A Portrait of Nanette

“A Portrait of Nanette” is an exclusive Q&A series with author Nanette V. Hucknall.  This series will feature in-depth conversations to explore Nanette’s background, her inspirations, her many interests — and her advice to those looking to pursue their passion projects.

Nanette V. Hucknall

From Writer to Artist, Psychotherapist to Founder of Higher Self Yoga, there is nothing this inspirational female octogenarian can’t do.

The Author of How to Live from Your Heart

how to live from your heart - Nanette V. Hucknall

This Q&A was conducted by MSI Press.

Who are you? What do you want readers to know about you?

Through many years of deep study and hands-on experience, I have become a specialist on relationships, psychology, and spiritual growth. For more than thirty years, I have developed and led Higher Self Yoga classes and retreats throughout the Unites States, Canada, and Europe. And also, in those places have done many psychological workshops, including Living From Your Heart.

I co-founded and am President Emeritus of The Center for Peace Through Culture, Inc. and am the founder and President Emeritus of Higher Self Yoga, Inc.

Why are you qualified to write this book?

I have spent a lifetime studying spirituality and psychology, and in turn, have used what I have learned to help others on their personal journey. I have been a teacher, writer, therapist, career counselor, and painter. Teaching people how to work with their hearts has been a major focus in all my work.

What is the message of your book? What should be the take-away by readers?

That working with their hearts will help them in everything they do in their daily life. They will learn to listen to others in an insightful way, which will deepen their relationships. It will help them open their creativity and inspire them in their work. Working with the heart and mind will give them the best solutions to their projects. When they access their higher wisdom through the heart, which links to their Higher Selves, they discover a source of wisdom that helps them with their problems and gives them a deeper understanding of who they are.

What are you hoping the book will do for your readers?

That they will realize the book is a learning tool for a better life. It is not just to be read but to be used in all their daily endeavors, and that they will understand for themselves that working with the heart will make a wonderful difference in their lives.

What details (including book structure) do you hope that readers notice? How/why did you choose these details/incidents/structure?

I realize that just having a book talking about the importance of using the heart, doesn’t really help people. They need to personally go through the process of practicing the different ways in which to use the heart. This is why I have many exercises that help the reader to achieve this.

I also feel a “How To” book needs to be interesting reading, so I have stories that illustrate what I am saying and explain how working with the heart can help people.

In your opinion, what is the most memorable detail (saddest, most surprising, most emotional, happiest…) in the book?

I think the stories in the book cover the expanse of emotions you mention. Some are fables, some I made up, or I knew about from others. For example, the Cambodia fable of a boy named Eshar, who asked a wise man how he could open his heart. The teacher told him to go to the village and when he met someone to first connect to his heart, and then ask the person to give him something to eat. When he was given food, Eshar was to thank the person and consciously feel gratitude in his heart. His first encounter was an old man pulling a huge burden, who didn’t have food because he was evicted from his home. The next person was a woman running with a crying baby to find a doctor for her child. All the people he met were deep into their own troubles and had no food for him. Finally, Eshar met a rich man who threw him a coin for food. When he tried to feel gratitude in his heart, nothing happened. Feeling frustrated, Eshar meditated and the wise man appeared to him, and took him to each person he had encountered and said, “If you had used your heart you would have offered to help this person. The heart’s gratitude is for those who truly give.” The boy protested, “But you told me to ask for food.” The teacher answered, “I told you to use your heart first. If you had done so, you would have forgotten about asking for food.”

But what’s most rewarding for me is when someone who has my book, tells me how wonderful it was to connect to the heart and how it has changed the person’s life.

Why did you write the book?

My spiritual and psychological studies and training emphasize the importance of working with the heart.  I developed Higher Self Yoga, based on this premise. I realized as a therapist that most people in our western society are mind oriented and are not aware on how creative and powerful the heart is. I wrote the book to address this, so that others can realize how important it is to develop the heart and balance it with the mind for the best results.

What was the most difficult part of the book to write? Why?

