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Write the Block

May 9, 2012

See it

It’s like a bruise, best I can describe it, purply-yellow and tender. Radiates shocks of panic to see it approached for touch. Breath hikes up into the lungs and hovers there needing convincing to come out.

Describe it

It’s long, and narrow. Imagine a length of, imagine a street dash, the length and width of a paint strip in the street, put there to keep the driving in line. And bruisy in colored lanes along its length, swollen purple, swollen tattoo blue, swollen gray to yellow.


That was yesterday’s anxiety. A bruise. Today’s is a star at the back of the neck, top of the shoulders, arms of it jutting up, cutting into the air around my head, above the shoulders.


There’s a woman next to me. She got up to stand in line for a drink and her laptop stood open. “Finding Home,” the screen read, chapter headings cascading from the title, organized, articulated, achieved. I felt home there for a moment, calmed by the order, the accomplishment. Then she came back with her drink, glass mug, foamy coffee, fingers gripping the handle and her eyes on the screen like tractor beams. I hate her for it, for the way her body leans in like a bird with each heft and sip. Down goes the mug. Up immediately with the heft and slurp, dainty, driven, wholly unnoticed, she’s so on track for coming home, while I write the purpled symptoms of the block.

There’s a guy in my line of vision wearing a wedding ring, reading student papers. I know this is what they are because I ate several lunches with him years back in this same downtown. He didn’t wear his ring then. He was in the middle of a divorce, teenage daughters in his stories as we stabbed salad in sunshine, shade, and moments unfolding that would never matter again.

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I’m writing memories for a while, in exploration. Staring out the window in the mornings, letting them fall out of lit corners and dark folds, rustling leaves, blunt sunshine of spring. Join me if you please. Write yours in the comments, or link to your blog. Explore with me.


Sure, waking up is like swimming in the ocean, breathless, totally invigorating, with wave after wave of aliveness.

It also happens that aliveness in the form of an ocean wave can kill you if you don’t know how to relate with it. Which is maybe the feeling people get when resisting the things they fear — fear of getting married, of quitting a job, taking off on a trip, of admitting you’re wrong, allowing others to influence you.

Guess what. We get the waves in life whether we’re awake to them, riding them out like a ocean nymphs, or blindsided by them, trammeled by turns of fate.

I give you…

How to relate with a wave,

in the ocean as in life

1. Float over it

You see the wave coming. It’s a manageable size. The weather is sunny. There are people all around. This is fun. The wave approaches, you push off the sandy bottom and float over the wave’s surface. Your body feels weightless. Your skin tingles in the cool salty swirl. At the end of the day, you walk to shore smiling, hungry, and promising to do more invigorating things in your life. Your senses are awakened.

In life, consider this wave an opportunity you’ve made for yourself, a moment you’ve spared to indulge in play. Your brain thanks you with 10 new ideas, your body thanks you with 100 delicious sensations.

2. Dive under it

This one is over your head. The best way through is to dive under it. That means taking a deep breath and committing to the body of it, working with its circular motion to go deep under its core. Here, beneath the wave, close to the ocean floor, it can pass over you without taking you with it.

Sometimes you get the full nasal enema. Sometimes you get rocked by a bigger force than you gave the oncoming wave credit for. But you’ve come to know your strength with this set. You’ve gained appreciation for the mortal part of you and the soulful stretch. You know how far to push yourself and how far you can be pushed. You’re awake to a lot more about yourself and the world around you than you bargained for when you strapped into the suit earlier that day.

3. Surf along it, ride its power for pleasure

Some people are as nuts about inviting new vitality as others are about hitting the beach during a storm swell (which, surfers will tell you, lead to the same result). This wave is coming. It is in your life. You have chosen it, or it has chosen you. What do you do?

What if you velcro into the ankle leash, paddle out and get as much out of the set as you can? Maybe the first two take you down. You get tumbled, have to reel in your board, ground your back into the sand on that last one. But the waves are still coming, you’ve still got your board. The water is churning but your lungs are keeping you very much alive and your adrenalin is promising you that there is something here for you, something not just to survive, but to seize, live, take away, in the present and in memory, something that will add to or take away from your soul, depending on how you face it. What do you do?

