Pamela Seelig is the author of “Threads of Yoga: Themes, Reflections, and Meditations to Weave into Your Practice.” It’s a guide for students and teachers inspired by the yoga sutras. Pam is someone who began her yoga journey more than twenty-five years ago when an illness interrupted her Wall Street career. She began meditating as a complementary therapy with startling results. Along with speeding up her recovery, the impact of her meditation led to a lifelong pursuit of perceiving and sharing yoga wisdom. Pam eventually trained at Integral Yoga Institute in New York and began teaching to friends at a local convent in New Jersey until 2009 when she opened her own studio called Lotus Mind and Body. After a rewarding nine years, she sold the studio to focus on writing this book.
In this interview for the School for Good Living Podcast, Pam joins Brilliant Miller to talk about a lot of things related to living well, yogic philosophy, and energy. We talk about the witness, cultivating a deeper relationship with the observer, quieting the mind, meditation, prana, kundalini, and the chakras. Pam also explains a bit about her writing, creative process, and how she got the book written and published. Pam explains how she has lived a better life by incorporating things both in her book and in this interview and how they can be keys to our own good living.
“That’s what yoga is really about… living a more full life.”
This week on the School for Good Living Podcast:
- Pam’s Journey from a successful career on Wall Street to yogic philosophy
- How Pam and many others have used yoga as a key to good living
- The “witness” and other yogic philosophies uncovered in the book
- How we can regain the energy we spend on holding onto negative feelings
- The power and purpose of breath
- How and why Pam decided to publish with Shambhala
- Cultivating a relationship with Prana
- The Yamas and Niyamas: Guides for good living
Brilliant Miller [00:00:02] Hi, I’m brilliant, your host for this show, I know that I’m incredibly blessed. As the son of self-made billionaires, I’ve seen the high price some people pay for success, and I’ve learned that money really can’t buy happiness. But I’ve also had the good fortune to learn directly from many of the world’s leading teachers. If you are ready to be, do, have, and give more. This podcast is for you.
Brilliant Miller [01:28:47] The more I learn, the more convinced I become that living really is a skill, it’s something at which we can become better. My guest today just further reinforces that belief for me. Her name is Pamela Seelig. She is the author of Threads of Yoga. themes, reflections, and meditations to weave into your practice. Really enjoyed this book a lot. It’s a guide for students and teachers inspired by the yoga sutras. Pam is someone who began her yoga journey more than twenty-five years ago when an illness interrupted her Wall Street career. She began meditating as a complementary therapy with startling results. Along with speeding up her recovery, the impact of her meditation led to a lifelong pursuit of perceiving and sharing yoga wisdom. Pam eventually trained at Integral Yoga Institute in New York and began teaching to friends at a local convent in New Jersey. And in 2009, she opened her own studio called Lotus Mind and Body. After a rewarding nine years, she sold the studio to focus on writing this book. And I’m so glad she did. In this conversation, we talk about a lot of things related to living well and some things related to, as I’ve said, yogic philosophy and energy. We talk about the witness, cultivating a deeper relationship with the observer, quieting the mind, meditation. Of course, we explore things like prana, kundalini, the chakras. And then, as I almost always do, we get into writing and the creative process. And I love what Pam shares about how she got the book written and published. So whether you don’t do yoga or whether you’re just starting out or whether you’re a seasoned practitioner, I invite you to pick up this book and to listen to this interview. I think you’ll be glad you did. And I think that you will learn to live more skillfully, that you will live a better life by incorporating things that Pam is talking about in this book, if you’re not already. All right with that, please enjoy this conversation with my new friend, Pamela Seelig. And by the way, you can find her and her work online at Pamelaseelig.com.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:10] Pam, welcome to the School for Good Living.
Pam Seelig [00:00:13] Thank you, Brilliant, thank you so much for having me.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:16] Would you tell me, please, what is life about?
Pam Seelig [00:00:21] Well, what a question. Well, I think first, I guess I don’t know and that’s OK. But what I think at this point is it seems to be about learning and learning about relationship, relationship with others, relationship with the world, the physical world, and then also learning about who we really are. And. As we learn and accept who we really are, I think we bring that into our lives, into the world more, and that may be what life is about, but it’s a process in progress. So I’m just trying to stay open and learn as much as I can.
Brilliant Miller [00:01:09] Beautiful. Me, too. That’s part of why I’ve invited you to the show. I’m really grateful that you accepted the invitation. You’ve written a book called “Threads of Yoga: Themes, Reflections, and Meditations to Weave into Your Practice”. You got here through, as every author does, through a journey. I want to start by asking you, what was the moment you knew you were going to write this book?
Pam Seelig [00:01:43] I think that was also a progress or process because I started to look for this book, I started to look in bookstores to find a book that would help me as a yoga teacher, bring more of the wisdom, more of the philosophy that I loved into class. I tried to bring it into class, but it was a little awkward at first. And I just sometimes felt inspired, sometimes not so much. So I was always looking for a little support, a little help with that. And I couldn’t find the book. And then after a few years, I thought, I’m going to write that book. And then it percolated for many years. And so it really came out of my own need for something and hoping that others would find it of help too. And then it sort of grew to not for only teachers, but for people that I knew or even didn’t know that I thought this information would really be helpful for kind of what everyone should know about yoga philosophy.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:53] May I ask about your faith background? Are yoga and Eastern studies something – is that what you were raised in or is it something that you’re kind of an immigrant to this land of thinking? What what was that like?
Pam Seelig [00:03:08] It’s not something I was raised to in or to, I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, most of my schooling, elementary or middle school, was not, that was a public school. But then I did go to a like a girls Catholic high school. So, yeah, this really wasn’t in my my worldview or my I wasn’t exposed at all, really. So when I discovered these ideas really in my late 20s, I was just amazed, enthralled, and dove right in. I really connected and resonated with it with the yoga tradition and then of course explored other traditions such as Buddhism, shamanism. And I found it all very fascinating and very helpful. And then I also started to get more interested in the mystical aspect of Christianity. And I connected with that more than really what I had been brought up in the traditional it was more of the mystical tradition that sort of runs through most wisdom traditions that I really connect with.
Brilliant Miller [00:04:23] You know, I understand as well that you you had a career on Wall Street, so a life that was a little bit different from the one you’re living now and that you had an illness of some kind. And I’ve seen for sure in my own life and in my work as a coach that, you know, pain has this incredible way of bringing us to awareness. Right. In fact, you include a great quote in the book about I forget who it was, but about suffering is the fires of consciousness or something like that.
Pam Seelig [00:04:52] Yes.
Brilliant Miller [00:04:53] Which, incidentally, is one of the things I appreciate about your book. So many great quotes and so many that I hadn’t heard of, even though I love to collect these things. But will you tell me a little bit about – I’m reminded of the saying I forget who said it about like a man can be counted on to do the right thing after he’s exhausted every other option – we come to a practice that works for us only often only through trial and error or through pain and searching. And it sounds maybe like that’s what happened. But will you take us back to what was this life like on Wall Street and how is it that your illness factored in and then led you to the path you’re following now?
