Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love and Soul: An Interview with Jessica Shepherd

“Are you the one for me?”
It’s a question that pops up year-round, not just on Valentine’s Day. Our culture is overwhelmed with the idea of romantic love.

Hearts and flowers, warm fuzzies, and happily-ever-afters. Is this the reality of true, soulful love? Or is there perhaps something to be said for the type of relationship that occasionally puts us through the ringer, whether or not the ring is on the finger?

It being the month of amor, I decided to find out more. Since I have an inside connection to a professional love alchemist-astrologer, I knew exactly who to ask. Who is this love alchemist extraordinaire? Her name is Jessica Shepherd, long-time cosmic teammate, and one of the best colleague astrologers I know.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to assist Jessica with her book project. As developmental editor, I helped prepare her manuscript for publication as well as the proposal that landed her a sweet deal. The result? Jessica’s masterpiece, A Love Alchemist’s Notebook: Magical Secrets for Drawing Your True Love Into Your Life, earning a fantastic feather-in-cap of a Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review. Bravo!

Yesterday, I caught up with Jessica to discuss just a few of the principles in her book. Being Valentine's weekend, it was a perfect time for a Travel and Soul interview on the topic of soulful love...

Love and Soul:

An Interview with Jessica Shepherd

Erin Reese: Jessica, we have so much to discuss. We’re going to have to break this interview up over a series!

Jessica Shepherd: I know. This is such a rich area – soulful love.

ER: I’m reminded of the power of your book. Remember, when I was editing the manuscript, how I was living in India and working on it every day? I had several experiences when my heart chakra actually began throbbing while reading certain sections of the book!

JS: Yes, I’ve since heard from several readers that the presence of A Love Alchemist’s Notebook, in itself, is powerful enough to open someone’s heart. Some tell me they keep the book on their nightstand as a sort of talisman – there is a sympathetic magic to attract true love, just by its physical presence. After a talk I gave in Vienna, a woman came up to me and told me how having the book in her house transformed her space. She felt more feminine, fun, receptive, joyful, magnetic energy – it was like Venus Herself was emanating out of the book!

What Is a Soul Mate?

ER: Jessica, your book focuses on attracting one’s true love. Do you believe that we have just one soul mate for life?

JS: We have many soul mates, and we have one. It’s a paradox. I define a soul mate as a person who brings us closer to our authenticity, our power, and fulfilling our dreams. That’s the kind of person we want to spend the rest of our lives with! A soul mate brings us closer to our self, opening us to who we truly are. The locus of a soul mate relationship has more joy and love than pain.

ER: That resonates. I can feel my heart chakra when you say that. It’s true!

JS: I’ve had many soul mate relationships – my sister, my grandmother, a friend who was like a surrogate partner for me for four years. Even if a relationship ends through death, divorce, or departure, it can still be a soul mate relationship. A soul mate relationship feels as if it can last forever; it does hold you in your truth and help you to self-actualize in a loving way.

What Do We Mean By “The One”?

ER: So if we have many soul mates, what do we mean when we say we are looking for “The One”?

JS: We do have a romantic mate, a partner that seems to travel with us from lifetime to lifetime. We may go a lifetime without meeting them, or live part of our lives without them. This is information I have gleaned through intuition and through studying reincarnation. This is a sexual, romantic partnership – with the soulful qualities of love and joy and self-actualization – that lasts. It’s also interesting to note that we have soul pods, or soul families, that seem to incarnate together over time to help us grow and evolve.

ER: It seems like over-emphasizing finding “The One” could be really limiting.

JS: Yes, it can be dangerous. We live in a culture where romantic love is shoved down our throats. We are raised and conditioned to look for princes and princesses. That viewpoint is not really arriving. It may be a piece to a puzzle, or may cause a delay in growth. That being said, romance is important in all soulful relationships to keep love alive: shared tenderness, eye-gazing, sexual satisfaction. Busy couples may need date nights – the type of romantic support varies. But romance is important to cultivate.

What Are Karmic Mates?

ER: One of the most interesting sections of your book, to me, Jessica, is the section on “Karmic Mates versus Soul Mates.” As someone who has had a series of relationships that have all helped me grow, I want to know more about this.

JS: Karmic Mates are special people, too! What do I mean by karma? I like Osho’s definition, that karma means ‘incomplete action.’ There is something to resolve. Karmic mates are people with whom we have previously agreed to exchange a gift, a lesson, a healing with in this lifetime, or to resolve an old pattern with. The difference between a karmic mate and a soul mate is that, with karmic mates, we WILL complete it at some point. With soul mates, it feels it could go on forever – it is open-ended. Yet with karmic mates, there is some point of resolution.

ER: How do we know we’ve completed the karma, then?

JS: We recognize it because at some point the relationship becomes compulsive. Instead of love, something has to work itself out.

ER: Oooo, the relationship becomes compulsive with a karmic mate. That’s clear! It’s like a record that starts skipping.

JS: Exactly. We cling to it and get wrapped up in identification with the relationship and the pain body. That’s a karmic relationship.

ER: If someone has a lot of short-term relationships, should they feel they are doing something ‘wrong’? People can easily feel like they’re screwing up if they don’t have one long-term partnership.

JS: Not at all. Many people have many relationships with many fascinating people who turn us on to different parts of ourselves. The quality and ration and lessons will be different from person to person. There’s no cause to feel bad. It’s cause to cherish and really look. It’s possible it’s not in the cards to be with 'The One' right away or even in this lifetime. It’s truly about loving the ones we’re with. Be soulful with the ones we’re with now. That’s real spiritual romance.

Soulful Love

ER: So even if we’re with a karmic mate, we can be soulful… and ‘burn through’ karma quicker? That’s powerful, the simple understanding that I’m meant to put my whole heart into it, no matter what.

JS: Exactly. Bring all of your self, your knowing, your wisdom – all that you’ve learned through past relationships. Bring all of it to the current situation, with whomever you find yourself with. Be in the heart space together, find out the truth of what you are and be open to whatever you’re going to exchange with this person. It’s the freeing power of authenticity.

ER: It’s one of my favorite sayings, “The truth shall set you free.” I’ve found it to be truly liberating! To see the truth of who a person is…

JS: Right. We must break the conditioned con game that it has to look like X, Y, or Z to be meaningful. Maybe a mate can’t give you everything you want, but look at what they are offering you. Maybe he can teach you guitar, maybe she can inspire you to practice yoga or meditation. Find out the truth of what they are, and what they are offering, and be in that.

ER: That’s deep, Jessica. I feel it. When I see the truth of who a person is, my heart is blown wide open, and there is real energy and ecstasy – a blissful peace of acceptance. That seems to be what we’re after anyway, so we can experience it anytime, no matter who we’re with.

JS: Yes, that is soulful love!

ER: “Love the one you’re with.” Thanks, Jessica. I look forward to our next interview!

JS: Thank YOU, Erin. You were a big part of bringing A Love Alchemist’s Notebook into manifestation! Surely it is working in your own life and your Travel and Soul readers will benefit too!

To order your copy of Jessica Shepherd's A Love Alchemist’s Notebook from Amazon click here.

To receive one of Jessica's truly astonishing, specialty love astrology readings, email her here. Tell her you read about her on Travel and Soul, and you’ll receive a free Alchemical Goddess Venus report with any love reading. This is a special Valentine's offer good through February 17.

"I am delighted with the confident, graceful way Jessica Shepherd blends astrology, metaphysics, positive Pagan spellcraft, and plain chicken-soup wisdom." ~ Stephen Forrest, author of The Inner Sky

"Shepherd's approach is rooted in fundamentals - self-confidence, wisdom, and patience - and effectively makes enlightenment fun. A welcoming oasis for those who feel stranded by lower-your-expectations dating guides." ~ Publisher's Weekly starred review, February 8, 2010

"You may know the groundbreaking creativity book, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. Jessica Shepherd's A Love Alchemists Notebook is THE Artists Way for love, relationship, and romance, with a complete creativity system to attract love into ones life. The alchemical principles are timeless, and the exercises within WORK." ~ Erin Reese, Travel and Soul Media

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Less Is More Maui

“Now that’s an article I look forward to reading!” said StarLynn from Berlin, a longtime Travel and Soul follower. I had emailed her that my birthday excursion to Maui was filled with many sensorial delights, one of which literally involved swimming nude with whales. “That sounds truly ahhh-some,” she wrote.

And, ahhh-some it was, ahh-loha style. For my birthday getaway, I couldn’t disappear for another long trip to warmer climes of Asia, and yet I needed – was starving for – some sea, sun, and surf. So I used some United Miles and bopped off to the enchanted isle of Maui for a week. On the cheap. As usual.

If you need a trip to Hawaii like nobody’s business, but you don't have a lot of cash in the vacation reserve, you’ll appreciate these “Less Is More Maui” tips from Yours Truly, Travel and Soul Writer. You don’t need to spend a lot of dough to Go Maui Wowee and have a simple, good time.

