My Mentor Joseph Cambell

josephcampbell-450x450Within the current socio-political circus came the idea to write an article about the Hero’s Journey for the Visionary Fiction Alliance (VFA). Although the topic relates to myths and stories, we can also become heroes in our own journeys. Each completed cycle can be  an avancement in evolutionary growth that  continues until our last breath.  But sometimes we get stuck along the way.

BELLY OF THE WHALE

I stalled during the middle of writing the VFA post because the election led me to an existential crisis.  I found myself stuck in the belly of the whale stage of the Hero’s Journey.  Seeing people fighting each other in order to prop up two flawed humans made me question why many of us still place other humans above us.

“I stopped getting mad at politicians years ago and started getting mad at myself instead. The blame for the grinding dullness and depressing predictability of the current election cycle is on the electorate as much as it is on the candidates. That America gets everything it deserves and settles for is a hard truth to swallow. Maybe one day, we’ll get tired of choking on it.” Henry Rollins

Those of us who pulled out of the political church reach the same conclusion as Rollins. We become ideological atheists because we see that it’s our ideologies that are choking us. We’re the rebels that scream for the empire to topple, so we can live freely with one another. You might not hear us because we’re few in number, so we’re never really heard other than through podcasts or blog posts.   Instead,  we’re called crazy or mentally disturbed because we refuse to capitulate to majority groupthink. We have strength of mind and spirit and are immune to whatever names we’re called. Knowledge of our inner-truth is our shield. We’re  grounded in our spirit. But sometimes even hero’s fall and have to rise up again.

As I listened to the media, politicians, and some of their followers spew hatred and hypocrisy, I thought about the future my daughters would be growing up. I became despondent imagining what today’s children would be inheriting because of our shortsidedness.  That thought awoke a fear in me that I had to deal with.

IN A POSITIVE FREEFALL

How do we stay on the path when we’re facing our version of an empire run by  shadowy Darth Vaders? From beyond the grave, Campbell answered the question.

free_fall

“We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.” 

― Joseph Campbell, Sukhavati

FREEDOM TO LIVE

If hell is being created, I don’t have to play along. I can forge my own path. With that realization I was shot from out of the belly’s spout and on to the Freedom to Live stage of my journey.

Spiritual lessons never end. I find it more difficult now than before I started the journey. The more the veil is lifted, the harder I have to work to evolve. And since I evolved a little bit more with the writing of this post, I guess you can say this is a visionary post!

Please click here to read the article about how the hero’s journey relates to visionary fiction.

Dark Characters in Visionary Fiction Can Reveal the Light

Visionary fiction’s theme is the evolution of human consciousness. But what does that mean? What is consciousness? Psychologist, William James, coined the phrase stream of consciousness. He identified consciousness as something that is shaped by experience and how the experience is processed in our minds. So it’s our life experience that defines who we are, and we play out that definition in reality. If we have many dark experiences, then it might lead us to passing similar experiences on to others. Why are some people able to overcome darkness?

Read the rest of the article at the Visionary Fiction Alliance website.

Spiritual Stagnation, a Temporary Layover

One major facet of writing visionary fiction is that the author  spiritually grows during the writing process. There are periods where I have to put my work aside, either when I’m in spiritual stagnation or not feeling worthy enough to write because of a personal challenge that I have yet to overcome. Only after I sort through whatever issue is troubling me can I proceed. Each book’s conclusion connects me to the lessons learned by the characters, whose interior growth mirrors my own. What I find most revealing is that my characters ascend to a higher level than me; however, they take me one step further on my own path. They inspire me to become a better person.

I posed the question to some of my fellow authors of how they handle spiritual stagnation during the writing process and got some insightful responses…

Read the rest of the article at the Visionary Fiction Alliance website.

Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Examination – Part 3

This is part 3 of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series, which was inspired after I learned about bibliotherapy in my psychology classes.  It led me to discover an article by Debbie McCullis in the February, 2014 issue of the Journal of Poetry Therapy.  McGullis listed  a four step process used in bibliotherapy, which strongly resonated with me as the process sounds similar to why I write visionary fiction.  In part one, we discussed the first step, recognition, which is the moment when a reader gets a sense of familiarity while reading. In part two, we examined recognition through the lens of a writer’s perspective.  In this week’s installment, we will discuss what happens after recognition strikes. We want to understand why we had such a strong reaction to the text we had just read, which brings us into the second step, examination. Click here to continue.

Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Recognition – Part 1

Some authors find their focus in their childhood. It’s something they know they’re born to do. Not me. I was a late bloomer—a seed stuck beneath a thick layer of earth. Something kept the water supply from reaching me. For many years, I pondered if there was something wrong with the way my brain functioned. Turns out my brain functions well—albeit a little more hyper than the average brain. I was a stubborn little seed. A seed that refused to take in the sustenance that I needed to grow. I thought I had the strength to pierce through the earth on my own.  (Continue reading at the VFA website)

Motifs: The Harbingers of Transcendence

Motifs are very effective in visionary fiction. For those not familiar with the term as it is used in a literary sense, motifs are either a repeating image, phrase or any other symbol an author uses to convey a message, theme or idea represented in the book. Ideally, it should be organic to the story and not forced.

In my own writing, a story will feel incomplete without at least one strong motif. In books I read, something feels missing when they aren’t included. Two days ago, as I was nearing the end of my final read through of Beyond Omega’s Sunrise, two motifs came to me as I was fleshing out two scenes. The first was a silver charm bracelet with the focus on an angel. The second was a short phrase (not mentioned as it leads to the climax). When I placed it in the story it tied into both the plot and theme of the book. A major breakthrough!

What else makes a book visionary fiction is that the author, moi in this scenario, can transcend alongside the story. The realization of how my book affected my own evolutionary growth happened today. While I was working on a paper for school, feelings of insecurity about my work arose. I phrase it in such a way as I identify these feelings as invaders from the past. I used to be a perfectionist, and I often sabotaged my work because I never felt it was good enough. Through the years, I learned that confidence comes through hard work, uncovering my weaknesses and working on them until they become my strengths, and doing the best I can in my life and work. What helped me accomplish all of the above was mindfulness meditation. It freed me from being a perfectionist; however, on occasion, the “old me” sneaks out and tries to get the best of the new and improved me.

To combat the negativity that infected my mind today, I got up from my desk and went on a three mile walking meditation. It was healing, but it got intense near the end, when I passed the apartment I used to live in. It symbolically represented the old life I’d left behind. I never felt any particular emotion about it until today. I cried…a lot. There were no conscious thoughts behind my spillage of tears other than a strong sense of relief, as if my mind spoke the phrase from my book that perfectly fit this momentous occasion! I experienced both closure and liberation, and I can now officially call Beyond Omega’s Sunrise visionary fiction!

Beyond Omega’s Sunrise will be published April 15th, 2014, in Kindle format. Paperback soon to follow.

Love and light,

Eleni

How Jessie’s Song Awakened the Music Within Me

Those of us who write visionary fiction oftentimes transcend alongside our characters. I’d like to share with you the most recent evolution within my life that I owe to Jessie’s Song. Little did I know that the protagonist’s journey to find himself in jazz would lead me on my own journey to rediscover my love for singing after a long hiatus.

I’d given up singing jazz right after college, convincing myself it wasn’t really what I wanted. The details behind it are enough for a full length book. Perhaps I’ll write it one day. Suffice it to say, several other musical projects followed but nothing captured my heart and soul until I started to chant. As much as I enjoyed doing it, I eventually gave that up as well. I tried to find inspiration again and returned to writing. Jessie’s Songwas born during a high concept screenwriting class I took back in 2007. When I first set out to write the story, it had a very dark theme. Markos Adams, the protagonist, began as Remus Caruso, a hit man. He evolved into a police officer in my second draft. It still didn’t work for me as there was a child molestation backstory that I thought would turn people off. I’m not the type to change a story around for the sake of getting readers, but my instincts told me I needed to change it. Not having the will or energy to continue, I laid it aside and moved on to other projects, then stopped writing all together as I’d lost my inspiration.  Continue reading here.

