Shortly after she met and interviewed the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Whitney Stewart began writing young adult biographies and meditating. Ms. Stewart has led an incredibly interesting life thus far, which has included living with a Tibetan family in India, trekking with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal, interviewing Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in her Rangoon home, as well as climbing along China’s Great Wall to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.
Whitney Stewart has published several biographies, a Children’s picture book about the Buddha, as well as three middle-grade novels. In addition to writing, Ms. Stewart volunteered as a creative writing teacher in the public schools, after returning home from being trapped on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. She soon discovered that her students suffered from post-Katrina stress. Knowing this, Ms. Stewart began using meditation, improvisation, and word play, to teach her students to write about their lives.
Please tell us a bit about your book and what you hope readers take away from reading it.
My ebook, Give Me A Break: NO-Fuss Meditation, is a straightforward, non-denominational guide that makes meditation simple. It covers the basics in a concise 33 pages: Why meditation is good for you, how to sit, how to let your mind rest, even what to do if you feel weird or uncomfortable during meditation. Most important, it provides sixteen accessible, useful meditations you can easily learn at home. This ebook is meant for beginners. I hope readers come away unafraid to explore their own meditational path to a natural state of mind.
Who/what inspires you the most within your book?
One of my Tibetan Buddhist teachers told me to take breaks from writing on a computer and spend more time outside, looking at the sky. He suggested that I meditate on the passing clouds. I do this as often as I can and find that by watching the sky I expand my mind and rest in a calm state. At the end of my book, I include a suggestion, inspired by this Buddhist master, for meditating on Big Sky Mind.
Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book?
What Happens When I Meditate?
Do you ever notice that you talk to yourself in your
head? It’s as if you have subtitles or a narrator
describing your life as you live it. This voice says things
like, “Oh, how could I have done that?” Or, “It’s so hot in
here, I’m gonna die.” Or, “I have to win, so people will
respect me.” Believe it or not, underneath all of this internal
babble is a quiet mind——a mind undisturbed by embarrassing
moments, or hot weather, or competition. Do you ever notice
that quiet part of you?
If your current release were to be turned into a movie, who would you love to see play what characters and why?
Hmm? I’m trying to imagine a meditation guide as a movie. It might be like Jacob’s Ladder, or Kundun, or The Scent of Green Papaya. I’d want a soundtrack by musicians Philip Glass and my son, electronic musician, Christoph Andersson. I’d want the Dalai Lama and my Tibetan Buddhist teacher Drupon Samten to play the meditation masters. And I’d want Claire Danes, Julia Stiles, Franka Potente, and Ryan Gosling to play the meditators.
What are your favorite aspects of writing?
The quiet, introspective energy of it. I recharge by being alone. I understand myself, the world, and something larger than both when I write.
Your least favorite aspects of writing?
Some days the words do not come, and the harder I try, the worse it gets. I write crappy sentences and delete as much as I write. Those days are tough. The only way I get through them is to tell myself that the next day may be different.
Who are some of your favorite authors/books?
Some days I love to read books by the Dalai Lama, Pema Chrodon, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg. Other days I read Nathaniel Philbrick, Sena Jeter Naslund, and children’s book authors Laurie Halse Andersson, Franny Billingsly, Suzanne Collins, Suzanne Fisher Staples, and Lauren Myracle. I don’t usually read books more than once, because I have stacks and stacks of books waiting. But, I made an exception for Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund and The Heart of the World by Ian Baker.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading and loved Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard, and now I am reading Millard’s other book The River of Doubt.
If you could have a dinner party and invite five authors – dead or alive – who would they be and what would you serve them?
Hard to pick only five. I’d need several dinner parties to add everyone. But here goes—George Sand, Mark Twain, J. M. Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, Tennyson, and Lady Murasaki. Yup, I cheated. As to what I’d serve them? I’m vegetarian, and I’m not that interested in cooking. So I’d make a huge pot of vegetable soup and buy some thick, German dark bread, or I’d hire an Indian caterer. Kipling could handle Indian food.
What is a book that you wish you could say that you had written and why?
To Kill a Mockingbird—I love Scout’s narrative voice and her spunky, tomboy character. I love the book’s sense of place. And most of all, I love the fact that this book about justice does not end happily. I care deeply about human rights and justice, and the stories behind these issues are never pretty.
What is the greatest piece of advice (for writing and/or just living) that you have heard?
Life is impermanent.Powered by Sidelines