An Interview with Jasmine Langdon: A Cancer-Fighting Poet

1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

If only given three words I would say I’m determined, forgiving and optimistic.

2. The title “poems for hope” is the need of the hour. Why do you think that the title must include the word “hope”? How do you define “hope” in your words? 

Because of what has been going on in the world in terms of politics, weather, and the pandemic it’s easy to give up hope, and I want to help people who might otherwise give up.

Hope for me is letting go as much as I can and trusting that there is a higher power looking over us and helping us out. It helps me make sense of a lot of things I have been through such as abuse as a child. I hope that there was a reason for it all.

3. You also have podcasts, and one of them is  “The everyday spiritualist podcast.” Why do you think spirituality can help us deal with our problems?

I believe that we are all souls whether we want to believe it or not, and we all come from the same place.

I have found that regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs that when you need help the most is when you pray. It is when you surrender and look outside yourself and your mind.

It’s often at times when we are connected with our spiritual selves without letting our mind get in the way,  when we just meditate that the answers come to us, and we can make sense of the challenges in our lives and have gratitude for them at times.

4. As you have mentioned in your bio, you are a Buddhist. Would you like to share your thoughts about this?

Yes I am. I would say I’m not devout and it is a lifestyle choice more than a religion. Basically I noticed that I had a lot of the similar beliefs that are akin to Buddhism. That being that I am plant based (vegan), I believe in reincarnation, karma and forgiveness.

I also have many friends of different beliefs and faith and I believe that there is something good in every religion and I don’t support fundamentalism in anyway shape or form.

What I understand about Buddha is that he was a very deeply spiritual individual who did not judge any other religions. I used to consider myself an agnostic, and I was raised by atheist parents but I’m definitely spiritual, and I believe in talking to my guides.

I do not fear the other side, in fact, I feel strongly that we need to listen to our loved ones who have passed on. They are watching over us and trying to help us not make the same mistakes and to warn us. I often get little messages, even just the smallest things and they come true.

I hope this will be the case for the bigger things, but sometimes it’s just as simple as having an invisible presence with you who reminds you to sit in the park and watch the birds and the dogs play to notice the butterfly flying bye and the beautiful blue sky. 

5. Buddhism has its origins in India. Have you ever visited there, or do you have any plans to visit the place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment?

I haven’t been to India. I have thought about it and know many people have been and enjoyed it there. I have, however, been to the Nan Tien Temple here in New South Wales, Australia a few times, including a weekend retreat, where I was challenged to be in silence for the entire weekend. It really does clear your mind. It’s amazing how much you can communicate without speaking.

We were allowed to ask the monks questions. They are truly happy even though they don’t have to have big smiles they don’t have to prove it, it’s on the inside.

It’s the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been there and it is a long train ride, but I would like to go for a day trip. It’s been too long!

6. One of the things that Lord Buddha emphasised was that our desires are the cause of misery. How do you see this in the context of today’s world?

I think that really depends on what your desires are. If all you want is to be rich and successful in a superficial sense, then deep down you can’t possibly be truly happy in my opinion.

Instead if you, however, are someone who wants to be ethically wealthy, and help other people that is really healthy. I for one would like to be quite wealthy because I know that I can help a lot of people and if I had a platform on the world stage I could help more people because as it is, I don’t feel as effective as I want to be. Money and success are not bad, it’s all about how you use them and how you are obtain them. It’s definitely a karma thing. 

7. You are not a medical professional or counselor, but you are helping and reaching out to lots of people. According to your experience, what are the things that lack counseling these days?

I’ve had a lot of counseling myself over the years for various things that I’ve been through. And yes that can be very helpful and you learn lots of good coping techniques, but what is missing is connecting to your higher self.

It’s the spiritual aspect that’s missing. We are taught to be in our bodies and our heads. We are taught only about the tangible. What about what we can’t see?

Part of my therapy for myself now days is using energy work and meditation and Yoga. I find ASMR Reiki on YouTube to be so beneficial when I go to bed and yoga Nidra during the day to recalibrate my body and mind from a spiritual point of view.

You go to another place that is not in your body or mind when you meditate. It’s so healing and energizing and it can only do good.

8.Your poems are not just dealing with reality; they are also uncovering many myths. Why do you choose poetry as a medium to communicate your ideas ? 

Honestly, I don’t know if maybe I wrote a lot of in a past life but it’s just something that naturally flows out of me. There were long periods of time however where I didn’t write poetry. Sometimes I blog on WordPress instead or I journal. I feel like there’s so much to say and I just can’t stop. Not everybody wants to hear. I get it.