The Flow of Life, the Flow of Story Structure

Before I begin this post, I’d like to announce that I’ll soon be releasing the 2nd edition of Unison that will include a lexicon, cast sheet and behind the scenes look at what inspired me to write this novel.

Life has been very busy as of late. In addition to my writing, I homeschool and have become a soccer mom, girl scout mom and dance class mom. All the running around stressed me out a little, and I grounded myself with mindful awareness meditation. Little did I know that I was about to enter the ordeal stage of the hero’s journey when I was reminded how there are people who will attack you for reasons you may never know. It happened three times in one week! I didn’t respond to these people as I didn’t want to be pulled into their drama, which is what they subconsciously crave. Instead, I offered the individuals who challenged me love and kindness. I meditated until I felt it sincerely in my heart. By not reacting to the negativity, I uncover  lessons I need to learn, and I emerge stronger and more resolute that I’m on the right path. It never ceases to amaze me how negative people can help us grow positively! To quote the message my Higher Self sent me while meditating:

“It’s not about being right or wrong.  It’s all about the experience.”

That one little message from my meditation has saved me so many times and continues to help me grow. It’s the only way to live a happy and fulfilling life. It’s also something I teach my children. There will always be nasty and vindictive people in the world, and you’ll come out on top if you handle it with grace. You do that by continuing to do what you’re doing. If you’re on the right path, no one can knock you off of it, even with a mack truck!

Now on to the writing stuff!

Throughout these last few difficult weeks, I continued with my editing of The Sixth, which is the second book in the Spheral Series.  As with all my other novels, I plotted it using the hero’s journey and then fine tuned it with Dramatica, which helps me to detect plot holes, even before I begin writing.  The main reason I appreciate Dramatica is it presents the story as a grand argument. It taps into my inner-geek. I find that the emotional hero’s journey, and the intellectual Dramatica have almost a yin-yang quality when used together.  Interestingly, I was focusing on the ordeal stage of the hero’s journey for my story. Talk about synchronicity!

When Art Imitates Life

The ordeal is the eighth plot point in the hero’s journey. Ideally, it should fall at the halfway point of a novel. For some reason, which I’ve yet to figure out, this plot point always gives me the most trouble and is typically the last one to come together for me. And it usually does so when I edit. As I’m an organic writer, I don’t like to force a scene. I know that it will come to me when it’s ready to reveal itself. I was also reserved to the possibility that this story might not need a physical life/death ordeal. I had accomplished that symbolically and emotionally. In Unison, the shift was similar. My protagonist’s old way of thinking was forced out by a revelation that revealed a hidden aspect of himself. However, The Sixth is more of a straight-forward adventure. My intuition told me I needed a more active scene.

Before I went to bed, I’d asked for an ordeal scene to come to me.  I knew where it would most likely happen and envisioned the scene as I’d written it. Moments later, it expanded and played out before me, without words. (Verbal cues typically come to me in the morning, when I’m first waking up).  The next morning I wrote the scene while I sipped my morning Starbucks coffee. I’ll just state here that Stephen King was spot on when he said that if you have a great scene, you don’t have to write it down because you won’t forget it. Phrases are entirely different. I write them down as soon as they come to me.

I was a truly happy writer after I’d completed the scene. It added more intensity, deepened the characterization and foreshadowed the return of the elixir, the last plot point, in part three.

The best stories have constant motion. They keep moving even during lulls, and the goal should always be obvious, even when it isn’t outwardly mentioned. My writer’s intuition has strengthened to the point where I can tell when something is missing. Understanding structure keeps me from having to do many rewrites and gives me the confidence to know my story works before I write the first draft.

Love and light,

Eleni

Spiritual Objectivism – Part 5

I discussed the spiritual side of objectivism in my last post and will tie it all together with my writing in this post. I wanted to begin with my birthday, which happened on July 19, 2007.

