Today's Creative Soul Spotlight is on Teri Degler, author and co-author of ten non-fiction books including The Divine Feminine Fire; Creativity and Your Yearning to Express Your Self.
Teri will be my guest in the Creative Soul Circle this month (September 2011) where she will be available to answer all your questions. The Circle is a women-only support group and social site that is free to join.
An Interview with Teri Degler
What fears did you break through to write this book?
The biggest fear was that – in spite of having had nine other books published -- I couldn’t do it. I simply would not be able to pull it off. And then – as I tell the story in the book – I completely collapsed in fear when the arrangement I had with my former publisher fell apart. I realize now that part of the reason I had so much trouble with this was that, in my mind, having I had a major publisher for the book validated it and validated me in some way. I didn’t have the inner faith in my self or in the book that I needed.
Do you have any advice for women struggling with fear?
In The Divine Feminine Fire I talk about the battle between divine love and fear and the fact that love is always capable of conquering fear. This love is the active power of the divine. St. Hildegard von Bingen called this fiery power Caritas or Sophia. The ancient yogis called it Shakti – the cosmic divine feminine. But the important thing for those of us who struggle with fear is that this inner power is accessible! It is embodied in each one of us. We simply have to tune into it – through prayer, meditation, creativity exercises like the ones that are in the book – and allow it to flow through us. Like any spiritual practice this requires practice!
(Unfortunately, trying to summarize this makes it all sound a bit glib! Fear is part of the “unenlightened” human condition; it is something we face continually and meet on different levels as we grow and progress. This is certainly true for me at any rate!)
How does it feel when you’re ‘in the flow’ of creation?
Although I imagine this experience is different for everyone, it is no coincidence that we use the word “flow” when we refer to these types of experiences! There really is a sense of something – call it a force, an energy, whatever you will – flowing through you. For me, when I am really writing at the deepest level, the world around me fades away and nothing exists but images conjured up by what I’m writing. It feels like I am floating in time and space. It is also very blissful. For me this is connecting to the divine feminine – the creatrix of the universe and the creative force within each one of us. But there is also a lot of work with writing – for me that’s when my inner divine masculine comes into play – a constructive critical side that edits, rewrites, and rearranges so the work is as clear as it can possibly be.
(I want to make it clear at some point that I believe the Divine – God, the Absolute, the Great Spirit, whatever you want to call it – is beyond gender. It is neither masculine nor feminine. However, I also believe the Divine exists in terms of an inner divine masculine and divine feminine and that the Divine expresses itself in this kind of polarity throughout the universe. Indeed we experience life itself in terms of polarity – male/female; light/dark; yin/yang; positive/negative electrical charges, and on and on…)
When you were younger what did you want to be when you grew up?
Nobody has ever asked me that before! I wanted to be a singer because my older half-sister had a wonderful voice and I idolized her. But after being demoralized by music teachers who told me I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket I gave up. Fortunately, I also love to draw and was quite good at it so I turned my sights to becoming an artist. A year of being an art major in university convinced me this wasn’t the right path for me. Now I realize that it was the yearning to express myself that was the important thing. According to interpretations of the age-old yogic texts, this deep-seated longing can be thought of as the voice of Shakti – the cosmic divine feminine – propelling us along the path of spiritual transformation…
How has writing The Divine Feminine Fire transformed your life?
Exactly in the way I describe in the answer above. The ancient yogis described Shakti as what today we could call an evolutionary force – we can also think of it as a sort of spiritual transformative “energy”. And there is only one spiritual transformative energy; it doesn’t matter whether we call it kundalini-shakti, jeng chi, dumo fire, or Holy Spirit – it is the fire of the spirit within that transforms us and brings us closer to the Divine. Writing a book about ancient women mystics and seemingly ordinary, everyday women today who are experiencing this transformative power in their lives gave me a chance to really focus on that very same force and to really feel and experience it in my own life.