4. Get trampled and thrashed in its churn, hit the bottom, suck sand, surface spewing, limp to shore

It’s like this sometimes. The wave is stronger, bigger, moved by the cosmos — the moon and her dance with the tides — negligent of your circumstance, outsizing your strength to do anything but hold on. And sometimes holding on seems improbable too.

When the wave has crashed, and your ears are full of sand, your suit is ripped, and water is streaming from your nose, you barely recognize that the vertigo is not you still spinning under the wave, it’s your limbs lurching to the beach. It’s a point one step ahead, and then the next, it’s your eyes fixed on the direction of the waves and following them. It’s your breath, hurting in your chest, reminding you, yes, you’re still here. It’s your world afterward for a while — sometimes a very long while — trying to right itself to the rocking that you got.

And when you right yourself, breath by breath, warm meal by warm meal, sleep by sleep, you find that, crazily, wrongly, beautifully, perfectly, you have emerged from a shell that held you, new skin that senses, new eyes that see new views, bigger, tender love. You have grown.

To survive a trample…

Take a deep breath, tuck into a ball, sink as close to the ocean floor as possible, squeeze your eyes tight, and feel for the wave to pass over you. You’ll get tumbled. But the closer you are to the ground, the less pounding you’ll receive from Mother Nature’s canter, leggy lady that she is.

The takeaway? Survive the thing. Take the tumble. Get close to the ground, i.e., get as grounded as you can, in perspective, possibility, the gift of memory, and the reach of the hero that is changed by challenge. Lose it when you need to. You almost lost your life in that one, after all. But first survive. And then grow into, not what’s left, but what the experience has birthed you into.

Look at that. Wave after wave, back in the primordial soup. Evolving.


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Wake up with me for the 7-day Wake Up. March 20-27. Join us + watch your life pop open. Cost: Zero dollars and a few dawns.

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Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.


Soy means “I am”

Cooking calms me; all its ingredients and sensual gratification organize me back into making sense, when, somehow, I’ve stopped making it. Last week, I was reading a new cook book when I remembered what I learned on the yoga mat: sometimes it’s bliss, sometimes it blows. If you can be equally as present when it blows, the bliss will find you right there and carry you.

I’d been in a surly mood for a couple of days running. Hungry for dinner, radio playing, I flipped through the book, reading snippets, and landed on a page about soy. As I began to read it, the radio announcer introduced a story about soy.

Tiny synchronicities

I love when that happens. Randomly reading about soy while just as randomly hearing it on the radio? I read a bit more till I realized there was an opportunity here. The translation of “soy” popped into my head. “I am,” I heard myself say. In Spanish, “soy” means “I am.”

I let my eyes hover over the page, its content no longer the point. “What about ‘I am’ in this moment?” I think. And immediately it reminds me that I am a part of the relationship that has been pissing me off for two days. If I materialize into it, commit to it even if it pains me (I think they call this “getting accountable”), just like on the yoga mat, then there’ll be a state change. What blows will turn blissful. I’ll be let off the hook of my anger. By seeing myself as part of the problem, part of the whole, I’m no longer out of synch. I’m flowing, stretching, seeing where I can adjust my posture, my point of view, my compassion.

Writing is listening

That was the end of the mood, and a perfect example of “Writing Is Listening.” Writing is the exercise of listening to our lives, our characters, the worlds we’re building in our stories, and assembling them into words. But if you’re tuned into the muse and listening, it’s inevitable you’ll get as much advice for your life as you do your story.

She shows up in the most curious of places. Stuck on something? Be present with the irritation, the anger, the overwhelm. Hang out with it for a while and feel it, knowing the bliss is out there in the shape of a muse who leaves answers where you least expect them.

Speaking of muses…

Our recent Story Telling Party ended with a wild and beautiful story about synchronicities between nature and death and life and magic and fear and expectation. Everyone’s stories had us perked up and listening, and settling deep into understanding of ourselves and each other in new ways. Sign up on the sidebar to receive an invite to the next Story Charming Party this February in Portland.


