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A journey to find physical, emotional and spiritual healing, Unexpected Grace will inspire you to discover the courage to handle life-changing challenges with ease and grace. Facing illness and disability, as well as the loss of dreams and expectations, each phase of the journey unfolds, bringing new truths, lessons and perspectives. True acceptance, center and balance are revealed through ultimate surrender and a strong connection to loving, supportive friends. And at the end of the journey, we come – quite unexpectedly – to a place of grace.
GUEST POST by June Hyjek
FEAR OR TRUST. YOU CHOOSE.
Many things have happened lately to make me fearful of others and of life itself. My world seems to be filled with people who hold unfounded, grudges that baffle me and choose to say vindictive things for no other reason than spite. We’ve had deaths and serious illnesses, difficult medical prognoses. Family members whose actions are more about greed than family values. Job losses and insecurity. It’s been difficult to hold on to the trust and acceptance that got me through past challenges. I see fear peeking out of every corner, tugging at me, knocking on the door, enticing me to believe that the world is full of anger, resentment, greed and struggles. Fear is ready to haunt me, settle into my stomach and my bones. In fact, I can already feel it in my body, aching and throbbing.
We all have these times. Life is a string of good things and bad things. But we tend to notice the bad things more because discomfort gets our attention more than comfort, and when fear and anger take us over, we are definitely uncomfortable. It takes an effort to reject the fear, to refuse to believe that negativity in the world is the norm. The option of being fearful is always there, sitting on the sidelines, waiting. But it is always our choice to focus instead on the love and support we have. It takes work to seek out and surround ourselves with this support. It is a choice to believe and have trust in the goodness that exists in our everyday world.
So in the middle of these challenges, I look outside at the beauty of the budding spring. And I am grateful. I revel in the comfort of my home. And I am grateful. I hear music in the air, and feel the softness of the breeze. And I am grateful. I hear the words of my friends in support. And I am grateful. I see their eyes filled with love and kindness. And I am grateful. I feel the love and protection in my husband’s embrace. And I am grateful.
And with all this love I experience, this comfort and beauty that surrounds me, this life filled with gratitude, how can I possibly let fear fill my body and control me? How can I not trust and believe that all these challenges are temporary and don’t make up the substance of my life? Fear may be close by, but I can choose not to let it come any closer. I can choose to live in abundance, trust and faith. I can choose to believe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a MindBody Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist, Meditation Teacher and Reiki Master, June Hyjek offers extensive experience in pain and stress management, working with clients to help them move through life’s transitions with grace and peace. Her practice emphasizes techniques that work to create physical, emotional and spiritual fitness. June is a graduate of the Advanced Training Program at the Center for MindBody Medicine, with a focus on mindbody therapies for pain and stress. In addition to her training at the Center, she is a Certified Hypnotherapist with the American Alliance of Hypnotists. June has also studied and continues to practice a wide variety of meditation techniques, including mindfulness, transcendental, Chi Kung, chanting and mantras, as well as many Buddhist and Hindu practices. Personally, June has struggled with the debilitating condition of Scoliosis for more than half her life. She has overcome the pain and emotional issues from six surgeries, finding healing through mindbody approaches and the loving support of others. As a motivational speaker, she uses her personal experience and her expertise to share her insights on handling emotional and physical pain with grace.
INTERVIEW with June Hyjek
1. Think back to high school. Were you good at English?
Yes, I’ve always loved reading and loved my English classes. In fact, I doubled up and took six years of English in high school, and was exempted from Freshmen English in college. My Dad had a unique philosophy about education. He would say the world revolves around Science, Math and English. Science will teach you to be curious about the world around you. Math will teach you to reason logically and solve problems. But it was all useless if you couldn’t communicate it.
2. Which writers inspire you?
I’m not sure there’s a writer that inspires me, although I am a huge fan of Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. (The imagination and incredible detail in this entire world she created is amazing!) But there are two individuals whose work inspires me, and they are also authors. Dr. James Gordon (Manifesto for a New Medicine) and Dr. Bernie Siegel (Love, Medicine and Miracles, and Faith, Hope and Healing) work tirelessly to bring holistic concepts and practices into today’s health care and offer a compassionate approach to medicine. I was fortunate to have Dr. Siegel endorse my book, Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender.
