In A Piece of Peace, Sweta Vikram takes us along her journey from chronic illness to healing through mindfulness and Ayurveda practices. From the first journal entry--“Last morning, I didn’t think I would make it”--Sweta pulls the reader in immediately. She shares her unfiltered experience of near-death and the months following ending up in the emergency room, and how she journeyed back to wellness. Interwoven are stories of resilience, well-being, and advice for creatives in a time of the Coronavirus.
While this is a personal account of chronic illness and recovery, the theme of mind/body/spirit connection, or lack thereof, is something that resonates with everyone. How often have we been tired for no obvious reason? Or ignored signs of burnout because we believe that we can (and must) “do it all”? Sweta is not afraid to tackle these emotions that are all-too-often hidden or ignored. However, A Piece of Peace shows us how not paying attention to these signals can have dangerous consequences.
“It’s uncomfortable to sit with discomfort, or to familiarize yourself with your own darkness and tribulations. But numbing your pain, people pleasing, and ignoring your voice is what probably got you here in the first place.”
— Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Sweta’s writing is tender and compassionate, while also conveying the strength and power we have to change our circumstances. Even in the depths of our pain, we can find ways to survive. Writing, for Sweta, was one of those ways.
The chapters on writing, creativity, and wellness are essential for anyone who has struggled to find balance in life while pursuing a passion. Writing can be a lonely path, but as with any creative pursuit, we must ensure we’re filling our tanks in every aspect in order to pour our whole selves into our work. As Sweta says, we often perceive creatives as whiskey-drinkers, writing alone in misery in the late hours of the night, but she explains that it’s only by taking care of our mental and physical health and surrounding ourselves with people who lift us up that we will be our best selves creatively. As someone who’s dabbled in both approaches, I tend to agree.
In A Piece of Peace, Sweta provides practical, simple tools we can use to replenish our bodies and souls during the Coronavirus pandemic and after. This ranges from the food we put into our mouths to the words we speak. What I found most helpful about the book was how Sweta took something that can be daunting and broke it down into easy-to-follow steps. If the idea of self-care seems impossible right now, this is the perfect remedy to bring yourself back onto the path of healing or to ease the transition as we come out of lockdowns.
A Piece of Peace gives us tools we can take beyond the pandemic and into our everyday lives. Mindfulness, meditation, Ayurveda, yoga, gratitude, self-care, and of course, keeping our creativity alive, are all ways we can take care of our mental and physical well-being. As Sweta says, “human beings are resilient,” and we are capable of so much more than we realize. This book gives us a beautifully vulnerable and honest account of how to not only survive in this world, but thrive, and step into our most powerful selves. Most importantly, we don’t have to wait until we’re rushed to the emergency room to begin healing.
You can purchase a copy of A Piece of Peace here
Naomi Boshari writes creative non-fiction, short stories, and spoken word poetry about love, loneliness, and the things that keep us living life on the surface. She worked as an editor for an online magazine and is now pursuing a master’s in Creative and Critical Writing. Naomi is Toronto-born and raised, but has lived in Ireland, and now the UK, and her writing often explores the meaning of home. You can connect with her on Instagram @naomiboshari
Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an international speaker, best-selling author of 12 books, and Ayurveda and mindset coach who is committed to helping people thrive on their own terms. Her latest book, “A Piece of Peace,” (Modern History Press) comes out on September 21, 2021. As a trusted source on health and wellness, most recently appearing on NBC and Radio Lifeforce and in a documentary with Dr. Deepak Chopra, Sweta has dedicated her career to writing about and teaching a more holistic approach to creativity, productivity, health, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Sweta is a trained yogi and certified Ayurveda health coach, is on the board of Fly Female Founders, and holds a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Columbia University. Voted as “One of the Most Influential Asians of Our Times” and winner of the “Voices of the Year” award (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton), she lives in New York City with her husband and works with clients across the globe. She also teaches yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as well incarcerated men and women. Find her on: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
How can I explain it?
It’s like I take a deep breath.
I’ll tell you a secret.
I tried to make it green.
Just like hers.
Because I thought her frame,
was the one to fit into.
I could have saved myself the bruises,
if I had just let go sooner.
But that’s where the purple bloomed.
So I pressed down harder.
I let it spread.
Because I am not her.
Maybe green is new life.
But purple is where I grow.
Where I bloom.
Where I know myself.
When I get lost,
I place lavender on my tongue.
I hold amethyst in my palm.
I go into lilac waters.
I write my name over and over
in a purple pen.
I hug my goddaughter Violet.
I know it always finds me some way.
It takes me back to a place,
where I knew I was enough.
My lips are swollen,
It will take weeks of chapstick to heal.
on the pillow.
My clothes carpet
leading to the bedroom.
I am alone,
heart still recovering
from the bursts.
my raw lips.
Lynne Schmidt is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and mental health professional with a focus in trauma and healing. She is the winner of the 2020 New Women's Voices Contest and author of the chapbooks, Dead Dog Poems (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press), Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press) which was listed as one of the 17 Best Breakup Books to Read in 2020, and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West), which was featured on The Wardrobe's Best Dressed for PTSD Awareness Week. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.
Theseus and Ariadne --
or, Ariadne and Theseus, let’s be honest here --
I wander through memories, my own collection of mazes --
endless passageways to who-knows-where, steeped in darkness, far away from any light --
I take note of the minotaur’s lair, now inside a giant pyramid, the center of the labyrinth
morphing into a church’s apse, the unholiest of unholies --
vast, cavernous --
the central lair rising high into blank space --
except for the pinnacle of the structure, it holds an eye, fashioned like a brooch on a sweater --
glowing, seeing constantly, knowing perpetually --
in the myth, there’s the loss of a child every week, or once a month, the tragedy depends on
who’s telling the tale, who’s able to sew the threads together --
but it’s always gruesome and unpleasant --
how to make this story safe for bedtime reading? --
turnips? yes, the sacrifice to the minotaur was a monthly yield of turnips, wheelbarrows full of
it’s the least the good people of this fair kingdom could do to appease the beast --
dump them all at his feet and be gone --
Theseus finds the center of the labyrinth, gazes at the bull’s head, laughs, shouts, where are
your gods now? and ends him. That eye from above watches over. If it weren’t
disembodied, it would have leaned back, reached for popcorn, ate to its heart’s content.
