“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” — Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 5)
Kristy Sweetland’s Stark Raving Zen is a haunting memoir of paranormal experiences, mysticism, voices, ghosts, memories and dreams. It’s a rocky cross-country ride in a green station wagon with a dog for company and a seemingly endless parade of mind-boggling happenings. It’s a story of self-discovery and acceptance, a spiritual journey that leads Sweetland to a new life and her readers, perhaps, to a new and different understanding of what’s possible.
Sweetland had a successful career in veterinary medicine and a remarkably open and loving husband, but she struggled with staying sane. She had dreams that were unsettlingly real. She saw and did things that couldn’t possibly be true. She had out-of-body experiences and heard disembodied voices. Afraid that her friends and family, and her beloved husband, would think she was crazy, she kept these things to herself, which made her life even more unbearable.
LIFE’S TURNING POINT
When she finally decided to share her inexplicable experiences, they became real and they became important — and it is here that Sweetland’s story really begins.
With her husband’s encouragement, she quit her job, sat with her indecision for a few weeks, and then a calm and comforting voice in her left ear told her, “Go find your spirit, child.” She henceforth admits that she is, officially, hearing voices; and she’s listening.
Intending to drive from her home in Minnesota all the way to California, where she would learn to read Tarot cards, she packs up the car and heads west. For the next ten days, Sweetland toggles between ecstasy and terror, her only anchor being her dog Arya. Ghostly animals gallop by, the landscape shimmers with electricity, hotel room keys don’t work, and televisions turn on by themselves.
SPIRITS AND ANGELS
As Sweetland tries to get a grip on her sanity, she is joined by a couple of spirit guides: an aged Apache Indian who has been long dead, and a little sprite of a girl named Maggie. She drives through blizzards, mountains and cities, zigzagging her way west, but she never makes it to California. New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, spoke to her — so did a bobcat in the dark, the archangel Michael, and of course, the gentle voice in her ear. Sweetland is a brave writer and sojourner, and she takes her vision quest seriously.
One can’t help but admire her husband, who understands and supports her through it all. She tells him about the ghosts and voices and the Indian who appears in her mirror, and he never falters in his belief in her. This is a belief that centers her.
Stark Raving Zen is a magnetic read for believers and non-believers alike. It’s because Sweetland is a fine storyteller with a talent for making the seemingly-impossible suddenly seem quite acceptable, and she makes the exploration of one’s soul appear to be quite simply the right thing to do.
Learn more about Sweetland on her BookTrib author profile page.