Pam Seelig [00:05:34] Sure. Well, I was working in the financial industry. I was in my 20s, moved to New York City trying to pay the rent. And I ended up on Wall Street because little did I know that we were right in the beginning of a historical bull market. So my timing was excellent. So I got a job downtown. Not that that was ever a calling or anything like that. I just knew people that I knew were making money. And that was my goal at that time of my life. So I was very successful and it’s all relative. But I became fairly successful. But it was through not really living a balanced life. It was the culture of working so many hours and not necessarily taking care of yourself. And eventually, it took a toll on my health. And I got Bell’s Palsy, which I never heard of. I woke up one morning and half of my face was paralyzed. So very dramatic. I, of course, thought I was having a stroke, went to the emergency room and they explained that it is kind of common. It’s not life-threatening. Most people recover, but some don’t. You just have to wait. And I did not know how to wait and not do anything. So that was a huge challenge. And I couldn’t go to work. This was pre-Internet. I couldn’t, staying home was difficult. I couldn’t read really. I had one eye patch so watching television didn’t work. So I went to started going to many different doctors and trying to find a course of action. They all just said, wait. And one doctor said. Have you tried alternative medicine or meditation, which I didn’t? Again, never had heard of alternative medicine or and I’ve heard of meditation but never thought to try it. But like you said, I was desperate. I would have never turned in this direction at all. And I skimmed some information, didn’t read a lot, began meditating, didn’t know you really should start slowly and build up. I was that type A personality and just, you know, took four hours aside and did some meditation thought and some strange occurrences started happening that I couldn’t explain. And I also really loved meditation, I found, which was surprising,
Brilliant Miller [00:08:08] if I may jump in there for a moment. Some strange occurrences. So what, you share one or two of those with me?
Pam Seelig [00:08:16] Yeah, sure. First, I started to hear sounds inner, sounds like a bell or a waterfall or even a flute sound. And I would look around and get up. I was in an apartment, so I would try to I thought that it was another outside sound, but I realized it was not. And then I started to see lights, like with my eyes closed, like fireworks, like a light show. And when I went to sleep at night, I would see it on the ceiling if I had a lot of meditation that day. And I close my eyes and I’d see the same thing behind my eyes. So I had things I couldn’t really explain and I started.
Brilliant Miller [00:09:02] Sorry to keep interrupting, but I’m curious here. What was the method of meditation was it just something, you know, you’re closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Or did you have a teacher at the time? I’m wondering if this is something perhaps that was associated with a particular style of meditation you were following or what did you practice?
Pam Seelig [00:09:20] Looking back, I knew nothing and I thought it was just about the breath. And I did use a mantra. I did have a very simple mantra that I had read. So I sort of just took it. It was a Sanskrit mantra and used that it was three syllables and that was it. And I do think because I was so upset about what was happening, I couldn’t go to work, my work, my world, I was devastated. So looking back, I think I was trying to escape in a way, my life and my body and the world. So I think that played a huge role, whereas I’m not saying that’s healthy or the way to do it. That just was the situation that I was in. So when I started to go to more alternative healers like energy workers that I’d never heard of meditation or a breathing teacher, it wasn’t really meditation. I would ask about these sounds or lights or other phenomena that were occurring and you know, people would say they don’t know or do a little research about yoga, and I was like yoga. What what would that have to do? I thought that was just postures or, you know, bending into pretzel-like poses. But then I got some information on yoga. And when I read about meditation from the yoga perspective, I actually read about noises that you could hear things like a bell, things like a flute. I read about light that you could see and what that was. And then so that sort of validated the other yogic information that I was getting so then it just calmed me down. I realized what was happening and I sort of said, OK, I think I can I know I have a path to sort of getting back to help. So that was my start. Kind of long-winded. But like you said, I know a lot of people who it’s through illness that they’re turned on to these other kinds of worldviews or practices
Brilliant Miller [00:11:29] pain really is the great awakener. What do people what do most people not understand or maybe even get wrong about yoga?
Pam Seelig [00:11:42] That yoga is about just the postures, that that is yoga and that is a part of it, but one teacher described it that if yoga is a car, the postures are like a real. Now they’re important, they’re one aspect of it, but it there it’s part of the journey and its sort of a tool like breathwork, but there’s so much more.
Brilliant Miller [00:12:09] No doubt, and I came across a term you’ve probably heard this in your study, in your work, Make Mindfulness, this idea that especially maybe corporate America has taken aspects of mindfulness practice or maybe even aspects of spirituality and almost sanitized them and they can be beneficial to health. Right. We can see that the moment you breathe in a deliberate way, in a slower way, that there are physiological benefits and things like this. And I think that yoga is maybe the same way that you can do it in a way that’s not spiritual whatsoever, or you can do it in a way that includes incredible devotion. And it can be part of spiritual practice, but it doesn’t have to be there’s no judgment about either one. But as I hear you talking about what people don’t understand or maybe get wrong about yoga and thinking that is just these postures, I can see some of that. And it is one thing that I love about your book that it does include some of this yogic philosophy, a lot of yogic philosophy for those who are interested to go deeper and use a term in the book I was really intrigued by, which is practicing yoga off the mat. What do you mean by that?
Pam Seelig [00:13:18] Well, it’s bringing what we learn from yoga into our daily life, really, that’s what it’s for, it’s to live a more full life. So, for instance, the postures, are very beneficial. I don’t want to discount them. So when you’re on a mat and you’re challenged sort of at your edge with the posture and the teacher says, stay here, and relax. So you’re not relaxed, you’re holding a posture, your muscles are engaged and you’re tense, and then you’re like, well, I can relax in this pose, and then you relax and you realize you can breathe and make it actually allows you to stay in the pose longer. So in life, when you’re in a painful situation like you’re talking to somebody and it’s a painful conversation and you’re tense and all of a sudden you think, even though this is challenging, I can relax and I can breathe here with this person. So you’re not adding to the suffering? We all suffer. We all have joy. We’re not trying to get out of that. That’s part of life. But we’re not making it worse or adding to it by adding tension where we don’t need it. And we can learn that on the yoga mat and bring that right off the mat. That’s just one of the minor ways.
Brilliant Miller [00:14:43] Yeah, that’s beautiful. What a wonderful description. And I think about that in learning science, what I’ve heard called transference, where you learn something in one area, but you can apply it in another area and exactly what you’re saying, how remarkable that we can learn something from this embodied practice and carry it into a conversation or a circumstance, a boring meeting perhaps, or, you know, an event that we don’t really want to attend. But being present nevertheless and relaxing into that, wonderful. You describe in your book also you tell a couple of really great stories, many great stories, but one of them. So I want to shift our conversation a little bit to this idea of “the witness”, the observer, many names you point out. You give a great list of names for this. But you share the story about the image of a periscope, will you talk about that here?
Pam Seelig [00:15:37] Sure. What I love about the Yogi journey is at least what I experienced is I would have experiences and sort of be baffled and then learn about them later, maybe in text or in different commentaries, different stages that I wrote about them. And that’s what happened with me, with the witness. I really hadn’t put too much attention on that idea. And in meditation and this is sort of years down the road, eight years into practice, I would be meditating and sometimes you get a little vision. It helps you stay calm. For me, it was water like a calm ocean. And sometimes this periscope would pop up out of the water. And at first, it would kind of derail my meditation because I would think, oh, that’s cool or that’s funny. But after a while and it kept happening, I was like, oh wow, OK, I’m to just sit with the periscope and then and I could feel it in my heart center that sort of in the body where I could feel when the periscope popped up and the periscope was just very calm, very soothing. And I kind of gravitated toward it in meditation. And then I learned about the witness and kind of synchronically and I thought, oh, that’s the periscope. That’s the part that’s always there watching not just judgmentally, whether or not there’s a storm, it’s always there just watching. So that was kind of like I don’t know if it’s my subconscious or way of experiencing this idea and embodying this idea of the witness consciousness.
Brilliant Miller [00:17:26] Thank you, so I imagine just with that bit of description for anyone listening, many people listening this far into the interview, they already have an awareness of and a relationship with the witness or the observer. But whether they do or not, they’re just hearing about it for the first time. I wonder if you would share what is your experience of how we can cultivate a stronger relationship or a healthier or a more complete relationship with our witness or the witness?
