"Simultaneously we can cultivate self-love, love for others and love for life itself. Energy and vision arise from this great trinity of experience."
- Stephanie Dowrick, The Universal HeartWhich book has been your most rewarding so far?
While I am writing a book, I am always totally absorbed in it. Each one has allowed me to try out and discover different things. I have a special affection for my first novel, Running Backwards Over Sand, which is very much about making sense of life in your early thirties. My second novel, Tasting Salt, was the easiest of my books to write. I was grateful for that! Intimacy & Solitude has been a huge help to many people so that means a lot to me. Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love took me into more spiritual/ethical realms - which I loved. And this new book, The Universal Heart, is still very fresh in my mind. I like its optimism! Who would you recommend read the Universal Heart?
I would say everyone who is somewhat curious about human relationships of all kinds - not love relationships only. (But this is a great book for people in gay as well as heterosexual love relationships.) We all want to do our best, be our best. We all love the people who "bring out the best in us". What we don't know as clearly is why things can go so badly wrong - even when everyone is well-intentioned. The Universal Heart supports the reader to avoid some of the worst relationship pitfalls and do much more of what's rewarding or uplifting. Relationships and friendships should be a source of joy, fun, stimulation and pleasure, not only a place where we endlessly work onour problems (heaven forbid). Do you find that your relationships have benefited enormously from your insights?
Yes. I am increasingly appreciative of my relationships and more and more open about expressing that appreciation. And I am getting better at moving on from the inevitable setbacks or disappointments that arepart of everyone's life. I also see clearly that sometimes when I feel critical or unaccepting of someone close to me, it's often because I myself am feeling out of sorts. I have learned to take time to reflect on what's going on with me, before making it clear I'm dissatisfied with them! Sometimes it's as simple as being overloaded, tired, or anxious about something quite unrelated to that other person. Being able to do this definitely builds self-awareness as well as self-respect. It also saves your loved ones from unnecessary outbursts.Are you the 'Dear Abbey' in your community or circle?
Lovely question - but no! I hope not.On your website you have been quoted as saying: you want to hide from your Workshops or teaching. Why is this?
No, I only meant that sometimes it feels hard to go and be "out there" - yet when I do meet that challenge the rewards are terrific, not only because I have to pay close attention to my subject matter which is itself uplifting, but also because it brings me into contact with readers. I do love that.What has been your biggest learning curve?
Motherhood. I adore my children, but there is nothing so confronting as mothering and wanting to do the best job you can in raising your children. Also on your website you have been quoted as saying: "I have continued to put my head up, but often with painful consequences"? That seems surprising considering you are so successful!
It's just a little echo of the tall poppy syndrome which is quite strong generally. I know that it reflects other people's envy, but it can still hurt. (When people are in therapy with me and are envious, I always encourage them to look much deeper into it and find what it is that they would like to be doing, but are not. That's the best cure there is for envy. Take back your power!) There are also some people who are hostile about writing that's explicitly about psychological or spiritual matters. They may trivialise it, or just be plain rude! That can be distressing when you know how different our society or even our world could be if people had greater self-love and knew how to treat each other well.
But overall, the rewards far outweigh the difficulties. Many more people are so generous with their gratitude that the books have helped them through hard times or to make significant positive changes.Have you ever had a lull in your writing career, had writers block etc? If so, how did you deal with that?
Facing the blank page is always hard. I pace around, eat too much, try different things out - then suddenly, you are back into it and off again. As for lulls, I always have ideas jostling around in my mind but I want to take a break now from writing a major new book. I have several smaller projects that will be quite demanding and a couple of collaborative projects - including a music and meditation CD with Tony Backhouse who is musical director of the gospel choir I sing with. A temporary change of pace will be great. And I will also go on with my broadcasting and public talks and workshops. They all keep me on my toes!What motivates you to write?
Writing a long, original book takes you far deeper into your subject matter than conversations or even reading can. It's Mount Everest every time. The challenge of that suits my temperament even though it often daunts me. You have to go to the outer limit of your abilities everytime in order to make the work sing for other people. What's your view on death?
I believe that the physical body dies. But not the soul or spirit. In that sense, we never die.What would be a driving statement/ or words of encouragement for people striving for happiness?
Happiness is a by-product of self-acceptance and of believing in your own capacity to affect others positively. Sometimes a simple question - "Is this kind?" - can pull us back from the brink of hurting someone else. But we need to take care of ourselves also. Sometimes we need to have the courage to walk right away from situations that harm us. I wrote about that in Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love. Then in The Universal Heart I wrote: "Simultaneously we can cultivate self-love, love for others and love for life itself." That's the ideal recipe for happiness!Please state your favourite and why:Writer
There is a book by a Zen teacher called Thich Nhat Hanh that I often return to. It's called Peace Is Every Step. It is very simple, profound and uplifting. Place/Country
My favourite place is my own home in inner city Sydney. I feel most content there. But I also love the sound as well as the sight of the great oceans. Perfume
The smell of gardenias, even when they are fading. And frangipani - heavenly!
Music is a real passion for me. I love singing. I love listening to music. A glorious CD by The Hilliard Ensemble called Officium lifts your spirits no matter what your mood is. It crosses barriers between popular and classical music - and doesn't sound stale no matter how often you hear it. I also love the music of my own choir - The Honeybees. I am the totally ordinary singer in the back row, but I enjoy the singing every bit as much as the great singers up front!
To find out more about Stephanie Dowrick's work, or to join The Universal Heart Network, please visit www.stephaniedowrick.com www.stephaniedowrick.com
is Femail.com.au's site of the month, it really is something quite special and has been designed to coincide with the publication of The Universal Heart , so you are especially welcome to join The Universal Heart Network.
Read Femail.com.au's Website Review.SITE OF THE MONTH www.stephaniedowrick.com ~ The Universal Heart"Other lives matter. Imagine the world we live in if we could put that simple truth into action" ~ Stephanie DowrickStephanie Dowrick is the bestselling author of such works as the 'Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love', 'Running Backwards Over Sand', 'Tasting Salt' is an expert in the field of relationships, love and society. Her most recent publication is 'The Universal Heart' which focuses on how to create positive relationship connections with people, and which 'combines the finest inspiration with the most practical support'. Buy it now at