Author Interview: Rachel Astarte

Rachel AstarteName: Rachel Astarte

Site(s) you write for: elephant journal

Website URL:   http://healingartsnewyork.com 

Social Media Links:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/author/rachel-astarte/

http://www.facebook.com/healingartsnewyork

http://www.facebook.com/rachelastartepiccione

http://www.facebook.com/CelebratingSolitude

http://twitter.com/healingartsny

http://rachelastarte.tumblr.com/

What kind of articles do you write for elephant journal?

Predominantly, I write about relationships—both with others and with ourselves. Often my articles revolve around deepening intimacy with a partner, but I also write quite a bit about developing a healthy connection to our highest selves. To that end, I focus on introversion and living vibrantly as an introvert. I’m also a peace activist, so some of my pieces also deal with relationships between people in conflict, such as the Palestinians and Israelis.

How did you become a writer for the online magazine? 

I did what many writers do: I read the magazine for some time, liked what I saw, and contacted the editors with writing samples to see if they thought we might be a fit. Gladly, they did! I began as a Contributing Writer, and am now a Featured Author.

How do you come up with topics for your articles? 

There are two ways: I’ve spent a lot of time writing in a vacuum, as it were—jotting down ideas for articles or even writing them but not finding a home for them. Many of my articles for ej were developed in this way.

I also get inspired by what is going on around me. I never really know when the inspiration will hit, so I typically have scrap paper and pens in every room of the house. I’m also incapable of watching a movie or television program without at least two notebooks beside me. One is my journal for personal ideas. The other is for possible article (or novel, or screenplay, or poetry…) ideas. It might be considered an illness, really, but that’s the truth!

Can you describe your writing process? 

I usually begin by pacing a lot. I’ll have a scrap of paper or notebook page with the article idea in hand or at my desk, and I pace around trying to flesh the idea out in my mind.

Often I’ll talk about a tough subject out loud, as I might with one of my transformational coaching clients. For example, I may ask, “How can I keep my relationship healthy?” Then I might counter with, “What’s the definition of ‘healthy’?” and “What are the top, say, five things that we would need to create that?” The substance of the article might come out that way.

I usually make an annotated outline and work from there to create the article. 

elephant journal covers a wide variety of topics, from green living to spirituality to sexuality. Can you speak to the popularity of the sexual intimacy articles you write for ej, juxtaposed with the more introverted (and/or politically charged) themes you also tackle? 

Sex is one of the most mysterious and titillating ways we communicate with each other as human beings. We love to learn more about how to do it, when, where, with whom… Human sexuality is something we all encounter (even if we don’t practice it), so it’s no surprise that articles about sex and intimacy (I focus on the latter) are incredibly popular.

On the other hand, introversion speaks to a smaller subset of humanity. Unless you are an introvert—and there are many of us out there—or have an introvert in your life, the articles I write on that subject are not as widely read and shared. However, I’ve gotten tremendous positive response from the introvert community when I’ve written about how we live and how we can thrive in a world that may not understand us.

As for my political pieces, I believe they are well received, but because my peace work centers on Palestine-Israel, I acknowledge that it’s a hot-button topic that many are not comfortable talking about, never mind sharing on Facebook, even if it is promoting peace. I’m all right with that because I’m confident that getting the message of mindfulness and human connection out there is essential. Peace takes time. 

How did you come to do what you’re doing today?

Currently, I’m working on a new book, The Introvert’s Guide to a Vibrant Life. In part, I came to this project from my own struggles making peace with my introverted lifestyle and finding a way to bring my gifts out into the world.

More importantly, I found that many of my introverted clients were having similar troubles, namely feeling at home and fulfilled in their private lives, but being unable to fit in comfortably with the outside world. The result is energy drain and a sense of failure that pervades their lives.

What I hope to accomplish with The Introvert’s Guide to a Vibrant Life is to help introverts discover and express their gifts—whatever they may be—on their own terms. That is, without feeling the need to become extroverted in order to share what gives their lives meaning.

Can you describe a typical day in your life?

I wake up at around 6.30 a.m., thanks to my four-year-old son who doesn’t believe in sleeping too much past sunrise. I exercise and meditate before I take him to school. Once I get back home, I typically see clients. All my sessions are online, so that makes the commute very easy.

On days I don’t have clients, I’ll either check in with the students I teach as an online faculty member at SWIHA (Southwest Institute of Healing Arts) or put together an article for elephant journal.

Apart from that, I might work on whatever creative piece I have going—either fiction or non-fiction. (Besides The Introvert’s Guide to a Vibrant Life, I’m also working on a new novel.)

I’m currently in the process of organizing a Palestinian/Israeli arts festival in Rockland County that will be held this summer, so that’s a big part of my day as well.

My official workday is usually only about six hours long, since my son finishes school at 3 p.m. I have to get as much out of my day as I can! Still, I do my best to get downtime by relaxing in the evening with my son and my partner so that I can be sure to give as much of myself to my work as possible.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

I most enjoy communicating. When something I’ve written reaches people and touches them, rouses them to feel better about their lives or take steps to improve it, I feel like I’m doing what I was put on earth to do. It’s a real thrill, too. Like winning the lottery.

Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?

My parents were very big influences on me, as were certain other teachers along the way. Poets have also influenced me immensely. Whenever I feel out of spiritual alignment, I usually turn to the poetry of Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, Mirabai, Robert Bly, William Stafford, Margaret Atwood, Mary Oliver, or my father Anthony Piccione, to name a very few.

Here are some seminal non-fiction books in my life, some of which I still use as references:

How to Be Your Own Best Friend, Mildred Newman, Bernard Berkowitz, and Jean Owen

A Little Book on The Human Shadow, Robert Bly

The Undiscovered Self, Carl G Jung

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche

Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber

The Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner

Shadows on the Path, Abdi Assadi

If the Buddha Dated, Charlotte Kasl

Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind, Stephen Larsen Ph.D. and Robin Larsen

The Zen Path Through Depression, Philip Martin 

Have you written or published any books? If so, what inspired you to do so? 

I’ve written two non-fiction books:

Celebrating Solitude: How to Discover and Honor Your Highest Self (2012): The inspiration for this book came from the death of my father and the end of a long-term relationship. The rest of my family and most close friends lived far away, and I was feeling very alone and depressed about my future. I knew I had a choice: To continue living in fear and sadness or redefine my life on my own terms. This book is a guide toward developing the latter.

101 Better Sex Tips (2007):  I was inspired to share the importance of sexual intimacy in a playful way. The book is set up so that readers can flip through randomly and find tips on every page.

Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

I think many people are very surprised to find I’m an introvert. Because I’m very comfortable speaking publicly and even enjoy it, I don’t quite fit into the introvert stereotype of someone who prefers to stay home surrounded by books and old movies and the like.

The truth is, I make sure I get a lot of solitude so that I can recharge myself for public appearances (or even just to go out and get groceries). In my solitude practice, I’m able to develop and nurture myself through writing, meditating, reading, watching old movies, etc. That way, when it’s time to be in the world of others, I have something genuine to offer; I carry my solitary self out into the world so she can share whatever it is she can share. It’s another form of communication with the global community.

What’s next for you?

As I mentioned, I’m working on a new non-fiction book, The Introvert’s Guide to a Vibrant Life.  I also have a new novel in the works that deals with psycho-spiritual evolution called, When You Are Awake.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

One of the things I love most about this life is our ability to reach out and connect deeply to one another. Non-fiction books are a tremendous way to do that. Whether we are writing them or reading them, we are sharing the human experience, helping each other to be the best possible human beings we can be. I can’t think of anything more admirable than that.



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