Mainly, what I just said, trying to explain and illustrate why it is important to balance the mind and heart and not just use the mind to resolve problems. The mind is more action oriented and the heart is more inspirational and creative. It’s important to bring in the heart to form the best solutions and then use the mind to plan out and make those solutions manifest. Our famous scientists and inventors have always used both, whether they were aware of it or not, but in our present-day technological world the creative process is buried and not being utilized fully.

Have you written other books?

Yes, I’ve written ten books. My third book on Higher Self Yoga is being published at this time. My website has some of my books. I also have published some teaching books for my students.

I just finished a novel: Zarathustra’s Journey, which is the story of a Swiss man’s spiritual journey. It is being edited now.

I also have another novel I wrote many years ago and am now revising. It is called, The Power of Illusion: The Story of Sabbatai Zevi, a false messiah.

Do you have plans for writing more books?

Yes, I am planning to write another Higher Self Yoga book. I also started a book called: The Power of the Feminine.

The Career Therapist and Psychotherapist

A Psychotherapist helps clients to overcome psychological disorders usually caused by trauma in their childhoods.

What do you love about both practices?

In my career work, I love helping people discover what their talents are, which are usually hidden. My first book was called “Finding Your Work, Loving Your Life”. That is what happens when someone really discovers what vocation s/he is meant to do.

In my therapy work, I love helping someone heal his or her psychological wounds. It is work that is very rewarding and challenging.

With both practices, I introduce my clients to their Higher Selves and help them learn how to utilize this important part of themselves. It also helps them to realize they have a part within that is not wounded but is a positive force that is always there to help them.

How did you first get into practicing this kind of therapy?

In my career work, my main job was being an Art Director, but I also was the President of The Center for Peace Through Culture. I thought it would be important to learn people skills because I was working with many volunteers. So I decided to take the Psychosynthesis training, which is a transpersonal therapy training for psychotherapists. During my training, a friend came to see me and said she didn’t know what she wanted to do in life. I had just learned about the Higher Self in my training and decided to try an exercise with it. The outcome was that she found her vocation and started sending me her friends to work with. I subsequently designed a process to use and then wrote my book, which did very well and was published and translated in five different countries. When I moved from New York to the Berkshires, I decided to do this work full time.

During my career work, I also did a lot of therapy work because of blocks coming from people’s childhood conditioning. After I moved to the Berkshires, something devastating happened in one of the large spiritual centers and they needed psychotherapists to work with their followers. Somehow my name was given to the person in charge and she asked me to work with someone who was damaged by her experience there. They liked my work and suddenly I started getting a lot of psychotherapy clients.

What’s surprised you the most about being a career therapist?

I was working with a client’s Higher Self and she suddenly flipped into a past life. In exploring that I realized that her vocation related to what she did in that life. The outcome of that past life was very negative and that was her block to perceiving that she needed to do that vocation in her present life. I then had to do some training on how to work with past lives, and it became an important part of my career work.

What’s the biggest myth about Psychotherapy? Career Therapy?

When I was younger, the myth for any kind of psychological therapy is that a person shouldn’t need it unless the person was mentally imbalanced. It’s in our western mindset that a person should be strong and self-reliant.

What inspired you to write “Karma, Destiny, and Your Career”?

In the next printing of my book, “Finding Your Work, Loving Your Life”, the title was changed to the above. I felt my work was unusual, innovative, and would be helpful for people to read and try to do on their own.

What sort of advice are people looking for when they come to you?

If they are coming for career counseling, it’s because they are unhappy with the work they are doing, and they want to find another vocation that would make them feel more fulfilled.

If they are coming for psychotherapy, it’s to help them look at what is hurting and blocking them emotionally and psychologically.

When should people consider talking to a careers therapist?

If they feel very unhappy with the work they are doing. Also, if they feel they are missing something in their lives. It’s like they unconsciously know there is a dream that they have missed and would like to find it.

Does a perfect career exist?

I believe in destiny and dharma. If you really follow that, I feel you will have a happy and fulfilled life. Sometimes people have several careers, and if they only do one, they will not feel satisfied. I think my life has been a good example of many careers, all of which I have really enjoyed.