Pam Seelig [00:17:56] Well, the main text that I referred to in the book is called The Yoga Sutras, written about twenty-five hundred years ago by an Indian sage named Patanjali, a revered sage. And he sort of tells us how to do it. The sutras are one hundred and ninety-six little statements, not quite sentences that describe what yoga is, how to do in the ultimate self-realization.
Brilliant Miller [00:18:20] And if I can just jump in there for a moment, if, as I understand it, it’s not quite scripture. Right? These aren’t commandments. It does not do this and thou shalt and not that. That is a little different.
Pam Seelig [00:18:32] It’s not it’s more how can you align with your true nature? How can you find who you really are so that you’ll be more peaceful, be more joyful and as your first question, this may be what life is about, this is what Patanjali is writing about, but the witness, the first three of the sutures, the first one is now, now we begin yoga, begin our yoga practice. The second is yoga is the quieting of the mind or mind-stuff, that inner narrator. And the third, which refers to the witness really is, and then the seer can abide in her his or her true nature. And then the seer can abide in his or her true nature. So when we quiet the mind, then we can abide in our true nature and our true nature. The witness is this presence that’s always there. That we just don’t have access to if we don’t quiet the mind and really what yoga is, is ways to the path to quiet the mind, we’re all different. So we have to take different routes or paths. But there are many different ways in the yoga tradition. There’s no right way or better way. It’s just we try for ourselves, but anyway. So this idea of getting to this place that’s really behind our thoughts or beyond our thoughts, right there is the witness and when we go a little deeper, we can find that the witness is how we are all connected. That’s the depth of that, that’s what’s really so beautiful because if we never go to that depth, we don’t know that that’s there. We feel very separate. We feel like, you know, we were on our own. It’s a harsh life, you know. It’s a kind of survival of the fittest because how would we think otherwise? It is it’s depressing. It’s anxiety-inducing. However, if we can get to that deeper place, it really does help, I think, of like a forest. And now we know through scientific research that the trees look like they’re separate, but underneath they’re all connected and they’re all talking, and I think that’s how it is for people. It looks like we’re all separate. But if we can just quiet the mind, which isn’t bad, it’s just a tool that we have and goes beneath that, then we get the support, we get the direction and we feel the love. So it’s important. It’s important to do that. Or at least try.
Brilliant Miller [00:21:29] Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. What did you learn that surprised you as you wrote this book, and how do you think your life is different now after having written it?
Pam Seelig [00:21:45] I learned so many things, honestly. But I think. The practice of yoga and when I say yoga, it’s synonymous for me with meditation. So when I wrote the book, the practices that I have of yoga and meditation led the way. They helped me in every single way and I think that’s the same with no matter what your goals or what you’re driven to do. I think I was surprised that you know, no matter every step I took, it was really the practice that helped me. And now it’s a bit of a surprise and it helped me along and a lot of different ways.
Brilliant Miller [00:22:34] That’s awesome. Will you talk for a moment about how did you structure this book? Why would you use that structure?
Pam Seelig [00:22:46] There were a few iterations of it, and I have to give credit to my editor at the publisher, Sarah Stanton. She was terrific and really understood the concept right away. And just gave me a lot of support, but I wanted to start with these major themes, I didn’t want it to be so complicated, you know. There’s a lot of great texts that I referred to, or people could go and read themselves if they really want to get a little bit deeper, do a little bit deeper study. This is really just the beginning. The first section was the foundational themes that I think are just so helpful universally. And then the second part, the ethical precepts, the Niyamas, and the Yamas. I think that’s what most people skip over because they seem obvious, nonviolence, we sort of all know we shouldn’t hurt anything or kill anything. So we kind of skip over it. But it’s actually really important and really valuable to do a bit of practice and to find that peace within. So I wanted that to be a part of the book. And then the third part, the chakras. And you don’t really need to know about your energy system, the energy body, but it can be very helpful to know. And this idea of this psycho-spiritual, psychological and spiritual aspect of our beings can explain a lot of things to people, a lot of behavior, or it can help with quieting the mind. I think it’s very fascinating also. So I wanted to include that. And so I thought those three sections sort of in that order made the most sense for a person who maybe has been doing yoga for a couple of years and just wants to learn more, but maybe doesn’t want to do a teacher training because yoga students often ask their teachers when they start to wonder, why do I feel so good? Like what’s really happening here? And the teacher says, yeah, you should do a teacher training because you will learn more. But a lot of people don’t have the time or they know they really don’t want to teach. But where do you go to learn more? So I thought this information would be kind of the next level.
Brilliant Miller [00:25:10] Yeah, that’s awesome. And although I do not teach yoga and I feel like I barely practice, I do some like that. I found a lot of value in the book. And I appreciate the way you structured it because I’ve not read the yoga sutras and I’ve heard of the Yamas and Niyamas about the ethical precepts that you’ve talked about. And I appreciate the way that you shared them through your own learning and understanding, because I got some views that I hadn’t had before, like about non-stealing, not just being about not taking other people’s things right, but about giving more than you receive. And I thought that was a really beautiful view. And similarly about nonviolence is not just about not hurting people, but a more active way of being kind and promoting, you know. Service and recognizing our connection with other people. So I really just wanted to acknowledge that and tell you that I, I got a lot of value from that and I hope and believe that readers will as well. The area on chakras, I thought was really interesting, because that’s one of those things in my experience that I think is easy for many people to dismiss as like a new age thing or, you know, oh, there’s that and kind of roll their eyes or just close their mind to that. But to me, this is – and I’d love to hear how you see this, – but even if one doesn’t take it literally and perhaps it is literal, you know, I don’t know, I’m open to the possibility. But even if we don’t take it literally, I think there’s still a lot of value in the metaphors or the concepts or even the possibility that it is. But how do you see that as it relates to chakras?
Pam Seelig [00:26:54] Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think it’s true. I don’t necessarily think you have to take it literally. And I love that you’re so open. Like, yeah, we don’t have to determine I believe in this or I don’t believe in that. It’s this idea. Oh, that’s interesting, maybe it’ll percolate. But when, you know, for instance, the shut the throat chakra, when you know that that’s also about expression, being authentic, the ability to express yourself authentically, to artistically express yourself, or not, tell the truth in a conversation. Maybe when you have to tell someone what you’re thinking, it’s a difficult conversation, and you feel it close, you feel it close, you can express yourself for some reason it’s not coming. And then you can maybe delve a little deeper, like what’s really happening here. It’s not you know, this shouldn’t be difficult. Obviously, you know, I’m not being heard or I’m not being. And then it’s just thought for contemplation and we can grow. And I think with the chakras, you can feel them very strongly. In certain chakras like the heart, we can feel heartbreak. We can feel we can see someone who’s heartbroken. They slouch, they’re protecting their heart. That energy, which is fine to do. Sometimes we have to do that. It’s a coping mechanism. But if it stays too long, if the energy doesn’t flow for too long, we can have some complications in that area. So to know, to relax, to breathe, to let the energy flow, even if it’s a little painful, is OK. So I think it’s the idea that we’re more than the physical body, that we are multidimensional and maybe not knowing what that means exactly, but being open to it can expand who we think we are and accepting that we’re more than just the physical body.