I watched the sun come up this morning. The sky was pink, and smooth like an eggshell. It’s possible my eyes were pink too. Knowing I wouldn’t get an ounce of sleep last night, I gave in, left the lights off, and let my senses awake. And made a video for story tellers, and lovers of the night…


And I told a story about another late night, under the moon, finding unpracticed senses and in doing so, finding new meaning to a moment, to life, to story…

What is your favorite night story?

Tell it in the comments below, or tell it in a blog post and link it here. We want to hear your stories of the night.

Video 1 in text – Night is for Writers

Waking new senses

Hi Everyone. Pema Teeter here. You ever get the hiccups and hear that the way to stop hiccups is to drink, upside down, out of the opposite rim of the glass?

It works and it makes the hiccups go away. Maybe because you’re discombobulated.

So I’m coming to you now in my pajamas because I had a kind of backwards and discombobulated day. I came home from the chiropractor at 5, I’ve been working a lot and wore myself out apparently. I laid down after the chiropractor and woke up at about 10:30.

What do I do now? I’m wide awake. It’s the middle of the night.

I’ve left the lights off except for this one here. I’ve listened to the stillness. It is so quiet. The Fremont Bridge is crossing the Willamette River outside my window and I can hear the cars on it. It’s late night. It’s about 12:45 in the morning. So there are only a few cars but just enough to make me wonder who else is up at this hour.

I will often say in my writing that writing is listening. And that story is living it. And when you do something differently than you’re used to doing, you get to have a whole different sensory experience than you are used to having. And when you have a different sensory experience, your brain and your body picks up a whole new language. It’s like having a new palette on your–a new, like, set of colors on your palette, a new mixture of paints for the story that you’re painting.

If you are stuck in something that you’re writing, or that you’re trying to express, and you are getting driven crazy because you can’t get out of it, take a nap. Wake up at like 10pm, 9pm, and let yourself feel what’s around you. Let yourself feel the nighttime, and feel the air on your skin, how it’s different from what you feel in the day when you’re rushing around and when you’re not necessarily noticing the sensation on your skin.

You can actually smell the coolness of the air.

You can let your sight be muted by the darkness.

Listen to your imagination run in these new circumstances.

It’s amazing the effect that it has on the piece that you’re writing, or on unlocking the creative flow if you’re not necessarily working on anything but you are looking for inspiration.

Just turn out the lights, let the night come, and do something differently.


Video 2 in text – Sensory Deliciousness of Night: A Story


When I was in college, it was finals week and I was living in the student housing co-op. And we would have meal nights. Shared meals together. And there were a ton of people in the apartment, we had just finished eating. The tension and the energy was high because we all had to go study for finals.

And somebody, one girl, mentioned, “Hey, let’s go down to the beach, let’s go walk on the beach.” Five of us walked down the stairs, out of the bright yellow light of our apartments into the darkness. We were in Santa Barbara and the night is this rich velvet midnight blue in the night sky. We walked into the scent of eucalyptus trees that were lining the road that got so little traffic because it was a dead end. It reached the cliff that was on the ocean.

We walked down to the cliff and we were walking along the cliff and the night was so full…in its…blueness. And the moon was full, so it was bright.

You could see our profiles like we were paper dolls clipped out and someone was moving us through the night.

And we were just, kind of after a little while, we were kind of entranced by the moment. We were walking along in silence and listening to our footfalls. And, we walked along so long in this coolness after so much heat, up in the apartment, we found ourselves walking down this little separation in the cliff onto the beach. And so it was even cooler down there a little bit closer–not a little bit, a lot closer, right there on the beach.

And then all of a moment, we all just stripped and ran in the water. We’re jumping around in the waves and dunking underneath the waves, and we’re laughing and yelling, and you know, again, after a little bit, we all just fell silent to something that was bigger than us that night.

The moon, carving us out of our existence in the middle of this beautiful ocean night, muted by the silver of the moon and the blue of the sky. We were so very little of our daylight color. We were washed in blue and silver.

