Welcome to the first installation of our Community Spotlight series, highlighting the fabulous work our community members are doing in the world!
Today I’m excited to introduce you to Sarah Beasley, author of Kindness for All Creatures! Her book just came out, so it’s been fun hearing about her book tour in the dance class we both frequent. In between her first round of appearances, I asked her to share a few insights from her writing/publishing process.
Meet Sarah Beasley, Author of Kindness for All Creatures
Sarah C. Beasley (Sera Kunzang Lhamo), author of Kindness for All Creatures, is a senior lay practitioner in the Nyingma School, Dudjom lineage, with thirteen years full-time direct training in traditional Buddhist teachings and methods for body, speech, and mind. She spent nearly seven of those years in closed intensive retreat under the guidance of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche and Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, supported by Tsadra Foundation, and worked three years on Practices for the Dead (and Dying) including guidance on how to care for pets during the aging and death passage. Sarah offers Buddhist and Western approaches to death and dying in her workshops and is also a regular contributor to Buddhistdoor Global, Jnanasukha Foundation, Levekunst, and Vajrayana World on topics of pets, nature, life, death and dying, and Buddhism. Learn more about her and connect with her here.
Kindness for All Creatures was released in August of 2019 by Shambhala Publications.
Q: How did you choose this topic? What called you to it?
A: It was based on the long-term relationship with my dog Cosmo, including his dying and death process….and being in almost 7 years retreat with Buddhist masters who were adamant no harm should come to any creatures we related with, no matter how challenging it might be for us humans. I wanted to share the essence of dharma teachings on non-harming and bringing benefit and care to animals.
Q: Did you start with a proposal, or did you work with Shambhala Publications to narrow down your topic?
A: I wrote a proposal to SP, then they worked with me to refine it, back and forth 3-4 times before we agreed upon a structure and the content, before our contract.
Q: What was your writing process like?
A: A bit frenzied. As an article, column, and essay writer I had no experience prepping to write a whole book. I had no idea how to do it. I had no time to study books on how to do it. I read a few blogs then decided to ignore them. In fact there’s a funny story about a friend from France who responded, you’re going to write “A whole book?!” Because she knew I hadn’t done that before. You have to hear it in her accent for it to be funny however 😉 She was referring to the fact I had recently had an essay published in the anthology Dharma of Dogs for Sounds True. Just an essay, which I had been solicited to write. (That gave me my first big boost of confidence, being sought out as a writer.)
So I quit my job. I taped giant sticky notes up on all the walls of my cheap winter sublet in Boulder and began fleshing out what each chapter should contain. I did lots of research for the book, mostly internet, but also with stacks of real life books, from the Boulder Library. I bought some books, but mostly library loan. We are returning to books themselves, studies show. They can never be replaced by digital media, it is just not the same experience. Books, libraries, bookstores, especially local independent, historical ones, hold so much history and feeling that is unique to the printed word form.
Anyway, I gave myself 8 months to write it, wrapping up with 12-hour days for 6 weeks in a friend’s yurt in N. California. I spent the entire year+ moving from place to place to have free or very cheap rent, as I had quit my job. It was not the idyllic, romantic image one has of writing a book. It was more of a nail-biting experience, researching and writing, editing all day, then bingeing on Grey’s Anatomy each night. I usually tried to dance Ayre [local dance class] or do yoga or walk in the mornings for an hour. Food was essentially rice and beans, and lots of nuts/berries snacking! The editing process took another 4-6 months and then presto, magic, out popped a book! I am still a bit bewildered by it all, but will feel much more confident writing a second book, which I hope to do very much.
Q: Was there anything you found surprising about the process of writing/ promoting this book?
A: Writing was rather fire-under-the butt, which got it done, whereas many people told me it took them years and years, or was never completed. I needed this route due to many losses in recent years. I really needed a win, a clear accomplishment. I needed to offer something tangible to show for my existence and all the training my teachers put into me over 3 decades: that they weren’t just wasting their breath!
Promoting has been very nervous-making but as each book event progressed I have felt more comfortable representing it. I feel now very much like I am its auntie, that it has a life and purpose of its own somehow.
Q: Is there any advice you’d like to share with other writers, anything you wish you’d known back then?
A: Believe in yourself, conjure confidence however you can! You CAN do this, even if you have no idea how. It’s equal parts trust, daring, and hard work. And letting go.
A heartfelt guide to compassionate care for animals from a Buddhist perspective, with practical advice for mindfully raising pets and honoring animals.
Are you doing all you can for the well-being of your beloved pet? Is your outlook toward wildlife consistent with your loyalty to cats and dogs? Structured around the Six Perfections of Buddhism, this book explores these questions and more, providing heartfelt guidance on how to apply compassion in action to our relationships with animals. In addition to being a practical resource, it encourages advocacy, challenging us to think more profoundly about caring for the creatures—both domestic and wild—with whom we share our world.
If you know someone who would benefit from Kindness for All Creatures, please share this post with them. Let’s help Sarah get the word out about this important new book!
And if you’d like to nominate yourself or someone else for our Community Spotlight series, simply drop me at note at tanja [at] tanjapajevic [dot] com and I’ll take it from there!