It’s not often that I interview someone on the mindfulness and psychotherapy blog who has put out a novel. However, Diana Gould has had a long career in film and television and in her practice with mindfulness. She currently teaches at InsightLA in Santa Monica, California and has recently released her first novel Coldwater. She has also put out a special Coldwater Challenge contest: Find the Mindfulness! Nestled within the pages of this noir thriller are little nuggets of mindfulness teachings. How many can you find? Make a list, give your reasons, and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will receive your choice of a free basics class at InsightLA or a personal consultation with Diana about dharma practice & writing or both!
Today, Diana talks to us about what inspired her to write this novel, how mindfulness integrates into the novel, the themes of destruction and redemption are applicable in our lives, and some thoughts for the times we are suffering.
Elisha: What inspired you to write Coldwater?
Diana: I had been writing for film and TV for many years. Although literally hundreds of hours of television had been produced from scripts that I wrote, developed or produced, I rarely had the experience of seeing my true values and vision reflected on the screen. There were always layers of corporate or collaborative intervention which either shaped, changed or discarded what I’d written. Although I am very grateful to television for the income it provided and the skills it taught me, I longed to produce work that was creatively self-expressive in a way that TV never could be. Coldwater is that work.
I had two ideas about Coldwater before I began writing it. The first was to tell the story of someone filled with fear and self-loathing, who made the transformation to self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and self-esteem – a transformation I had made myself. The other was to tell a story about someone who had always relied on drugs and alcohol to deal with fear and difficulty, who was confronted with bigger fears and worse difficulties, but had to face them clean and sober. As someone with many friends and family members affected by the disease of addiction, who has seen the challenges of recovery at close hand, I knew this was a story that had dramatic – and heroic – potential.
Elisha: How has your mindfulness practice been integrated into the book?
Diana: This is a great question. I feel that the years that I have spent doing mindfulness meditation helped me describe my characters at the level of body sensation, mental image, internal conversation, and to describe scenes and locations with specificity of sights, sounds, smells and touches. In other words, the things that I notice in my own mindfulness practice gave life and veracity to the scenes and characters I was writing about. But the writing process itself, I discovered, cannot really be done “mindfully.” It is necessary to see and hear people places and things that are not there. While writing, the mind goes off into imagination and story-telling – just what we bring ourselves back from doing in meditation! I cannot be “in the now” and be writing at the same time. However, learning to hang out and be comfortable in “don’t-know mind” is very helpful. A lot of writing time is spent staring into space and not knowing what comes next, and learning to be okay with that. (Actually, for me, that is the hardest challenge of writing.)
And sometimes, the answer to problems that seemed unsolvable while at the computer, will bubble up in meditation the next day.
Elisha: Your book speaks of destruction and redemption, can you tell us more how this might support the reader in their daily life?
Diana: Ethics and morality, non-harming of ourselves and others, plays a crucial part in one’s sense of well-being. The book explores the consequences of doing harm to self and others, and offers the possibility of redemption if we take ownership and responsibility for our actions.
Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who was struggling physically or emotionally, what thoughts might you have for them?
Diana: I would very much want them to know that what seems endless is not. That there are very concrete and specific ways of being with painful emotions and experiences that can help transform them. That very often what we think is the worst thing that could happen to us turns out to be the best. That if we have the courage to open to the darkness and not run from it, it can contain the source of our relief. That as Rumi has said, “the wound is where the light enters.” That happiness is possible. Freedom is possible. That everything we could possibly want is contained within each present moment, if we just learn how to recognize it.
Elisha: Thank you Diana!
Please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Photo of Diana Gould courtesy of the author