangers read and I ask for feedback, that shows me I’m changing too.

Keeping balanced in all the spheres of my life takes work. I once had a martial arts teacher who reminded me often enough, “you are who you practice to be.” So I practice this art of life. Sometimes I am shaky and other times, I’m a ballerina in toe shoes dancing across a stage while others applaud. Most times I’m in the middle, practicing, breathing and mindful that it is not all in my control but I can give it the best that I can.

 I hope that the woman who toppled over her handle bars is on the mend and maybe even rode again this morning. Regaining one’s balance is often not easy. To get up again and carry on doing the things we love without shame may take a certain grace but that’s one thing I know that there’s plenty of to go around.