Thursday, June 26, 2014

Name:     Edward Vilga

Where you live:  New York City

What you do as a vocation or avocation?   I am a writer––one who often writes about spirituality and yoga––but who always tries to share the power (and challenges!) of Transformation in my work.

Your two favorite books:  
This is an impossible question for a writer, but the books I seem to open most often are Leonardo Da Vinci: The Complete Paintings (Abrams) because it's on my coffee table and I find it unbelievably beautiful and inspiring and Yoga by Linda Sparrowe another photo based book which I open all the time to gain inspiration when I teach.

Your two favorite songs:
Again –– another impossible question, especially since I started piano lessons in 1st grade and have sung all my life.

My mother's asked me to compose some Christmas songs, so since those are what I'm currently working on, I find myself humming those melodies the most lately.

Why you are interested in spirituality?  I want to understand the Mystery.

Your favorite quote: 
I love quotes and post one or two favorites every day on my facebook fanpage.

If I had to pick one, I might choose:  veritas omnia vincit.  (Truth conquers all)

Your favorite web sites:
Well, I spend a lot of time on my own site

(And like everyone, way too much time on Facebook!)

I'm also quite devoted these days to the teachings of Abraham-Hicks, so I always check out their daily quote and workshops:

Finally, since Downward Dog has been optioned by Hollywood for the movies, I'm also constantly on the Pro version of IMDb ––  –– looking up actors who might just bring my characters to life.

Your hero?  Another "dog"––specifically, my chocolate lab, Belle.  

She's the happiest and most self-actualized being I've ever met, and like all truly great teachers, she instructs entirely by example.

I even wrote a small book about the life lesson she’s taught me: 

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?  Letting Go!  (more often, more efficiently, more completely, and much, much more quickly!)

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?"
For me, definitely in a yoga class where I felt completely connected in my body, mind, and spirit ... but honestly, most often it's simply whenever I connect with my beautiful chocolate lab, Belle, who models for me unconditional love 24/7.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

John C. Robinson, Interview #205

 Name: John Robinson, Ph.D., D.Min. (

Where you live: Fox Island, Wa

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Transformational writing. I love to write about the experience of oneness and non-duality, which I am beginning to realize is the great epiphany of aging. We are not what we think, we are the consciousness in which thought arises - what a joyous discovery! I try to describe this transformation in The Three Secrets of Aging and Bedtime Stories for Elders.

Your two favorite books: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (Ed. David Godman). I sat in Ramana's cave in Arunachala, India and knew what he had realized. I used to read Hindu mystics behind textbooks in my graduate training in clinical psychology - they kept me sane. The second book would be The Gift: Poems by Hafiz (Trs. Daniel Ladinsky). These poems, and others by the great Sufi masters like Rumi and Kabir, have the capacity to shift your consciousness in a moment. These mystics knew the power of transformational writing.

Your two favorite songs: April Love (Pat Boone). This was my coming-of-age ballad as a young teenager when I first sensed the magic of love. Most recently, I have come to appreciate Take The Chance (Peter, Paul and Mary). I cry every time I hear or play this song, which speaks so eloquently of the heart's awakening to love, a love that often needs grief to blossom. I am deeply touched by the profundity of the path love asks us to follow.

Why you are interested in spirituality? I know that "I" am a fiction - the one who knows that is not. For me, spirituality is this shift. When I release the whole complex of identity, time and story and dissolve into that which is, I can barely contain the joy and gratitude I feel. It is so simple. It is the great potential of aging.

Your favorite quote:  "Self is everywhere, shining forth from all beings, voter than the vast, subtler than the most subtle...He who finds it is free; he has found himself; he has solved the great riddle; his heart forever is at peace. Whole, he enters the Whole. His personal self returns to its radiant, intimate, deathless source." The Upanishads

Your favorite web sites: No favorites

Your hero? Lao Tzu - an old man, leaving the world, stops to share the wisdom of a lifetime, and gave so much; Meister Eckhart - an old priest persecuted for his mysticism, who saw beyond the lens of conventional belief into the divinity of the world; and Ramana Marharshi, a teenager who stared death in the face and transcended the illusion of the individual self. Each one a mystic describing the ineffable mystery of awakened being.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? How to express the immense love I feel for the world whenever I merge consciousness and being.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" In the moment, in the Presence, in the stillness, timelessness and unity of conscious being.
Editor's Note: You can see John's writing at his web site
and his latest book What Aging Men Want: The Odyssey as a Parable of Male Aging