It took me a long time to understand that a lot of people feel overwhelmed by merely existing and they are trying to do the best I can based on what I’ve been told is how they are supposed to live.

Having never been married and not able to have children although I didn’t want to have children has given me more time to work on myself development over this lifetime so I have observed a lot from the sidelines, even before I got sick and even when I battled with depression for many years, I still wanted to say something, even if I didn’t completely understand what it was that I wanted to communicate.

I wish I was a songwriter and I love to sing, but that doesn’t come naturally to me so I stick with poetry. It’s more authentic and it’s freeing unlike more structured writing, that I’ve done such as sketch and stand up or storytelling. I don’t like to be confined to rules when I write because I feel it doesn’t flow from my higher self.

9. What is the reason behind your strength and the way you deal with your ongoing plundering of feelings and emotions while still motivating others? How do you manage to give yourself strength?

That is really difficult one to answer. I suppose I feel like I have a purpose here. I feel like I’m a very old soul and I want to help others in ways that they have helped me before when I’ve been low. Self-motivation is a difficult thing to master but if you make small changes every day and you stick with them for more than 21 days then you notice little improvements and that and it self can be extremely motivating and then you go well I am strong I can do this I can get better.

It could be for anything even if it’s just slightly better habits. When you’re not well or you’ve been through a lot of trauma or both it does make you a lot stronger and you’re a bit more willing to try more to get better if that makes sense.

10. Meditation in this world has become a necessity, but it shall also take one’s life to the ultimate goal as well as be understood while listening to your podcast. Can you suggest how to incorporate meditation into our daily routines ? 

If you are time poor, one thing that you can do in the morning is use YouTube for a guided meditation or yoga Nidra for 10 minutes.

There are so many options. Maybe you will balance your chakras, maybe a gratitude meditation or maybe instead you might choose to do some breath work instead.

It doesn’t have to take a long time and it doesn’t have to be a daunting task and it’s well worth the extra time.

Some people are so busy these days that they say they don’t have time to meditate, but there are so many different ways that you can meditate and it’s not just sitting cross-legged on a mat or on your bed.

Perhaps you are walking in the park and you hear the sound of the autumn leaves crunching underneath your shoes.

You can focus on that for awhile to calm your mind. If you’re watching ducks at the park and you’re focused on them. That is in meditation in itself. The key is to calm the mind as much as possible, which will relax the body and allow your true self to come through. If you keep it a good meditation practice every day for a long time, you will notice differences in your mood and attitude and your mental health.

11. One of the lines from your poem, “Tow the Line,” says that “In the age of political correctness gone mad, it is sad.” It’s not just deep but embedded with many meanings; can you please elaborate on this.

I think that it’s good to be politically correct, and that we have come so far in terms of the rights of people of colour,  LGBTQI+ and women’s rights, although we should have come further.

In my opinion however there are some people who are in what we call the cancel culture who do not listen to both sides of the story and assume that for instance all people in a certain group are the same.

To me this is so ignorant. It’s like as a vegan, when other vegans get angry with people who aren’t and start judging them.

They don’t understand the reasons why that person isn’t vegan. Maybe they have allergies to a lot of plant based foods. Maybe they’re doing a lot of other things to help animals. My point is this, fundamentalism in anyway shape and form is not healthy. We’ve seen it with religion and we’re seeing it in some of the activism.

I myself am a feminist, and like most feminists, I do not hate men.

And I say that as a woman who has been raped and also sexually harassed numerous times and sexually abused as a child for years, but I don’t hate Men. I dislike the way we raise Men to treat women as objects, and not as these amazing strong goddesses, who carry life in them and give birth. Women are so strong, and there are plenty of beautiful Men who understand this.

12. Another line that helped me realize my potential is from your poem, ” Don’t forget the power, be the power.” But in this world, alienation is very easy when we are powerful.  How does one not lose one’s own identity ? 

You really do need to have a strong character and a sense of worth to be able to stand on your own two feet and not be a carbon copy of many others.

I know a lot of people want to be accepted and I used to struggle with acceptance too for many years. I wanted to fit in and I didn’t like that I was weird but I believe a lot of us are weird in the best possible ways and once we embrace that quirkiness, that uniqueness in us, I believe that we will have better friendships and relationships and that will empower us to not have to fight so hard because we know we are worthy and we will attract all the good we deserve.

Part of that poem was using the belief that the law of attraction can change your life and I would love to see it used on a bigger scale.

It breaks my heart so much to see how much some people worse off than me fight all the time, and they only get so far and it’s not their fault. They deserve better.