Brilliant Miller [00:29:19] Yeah, I think you’re right, I absolutely think you’re right, and one of the things that I appreciate about your work is that – I suspect people listening, whether they know it or not, when they came to this conversation, a lot of I think is what you’re pointing to – so much of this, maybe all of this is about this embodied awareness and what you’re saying now. And in the book you write, I love this sensation. So here are words from page fifty-seven, at least of my advanced review copy. Sensation often moves through the body in the form of tears, discomfort, or pain. But it can result in a newfound spaciousness of the heart. The energy that was holding that emotion or memory in place is now freed. And I really appreciate this, because when I look at my own life, I think about how I closed my heart. You describe that I had heartbreak in my 20s and I closed my heart, I stopped trusting my emotions. I stopped paying attention to my own feelings. I would dismiss them or ignore them. And I think that’s very common, especially in the United States, where we do seem to I mean, even the term that corporations call us, we’re consumers that we consume, but we don’t necessarily – not just give – but circulate the energy or be aware of what’s going on in. And I think that that can be a real challenge, not just for our physical health, but our emotional and our spiritual health as well. And the way that you talk about this in the book, I found to be really insightful. But I’ve also learned that not everyone, right, I think for people who can feel they who are in touch with their emotions or who do this bodywork, they might forget or just not know that it doesn’t come easily to some people. What do you what’s your thought about that, like what about somebody who goes, OK, this is this directionally feels right, but I don’t know how to do that.
Pam Seelig [00:31:11] Well, so your question is it about if you’re. You don’t know how to feel it in the body or trust it
Brilliant Miller [00:31:20] or you just don’t know how or yeah, how do you engage with that? How do you gain access to the information and the intelligence that’s there but maybe you don’t know. You don’t trust it.
Pam Seelig [00:31:34] Well, I think just knowing that you don’t trust, that you’re not letting it flow is just a way to put it. I think that’s an awareness and that’s good. Like a lot of people aren’t there. They’re just doing doing doing, you know, maybe just not dealing with things or focusing on things because they’re busy doing and they don’t want to go there. But once you turn around and you’re saying, OK, I want to take a look within, I feel that there’s a blockage or stagnation in this area of my life/area of the body. And I want to look within. I think it really does come back to meditation, to quietting the mind. Seeing what comes up and focusing your attention, attention on a part of the body or a situation calmly, and understanding that sometimes it can be overwhelming. And we don’t want to go there and that’s very common because meditation is excavating the mind, that’s what it is. And I’m not a mental health professional, so I tread lightly here because I know how deep this is and how intense this work can be. So when we quiet the mind, and especially when we’re opening to a situation in our own area, in our life, that we need attention, things may come up and are overwhelming, and we do need to perhaps seek a counselor, a therapist, a friend, because it’s a little too much. Many people just say, no, I’m not going to go there. I’m going to close that. No, it’s too painful. And I understand that. So but I think respecting and honoring the deep work and getting help, you don’t have to do it alone. You can get help. And when you like you said, when that energy starts to move, we realize how much energy was spent holding it down. And when that’s freed, it’s cathartic. It’s a weight off and things open up in your life that you would not have imagined because that energy that was holding whatever in place is no longer doing that. So it can really be transformative.
Brilliant Miller [00:34:07] Yeah, I have a teacher who once said he said it this way. He said on the other side of any feeling fully felt is peace.
Pam Seelig [00:34:16] So simple. So perfect.
Brilliant Miller [00:34:18] Yeah, perfect. Often we don’t allow ourselves to feel the feeling fully so we never get to the peace.
Pam Seelig [00:34:23] Yeah, it’s like the monster in the closet. Just I don’t want to know, I don’t want to look, it’s really bad, but when you open the door, it might not be that bad. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:34:34] I want to ask about this, this could be its own whole conversation, but I want to ask, what have you learned about breath?
Pam Seelig [00:34:45] It’s magic, it’s just magic, and like I mentioned in the book, like nobody, I certainly didn’t realize the power that it holds because it’s so obvious. It’s because we have it all the time, like our breath. We don’t really appreciate or know what it really can do. And there’s one of those in the yoga sutras, Patanjali Sutras. He refers to the eight-limned pack. There are eight limbs that comprise yoga. And one of the legs is Ossana or postures that the Western culture is really attached to. And one of them is pranayama or breathwork – as important. And the Eastern traditions have really studied and harnessed this power of the breath in so many different ways. Yogis have known it and yoga practitioners have been practicing breathwork for a long time. But now it’s interesting. Science is now like you’re not going to believe it. Slow breathing is good for you. Yeah, we knew, but yeah. And that’s just one aspect. There are so many different breath practices that can help just an array of different health benefits.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:08] And I love the sense you include in the book about you say it’s no coincidence that the words for breath and spirit are the same in many languages, including Sanskrit, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Norwegian, and Greek, and probably many more. That’s pretty amazing. And you just talked about Pranayama. Will you talk a little more about Prana? This is another one of those things that, again, I think it might be easy for people to dismiss or just whatever to not believe in. But I think there’s something really interesting and deeply valuable in this. But what is Prana and how can we cultivate a more complete relationship with it?
Pam Seelig [00:36:50] Well, Prana is basically the cosmic life force. That’s one way to try to see it or say it. It’s just words again. But it’s the energy that animates us. The energy that makes up the universe, that spins the planets, that makes a seed grow, beats our heart. I think I say in the book, there’s it’s if we’re a light bulb, it’s the energy that lights the bulb. So I think of a fish who’s swimming in water. It’s our water. It’s all around us. But it’s accessible to us, we can feel it. Some people can see it. Many people can see it. If we see a twinkle in someone’s eye, we’re seeing prana. A parent does like heals with Prana. We can add more prana, it’s a practice. It’s a healing practice. When a child falls down skins, their parent instinctively puts the palm of their hand on the wound, sends healing or love through their palm. That’s working with Prana. So we all work with that. We just don’t really think of it. But through the breath, we can cultivate more product for our physical body. It increases our vitality. Eating healthy food, eating fresh plant-based food is increasing our prana. Deep breathing increases our prana so there are ways to work with it.
Brilliant Miller [00:38:26] I thank you for sharing that is one of those things, again, that I think is a concept that’s a bit foreign to at least the way the Western world view, which I was raised in. But I think intuitively we have a sense of this. I mean, look at Star Wars, right? There’s the force and perhaps, you know, I don’t know everything Lucas studied, of course, but independent of learning. As I said, I think we intuitively feel something like this, even though it’s not a model we’re taught in high school science or.
Pam Seelig [00:39:02] It’s just it’s not detected yet, but I do think it will be and I do think it’s sort of the future in terms of healing. I think laser healing, laser surgery, I think that’s almost the beginning of it, but I think, again, feeling it for yourself, your own body is the best way to understand it as opposed to studying it in a book or reading about it. It’s really through different breath practices and exercises that you can experience for yourself rather than, you know, believing it, believing in it or not.
Brilliant Miller [00:39:47] When you say that many people can see it, what do they see, and do you see it?
Pam Seelig [00:39:54] I, I do see Parana. A lot of people see it in the mirror. Believe it or not, you can look in the mirror if you’re relaxed and you’re not trying to see it. You may see a little halo. It’s like a light just around the shoulders and head. And then when you look, it will disappear. And then you sort of see out of your peripheral vision a little light. That’s kind of the first stage of seeing it. And then there are exercises you can do if you’d like to see it. And then if you kind of cultivate that, you begin to see colors. First you’ll see blue and yellow and then and then more. It’s always there. It’s just sort of widening your spectrum of sight. And this is completely, my experience is nonscientific. But from what I can tell, a lot of people see it if I have conversations with people and it’s not something that I try to cultivate. It’s not that important to me. Maybe if I was an energy healer, a worker on people’s bodies, I would want to see more. But I just think we’re all seeing it. Some people are aware of it and noticed it and others don’t.
