Kuan Yin's chant and other things merciful

Inspirational Conversation with author Claire Corbett, Ultimo Library, Wednesday 30 April 2014

You know how sometimes certain authors and books constantly come up in conversation? I have found that when I am teaching creative writing courses specific books are mentioned again and again. One of the ones that students often cite as intriguing and thought-stimulating is Claire Corbett's rightfully acclaimed When We Have Wings.

I have wanted to have a conversation with her for a long while now, so I'm very excited to announce that this month she is my guest at Inspirational Conversations at Ultimo Library in Sydney.

Here are the details - I'd love to see you there:

 Inspirational Conversations: Dreaming a Different Reality - Wednesday 30 April

Ultimo Library
40 William Henry St
Sydney, NSW 2000
From 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Writer Claire Corbett is fascinated by the future, and explores themes of science and genetic modification in her remarkable novel When We Have Wings. In this inspirational chat with Walter Mason, Claire will talk about how we can look more hopefully towards the future and what we can do as individuals to create a better world.

This is a free event, and all are welcome.

Here is a review of Claire Corbett's book When We Have Wings

Walter Mason speaking on creativity as a spiritual practice, 27th April, 4pm

This month I am the guest speaker at Laurie Levine's spiritual service at Gordon Library on Sydney's North Shore. (The Service is in Meeting Room 2 - please note that the meeting rooms are to the left, before you enter the main library - just turn down and walk along the winding corridors to the very end and you'll find us).

The event starts at 4pm on Sunday the 27th of April.

Laurie has been running these inclusive spiritual services for many years, and they are inspired by New Thought and the teachings of the famous Michael Bernard Beckwith, of The Secret fame. The emphasis is on positive, uplifting community with no dogmas and open to all.

There will be guided mediations, fabulously inspiring music and, not least of all, a talk from me on the subject of Creativity as a Spiritual Practice.

I will be talking about how creativity is a gift given to all and why we should make the most of our talents. 

It will be a terrific afternoon, and I would love to invite you along!

Entry is by donation.

What If: Shirley MacLaine on spiritual questions and spiritual hunger

Time to come clean: I am a devoted fan of Shirley MacLaine. I can trace it back to the precise moment. It was when she went astral travelling while plunged in a Peruvian hot spring in the TV mini-series version of Out on a Limb. I was 17 years old and I thought "Yep, Shirley is my kind of people." I had grown up on a diet of Lobsang Rampa, Swami Satyananda and Reader's Digest books about the unknown, so I responded instantly to Shirley’s brand of mysticism.

Shirley meditates in the 80s

I remember that Videodrama on Oxford St. had a VHS version of the series, and it was one of the first things I made Mr. Noodlies watch when I met him. It was my test. Of course, he loved it. And years later when it came out on DVD I bought it instantly and have watched it over and over.

I also went on to read all of Shirley’s books, and absolutely love them. I am always itching for the next installment, which brings me to her latest, What If...

Shirley's books have become increasingly idiosyncratic, which is only right for someone who sells books by the truckload. She can publish whatever she damn well pleases. And so I always thrill to see how she has further deconstructed the forms of modern publishing - Shirley is a truly postmodern writer.

What If... is a series of observations, questions and musings on just about anything that comes into her head. It is stream-of-consciousness joy ride through Ms. MacLaine's psyche, and as such it is wonderfully entertaining and a perfect book to pick up and put down at random. There is not much in the way of thematic development, so you can read the book however you please. Shirley made it so.

Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey

Some of the brief chapters include musings on:

What if sex isn't meant to be monogamous?
What if spiritual hunger is what we are suffering from?
What if people were more like dogs?

That last one is particularly noteworthy because in recent years Shirley MacLaine has become increasingly eccentric on the subject of dogs. She published a book in which she claimed psychic communication with her beloved dogs, and she is grumpy that commercial flights won't let her travel with them anymore. She even dislikes doing Downton Abbey because she can't take her dogs to England, and she hates being away from them. 

"What if something happens to my dog Terry? I would get another dog immediately, and wait for Terry to come back. I believe the life she has led has been too pleasurable for her to ignore."