13. As you mentioned, you are suffering from the incurable disease “multiple myeloma (cancer).” Would you like to share how you differentiate between the phases of your life before and after illness? 

Just before the diagnosis in 2013 I had just traveled overseas extensively for the first time, and had been living in Australia for about three years.

I was ticking things off the list that I had wanted to do for a long time, and I was challenging myself. I was getting into doing open mic stand-up comedy. I was catching up on all the things that I had wanted to do previously that many years of depression and playing it small had hindered me from doing. I was so proud of myself. Of course after I got sick I had to adjust big time  and make so many changes, and yet I was so determined to still do stand-up, study, improv, comedy, and travel that I just had to ask for help and make modifications. That’s the short answer!

It has not been an easy journey and my health obviously has to be my number one priority, but I have to make sure that I live as best I can.

The last few years have been a bit more challenging with the pandemic. I traveled in 2017 and 2018 to the USA, this time alone, and I did my best to forget that I had cancer. I had a great holiday.

A lot of people live with chronic illnesses, some even worse than mine. And yes you need to take medications and I hope there will come a day that I won’t need to, and you do need to take more care than the average person so you are more grateful.

I think the biggest difference is that anything that I was lacking in my spiritual practices from before late 2013 and the present day. There was a lot missing and this was an excellent opportunity to fill in those gaps and become more aligned.

14. Perspective varies, but society has fixed prejudices with regard to certain races, colours, dresses, or people. Do you feel discriminated against in society due to your illness? 

I wouldn’t say discriminated against, however in the past I knew that I couldn’t keep up with a lot of people and their social calendar and that has hurt at times because I know that my friends mean well and they don’t want me to get sick with viruses that I might not fight off as well as other people but I felt sometimes that I was a hindrance. It could be quite lonely at times as I was often single. No one tells you how hard it is to date when you have cancer.

15. Whenever we encounter problems with regard to our health, we are not just the ones to get affected; our families to get affected. How do you think a family can be seen as an “element of hope” for moving further? 

My Mother and Sister and closest relatives live in New Zealand. I have relatives in South Australia and I am in Sydney.

It does make it challenging with the distance, but I do like living in Sydney despite the health challenges because I do prefer the lifestyle. I have seen my family regularly except for the last few years and technology makes it possible for us to keep in touch more frequently.

As far as an element of hope, we do have hope and optimism that I will get better, that there will be a miracle, and I do have a lot of great friends here, even if I don’t see them as often as I’d like and when my closest family have met them when I visit, they know that I’m in good hands.

16. In a world where not just friends with benefits but also love with benefits is also appreciated, as love is measured on the scales of goodness and wellness, how do we find love that can accept us with our flaws and weaknesses? 

I haven’t had a lot of partners and I know that there is another person out there for me, maybe a few more but it’s challenging to put yourself out there, especially with all the viruses around I have to be extra careful. There’s a certain vulnerability and putting yourself out there on the dating scene regardless of your situation. I have tried online dating. It wasn’t for me and that has nothing to do with my health!

It’s been said before many times, but it bears repeating that we need to love ourselves first before anyone else can love us. The right person for you is someone who has the strengths that you would like to work on and vice versa so you can complement each other and help each other grow spiritually and share beautiful moments together.

17. As human beings, we are good at designing many things and objects to please others, but we forget to become designers of our own emotions and lives too. How do you think we can take control of our wellness ? 

A good way to start is simply to want to be better. For me what I did in my early 20s was focused on my mental health and though I had a lot of challenges I definitely did manifest a lot of good people in my life and a lot of good things.

If you’re not sure how to start, you have an abundance of things that you can look up on YouTube, Google. I’m showing my age here, but we didn’t have the Internet when I was growing up.

We had to learn by doing or by asking other people or getting therapy. The self-help book section in bookstores always fascinated me because you could change your life simply by changing the way you think which would then change the way you act.

And it’s a lifelong thing and you might need to try a lot of things so please don’t give up just because the first self-help guru you followed isn’t doing it for you. I’ve used a lot of different techniques over the years with a lot of different teachers and they all helped.

If you have big goals and big challenges, then be prepared for hurdles but it’s okay you’re getting some exercise. A little bit of a joke there with the hurdles!

18. Books speak louder than words because they are not just an accumulation of words but are read with imagination. How do you think the people suffering from illness or any hardships can make their way through these writings? 

The way in which I’ve written my poems, and my blog posts is to come from the point of view of someone who is going through similar situations but perhaps feels too scared to speak up or thinks society doesn’t care about them. They feel invisible. They fall through the cracks so much. We are in a time now where we talk more about these issues which is amazing and I’m so happy to see it.