Brilliant Miller [00:41:15] Yeah, I’m reminded, you know, someone I’ve learned from, Sadhguru talks about when he was young, he didn’t see people, he didn’t see a body. He didn’t see a form. He would just see like a cloud of energy like that sounds really strange, but I’m going to I’m going to trust you. Let me ask you this. What is what is Kundalini? How is it different from Prana?
Pam Seelig [00:41:40] It’s just condensed prana. It’s a very powerful form of prana life for us. And it flows freely in youngsters and toddlers, babies and toddlers. And then sometime before puberty, it settles at the base of the tailbone. Kundalini means a coiled snake. And because of that, it sort of sits dormant, coiled at the base of the tailbone for most people for their life. But then the Kundalini energy can awaken and move up the spine and it kind of moves like a snake, like a cobra. The weight goes back and forth, but it goes up the main channel, our main channel along our spinal cord, piercing the major chakras as it goes up and as it pierces the chakras, it relates to like expanded state of awareness. So it’s an awakening situation. And many people have written about their dramatic awakenings. There’s a lot of books written by different people. Eckhart Tolle in his book, I believe it’s the power of Now, writes about when his Kundalini awakened and he experienced this awakening of his consciousness for the first time. And it was very dramatic for him for two years. He really worked to integrate it. But for most people, it’s a very natural slow awakening where they have more awareness, more perception throughout their lives. But there are certain practices that you can do to awaken Kundalini. That’s a big part of Kundalini yoga, that particular style, although most styles of yoga and the style that I most closely associated with most of them say you don’t have to do anything, just do your yoga practice, live your life, and it will awaken at the proper and appropriate time when you’re ready.
Brilliant Miller [00:43:46] Yeah, that squares with something I’ve heard about we wake up whenever we wake up, and sometimes train can be an impediment to progress in many
Pam Seelig [00:43:58] areas of life, right? Yeah, because why are you trying
Brilliant Miller [00:44:02] in the book, you mentioned that you had your own Kundalini experience. Will you talk about that, what was that like once?
Pam Seelig [00:44:08] This was another experience where I really didn’t know what was happening. It seems to be my theme, but I was on a retreat and it was a seven-day retreat. And so that creates a lot of energy in the body, a lot of chronic buildup maybe. And the last night of the retreat, there was a Kirtan and I didn’t really know what a Kirtan was. But it’s a chant and response concert. So I was on my own at the retreat, so I thought I would go. I sat in the back because I thought I’d sneak out. But the music was amazing. People were chanting this mantra, the singers, and it was almost like an experience, like a rock and roll, like a music festival. It was really great. I was surprised. I didn’t think it would be that way. So I’m really all in. I’m swaying and chanting. And it was winding down and I was sitting on a cushion cross-legged in the back of the room, a big like assembly-type room. And all of a sudden my spine just went like straight and just like stood up really straight. And I couldn’t move and I didn’t know what was happening. And I tried to, like, uncross my legs. And they were just I just was sitting and my chin tucked and I knew something was happening, but I really didn’t know what, I’d heard of Kundalini, so I thought it had something to do with that. So I just sat there while everyone started leaving the concert. And then I started to panic a little bit because I couldn’t move and I didn’t know anyone. And I thought I was going to have to ask a stranger for help. But slowly my body started to relax and I got up and I darted back to my room, was a little bit freaked out, and I couldn’t sleep the whole night, but I wasn’t tired. And I remember just trying to meditate and get calm. And it’s kind of getting the inner message that everything’s OK. That was just a result of the retreat. Stay calm. And nothing like that has ever happened since, so. t was really interesting.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:21] Yeah, it is. And I know that these unusual, these extraordinary experiences can be intriguing for practitioners. And like you said, you know, teachers will often counsel don’t seek those just to your practice. If they happen, they happen. But nevertheless, there I think they’re inherently interesting because they are unusual along those lines. There’s something I want to go back to the ethical precepts for a moment because you point out that teachers will say that abiding by these will endow us with, you know, certain whatever powers or gifts or strengths or something, and there’s a name for that, right? If I have it right, it’s because of the precepts of the Yamas, the Neyamas. But then the gift of the power is the Cidi.
Pam Seelig [00:47:11] Yes.
Brilliant Miller [00:47:12] We talk about that. What I mean, this is really interesting to me because I think to try to give this a little bit of a frame that hopefully is useful for a listener. That is it’s inherent in the words we’re using an ethical precept. Right. Again, it’s not a religious thing. It’s not again, as we’ve already said, it’s not a set of commandments, but it’s this promise from ancient sages saying if you live this way and of course, you’re under no obligation to do so, it’s not going to get you into heaven. You’re not going to go to hell if you don’t. But if you do, then life or whatever will endow you with certain gifts. Do I have that kind of how you understand it?
Pam Seelig [00:47:56] Yeah, I think the Yamas in Niyamas are guides for good living. And if you don’t want to you know, if you don’t want to live by that, that’s OK. But this is going to help you be more you because the yoga tradition is that we are all going back to try to remember or find this little diamond within our divinity within. So it’s aligning with our true nature. Our true nature is, again, this is where words don’t work, so just leave it at that, but each Yoma has a power and the tradition calls it like a power, a city. We can think of it as a gift and so I think it’s nice to know that, but again, like, I feel like it’s not you shouldn’t really try to get stuff, you know, it’s one thing where. You know, to just be open to it and see what happens. So just trying to think of one of the gifts. So if where we practice nonviolence in the environment that we’re in will become so peaceful that we won’t experience violence. Eventually, and that’s, I think, the example of Saint Francis in the book where there are so many stories of him, just animals, just wild animals becoming tame around him because he was a master of nonviolence or not stealing. We don’t take we’ll achieve abundance if that’s the gift of that. If we’re content, the gift is joy, supreme joy. So that’s a beautiful idea. So each one has a gift. And I think it’s yeah, it’s nice to have a bonus. But even without the bonus, the yogis teach that living in alignment and cultivating these Yamas and Niyamas will help your life, will benefit you. And the other idea that I love about the Yamas and Niyamas is its part of your character, but it’s improbable, you know, like in terms of contentment, I didn’t realize that could be a practice. I thought that, oh, it’s cold outside. I’m so happy to be warm. I feel content. It’s like a feeling that arises. It’s nothing I can do. But the yogis teach us that it’s actually a practice. You can have to practice that because that’s how you become joyful, it’s not the other way around, so, oh, I think it’s very empowering to know that you can practice contentment.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:56] Yeah, absolutely, I’ve for the last few years, I’ve really the last few years especially, I’ve become convinced that living is a skill and we can improve our skill. And what you’re talking about is a perfect example of that. Absolutely. Well, we’ve covered a lot. What haven’t we talked about that you want to talk about or you think might be of benefit to the listener?
Pam Seelig [00:51:22] Oh, I think I loved our conversation, I think the idea that when I first learned this idea, this was the mind-blowing turning point for me with yoga was that you are not your thoughts that this mind, this constant narrator who I thought that’s who I was, my judgments, my opinions, my personality, this constant in my head, that’s who I was. I just thought that I didn’t realize that was not who I was. So when I realized that, it kind of made my life more exciting and, you know, the idea of aging, getting older in our culture, there’s kind of nothing good about it. Yeah, nothing good about it. But when you realize this deeper part of yourself and start exploring that realm, it’ll be it’s exciting because in 20 years from now, you know, I’ll have different ideas and different thoughts and it’ll add more hopefully peace and joy and share more peace and joy. So so anyway, that’s what I think for me was one of the biggest light bulbs in the yoga practice of yoga.