What is death? The completion of this current life cycle. The perceived “I” will exist no longer.

After I typed the last line, it really hit me for it led to the real death of the perception of “I.” What is called, “Eleni” cried. I mourned the loss of the “I.” Daphne came in and asked me. “Eleni, what’s wrong? It was odd…and fitting…that she called me by my first name. I told her, “I’m not real.” She laughed as well. This all relates to the “I’m not the meaning” quote sent to me by the Higher Self.

Daphne is my daughter, who’s now ten. She hasn’t called me by my first name before that date or ever since. That event was the proverbial icing on my cake. I completely detached from my self-perpetuated mythos. I’d rather leave the fiction for my stories. Writing my personal truth and being able to express myself authentically is what makes me love the craft of writing.

Connecting Spirituality to Objectivism

I appreciate the Tao Te Ching, and I think much of the philosophy included inside helps cultivate a spiritual/objectivist mindset.

Therefore the Sage is devoted to non-action

Manage the work of detached teaching,

Conduct the teaching of no words.

They work with myriad of things but do not control

(Excerpt from Verse 2)

When we seek to control, it does not allow us to grow. If we try to control others, we keep them from growing. That same mindset applies to those in power. Hence, a free society is conducive to personal and spiritual growth. It allows us to be authentic as opposed to existing to please and satisfy the state. I constantly work with these themes in my writing, on a societal and personal level, especially in Unison.

Stories that have always resonated with me have a protagonist who goes off alone to solve his or her problems. The hero’s journey is natural to humans, which is why these type of stories have been repeated for thousands of years. Epics that depict dystopias show us the horrors of what happens when we’re forced to submission, such as in the Hunger Games. Oddly, in our current reality, many people don’t notice we’re headed in that direction at lightning speed. It’s truly uncanny to watch history repeating yet again while most of the population goes about their day acting as though nothing is amiss.  It’s quite a surreal time to be alive.

Libertarian Science Fiction

I recently discovered the genre of Libertarian science fiction. I never knew such a genre existed, and it makes me wish Amazon had it listed as a sub genre under sci-fi because I relate to it strongly. If I were to define my fiction, the interior stories of my books are very spiritual in nature. The outer story—where all the action takes place, is pure objectivist, which works in harmony with the Libertarian perspective. I make clear that the power of the individual is above all governments and man-made institutions. After all, they’re only ideas. Why would we place ideas above the humans who created them? Never made sense to me.

My cover for Unison represents the release and circulation of knowledge through the ages. While we’re not mortal, the knowledge our mind creates is immortal. Even when governments try to suppress that knowledge, it always finds it’s way back in. Knowledge and invention constantly get reused and improved upon. This truth is comforting, especially at this historical crossroad we find ourselves in. Knowledge is suppressed, and fluff is presented as news and entertainment. That can’t go on forever, and I suppose that’s another major reason I’m motivated to write. I want my stories to show the reader who’s looking for an alternative to the mainstream that they’re not alone and maybe put a smile on their face while doing it.

 


The Tao verse comes from Derek Lins’s translation of the Tao Te Ching. I highly recommend his website, and you can get information on how to order his book. I highly recommend it as he also has some useful notes that accompany each verse.

Spiritual Objectivism – Part 4

The topic of spiritual objectivism has blossomed into something that seems to keep evolving. In my previous post, I explained where I separate from a purely objectivist stance, but I still resonate with objectivism philosophy because on the surface, it allows us to grow spiritually by championing us as individuals, which is what we are. It also frees us to be true visionaries where we can  nurture our talents without apology or guilt.

I’m now going to focus more on the spiritual angle in this post. This helps keep me grounded and humble. I’ll also demonstrate how a spiritual objectivist mindset keeps me free from forming new conditionings.

Authenticity

Authenticity has always been something I strive for. For me, being truly authentic means to outwardly express my true nature, as opposed to compromising to appease someone else’s ideology or belief. It sounds simple, but it took me years to reach this point.

