Listening to Incense is FUNDED!!
But there's still time left to contribute!
Deepest gratitude to everyone who has contributed to and supported this project!! I am touched beyond what I can express. I hope that you, too, are eager to see what becomes of this journey as it makes its way out into the world.
If you're new to this project, or if you haven't yet supported it, there is still time to become involved.
How will any additional funding be used?
- Paying for tech support for my computer while I am in Mexico
- Covering expenses for editing the poetry book and the DVD
- Purchasing a computer printer
- Buying a point and shoot digital camera to help keep everyone up to date as the project progresses
- Additional funds can help pay for producing and mailing the rewards that will be headed to all those who back/have backed this project
Let's keep going!!
Listening to Incense
Fire is a catalyst for change.
When I went through a life-threatening illness it was in my highest interest to listen to the destruction of one form silently rising into open space while that same form was reduced to ashes. I breathed pain. Burned in the fire of suffering. I had to change. I had to transmute. To heal. The experience begged it of me.
Cancer was my catalyst for change.
This is not another cancer memoir. This is my account of the mystery embedded in divinity and the connection we all share with it.
In 2006 I thought all my dreams had come true. My teaching career was expanding into new venues. I was thinking of moving to the East Coast. A blossoming relationship was waiting for me there. I was creating a program to train massage instructors at the Connecticut School of Massage. And my daughter was happily attending Le Cordon Bleu in their pastry chef training in Pasadena.
In October of that same year, what I thought was sciatica turned out to be fourth stage rectal cancer.
I began to cancel all my plans with the complete belief I would return to them as soon as I dealt with the cancer.
I had a new road to walk down. One that demanded all my attention. I complied. I did not have a choice. The sign of a powerful catalyst.
As I worked...yes this was hard work...my way through treatments and surgery and more surgery and then an abdominal infection that very nearly took my life, I participated with a vengeance to complete what was asked of me.
Everything that I had known in my life was being stripped away. Many times I thought I had been hit by the final blow, but it seemed there was always more to come to terms with.
Priorities had shifted like a mesa's walls crumbling to the rivers. Old values washed down stream in the turbulent waters. It seemed impossible to have landed where I was and what I was left with was my new starting point. The one cancer had created.
The catalyst of cancer was soothed by the catalyst of love. Love poured in from all facets of my life.
I learned that although it wasn't always pretty, from some depths within myself, I could manage to get to the next moment. I never knew such strength and potential existed in me. This was a gift of a lifetime. Not everyone gets to receive such a gift. Those of us who have, know its fruits.
During this process poetry began spilling out of me. A path of being a writer opened to me. Poetry and words became my new expression. I wonder if I'd have ever unearthed this particular gift without cancer.
I sometimes struggled to allow the words to come. In one poem, "Closer to Me," I wrestled to allow the words of forgiveness, but to heal, I would have to fully imbibe the words I had written.
Here are the last verses of the poem "Closer to Me":
. . .I will risk the unreal safety of fear's confinement for one moment of spacious peace
Thank you cancer
I accept the mystical purpose of your impact on this life
Thank you cancer
I accept that my soul invited you to my table
Thank you cancer
I accept this stark vulnerability
Thank you for bringing me to the fullness of me and although I do not know where I am going or what to do. . .or how this story can end in a pleasant way
Is it not now glorious and free?
This poem and many other are in my book of poetry:
Help Me Remember Who I AM
You can click on the image below to go to my website and see more about this book and the story of cancer.
Although the poems capture many moments, there is more to the story than they can convey. I am writing this second book, Listening to Incense, due to the many people who have asked for more of the story, and because, I must write it. It is what is being asked of me.
The first thought of this book came five years ago when a dear friend said to me: "These poems are the headings of the chapters to your book." The idea has been slowly slipping into realized form, and now, almost everything is in alignment to complete it.
I have been writing for months and have found a retreat place for the winter to write full time.
I have a publisher - Rebecca Lenzini of Nighthawk Press - who wants you to know this: "I am proud to be the publisher for Christine Sherwood's upcoming non-fiction work Listening to Incense. I believe this book will speak directly to readers and will help those in the midst of major life challenges to embrace their circumstances and, like Christine, work to see the underlying messages of positive change."