Brilliant Miller [00:52:44] Oh, yeah. It’s so beautiful. And I, I agree. I mean, in our especially American culture where we prize youthfulness and kind of the elderly, we tend to put them away and, you know, put them in homes or care centers or whatever. And I always thought that aging was this just slow, steady decline into decrepitude and dysfunction, you know, and nothing, nothing good would come of it. And then it wasn’t until I read some of Yogananda’s words where he talked about we can age and expire. We don’t actually ever need to decay. Right. And get Disease. Disease is not an inevitable part of aging. I thought that is not how Americans see this at all. And I really I mean, what you’re saying between you are not your thoughts and you’re not your body. And this and then to see that in the Indian culture and this is a bit of a generalization perhaps, but that the last few years are reserved for looking inward, especially the last few years are for looking inward. And there’s one thing Sadhguru told me about this saying in India that no man or no person should be carried to his grave like that is amazing that we live such a self-determined life and we’re so prepared when the time comes to die that we ourselves go to the spot where we will die like that is amazing. And that’s what I love. I really do. I know I’ve said this a couple of times in different ways, but I appreciate that you that you’re writing on these topics and that you’ve been teaching these and you’re spreading a message that it really does improve or can improve the quality of life for people here in the United States that’s not for everybody, but is for more people than I think are aware of it today. So it’s great, it’s a great message and I do have more questions I want to ask you, but this part of the conversation and reading your book has been so fun.
Pam Seelig [00:54:43] Well, thank you so much Brilliant.
Brilliant Miller [00:54:46] OK, well, how are you doing?
Pam Seelig [00:54:50] Oh, I’m doing very well.
Brilliant Miller [00:54:52] OK, well, here’s what I’ve got. I know we’ve got about a half-hour maybe or so. What I’d like to do is ask you some questions in the enlightening lightning around, I think it’s about nine or 10 questions and then just a few about writing and creativity. Again, these questions, my aim is to ask the question and for the most part, stand aside, just let you answer and I’ll keep us moving through them. You are welcome to answer as long as you want, however. OK, ok, so the enlightening lightning around. Question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a.
Pam Seelig [00:55:40] A great adventure.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:42] OK, question number two here, I’m borrowing the technologist and investor, Peter TEALS, question one important truths do very few people agree with you on?
Pam Seelig [00:56:04] I think I think everyone can meditate. I think most people don’t think they can meditate, but I think everybody can meditate.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:18] OK. Question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a t-shirt with a slogan on it or phrase or saying or quote or quip, what would the shirt say?
Pam Seelig [00:56:32] I think I would say it’s.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:33] OK. This is short, question number four. What book other than your own? Have you gifted or recommended most often?
Pam Seelig [00:56:48] This is easy, the autobiography of a Yogi by Parmahansa Yogananda.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:54] How did this book come into your life?
Pam Seelig [00:57:01] Well it was so long ago, I don’t remember, but I would not be surprised if it was at that time in my 20s when I was dealing with Bell’s palsy and. Learning new things and the reason I love this book and I recommend it or give it to people is when I first read it. What comes through is what a seeker he is from his heart. It’s just, you know, from childhood. He just wants to know and he just goes and I felt like if you feel that way, I think many of us feel that way. And you sort of feel a little bit alone in that. You know, not everyone’s interested in this sort of thing. But when you read his work and you just it just comes through his words, you feel it and he brings you along and you know what he sees, what he writes about you, again, you don’t have to believe it. One hundred percent, it’s just this open. It’s like expanding our ideas of what is life like, what is possible for a human being, and learning more and more. It’s just such a beautiful book. So so that’s why it’s awesome.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:22] I totally agree. That’s a book that changed my life, changed the trajectory of my life. And one of the things that I really love about Yogananda is about his writing is so poetic and his love of I mean, I think he speaks English better than I do, you know, but his love of also flowers and gardens and poetry. And he combines all that so beautifully. And there is this taste of the mystical in there that’s so fantastic. And, you know, other things that are so far outside my prior life experience that I just wanted to know more. But yeah. That’s awesome. What are you currently reading?
Pam Seelig [00:59:03] I’m reading right now, Michael Pollan, how to change your mind. I love it. Yeah, this idea, again, the same sort of thing, like, well, stop limiting ourselves. You know, there’s more to our consciousness. I like how he puts one thing in the book where he’s like he saw his mind and then there was a little door that he hadn’t noticed before in his mind. And he opened it and went out, went through. And I think that was great I love that idea.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:32] Yeah, that’s wonderful. You know, he has a new book coming out this year. Oh, really? Already, I think it’s next month also, which as we’re recording this, I know things on the Internet live forever, but we’re recording this here in August of twenty twenty-one, Pam’s book Threads of Yoga will be released September twenty-eighth.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:52] Next month. OK, we’ll keep going. Question number five. So in your life, you’ve traveled a lot. What’s one travel hack, meaning something you do when you travel or something you take with you to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable.
Pam Seelig [01:00:08] OK, I think don’t bring toddlers is the number one thing, but I think for me it’s air pots, water, and a good book and I’m good to go.
Brilliant Miller [01:00:24] Yeah, that’s great. Question number six. It’s almost like a trick question, but it’s not what’s one thing you started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Pam Seelig [01:00:38] Well, I think the obvious is to exercise more, eat better foods. Not going to lie, I do like my face creams, skin care, taking care of your skin, but. Yeah, I think it’s the basics. I think it’s going to the basics and stopping with all the extraneous stuff and necessary, including food,
Brilliant Miller [01:01:03] but not entirely right?
Pam Seelig [01:01:07] And it’s like the extra food. And I, I this is a practice for me. This is definitely I’m not saying I do it. This is a practice.
Brilliant Miller [01:01:16] Well, and that was yeah. It’s a that’s a Yoma though. Right. Because what is it to self-discipline.
Pam Seelig [01:01:24] Yeah. Topas. Yes, Topas is. Yeah. So when I do, when I do have to really curtail something in terms of exercise, doing more exercise or eating less, I make it a spiritual practice. It’s definitely, I can do it if it’s a spiritual practice. And Topo’s is the idea of growing or learning from the heat of pain or challenge, accepting it as a way to grow. And I think that’s a great perspective.
Brilliant Miller [01:01:59] I love that. I love the sentence you include in the book that Topas aims to purify and empower us to discover and know our real strength and potential. That’s really cool. OK, question number seven, what’s something, one thing, you wish every American knew?
Pam Seelig [01:02:19] I think that people are people, no matter where they’re from or what they do, it’s people are people. And I think everyone, not only Americans, we should all know this, that people are people and there’s good people. There are people that are trying to people that are not trying in every culture. And there’s just not the differences that I think we all perceive. Sometimes they’re just not there.
Brilliant Miller [01:02:48] Yeah, absolutely. By the way, that reminds me of another sentence from your book, I loved that you write, We forget that Saints, Buddhists, and sages were real imperfect people who were transformed through devotion, guidance, willpower, and grace. So all right. OK, question number eight, excuse me, speaking of people, this is about relationships. What’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about making relationships work?
Pam Seelig [01:03:21] I think it’s listening, listen, and also respect everyone’s journey. Nobody’s perfect, we’re all imperfect, so don’t expect perfection. And just listen.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:40] OK, question number nine, aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money?
Pam Seelig [01:03:50] This is definitely a practice for me, and it’s this idea of contentment and gratefulness and just focusing on what you have and being grateful. And. You know, I think that’s with money, we can just focus on not having enough all the time because there’s never enough. There’s always so I feel that idea of just being really super grateful all the time and doing our best, doing our best in our lives to achieve our goals. But being grateful,
Brilliant Miller [01:04:26] you know, what you’re saying reminds me of something I once read. Rockefeller said, I think it was, you know what being rich is? It’s “one more to zero than you have”. OK, so if people want to learn more from you or if they want to connect with you, what would you have them do?