Sometimes just having someone speak up for you is enough for you to feel what you’re going through has meaning and that you are important and your existence is not in vain.

19. In your poems, you have dwelled on the ongoing struggle and responses to the challenges one faces in life, and importantly, how to understand reality by being attentive to our surroundings. Why do you think it’s wrong to draw early conclusions? 

In my personal experience, I used to overprotect myself by jumping to conclusions. It was a coping strategy from early childhood. However, many of us often assume the worst of others and situations and jump to conclusions, because that is what we’ve been taught. I challenge people to maybe take a breath and step back and look at the big picture.

Maybe we have judged someone and we don’t know their situation.

How many times have you overreacted and realized it wasn’t a big deal when you did whatever it was you needed to do? Do you think someone didn’t like you when really they were just having a bad day?

These are just examples of why I think it’s important to focus on what’s going on around us and be more self-aware.

20. Cancer is one of the diseases that can make us give up and fall into darkness, but you have found light in the darkness gracefully . Can you help other cancer patients learn how to deal with this constructed darkness around them ? 

One thing that I have learnt is that and I know this is controversial for a lot of people, but it is that we create illness in our body from our thoughts and our feelings.

To me, it makes a lot of sense based on what I went through as a child and a teenager and some of the choices I made in my 20s that I would have this kind of illness however it’s not right or fair given how much work I’ve done in all areas of my life and yes I do have my moments where I feel like I don’t understand why anymore and I don’t want to try any more, but I have been in that darkness before the diagnosis and I stayed there a long time, drowning, and hardly ever coming up for air, because it was a safe place to be so I do not judge anyone who is in that place.

Knowing that you are in control of your thoughts, and you can meditate to help you deal with your feelings can give you light in the darkness, when you are dealing with something as serious as cancer, and in fact, many illnesses and just your general overall health.

It’s like an invisible force has given you a torch that you can use to shine a light in the dark tunnel of this period of your life.

When I say thoughts, I mean positive affirmations. Start small, even just saying I approve of myself. I am okay. I am strong. That can help you through so much.

21. In contemporary times, people are so obsessed with the management, control, and regulation of their minds, but contrary to that, your poems express how it is important to have “liberation of mind,” which is like freeing oneself from one’s own clutches. Why do you think so ? 

It’s important to come from your heart space, which is how you liberate your mind and regulate your mind. I actually used to do it the other way for years until I realized that is why you only get so far in manifesting a better life.

It’s a form of control and though it is seen as positive to use mind power it’s not quite what self help gurus intended. A lot of them are very spiritual and a part of aligning yourself. Mind, body and soul is connecting with others and asking for help.

Even the wisest soul doesn’t know everything.

22. One of the fantastic things we found on YouTube is “mockumentary.” Would you like to share what it’s all about?

I like to think I have a dark sense of humour, a bit quirky and unusual and I like mockumentaries. My favourite is what we do in the shadows. I have seen that movie so many times!

I noticed that I am a quote-unquote self-help junkie in that I have tried pretty much everything over the years and it never hurts anyone but maybe I take it too far and I could do less?

With this in mind, and some spare time and limited resources, I decided to create a few characters. I also interviewed my best friend, who is incredibly talented, and very funny as well and the other half of the comedy duo that I’m a part of. It was an interesting challenge, editing it as I’m not a filmmaker, and I was using iMovie. I didn’t know how would be received. I think it’s quite clever but a lot of what I do is very niche. I know a lot of us to assume that you couldn’t have an unusual addiction so I wanted to play with that idea as well.

23. You are an actor, and the roles that you play deal with the lives of ordinary people, not heroes. Is acting helping you know yourself, or has it reshaped your personality? 

I like to think that I’m playing a different version of myself sometimes with accents. How would I be if I was more focused on a certain aspect of my personality? I quite enjoy playing comedic characters in my web series. I imagine if I was for instance like my character Susie all the time I would be so annoying. The accent was just something that came up. It’s her personality that is so different to me. It’s kind of fun playing someone who’s kind of ignorant.

Many actors will tell you that acting is play. It is fun to be someone else, but know who you are.

24. As you have videos with regard to yoga portraying the human relationship with nature, why do you think yoga is a healing medicine for people? 

That video of yoga life is actually intended as a sketch but I like the idea of it portraying the human relationship with nature. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I created a new fake posture at the end of the video!

Yoga gets you in touch with your mind and body simultaneously, which makes it easier for you to be calm and in touch with your soul. There is a reason why it’s been around for a long time.

