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This is Your Brain on Novels!

by Cate Montana

Once upon a time I wrote books and articles about consciousness, psychology, enlightenment and quantum physics. Those were the topics I was passionate about. Those were the subjects I thought the world needed to know about. And then, after 20 years of total spiritual self-help immersion, reading and writing in those genres, I let it all go.

British-Zimbabwean novelist and Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing once wrote, “There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.” And in many ways I think she’s right. We have this notion that facts and figures are the stuff of Truth with a capital “T,” but that’s just our left-brain, predominantly masculine culture talking. Sure, facts give us intellectual comfort—it’s great knowing that Einstein agrees that reality is an illusion, “albeit a persistent one,” and that the quantum nature of the world means there really are no hard and fast boundaries between the electrons of the body I consider “mine” and the rest of the world. Everything really is One in this quantum universe of ours. And we have the facts to prove it.

But science has also shown that the information that comes to us delivering an emotional punch at the same time is the information that “sticks” best. It’s great reading about quantum entanglement and hear spiritual teachers talk about synchronicity and the Great Dance of Life and how “Everything happens for a reason.” But we “get it” at the down-deep visceral level of heart and gut and brain as we watch Frodo fight with Gollum at the edge of the fiery abyss in the bowels of Mount Doom in Mordor and see Gollum fall into the sea of lava, destroying the Ring of Power once and for all, realizing the role this most wretched and least of creatures had to play in the salvation of the world all along.

Yes, life really is a dance. But sometimes I think facts tend to get in the way of us realizing it. God knows, I have been blown out of my left-brain fixation on data lately, and by the least probable and least “factual” of all possible events.

An unlikely visitation

It was the spring of 2015 and I was on deadline writing a book—yep, a non-fiction book about ego evolution, psychology and enlightenment for Enliven Books. A friend invited me to stay at her house on the island of Paros in Greece for three months to finish it, and, because I’d always had a “thing” for Apollo, the Greek god of Light and Wisdom, I took a two-day trip up to Apollo’s temple complex at Delphi before catching the ferry to the island at the port of Piraeus.

Even though I’d been to the temple before, I did the typical tourist things the first day I was there. But day two I wanted to get away from the crowds, so I hiked up Mount Parnassus along the old E4 trail early in the morning, stopping to rest at one point in a small field of wild flowers overlooking the ancient stadium and river valley below. And all of a sudden this hunky guy appears out of nowhere, bounds over the rocks and comes to sit right next to me.

Before I could even move or utter a protest over the interruption of my peace and personal space he blurted out, “Hi! I’m Apollo. I have things to tell humanity. Let’s talk.”

And then he disappeared.

Seriously. This happened. Was it a figment of my imagination? A vision? A mirage? But the details were extraordinary and so clear! He was wearing a black t-shirt, very tight jeans, sneakers and a gorgeous smile. And his eyes were astonishing. Copper-colored and intense. It felt as if he’d looked right through me.

Needless to say, my morning hike was over before it really started. I was so shocked, all I wanted to do was get back to my hotel room and write about what happened. Which is what I did.

In the days that followed, I couldn’t get Apollo out of my mind. And, since I was already obsessed, for lack of anything else to do, I started writing about him. I tuned into those astounding eyes, went into a meditative state, and waited for information to come. And come it did!

Even when writing non-fiction, I go into a sort of alpha trance state, maybe even theta at times, because I write without stopping for hours at a stretch. Information just comes, much of it unexpected and startling, which is how I know I’m in “the Zone.” Writing about Apollo was the same thing, just on steroids. When I got to Paros and had to stop writing about him and start writing about transpersonal psychology and enlightenment, it was like tearing myself away from the macadamia nut chocolate toffee truffles at the counter in a gourmet sweet shop in Belgium.

Three days after cranking out my book The E Word: Ego, Enlightenment & Other Essentials and sending it to my publisher, I was back to writing about Apollo. I had to know what he had to say to humanity, and it was a lot!

From gender discrimination to the fall of the Goddess, from the story of the real mission of Yeshua and his wife, the priestess initiate Mary Magdalene, to a diabolical plot by one of Apollo’s fellow “gods” to keep humanity enslaved and ignorant of our true divine nature, from a past life as a priestess in Apollo’s temple at Delphi to an ancient cross-time love affair, it all came out in a rush. Three months later I finished Apollo & Me on the overnight train from Johannesburg to Cape Town in South Africa. After 30 years of being a dedicated journalist and non-fiction writer, I found myself the author of a powerful spiritual . . . romance novel.

Romance novel? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Nobody could have been more shocked than me. Or more dismayed. I was astounded by the information in the book and couldn’t wait to share it with my agent and the world. But frankly, I was ashamed of what I’d done. Romance was ridiculous! Mere frippery and froth! Who would take this seriously? If it hadn’t happened to me, I surely wouldn’t.

And yet Apollo’s message was so on target with our times and the whole #Me Too Movement and the terrifying political trend to “Christianize” the government of America, I couldn’t keep it under wraps. So, I sent it to my agent. And she loved it and fell in love with Apollo every bit as much as I did. But, being a dedicated agent of non-fiction, she didn’t know what to do with it either.

So I forgot about it.

Well, not exactly forgot. Who could forget Apollo?! But I set the whole thing aside. I had an important book coming out about enlightenment. Get with the non-fiction program Cate! I had to market and promote. I had to get out on stage and talk. Create sales funnels and lean in and create online courses and seminars and retreats and . . . I didn’t want to.

I’ve been a Type A, get it done gal my entire adult life, and I’m tired of it. And writing about Apollo and hearing the things he had to say about women and how we’ve been culturally programmed for over two-thousand years into a state of chronic self-loathing and dissatisfaction with ourselves—our bodies, our work performance, our sexuality, you name it—it all made me stop and reflect upon my own life.

As a kid I was dreamy and right-brained and wanted nothing more than to sit under a tree and commune with the fairies. I loved to read and was voraciously consuming books by the time I was six. School subjects, however, were disinteresting. History was fine (back to stories again!). But anything mathematical past basic practicalities, English grammar rules, the atomic weight of calcium . . . who the hell cared? Surely I didn’t. And my grades reflected my indifference.

But then, at the end of my freshman year in high school, I got tired of being the class dunce and decided to study. To lean into what I hated and do it anyway. On fire with determination, I graduated valedictorian of my high school class and never looked back.

Until now.

Apollo called me to a different way of being. He opened me up, softened me, undid the latch on my heart and encouraged me to blossom, not as a fiercely dedicated spiritual initiate, not as an intellectual, not as a “success” story, but as a woman.

I’m 67 and, frankly, I’m only just now beginning to understand what being a woman even really means. But that’s a whole story in itself. Right now I’m still getting over being embarrassed telling people I’ve written a romance novel. It’s like quantum physics and consciousness I can puff my chest out and brag about that. Romance? Love? Tenderness? The vulnerability and healing potential of intimate relationship? Not so much.

And yet research shows that reading literary fiction eases stress better than listening to music or going for a walk. In fact, studies reveal that within six minutes of silent fiction reading, participants’ heart rates slow and tension in their muscles eases by 68 percent. Psychologists have also found that story reading is a powerful way for people to get over prejudices and that students reading Harry Potter show more tolerance toward stigmatized groups. Reading literary fiction improves Theory of Mind (ToM) skills in adults, improving their ability to understand other peoples’ perspectives, beliefs and actions, developing empathy.

Wow. Who knew?

Maybe Apollo is smarter than I even thought, guiding me to embed ancient truths in a tale of literary romantic fiction. Who am I to say?

Apparently I’m just along for the ride, learning what it really means to go with the flow.

Cate Montana has a master’s degree in psychology and has just about given up writing non-fiction articles and books about consciousness, ego psychology, quantum physics and evolution. She is now a novelist and a pure romantic, blending head and heart in her first spiritual teaching novel Apollo & Me, now available at Amazon.com!

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