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

J. Mark Powell, Interview #204

Name: J. Mark Powell
Where you live:  Columbia, South Carolina
What you do as a vocation or avocation?  I serve as communications director for the Attorney General of South Carolina
Your two favorite books:  The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and Burr by Gore Vidal.  Both introduced me to the magic of historical fiction at an early age.  I've read many great books since, but you never forget your first love.
Your two favorite songs:  Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is my favorite hymn; I love the honesty on the line “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”  And call me crazy, but Glenn Miller’s Pennsylvania 6-5000 makes me want to dance every time I hear it.
Why you are interested in spirituality?  We are spiritual beings who live in earthly bodies. The spirit is the very essence of who we are; the external is just a container for holding it.  So the more you discovery about spirituality, the more you can truly know about yourself and others, and that produces genuine understanding.  
Your favorite quote:  A French general sent this message to headquarters in 1914: “My left flank cannot hold; my center is giving way, my right is retreating. Situation perfect: I am attacking.” If you wait until conditions are ideal, you’ll likely spend the rest of your life waiting in vain. I love the general’s optimism, too; he saw possibility while everything around him spelled failure.
Your favorite web sites:; where else can you keep up with old friends while making new ones at the same time?   I enjoy too many others to pick a second favorite; sorry!
Your hero?   Robert E. Lee.  Regardless your opinion of him as a Southern general, he was an amazing person, off the battlefield as well as on.  He was a devout Christian who practiced humility; he had a very strong tempter that he diligently worked his entire life to contain; and there is no evidence that he ever swore or was drunk even once.  Yet he did not moralize or judge others.  After the war, he was a model of reconciliation and forgiveness.  He could have made a post-war fortune by capitalizing on his celebrity through commercial endorsements… but he instead chose to become president of a small, modest college so he could shape young leaders for the next generation.  All in all, a remarkably inspiring man.
A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?  The practice of true forgiveness.  I have discovered that forgiving another person isn’t a one-time act.  Hurt and bitterness often return later, and you have to continue working at it until you have fully attained forgiveness.

Editor's Note: You can see J. Mark Powell's work at including his novel Tell it Like Tupper

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Phil Moore, Interview #203

Name: Phil Moore

Where you live: Central Coast, NSW Australia

What you do as a vocation or avocation? Writer, Filmmaker and Teacher

Your two favorite books: Dune, Crime & Punishment

Your two favorite songs: Perfect Day (Lou Reed), White Balloons (Sick Puppies)

Why you are interested in spirituality? Science can provide many answers, but not all of them.

Your favorite quote: Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid - Goethe.

Your favorite web sites:,,

Your hero? The Prophet Tobias

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? A greater compassion for the foibles of others.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" - With my children - wherever that is.

Find more about Phil's writing work at

Or follow him on Twitter @philmoore_au  and @ProphetTobias

And you can see Phil's book here:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Amos Smith, Interview #202

Name: Amos Smith

Where you live: Tucson, Arizona 

What you do as a vocation or avocation?
I have been a United Church of Christ minister of progressive churches for over 14 years. I am currently serving Church of the Painted Hills, UCC in Tucson.

I am also an retreat leader and author. My new book is entitled Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity's Mystic Roots.

Your two favorite books:
There are so many that narrowing it to two is challenging. Yet, I could probably settle for A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer and volume 2 or The Philokalia compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, published by Faber and Faber.

Your two favorite songs:
"40" by U2 and "Mary" by Patti Griffin

Why you are interested in spirituality?
Spirituality is ultimately about intimacy with God. I believe we are all hardwired for intimacy with God and that mysticism is more common than many think. We were all mystics as children and have lost touch. When intimacy with God returns, usually through diligent spiritual practice, it brings abiding peace, joy, and fulfillment, beyond what transitory sensory experiences can bring.

Your favorite quote:
"It is in the paradox itself, the paradox which was and is still a source of insecurity, that I have come to find the greatest security." --Thomas Merton
Your favorite web sites:
Your hero?
Anthony of Egypt

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
Letting go

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" 
the Sonoran desert

Pictured above is Amos with author Father Richard Rohr, who writes the foreword for Amos' book.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Matt Matthews, Interview #201

Name: Matt Matthews

Where you live: Greenville/Greer, South Carolina, USA

What you do as a vocation or avocation? I’m pastor of St. Giles Presbyterian Church, a cool congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a father of three boys, a husband, son, and friend. I write when I can; I’m shopping a memoir of my father about his WWII/POW experience. My novel Mercy Creek, which was a blast to write from the point of view of a sixteen year old, got a good review by Publisher’s Weekly, and others. My children’s book about how a single prayer can shape a whole life (Fritz & Christine and Their Very Nervous Parents) was published by Avenida Books. I write songs, stories, emails, sermons, and plays. I like preaching. I like hearing people talk about their faith (or lack thereof). I like the beach. I like small, independent movies. I sometimes dream of Paris.

