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What’s scary about conversations? What razor teeth are threatening enough to chase confrontation into the dark?

Are we worried about being revealed? Worried about being wrong? Afraid that if we ARE in fact wrong, there’s no way to right ourselves to a new view? And what exactly IS confrontation? Have you heard these words cross your mind or lips?

Is something I’m saying confronting you?
Are you shutting me down because what I’m thinking out loud is making you see and feel things you don’t want to see and feel?
Am I the bad guy for saying what I see? Versus, say, recognizing the perpetrator as the bad guy?

What threatens so deeply about talking something out, without sleights of hand that detract from the point.

Hello, passion plugged in. Welcome to Waking Up.

Turned up. Shut down.

In the wake of March 1st’s post on the potential of racial bias in U.S. