Friday, December 9, 2011

SPOTLIGHT - Whitney Stewart author of Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation

Join Whitney Stewart, author of the health/mind/body book, Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation (BooksBNimble), as she virtually tours the blogosphere December 5 – 16 2011 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About the Book...
Whitney Stewart’s straightforward, non-denominational guide makes meditation simple. It covers the basics in a concise thirty-three pages: Why meditation is good for you, how to sit, how to let your mind rest, even what to do if you feel weird or uncomfortable during meditation. Most important, it provides sixteen accessible, useful meditations you can easily learn at home. Age ten to adult.

Stewart’s top reasons to meditate:
*To focus inwardly
*To slow down internally
*To develop awareness
*To understand your mind
*To increase tolerance
*To experience “BIG MIND”

About the Author...
Whitney Stewart began writing young adult biographies and meditating after she met and interviewed the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books, and lived with a Tibetan family in India. For her next biographies, she trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal, interviewed Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in her Rangoon home, and climbed along China’s Great Wall to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong. In 2004, Stewart published a picture book about the Buddha, which contains a foreword and a meditation suggestion from the 14th Dalai Lama. In addition to nonfiction books, Stewart has published three middle-grade novels. In August 2005, Stewart was trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and evacuated by helicopter from a rooftop. She returned home and volunteered as a creative writing teacher in the public schools. She discovered that her students suffered from post-Katrina stress. Using meditation, improvisation, and word play, Stewart taught her students to write about their lives.

You can find more about Whitney Stewart at her website at  Follow her at Twitter at 

In Whitney's Own Words...

Surviving Katrina with a Buddha Statue

Two months before Hurricane Katrina, I met a Vietnamese-American doctor named Son Tran in a park near my house. We discovered that he and my husband would be colleagues in the same hospital, and that he and I were both Buddhists. We talked of meditation and didn’t know then that this chance meeting would have important consequences.

Two weeks before the storm, I had a nightmare. I dreamt I was trying to move my son Christoph and my elderly mother-in-law into a building, and after we settled inside, I realized I’d forgotten my medicine and had to go home to find it. I dreaded leaving my family and going back out onto the streets.
And then two days before the storm, when my husband was out of town and I was in a walking cast after ankle surgery, a friend called me and asked me what I was going to do for the storm. Storm? What storm? I thought Hurricane Katrina was going to Florida, and I hadn’t been watching the news. I quickly packed up financial papers and food and water and called my new friend Son Tran for help. He let Christoph, my mother-in-law, and me into my husband’s medical office downtown (my husband took his key with him). And then, when I discovered I’d forgotten my medicine (Yes, I really did! You try remembering everything before a storm), Son drove me back home. That was one of the worst hours of my life—being away from Christoph in such a crisis. At the house, I grabbed more flashlights, peanut butter and crackers, and bedding—all of which would become crucial in the next five days.

That first night, we slept on camping mats, tucked under desks. I meditated while Christoph fell asleep, and I felt an odd sense of calm. But Katrina hit the next day. And New Orleans flooded. And we were trapped, like so many others, in a building without electricity, air-conditioning, working toilets, or phones. My husband sat, miserable, in front of a TV in Vermont, agonizing over every CNN image of New Orleans.

Over the next few days, my mother-in-law chatted with the other families who sheltered with us. Son Tran took care of patients in the hospital and brought us news of a possible rescue. Christoph, frustrated and bored, skateboarded in the halls, and played Hangman with me on office paper. And I volunteered to serve cafeteria food until it ran out, and at night, I took off my ankle boot and meditated under a desk. I focused on a small wooden statue of Buddha that I’d brought home years ago from Burma.

This was August in New Orleans, and the closed-up building magnified the heat. We used wastebaskets as toilets, and the stink permeated the halls. And then we heard reports that criminals were trying to infiltrate the building with guns. We locked ourselves into our offices at night, and the only thing between panic and me was my Buddha statue. It reminded me to focus on the moment, not on my fear.

Boats were coming for us on Wednesday, but armed men overtook them (or so we were told), and our rescue was cancelled. We waited another twenty-four hours until helicopters could land on the roof of the hospital parking garage. At five-thirty in the morning, three days after the storm, hundreds of us lined up in the parking garage with nothing but the clothes we were wearing and a few small items that we could carry. My Buddha statue was in my pocket. Patients left first, and the rest of us stood in hundred-degree heat, wondering if we’d get out. Over the next fourteen hours, we inched our way to the roof. Security guards told us to stay away from the walls because people were shooting at the helicopters. My family, Son Tran, and I squeezed into the last helicopter out that night. The people behind us in line had to spend a terrifying night in the garage before flying out on Friday.

We landed at the New Orleans airport where we boarded buses to a hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana. There, at almost midnight, we showered and changed into hospital scrubs and flip-flops, and nurses injected us with penicillin. Although we were safe, I didn’t sleep much that night or any night for the next four months. My mind was stuck on the five tense days we spent trapped in a flooded New Orleans building, and on the uncertainty of our future. Son Tran went where the hospital sent him, and we flew to New England to be near my family. The first item I unpacked in our new temporary home, and the item I always have with me now when I travel, was my beautiful wooden Buddha that is a reminder of the impermanence of home and life.

post signature**  Thank you Whitney for stopping by The Marsh and sharing your horrifying experience with my readers and myself.  WOW~!!  I am thankful you and your family made it out safely but what a story to tell the grandchildren~!!  I wish you the best in all that you do Whitney~!!  **