When Marc Allen and I began New World Library in 1977, it was a shoestring operation located in the kitchen of our small Oakland, California, apartment. We called it Whatever Publishing, and I had no idea where the path would lead.
I was in my late 20s at the time. I’d graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a degree in dance, but I wasn’t good enough to be a professional dancer. I’d done some traveling all around the world on a shoestring budget, and I’d spent a year in India. When I got back, I realized I was on some kind of path that had to do with learning and developing myself as a person and discovering what my gifts were to share with others. I was really just following my intuitive feeling, although at the time I didn’t even know much about intuition.
I was reading metaphysical books and going to workshops, and one of the ones I attended was on creative visualization—learning to use your natural creative imagination in a more conscious way to create what you really want. The teacher had us write down our expectations for the next year, and then for five years in the future, and then for 10 years in the future. I thought, How do I know what I’m going to be doing in five years? That seems like forever! But when I did the exercise I was amazed because this entire vision came to me about writing books, leading workshops, and doing more traveling around the world. I didn’t know it then, of course, but eventually all of that would happen.
I started using creative visualization for everything: I needed a new apartment, so I thought, Okay, I’ll visualize that. I wanted to feel greater self-esteem, so I told myself, Okay, I can visualize that. It worked so well I wanted to share it with more people.
By that time, Marc and I had begun leading workshops ourselves, and creative visualization was one of the techniques we taught. I then decided to write a little booklet about it. I told people that if they sent in $5, I’d send them the book when it was done.
I was really inspired at first, but then I got blocked. Part of me was asking, Who do you think you are? You’re just starting on this path of self-discovery. What makes you think you have anything useful and valuable to share?
I stopped working on the book, but after a while I started to feel guilty, so I asked if people wanted refunds because it was taking so long. The general response was, “No, just send it when it’s done.” Guilt was a perfect motivator. I finally finished the book and felt good about it.
I borrowed a thousand dollars from my mom so Marc and I could get it printed. We took the books to bookstores in our area and sold them on consignment. What began as an underground book just kept selling.
I see myself not as a spiritual teacher but as a consciousness teacher. We’re all on a path of developing consciousness, learning to be more aware of what we’re feeling and experiencing and how we’re interacting with the world. Consciousness is the whole picture, and the spiritual aspect of who we are is just one part. I see spirituality as a particular energy that links us to our Higher Self or our deeper self or whatever you want to call it. That’s wonderful, and we need it, but we must embrace all the different aspects of who we are, spiritual and otherwise.
I’ve taught others to embrace and care for all those parts of us and to give them their space and time. There are parts of ourselves that we either aren’t aware of or that we think are bad because we’re told not to think a certain way, not to do certain things, and not to show certain feelings. These parts become our disowned selves, our shadow side. That can sound kind of scary, but it really isn’t. They’re just the pieces of ourselves we haven’t learned to love yet. We have to learn to love all the parts of ourselves, even the parts we think aren’t very lovable, because as it turns out, we need them all.
One of the most helpful steps in this journey is getting in touch with your intuitive wisdom. The process is really very simple. You just relax and let yourself go inward, and from that deep, wise place inside, ask for what you need—whether it’s the answer to a question or problem, or something you really want to happen. Ask for more clarity about your work situation or your relationship or whatever it is. Then open your eyes and come back to whatever you were doing. Let your awareness of that deep process be there. Learning to follow your intuition isn’t hard, but it does take practice and sometimes moral support. If we checked our intuitive messages as often as we check our email, we’d all be in really great shape!
This listening is important. We’re very good at doing in our culture. We are so identified with action and making things happen. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we also need the opposite: the ability to nurture ourselves and to just spend time being.
So if you’re a very responsible, hardworking, busy person like I’ve been, you can create a lot in your life—and that’s wonderful. But if you’re too busy and you don’t have the ability to relax, slow down, and nurture yourself from time to time, then you’re out of balance.
Most of us are, in fact, not so good at self-nurturing. It’s a different quality we haven’t developed yet. As we get older, we discover we need to pay more attention to that. I never thought aging was going to happen to me, but, lo and behold, it has.
Aging tends to bring us a certain amount of wisdom, understanding, and depth of connection with life, but anything we haven’t really worked through unfortunately starts coming up. The things we haven’t gotten to yet begin to call attention to themselves. For example, our bodies may tell us, Maybe you need to not push me so much anymore. Maybe I need more time to rest and recuperate. It’s a challenge.