We were tiny on the earth that night. And we felt it.

We could just hear it in our silence with each other. And the feel of the salt air on our skin and the water. You know, we went in with a plunge and we came out with this kind of enlivened quiet.

It was really an intensely beautiful experience that we wouldn’t have had if somebody hadn’t suddenly decided, “Screw it! Let’s put off studying for finals for 20 minutes. Let’s go into the night. Let’s change up the scene for a minute.”

What that turned into was an experience that none of us will ever forget.

So, go out into the night. Or turn your lights off and let the night come into your windows. And open the window. And feel the feel. Do something differently if just for a moment, and just on purpose, to see how it changes up your sensory experiences, and how they affect what you’re writing.



Moth, meet Flame

I just got off the phone with Meg Worden, of and Feed Me, Darling. If you don’t know her yet, you’ll know her soon. Because the bonfire she’s building on her beach is so bright, so gorgeous, so big and hot and primal and core, that it’s easy to recognize. It provokes the personal fire, the one within. One glimpse and it’s easy to warm to from a mile away. Easy to move into from the darkness.

Meg knows darkness. As we all do. But she speaks it. In the process and practice of a lifetime, she unclouds her light and just lets it riot. How? In the feeling. In the living. In the telling.

We talked about our businesses and our relationships. We’re both restless explorers and noodle the nature of NEW when we talk. In our conversation’s edgiest moments, we’re addicts remembering a high–moving cities, meeting people, growing fast, figuring it out. Or fantasizing a score–absorbing experiences, eating them alive, forgetting to breathe…then…remembering our heads…cooling out…basking in flight.

What I loved so much about today’s conversation was what she said about telling. Sharing. Letting it out. She said:

“I’m building deep relationships by telling my core story. When you decide to hold totally true to your vision, people are attracted like moths.”

To a flame, people. We want that flame. We WANT it!

A break off the big light

We want it because we can feel our own flickering to get out.

What is your core story? Do you know? Does it hound you to get out? Do you push it back in thinking you’ll be castigated if you share it? Will you be?

What is the prison you freed yourself from? Or the one you’re still in?

Meg also said:

“Your awareness expands the entire shape of you. When you are unconsciously feeding yourself, it IS poverty, even if you’re eating filet mignon.”

She’s talking about food here, right? Being the health:business smart cookie that she is. But I’m gonna spin it to story. What. Are you eating. Unconsciously? What untrue trash are you feeding yourself about NOT sharing. About NOT having a story to express? About not being enough to say what there is for you to share.

You know what I know? What I absolutely know down to every electron in my cells? Your. Story. Changes. Lives. No shit. So does mine. So does your friend’s, your partner’s, your mom’s.

You know why? Because each story is a little (or big) break off the big light. It’s a spark from the big fire around which we ALL warm our hands. It’s life. Individually and in numbers. More specifically, it’s information that someone else needs. Not only in the words, mind you, but in the soul that you express while expressing them.

Snap. Crackle. Listen.

Ever hear someone say about a musician, “That gal, she could sing the phone book and I’d listen”?

People listen. It’s all we want to do. We want to hear and be heard. We want to know we exist, and we know it by seeing ourselves in others. In their stories. In their expression.

So what’s your phone book?

Better yet, what are your stories? Where is your voice? Are you singing it?

Here’s another gem from my conversation with Ms. Meg today:

“What is the difference between the people who lead and the people who don’t? It’s not that leaders have more of anything. It’s that they have the ability to walk into it.”

They have the ability to see, and accept, and BE all that they are, and all that there is for them to be. And to walk into it. That’s it.

I know, right? Phenomenal.

If you are worried that you don’t know who to be, or what to do, or with what to lead, tell your stories. Take a listen to who you are. The answers will come with the expression.

Said Meg:

“What we’re creating is evolving in a way that creates the next hit. We need to just create a life for ourselves that accommodates who we are today.”

Are you stuck on the overuse of that “create” word? Don’t be. It’s there for a reason. Over and over and over. Creation is now and now and now.

