Written by Vickie MacArthur
“It feels like I am slowly dissolving the me I think I am, to become the love beyond the boundaries of Buddha and Christ, and you and me.”
--- A Lotus on Fire
As I stand at the podium at Analog Books, looking out over the sea of expectant faces, I feel a tinge of nervousness. Surrounded by walls of books on every side, I wonder what passage I could possibly read from my newly born book, that hasn’t already been written in some form? As I take a deep breath, and take time to truly look into the faces of beloved family, friends, and students, I see a spark of love shining through. It reminds me of another time of looking into the eyes of Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh. It was that moment that sparked the idea for the book I now hold in my hands, A Lotus on Fire: How a Buddhist Monk Ignited My Heart.
I met Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) at a large retreat out in Vancouver in 2011, just after my mother passed away from cancer in 2011. I arrived with a raw and open heart, hoping for a quiet space to be with the sadness and loss I felt. At one point towards the end of the retreat, I had the opportunity to sit very close to this gentle and revered monk. Our eyes met, and a feeling of love such that I had never known welled up in me. It felt like I was looking into the eyes of the Buddha, or Christ.
When I got home, I felt like I needed a way to process and reflect on this life-changing glimpse of “enlightenment” I’d received. I got out my journal and started to write. I wrote in the format of Letters to my Teacher (Dear Thay), describing my feelings, and asking the deep questions of my heart. Each question led to some insight and answers, but always uncovered deeper questions. Over time, these letters began to connect some of the dots for my life experience, revealing some overall patterns and themes. I wondered if these heartfelt letters in my journal could somehow become a book?
So began the long process of writing, and re-writing, in between teaching yoga, raising our teenage boys, leading church, and all the other activities of life. I finished the first draft in 2019, and started looking for an editor. Several months later, I was invited to be part of the online leadership team for Awakening Spirituality, an online outreach group for our church, dedicated to being a safe and welcoming place for all different kinds of spiritual seekers. On the leadership team, I met Susan L. Scott, a long time church member whose own roots run deep in the RLDS tradition. Susan is also an author and editor passionate about inspiring and helping people like you and I to write and share our own stories. She calls this “Spiritual Life Writing”, stories at the intersection of spirituality and everyday life. She became my mentor and editor for the rest of my book journey. I shared my excitement with my dear friend Lana Cullis, and she too became a mentor and companion for me.
In early 2021, we finally had a fully edited manuscript. Initially, like a lot of new writers, I hoped to find a traditional publisher to publish my book. This is no easy task, as most large publishers won’t even look at you without an agent, and smaller publishers don’t want to take a chance on you unless you already have a huge following, and a large social media platform. The submission process alone was like writing an entire book all over again. So I spent the next 6 months sending out book proposals, and either getting a polite “thanks, but no thanks,” or no answer at all. It felt like my manuscript disappeared into a big black hole!
In September 2021, my life changed drastically. I was hit by a car while crossing in a crosswalk, and sustained serious injuries to my left shoulder and left knee, requiring two surgeries, two weeks in hospital, and three months in bed (and lots of prayer!) My life literally flashed before my eyes, and I spent most of the next year recovering. When I finally felt well again, I knew I needed to find a way of getting my book out into the world right away. My story mattered, as do all our stories!
I decided to self-publish and become an “Indie-Author” as we’re called. It’s still a lot of hard work, but it gave me more control over the creative design of the book, including title, front and back cover design, and inside formatting, and complete copyright and ownership. I found an experienced graphic artist up in Calgary, who designed the stunning cover for A Lotus on Fire, and also did all the formatting inside the book, so I could upload easily to Amazon to publish both the paperback and E-Book versions. An official book launch was planned for March 22 at Analog Books here in Lethbridge.
As I now stand at this podium, holding A Lotus on Fire in my hands, I can feel the faith of many generations converging in this moment. I sense the courageous faith of my parents and many generations of RLDS, now Community of Christ. I feel the teachings and meditation practices of Thich Nhat Hanh, and his Vietnamese Buddhist lineage traced right back to the Buddha himself. I feel the great love of the Living Buddha, and the Living Christ flowing through me, to be a tiny spark of love wherever I am.
A Lotus on Fire is available in both paperback and E-Book on Amazon. To find out more about Vickie and A Lotus on Fire, please see Vickie’s website: www.vickiemacarthur.ca
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