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In Conversation With Margaret Wolff Author of Coming Home: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Tuesday, March 2, 2021


Bookpleasures.com ispleased to have as our guest, Margaret Wolff.

Margaret is theauthor of 21 books, including In Sweet Company: Conversationswith Extraordinary Women About Living a Spiritual Life and hermost recent tome, Coming Home: Finding Shelter in the Love andWisdom  of Paramahansa Yogananda.

She has written 150+blogs, stories, interviews, and essays for outlets rangingfrom Beliefnet to Yoga International to the ChickenSoup for the Soul series to the Collective Women’s Initiativeand Feminist.com. She earned degrees in ArtTherapy, Psychosynthesis,

and Leadership Studies and uses herpassions for storytelling and “conversations that matter” ascatalysts that help others connect with their best instincts andchart the life they long to lead. 

She has facilitated morethan 250 keynotes and retreats for organizations such as TheParliament of World Religions, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, andAmerican Montessori Society, and served as a delegate to the UnitedNations conference, The Global Peace Initiative of Women, inGeneva.  

Norm: Good day Margaretand thanks for participating in our interview.

You have authored over 21books, what motivates you to write?

Margaret: I can’t notwrite! It’s as natural to me as breathing. Though I am an ArtTherapist by training, I am a storyteller by birth. It’s a cellularthing.

I think in stories, it’s how I see the world, how I movethough my days. Sometimes, I write about experiences, events,challenges that move me; something catches hold in my heart or mindand becomes the breadcrumbs I follow into a story.

Sometimes, a firstsentence just drops in my mind. Once I put it on paper, it takesoff—as if it has a life of its own and was waiting for me toreceive it. 

Norm: How do you live withthe way people interpret and analyze your books?

Margaret:  Happily!I’m honored to tell the stories I’m telling. I love the adventureof watching where a story goes, who it reaches and how it isinterpreted in light of the reader’s own life experience.

Once I’mdone writing a book, I lose my attachment to it. It’s as if thebook no longer “belongs” to me.

I am a good steward of the ideaand the process when I’m writing something, and I do what it takesto make the book available to readers, but once it’s published andout in the world, how others respond to it is not my responsibility.

Norm: How many timesin your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shapeyou? 

Margaret:  Rejectionis a part of a writer’s life. I try not to take it personally.Sometimes, a book may not be right for someone (particularly apublisher or an agent) because it is not their particular genre.

Butif someone doesn’t like the content of the piece, I use thecriticism they give me to refine my work or myself.

Norm: What do youconsider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in yourcareer?

Margaret I neverthink about “success.” I think about the beauty of thework—whether it’s “true” and “good”—and how to bestshare it with others. 

I’ve really enjoyedwatching what others do with what I write; how it changes or inspirestheir own life.

For example, IN SWEET COMPANY became the inspirationfor a musical benefit concert, a class at Harvard, the format for awriting program in 3 women’s prisons, and was smuggled intoAfghanistan during the Gulf War so it could be read by womenstruggling to find a way through the horrors of the war.

I love thatwhat I write makes a difference in people’s lives.

Norm: What has been yourgreatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in gettingto where you’re at today?  

Margaret:  In 1997, Iwas in a serious car accident and ended up with a traumatic braininjury. I couldn’t string a sentence together to save my soul. Ihad to teach myself how to write all over again.

Hopefully, I’vedone a good job with that!

Norm: What is the mostchallenging about writing?

Margaret:  As I age,my mind and body are less able to sit at the computer for hours at atime.

Norm : Has a readerever told you something about your books that surprised you?

Margaret:  It’ssurprising to me that readers frequently end up telling me personalstories about their own lives that somehow relate to themes in thebook.

It’s the kind of storytelling that occurs between closefriends. I think this happens because once they read something I’vewritten, they feel close to me and want to share a bit of their ownlives with me in return.

Norm: If heaven reallyexists, what would you want God to say to you at the pearly gates?

Margaret: “Hi Darlin’!Good job down there!”

Norm: If you can relive amoment in your life, what moment would you choose and why?

Margaret: There are thingsfrom my past I would have done differently. And there are momentsthat are sacred.

But what really interests me is whatis to come. Ilove the adventure!  

Norm: For the past twoyears we have witnessed a world-wide pandemic that will have longlasting ramifications.

Has this ushered in an era of renewed yearningfor something to believe in? If it has, how do you believe it shapedthis new sense of spirituality?

Margaret: In a recentstudy by the Fetzer Institute, 86% of the respondents identify as“being spiritual,” 60% aspire to be more spiritual, and 50% haveregular transcendent experiences.

The clarion call sounded: Tothrive, we must live at the hub of the wheel—careening ’round therim will no longer do.

All of us have moments of connection to“Something More,” experiences of grace that we let pass us by.

Dowe continue to wait for circumstances outside ourselves to change ordo we move to the hub of the wheel and harvest the life that iscalling us as the storytellers in COMING HOME have done? 

Norm: If someone wasinterested in embarking on a spiritual path, what suggestions do youhave for him or her?

Margaret: Pay attention to what youare noticing within and around you; to what rouses your curiosity; towhat “calls” your name.Take conscious,responsible steps forward. Have your “yes” and have your “no.”Be just a titch bolder than you’ve ever been before. It feels goodto stretch yourself!  Every worthwhile effort is noble. Ask questions ofothers—fellow travelers who are actually living a spiritual lifeyou admire.

Watch for the light in their eyes, the peace in theirhearts. Listen to their stories. Tell them your own.Visit various churches andtemples. Does the sermon move you? Do parishioners seem happy? Doesthe organization run smoothly? Do they respond to your questions? Howdo you feel when you are there?

