The Angel Lady’s story

Known as the “Angel Lady,” Doreen Virtue has produced a host of books, recordings, and oracle card decks, many of them about angels. My curiosity about her life was piqued when I learned she was raised in the Christian Science tradition, as was my mother. Though I am not a Christian Scientist, it is one of the strands of my spiritual DNA, and I wondered how it informed Virtue’s journey as a writer, healer, and intuitive.

“The Lightworker’s Way” (1997) is about two-thirds memoir. Virtue’s mother was a Christian Science practitioner who worked to heal clients through prayer. She also used spiritual treatment on young Doreen and her brother whenever they had cuts or bruises. The wounds would practically vanish in front of her eyes, she recalls. Christian Science teaches that any illness, injury, or dis-ease is a product of the mortal mind. Since God is all good and only good, anything else is not of God and therefore doesn’t really exist. Still, the family kept their spiritual practices quiet: “Oh, you’re those people who don’t believe in doctors!” one of Virtue’s classmates sniffed.

“Nothing is lost in the mind of God” was the affirmation Virtue’s mother taught her, and which she used to retrieve everything from a lost coin purse to a couple of wayward pet rats. The same was true of the clairvoyant experiences she had as a child and brushed aside as life progressed.

Despite the original source of love within her family, she writes, she sought “even more” from outside sources — alcohol and marijuana use as a teen, an unplanned pregnancy, and two (at that point) difficult marriages and divorces — based on the illusion of separation from God. That illusion, she says, is persistently and perniciously fed by the ego; the higher self knows better.

If I understand Virtue’s concept of the ego correctly, the ego is the “monkey mind” that constantly chatters as it tries to figure everything out. It’s the part of us that fears, judges, and needs something outside of ourselves to feel worthy and secure. The ego blocks our inner guide, that intuitive voice that resides in a peaceful space above the ego’s constant shifting. “Inner-guide instructions are loving and positive, while the ego’s advice is based on fear, contempt, and beliefs in scarcity,” she writes.

The ego changes its mind constantly, so if you like a roller-coaster ride, that’s the way to go, she says. If you always have a fire to put out, you don’t have to think about the bigger picture: your life’s purpose. Even being helpful can be a trap of the ego, she says later in the book. Getting preoccupied with problems, especially the kind it’s much easier to talk about than solve, will only impede your progress. Intuition is that inner knowing — you know, but you don’t know how you know. It is the still, small voice that always informs, uplifts, and guides. That is the voice to which we are wise to listen.

Virtue earned degrees in psychology, worked as a counselor, and wrote self-help books and articles. But something was missing. As her psychic ability began to reawaken, her spiritual quest led her into territory that felt much more dangerous than being a Christian Scientist kid at school. Now she had a professional reputation and a livelihood as a public speaker and talk show guest to consider. But emerge from the psychic closet she did, obviously.

Part II of “The Lightworker’s Way” is an instruction manual in everything from the parallel worlds of energy and spirit to heightening psychic receptivity, spiritual healing, mediumship, and, of course, angels. Entire books have been written on each single topic here, and yet her instructions are remarkably detailed. This could be very helpful to those who are curious about exactly how it all works, or is supposed to work. However, I saw no acknowledgement that each person develops his or her own style or processes, or any encouragement for doing so. Perhaps I missed it.

Finally, what is a lightworker? See Virtue’s explanation here.

Cat got your tongue?

The first thing I noticed about “Love Saves the Day” was, of course, the rather cheesy title. My eye would not have lingered further if not for 1) the tiger cat on the cover and 2) the name of the author, Gwen Cooper, who wrote the bestselling memoir “Homer’s Odyssey.” Sold.

In “Homer’s Odyssey,” Cooper told the captivating and remarkable story of Homer, a blind black cat who would change her life — and even save it on one terrifying occasion. He also helped her find her voice as a writer.

