Finding Wisdom in Writing Your Story – A Gift to the World
There are turning points, forks in the road, and moments that define us and shape our lives; the times when we must make a choice, and that choice could make all the difference. Stephanie Spence faced such a life-altering choice and by taking a new path, turning at that fork in the road, she forged a life of light, peace and fulfillment. Her former life had been full of abuse, manipulation and criticism.
In her new life, Stephanie found her voice through a personal yoga practice, learning from well-known yoga teachers, and through recording her story. Her story can help readers know they are not alone and that they too can be empowered to forge a new life.
In her book Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On and Off Your Mat, readers are given inspiration from prominent yoga teachers from across the globe, and also gain insight into Stephanie’s life.
After reading the book, I wanted to know more about the motivation behind her recording her story and drawing on the wisdom of the many yoga teachers she interviewed.
How has writing and publishing your story helped in your personal healing process?
As I was driving 4,000 miles in a hulking rented RV, I had a lot of time to think. Travel affords us that time away from our normal commitments and obligations. At the time, though, I was broken and alone. I knew at a core level of understanding that creating this book was what I wished I had at the time of a great life shift. That seemed a little egoic, given that I was incredibly insecure and frightened at the time.
I learned that we can hold two opposing emotions at the same time: I was terrified but electrified by the possibility that I could help someone else who may be struggling with the same things I had. The life insights were coming so powerfully, like a lotus flower growing out of the muck.
That “honeymoon phase” of my initial journey practicing yoga daily with incredible yoga teachers who were sharing their love and wisdom with me never left. I’m in awe of the authentic and wise souls I met on the road. I knew I had to do this. I knew I had to do this in a way [and] I knew I had to break the silence of my past.
It was the scariest thing I have ever done. It was many nights of waking up at 2am and sitting at my laptop pouring my heart out while weeping. Before my treatment for PTSD, I had rarely cried for 20 years. This cathartic outpouring of my darkest moments and fears showed me I could go to a really painful place (experiencing this physically, as we all do) but I would come back.
What do you hope readers will take away from your story?
You are valuable and perfect as you are. If you are afraid, you are not alone. If you are in a situation (could be career, relationship, or your overall life) that you feel like you are limited, there are ways to start again and create a life where you feel limitless. Once you shift from a mindset from victim to accountability, the whole world responds differently.
I share in my book that my life re-calibration wasn’t easy but being unhappy and feeling powerless was harder. I believe sometimes we suffer because we simply can’t see past the first step of change. In my book everyone shares about situations and life events that were all met with courage and grace with the help of the same tool, yoga. The book is about life as much as it is about yoga. I’m on a mission to empower women to see their value.
What is it about writing that empowered you in other aspects of your life?
I found that I didn’t feel so alone after coming to the realization that we all shared the human experience of suffering, however subtle or huge. We could all relate because I now believe we are all connected. At the time I was starving for human connection.
It was so powerful to see that I could go out and build my tribe simply by asking someone questions. People LOVE to talk about themselves, but I was in awe about how vulnerable, real, raw and intimate people were with me simply because I asked.
What advice would you give women on writing their own memoir?
Don’t be afraid to torture your protagonist. You’re the hero of your story, but because you’re so close to the story it’s quite common in screenwriting that you want people to like the hero so you’re not brutal enough on them.
We want our hero to be perfect so people will like it, but what really resonates with people is our vulnerability. There were days that I had to remind myself that I might hurt someone with my truth, but that I had been hurt as well. We all have a valuable story.
I think everyone is a writer, but we’re so afraid of not being good enough somehow. I love other people’s stories. I write in the book that as a journalist and writer I had been passionate about sharing other people’s stories for over twenty years but never thought I had one. We all do. Even if a great grandchild wants to someday know about their family history and can’t find a lot of information online, a written account from someone’s point of view of their world at the time is priceless.
Simply tell yourself that your voice is unique and valuable. It is.
How did you change or evolve as a writer during the process of writing this book?
I found that it got easier and easier to tell my awful negative censor to sit in the back seat of the car while I drove. Unlike other writing projects, I think I had a joyful experience because I kept telling myself it just wasn’t my voice (because of all the wisdom the other yoga teachers were sharing).
As I went along, I grew more and more confident that it was going to be something that people would like, if I could simply pretend that no one was going to judge me. I pretended like no-one in my family or anyone that could “hurt me” was ever going to read it. It’s a game that worked.
I grew to love my new voice. I found I had been writing under a censor my whole life. Because Elizabeth Gilbert had encouraged me to write my book, I followed her lead by reminding myself that writers have books that no one cares about and then one comes along that resonates with people. I kept telling myself that if my voice only touched one person then I had done a good job.