Instagram is probably my favorite social media medium; it's the one I find most enjoyable (read: least stressful) to get lost in. Instagram inspires me, makes me laugh, and reminds me that people are capable of creating fantastic, beautiful things. When I found Sarah's feed and read her short bio, "Traveling the world in 2016," I eagerly followed to see life through her eyes. Her photos took my breath away and spoke deeply to my nomadic spirit. I wanted to hit the road again myself.
In January, when I began The Discovery Project, I wrote an affirmation for myself - because I knew the changes I was about to make were going to shift everything, especially my relationships with and to some of my readers, friends, and family. I wrote my affirmation on the bathroom mirror to remind myself every day, morning and night, "By staying true to who I am - exuding confidence and thinking for myself - I will naturally draw in my supportive community."
Sarah Sellman reminds me that distance is inconsequential when it comes to making a friend - especially one who'll geek out with me about The Universe. The hard work of being myself is paying off. It's getting easier to continue being honest about who I am when so many others are being honest about their own discovery process. When Sarah emailed me her responses to my questions, my heart swelled. I felt an instant soul connection to her. And it only made it better when I told her I wanted to feature her on 11/11 and she replied, "11 is my favorite number and 11/11 is my favorite date!"
Sarah is a Film Director, Producer, Screenwriter, and now a soul friend - part of my supportive community. Check out her debut feature documentary American Bear: An Adventure in the Kindness of Strangers.
Responses by Sarah Sellman
What do you believe, and why?
I believe a lot of things, none of which line entirely up with any prescribed religion, spirituality or spiritual practice.
I believe in energy — that there is something in the world that I am constantly in a dialogue with, that may or may not be in dialogue with other people.
I believe that when you ask for help, you often get it, and that when you express gratitude it helps.
I believe in the power of meditation, that the process of habit and repetition can cleanse your mind, your spiritual center and your heart. I believe that when I meditate I feel healthier, happier and more grateful.
I mediate according to a process that I almost entirely made up, which I recognize is a little bit vain, but after a lot of research and reading, I combined the things I liked best and felt most confident in. Which is true on a larger scale about my spiritual beliefs as a whole.
I believe in the big bang, and the science that exists everywhere around us. I believe in dark matter, evolution and behavioral biology, I believe in biodiversity, and the beauty of nature. Logic, reason and evidence.
I believe in astrology and tarot cards and runes — because I believe that many of those things are simply tools we use to create a conversation with the universe, and in some ways your own subconscious.
I believe that religion and science and premonition are different words for the same thing. That in many ways our language, and even our thought process can fall short of what the spiritual might be.
I believe in the soul, or the center, or the seed at the heart of us, and I believe that center is individual and special.
I believe in multiple lives. I believe that there are things I know that have come from the experiences of my ‘self’ (or center or seed) in previous lifetimes, previous moments.
I do not know if those things are happening simultaneously or along a trajectory and timeline like the one most people imagine.
I believe in multiple worlds theory, and maybe even a little bit in time travel, whether that travel is linear or more… horizontal I do not know.
I believe in daily interaction with the energy of the universe, and that somehow that energy clings to and connects with the best parts of us, and the craftsmanship of human invention and creativity.
I believe in stories and storytelling and I believe that the truth of history and religion and spirituality comes from the stories we tell, how we tell them and how we share them.
I also believe that this life is important, that the lives of other people and species are important and that living life well, with kindness, and generosity and gratitude and care and presentness, will impact my life, and the lives of others. But probably not the afterlife, or future lives.
Sometimes I allow myself to think that my “good behavior” will in some way be rewarded, but I don't like that line of thinking very much because it allows space to consider that other people’s bad circumstances are their own faults, which I think is rarely true.
So in that way I believe in luck. And privilege.
I believe that spirituality is a mental practice, but also a physical one.
I believe that if you give energy you get energy, which may not be spiritual but is totally magical, and I definitely believe in magic.
How did you discover your beliefs?
I have a mother who is Jewish but has an interest in Hinduism, a father who was raised as a Christian Scientist but loves the principles of Zen Buddhism. My mother works for nonprofits and my father is a computer programmer.
To me that explains a lot of it, but those facts alone are not explicit to most.
I grew up talking about quantum physics with my dad and human rights with my mom. My dad meditates and does tai-chi in the backyard almost every morning, my mother has always loved yoga. The conversations around religion were always comfortable, and allowed space for my own interpretation. I enjoyed Passover seders more than most children and loved the feel of Hebrew and the sing song voice that accompanied the words.
In addition to that I read and re-read Philip Pullman as a child and I cannot help but think that the His Dark Materials Series absolutely set the tone of my own understanding of religion. Not so much the angels taking over heaven bits, but the multiple worlds and especially the idea of Dust. Which impacted the way I visualized the energy I interact with every day.
Dust as little gold particles that cling to our inventiveness, our creativity and our potential.
As a college student I read and re-read David Mitchell and found that even his depictions of past lives and the battles going on between those who accidentally had many histories, and those that wanted them, somehow rang true.
My father has always had premonitions, and his mother was somehow a spiritual link for me.
I picked up tarot cards in college and found that I was very good at reading them, so good that I predicted the death of my grandma and then didn't touch the cards for two years.
When she was sick I played her a piano song that made her cry and I have never heard or been able to recall it. When she died I found her name everywhere — shreds of paper from her files that my eco-conscious family had used to pack presents to me. The bits of her name sticking out of glasses and falling into drawers all over my tiny apartment.
Another huge aspect to my understanding of the universe is my dream life. I have a lot of incredible dreams, and often wake up saying things in my mind that lead to incredible fascinating google search results. Results that speak to the lives of men and women that some part of me believes were and are versions of me.
And despite that I think I am incredibly practical. Or at least grounded. Like there are two parts of me battling for control of my consciousness. And I like that. Because the work I do requires both parts, and I love the real parts of my life uncontrollably.
How do you interact with your beliefs?
I have conversations with the universe without meaning to, part of that is screenwriting and playing out mentally the socially uncomfortable situations I encountered in more favorable ways.
I mediate, I wish it was every day.
I play with tarot cards.
I read science articles and listen to podcasts.
I talk to a few special friends. And my parents.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
I have yet to find things that make me doubt my beliefs as a whole, probably because there are so many of them and my thought process is so accommodating.
I would say that anxiety and fear diminish my faith, and for that I have a little list of things that makes me feel reconnected and re-anchored.
It includes many things: intimacy, meditation, writing, compulsive list making, leaving the house, being in nature, eating a fucking delicious piece of cake, and so on…
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.