Michele Penn’s life’s work centers around her breathtaking floral photographs. In her newest book, Dance in the Garden, she shares her journey as a photographer, and combines her floral photography with inspirational quotes. Through Eckhart, she found the power to change her life. This is her story.
Tell us about your life before you found Eckhart.
My life was a big secret. Verbally abused by my ex-husband for 14 years, fear kept me from telling anyone. I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad because I didn’t have bruises. Eventually, he threatened to kill me in a wild, vicious rage that scared me to my core and I left. Feeling guilty for leaving, guilty for staying and angry, I continued to attract negativity into my life. Three years later, I remarried and moved to Florida. This marriage cost me substantial alimony I would have received for the rest of my life, but I needed distance between my ex-husband and myself. Four months after our marriage and our move, my new husband cheated and left me for our real estate broker who sold us our house. She was my only friend here. No husband, no alimony. I was lost.
What was it about Eckhart’s teachings that was able to help you change your life?
Eckhart taught me about the power of the present moment, a place in which I rarely lived. At a time I most needed it, he taught me how to let go of my past, guilt, ego, anger and resentment. Because of Eckhart, I am able to forgive both my ex-husbands and myself. I am grateful for these experiences, because if I hadn’t gone through that, I wouldn’t have been able to inspire and encourage others to live a better life.
You have said in the past that you have been drawn to flowers, to observing and photographing them. Why do you think that is?
They filled me with a peace I never knew before. Suddenly drawn to flowers after my second divorce, I intensely studied and photographed them. Where had they been my whole life? Why had I not seen them before? I noticed the chatter in my head stopped. That voice was silent for the first time ever and I was in the present moment. I was feeling connected to a source inside myself, a feeling I hadn’t known before. One day I picked up A New Earth and was floored as I read Chapter 1, The Flowering of Human Consciousness. It was as if Eckhart was in my head. He made clear why I was obsessed with photographing and looking at flowers. Flowers were awakening me!
How did you get inspired to do more with your life?
While in the silent presence of a flower, where I had let go of all thought, inspiration hit. I saw, in my mind, a book with quotes from A New Earth, combined with my floral photographs. My “soul shots” were an exact representation of the awakening of which Eckhart has spoken. I knew that when Eckhart saw my flowers, he would agree that this collaboration was meant to be. If I was going to manifest this, then I was going to have to follow Eckhart’s teaching down to every detail. I lived in the present, I let go of the past and I didn’t worry about the future. I didn’t worry whether Eckhart would get to see the book or even whether he would like it. I knew he would. I lived as if it were done. I used positive affirmations all day, every day, saying out loud how grateful I was that I was already published with Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart knew exactly what I felt photographing these images. I knew he would feel my connection to the universe through my flowers just as I did his words.
What was the result of this inspiration?
Not knowing how I was going to manifest my inspiration, I designed a sample book thinking I might as well be prepared. At a conference soon after, I bought a candle and had it shipped. It arrived in the wrong color. I called and the woman said “no problem, things happen for a reason.” I believed that, but couldn’t imagine what the reason could be. Continuing to talk, we seemed to have a lot in common. I told her of my intention to have my flower photographs printed with Eckhart Tolle’s quotes. She said, “hmm, my publisher just wrote a children’s book with Eckhart Tolle. I’ll call him for you and see if he’ll take a look at your idea.” They loved it, but said there wasn’t any way Eckhart Tolle would agree to this, this isn’t how things worked. They said there was a possibility to place my flower images with another New York Times best-selling author, Neale Donald Walsch since they published his book, Conversations with God . . . but that wasn’t my dream.
Filled with passion and determination, and with my book in hand, I flew to see the publisher and CEO of Hampton Roads Publishing and conveyed my vision. They decided to send my mock-up book to Eckhart’s publisher, Namaste. If they liked the book, only if they liked it, would they show it to Eckhart. Weeks turned into months without hearing, but I still Believed it was Done and I was grateful for it. And guess what? Long story short . . . it worked! Peace in the Present Moment was published in October 2010. As a result of that, I am living my true purpose telling my story, sharing Eckhart’s teachings and showing people that their past doesn’t define them.
What was it like meeting Eckhart in person?
Meeting Eckhart was almost indescribable. His energy is so calming, yet I was thrilled beyond words. He embraced me with a long warm, loving, peaceful, spiritual kind of hug. I wouldn’t let go until he did. Reminding myself to be present, I savored every moment. We sat on the couch and spoke of the “miraculous” (his word) way I got to him. He told me that he knew I would do great things in this world. He was right.
What would you like to pass on from your own life experience to others?
I’d like to pass on three lessons I’ve learned. First, you can live in the present moment and still make your dreams come true. Second, forgiveness releases blame and resentment and allows you to fully experience the present. And third, being grateful for something that is already done brings it to you. I like to say “If you believe it and feel it, you will become it.” I hope that my flowers are the source of inspiration and awakening for millions of people to their own true selves.