Yes, I foresaw all of this! it bellows. I just couldn’t do a goddamn thing, stuck up here, unable
to move. How horrific! How convenient. We all wait the allotted time. For the beast to
Ariadne had proffered a ball of twine
like she would to a cat, anticipating
a night of endless amusement, knowing
he’d bat the twine down the stairs,
throughout the house, chasing, chasing, chasing
forever chasing, chasing chasing,
the twine unravels in a tenuous line
of colors until fully unwoven.
Make sure you hang on to that string
the entire way out
don’t let go…
Don’t let go! is similar to Don’t look back!
or, don’t turn around…
and so the temptation to do just that
I think of Lot and his wife. God forbids them
to turn around. But she does. She yearns
to look back. To see her city once more.
Incinerated by fire. And she turns
into a statue, a pillar of salt,
rubble like the city
If Theseus lets go of that string
even for one second, he’ll be lost,
he’ll be wandering the labyrinth’s corridors for eternity
without that thinnest of lifelines any longer.
Losing contact creates an instant abyss. A tomb.
Ariadne no longer is the crafty one, not after Theseus has emerged victorious from slaying the
oh no, it’s all about him now, Theseus --
all about his bravery, his valor, his might --
without that string, Theseus wouldn’t have stood a chance in hell --
Hades in this case --
he’d have been lost the instant he wandered off without guidance --
even with her help, he needed to listen to her, listen with all his might to her directive: don’t let
go of that string after you’ve unraveled it --
without the route demarcated, without her idea, he would not have been able to leave, even after
killing the minotaur --
no, he’d have had to ask for directions --
and we know how well that typically turns out --
The monster lies there
The tiniest insect.
The walls stare back
eyes dotting everywhere.
The hybrid creature, a giant
mass of muscle and bone
a lump of nothing
Off Theseus goes
through the tunnels.
The torches flicker
in and out, in and out,
to be lit again.
The same holds true
for stories, stories that shouldn’t be told
stories of incest
of bestiality, of violence
endless gobs of violence
of spurned gods and other beasts
of vengeance, dripping fluids
of the triangular relationships
between gods, men, other living things.
Is fifth grade too soon for us to know
about these characters? To learn
about this shit? To fully understand
the scope and the outlandishness
of these tales?
To comprehend the audacity of warnings…
of how things are? why things are? simply why?
Theseus should have been eternally grateful for Ariadne and her string. He should’ve taken
another ball, wrapped themselves together, kept a piece of the thread in a box as a memento of
the occasion. After leaving the island where the pyramid stood, they both careen through the
pages of a shitty romance novel: Theseus shakes away the idea of them together forever and
drops Ariadne off on the steps somewhere.
Here you go, doll. Here’s the string and some change. Gotta be someplace. Maybe find another
giant maze, another beast to slay. More cities to save. You understand?
Other stories say it was Dionysus who’s all, hey Theseus, Ariadne needs to hang out with me, put
away a few bottles of wine. So scram! Before I make you scram.
This is my preferred storyline:
Ariadne’s waiting to escape. Here’s the hero, leaping onto the scene. Theseus, the perfect pawn.
Upon reaching Naxos, though, there needed to be a change in scenery. For Ariadne, that is. So
why not gallivant with a god for a while instead of some pea brain tough guy with a sword,
and only a sword?
Here’s the outcome for her:
Go with Dionysus and then decide what to do when the wine’s dried up and there’s nothing left
NO NO NO NO NOO
I’m done with this narrative!
It’s all wrong.
It’s this: Theseus destroys the minotaur, but he’s lost on his way out. Let’s be honest: he lets
go of the string like Lot’s wife. He’s done for. Falls into a bottomless pit.
That one super important rule: broken.
Ariadne pulls the string out of the pyramid.
No Theseus on the other end!
Just the end.
Ariadne sighs, shrugs, exclaims, well, what can I do? Men never listen to me. Fuck ’em all.
She’s got a date tonight with Dionysus, anyway! At least until the wine runs out. And then the
paths she can take are limitless.
Kevin A. Risner is a product of Ohio. His forthcoming chapbook, Do Us a Favor, was published this August by Variant Literature.
Self Portrait With Heart-Quakes
my mother taught me to calm heart-quakes by singing & sewing till the night envelops my voice
in its dark embrace; & to curl around my pillow until the sun glistens the face of mother earth.
to this, my tongue splits into an album of sad songs while my fingers dance on quilts made with
needles & thread. in my attempt to reaching wholesomeness, i stitch pieces of my heart into the
shadow of a twilight— to forget how i sang in joy when i stitched my wedding gown— white
with red laces at the hems; an emblem that reminds me of the boundaries he’d said i trespassed,
of the redness he battered my skin into & the white wool that saved the tiles from turning red the
night i would become a Queen in my kingdom.
Rahma O. Jimoh is a writer and nature photog. She is a 2021 Hues Foundation scholar and a 2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee. A lover of sunsets and monuments. She has been published or forthcoming in Lucent Dreaming, Full House Lit Mag and others. She is the Poetry Editor for The Quills and a Poetry Reader at Chestnut Review.
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Uncovered logs from the distant past and the future beyond.