HeartLight: Finding who you are

February 2018 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

Author Amy Gigena. Melissa Wagoner

By Melissa Wagoner

Author Amy Gigena did not set out to write an inspirational book on living an authentic life but through a happy accident that is exactly what she did.

“I think the private side of me kind of busted out and into the world,” she said.

A certified health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Gigena was working on a healthy eating guide for busy parents when she unintentionally sent the wrong file to her editor.

“I thought I had given them this file,” she said motioning to a completed version of Mama Bear’s Guide to Healthy Healthier and Healthiest, “and I had given them this one,” she continued, picking up the published copy of HeartLight.

The manuscript her editor received was a creative writing prompt that Gigena used to get herself warmed up before getting to work on the eating guide.

“This was my private journey,” she explained. “It was just this thing I did.”

Initially embarrassed, Gigena was shocked to learn the editor loved what she had received and wanted to publish it. Curious if this was a one-off reaction, Gigena began showing the document to others and was amazed by the reception.

“I showed my family and my sisters and they were like bawling,” she remembered. “I thought, ‘Is it me? Am I triggering something?’”

Written in a unique, poetic style and in a dyslexia-friendly font, HeartLight is a love story written about two characters referred to only as “she” and “he,” but for Gigena it is more than that, it is also the story of life and spiritual awakening.

“Your ‘heartlight’ is that thing that makes you who you are,” Gigena explained. “When you’re young it’s usually love that makes you feel that for the first time. Through rules and restrictions and societal expectation we lose it. Something makes us stop saying, ‘Who am I?’”

Gigena gathered much of her inspiration for the book through her job as a health coach and the client stories she was privy to, but also from her own struggles.

In her 20s, Gigena suffered from a debilitating chronic disease that left her searching for answers in non-conventional places, including Chinese medicine.

Young Gigena’s revelations would later inspire her to study alternative forms of healthcare, and also helped her to heal again in her 30s from pregnancy-related complications and a serious car crash.

“There are so many people in life that are going through tremendous things,” she said. “So many people going through life wearing a brave face mask.”

The mask is one of the many symbols used throughout HeartLight to describe the loss of identity that many people feel. Other symbols include the protecting shield and the moon and stars, all illustrated throughout the book by Gigena’s mother, Kathryn Zemba Marras.

HeartLight, released in January of 2017 has been awarded the Heart & Soul Book Award from Holl & Lane Magazine and One Idea Press. The last page of text has also been included in the e-cookbook, In a New York Minute and Gigena was a featured author at a self-help event in New York. This spring she is looking forward to continuing the forward momentum by acting as the keynote speaker at a conference in Portland.

Although the last year has been a whirlwind for Gigena, she is excited and humbled by the attention it is receiving.

“It’s just in me,” she laughed. “I’m a storyteller by nature.”

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