Pam Seelig [01:04:46] Well, thanks. My website is PamelaSeelig.com and I have my contact information there and any classes that are happening. So yeah, they can just go to that website. And my book is there to
Brilliant Miller [01:05:02] of course, threads of yoga. People can find their hopefully at their local bookseller or of course online and books. The classes that you mentioned, are they available online? Are they in person? If so, what’s the geography?
Pam Seelig [01:05:16] Well, yes. Since the pandemic, I’ve been teaching online, and mostly what I’ve taught and what I’m teaching right now is a meditation introduction to meditation. It doesn’t take a lot of time, three weeks, but it’s just one hour a week. And because you really have to do it on your own. So the one-hour first week is breath. We learn a technique, a couple of techniques. You practice it for that. We come back. It’s nice because you hear questions. We all kind of have the same questions and hit the same obstacles. The second week we layer on a mantra practice for a week, and the third we do some guided work and self-inquiry and it usually can establish a home practice that you can then go in and develop yourself. So. So that’s what I’m teaching right now.
Brilliant Miller [01:06:05] Awesome. OK, and I’m going to say this here, so I’m sure to include it, but as an expression of gratitude to you for making time to talk with me and share your lessons and insights with me and everyone listening. Something I’ve done is I’ve gone online to keva.org and I’ve made a microloan to a woman named Svara in Tajikistan and she will use this money, she’s 30 years old, she’s married, she has three kids. And she’s engaged in her family’s business of breeding cattle. But she’s had some medical issues. And she’s going to use this money actually to help cover those medical bills so that she can get back active and healthy again. So thank you for giving me a reason to go make that loan. And I hope that in some way this conversation will do some good in the world far beyond what we might ever be aware that it does.
Pam Seelig [01:07:02] Oh, thank you, Brilliant. That is so beautiful. It really is terrific. Thank you.
Brilliant Miller [01:07:07] My pleasure. OK, so the last few questions here are about writing and writing and creativity. Let me start with this. When did you first know you were a writer?
Pam Seelig [01:07:24] Well, when I was young, when I was a kid, I thought that I would be a writer. That’s what I always thought because it was something I just love to do, I enjoy doing. And it came easily to me. But and I always journaled. But as I got older and sort of the reality of life hit me, I didn’t want to be a writer because I wanted to be able to support myself and not have financial issues. So that kind of went out the window. Sadly, I always journaled. But every job that I had, though I usually ended up doing the writing, even in the financial world, I would write the proposals that were submitted. So, you know, it really wasn’t until I thought I would be a writer. Sort of gave that put that in the background. Life happened. And then when I started teaching yoga and realized I couldn’t find this book that I wanted, it was I was kind of excited to get into that project.
Brilliant Miller [01:08:30] That’s great, writing a book is no small feat, it’s right up there with, you know, it’s maybe above running a marathon or even earning a college degree. A lot of other things that, you know, our society recognizes and celebrates. How, as a practical matter, how did you organize your life and your time in order to do the work required to get the book written and published?
Pam Seelig [01:08:55] Well, I think part of it was I had really no idea how much work and what what it entailed, but my timing was very good. I owned a yoga studio for nine years and sold it after nine years because my husband and I wanted to move to the city. We were empty, nesting, so we moved to New York City during the week because our kids were gone. And it was a long commute, so he then he wouldn’t have to commute. We love the city. So sort of a dream that we went back so. Selling the studio, I had space in my life and I thought now or never, and I also was living in a new place where I didn’t have any distractions. So it was really perfect. Looking back right now, it was perfect. But even with that, you know, you can always find distractions, especially in New York City. So I had to be disciplined. I made sure four and a half to five hours a day was dedicated to writing. I would have done longer. But I found my brain couldn’t do more than four hours at least. Well, so and I just stuck to that four hours a day pretty much until it was written. And I thought I was going to self-publish. I didn’t think I would find a publisher. I didn’t I just wanted to write the book to see if I could really do it. And then I went through the process of trying to see how to publish. So and that was like a whole that when I realized the process for that, that led me down a whole new path. So it was kind of learning as you go.
Brilliant Miller [01:10:42] Yeah, I definitely want to ask you about that, but I want to stay for for the moment with this about the four, four and a half hours a day. What was your routine like? Did you write at the same time every day? Are you an early bird or night owl? Did you have a word count? Did you do anything to track your progress? Like how did all that work?
Pam Seelig [01:11:04] For me? It worked the way that I found that I could write for four hours. I had to do a solid practice in the morning. So for me, that means at least 30 minutes of meditation and at least an hour of a physical practice. So I had to get myself in that space. And at that time, I just felt so grateful that I had the time to do that, because most of my life, I would never have had that kind of time to dedicate. So I know this is a little unrealistic for most people, and I feel bad about that. But just in that time, I had the space, so I made sure that I had my practice sat down. I really got into coffee. I have to say, I’m now a coffee connoisseur. I guess that’s a writer thing. And then I could do the meditation especially when my mind was out of the way. The ego was out of the way. You know, the idea this is this good enough was out of the way. And I could just I could feel the flow most days. Of course, not all these.
Brilliant Miller [01:12:10] Yeah, I know that some writers, many of them, of course not everyone has the means to do this, but they’ll actually lease another space like another, you know, whether it’s an office space somewhere or a cottage or they’ll at least build a shed or they’ll have a garage into something. Did you, obviously in the city, there’s probably not a lot of options like that, but how did you manage the space in which you work? Because sometimes I think it can be hard to transition from living, and especially if you’re with other people, it sounds like you were with your husband and this. How did you manage the space that you were in as part of the creative endeavor?
Pam Seelig [01:12:51] So for us for me, it was so easy because going to the city, my kids were in school. They’re not home. They’re in their twenties. So going to the city, they were gone. And my husband went to work during the day in the city. So this was pre-pandemic. So I had the space to myself, a little space, but it was perfect. So that enabled me but I can totally understand how you need to get out of your house to go because of being at home. There was just always a distraction, there’s always something to do. There’s always an errand. So with the laundry, there’s always a phone call or email. So I think you really do have to set your own boundaries, however that works for you.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:37] Yeah, for sure. And we all pretty much everyone has the constant challenge of being connected to the Internet on the same device that we’re writing on. And we can justify all its research. Or just going to check one thing, you know, respond to this email. How did you overcome that?
Pam Seelig [01:14:00] I just felt so lucky, you know, again, this is sort of a dream to be able to write. And it was always in the back of my mind my whole life. I just felt so lucky to be able to have this space and to be able to do it. And I didn’t want to let it go. I just felt that gratefulness, I guess, and contentment. So I think that kept me really motivated.
Brilliant Miller [01:14:25] That is like the best answer ever. Like, I was just grateful that I wasn’t distracted. Right.
Pam Seelig [01:14:32] I did. I really felt I, uh. I did, actually. I just knew how rare it was because we just don’t get that in our lives most of the time. So.
Brilliant Miller [01:14:43] Absolutely. How connected did you feel to your reader in the act of writing?
Pam Seelig [01:14:55] I felt very connected, I felt there were times when I would think of a specific person and be like, oh, I know, but like in a chapter, she should know this is so important. This would help her so much. I really felt that as I was writing.
Brilliant Miller [01:15:11] That’s pretty cool, my experiences that can make sometimes I can make writing more challenging, imagining the audience you’re writing for, but other times it can actually help a lot. And I’m with that question. I’m amazed at how some writers say I didn’t really have a reader in mind. I just kind of wrote it or I wrote it for myself. And other people are very clear. So I’m always interested in how people respond to that. Let me go to that kind of line that you were talking about with publishing, where your intent was and your thought was at the beginning. You would yourself publish this, but ultimately you didn’t, in fact. Shambhala is a very well-respected publisher, that’s and congrats on getting published by now. How did you transition from thinking you would yourself publish to publishing with Shambhala?