Through my own spiritual practice, I recognized that Ayn Rand was correct: morals come from within us when we make decisions based on reason as opposed to some belief system. While religion may work for some people, it didn’t for me. It tied me down and kept me form learning. I had to let it go to grow. We all have our own paths to follow, and mine is a rebel’s path; sometimes frightening, sometimes weird, oftentimes both, but always fulfilling.

“Each man must live as an end in himself.” Ayn Rand

Most individuals throughout history are remembered because they dared to set their own path.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” The Buddha

Buddha was a Spiritual Objectivist!

The Buddha is a prime example of what it means to be an objectivist. He was quite a rebel! He found enlightenment only after he dared to break away from the religions of his time. He put himself through a lot of anguish to find enlightenment, including depriving himself of food. In the end, he had some rice pudding, sat under the Bodhi tree and became enlightened. He had to detach from everything he was told to believe in to get there.

A Parallel Journey

I view my kundalini awakening as the beginning of my spiritual journey, and I only use the term because it’s faster than saying, “A fountain of light exploded inside my head and plugged me into something vast and seemingly borderless.” Being Greek, I’d like to mention that the Greeks call the light experience, Hesychasm. Whatever name you want to call the light experience, it has nothing to do with what happened to the Buddha under the Bodhi tree. In fact, he had transcendental experiences and never tied them to any greater knowledge.

Like Gopi Krishna, I see kundalini as part of a biological/evolutionary process, but since it’s nothing I can prove, I don’t commit to any theory. What I can say is that it did dump a lot of data into my brain. I started to have a lot of visions. Some were of geometric shapes, which were hard for me to understand. It was up to me to learn how to utilize what I was receiving and why I was receiving it. How I thought and perceived the world became even more critical during this time in my life. It’s so easy to get swept up in visions and mystical experiences, and I kept myself grounded by not making any judgements on what I was seeing.

Kundalini forced me to ask questions and confront issues I refused to deal with in the past. It was as if something switched on inside me that refused to shut off. During the process, I felt that following an ideology—any ideology, would keep me from growing spiritually. This happened when I realized gurus and spiritual masters merely stated opinions because they were interpreting their experiences subjectively. And politicians were mortals who were no better or smarter than me. It moved beyond ideology when I realized I had created belief systems about me and the people in my life, all of which were mere opinions. It was epidemic! Once I gathered this, I gave up all forms of belief. It was the act of belief, as opposed to the ideology, that kept me from traveling forward.

I should mention here that I read about the Buddha’s journey after I went through my ideological dump. This further demonstrated to me that the genuine truth is learned from within us, irrespective of where we come from. The truth is literally universal, and we can all be Buddhas if we so desire.

The Surreal Years

The early years after I gave up belief was surreal. The world my personal dogmatism created was so different from the reality I was waking up to. In a sense, I was deprogramming myself from many years of conditioning. With that came a lot of releasing of pain, the healing of emotional scars and a bout with cancer, which happened during the time I brushed aside my spiritual practice.  They were also years of learning. I read many books, even ones that would be considered blasphemous. I was scared at first but then soon realized they were also ideologies. Now I can read any topic without fear of damnation. I was finally free from belief, or so I thought. Seeing how everything I ever believed in was written by a subjective interpretation, stated by a subjective mindset and taught by a subjective individual, I became an atheist for a while…until I realized atheism was another form of belief. It’ll get you every time!

And after all that, I was free from ideology. I could finally live free, as nature intended for us…as individuals that are born with an innate morality.

“It’s not about being right or wrong.  It’s all about the experience.”

I bring this phrase up again because it liberated me. It keeps me objective and allows me to take in and enjoy every experience. And for those experiences that are painful or difficult, I still immerse myself in them fully as all experiences in life teach us about ourselves. We can choose to ignore them or learn from them and evolve. The day I heard this phrase in my meditation is as important to me as my kundalini awakening and another event, which I’ll bring up in my next post. It goes to show you, the path to enlightenment is ongoing.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

Love and light,

Eleni