Monday, April 7, 2014

BlissChick Redux: Interview with Jen Lemen

As a blogger just starting out, how the heck was I so lucky as to get Jen Lemen to do an interview?! And I adore -- ADORE -- what I wrote here about what she taught me about blogging. This whole interview is just as relevant today as it was when it was first published on May 13, 2008. (Interview begins after picture.)

"The air, blowing everywhere, serves all creatures."--Hildegarde of Bingen
(Painting by Marcy Hall)

If hope is a thing with feathers, then Jen Lemen must be a bird. A bird leading a flock in a revolution, that is.

When I first started poking around in blogs beyond Neil Gaiman and other published authors, I was lucky enough to find Jen. Her writing was different. Go here to read one of my favorite posts from early on in my reading.

Jen taught me two big things: first, that blogging could be so much more than a personal diary, a personal rant, a way to tell the world how much smarter you are than them. A blog, she showed me, could be an honest and immediate pathway for storytelling that opens people's hearts -- the only kind of storytelling that I'm interested in, personally.

She has also taught me about the immense and beautiful power of this community that people still insist on calling "virtual." The internet, like any form of media or communication or linking, has its faults, can be manipulated, and used in ill-will, but it is also a revolution (there's that word again) -- a revolution of thoughts and ideas and freedom.

Jen taught me those things -- especially through her recent endeavors. Jen is headed to Rwanda this week to do a little revolting -- of love and hope, that is.

I came across a quote that reminded me immediately of this remarkable woman. You can substitute any word you want for "saint" -- visionary, leader, wild woman -- but you get the idea:

The saints differ from us in their exuberance,
the excess of our human talents. Moderation
is not their secret. It is in the wildness
of their dreams, the desperate vitality
of their ambitions, that they stand apart
from ordinary people of good will.
--Phyllis McGinley

1. Describe the PrimeBliss of your life, including how you came to discover it.

I think the driving passion of my life right now is to create community and connection wherever I go. This manifests itself these days in a deep desire to share stories that change me both in the listening and the telling. I'm not sure how this passion came to me, but I can tell you I've been weak in the knees for a good story for as long as I can remember.

2. What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

One of the things I've had to let go of is other people's definitions of legitimacy and value. I could easily discredit myself as a storyteller, an artist or a writer because of my lack of training and formal education (I have very little in writing and absolutely zero in art), but I've found that forging my own path has its own rewards.

3. How does your PrimeBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

My bliss shows up in my interactions with strangers. There's something magical about finding a way to connect with someone you don't know by telling one little part of a story that makes you both laugh. These kinds of accidental meetings make my days truly magic.

4. What are some of your secondary bliss activities? Things that make you lose your sense of time?

I lose myself completely when I'm making art. I have no sense of time in the company of fresh produce at the farmer's market. I have lost whole days in the shelves of my favorite bookstores. Anytime beauty, art or books are present, time stands still.

5. What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

I've never been a very regular person, preferring instead the rhythm of putting out fires and responding to calls for action. Maybe that's why I like to light candles for just about everything. It helps me distill my mini-moments of crisis into rituals of hopefulness and peace.

6. What music is your bliss?

I have a horrible, embarrassing affection for Broadway musicals. I've spent whole months listening to nothing but the music from Wicked and Rent, much to the dismay of my family. But when I'm feeling less dramatic, I must have The Weepies. Alone on a desert island, with only one band to pick, The Weepies would be my bliss.

7. Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

I owe so much to the poet Mary Oliver. Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott convinced me to write and then keep on writing. Julia Cameron helped me see I must be an artist. Paulo Cuelo taught me that the way always unfolds before you. Garrison Keillor, Alice Walker and Flannery O'Connor made me want to tell my truth. I could go on and on.

8. What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimeBliss?

The hardest part is thinking you have been passed over, that the gods have deemed you unworthy and forgotten. I promise that is not true. Write down all the reasons you believe you must be exempt from finding your bliss, and then look again to see whose voices are echoing there. Once you know who you are trying to love or be loyal to by refusing to move into happiness, you'll be well on your way to finding your path. Create a tiny altar to honor the voices trying to keep you safe in this same spot, and then take one baby step forward. You'll find your way by moving towards things that energize you, even if you're not exactly clear about what should happen next. With the tiniest bit of courage, the way opens and you'll notice patterns that will help you determine your next step.

9. Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Howard Thurman

Jen Lemen is a woman living her convictions, a woman who is her own best example to the rest of the world, facing her fears and moving ahead with "the tiniest bit of courage."

What fear could you face? Do you have the bit of courage Jen talks about? Light a candle and see what could happen.

If you want to explore more deeply how to create an at-home dance sadhana (spiritual path) practice, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.