The Barn Dance - An Interview with James Twyman
by Edie Weinstein
On July 1st, the Red Barn at Pebble Hill Church in Doylestown, PA was filled with a standing room audience as three local interfaith communities, Pebble Hill, Circle of Miracles and Common Ground Fellowship hosted New York Times Best Selling Author James Twyman. He is also known as "The Peace Troubadour", having traveled to some of the most dangerous war zones on the planet to offer songs of understanding and peaceful co-existence. The room was abuzz with anticipation as Twyman shared excerpts from and discussed the concepts in his soon to be released book (September release date) entitled The Barn Dance. Autobiographical, the story follows Twyman’s ordeal following the brutal murder of his ex-wife Linda in Evanston, Illinois that made headlines when it occurred. The book takes the reader along a spiritual journey as Twyman encounters a literal location that he refers to in this way: "somewhere between Heaven and Earth, there is a place where magic never ends." (note: I will use bold to indicate the name of the book while leaving the type-font standard to indicate when he refers to it as a place to which he travelled)
Following Linda’s funeral, Twyman has a life changing experience that he shares as if his pen were dipped in raw emotion itself. He expressed to the gathering "When an artist has to dig deep into heart and soul, the act of digging mines gold. The deeper the artist goes, the better they can reach others." That was certainly the case with The Barn Dance. Stretching the bounds of what we view as ‘reality’ vs. ‘dream’, Twyman has an encounter with his ex-wife 3 ½ years after her death, at The Barn Dance. Referring to it as a "13" journey from head to heart," Twyman goes on to explain that "Grief is one of the most human experiences where our hearts can crack open and the Divine can come rushing in."
Hay House, one of the most prominent transformational publishing companies in the world, had given away 5000 pre-release copies of The Barn Dance for people to read in advance and discuss in gatherings cross country. Twyman had 90 such events scheduled this past summer. He expressed feeling that Linda was looking over his shoulder as he wrote the book, which many in the crowd said that they had read in 1-3 days, so compelling was the narrative. He sees the book as a way of assisting those who have lost those close to them, to find healing. And by a show of hands, many had also had encounters with loved ones after they passed, so Twyman was in good company. Do you believe that there are soul contracts? That even things we perceive as terrible, on some level, we choose them?
James: The question of what we choose on a soul level, is a difficult one, especially in the face of great tragedy. When I went through the experience I did with losing Linda, people would often come up to me and say these terrible things like "You realize that she did choose this." When someone is going through the loss of a loved one, that is not what you want to hear. It’s almost insulting. It makes it seem like if we choose it on a soul level, we are choosing it consciously. And clearly, that is not something anyone would choose consciously. I do happen to believe that on the highest level, there is nothing that happens to us that we have not chosen for our lives. For me, I had to honor my own human-ness. It was important for me to go through the grief and all the normal emotions one goes through and to honor those, while at the same time, knowing that what happens on the soul level is just perfect. You just can’t use that as a way of usurping the normal emotional releasing we have to do when we lose somebody.
Wisdom: It’s also not the most compassionate thing for someone to say, even if it’s true. The way to be supportive of someone is to honor their grief.
James: Exactly. You have to be really careful when you say something like that. I’ve seen it happen with a lot of situations, where people speak about these things in an almost haphazard way and it can be injurious if they aren’t careful.
Wisdom: Did the book itself serve as a therapeutic tool to help you with your grief, to help you move through what might have felt unresolved with Linda?
James: Absolutely. I wrote this book first and foremost for myself. I needed to work through some of these emotions I was still processing. When I finished writing the book, it served that purpose well. The only other person I wanted to take into account in a serious way was my daughter. She was the only one who had a say whether the book would be published. If Angela were to have read The Barn Dance and felt it didn’t honor her mother in some way, then I would never have shown anyone else. The fact is Angela loved the book and just reading it helped her as well.
Wisdom: The book has been comforting for me, as my mother is in hospice, my dad died two years ago and my husband passed eleven years ago. What is your perception of heaven? Did it change from before you wrote the book?
James: I would like to speak to something else you shared, before I answer that question. I’m really glad to hear that the book effected you on a deep level too and I have been hearing it from other people who have read advance copies. I think that’s the power of The Barn Dance. It’s important for all of us to know that death is not the end of life. The Barn Dance is a personal story for me, and it is something everyone can relate to since we have all lost someone in our lives. The magic I discovered is something we can relate to and that we can all find healing from.
Wisdom: So the personal is universal and vice versa?
James: Exactly, and that is what every writer is looking for, something that hits that larger nerve in just the right way that brings healing.
Wisdom: Did Linda’s death change your perspective on life beyond this realm?