I have an editor - Barbara Scott of Final Eyes - who says: "When publisher Rebecca Lenzini of Nighthawk Press asked me to get together with her and Christine Sherwood, the author of a cancer memoir, I thought - Oh no, not another one! I suggested to Rebecca that she Google the number of cancer memoirs that had been written and published or self-published. But when I met with them both in the garden of Wired, the Taos coffee shop, and Christine read us a random few pages from her manuscript, I was immediately captivated by the writing itself. This woman knows how to paint with words and to write about the subtleties of survival with the tools of a fiction writer. Even to use the word survival is misleading. Its more about the realization that we are all swimming together in amniotic love. It is a gift to be able to put those feelings into words, and Christine has that gift. This is not a story of disease, but one of spiritual transformation at the highest level."
I am ready. The writing is flowing like the poetry did, but now I must retreat to edit and focus solely on the completion of the book. The process will take more than I have financially to bring the book through writing, publishing, editing and the giving of my full attention and time to bring it to the hands and tables of those who could benefit from its release into the world.
I need your help.
And with your help, this project could easily be a reality.
Everything is in place but the finances.
Your contributions would be used to help pay for publishing, editing, printing, layout and cover design, reprinting "Help Me Remember Who I Am," computer hardware and technical support, beans and rice in the Baja, and all the dark chocolate to keep my soul ignited with the language of love.
I believe that with three and a half months in the Baja this book can be close to complete. I will return to Taos in the Spring, and we have an estimated date of June 24 for the release of Listening To Incense.
You have my abundant gratitude and thankful blessings for any amount you can give. If you are unable to help with financial support and believe in this project, you can still be of immense help by sending out this Kickstarter project to all your friends and family.
Remember - this is an all or nothing project - so I must meet my goal in order to receive anything! I can generate more than my set goal, but if I do not meet it - I get nothing.
You can become part of the catalyst!
Please join me in this project now.
Risks and challenges
There is a great vulnerability in putting one's own personal story out for others to see. This project requires full disclosure. It is revealing. My private life, my inner fears and challenges, joys and rewards will no longer be private.
My hope is that by opening in this way - to the public (known and unknown), to the internet and beyond - my story will somehow go out into the world and benefit others. It is a worthwhile hope, but it is admittedly, terrifying.
I am compelled to keep going. I must embrace this as yet another catalyst.
This is my main risk and challenge. This vulnerability.
In addition, I am learning to work with technology that is new and certainly challenging for me. Computer programs, Kickstarter itself, Facebook. . .all of these - and more - are new territory. Territory I am stepping into for this story to travel out into the world.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The response to the poetry book was very interesting. People were drawn to the poems themselves, but they also wanted to know more about the moments that inspired these pieces. In Listening to Incense, I am exploring the bigger story. I guess you could say this book is part memoir, part contemplation, part a passing along, and part tribute to the power of the divine within us. Listening to the instruction of my soul is what guided me to this writing.
This book is about the process of illness and recovery and all that I could ask about myself and my philosophical expedition into the meaning of suffering. It is a contemplation as well as a storytelling. The process of writing the book, and the book itself, is an investigation into the deeper lessons of life and death. Its about the courage and grace that lies hidden within us - unleashed only when the fierce master is breaking us open with all of his might. Its about what I discovered when applying the spiritual teachings that I've been given in my life. And its about loss and what comes to fill in that empty space.
I will address the fear-based language of cancer within these pages, and how I personally had to re-create this language to benefit my healing.
This is also a work in progress. My writing process is an organic one. I do not always know where it is leading, so there will very probably be surprises left for you and for me.
If we listen to the instruction of our soul, what would we hear? How still would our mind need to be? How quiet the heart?
I could share with you what "Listening to Incense" inspires within me, but what I would really rather do is invite you into the hub of your own heart.
One evening, at a quiet time, while in the dark of night, light a candle and a stick of incense. Be comfortable in your body. Hear your breath coming in and out. Place your gaze on the smoke rising from the incense. Listen. . .
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