Seven Questions with Alena Chapman

The Seven Questions series continues with author Alena Chapman, whose book, You Can’t Escape a Prison if You Don’t Know You’re In One: What is Blocking Your Freedom? was published in January. It quickly became an international bestseller on Amazon.com. I must disclose here that Alena is a client, and it has been my honor to work with her on bringing this book and her other resources to life.

11703585_626501670785560_1483092237041839402_oAlena is also a singer, music teacher, speaker, workshop leader, coach, mother . . . and survivor. Here’s just a snippet of what she has to say.

1. What we now know as You Can’t Escape a Prison if You Don’t Know You’re In One  started out as journaling about the transformational “tools” you’d acquired. At what point in the process did you realize you were writing a book?

Yes, I did start by sitting in a coffee shop writing in my journal. Mentors and experiences were happening so fast and I was learning so much, I really wanted to capture everything in a journal for my own memory. Soon I was giving examples of these tools being used by me and by other people. The journal entries grew into chapters with each chapter heading being the new tool I learned. One day, I took a look at all the journal entries and said to myself, “Wow, I wish I had a book like this when I started breaking out of my prison.” That is when it hit me — I was writing a book.

2. How have your sons adjusted to your more public persona since the publication of your book?

How they act with me is the same. However, when You Can’t Escape From a Prison If You Don’t Know You’re In One: What Is Blocking Your Freedom? became an international bestseller, I heard from other people how proud my boys were of me and they were telling everyone. The hardest adjustment is that I am working at home and very busy. My children are not used to me being home, but not really available. So we all have had an adjustment.

3. Describe the role of music in your life.

Music has played and continues to play an important role in my life. I started studying music at fifteen years of age. I sang classical/opera or operettas for a long time. In 1989, when traveling around the country to sing was not as feasible, I started teaching in area universities and colleges. I taught voice, gave opera workshops, vocal-coached musicals, taught music history, and directed choirs. This is when I found my love for directing.

For the past nine years, my love has been self-development and helping others grow in their awareness and their lives.

However, my house is filled with music of all types. If you see me driving by, I am the one dancing in the car.

Music raises our vibration, gives meaning, and just feels good.

51NTogNJ2dL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_4. In your book, you describe being about to close on a new home for yourself and the boys, and being suddenly overwhelmed with old paradigms about not being able to do such a thing on your own — that you needed a man to take care of you. The book tells us how you got past it, but how does an independent, 21st-century woman get to that place to begin with?

Great question! Even though women have come so very far in our country, sometimes the men have not, especially the older generation. My dad was born in the early 1940s, so his ideas had not caught up with women’s liberation. Also, he always worried about me, my independence, and my creative spirit, which he did not understand.

Yes, I was very independent. I moved to another state, started my own life — but looking back, I see there were many times in my life I would hear his voice and it would alter my decisions for my life. Why? Because he was my dad, a major person in my life and I loved him dearly — along with trusting him.

However, I found that every decision I based on what another person believes or says always turns out wrong for me. I can now say from experience: I am the only one to know what is good for me. Any time I am not sure which path to choose, I may ask others their opinion, but it is my decision what I do with the information.

Really, I need to thank my dad. In a roundabout way he taught me to be even more independent, believing in myself, and strong.

5. What makes you stop whatever you’re doing and take a picture?

Beauty — awesome, ever-changing beauty. I love vistas — blue skies, sunsets, water with the sun dancing on its surface. Every day, we receive as a gift from the universe a new sky. Did you know there is never the same sky appearing to us? Each one is new and different. But if we do not notice, we miss that sky forever.

We wake to find clouds hovering below a mountain’s peak or an innocent fawn walking in our path. The old woman who shares her stories with the lines in her face and the sparkle of her eye and the two-year-old boy who holds a handful of dandelions as if they were made of gold. This is life in its splendor. A spectacular gift which, if I am lucky, I can capture with my camera to remind me of that moment.

My world always feels blessed when I open my eyes and see the beauty, the uniqueness, and the abundance of our universe.

This is what I stop whatever I am doing, become totally present, and take my picture.

6. What was on your gratitude list this morning (that you’d like to share, anyway)?

Gratitude lists start with, “I am so happy and grateful for…” Gratitude lists are a must-do to gain/keep your perspective, sharpen your focus, and raise your vibration. I always feel happier and ready to start my day.

The one constant on my list is my children. I can never be more thankful than I am for the joy and growth they give me.

This morning I also listed:

2. My ability to help so many people live lives that they love

3. My awesome friends

4. The wonderful partner in my life

5. I have a new day to achieve my desires

6. The beautiful fall day

7. All the blessings and opportunities entering my life

8. My own growth and discovery

9. The health of my family

10. Me

After I list what I am thankful for, I read through the list, feeling the thankfulness. This helps even more to internalize the gratefulness.

Next I become quiet, like a mini meditation, and I ask for guidance for the day. Then while still in this quiet state, I send love and peace to three people who are bothering me.

If you have never done a gratitude list or are trying to change your life for the better, it is best to write a list first thing in the morning and another before you go to bed. Soon you will find yourself being grateful throughout your day.

Gratitude is the attitude changer!

7. What are you working on now?

Right now I am very busy. I have a new program and course coming out in October. The program is recorded by me and includes a workbook, the CDs or mp3s, and my international bestselling book: You Can’t Escape From a Prison If You Don’t Know You’re In One: What is Blocking Your Freedom? The course is eight weeks, covers the areas in the program, and much more. Also, the course includes four half-hour private consultations with me, an empowering mastermind group with people from the course, and eight meditation CDs or mp3s. I am very excited to offer and teach these wonderful tools to people in such a great way.