Keep a journal to yourHigher Self. Tell it everything. Everyone needs a buddy you can sayanything to. Why not your soul? As you step into yourfuture self, bring your past to what cultural anthropologist AngelesArrian called “an honorable closure.”

Don’t run from your past;make peace with it. Withhold self-judgement, blame and guilt. Makewhatever reparation is appropriate. Do your best, say thank you forthe lessons and gifts your life has given you, then let go. 

Seek until you find whatyou are looking for. Writer Anais Nin said, “And the time came whenthe risk it took to remain in a tightly closed bud became infinitelymore painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

Norm: How did you beginyour own spiritual path and how did it lead to Yogananda?

Margaret:  When mymother died in 1974, I began asking The Big Questions: What happenswhen we die? What is life all about? Who am I really?

A children’sbook I wrote to untangle my mother’s death for my daughters waspicked up by a prominent agent, then dropped out of the blue on theday I delivered the final manuscript. I was stunned. 

After I left her office, Ihad a strong pull to go to the American Bookseller Expo held thatyear, that week, at a hotel down the street.

I walked the floorhoping to find a publisher for my book and at the end of theafternoon, found myself standing in Self-Realization Fellowship’sexhibit space starring at Yogananda’s face on the cover ofAutobiography of a Yogi.

I read the Autobiography in two days and allmy questions were answered. Signs and wonders ensued that convincedme I had “come home” spiritually, and I began practicingParamahansa Yogananda’s teachings.

And do so to this day. It’sthe best decision I ever made in my life.

Norm: How did youbecome involved with Coming Home: Finding Shelter in the Loveand Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda? What criteria did you use inyour choice of writers that have contributed to the book?

Margaret:  COMINGHOME is a book I felt compelled to write. One minute I wasn’tthinking about it at all, the next minute I was immersed in it.  

I focused on telling thestory of what it feels like to find the spiritual path that is yoursto follow – the power and joy and adventure of that. I told thatstory through the lens of Self-Realization Fellowship because it isthe path I know best.

I knew I wanted to interview people of allages, races and backgrounds, but I did not choose the storytellers, Irecognized them as the right people to be in the book. It was a veryintuitive process. They were the ones who ”belonged” to the book.

Norm:  If someone canonly buy one book this month, why should it be Coming Home:Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda?

Margaret:  Everyhuman being, whether they realize it or not, is waiting for themoment when they can finally say a resounding “Yes” to the Beautyinside them—to the Joy, the Peace, the Truth of who we really are.

No matter what your path is, no matter who you turn to for support,the “coming home experience” confirms that you are part ofSomething Greater, that you are cherished, that your life has beenand can continue to be—come what may—meaningful. 

The reawakening andreinstatement of your soul, that familiar Self you always knew wasthere but could not corroborate, is a profound and sacred validationof who you really are. As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’sno place like home.” 

If this speaks to you,read the book!!

Norm: What were yourgoals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel youachieved them?  As a follow up, what purpose do you believe yourcollections of stories serve? 

Margaret: People have beenlooking for answers to big questions since the beginning of time.COVID showed us that all the external things we thought answeredthose questions are transitory.

We are a nation now examining “whatmatters most.” And we have begun to look inside ourselves foranswers. 

My intention was topresent other options. The narratives in COMING HOME are not juststories, they are actual experiences of Divine Grace. 

Theycreate order: build bridges of thought (synapses) within us and tonew opportunities in the world. They create a joyful detachment thatallows us to mythologize rather than catastrophize our challenges.They give us courage. They prove we are not alone in our sorrow.These are things we all need now.

Stories are richer thanexplanations. COMING HOME demonstrates that when we let our storieshappen to us as the storytellers in the book did, we can grow intothe “depth, and breadth and height our souls can reach.”

Gracecan happen to anyone who sincerely wants to change their driftinginto pilgrimage, their fear into confidence and calm, theirquestioning into the self-realization that finally satisfies thesoul. Readers love the book, so it seems it hit the mark.

Norm: What is theSelf-Realization Fellowship (SRF) and how does it help individualssearch for God and find the divine potential that exists within everyhuman being?

Margaret:  Known asthe "Father of Yoga in the West," Paramahansa Yogananda1893-1952) came to America to Boston in 1920 and spent the next 30years bringing India’s ancient meditation techniques tothousands of seekers of all religions who—then as now—weresearching for the true meaning of life and the means to live fromone’s highest potential.

Regarded as one of the preeminentspiritual figures of our time, Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogiis hailed as one of the 100 Best Spiritual Books of the TwentiethCentury and continues to inspire millions of spiritual seekers aroundthe world 70 years after his passing. 

Yogananda’s workcontinues under the auspices of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)—thenon-profit, non-sectarian spiritual organization he created in 1920“to disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definitescientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience ofGod.” (www.yogananda.org)  Meditation is not just somethingSRF members just do twice a day, it’s a way of life, a way oflooking at the world that empowers you, that gives you hope.

Day byday, step by step, breath by breath SRF members still their minds andopen their hearts to God. The deeper you go, the richer the harvest.Meditation is the adventure of a lifetime!

Norm: Are you working onany books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We wouldlove to hear all about them!)  

Margaret: Thanks forasking. I always have ideas cooking. I’ll keep you posted.

Norm: Where can ourreaders find out more about you and Coming Home: Finding Shelterin the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda?

Margaret: Please visit my WEBSITE 

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, if you could invite three writers, dead or aliveinto your living room, who would they be and why?

Margaret: I’d have teawith Paramahansa Yogananda, with the Persian mystic and poet Hafiz,and with poet and philosopher  David Whyte. I’d also inviteYoYo Ma to play his cello. All for the joy of it.

Norm: Thanks once againand good luck with all of your future endeavors

Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of Coming Home

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
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Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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