an interview with Shakti Gawain
I, for one, have been ultimately confused by the plethora of books out there about money, life, and prosperity. It has seemed to me that you could choose your corner: Make lots of money and have everything (because abundance is your birthright) or volunteer for simplicity; give the earth a rest with the underlying sense that you really should feel guilty about using the resources we have. With those choices, I was basically "turned off" to the whole debate on prosperity until I read a little book by Shakti Gawain. You probably remember her for her bestsellers Creative Visualization and Living in the Light; her latest work somehow balances the two extremes on the "prosperity continuum."
It was no coincidence that this opportunity to interview Ms. Gawain necessitated my reading her newest book, titled Creating True Prosperity. Im very happy that I did, for it gave me words to assist me in stating my belief about prosperity and this game we call life, in which each moment, each meeting, and even money itself, acts as a mirror for learning and healing.
Kris: Your connection to Shiva is obvious. Nataraj, your publishing company, is named after the dancing aspect of Shiva and your name, Shakti, is the female aspect. Whats the story around Shiva?
Shakti: My parents were atheists when I was born, and they basically said "youll have to figure out whats true for you." My mother came from a Quaker background, so we had a real strong spiritual tradition in our family and Ive realized, in a way, Im very much in that tradition. However, there was no spiritual training for me; that was good in that I didnt get any dogma, yet the other side of it was that I didnt get any answers either. Thats obviously part of the reason I was such a seeker, trying to figure it all out.
When I went to India in my twenties and began to tune in to the Hindu religion, I connected very strongly with the image of the god Shiva. Its symbol spoke to me in a way no other symbol of a deity ever has. The Hindu religion is very complex. There are many gods and goddesses, yet the main trinity is composed of Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Shiva, the Destroyer. Now, Shiva may sound like a heavy "negative" to us, yet it is simply the understanding that life is constant change and transformation. Everything is dying in order to be reborn. He symbolizes change, and I resonated strongly with that concept. It deeply affected me. As you may know, Shiva has many incarnations.
Perhaps partially because I was a dancer, the Nataraj aspect of the dancer spoke to me. Nataraj means "Lord of Rhythm" and, in that incarnation, he is the cosmic dancer whose dance keeps the universe in motion. When I came back to this country, my boyfriend and I were living in a community where lots of people were taking spiritual names; he knew my experience with Shiva, so he started calling me Shakti (the feminine form of Shiva). I started using it, and it just stuck.
Kris: Is intuition something youve experienced throughout your life, or is that something you had to develop?
Shakti: Oh, I had to cultivate that, because I came from a super-rational background. My family was very educated, very rational.
Kris: Yet I read that your mom often said, "You can do anything you want to do."
Shakti: Well, my mom was very, very intelligent and very rational at that point, yet she was a very adventurous person. My parents were divorced when I was about three, and my mom had to create a career. She became a city planner in a day when there were no women in that field. She was a great role model for me in terms of being a woman who went out and did what she needed and wanted to do in life. On the other hand, there was no support around intuition. In fact, I remember believing, "If you cant prove it, it doesnt exist!"
As a kid, I was very anti-religion since I figured God is just something people make up because they cant stand the idea that they dont know why were here and what were doing. With my journeys into the spiritual and emotional, I began to open to lots of new ideas about the non-rational, non-linear side of life. I also had a teacher who taught me that this intuitive sense can be very reliable if we learn to live by it. That was after Creative Visualization was published; this is the material in Living in the Light. All of my books are like summaries of different stages in my life.
Kris: Are all of your books inspired by or in response to that intuitive sense?
Shakti: To me, listening to inner guidance is usually about the moment. I know we all want to have some great revelation that signals us to do something particular and then go on to do the next thing, but its not usually like that. Its usually as simple as "I dont feel like getting up this morning" or "I just have this energy to do this thing right now." Its about what are you feeling in the moment, what needs to happen right now, step by step: that "gut feeling" that tells me whats true for me in this moment.
It does seem like theres been a moment with this quality around each of my books. I know it happened with Living in the Light because I remember walking in the woods one day and noticing the light flickering down through the leaves. "Living in the light" came into my mind. It was actually three or four years before I wrote the book, and yet I knew, at that moment in the woods, it was the title of a book I was going to write.
Kris: In your new book, Creating True Prosperity, you speak beautifully about a most confusing issue for me: the idea of setting goals vs. flowing with the universe and trusting that you will get what you need. Will you speak a bit about your approach to this polarity?
Shakti: I see it as a balance of the masculine and the feminine. Knowing your goals and going for them needs to be balanced with a more "being" space of resting and magnetizing to yourself what you want. The masculine within each of us functions in that "make it happen" mode, while the feminine is a way to "magnetize." We need both of those aspects, yet our culture focuses on the more masculine mode and the result is that sometimes we are so busy "doing" that we end up exhausted, feeling that there is no time to replenish and renew. It is definitely a dance of knowing when you "go for it" and when you simply "allow."
Kris: I also love the clarity of your idea that " prosperity is not caused by money."