Yes folks, MacLaine is talking doggy reincarnation here. And as we all know, reincarnation is one of her hot topics.  But it's not all dogs. Along with fabulous gossip about the old days in Hollywood and what it's like to work on Downton Abbey, Shirley Maclaine also gets downright Zen at times, posing all kinds of Delphic mind-benders that take up a single page:

"What if we simply need to ask the right questions instead of trying to find all the right answers? I try to think of answers as springboards to more questions."

Yep, that's a whole page. Plenty of white space around that one. For notes, I guess. And more questions. Further:

"What if people stopped repeating themselves? There would be a lot of unused air and still practically no communication."

I'm still puzzling through what that one actually means. Some kind of koan, I guess. At least it's the only text that appears on page 140, so plenty of room to record my own musings on the subject. Shirley gets all crazy on the matter of time, a recurring theme in the books I've been reading recently. For example, she thinks her beloved dog Terry will pre-incarnate, i.e. be born as another puppy before she dies. She says that this kind of thing is the way of the future as more of us grow to learn that all time occurs instantaneously anyway. There must me some seriously weird discussions going on in the MacLaine household. I wish I was there.

She suggests that show business is a form of shamanism (how I ache for her to do a whole book on that premise!) and then goes on to reflect on her years in Vegas with Sammy and Dean. Indeed, despite its spiritualistic moments this book is largely an exercise in affectionate nostalgia. She also reflects on ageing, and glories in her role as cantankerous and opinionated old bat, not unlike the character she plays in the brilliant Downton Abbey. She is very much an advocate for the aged, and for allowing yourself to look naturally older. It is a concept she celebrates, and she deserves enormous praise for this aspect alone. She also decries the ghastliness and indignity of modern travel:

"What if we stopped the screening of airplane passengers right now - suddenly - all at once, and the thugs standing around (TSA) went home...What if we were suddenly respected for being innately honest and peaceful without the need to prove we didn’t shove anything up anywhere?"

Brava, Miss MacLaine! After Marianne Williamson has been elected to Congress I want you to nominate for president.

The rest of What If...goes on to explore a delightfully random series of questions, including politics, DNA and, inevitably, enlightenment. It's a quite entertaining read, frequently very funny and always bordering on camp. Treat yourself, and become a part of Shirley MacLaine's eternal journey.

Walter Mason at Sydney Writers' Festival 2014

Walter Mason outside Tan Dinh church, Saigon

You'll have two opportunities to see me in action at this years Sydney Writers' Festival. Both on the same day, too!

The first event is Thursday morning:

Dark Humour

Panel   |  Genres: Fiction, Nonfiction
    Thursday, May 22 2014         11:30 AM - 12:30 PM         Free, no bookings
    Pier 2/3 Club Stage, Pier 2/3, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay        
Features:    Simon Kennedy, Mark Lamprell, Jo Case, Walter Mason (facilitator)

Mark Lamprell’s The Full Ridiculous is a portrait of crisis and dysfunctional families. It’s a perplexing world, but it’s not quite hell. In Boomer and Me, Jo Case shares the story of her only son, and why being different isn’t a disability – it just takes a bit of getting used to. Simon Kennedy makes us laugh and cry in his moving story about the tragic death of his mother in 9/11 and the Art of Happiness. Together they speak to Walter Mason about using humour to reveal the resilience of the human spirit.

Details of participants:
Simon Kennedy (Australian)

Simon Kennedy has worked for more than 13 years as a national headline comedian, broadcaster, voice-over artist, radio host, writer and corporate entertainer. He appears weekly on Channel 7’s Morning Show. His book 9/11 and The Art of Happiness: An Australian Story was recently released.

Mark Lamprell (Australian)

Mark Lamprell has worked in film and television for many years. He co-wrote the film Babe Pig in the City and wrote and directed the award-winning feature My Mother Frank. His most recent project is the movie musical Goddess, which he co-wrote and directed. The Full Ridiculous is his first novel.

Jo Case (Australian)

Jo Case’s first book is Boomer and Me: A Memoir of Motherhood, and Asperger’s. Jo is senior writer/editor at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. She has been books editor of The Big Issue (Australia), deputy editor of Australian Book Review and associate editor of Kill Your Darlings. Her reviews, essays and opinion pieces have appeared in The Age, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Monthly. She has also been published in Sleepers Almanac and Best Australian Stories.