How can we, as women best contribute to this crucial time in human history and can you share some real life examples from your own life?
We simply need to express this force in our lives – whether it is in our creative expression, the creative thinking we bring to solving either our own problems or the world’s, or the hands-on work we do to make the world a better place. Mahadevi – a medieval yogini – described it as being filled with the “precious juice of grace”. Once filled with this grace she then poured it back into the world in the form of her writing and in the efforts she made to ease the suffering she saw around her.
In the book I talk about four steps involved in expressing this force. First, be able to recognize this power. This is why I describe the divine feminine from the Hindu, Christian, and Jewish traditions in the book – so we can know her and know how she works in our lives. Second, we need to practice sitting with/simply being with this power – we need to be comfortable with holding this power in our bodies. Third, we need to listen to what she is telling us – really hear the guidance that is being given to us. Then we can come to the last step, which is allowing this precious juice of grace to flow upwards, outwards, and onto the world which needs it so badly.
There are examples in the book of women who did this. Anya, for instance, came up with an extremely creative and exciting way to start a big environmental movement in her home town. And right now one of the other women whose earlier story I told in the book is in India working passionately with the Global Peace Initiative of Women to create an international, interfaith centre aimed at helping to bring the values and wisdom of the feminine into contemporary spirituality and society.
What is the most important message you would like to convey through your book?
This is directly linked to your question above. This transformative spiritual force – that is embodied within us! – is transforming us and we can use that power to transform the world. And I absolutely believe it is our responsibility as human beings – and especially as empowered women! – to do just that.
Who or what do you find yourself returning to over and over again to inspire your Divine Feminine creativity?
Personally I really love to keep reading the age-old yogic and Tantric texts that describe the transformative power of the divine feminine. But I get much of my day to day inspiration from the women I’ve met and continue to meet who are doing incredibly inspiring work in the world. I tell one these women’s stories in each issue of my newsletter: http://www.teridegler.com/newsletter.html. I’m also posting their pictures, a bit about why they are inspiring, and their websites on my new Face Book community page, and I’m in the process of starting an “Inspiring Women Inspiring Women” page on my website. So everyone can check them out and get inspired!
What is the most difficult part of following your creative passions?
Fear. It seems I have to keep coming back to this and facing new levels of self-doubt every time I face a new challenge.
What advice can you offer to women who are seeking to reignite their Divine Feminine fire?
The four steps above. Learn to recognize the divine feminine. Become ever more comfortable holding this great power in your body. Listen to what it is telling you. Express it. (And, remember, you can’t express it if you don’t create a certain amount of time and space in your life for doing so!)
When you look back on all the research, writing and interviewing you did for The Divine Feminine Fire, what one thing stands out the most, as if it’s been burned into your memory for all time?
That this divine feminine force is real – that the active power of divine love is real – that the “light within” is real – and that they are all the same thing!
What is your next project going to be about, can you give us a hint?
I am thinking about writing a book about the spiritual journey I’ve been on – it has had painful, heartbreaking moments and many really whacky, funny moments too… I would be very nervous if this were going to be a book about “me” – but I think it could be me as a writer being a sort of “lens” on the spiritual journey from the late 1960s on – and a way of sharing the absolutely amazing people I’ve met, things I’ve seen, and experiences I’ve been blessed – and, admittedly, sometimes tortured! – to have had. But there are about ten other books I’d like to write too!!
Award-winning writer Teri Degler is the author/co-author of ten books including The Fiery Muse: Creativity and the Spiritual Quest (Random House of Canada). A long-time student of yoga philosophy and mystical experience, Teri has taught workshops in the United States and Canada and made numerous media appearances. Her freelance writing has appeared in Family Circle, More Magazine, Today’s Parent, The Toronto Star and many other publications. Her latest book, The Divine Feminine Fire: Creativity and Your Yearning to Express Your Self, recently became a #10 Amazon.ca Bestseller in two spiritual categories. See www.teridegler.com