Story saves lives

One more thing from Meg before I give the fire back to the flame:

“Use story to create connections rather than having a one sided story about your life.”

Thank you. Can I get a witness. That is WHAT it’s all about. Story inside you runs you. Story outside you makes you friends, community, tribe, witness. Takes you to meet humanity.

Get your story out. Get it said. Go up in flames in the telling if you have to. Inside the crucible is you. New. All clean and transformed. And purified by fire. The fire that’s already inside you. Flickering.


Much as many of us relate to God in varying degrees, lets forget the big eye in the sky for a moment. Now that Judgment Day is over, let’s talk about the other side of it. I talked to Padma Maxwell, the genius-heart behind Art of Thriving, about getting free. Liberation at the hands of letting go. Of the things we judge ourselves and each other about. Sometimes obsessively, cruelly, unconsciously. What happens when you liberate yourself from judgment? How do you do it? Read on and ascend into Padma’s delicious vision of letting go into a cage-free life. It is beautiful.

PT:  When we talk about liberation, what occurs for you? What is there for you in liberation and sharing about it and educating about it and believing what you believe about it?

PM:  When I think about the word liberation and how it came to play a part in my life, and how it came to be expressed in my professional life, it is in thinking about non-judgment. I’ve lived a huge part of my life judging myself. Literally have had my best friend say to me one time, “You know, Padma…

you are the most non-judgmental person I’ve met in my life, but you are incredibly judgmental of yourself. All the time. It’s coming out of your mouth. It oozes out of the way that you hold yourself. You’re constantly keeping yourself in a cage because you don’t think you’re good enough.”

When I look in the dictionary about liberation it says to be set free from a situation imprisonment or slavery.

In particular, the liberation I like to talk about is the imprisonment or enslavement that we put on ourselves. The cage that we put around ourselves that usually stems from trying to be who others think we are or who we should be. We’re spending our whole lives trying to liberate ourselves from the cage of who we think we should be, or what we should be. It never feels good when we think about what we should be.

PT:  What do you have today to be liberated from?

PM: Today I’ll put it this way. Today I am hoping, I am looking, I am seeking to liberate myself from anxiety. I would say that I could see the anxiety as something coming at me from work, from emails, from calls, from what Alex wants me to do in the house, to being behind on Mother’s Day. But that actually the anxious feeling [itself] is what I’m liberating myself from; it’s not actually happening in my life.

PT:  What’s your experience of non-judgment today?

PM: I feel  like I could put those in two categories so that today I can be letting go of judgment on myself for desiring a glass of wine as soon as I get home from work. From not answering ten other emails. From judgment that says, “I can’t do this, I’m not good enough to get all of this done.”

And I can be free of judgment from the guy on the subway who wouldn’t stop staring at me and a woman sitting next to me. My mind wanted to go to a realm that said, “He’s not a good person.” Or, “He’s invading my space. I want to say something. I want to control the environment.” And the only way to release these feelings or this uncomfortableness that is coming up in me is to release whatever his story is, whatever I’m thinking is going on.


PT:  What turns you on about what there is to share about liberation? It was one of the things you really warmed to in our first interviews. They just lit you on fire. What can you tell me about that, from that fire in your soul, fire in your belly?

I couldn’t be where I am [now] if I didn’t let myself let go of judgment internally. Yes, I want to talk about letting go of judgment of your neighbor.

Letting go of what other people are doing in their lives, because [we think] the only way we can control something is to look at someone else’s life and their choices, and feel that we’re in control of our own life by judging others.

Now that lights me on fire. However, if I kind of rein it into my personal experience, I do judge myself the worst. I think we all do that internally. Whether or not we say it or express it, we’re constantly judging ourselves. We may use it to cage us in, or it may be a motivation to better ourselves or expand.

What really lit the fire initially is that my past is incredibly chaotic. If I stayed in the realm of judging my past, judging my family, the lack of support, judging the situations and the decisions I made especially as a young woman, I would be stuck in a cage or in a realm that said, “I don’t have the resources,” “I am not smart enough,” “I don’t have the knowledge it takes.” I would never manifest or create what I wanted in life.

