Keep putting one foot in front of the other! Let your haters propel you.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Michelle Thielen.
Michelle Thielen, also known as the Yoga Pastor. She is the author of Stretching Your Faith, an international speaker and the founder of YogaFaith, a Christian Yoga and Leadership Academy. Certified as a Trauma Specialist, Michelle travels the world aiding in the rescue and restoration of human traffick victims, as well as those who suffer from complex trauma, PTSD, intense anxiety or depression-leading them into a life of healing, freedom and purpose. She recently completed her second book Exit Wilderness, A Roadmap out of Hopelessness and Depression.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
I grew up in Portland, OR, the baby girl-and tom-boy to two older brothers that I always followed around. As a teenager I began to hang out with the wrong crowd and make several poor decisions. I began living a double life; cheerleading, dance, graduated with a 4.0, but underneath was a lost little girl suffering addiction. I attended college immediately after High School only because my mother said I could not take a year off — and if I wanted to — I had to move out, so off to college I went.
I received my degree in Architecture in 1997 and worked in the design field for almost 20 years. In 2004, I lost my job and absolutely everything else by self-inflicting circumstances, which rapidly spiraled me into depression resulting in almost taking my own life.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?
My mom gave me Joel Osteen’s first book, Your Best Life Now, it altered the course of my sails.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?
My first marriage ended because of an affair. I let anger, bitterness and unforgiveness rule my life. I became depressed and isolated.
Eventually the depression led into complete hopelessness. I decided to take my own life. I chose the day, the time and the “how-to.” When I went to commit the act, I heard God’s voice audibly and it stopped me in my tracks.
Through a very long uphill battle, I found myself on my knees often, primarily because depression leaves you no strength. Through various forms-usually flat on my face, on my knees or some other form of urgency, I prayed often. I realized that the postures combined with prayer elevated my actual prayers.
It was through various postures of prayer that Stretching Your Faith was born.
I realize now that many people suffer from depression, unforgiveness, anxiety and all sorts of ailments that eventually consume not only our physical body and mind, but our careers, families and everything good in our lives. Our perspective becomes skewed into our reality and we live from a very small, jaded and inaccurate place.
I eventually arrived at a point where I could help people find hope and stop believing lies from that inaccurate position of living. I want to save people time, tears and heartache. I want children to get their mom or dad back, I want friends to hang out again, mothers and fathers to get their daughters and sons back.
Hopelessness is the most dangerous place to be.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
To literally save lives.
The postures and flows throughout the book create movement instead of stagnation and isolation, which is what happens through discouragement and depression. They can begin to give the practitioner a sense of hope and purpose again, especially when diving into what each posture represents (i.e.: Standing postures represent strength and adoration, kneeling postures represent humility and surrender, etc.).
Through the journey of Stretching Your Faith, people also learn to breathe again and connect with self again. The hope is that people will experience a mind, body, spirit and soul connection. The breath is vital to any healing journey. We learn how to exhale heavy burdens that keep us from living a full, abundant life. By doing this mentally, emotionally, physically and even relationally, we create space for new breath and new life to “enter in.”
Did the actual results align with your expectations?
Absolutely! When people read the book, they contact me with incredible testimonies and stories, it’s truly amazing.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement?
I began to see book reviews on amazon and soon began receiving a flood of emails and testimonies that people were getting healed on all levels of their life. The stories are tremendous! Almost 3 years from the date it was published I continue to receive incredible stories of healing, family restoration and complex trauma dissolving! It’s just so difficult to put into words!
Amazon has run out of inventory a handful of occasions and libraries now order larger quantities to keep it on their shelf. It’s simply a testament to a journey of healing, not an easy one, but one that is well worth any sacrifice.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
People never thought they could incorporate their faith into their movements. I think for most Christians we hang out with God for about 90 minutes on Sunday and then leave Him there until next Sunday. That isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. God wants to be a part of our everyday life. When I hear the tremendous stories of people practicing yoga with their postures and meditations being solely focused on Christ, there is nothing quite like it.
Many folks rave about the numerous postures explored. I left no pose unturned. I revealed many postures along with numerous modifications and ways to deepen each pose listed so that all people, no matter size, shape, mobility or lack of, could explore these forms bringing true healing mind-body-spirit and soul!
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book?
About 6 years ago when YogaFaith was just born, a couple headed for divorce started attending my classes. Their bodies were healed within the first 3 classes, both had severe back issues. They began to feel better in their body, however, emotionally and spiritually they were empty. Through their healing, they not only began to connect with themselves but with each other as well. It was a beautiful miracle and they are still happily married to this day!
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
I consistently get attacked. People attack out of ignorance. They don’t understand what it is we do, or Christians think we are doing something that worships other religion’s gods, and we are demonic. Yogi’s accuse of “stealing” their practice, I think I have heard just about everything.
When you have a call on your life, there is nothing that anyone can say or do to halt the destiny placed on your life-though it may feel like a drawback, feelings can be inaccurate.
I had to, and I’m encouraging everyone else to as well; keep putting one foot in front of the other! Let your haters propel you.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Books can be much like a movie. We get involved and sometimes consumed in the story. We become a part of it. A love story, a heroic tale-we root for happy endings and all the good things in life. If a story encourages us to make the world a better a place, we want to jump abroad that train! We are invested in the characters and desire to be a part of the story as well as a piece of the movement!
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
First, I have been [actually] doing what I write about all my life.
Second, without a doubt-and you have heard it before-daily discipline. The small decisions we make every day, are essentially the decisions we make for a lifetime. To take a step towards your destiny, whatever that it is. If it’s to write a book, commit to 30 minutes or 2 hours each day. Stay focused and consistent. I encourage people to do this first thing in the morning before opening emails, looking at your phone, and letting life take over. Control your day with time blocks, don’t let the day control you.
Third, I recently read a study that said in today’s world, the average person spends 5 years on social media. Scrolling will consume years of your life. What could you replace your scrolling time with? Your manuscript won’t write itself, your movie won’t make itself. Don’t take your dreams to the grave with you. Stop scrolling and start writing.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career?
Store your book in more than one place incase your hard drive blows up-speaking from personal experience. A book is a labor of love. To write the same labor of love twice is no fun!
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?
1. Be authentic. Don’t try to be someone else, not even your favorite author. That person is already taken…be YOU!
2. Find your uniqueness, run with it and never look back. We all have unique gifts, it’s what makes the world go ‘round and makes you special…celebrate your uniqueness!
3. Stay the course. Dedication and perseverance will get you to the finish line every time. Passion can only take you so far, the path to a dream is riddled with sacrifices. Stay the course no matter what!
4. Create the book around a course you offer or create a course around your book. Link the two together so that folks can truly learn what it is you are putting into the world. It also creates a lifelong tribe.
5. Listen to your audience. This is your most valuable asset, that you truly care for “your people.” You are not just wanting to sell them a book but that you continue the journey with them when needed…stay tuned-in.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next?
A love revolution. I don’t long for just a movement, but a world where we all love and respect one another no matter color, race, size, shape, sexual or religious preferences.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Michelle Thielen.com http://michellethielen.com/
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.
Thank you for an incredible opportunity!