3. So. . .what have you written?
I’ve been writing my entire life, starting with some pretty embarrassing poems and journals in grade school! I then spent about 25 years in corporate news services and marketing, and my days were filled with writing news briefs, newsletter articles, marketing plans, business plans and promotional material. Through it all, though, I continued to dabble with writing, and eventually wrote for Examiner.com as the Hartford Holistic Health Editor. But I never really considered writing a book until I became “medically retired” after complications from a total of seven spine surgeries. (I think “medically retired” sounds better than disabled, don’t you?!!!) My book, Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender, came out of that experience and shares the journey of my recovery. The book is sold at many local bookstores and mindbody retailers, and is also readily available online in a number of sites, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Shelfari, The Google Store and more.
4. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Right now, my main focus is on promoting Unexpected Grace. I am also one of the founding officers of a new organization, the American Authors & Publishers Guild, so much of my efforts have been on helping my fellow authors to be successful. At some point in the not-so-distant future, I would like to publish another book, and I have a number concepts and outlines I’ve been working on and considering. But, today, what’s most important to me is sharing the story of Unexpected Grace, along with maintaining my health and being present for my family and clients.
5. Who is your main character? What makes him/her so special?
That’s a tough one because my main character is me! I would say what makes the BOOK so special is the honesty, openness and humor with which I share the story. Vanity and ego went out the window! Since much of it was actually written while I was going through the experience, the reader goes through my journey with me, and makes each discovery and learns each lesson along with me.
6. What genre do you write and what draws you to it?
I’m definitely a non-fiction writer. I like sharing experiences (mine or others) that have meaning, and every-day observations and lessons. I believe there is real value in sharing our stores – for the reader and the author. I learned a long time ago that I wasn’t that good with writing dialogue, and if I wrote a children’s book, the characters would probably sound like adults!
7. Do you outline or fly by the seat of your pants? Any horror stores related to the other way?
I do both, and yes, there have been rewrites and trash can fillers from both methods. I choose the process that best suits where I am in the story and how I’m feeling. But I think my best writing comes from flashes of creative inspiration when the story just comes out – often at 3:00 in the morning!
8. How have you evolved as a writer? Compare yourself to when you wrote that first page and now.
Over the years, my writing went from business-speak to people-speak. Now, I write more conversationally. If you read my book, you’ll be able to see my “evolution,” both as a writer and a person, from the time I wrote that first page. The biggest difference, though, is probably in acceptance and confidence. I’m less judgmental about my writing or myself. I feel more comfortable and accepting about the process and less attached to the outcome. Sometimes, you just have to surrender to the words and let them lead you.
9. What is the easiest thing about writing?
Back in my former corporate life, I was the editor of the company’s newsletter. One morning, after laboring over the latest edition, I went into my boss’ office to give it to him for his approval. I plunked the copy down on his desk, stood there in my most defiant stance with my arms folded, and asked him, “Does anyone LIKE to write???” At the time, I didn’t think anything about writing was easy! My boss said to me, “No. We just decide the end result is worth the effort.” I never really understood that until Unexpected Grace came out. It was definitely worth the effort! And, the writing is the easy part; it’s the work after the book is published that’s hard!
10. Do you read ebooks or are you a traditional paperback/hardback reader?
I read both. I still love the feel of an actual book, turning the page, the smell of the paper, and will generally buy the physical book if I am planning on keeping it – some sort of reference, a classic, something I might re-read, or a signed copy. But my tablet definitely comes in handy while traveling, or if I need the book quickly, or if it’s just a fun book I probably won’t re-read.
The day I broke down and got an e-reader was the day I got back from a business trip during which I had lugged the hard-cover, newly-released, 900-page Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling) half way across the country and back!
11. What books are you reading right now?
I always have stacks of books to read – both in my tablet and on my end tables – and I’m usually reading several at a time. I also try to read as many books as possible from authors I personally know. I just finished a book by Fred Swan, Parentheses, and have started The Art of Being Rebekkah by Karoline Barrett. Under the Skin by Nick Hahn is on deck.
12. Who designed your book cover?
My cover was created by 1106 Design, which is owned by Michele DeFelippo. 1106 designed the layout, as well, and really handled the entire project for me. The staff was outstanding, and walked me carefully through each step of the process and guided me with each decision!
13. How important is it to judge a book by its cover?
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life in the book business. I’m sure there are plenty of great stories that never get read because the reader wasn’t attracted to the cover. If a present is wrapped beautifully, we tend to believe it has more value. With so many books now in the market, a fantastic cover can give you a real advantage. I also look at it this way. . . if you’re really proud of and believe in your story and your writing, then doesn’t it deserve the effort of creating a beautiful package?