So literally letting go of any judgment where I am coming from, it starts within. You can let go of even what you’re thinking.

You know, sometimes people will say, “I’m sorry, I’m just thinking negative thoughts right now.” So what! You’re not meant to be perfect, so what.

I mean, we’re too worried about being extremely positive or extremely negative. And to even label that means we’re judging something as positive or judging as negative. And that becomes a problem.


PT:  So do you ever counsel people to just go into that negative thought and wear it around and see what there is for them to learn or be told from it?

PM: Absolutely. You have to puke it on the table. You have to say, “Here’s my situation, here’s what’s going on, here’s what I hate, here’s what really bugs me, and here’s what–oh, man, just lights my fire in a way that I just wanna burn through everybody.” And it’s important to go there, because even when you hear people talk about enlightenment, they have to be willing to look at their thoughts.

So no matter what, if you let go of labeling, which really is a judgment, if something’s positive or negative, let it be a thought. It comes up on the mind. And then you let it go. No big deal. I’m not even gonna give myself the space to view it as a judgment. It’s just a thought. I get to choose if it’s a thought I’m actually going to say or express.


PT:  How do you counsel people to let it go? Here it is, it’s a thought, it’s coming up in my brain. How do I let it go if it’s something that I spin on?

PM:  I generally feel like I’m guiding people to let go of every single thought. No matter what. You see it and you let it go. When a thought comes up and you’re conversing with people, or you’re talking about yourself or your situation, when the thought comes up, it feels good. So you’ll notice when it starts coming out of your mouth, you actually feel something. And I don’t want to call it negative because that would be a judgment, but when it comes out of your mouth, something actually darkens in the space around you.  Something, it starts to just–you feel like because it’s coming back around into your ears,  it’s actually creating an enabling of the cage within yourself and someone else.


PT:  It is creating that cage when you say it? Or do you feel like it is and we think that that’s wrong?

PM:  I would say that it is strengthening it. Because if someone is– Most all of us are caged-in mentally or emotionally if not both. So if you’re speaking something that doesn’t feel good within every bone of your body as you speak it, that it’s not actually lifting you up, then generally, that energy that comes out of your mouth, it’s like it strengthens the bars around your mental or emotional body. Not just you but, of course, the other person too.

Now granted, it could be another conversation as to whether that person allows you to strengthen it. They have to actually agree with what you’re saying. Let’s say you’re at a party and someone starts to speak negatively and you just walk away, because of a part of you says, “Oh they were just too negative.” But you also feel that it’s instigating something in you you don’t like. You need to let yourself distance it because you don’t want it to be strengthened.


PT:  When you say something’s good, what do you mean by good? Do you mean it’s something true, something authentic to you?

PM:  It comes down to how you know when you’re feeling something. When we have a certain pattern within ourselves, it’s going to feel good to stick with it. When someone can feel good from the drama and the negativity that’s coming out of them, they feed on that. So how do you know [if] what you’re thinking and what comes out of you is good or bad?

You can get into semantics because labeling what we’re thinking causes us to not go with what we’re feeling. Here’s what I would say to that. Even someone who speaks something that could be categorized as negative, even if they’re addicted to that negativity or the drama that’s created from that, they don’t actually feel a sense of truth within themselves. They might be addicted to the reaction they get from it. The drama that comes from it. But

there is a feeling within ourselves when we know something is “right or wrong” or “good and bad.”

And the thing is we exercise this often in our lives. For you to be in a relationship with someone, you can talk about all the pros and cons and goods and bads about it, but if you’re going to go into a relationship, there is a knowingness that happens down to the bones of your body if this is right for you. Thing is, someone can easily be in a marriage for 15 years. Say things don’t work out. When they get out of the marriage, if they really authentically look back, they can say, “I knew all along, but I did it because we had a daughter.” There’s a knowingness thats there.