One of the voices in “Love Saves the Day,” a novel, is that of Prudence, a tiger cat with some very definite opinions about the Way Things Ought to Be. She has lived with her human, Sarah, in a little apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and has had everything pretty much the way she wants it since Sarah found her at a construction site when she was a kitten. Prudence is a one-person cat; any other human is peripheral at best. She reminded me very much of Idgie, my diva tiger kitty who passed a couple of years ago.

Some readers may have a problem with animals as narrators. I do not. If I did, this is written well enough that I could probably still “listen” to what this feline narrator has to say about the way we humans treat cats, not to mention one another.

One day, Sarah does not come home, and soon Sarah’s daughter Laura and son-in-law Josh come in with boxes. They begin packing up and clearing out what Prudence sees as her life with Sarah, finally carrying out Prudence herself and taking her to “Upper West Side, which is obviously all the way on the opposite side of the world,” Prudence reflects.

She keeps waiting for Sarah to come back from wherever she is and take her home. In the meantime, she has two new humans, a strange apartment, and even new food (organic instead of the grocery store stuff and “people food” Sarah gave her) to manage. Prudence discovers that some people are woefully unschooled in cat protocol — and have their own issues as well.

The story is told alternately by Prudence, Laura, and Sarah. Beneath the present conflicts lie old wounds suffered (and inflicted) by mother and daughter, which stem from a years-ago trauma when they literally lost everything in a day.

It’s a good read if you love animals, especially cats, who have their own set of rules and appreciate being kept respectfully informed just as much as anyone else does.

* * *

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

For a book called “Love Saves the Day,” this was a pretty rough read. When Laura was fourteen, she and Sarah and all their neighbors were evacuated from their Lower East Side apartment building on a Saturday morning, presumably because some bricks fell off the back of the aging building. First they’re told they can go back in as soon as the building is declared safe. As the day wears on, they are told the building is being condemned and no one can go back in at all. Laura and Sarah’s neighbor, Mr. Mandelbaum, begs to be allowed to retrieve his cat, Honey, but he is barred from doing so. Desperate, Laura sneaks in and tries to get Honey herself, but the effort fails and Sarah is frightened and furious. The building is torn down that night before anyone has a chance to file a petition, grant a stay, or otherwise intervene. The residents lose what little they have in the course of a single day. For Laura, trust and security crumble. (I was horrified to read in the afterword that a century-old tenement building was evacuated and demolished by the City of New York in 1998. Two cats, one named Honey, and a parrot were inside, and their owners were not allowed to retrieve them.)

That agonizing scene comes on the heels of Prudence’s present-day realization that Sarah has died. Grief-stricken and frightened by a quarrel Laura and Josh have just had, she starts nibbling on some lilies Josh brought in for their anniversary. Lilies are toxic, and very often fatal, to cats. As Prudence loses consciousness, it appears she might be joining her beloved human on the other side. Later, she hears Sarah singing to her . . . then wakes up in the vet clinic to discover it is Laura singing to her, asking her to stay.

As it turns out, the abandoned construction site where Sarah found Prudence was where their apartment building once stood, where their lives and hopes had come crashing down years before in a senseless power struggle that had nothing to do with them. “I know now what Laura knew already that day when she risked her life for Honey’s — that love is love, whether it goes on two legs or four,” Sarah says. “I was meant to find Prudence that day. … I’ve always known I was keeping her for Laura.”

A twofold beginning

I’m beginning this blog by announcing the release of “You Can’t Escape from a Prison if You Don’t Know You’re In One: What is Blocking Your Freedom?” by my client, Alena Chapman. When her book officially launched on Amazon.com yesterday, it reached Amazon’s national and international best-seller lists! I am so proud of Alena for bravely and persistently taking her initial ideas through several drafts, the production process, and now the launch and marketing phase. A first book, whether you’re being published by a traditional press or going the self-publishing route, always comes with a learning curve. “You Can’t Escape from a Prison if You Don’t Know You’re In One” offers tools (with instructions!) for building the life you were born to live. Written with Alena’s characteristic warmth and enthusiasm, it’s sure to be of comfort and inspiration to all those who are in transition of one sort or another. In other words, most of us. Find out more at http://www.alenachapman.com.