14. How do you feel about good/bad reviews?
Since my book is so personal, the potential for bad reviews was something I had to come to terms with before I decided to get it published. With so much of me on every page, I was concerned about taking it personally. Of course, good reviews bring a sigh of relief and a big smile. Bad reviews give me knots in my stomach, but I try to take what I can from them to do better next time.
15. What phrase or quote motivates you?
There are lots of them, and I generally post one each week on my website (www.junehyjek.com). One of my favorites is by Abraham Lincoln, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
16. At what moment did you finally consider yourself a writer?
I was an advertising major in college, but my advisor kept pushing me into public relations classes and internships. When I questioned it, she told me it was because I was a good writer. It was then I realized I could really write. But it wasn’t until I made the decision to get my story published that I began to consider myself an Author, not just a writer. The first time my husband introduced me as his “author wife” was the moment it became real – and what an incredible moment!
17. Is there an underlying message in your story?
My key message in Unexpected Grace is the concept that surrender can bring incredible healing. Surrender doesn’t mean giving in or giving up or giving my power over to anyone. These are negative concepts. It’s about letting go – letting go of the negative emotions of fear and anger about whatever challenge you’re facing. Letting go of the ego, getting out of your own way. It’s about coming to terms with your situation and allowing yourself to be okay with being vulnerable. Okay with reaching out, okay with asking for help, trusting that others will be there to support you. And when you do that, you create a connection. It’s like that teambuilding exercise in which you’re asked to fall backwards blindly, trusting that the person behind you will be there to catch you. You surrender, you let go. With practice, it becomes easier. Learning how to surrender, trust and connect was the source of my healing, and I believe this same perspective will help others to do so as well.
18. What books have most influenced your life?
Several books have inspired me – Le Petit Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery), Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse), Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand), Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Shunryu Suzuki) and The Laws of Spirit (Dan Millman). We’ve probably all read the first three in school, but if it’s been a while, I would encourage everyone to read these books as an adult. It’s a completely different experience! These books guided me to examine my perspectives and beliefs, and were part of my personal growth. (Read Le Petit Prince in French, if you can. While the translation is also wonderful with the same insights and messages, you lose a little of the beauty of the prose in the English version.)
19. What is your current project? And can you share a little of it with us?
I haven’t had much time to write these days, but I do have a couple projects I’m working on slowly. One is a cookbook that will focus on foods that reduce pain and stress, providing recipes on how to incorporate those foods into your daily menu. The other project is the story of how my family evolved and coped (or didn’t cope) with the tragic death of my younger brother when he was just seven years old. Sometimes families learn to be a family again; sometimes they don’t. With my brother’s story, I’d like to explore what happens and what we can take away from the experience.
20. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Writing is a tool to communicate a message – like speaking, music, art, film. And communication is all about getting your audience to hear your message. The best advice I ever got was that, before writing a single word, know what that message is and who your audience is. Then communicate to that audience in the way in which they like. Write like your audience likes to listen. Write to them as you would talk to them, in a format that would appeal to them. If you can’t get the people into your church, they will never hear your sermon. If you can’t get your readers to open your book, and if your writing style doesn’t resonate with them, they will never hear your message.
21. Do you find inspiration organically or do you seek it out?
Both. Ideas just come to me – conversations with friends, observations and experiences, dreams – and I try to let go (surrender), get out of my own way, and let the creativity flow. These ideas come easiest when I am most present and mindful with friends and as I go through my daily activities. I also use meditation to bring out that inspiration and fine tune it. When the body is relaxed, the mind can be still, open and clear, ready to receive inspiration and creativity.
22. What is your biggest writing weakness and biggest writing strength?
I don’t enjoy being a production writer. I have trouble writing if I don’t have anything to say and prefer to write when it can be meaningful. Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten about my writing is that the reader feels as though I’m sitting right next to them, telling them the story. I believe my strength is in that ability to connect to my readers and make them feel comfortable with me and my story. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
23. What emotions/ideas/purpose do you hope readers will take away from your writing?
Hope and comfort. Unexpected Grace isn’t self-help or preachy. It simply shares my story in a way that allows the reader to apply the words and the messages to their own story. It offers hope and the possibility that they, too, can find the source of their healing – that place of deep comfort, acceptance and peace. A place of unexpected grace.