Nov. 7, 2015 will be a highlight of the year. I will be having a one-day seminar at the Manchester University College of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne at 10627 Diebold Road next to Parkview Hospital. This is a great way to discover and see the opportunities and start on bettering your life or achieving your dreams. I will give you tools and plans to begin right away. If you seriously want a difference in your life — this is the event to attend. (Check www.alenachapman.com for more details and registration.)

And if all that is not enough, there is a new book just starting. It should be out in the summer of 2016.

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Many thanks to Alena for being my guest today. Check out her podcast, “Conversations with Alena,” available on her website (above) and on iTunes. Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Write from the heart

“It’s surprising what you can hear in the silence of a relationship with someone who has passed,” Kathy Curtis writes in “Invisible Ink: The Journey Beyond Words” (2007).

Kathy kindly gave me this book (Word and Spirit’s first review copy!), which basically continues an epistolary conversation with her mother. The two had written letters back and forth for years. “There was nothing profound about what we wrote,” she says in the prologu51Qf-OTJR8L._AA160_e. “We just wrote.”

Then Kathy’s mom was diagnosed at age 60 with cancer. The letters stopped as the two of them, along with the rest of the family, coped with pain, morphine, grief, palliative care and, three months later, her death.

Despite her mother’s physical absence, Kathy began to write to her again. Being accustomed to channeling her experiences into creative endeavors, she knew putting this difficult journey into words would be therapeutic — but she didn’t know how much strength she would gain from doing so. “I also didn’t know that I would begin to get a sense for what Mom’s spirit might want to say back to me,” she wrote.

The letter from Kathy to her mom details their final three months on earth together, from her mom’s cancer diagnosis to the hawk that flew with the funeral procession. Anyone who has cared for a loved one in the dying process will be able to relate to the pain, frustration, and sweetness described here. Then comes the energy shift — of the person as he or she moves to the other side, and of those left behind as they navigate life without that person. Or is their loved one still there in some way . . . but how? How would they know? Is anyone, especially a parent, ever really gone?

Kathy and her father and sisters began to inexplicably sense their mother’s presence — they’d suddenly smell her perfume, see her in a dream, or see a cardinal and just know something out of the ordinary was happening. Then a lost ring had Kathy looking up at the sky while gardening and saying, “OK, Mom, I know you can help me more now than ever — help me find the ring!” Seconds later, there it was on top of a pile of compost.

This story segues into the next part of the book, in which Kathy’s mom has her say. In our logical and linear world, it may be hard to believe that someone who has died is still present and communicating with us. That is, until experiences like these make us tune out the world’s chatter (and our own) long enough to listen.

Kathy’s mother describes witnessing her own funeral, her delight at still getting letters from her daughter, and her own feelings about her illness and passing. There is growing wisdom and perspective from this higher plane. There are references to her dancing days in high school — poodle skirt, saddle shoes and all.

Naturally, she devotes significant attention to her family’s grief, offering comfort and the assurance of her continued love and presence. “I’m glad you drove down to Indianapolis to spend Mother’s Day with Dad,” she tells Kathy. “It was nice to see you in church, especially knowing you wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for me. (I might even get some extra points for that around here. Ha!)”

Mom also firmly counsels her daughter to let go of her own expectations about how her mother’s earthly life should have been. “I know you mean well, but it’s not for you to say what purpose my life had,” she says. “There’s more to my story than you’ll ever know, and goodness knows, you’ve got enough to figure out about your own life.”

And the hawk that flew with the hearse? Birds are messengers, Mom explains. They travel between worlds: “All you have to do is pay attention and open your heart, and whatever message they have for you will find its way in.”

Sensitive revolution

“The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You,” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. (Revised ed., 2013)

“I’m off the charts on this Highly Sensitive Person quiz,” I remarked.

A sigh issued from the other side of the room. “Ohhh, Lord.”

That was probably in the late 1990s, and I’d just read a brief about a new book about highly sensitive individuals, with a miniature version of the “Are you an HSP?” questionnaire. Up to that point, the word “sensitive” was usually preceded by “too,” and so I’d tried not to be. It had never occurred to me that sensitivity could be a natural trait, let alone a positive influence. So when I read the book, it was an eye-opener.

This revised edition adds expanded scientific research into the trait of high sensitivity and a new description of it: DOES (gotta love those acronyms). D – depth of processing; O – being easily overstimulated; E – emotional reactions and empathy; and S – sensitivity to all the subtleties around us. There is also a more extended discussion of psychiatric medications.

Aron paints no pretty pictures of sensitivity. It’s not always an advantage, and it has its costs. Feeling everything so intensely (and some of it not even ours) puts us on a path that sometimes intersects with the mainstream but more often does not. Instead, she walks us through all aspects of life as an HSP — from childhood experiences to work and relationship issues to health and spirituality. It’s not an easy road, and if we’re not careful, we can become easily offended, demanding, and difficult. Being sensitive is about what we have to offer, not about what we think the world owes us.

In the section on spirituality, Aron writes of four particular experiences she’s had with HSPs: “spontaneous deep silence creating a hallowed kind of collective presence, considerate behavior, soul/spirit directness, and insight about all of this.” HSPs are the priests and prophets, artists and poets, she says. We are the ones with the rich inner lives that help us find meaning where there is precious little in evidence — Victor Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp and wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning,” is a prime example given.

We are not necessarily smarter, nicer, or better than our non-HSP brothers and sisters. However, learning more about the trait of high sensitivity and how to manage it can help us stop perceiving ourselves as weak or inferior.

That is the primary message I’ve taken from this book, both the earlier versions and this revised edition: Sensitivity does not have to be a liability in life. Like other traits, we can turn it into a gift or a curse. If we can find a way to make it work for us and for the benefit of others, we all come out ahead.