I recently met Mara M. Zimmerman, author of How to Meditate and Why–a short, straightforward and inspiring book on meditation–a subject that often seems challenging to many people, myself included. I just loved the accessibility of Mara’s book and also realized she had some great tips to share about meditation and mindfulness in writing a book, as well as how to take a challenging subject and make it accessible. Here’s what she had to say:
Lisa: Was this your first book?
Lisa: How did you go about writing a book?
Mara: What I quickly learned as I began writing is that the creative process can be messy. Allowing thoughts and ideas to flow did not always have rhyme and reason. Yet, by trusting the process, I could see that the information was all quite useful and that organization would follow.
So I would often write lists of words, thoughts and ideas and expand upon them as I was moved to do so. The writing process for me was about teaching and articulating what I believed was useful to the aspiring meditator and reader. It was about providing a service; a guideline for the healing process of meditation.
Lisa: How did you decide to have a broad scope and yet keep it light and accessible?
Mara: This was a natural and intuitive process for me.
This book is a response to the needs of my clients and students. In order to educate, I needed a broad scope to get and keep the attention of different readers. While meditation is a universal practice, it is also very personal and individual and I knew that the same things would not speak to and move everyone. Keeping it light and accessible is who I am and how I live my own life.
While I am a deep person, I am light by nature and also very practical. Meditation has been my guide in this way and so I simply tried to translate the tools that have helped me.
Lisa: How did you accomplish being broad and keeping the writing and information light and accessible?
Mara: My experience personally, as a student and a teacher, is that meditation is often taught as a difficult task with a complicated and often inaccessible end point. That is not my personal experience nor is it my philosophy at all. I think it is important to know the facts as well as learning to keep it simple and get back to the basics. No matter how much we think we know about meditation or anything else, we often must get back to the foundation and the basics.
Lisa: Did you give yourself any particular guidelines to keep the writing accessible?
Mara: Yes. I remained mindful of the fact that breath is life. We are all breathing and that basic tool is an accessible focus for all of us.
Lisa: How did you decide what is too much info/detail/explanation and what is just enough?
Mara: When I began to work a particular area, I noticed if I was too much in my head and not enough in my heart. When I used factual research it was for the reader to gain enough knowledge to either be inspired to learn more, or to be content that it was enough. To gain an understanding that would be both useful and empowering. When I wrote from my heart, I could tap into the reader’s needs as a human, not just for knowledge but also for healing. Too many facts move us away from the process.
Just enough information allows us to be educated but also remain present. Life and meditation are not just about what we know and what we do, but also about who we are. That is the guideline I used for this book and is also a way to find balance in life.
Lisa: What role did meditation play in your process of writing the book?
Mara: For me, meditation was the foundation for writing the book. Before writing, I always sat in quiet contemplation seeking guidance for a clear inner voice. I also took walks after sitting at the computer to reconnect my mind, body and spirit. Walking outside, even around the block, helped to tune me into my personal wellness and also regain energy for the writing process.
If weather did not permit me to move around easily or comfortably be outside, I was happy to do yoga poses indoors to reconnect. Good posture, strength, flexibility, balance and focus are just some of the gifts that yoga and other movements have to offer. This is a step in the process of meditation.
Lisa: What specific benefits does meditation offer a writer?
Mara: Meditation before and after writing is a wonderful tool for grounding, centering, clarity, focus, concentration, creativity, problem solving and inner peace and calm. Meditation helps us to be whole-brained and holistic in our thinking, to become interconnected, relieve stress, and helps writing flow more smoothly. It can also help us know when we may need to stick with the writing and continue to push through, or when to step away because we need a break.
Mara: I wrote this book for anyone and every one of all walks of life. Meditation is universal and also personal. As humans, we all have similar needs, and as individuals, we all have different reasons for seeking meditation. The beginner will benefit from understanding the basics.
The more experienced will benefit from learning aspects they have not yet learned and will also benefit from the reminder to not complicate as you grow and advance, but to keep it simple, too. While meditation is often about mindfulness, quiet and stillness, it is also about the actions you take and the choices you make. This is beneficial for everybody.
Lisa: What did you hope to accomplish?
Mara: Meditation has many benefits and is quite healing when you find a fit that works for you in the process. The paradox is that we often overthink meditation. I aim to spread the word and to relieve us of that.
Lisa: Any advice for new authors?
Mara: Remember to keep it light. When the writing gets too heavy, step back and take a breath.
Lisa: You self-published with Balboa Press. What are some of the advantages of self-publishing?
Mara: This question made me smile. Meditation is often about self-reflection, self-awareness, self-realization and self-care. So why not self-publish? For me, I come from a place of teaching, guiding and healing. I appreciate a good obstacle to help me grow as well as taking the path of least resistance.
Self-publishing was a good first step for me on my writing journey. Balboa Press is a division of Hay House. They supported the publishing process and offered me guidance, support and tools. I felt I was a part of a community and I always reminded myself to begin at the beginning.
Lisa: How has the book been received? Any story you would like to share that a reader has shared with you?
Mara: I am honored and grateful for how my book has been received. I am being validated that the message I am sending is being heard. If I can reach many people or even one person every day and provide some service with meaning and purpose, then I am on the right track.
I have a funny story, well ironic really, about my editor. From the moment she began to read my book she was raving to me about how much valuable content there was. She and her husband had been taking meditation classes and were really not getting it. She was continually thrilled at the information and techniques I was offering.
At some point along the way I asked her how her meditation practice was going. She told me that she gave it up since she could not stop her mind from thinking and was not very good at it at all. Then she actually asked me, after months of raving about the content of my book, if I had any tips for her! I laughed about this for about 24 hours. Really.
The truth is, many people do see the value of the content and still need the support to implement the tools. For some, it comes very naturally. For others, they will benefit from guidance and a teacher. That is why I am here and offer appointments, webinars, classes and workshops. To give personal and individual support and guidance to and to help with the process so that it can become accessible and real.
This is the way to begin to receive the benefits. So what I decided to do was to give her a few refresher tips…I told her to take baby steps, be patient and self-loving. To simply pay attention and find one place that she could take pause that might bring her some stress relief and inner peace and calm, even for a moment.
A few weeks later we spoke on the phone. She was thrilled to tell me that after my email she started to pay attention to where that moment could be. She has two young children and was struggling with naptime for one of them. She really needed that time for a break to have them both take a nap. She realized that she was battling with her son about this. She would put him down for a nap and then he would ask her to stay with him a little longer. She had been so frustrated that she was making the situation more stressful by getting upset. Then he would get upset and alas, no nap.
So she decided to take her moment of pause when he asked her to stay longer the next time. When this happened, she sat quietly in a chair and focused on her breathing. She relaxed and let go. Next thing she knew, he was asleep.
Lisa: That’s a great story. Writing can be like that too. If we push too hard, we can interfere with the natural flow. If we let go, we more easily find what we were seeking. How do you plan to reach your readers with this book?
Mara: I plan to continue to reach out on social media, connect with small bookstores and spas throughout the country and to stock it on their shelves. To keep it stocked on shelves at Barnes and Noble. Also, I plan to continue to build reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.
I will continue to sell to students, clients and at workshops and have them spread the word. I also have reached out to experts in other fields that can help me. Like you Lisa, thank you.
I will continue to do book signings. Will continue to write articles for magazines. I recently wrote for Yoga Chicago Magazine. I am beginning a blog and am doing my first webinar, and I also reach out to Universities and Corporations. I recently taught a workshop on my book at the University of Chicago. Meditation builds on keeping us centered and grounded. It is beneficial for helping us be calm, patient and knowing when to pause or when to act quickly.
Meditation is useful for focusing, concentrating, problem solving and decision making. These are great qualities for all walks of life and for both students and leaders. I would also love to see this book in airports.
With meditation as my guide, I plan to be open to opportunities, hard work, and keep a positive attitude and outlook.
Mara: Meditation looks different wherever you go, but it can help you wherever you are.
Mara M. Zimmerman teaches Homeopathy, Yoga, Meditation, Intuitive Guidance and the Healing Arts. With a focus on a healthy lifestyle and a realistic approach to healing and wellness, Mara guides individuals to reflect their true self and reach their full potential. Find her workshops, webinars, blog and retreats on her website. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can purchase How To Meditate and Why on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Mara offers individual meditation support and guidance, health mentoring and intuitive counseling in person, as well as phone consultations.