What’s your advice for those that are job hunting right now?

That is such a difficult question especially for young people trying to enter the job market. I know people have to take jobs because of finances, and often they take something mainly because of that, not because it’s something they really want to do. I guess my main advice is: Don’t lose your dream of what you really want to accomplish. Don’t give up; keep seeking what you know is right for you to do.

How have these experiences helped shape your work with Higher Self Yoga or vice versa?

It has been very important, mainly because I have incorporated the psychological in the Higher Self teaching. Most yoga teachings are philosophical, not psychological. I feel strongly that psychological barriers will stop a person from growing spiritually. That’s why the Higher Self Yoga books have a lot of psychology in them and a lot of that I have learned from my work as a therapist. Certainly, working with my Higher Self has also helped me to grow spiritually.

The Writer

Hi, Nanette! What made you want to become a writer?
I was a voracious reader as a child and loved to write. I even won an essay contest in school. In my late teens and early 20’s my closest friends were writers and I thought they were fabulous. One even had a contract with a major publisher. Reading their work made me realize I wasn’t a good enough to be a writer, and I gave that desire up completely and concentrated on my art. In my thirties, when I met my spiritual teacher, he told me I was meant to be a writer. This amazed and delighted me.

What books have most influenced your life and how have they made a difference?
At the time I was told to be a writer, I got Somerset Maugham’s book called: The Summing Up, which was his memoir. What encouraged and surprised me was that in his twenties he was in medical school planning to be a doctor and similarly had friends who he felt were great writers. Later, in his late twenties, he gave up medicine and started to write himself. He also said that all his writer friends, as they grew older, gave up writing, and he felt that their writing might be related to their youth and not from an inner deep longing to write. My friends also stopped writing, including the friend with the contract. She never finished her book. This made me feel it wasn’t too late for me to follow my youthful dream. His book also gave me insightful criteria about writing.

The Agni Yoga books certainly influence my Higher Self books and also the Letters of Helena Roerich. Since this is my spiritual background, it is the basis for the Higher Self Yoga work. I also love all of Eknath Easwaran’s work and the way he writes.

Hermann Hesse’s work has certainly impressed me and is an influence on my novels.  Also, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s way of psychologically developing his characters makes me try to see more deeply into each of my character’s persona.

There are many other books that I have enjoyed and experienced that I look at in terms of language and flow. An example is Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe’s lyrical prose.

How-To-Live-From-Your-Heart.jpgCan you share some stories about people you met while researching/writing “How To Live From Your Heart”?
I didn’t really research the Heart book but I did facilitate a couple of workshops on “Living from Your Heart” when I was writing the book. This gave me good feedback on the exercises.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Writing the query letter and proposal to send to an agent and publisher. Also, I changed the title and subtitle many times.

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
It brought me a deeper understanding of what it means to work with the heart on a daily basis. It reminded me of how important that is.

Is there a message from your book that you want your readers to grasp?
Basically to use their hearts in all their decision making. To take the time, when they have a problem or have to design a project, to not only use their minds but to also actively use their hearts to inspire them for a better and more fulfilling solution.

Where do your ideas for your books come from?
All the inspiration for my books comes to me during meditation.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I belong to a book club and just finished a wonderful book called, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. It is beautifully written. Another book I just read that I really loved was The Little Paris Bookstore by Nina George. It’s psychological, funny and entertaining. Am now I am starting to read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. But I have to confess I am mainly a mystery lover and am always listening to those books on tape when I drive.

Do you have any writing rituals?
When I am in Florida for three months in the winter, I stick to a strict schedule of writing and editing from 25 to 35 hours a week. I stay at my sister’s home on the ocean and in the evenings we watch TV. She doesn’t tape shows like I do at home but likes to read a book during the commercials. Instead, I do my editing during that time. At home in MA, it’s more difficult to keep to a schedule as I have a lot more happening that takes up my time.

Pen, typewriter or computer?
Only computer. Before computers, for my first book, I spoke into a tape and transcribed it on the typewriter. Big job. Love the computer.

