Fearless Memoir

How to overcome fear, unworthiness, and self-doubt and finally write a memoir. By Brad Wetzler, award-winning author, editor, and book writing coach.

How Travel Changes Us

In 2011, I spent three months on walkabout in Israel and Palestine. At the time I was struggling with life. I wanted to see if I could believe in a higher power again as I did in my youth. I walked miles and miles in Jesus’ footsteps. Soaking in the Jordan River, I realized that I couldn’t believe again. But I discovered something huge: that no messiah can heal us or fix us. Not pills. Not religious dogma.Not travel. I came home changed. I recommitted to a daily yoga practice that I’d abandoned. On the yoga mat during the next years, I found what I couldn’t find on the road. Myself. Looking back on that pilgrimage, I see that sometimes we have to go external in order to go internal. I mean, it was necessary for me to go on that trip. I didn’t find what I was hoping to find. But I found something different, surprising, and, ultimately, that trip inspired me to do the hard work I needed to do to find myself again after years of self-abandonment....

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Short Memoir: Reflections on a Mystical Experience in India

At the age of twelve I had a brush with mortality that changed me. On the first day of a weekend father-son canoe trip in the Ozarks, the canoe carrying my dad and I capsized, and we were both sent overboard into the cold, fast-moving water. In the chaotic next seconds, my lifejacket snagged on a submerged tree, and I was trapped there. Though my mouth remained above water, the rest of me felt the fury of thousands of gallons of water running through a narrow channel. The upriver current flung my torso violently into the log at the same time that the downriver current seemed to claw at my spindly limbs, enticing me to be free. I was terrified, and, for ten minutes, I believed I would die. Eventually, I was rescued, but the event terrified me. It shook my sense of safety in nature, and it instilled in me, at a very young age, a deep knowing of how temporary this life is. In the next years, I became a very spiritual kid, and I latched onto Christianity, the dominant faith of my Kansas...

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Short Memoir: How Pilgrimage Shows Us the Way Back to True Self

 Last winter, I traveled to southern India for a pilgrimage to Arunachala, a conical mountain considered by Hindus to be the embodiment of Shiva, the god of destruction and rebirth. The night before the pilgrimage, I dropped onto the mattress in my bamboo hut hoping for a peaceful rest. I fell asleep listening to mosquitoes bombard the window screens. The peace didn’t last. Two hours later, I was awake. When it became clear I wasn’t going back to sleep, I got up and went outside to the bamboo balcony of my two-story hut and spread out my yoga mat. I moved through a few Sun Salutations. Moving my body like this clears energy trapped in muscle and sinew. It makes me feel better and sometimes allows me to go back to sleep.

But on this night, sleep wasn’t in the cards. After more yoga poses, I lay on my mat, lost in thought, staring across the grassy land at Arunachala. Clouds shrouded its conical summit and, lit by a full moon, the mountain seemed to glow from...

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Short Memoir: How Pilgrimage Shows Us the Way Back to True Self, Part 2

Something changed in me that day on Mount Arunachala. I glimpsed something I’d never seen before. At least, not since I was a boy.

It was only a glimpse, so I can’t say for certain what I saw. But during and after my circumambulation, I peered deeper inside myself than I had done before. Deeper than during the most focused yoga or meditation session. Deeper than during any adventure to a far-flung natural place. Deeper than during the most reverent, prayerful visit to a sacred site or Indian temple. Arunachala shattered me. Opened me. And through the broken shell of myself I glimpsed something bright, essential, true. Was it my soul?

But as transformative and beautiful as that experience was, I was in no condition to return to “normal” life. During the next few days, my final days in India, I cried often. On the flight home to the States, I teared up every time my mind wandered back to Arunachala. Back at my apartment in Boulder, I turned the key in the lock...

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