Writer Gunilla Norris explores the spiritual landscape of friendship

Gunilla Norris' new book, 'Sheltered in the Heart', is available at Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic.
Gunilla Norris' new book, "Sheltered in the Heart", is available at Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic.

For Gunilla Norris the subject of friendship is one that has been simmering within her, most of her life, and at age 75 it was time to write about it. And she does just that, in her latest book titled “Sheltered in the Heart – Spirituality in Deep Friendship” released this past November by Homebound Publications out of Pawcatuck.

“Friendship has meant so much to me in my life. I couldn’t not write about it,” says Norris, a practicing psychotherapist who has written six other books on spirituality, 11 children’s books and one book of poetry. “Deep friendship is a longing everyone has.”

Her spiritual texts present an interesting dichotomy being both a quick read and an intriguing invitation into the subject matter that prompts slow, soulful reflection. Her previous books lean toward an awareness of spirituality in the everyday, writing about the simple places we experience it like our homes, gardens, and in silence.

“I’ve been walking around noticing the spirituality in every day, looking at it (and writing about it) from every angle I could think of,” she says. “But it’s about people and how we need each other and how we see the beauty and holiness in each other.”

Deep friendships invite us into being more fully ourselves, more authentic and allow us to express who we really are. She points out that with all the technology and texting in our culture, a lot of relating to each other isn’t happening. We are connecting, but not heart to heart.

“Friendships are just crucial in my life,” says Norris. “Deep spiritual friendships are about helping each other grow in essence, in self-development and self-expression. People want to be heard and understood.”

“Sheltered in the Heart” is titled to express the way we are sheltered in each other through our friendships. Sheltering is not smothering, she explains. Sheltering is holding open hands, allowing a person to breathe and to just be. She considers this book a meditation, not meant to be read cover to cover but rather a little bit at a time, sitting with the invitation to self-discovery and connection.

Although her poetry and children’s books are no longer in print, her series of books on spirituality continue to be reprinted and used by groups for discussion. Norris continues to write poetry but it is purely for her own enjoyment. She jokes that she is “a psychotherapist that supports a poet.”

Friendships are extraordinarily meaningful for Norris, who was born in Sweden and came to the United States when she was nine years old. She met her very first friend when she was 4½ years old in Sweden and they are still friends today. In fact, she has a group of friends that are scattered all over the country who have been getting together regularly for 40 years.

“I’m so grateful for that group of people,” says Norris. “It’s not about proximity but the quality of the connections. There is a longing for more substantial relationships. As things get more stressful in life we depend on each other more. These relationships are something that people need in the world. It’s the unlived part of our life we mourn most and not the lived part. Friendships help us in this discovery.”

The single most important thing people can do to nurture friendships is, “listening.”

She wraps up her book with this simple yet poignant, Quaker reminder, “to listen a soul into disclosure and discovery is the greatest service one human being can offer another.”

Her previously published books on spirituality include “Being Home”; “Becoming Bread”; “Inviting Silence”; “Journeying in Place”; “A Mystic Garden” and “Simple Ways”. Her books are available at Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic. For more information, visit www.homeboundpublications.com.

And despite her reservations about technology and the how it affects how we relate to one another, she has given in to the necessity of social media to connect with her readers. Readers can find her at www.Facebook.com/Gunilla.Norris. She chooses a subject each month and posts a few thoughts about it twice a day.




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