I have been ghostwriting self-help books for over six months now. Everyone thinks they have the answer and it generally falls into two camps: select your thoughts or monitor your feelings. I have written hundreds of pages of both. Thankfully the clients cannot see me rolling my eyes and meditating on the other end.
We can select our thoughts. Buddhism teaches this and as every Eat, Pray. Love fan recalls Richard saying this to Groceries when she cannot sit for longer than five minutes. It is hard though when you tap into your programming and finally hear what you say to yourself all day long. I obsess over my writing career and if my book is going to get published. It is like a freight train all day. Once I tuned in, I was not pleased. You can’t write with so much doubt swimming around.
Then there’s feelings which have been mostly peaceful. I can hop on the expressway and feel comfortable. This used to terrify me as I had a shitty car and the looming thoughts of my sister’s near fatal accident crowded my mind. Now my feelings just don’t get riled up anymore.
As someone who has spent time in the self-help world, I can just tell you not to waste too much time thinking if only you could just have a book of answers. There really aren’t any. That’s the point of life though, we just have to sit with our thoughts and feelings until they fade away into peace. Sometimes feelings and/or thoughts bubble up that we don’t like. There will always be twinges of jealousy or even pure hatred. Trying to change them into positives just breeds resentment. Feel your emotions and think your thoughts, strive to make them authentic and more positive than negative.
We live in the real world and I can tell you from experience the self-help guys throw epic tantrums, say ridiculous things and attempt to bully. They are as clueless as the next guy. The thing is we listen to them, thinking they know better. All they have in their corner is a specific kind of certainty that not everyone attempts. I just don’t want anyone to ever think the answers are outside of them. All answers are within if we can have the same confidence in ourselves as we do in others.
Over the summer a beautiful man made me a list of Pink Floyd and Beatles songs to get over my dislike of these iconic bands. The gesture was lovely and I had the urge to send him a list of mine back in thanks for introducing me to the song “Wish You Were Here”. Instead, my fabulous readers, here is my list:
1. State of Love and Trust -Pearl Jam. Best song in the universe, has been since I was in high school. Eddie Vedder’s voice just does something to me on an atomic level.
2. Rebel, Rebel-David Bowie. My favorite bisexual in the whole universe personally wrote my anthem.
3. Tomorrow Never Knows-The Beatles. A favourite game of my neighbor is to play Beatles songs and have me ask who’s this. I love this song more than words can say. I love Ringo’s beats and the lyrics are from the Tibetan Book of the Dead which is in my desk at school. Masterpiece.
4. The Thong Song-Sisquo. I did not know how I lived before this song. Totally ratchet, but I love it.
5. Human Behavior– Bjork. No words can describe the ecstasy I feel when I hear this song. I love the drums and the lyrics. In my debut novel the love interest is Icelandic. Bjork is a strange one and I have always admired her independent spirit. Debut is her best album.
6. Beetlebum– Blur. In college I had a Brit Pop radio program and I opened with this song as often as possible. It is melancholy, but I believe in having a whole spectrum of emotions, not just what is comfortable.
7. Waiting Room– Fugazi. I am a punk rock girl.
8. Fuck Was I-Jenny Owens Youngs. Perez Hilton introduced this song on his website. I think it perfectly captures heartache and the dark humor that develops as a result. “Maybe I’ll be the lucky one who doesn’t get hurt/ What the fuck was I thinking?”
9. Settle Down-Kimbra. It is about not wanting to settle down and live your life to fit society’s mandates.
10. Pure Morning-Placebo. I listen to this song every morning. No words can describe my attachment. It just is. I have no memories for this song in particular, but the opening riff sends me to heaven. Sometimes I like to imagine I’m a Bond Girl and this is my song as I enter a room in my Jinx bikini and shoot down all the chandeliers.
11. A White Tara Kirtan-Various Artists. I had a Thai Buddhist monk introduce me to this deity a few years ago. I try to do my malas as much as possible.
12. Closer-Nine Inch Nails. Nothing needs to be said.
Yesterday I was helping my neighbor hang her Halloween lights. The old hook no longer worked so I was spotting her as she nailed in a new one. I looked down for just a second and the nail she was hammering away at ricocheted out from under the hammer and the blunt side hit my head. Had I still been looking up, my eye would have been hit. She got flustered and I was just shocked. There was no blood, but my head was smarting. We went inside to put ice on it and she profusely apologized. I told her not to worry it was an accident. A few minutes later, half joking she asked if I would sue her.
The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. Accidents happen and they are unpleasant. Money hungry is not an adjective for me. I live simply, but I laughed and we watched the telly to take our minds off the scare. I was in awe that seconds earlier my green peeper could have been a goner. I vowed to light a Archangel Michael candle in thanks. After being dropped off, I promptly lit one and laid down. SO dramatic I thought as snuggled into my huge blue bed. Still, I was lucky. Still early I looked for ways to entertain myself. Meditation would require too much focus and I wasn’t in the mood to do my kirtan. So I answered emails and set up ghostwriting appointments.
In my inbox was a note from the man I saw on Saturday from MantraFest asking if I was interested in his programs. Sure I replied. I love finding out about new things. Sleep hit me hard and when I woke up at 4 I checked my email and the candle that I had left on. It was from the Mantra man saying he was giving a special for a mentoring program. It would be a steal at $3,000. I must be dreaming I thought turning over. No one would expect anyone to pay that.
As I pulled into work I checked my email again. It was there, the email with the unbelievable price tag. Who, claiming to be enlightened, would feel comfortable charging that much? God is free and more than that since I have done a bit of self-help ghostwriting, I know firsthand that those “helpers” are somewhat egomaniacs who hate challenges of any kind. Humans are human and they only claim to know better. This was disgusting.
I wrote him a terse email telling him the price was outrageous and ridiculous. In Buddhism, followers feed the monks as the walk the streets in the morning. I have done this before and they are grateful. I buy the monk buckets in the Thailand equivalent of Walmart. You have to admire a country that sells pretty sweet gift baskets for their holy. Some have cellphones and tattoos, but they don’t wear Rolexs, just saffron robes. They have chosen a life of service.
Within a half hour he had written back saying I was misinformed and my anger was inappropriate. First of all, I was not angry. I had written I was disappointed in his price gouging. Second, I had called him out on his greed. Yes, you have to live, but you don’t need to live like a king when you are in a life of service. I guess he had a change of heart and sent me or “Barbara” as he mistakenly labeled me a long email thirty minutes later. Here’s the best part: