Hilary Carter from the UK came to New Life as a volunteer and ended up writing a book sharing some of our residents’ inspiring recovery stories. New Life Stories: Journeys of Recovery in a Mindful Community is coming out on December 12 and is already available to pre-order on Amazon. All royalties will go towards supporting New Life Foundation and its mission of offering affordable recovery to all. A huge thanks to Hilary for all the work she put into this special project! In this blog post, we talk to Hilary about her writing, her adventurous life, and the challenging process of writing the New Life book.
Could you tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you became a writer?
I was born in the north of England but at the age of 22 I moved to London and spent ten years working as a community relations teacher. After the birth of my daughter I became a British Wheel of yoga teacher. The Wheel is the governing body for yoga in the UK and it’s a comprehensive 4 year teacher training. Writing dozens of essays on yoga philosophy was good training for my future life as a writer. At that time I had no idea I would be writing books. I only became a writer because I had to tell the story of my 11:11 awakening. This true story (The 11:11 Code: Secrets of the Convent) was too incredible not to be told.
What would you say has been the strongest influence on your writing?
I write about my incredible, magical, exciting and very, very interesting everyday life so my life is my main influence.
What’s the favourite thing you’ve written / which one of your books is closest to your heart?
That’s a bit like asking a mother which one of her children she loves the most! The most popular book has been The Chakras Made Easy which has sold thousands of copies. I think that’s because it’s a very practical and useful book.
What brought you to New Life and what did you think of your time here?
Needless to say it was signs and synchronicities that led me to New Life. That’s how I live my life – following signs -especially number signs. On a personal level there were things about New Life that I thoroughly enjoyed and there were other things that I found extremely challenging. But like and dislike are irrelevant. They belong to the ego, the small self. I was excited by what I experienced at New Life because I could see how it could be used as a template for future communities. To witness people coming together, supporting each other, helping each other and sharing their gifts, knowledge, struggles and pain with total acceptance was truly inspiring.
What gave you the idea to write the book of New Life Stories? Why was it important for you to write it?
I was so affected and moved by the personal life stories that I heard during my time at New Life that I felt they deserved to be heard by a wider audience. I reckoned that even if the book only helped and inspired one person then it would be worth writing. However, I get the feeling that many people will benefit from reading these real life narratives. I’m very thankful to those at New Life who shared their experiences so openly with me. It has been a privilege to be involved in spreading their stories to future readers of the book ‘New Life Stories’.
What was it like to write the book? What kind of challenges did you encounter?
It was more difficult than I expected it to be! I wrote the stories down and then I needed to be sure that each person was happy with what I had written. I emailed each person their story and asked for feedback. Not everyone was very communicative so that took quite a while. I then had to incorporate all requested changes and additions to their stories and then go through the whole process again. Also, I had to be careful not to accidentally let real names be known whilst juggling my many emails as I wanted to protect the identities of the story tellers.
Then my publishers told me that they wanted the book to be a useful resource as well as an inspiring read so additional sections had to be added. That created a lot of extra work but it was worth it because it is now a very useful book. There is a glossary, reading list, meditation tips, body scan, a short course in mindfulness and a resources section.
Which particular stories stand out for you?
One story holds a special place in my heart and that is Dirty’s story, because of the 11:11 connection. The appearance of the number 11:11 in my everyday life was my own wake-up call so how could that story not stand out for me? And how synchronistic that Dirty was spending time at New Life at the same time as me! That said, each of the stories is of equal value and importance to the book.
Why do you think telling stories (either others’ or one’s own) is healing?
Sharing. It’s the fact that another person opens up and says ‘This is what happened to me and this is how I felt,’ and some of those hearing their story will think ‘Oh, that’s exactly what happened to me so I’m not alone in what I experienced and how I felt.’ Just knowing that you’re not alone is so reassuring. That’s exactly what this book is about. It’s to reach out to those who are struggling so that they can discover that they are not alone in what they are experiencing. More than that, the readers can find out how mindfulness has helped the storytellers to get through their pain and the extra sections in the book like ‘Resources’ and ‘Further Reading’ provide practical help.
What lies in store for you in terms of travelling, writing, and/or volunteering in the future?
I’m currently writing my seventh book. I have been writing for ten years. That’s a lot of hours spent in front of a computer screen. Now I need to shift my focus towards bringing TaiYoga to a wider audience. TaiYoga is a combination of Yoga and Tai Chi. I have a feeling that I might be teaching in the corporate world but I’ll wait and see where the number signs lead me. The great thing about living a life according to signs and synchronicities rather than by the thoughts of the mind is that I never know what will happen next. All I have to do is keep the small ego-self called ‘Hilary’ out of the way and allow the immense wisdom of my Higher Self to guide me. Who knows, I might be guided back to New Life in the future!
More great books by Hilary: