The Namaste Counsel


My First Guru

In the afterward of my book, From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram: Wisdom for Mind, Body and Spirit, I honor my 13th guru: my mom. If you have read to the end, please share your thoughts on any of my gurus, but especially the one that is dearest to me. If you don't have a copy, order it online, head to your favorite independent bookstore, or get a signed paperback from me. Regardless, read on to learn about my initial inspiration and my greatest teacher.

Learning to Read

My mom was the best English teacher I ever had. Sitting on her lap, on a rocking chair in my bedroom, I loved to hear her read stories to me. I literally followed her every word. So much so, that she said I could read when I was just two years old.

Deborah Charnes, author of From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram: Wisdom for Mind, Body and Spirit, as a childMy earliest recollection of any earlier-than-normal abilities was when I was in kindergarten. Miss Owen led me into one of the first graders’ classrooms and asked me to read aloud. Maybe it was my timidity, not wanting to be in the spotlight or to show off, but I did NOT want to be there. I can still picture standing by the blackboard in front of all the six-year-olds. That made me want to run away and hide.

Bill F. was one of the first graders. We were in the same Sunday school class. He was just a year older but way bigger and bolder. I had a baby crush on him. It was rattling to be on display in another class with Billy’s watchful dark eyes right in front of me. Who would have thought that sexism was at play when I was just a kindergartner, but I didn’t want to appear too smart in front of cute Billy. So, I purposely stumbled on some words.

Throughout elementary school my teachers treated me differently from the other kids. Whenever I whizzed through all the exercises my teachers would kneel by my chair and give me more challenging reading and assignments. Several times, they asked me to provide feedback on alternative curricula and textbooks. 

Before the internet, cable, or TV, books were our entertainment. In the summer, I’d balance thick piles to and from the library without a backpack. One year, our school had a summer reading challenge. I was sure I’d win, fudging a few extra titles to total almost 100 kids’ entries. But the Butler twins beat me. That was baffling. How could anyone have read more than me? 

Learning to Write

Gloria L. Charnes, freelance writer, with her daughter, Deborah Charnes, author of From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram: Wisdom for Mind, Body and SpiritMy mom, a freelance essayist and journalist, was also my best writing coach. There were no floral arrangements on our kitchen table. Rather, white-out, colored markers, and canary yellow and carnation pink paper she used for drafts brightened up the round brown table top. Even after the days of word processors, she tapped everything out from her clunky Underwood manual typewriter. Every hit on the return button resulted in a “ping” and every re-write meant wasted sheets of paper. 

In high school, I’d show her my homework compositions and she’d provide excellent constructive feedback. We had different styles. She gushed with mellifluous adjectives whereas I preferred (and still do) simplicity and paucity. Even if I didn’t agree, I absorbed her explanations and critiques.

After I transitioned into the professional world of communications, I kept her tips, practices, and rules top of mind. She was my source, rock, inspiration, and role model for researching and creating compelling stories. Her tenacity amid the constant receipt of rejection letters was perhaps the greatest lesson. Among dozens of wasted sheets of paper and stamps, there was always an editor who praised her style, found space for her articles, and sent her a check. As a result, her bylines frequented The Toronto Globe, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Sun-Times. 

Gloria L. Charnes

I was in my groove, writing for work, when I accepted a personal project that was beyond my normal scope. It was a chapter for a multi-cultural marketing communications university textbook. This was a big deal to me. I planned a visit back home and told my mom I wanted her to edit my final draft.

We were sitting in the living room. Maybe her eyesight wasn’t that sharp. Possibly her energy was waning. I craved her meticulous editorial feedback while wanting to please her. She made minimal edits.

She passed away shortly after that. A few years later, I was a contributing author for a second textbook. There was no one I sought out for feedback.  

It’s been ten years since my mom’s departure from this life. When I told my niece I was about to publish “From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram,” her immediate response made my heart swell. “Grandma would be so proud.”

Somehow, in the I me mine world that we live, emotional and physical well being has escaped the vast majority. The Namaste Counsel encourages simple proven practices to live a healthier and happier life. Any time. Any where. By anyone.
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