Your two favorite books: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie are two of my favorite novels. I like the poetry of Walt Whitman, Deno Trakas, Billy Collins, and Carl Sandburg, and the essays of Anne Lamott, the short fiction of Janet Peery and Ron Rash, the movie reviews of Anthony Lane, the travel logs of Mark Twain and Bill Bryson, the theological levity and insight of Will Willimon, and the editorials of the late Molly Ivins . . . to name a few.

Your two favorite songs: I have many. But these two stand out: Bank Job by the Barenaked Ladies because the story is great and the line about the nuns is hilarious, and Louie Armstrong singing What A Wonderful World because it casts a vision/ideal I wish all could live. I dig Stevie Wonder, Joe Satriani, Tommy Emmanuel, Bruce Hornsby, James Taylor, David LaMotte (no relation to Anne), True Blues, and all the indie artists like Mark Erelli and John Smith, making their way on the lonely road.

Why you are interested in spirituality? I’m not interested in “spirituality” per se. I’m interested in the ways in which God’s Spirit moves through communities, nature, experiences, and human story. God’s Spirit animates us all, so I’m interested in the ways we are and ways we are able to connect in a heart-to-heart way—to be real with each other.

Your favorite quote: “What does the Lord require of you but to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Your favorite web sites: The Chicago Manuel of Style Online because I like learning more about commas, who/whom, lay/lie, and other tricky aspects of the English language, and Travelocity because I like dreaming about traveling the world on a budget.

Your hero? Martin Luther King, Jr.; my parents; the minister of my home church; my sons; Jesus because he probably had the most mistranslated sense of humor of any truth-teller, and he really seemed to speak the truth in love.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn? Really letting people be who they are and loving them anyway.

A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected?" Anywhere when I can settle my clanking thoughts can be holy ground. The trick is noticing.

By Christmas 2013, Matt will be blogging and tweeting

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lorraine Ash, Interview #200

Name: Lorraine Ash
Where you live: Allendale, New Jersey
What you do as a vocation or avocation? I’ve been a newspaper reporter for the past thirty years. In the past fifteen years, I’ve also been writing and editing books and leading spiritual and memoir writing workshops and retreats. All these activities have one thing in common: getting to the heart of any story in long-form writing.
Your two favorite books: “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving; “The Fundamental Problem” by Swami Dayananda
Your two favorite songs: “October Road” by James Taylor; “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
Why you are interested in spirituality?
Ultimately, we all make important decisions that forge our identities and create our destinies on interior spiritual landscapes. They are the places where true change occurs, courage is born, and the creative fires are lit. What takes root inside us determines how we speak and act in the world. To me, then, spirituality is among the most practical endeavors in existence, as is quality spiritual writing with its ability to reach into those landscapes and deliver helpful stories and messages.

Your favorite quote:
“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” —Gandhi
Your favorite web sites:
Salon, ; Patheos,
Your hero?
The late George Gordon, a professor at Fordham University who helped me harness the power of my mind and understand my potential as a writer and teacher.  I wrote about my experinces with George in my latest book, “Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.” He’s featured in a chapter called “Choosing whom to believe.” Sometimes it occurs to me that, particularly with teaching, I’m attempting to do for others what he did for me.

A spiritual lesson you hope to learn?
Everything and everyone is always in process.
A place in the world where you feel spiritually "connected"?
Acadia National Park in the great state of Maine.

To learn more about Lorraine Ash’s work and writing workshops, visit . Her most recent book is “Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life,” a spiritual memoir that opens with the stillbirth of her daughter. “Self and Soul” is designed to help people who feel assaulted by life bring what ails or confounds them to the level of soul, where meaning is made. Dr. Larry Dossey, best-selling author of “The Science of Premonitions,” called the book “one of the most eloquent, elegant, and spiritually rich descriptions of the human journey I’ve read.”

Feel free to connect with Lorraine on Twitter @LorraineVAsh or Facebook or directly via email