It’s almost hard to talk about because– There’s a great saying that comes from Adyashanti. He said that talking about enlightenment and awareness was like trying to describe to a child how to ride a bike. I think that’s the same for knowingness. Someone wants to clarify, “Well, am I going to feel good or am I gonna feel bad?” But really it’s just a knowingness within yourself.

I like to use Wolverine [to explain knowingness]. Wolverine, the character, will walk into a room and not only will he smell something, he’ll feel it, and respond with hair standing on its back, or excitement. There’s just a knowingness. I would say there’s an instinct, versus intuition.

PT:  How does liberation relate to knowingness? Do we need to get free in order to understand that knowingness? In order to get the message from our knowingness?

PM:  Mm, good question. I would say that it’s actually trusting in the knowingness and letting yourself begin to speak that knowingness. That is what starts to help liberate you.

Because otherwise, you know, we can liberate ourselves if we sit down and meditate for two hours. Sure, you can start to feel that you’re letting go of your thoughts and you’re not judging yourself and others. But then you go to a party, and you’re around a lot of people and you’re not used to practicing speaking authentically because you don’t know how to trust that knowingness unless you’re alone.

It’s really about expressing your knowingness. When you want to speak something, check in and see, well, maybe it’s not that it feels good but does it feel right in the bones of my body? And to give permission that

if it starts to come out of your mouth and you realize you don’t actually believe it, or it’s not really true for you, just stop mid-sentence. I mean, you and I are doin’ it. We just stop and we go, “Wait a minute, that’s not–wait a minute, let me pull back and start over.”

And giving yourself that permission allows you to start to get in touch with what’s true for you.

That truth is where you’re looking beyond the bars. It’s like if someone was caged-in and they’re watching the world from the cage, and they see the things that they want. If they could could talk about all the things outside of the cage and talk less about what’s keeping them in the cage, it’s more likely that the key comes along, and helps you to liberate yourself, and you can actually go get what you want.

PT:  There’s that teaching that says in order to gain freedom you have to accept where you are. How does that relate to inside-the-cage, outside-the-cage, to the semantic practice? Where does that fall in, if it falls in at all?

PM:  The idea is that you accept where you are but you are not constantly talking about what limits you from living. So you can accept where you are and you can let yourself come home behind closed doors and feel defeated and fearful, because those emotions want to come up. Those emotions are there asking you to move into them.

You don’t want to deny it. Imagine if [the emotion] was bird. For it to come up, you’re allowing yourself to support the bird. It can still breathe and move and sing its song. Even though it’s singing a song of fear you’re allowing it to sing the song. So you ARE accepting it. But as [the emotion] moves up and out, if you are squeezing it because you fear you’re going to let go of it, you fear the judgment of what others are going to think about your bird, then you are keeping yourself in the cage versus saying,

“Yes, I am in this cage, I am scared shitless, and I may not know the next step but I’ll tell you this much: here’s what I want.”

So if we were to add in semantics, let yourself feel what your feeling without judging that you’re feeling it. And when you’re speaking to other people, about where you are, you’re actually speaking less about the cage and more about what you’re seeing outside of the cage.

PT: So that you’re revolving less around what’s trapping you.

PM:  I gotta tell you, Pema, these questions are what everyone is constantly asking. I want to emphasize that I wholeheartedly believe that for you to even get out of the cage, you have to let yourself see the cage and be in the cage.

And you know what, if you have a best girlfriend that you can call up and say, “Can you give me ten minutes to talk about my cage? Can I just please puke it up because I have no one else to just go there with?” And when you give yourself permission to just puke it and just bleh, get it out, and you just cry and you’re sobbing and you’re just, “Oh I hate being here, I am so limited.” Then when you get it out, if you think of  a little child who’s like [pant pant pant], they’ve thrown everything around and they’ve just let all their emotion out, then you open the door and you say, “So what do you want to do now?”
And usually, they’re like, “I wanna go get ice cream.”

