by Cyrus Webb (May/June issue of Conversations Magazine)
Like many of you I have gone through times in my life when I felt as though I either needed a fresh start or at least the opportunity to rebook. When I read the book NEW SELF, NEW WORLD by author Philip Shepherd I became aware of the fact that for some this is a literal process while for others it can take a psychological and even spiritual journey.
In this conversation with the Canadian native he shared with me how his travels began years ago and why by looking at the world with a renewed sense of purpose we can do the most good.
Philip, thank you for taking out the time to talk with us. As you have traveled around the world and gotten to know yourself better, when did you decide you had to share some of what you had learned with others?
That actually happened about 25 years ago, when I began teaching workshops to help people learn how to center themselves in their bodies. So many people were out of touch with their own creativity, and didn't know how to remain present, and it was exciting to see that what I'd learned could make a significant difference to them. Along the way, I probably learned as much as they did. In fact, the impetus for my book really came out of those experiences as a teacher.
Writing can be such a personal process for some. Was it easy for you to share what you had discovered and what's surprised you the most about the response?
What was difficult was working my way through to the sort of clarity that made my discoveries easy to share. I mean, to discover something for yourself is one thing – it has a certain resonance for you – but to find the clarity that enables you to share it with others requires a relentless questioning. You need to ask all the questions they might ask, until finally what you are sharing can stand in its own integrity. That's why the book took me ten years to write. And I suppose what most surprised me about the responses I've had from readers is that the book – which after all is merely words on paper – has had such an effect in helping them to provoke real shifts and insights and renewed experiences for themselves; that those words can help readers reunite with the intelligence of their bodies. It's amazing to me that books can do that, and it's why they remain such a potent part of my life.
For those who haven't read it, the book is called NEW SELF NEW WORLD. Tell our readers what you hope they take away from it.
Well, the book shows how our culture has developed a story about what it means to be human – and it's a story we've been developing for over 10,000 years; but because each of us has lived in it and absorbed it since childhood we don't see it, or rather we mistake the story for reality itself. So it's like an invisible force in our lives that affects everything we do and think about, and because it's so hard to question what you can't see, we tend to remain trapped inside it. And unfortunately it's a story that disconnects us from ourselves, our neighbors, our community and the world of nature. So the book exposes that story, and its long history, and readers find that it's an immense relief to recognize its hold on their personal lives, and liberate themselves from it, because that allows you to come home to yourself, and home to the world around you. And that's my hope, really, that readers would take away from the book a renewed sense of themselves and of the world they live in.
Throughout the book you talk about the importance of standing still and absorbing what is going on around you. Why is that important, especially since all of us live such hectic lives?
One of the major effects of our culture's story is to make us live in our heads, which means we are always doing, doing, doing, in a way that is disconnected from our being. That disconnection has come to feel normal to us, but actually, it's a killer. I mean, it starves the soul to the point we may even forget we have one, and it leads to actions that are damaging to 'being' in general – to the being of those we live with, and to the being of the world that sustains us. As a culture, we have lost the skills that would allow us to just 'be'. And you cannot 'be' if you are living in your head; you cannot reason your way into the present. Being present really requires that you drop into the receptivity of the body – drop into a place of utter stillness deep in your core – and fall in love with the transient moment.
I had the pleasure of interviewing you for the radio show as well, and in that last conversation we talked about faith. Share with our readers the role that faith continues to play in your life today.
There's a line from my book that states, "There are no obstacles, there is only guidance." The soul is a little like a lump of bread dough. The deep, all-aware, mindful present will knead and pummel and stretch your soul in order that it might rise and grow into the warmth of the world's glow. If you don't recognize that, then the kneading will be mistaken as something that hinders your journey or keeps you from it – when it is actually the journey itself. If you resist its compassionate challenge, the wheel will get stuck. But once you recognize that the kneading is the guidance necessary to move your soul nearer to the world's light, you can actually celebrate it.
With the book reaching readers around the world, Philip, what's next for you?
The next phase is actually underway. Since January I've been giving talks and workshops based on the book, and I love introducing the material to people, and helping them recognize divisions within themselves. And sometimes those divisions have held people back from a full experience of their lives for decades. Anyone who grows up in our culture is susceptible to them. But I've found that the workshops can initiate a transformation that undoes those divisions, precipitating real change – life-altering, long-lasting change. To help facilitate that in people is just thrilling. So I've been traveling across the country, and Canada as well, giving the talks and the workshops, and I hope to continue doing that for the foreseeable future.
Thank you for your time. How can our readers find out more about the book and yourself?
There's lots of information on my website philipshepherd.com It has stuff about me, the book and the workshops. It also has the book's Foreword by Andrew Harvey, the Introduction and the Table of Contents, so people can read those and get a feel for the book. They can also visit the Facebook page for the book. Thanks so much, Cyrus, and all the best.