Walter Mason (Australian)

Walter Mason is a writer, blogger currently completing his doctoral thesis on the history of self-help books in Australia. His first book, Destination Saigon was named one of the ten best travel books of 2010 by the Sydney Morning Herald. Walter’s latest book, Destination Cambodia, was released in 2013. Walter runs the Universal Heart Book Club with Stephanie Dowrick, an on-line video book club that concentrates on matters of the spirit.

And then in the afternoon, come and hear Stephanie Dowrick and I talk about our literary friendship:

Literary Friendships: Stephanie Dowrick & Walter Mason
Type: Conversation   |  Genres: Spirituality / Religion, Fiction
    Thursday, May 22 2014         3:00 PM - 4:00 PM         Free, no bookings
    Pier 2/3 The Loft, Pier 2/3, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay        
    Stephanie Dowrick, Walter Mason

Stephanie Dowrick and Walter Mason met at Stephanie’s interfaith services in Sydney more than six years ago, and quickly developed a friendship based on a mutual fascination with spirituality, self-development and books. Together they run an online book club that concentrates on matters of the spirit, and they both explore the positive potential of social media to encourage reading and literary culture.

Stephanie Dowrick (Australian)

Stephanie Dowrick, PhD, writes critically acclaimed and much-loved best selling books. Her books include In the Company of Rilke, Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love, Creative Journal Writing, Choosing Happiness and Seeking the Sacred. Her latest book is Heaven on Earth. Formerly a publisher and also a trained psychotherapist, Stephanie Dowrick writes and teaches on a variety of spiritual, psychological and ethical issues. Her particular gift is anticipating key social issues and writing about them in ways that are encouraging and transformative. She also writes widely in the Australian media and has been a frequent guest on ABC Radio. She was ordained in 2005 as an Interfaith Minister, is an Adjunct Fellow at the University of Western Sydney, and a regular speaker for Breast Cancer Network Australia. Dr Stephanie Dowrick lived in London for many years where she founded The Women's Press.

Kuan Yin around the world: some interesting links

Kuan Yin in Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

A couple of weeks ago I bought Alana Fairchild's gorgeous Kuan Yin Oracle Deck at Heavenly Energies in Willoughby, and I have been loving its beautiful imagery and heavely words ever since.
I have been working with Kuan Yin for the past twenty years, so have been interested to note a resurgence of interest in her recently in the West.
Here is a collection of interesting links that I have discovered recently all discussing Kuan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion:

Opening Up with BelindaGrace

This week has been a strange one, in so many ways.

As always I have found myself absolutely snowed under with work, and struggling to stay on top of the enormous quantities of email and other messages I receive daily. I have yet to find an effective email management system. All of the ones I hear about involve putting filters into place, but I'm afraid with me it's out of sight, out of mind, so I am terrified of sending anyone into oblivion. And so they add up in my inbox, ticking over nicely at the rate of 40-50 a day...

I have also been investigating matters psychic these couple of weeks, inspired in part by spending so much time with the gorgeous Barry Eaton, a psychic intuitive and radio host who has just published his second book, No Goodbyes. At the same time I was reading Barry's accounts of his psychic explorations and attending his fascinating talks while he was in Sydney, I was listening on my iPod to people such as Dr. Mona Lisa Schulz and the wonderful Sonia Choquette. Both women are advocates of intuition, energetic healing and psychic possibilities.

So on Friday, at the last minute, I decided to call up and book a spot at the all-day workshop of my old pal, clairvoyant, healer and author BelindaGrace. Today we drove down to Wollongong to attend the workshop at a gorgeous place in the Wollongong CBD called Lotus Wellbeing.

BelindaGrace and Walter Mason

BelindaGrace was at her stunning best, and there was a wonderful feeling in the booked-out room. She was resplendent in a gold and purple salwar kameez she purchased at a recent trip to India.

Suffice to say I had some incredible experiences at the workshop under Belinda's guidance, including having a nasty migraine clear up after Mr. Noodlies applied some healing techniques to the top of my head.

I simply had to buy BelindaGrace's boxed set You Are Clairvoyant which contains book, oracle cards and meditation CD. Watch out world - before long my skill set will expand to include mind reading!

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