James: I would have to say it did. Of course I have always had faith in heaven and the afterlife and there is enough evidence to support that, that certainly there is something beyond this level of reality. To have a tangible experience of that takes it from a mental understanding to something that is very real. My experience of being with Linda in the barn and actually be in this place where heaven and earth seem to collide, helped me to know on a complete level that life goes on regardless of what happens to our bodies.
Wisdom: Do you think that your earlier spiritual experiences made this transition a little bit easier?
James: Because some of the things I wrote about in the book happened in multi-dimensional ways, I’m accustomed to that. I was able to know the difference between a dream and something that is happening on a different level. Everything has prepared me.
Wisdom: What do you think makes people more receptive to the messages you are putting forth?
James: I think that The Barn Dance will touch people in a mass way. It is not just for people who are already on a spiritual path. The story itself is so relate-able, that people who have never been exposed to this type of material, will find a lot in it. That’s the reason I wrote it the way I did. When you are telling a story, they can relate to it. That is why people are getting so excited about The Barn Dance, because the themes are universal.
Wisdom: What are the loud and clear messages you would like people to receive from the book?
James: I hope, that like me, people have a tangible experience that death is not the end of life and they can have direct, even face to face communication with their loved ones who have passed to the other side. Because of the experiences I have had and wrote about in the book, I was able to map out a method that could help people have a similar experience. I put it together into a scientific study called Dream Dancing. There are about 300 people in the study who were practicing these techniques. A little over 50% of them had very real, tangible experiences, very similar to mine that they were able to verify. I think this is the overall benefit, not just reserved to what I experienced. There are ways that we all have a tangible, face to face experience with our loved ones, regardless of whether they have passed to the other side.
Wisdom: In many ways, is Linda just as ‘real’ to you as she was when she was alive? Is her presence that solid for you?
James: In the experience I had in The Barn Dance, yes. It varies, of course, depending on what state of consciousness I am in. When you are asking the question, is what happens in a dream real or not, we also have to ask ourselves that question in our waking reality. All of the mystics have said that this waking reality is just another form of dream. We are dreaming different realities at different levels all the time. Just because something happens in a sleeping dream, does not mean it is not real and because something happens in a waking state, doesn’t mean that it is real. What we are challenging here, is what reality is and how we can access that. That being said, just because someone has left their body, doesn’t mean they can’t be just as real to us as they were before.
Wisdom: Another theme in the book was forgiveness and redemption. How did that play out for you?
James: The reason I wrote this book was because I had a great need to forgive myself for the ideas I had in my mind for how I could have saved Linda. Even though they were just ideas, they were still feelings I had that were holding me back. Writing this book was a huge part of my healing. We have all made mistakes and had regrets and situations that occurred that we wish we could have controlled. I think if we can learn to forgive ourselves and that everything is occurring exactly as it should, no matter how difficult or terrible, then it will not only help us forgive ourselves but forgive others. This is one of the greatest spiritual lessons we can learn.
Wisdom: And the other component of forgiveness isn’t just that which you offered yourself, but also toward the men who killed Linda.
James: One of things I wrote about in the book was that I was holding onto my anger toward these two men who committed this crime, so that I wasn’t able to see that it was really the anger I was holding onto for myself. I found that as I was able to forgive myself, it was easier to forgive them. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see justice be done or that I don’t want them to be taken off the street, but at the same time, if I ever did have the chance to be in front of them, I would hope I would feel the forgiveness toward them that I’m sure Linda does feel.
Wisdom: Was the crime ever solved?
James: The person that I wrote about in the book who initiated this whole journey for me, 3 ½ years after the crime, and confessed to it, is still in custody. He has not yet been charged, because they are waiting for him to give critical information. He is in jail for another murder anyway. There were two men involved. I try not to focus on that too much because it’s obviously very frustrating. It would be really wonderful for my daughter to see some completion of this.
Wisdom: What is your perception of God? I know you talk about that in the book and a reference that I thought was kind of cool; God as a Mexican woman.
James: My perception of God changes as I change. I have always been a deeply spiritual person. I was raised in a very Catholic family and had studied to be a priest. My experience of God evolves as I evolve and deepens as I deepen. It is the most important part of my life but it is not something that can be described in words. It is one of those intangible experiences that is so deep and so personal that it can only be felt. For me, the Divine is everywhere at all times and my only challenge is to be aware of that.
Wisdom: How do you live that awareness of the Divine in your life?
James: For me, the easiest and best way is to see it everywhere and try to have the mindfulness in every interaction to see that person as holy, to see that person as Divine and give that gift to others. The more I am able to give that gift to others and see it in others, the more I am able to give it to myself and see it in myself.
To learn more about James Twyman and The Barn Dance, go to www.james twyman.com
Edie Weinstein is a Renaissance Woman and Bliss Mistress who encourages people to live rich, full, juicy lives. A colorfully creative journalist and dynamic speaker, she is completing her first best seller The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordianary Into The Extraordinary. www.liveinjoy.org
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