1. Whale Watching

It’s birthing season for the North Pacific Humpbacks, who come to Hawaii for the warm waters to welcome their young to the world. December to March, there’s a good chance you’ll see magnificent mamas and their offspring off the west coast of the island. What’s that out on the horizon? A fluke! A tail slap! A whole pod out there!

With the sunlight dappling the waves like a trillion diamonds, the sight of a ship-sized adult humpback breaching, with her baby mirroring right after – you’ll know you’ve flown to Heaven. Some of the locals asked if I'd heard the whales under the water. I didn't, but that doesn't mean they weren't speaking to me. I did have some amazing visions during my trip!

2. The Banana Bungalow
Stay cheap and best on the island in the Banana Bungalow Hostel in Wailuku! The Banana Bungalow is only $31 a night for clean dorm rooms. There’s a complete kitchen for use, as well as Internet, free WiFi - and a hot tub! True to hostel life ‘round the world, you’ll meet more interesting international characters of all shapes and sizes from different socio-economic backgrounds here than you would if you stayed in a regular hotel or condo. Sure, it’s a bit frat-house, summer-camp style with requisite pool and Fussball tables; but hey, if you’re on a budget, maybe you’ll even have fun joining in. How much time do you really need to spend indoors during the day, anyway? My female dormmates were respectful, quiet, and great daytrippers to boot.

An extra added bonus at the Banana is that, each and every day, there’s a tour you can hop on FREE OF CHARGE. One day, you can hike the Haleakala volcano; the next, it’s the picturesque road to Hana, or snorkeling at the turtle sanctuary.

You can rent a car for about $200 a week to give you more independence around the island. But, you can also hitch a ride easily in Hawaii (lots of backs of pickup trucks to ride in!). Not only that: the Maui Bus is only $1.00! Take the bus to most all of the major sights on the island, as well as to shopping and to and from the airport!

3. Nude Bodysurfing
“Catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world!” Indeed. Now THIS is the absolute crème de la crème for me in Maui. I’m sure there are many nude beaches in Hawaii, but this one happens to have a great surf to boot. If you catch the wave at just the right moment – not too late, not too early – you’ll BARREL all the way to the sand. Tuck your head, place arms into diving position, and soar into shore like a dolphin!

As for the nude part: I think I was shy for – oh, about fifteen seconds, before I realized that (a) I’d never see these people again; (b) there are very few places and opportunities in the world to dive into such splendor; and (c) what FUN! With the whales breaching just off the coast nearby, and the Sun setting in the distance, you’re set. Try to sunbathe before 11 a.m. and after 2:30 p.m. to avoid harmful rays. Bring on the healthy Vitamin D action.

I can’t name the beach, because that would make it too easy. But I guarantee you ask the first local you meet where the 'nude beach with great bodysurfing' is, and you’ll be directed in a jif. It’s Maui’s little secret that everyone knows about.

4. Organic Health Food Stores
If you’re on a budget, you’ll opt to picnic and cook for yourself much more than dine out. And Maui hosts at least three well-known health food stores in three strategic locations on the island - Central, East, and West. They’re all fabulous!

In Paia, the windsurf capital of Maui, there’s Mana Foods – one of the best natural food stores I’ve ever been in! In Kahului, near the airport and on the way to the hostel, there’s your standard Whole Foods. And near the best beaches on the west side, in Kihei, there’s Hawaiian Moons.

While you’re at the store, stock up on organic coconut oil to give your skin a blissful treat while you’re at the beach. Rub it in your hair before you dive into the sea. Grab a Kombucha for regenerative enzymes and refreshment. Live local, buy organic, and save cash.

5. Maui Swap Meet
The Maui Swap Meet is fun! And it’s only fifty cents entry! Every Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Maui Community College grounds in Kahului, hundreds of white-topped booths converge on a pleasant fairground. You’ll meet local vendors with honey, produce, local grown goods. Crafts, souvenirs, clothing, sunglasses, tools, and baked goods... Coffee, skin crème, musical instruments... Unique gifts. My purchases this time around included delicious homemade kim chi, and the cutest white muu-muu! (Yes, a muu-muu, which is more elegantly known as a plantation dress.)

The winning find of the swap meet morn was definitely a $10-for-ten-minute shiatsu massage from Ed, a former Bay Area resident who keeps a booth there every Saturday. The massage was so good, I got two on the spot! Look for Ed and his magic hands...