24. What is the hardest thing about finishing a piece and how do you overcome it?
I think most authors are closet perfectionists. Well, maybe we’re the only ones who think we’re hiding it! We struggle with getting it absolutely right. In my first “real” job out of college, I did research for speech writers in a major corporation. One of the writers had a framed quote on his wall which read, “The greatest desire among mankind is the need to change another one’s copy.” Desire was crossed out and changed to wish. Mankind was crossed out and changed to people, which was then crossed out and changed to writers and then back to mankind. You get the idea! Not only do we as authors feel the need to edit others, we also over-edit ourselves in the struggle for perfection.
Yes, I want my writing to be great. But I also understand that perfection in writing is much too subjective to be a viable goal. To one person, “mankind” was perfect. To another, “people” was better. So I don’t get worked up about that desire (I mean wish) to change my copy. When I’ve got a piece the way I think I want it, I read it out loud. I listen as my audience, not as the writer. If it flows well in speech, if I like how it sounds and the message comes through, I’m happy. I realize that it’s not about creating some idealistic, subjective notion of perfection. It’s about communicating my message, my story, in the best possible way that will reach my audience.
25. Why should someone read your work?
In the Prologue of Unexpected Grace, I say “I believe that in the act of simply sharing our stories (both telling and listening), we can somehow reduce the pain in each of our lives, resting in the knowledge that we are completely and utterly supported in this world – and that gives us the courage to find our center, where we can accept and surrender to that peace.”
If you want to find a different perspective on dealing with life’s challenges, if you are looking for a way to move through your pains and stresses, if you want to know that you are not alone in your challenges, if you want to see that it’s possible to live in peace and grace – you should read this book.
26. What do you do OTHER than write?
Unfortunately, being “medically retired” means I have to take the time for self-care, and maintaining my health and functionality is important to me. I also try to spend as much time as I can with my father-in-law who is 92 and in a nursing home. He has been a source of inspiration and growth for me as well. And, as a Founding Officer of AAPG, I spend time running the organization and producing events and programs.
My practice outside of writing is my work as a MindBody Wellness Coach. Prior to my “retirement,” I combined this practice with work as a Personal Trainer, specializing in spinal stabilization, orthopedic disabilities and chronic diseases. Although no longer able to do fitness training, I have retained the mindbody portion of my practice, offering workshops, motivational speaking and private sessions. Combining mindbody techniques, energy therapies and traditional fitness concepts, I help my clients create physical and emotional healing as they move through the pains and stresses of life’s challenges. My own experience has truly helped to enhance my work with my clients!
27. If you could do it over again, would you change anything in your book?
Unexpected Grace is a conversation with my friends that took place through email over the course of my year-long recovery from the surgeries. It includes the actual letters I wrote to my friends at that time, their responses to me, and narrative that connects the experience to the present time of writing the book. In this way, it offers a perspective from three voices – the honesty of mine as I go through the actual experience, the “wisdom” of mine in hindsight, and the comfort, insights and support of the more than 40 friends who participated in the conversation. If I rewrote the book, I would include fewer of my friends’ responses – not because they aren’t important, but because feedback indicated there were too many of them and they distracted the reader from the messages. That said, as readers got further into the book, they also indicated they began to understand the importance of those responses and looked forward to seeing the interaction and what my friends would say about my latest letter. So, I would probably include fewer responses, particularly in the beginning, but I would still be careful not to diminish that third voice that communicates so much love and support.
28. Who are your favorite NEW authors?
I really enjoy reading books by my fellow authors in AAPG or those I know from other groups. As I mentioned earlier, Fred Swan’s book, Parentheses, is incredible and I am thoroughly enjoying Karoline Barrett’s The Art of Being Rebekkah. Chuck Miceli’s Amanda’s Room is a paranormal thriller that kept me on edge and increased my electric bill! (I had to keep the lights on in the house for three days!) Catherine Gibson has beautiful children’s books that deliver messages about acceptance, kindness and compassion (Through Sophie’s Eyes, Sophie Learns Synchronized Swimming, and Coach Bob & Me). And there are so many more talented authors in our group who deserve to be recognized and their stories told!
29. How did you come up with your title?
I had the help of a title consultant for Unexpected Grace. A few years before the book was published, I had produced a guided meditation CD, which I titled Moving into Grace, The meditations on the CD use the imagery of gentle movement to bring the listener to a place of release, comfort and peace. The title consultant did not know about the CD, so when she came up with Unexpected Grace, continuing this concept of grace, I just knew it was right!
30. Give us three words to describe the type of writer you want to be.
Honest. Inspiring. Connected.