Do you write with music playing or in silence? (If you chose music, then what kind of music?)
Always silence.

Do you like to write alone or in public?

Any tips for other writers on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Fortunately, I never have experienced that. I have worked with people who had creative blocks and have found that they can come from a past life where they did the same kind of work, and failed, or were victimized for it. Doing a past life with them can clear that up. Sometimes a major block is caused by feelings of unworthiness coming from childhood. I think it’s important to just write anything and not worry about whether it is good or not. Just do stream of consciousness and get into the rhythm of writing every day even if it’s only for half an hour.

Can you recommend a book to all your fans?
That’s a difficult question to answer because I think each person is an individual with unique likes and dislikes. I certainly would recommend all the classics and also the books I have already mentioned, and of course all the major authors who have won prestigious awards.

Are you working on or planning to write another book?
I’ve just finished a novel, Zarathustra’s Journey. The main story is about a Swiss man’s spiritual journey — a journey of many challenges that takes him through several romances and personal conflicts.  During this period he writes a book in which the teacher, Zarathustra, comes down from the mountain and teaches Higher Self Yoga.

I am also editing my first novel called Power of Illusion, the story of Sabbatai Zevi, the most famous false Messiah who lived in the 17th century.

I plan to do another book on Higher Self Yoga.

The Painter

First, thank you so much for doing this interview! Can you tell us tell how you first got into art and painting?

I attended Cooper Union, majoring in Graphic Design and I also took a painting class each year I was there.

Embracing the Sunset

Embracing the Sunset

What was your very first painting and what was the inspiration for it?
Even though I did some painting in college, it wasn’t my main interest.  When I graduated, I saved my money for a year and went to Europe for six months with a friend. We traveled to every country, going to the cities and the countryside, seeing the beauty and unique charm of the different nations. Some of the nature I saw was so compelling that it awoke in me the urge to paint.

When I returned home I rented a room and immediately bought a large canvas, put it on a table with my paint cannisters and decided to paint a scene I saw from the top of the mountain in Salzburg, Austria.  I went to work during the day and came home every night and sat and looked at the blank canvas. I just couldn’t start it! Somehow I knew if it turned out badly that I would never paint again.

I did this every night for about two weeks. One night, as I sat there looking at the canvas, I heard a voice say very loudly, “For God’s sake, get up and paint!” It scared me so much that I did just that and painted the scene in 3 hours. It ended up being good enough for me to continue. Years later when I met my teacher I realized it was his voice.

How has your work developed since you first started painting?

It’s become more abstract and now I do a Gesso undercoat that gives texture to the painting.

Many of your paintings feature landscapes and natural settings. What does nature represent to you?

Nature brings beauty into my life. I’m fortunate to live on a lake surrounded by hills and mountains. I watch the sunset in the evenings reflecting on the water and the reflection of the sunrise in the mornings. The vibrancy of nature inspires everything I do.

What do you love about painting? How does it make you feel?

To me, it’s completely getting in touch with feminine energy and the inspiration that comes from the feminine. It’s also physical. I use my whole body when I paint. During the process, it’s never mental. Only when stepping back and looking at a painting does it get more into my mind.

What’s your favorite painting of and why?
Monet’s Blue Water Lilies at New York Modern Museum of Art.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

My brushes and pallet knives, which I’ve had for many years.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

Always in nature. I have some beautiful gardens that I’m thinking about painting.

What’s the last artwork you purchased?

A large painting by Shichan Takashima from her estate after she passed. She was a good friend of mine and a well-known Canadian artist.

What famous work of art do you wish you owned?

That blue Monet I mentioned or any of his work.

Who are your favorite artists (living or deceased)?

Monet and Nicholas Roerich. Most of the Impressionists, and I also like Turner, Picasso, de kooning, and Rothko. There are so many I like that this is difficult to answer.

Do you have any advice for budding artists?

Just let your heart guide you.

Check out Nanette’s artwork gallery where a small collections of her paintings is featured.

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