To enable someone to move forward–and now I’m speaking from the context of outside of it–if you want to be the best friend to someone going through it, then you will say, “Yes, I will give you ten minutes. I’ll time it and you just go. Don’t worry about what you’re saying. And then after ten minutes, I’m gonna ask you what you see outside of that cage.” And that’s actually the key that helps open it up.

PT:  I imagine that’s also an opportunity to see things outside the cage you never saw before because they were obscured by the cage itself.

PM:  In a way someone can be so caged in there aren’t bars. It’s like a box. Part of just recognizing the ability to see what’s outside of that, is if you can’t visually see it, if you’re not someone who has that visionary process to say, “Yes, I’m here but I want to go here,” by just getting in touch with,

“Well, what is actually keeping you caged in?”

then the blanket gets lifted. Then you’re okay with sitting there watching everyone else having what you want but you’re not able to get it. So, you complain about people who inherit money or who have a great business and yours isn’t doing so great, and you see it all outside of yourself. When you recognize that you’re in it only because you put yourself there, then you’re able to break free.


One of my first theatre mentors used to be my boyfriend. We saw a lot of shows together. A performer, director, producer, he spent his off-time going to shows because he loved them. I loved sitting next to him, sensing what he liked and what he didn’t, what moved him and what bored him, what struck him as original after 30 years of watching and creating for the stage.

He says the one question he has as he takes his seat and the lights go down–what he wants the playwright, the director, the actors to answer–is:

“Why am I sitting here”

In other words, What are you going to do with my time? My heart? My brain? My station in life in these two hours? How does it matter, this experience?

It’s a big question to answer when you’re writing content, creating for an audience, asking people to indulge you your words and hoping your words will in turn indulge them.

To help me answer that mother lode question, this is what I ask myself:

What do you know?
What do you want people to know?
What do you NOT want them to know?
What do you have to give them?
What do you want to receive?
What’s true?

“True” doesn’t mean you have to tell a true story. It means you have to be true to what the story or the content wants. Be true to all of those other questions that come before it in the list. Be true to your characters, your impact, your knowledge or the value you’re offering.

It means don’t be UNTRUE. Don’t make up stuff you don’t know to sound smart because you think what you have to give them is not enough without it. Don’t dump everything and imagine your reader wants to pick through the sludge to find the good bits.

What’s true?

Be true to the message. True to your relationship with the audience, whatever that may be. True to your relationship with the material. And then be lean.

A lot of talk goes around these days about being authentic. This is where it counts. What of yourself do you want to keep. What do you want to give away. What matters?

You’ve got our attention. Lay it on us. Make us pleased we’re sitting here.


Everybody’s blogging. The people who want to sound like experts are becoming better storytellers. As words become currency, are your stories selling you? Here are five surprising tips to get you thinking like a writer.

Record a conversation, then type it word for word. Audio re-play lets you hear patterns of speech and catch nuances of meaning you may not hear in the moment. Before you know it, you’re writing your own dialogue that sounds as good as real.

Imitation is more than the highest form of flattery. It is how we learn. Read what you love…novels, articles, poems. Then practice writing in the very same way. How? Paraphrase: Start with a paragraph. Re-write it in your own words—not great big flowery words or fierce competitive diction, just write what you think it means. Repeat. This will get you thinking like the authors you read, and get you noticing their styles and techniques.

The best writing advice ever: “You’re eleven. I’m eleven.” Too many big words, too much impressing, too much explaining about what you’re explaining gets in the way. Just say what you see, as if you’re eleven and your readers are eleven. They’ll get it. And they’ll thank you for your simplicity.

Really! Singing has been proven to open wells of emotion in the brain. When you sing, you contact your inner world…the place where imagination comes from. Open your voice and then fire up your computer and clatter away. Keep the music playing to keep you on a roll when your voice has moved from your throat to your fingertips.

Don’t stop. Write pen to paper, fingers to keyboard without time to edit. Give yourself ten minutes of no-stop writing, just go, go, go. Then build up to an hour. Re-work what you’ve written only at the end. The good stuff is rarely at the top of the page. It’s buried deep, like gold and diamonds. You have to mine it, in the dark, with courage to go deep till you’ve unearthed it.