I do yoga in bed every day, even if it’s just 5 to 10 minutes. It’s made a huge change in my life.

I used to use the mat a few times a week for a few years but I found that was hard to keep up after I got sick. Then I did Pilates for years and then I broke my shoulder.

Originally, I wanted to improve my flexibility and tone up and be consistent, no matter how fatigued I was so I got curious on YouTube to see if there was a way to modify yoga and I found so many options so I saved them on a playlist and hope that people come across them when they find my channel.

It was one of the best things I have ever done. I feel so much stronger in mind and body.

25. You have mentioned gratitude, but it’s very easy to be grateful in your good times and as you face health issues. How are you able to practice gratitude in such situations where negativity is at its peak? 

That is when you need to practice gratitude the most. I’ve actually been practising gratitude for a very long time. The first person who taught me this was my Mother. I remember many a time when she said write a list of what you’re grateful for and you’ll feel better. She was right.

Sometimes all it is, is your grateful for a roof over your head, a bed to sleep in, food to eat. I have noticed that there are people with very little in the world and they are more grateful than a lot of us who have so much. It is so important to be grateful. If you are in a state of gratitude on a regular basis than you are saying to the universe that you have a lot to be grateful for, and the law of attraction dictates that you will have more to be grateful for. I know it seems very simplistic, but we overcomplicate things and I have learnt over the years to focus my energy on the things that are working and concentrate on those the most.

26. According to you, what is more important, being meditative or practising meditation? 

Both are very important. If you practice meditation regularly then you will find that you are in a meditative state on a more regular basis and therefore you will be less reactive and more calm and challenging situations. I have found that to be the case anyway.

27. The health industry is one of the fastest growing industries, making millions of people not just dependent on medicines but also healing them physically but not mentally or emotionally. How do you see this in your context ?

I absolutely dislike how this industry has overmedicated and probably misdiagnosed a lot of people. I know that when it comes to things like certain operations and lifesaving treatments after an accident for instance that this is so important and necessary, but the toxicity and the side-effects can be so unbearable and I have dealt with these things for years.

There is so much extra work that you need to do to prevent yourself getting worse and to monitor and manage side-effects. 

I just had my regular acupuncture session today and I was so exhausted because of an increase in medication. I know that science helps and there are a lot of medical professionals that mean well, but we’re not focusing enough on the root issue that often comes from your mental health and lifestyle.

I call it the Band-Aid effect that the western world uses where they wait until either it’s too late, or it’s really bad and operate, nuke and the poor body either struggles or gets worse or takes a long time to heal.

I hate chemo. I think it’s so wrong but it’s something I had no option to do, especially given how sick I was getting, and this is all they knew.

There’s an old saying that my Mother’s Mother told her and it goes like this “ an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and it makes me think of Chinese medicine in the sense that it has a strong belief in preventing illness.

28. What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

What surprised me is that I had a lot of poems to choose from, enough to make two books. I also found that when it came to getting my book out there that was a lot of options for self publishing and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it, especially if you don’t have the finances to do it.

29. What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? What are common traps for new authors?

Do your research in regards to self publishing. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money, especially if you don’t have a big budget for marketing and if you have sales experience, and perhaps some social media promotion experience, that can be very useful.

If you’re writing about something that no one else is really talking about see that as a blessing. Also don’t worry about sales because even just a couple of sales is a win. I also recommend E Books because it costs a lot less, saves trees, no postage and is cheaper for people to buy.

30. What are your best memories of holidays or family gatherings as a child?

I had a very turbulent childhood so I don’t really have a good holiday or family gathering memories however as I got older, I do have lovely memories of taking road trips with my Mother and sister in beautiful New Zealand. I loved going through small towns with them. Mum is an excellent driver and great company and my Sister and I love to play DJ.

I do miss the road trip days sometimes.

31. Do you have any plans to work on your next book, if yes could you share something about it.

I would like to write another poetry book focusing on a different topic yet to be decided and I plan to release a hard copy of Poems For Hope.

I’ve been working on my bio on and off for years, because I’ve had so many unusual things and challenging things happen in my life that I feel I need to document it and unleash it on the world someday soon in the hope that it will help a lot of people. Watch this space!

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Deeksha, a sociology student, has a unique passion for advocating for human rights and social justice issues. She is not only an avid reader but also a thoughtful and vocal participant in discussions related to these topics. Despite her busy academic schedule, Deeksha also finds time to indulge in her love for dogs. Her diverse interests and commitment to social causes make her a well-rounded and inspiring individual.