Pam Seelig [01:15:58] Well, I have to say that. Well, as I wrote, I didn’t have a publisher, and I think that helped. Like, I really didn’t necessarily think a lot of people would read this. So it helped with my ego aspect. It wasn’t that I didn’t have big dreams or what I was limiting myself. I just really didn’t give it too much thought. So that I think helped. And from what I read about finding a publisher, it didn’t seem realistic for me to expect to just get a publisher. My first book. Well, apparently when I read about how to find a publisher when I Googled that, it was, you know, you have to have a platform. That was the main thing. I’ll stop there. And I need a platform, meaning ten thousand followers minimum. So I didn’t have that, nor was I interested in really going with trying to get that, especially before you have a book like Why are people following you? You know, I had the yoga students that I loved and they were really terrific, but I wasn’t spending my time promoting myself. I just wasn’t doing that, nor did I feel like I wanted to. So I didn’t think I would be able to get a publisher. But then when I finished the book and I thought it was pretty good, I said, I’m going to give myself six months, that I’m going to try really hard to give it my best shot to get a publisher, which then I realized after I Googled how to you have to have an agent. So I said, I’ll give myself six months to get an agent. And I, I was able to get an agent. And that was I read a book called Online Marketing for busy authors to help me build a platform, at least enough to. And the author was Fouzia Burke. And I felt like she was right to me. Like, I know this is making your stomach hurt, trying to promote yourself and you and but you have to do it. And this is why you have an important message and stop thinking of yourself. Think of yoga or whatever. So really,
Brilliant Miller [01:18:17] by the way, just hearing that I don’t know her, but hearing about.
Pam Seelig [01:18:21] Yeah, yeah. I took it as a personal coach and she was terrific. And so then I was able to get an agent through some synchronicity and he was the thinking. Well, I, I called the author of this book and said, I loved your book. Do you work with people? Because I’m really struggling with this platform thing. It’s just not me. And she was great. She said we can help you with your website. And so she was great, but she basically helped me, you know, she gave me the confidence, some context. And it was really through that, you know, an innocent phone call that everything started rolling. So and my agent was terrific. He told me, like, you know, about the proposal, the proposal which took many months and how it wasn’t good enough. And I had to keep doing it and it was hard. And what he believed in the idea, really. He said I think you have something here. So he took me on and and and went from there. So it was. It happened step by step, I think if I had seen the big in the beginning, if I’d known, if I wanted to get Shambhala as a publisher, I don’t think I could have done it. I think I for my personality, I just had to go just first write the book and see if you can do it, then see if you can get a platform, then see if you can get an agent. I think I couldn’t I couldn’t do the whole thing in one thought.
Brilliant Miller [01:20:00] That’s part of what makes that so awesome. And I’m just reminded you how every book has its own story, you know, how it came into existence. And they’re all unique. And I think about how many of the things, you know, and there is no past, although there are prescriptions offered online, no shortage of those. But I love that yours was not that traditional path. And you know that many people say to start with a book proposal. Don’t read the whole manuscript first. But that’s what you did. And then you are able to find the agent and get the deal. But how did you find the agent? You just Google and just interview people or had a referral or how did that happen?
Pam Seelig [01:20:38] No, I, I went back to my corporate training and I made an Excel spreadsheet and I had 60 agents down the side. We were in nonfiction, you know, this sort of category and sent a letter to all of them and got some, you know, most in here from I would say eighty eighty-five percent. I didn’t hear from some people were very kind and some people I remember one agent, a very well known agent, called me and told me she read she asked to see the proposal, read it and call me, give me some great advice that I’m so glad I didn’t take and which she said, tell us what was she said, you have to find a young popular yoga teacher, you know, somebody who has a big platform, who is very popular, you know, who’s kind of the opposite of me and do the project together and. And I was like, oh, no, I don’t think that’ll work, but she was so kind to think about it, give me her best ideas. And that might have been the best. Who knows. So but and so a couple of agents did contact me and asked to see it and but it was really through Fouzia Burke who said she knew someone and I was able to send it to him and he with a lot of work and he really I gave him a lot of credit is in the business. So he said, nope, this isn’t going to work. This has to be like this. And I knew he the professional and he never asked me to change, you know, anything about the subject matter. So that was I was more than willing to learn about the business.
Brilliant Miller [01:22:35] Yeah. You know, what I love about what you just shared is is something that I’ve seen is such a challenge, can be such a challenge for writers, is knowing when to trust someone else and when to trust yourself. Right, on whatever aspect, the cover design, the structure of the book, the content of the book, the voice, you know, a certain passage or chapter, but kudos to you for navigating that in the way that you did. That’s great. OK, well, really, I think the only other question that I want to ask well, two questions about writing and creativity. Is there anything else that we haven’t talked about related that to these topics that you think might be of service to the listener?
Pam Seelig [01:23:24] Well, I guess in terms of creativity, the practice of meditation, I’m like a salesperson for meditation, the practice of meditation creates this quiet mind and it’s not totally quiet. It’s not it’s just a little bit of quiet. It’s just the creative state. It just. It’s where we get ideas from there, they are usually, but we can’t hear them because of the habitual thoughts, but the only time we can get an inspired thought is when. That thought dream is moved over, so I think for any creative pursuit, meditation is essential.
Brilliant Miller [01:24:09] Yeah, absolutely. And then. Perhaps the closing question. What advice or encouragement would you leave those listening with who are either harboring the dream of writing, publishing their own book or they’re actually in the process there may be stuck in the process? What do you say to people to help them get their own project across the finish line and out into the world in a way that makes a difference?
Pam Seelig [01:24:39] Well, I’m you know, I’m learning all this myself right now, so from my experience, my learning, that’s obviously still happening. It’s just, you know, believe in yourself like it’s true. Like you have unique ideas and ways to bring them forth. So you have to believe in yourself. And that comes from within. So don’t expect it from other people really just, I think, believe in yourself and keep moving forward.
Brilliant Miller [01:25:14] Awesome. All right, well, Pam, thank you so much for taking the time to have this conversation. As I said before, I’ve really enjoyed it, taken away a lot from the book and from what we’ve talked about today. And I know that my life is better because. Because we connected. Thank you.
Pam Seelig [01:25:33] Oh, thank you. Brilliant. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Brilliant Miller [01:33:43] Hey, thanks so much for listening to this episode of the School for Good Living podcast. Before you take off, just want to extend an invitation to you. Despite living in an age where we have more comforts and conveniences than ever before, life still isn’t working for many people, whether it’s here in the developed world where we deal with depression, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, divorce, unfulfilling jobs or relationships that don’t work, or in the developing world where so many people still don’t have access to basic things like clean water or sanitation or health care or education, or they live in conflict zones. There are a lot of people on this planet that life isn’t working very well for. If you’re one of those people or even if your life is working, but you have the sense that it could work better. Consider signing up for the School for Good Livings Transformational Coaching Program. It’s something I’ve designed to help you navigate the transitions that we all go through, whether you’ve just graduated or you’ve gone through a divorce or you’ve gotten married, headed into retirement, starting a business, been married for a long time, whatever. No matter where you are in life, this nine month program will give you the opportunity to go deep in every area of your life to explore life’s big questions, to create answers for yourself in a community of other growth minded individuals. And it can help you get clarity and be accountable. To realize more of your unrealized potential can also help you find and maintain motivation. In short, it’s designed to help you live with greater health, happiness and meaning so that you can be, do, have and give more visit godliving.com to learn more or to sign up today.