(Neil del Strother)
Back in January, I posted a short review of The Flower in the Desert, by Neil del Strother. Recently, I had a opportunity to interview Neil about the book and his inspiration for writing it.
Clay: What is the book about?
Neil: The story is simple. My book is about a boy growing into a man, and a man growing through his life. It is about his trips into the desert and what he finds…and what he leaves behind.
At another level, it’s about that place of meaning, of being, of becoming, that all of us know…even if we’re not always consciously aware that we know it. It is the mystery, and each of us brings our own experience and heart to it. My hope is that my book creates a space where this place is felt.
Clay: What inspired you to write the book?
Neil: Many things.
One is an experience I had around twenty years ago now, where I became the plants, the air, the earth, the moon and the stars. It sounds implausible I know, but for a short while (far too short – I was scared I was dying) I was everything.
Another is simply my experience of life. The rhythm, the unfolding, the very slow coming to terms with my many imperfections (I wish this would get a move on!), the gradual and growing awareness that there is so very much more than me and yet nothing more at all.
Clay: If each book is a journey, what journey are you enticing the reader to take?
Neil: Every reader is already on his or her own (and our shared) journey. There is no other journey that can be made. I wonder is it even a journey at all? In the awareness is our unfolding freedom. It’s often a challenge.
Clay: You wrote the book as an allegorical tale, allegorical stories are meant to teach us lessons about how to live, what is your tale teaching us about ourselves and our relationship with the world and each other?
Neil: An essential meaning in my life has been and is about opening; about becoming aware and letting go of my many unhelpful (and often fearful) beliefs and patterns…and anything and everything else that keeps me from a connection with wholeness. I know this might sound like a load of old cobblers. Ultimately it isn’t about words, it’s experiential. For me it’s a long old road.
My experience is that I open that much more into the space each time I manage to let go part of my personal baggage. It’s a place of individual and shared wholeness. I believe this is the same for us all. It is on the cusp of this space that we may meet our deepest fear – the fear Marianne Williamson (and Nelson Mandela) have spoken about: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I feel this is essentially a fear of losing ourselves, of disintegrating, into the whole. We are nothing; we are everything.
I hope in some small way (actually, I hope in a big way) that my book speaks to every reader of their greatness. I have written no words for this, it is about our individual stories dancing in the spaces my words leave alone. A lot of people have told me what they feel my book is about…they are right, even though it’s often been the first time I’ve realised it.
Clay: Tell us a little bit about your background.
Neil: My childhood was not altogether easy, although I have heard many many people speak of childhoods a great deal worse. I was, to an extent, emotionally neglected and I learned of the emptiness that this can bring. I was also lucky enough to learn just a little of love from my grandmother and her friend Ms Barnes.
It took me some time to find my feet as an adult. When I left university I worked in a range of jobs trying to find one that felt right for me. None did. My greatest loves were football and writing and, as I wasn’t signed up by Manchester United or the mighty Brighton and Hove Albion (their loss), I drifted somewhat tardily into journalism. I freelanced for papers and magazines before finding a niche writing about education for consultancies and government departments.
I have a degree in Politics and American Studies, an MA in Journalism and a Dip Psych. I am a qualified, if non-practising, Journey Therapist (www.thejourney.com). I also have some experience of shamanism, attending workshops and taking part in healing ceremonies with the San Bushmen in Botswana.
Clay: What attracted you to write a book of this kind?
Neil: Perhaps it sounds daft, but this book wanted to be written…it had been waiting within me for some time. I finally got around to writing the first draft during the weeks that I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, an ancient pilgrimage route across Northern Spain, a year or so ago.
Clay: Is the book a part of some greater spiritual awakening?
Neil: I hope it is part of a greater spiritual awakening that is happening within all of us. We all know that we need to step away from the extraordinarily destructive and life denying actions of our current human world into a place of greater love and reverence for life and our planet.
Clay: Anything else you would like to share?
Neil: Yes, when I write I sound a darn site wiser than when I speak (and act). Or a great deal more pretentious. Take your pick!
Clay: Thanks Neil.
To find out more information about The Flower in the Desert, visit the site here. You can also download the first chapter and experience Neil’s wonderful book for yourself.