Shakti: The idea is that prosperity is an experience that most people are not having, no matter what amount of money they have. Its obvious that if you can barely pay your rent, youre not feeling prosperous, but what about middle class people with good salaries and lots of money? Somehow, expenses mount and life gets more complicated, and theres still no sense of true prosperity.
What seems clear, as I talk with people, is that there are people at every level of income who are experiencing a high degree of prosperity; however, its definitely not linked with how much money they have. There are three viewpoints of prosperity: first, the materialistic viewpoint says that happiness will come with more money and more things. Then, the transcendent spiritual says the physical is not where it is, that real prosperity is richness of spirit and what we want to do is renounce the world. Both are flip sides of a coin, each with a little piece of the truth, yet too limiting. Third, the New Age viewpoint attempts to bridge the internal and the external with a "change your thinking and open up to infinite abundance of spirit" strategy. However, this is far too simplistic and limited to address the real issues most of us encounter in our quest to create prosperity.
Kris: Your idea that both our relationship with money and our experience of prosperity develop as a reflection of our healing and growth on all levels makes it apparent that each individual soul will have a different experience around this issue of prosperity.
Shakti: Some people are here to have a life of simplicity and hopefully to find a sense of fulfillment and prosperity in that. This movement toward simplicity is definitely "right on" because we have been in this expansion mode for so long in our culture that we are destroying the planet. The trend with people re-examining priorities goes right along with what Im saying: we must look to see what we truly want. In my observation, there are lots of people who are genuinely realizing that the pursuit of physical abundance and material success really isnt satisfying. Theyre beginning to look for ways to balance that with more "being" time, more artistic/creative expression, etc. Its happening in my own personal life. Im at that midlife point, too, trying to find that balance.
Kris: You talk a lot in your book about "being" versus "doing" and you make the statement that people who perfect "being" often carry the shadow part of our culture for all of us. I also read that "shadow" work is very important to you.
Shakti: First of all, life is filled with polarities, and my feeling is that one of our main challenges is to develop all the polarities within us to bring balance and wholeness into our lives. That may be quite a different way of looking at it for many. Our culture teaches us black/white, right/wrong, good/bad so that we want the things that are good and not the things that are bad; therefore, weve all denied aspects of ourselves which we really need for balance. Because we havent investigated them, we may think of them as bad or scary and that becomes the "shadow," in Jungian terms, a part of every human being.
In our culture, we admire being productive and achieving goals so people who have developed more of the "being" energy are often thought of as dreamers or lazy. Unfortunately, they often think of themselves in that way as well. The fact is that they are holding an energy we all need. We are all somewhat out of balance and it can be increasingly painful, feeling like theres something missing in your life. It has to do with parts that arent developed yet within us.
The need for shadow work, or work with our disowned energies, is essential so that pain can be dealt with and life can be "unstuck." Whatever we are uncomfortable with needs to be integrated. We have this "shadow" culturally as well as individually. Its the basis of sexism, racism...somebody whos different from us will be the screen upon which to project that dark side of ourselves, and they become the enemy.
Kris: Robert Johnson, a Jungian, writes of the necessity to create a ritual for that shadow side in an effort to own that part of yourself. What kinds of work do you use?
Shakti: I always acknowledge a couple who have been great teachers of mine, Hal and Sidra Stone. Theyve taught me a technique called Voice Dialogue, which works directly with that issue. Its been by far the most powerful tool in my life. You work with a facilitator and s/he dialogues with those "primary" parts of you so that you can begin to separate out the filters through which you experience your life. As you begin to separate a little from the primary selves, not getting rid of them yet allowing the denied selves to come in, you automatically begin to find out more about your polarities. This is the beginning of bringing them into balance.
Kris: ...finding the old tried and true moderation.
Shakti: I wouldnt use the word "moderation," because when I think of moderation, I think of staying in the middle ground. For me, the idea is to explore the full range of options so that we can comfortably move wherever we need to move. We dont want to stay moderate, not daring go to an extreme. Its true that if we go to an extreme and get stuck there, we have a problem, yet I feel I want my full repertoire as a human being so that I can experience the full extent of my power and the full extent of my vulnerability. I want to pull out whatever is needed in each situation.
Kris: Lets end with what you think is the most important point youve made in this new book, Creating True Prosperity.
Shakti: I think the most important point is that prosperity is an experience. Its not linked to the external so much as it is an experience of finding fulfillment and wholeness and then, all that constitutes doing that. We all have similar needs and desires, yet we all have our own variations on those, too.
Shakti Gawain has been travelling around the globe these past many months and is looking forward to some "being" time with her husband, Jim Burns, at their home in Mill Valley. She can be contacted through her assistant, Lora O'Conner, at (415) 388-7195, or you can write to her online at <email@example.com>. If youd like to spend time at her Hawaiian retreat Kai Mana or find out more about her workshops, check out the web site Nataraj at <http://www.nataraj.com> or call (800) 837-1782.
Kris Kegg and her life partner, Patrick Snetsinger, market integrative health products through Healthy Steps, Inc. in Bellevue, WA: (425) 646-1040 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Kris is an artist and educator who is infamous for asking, "why?"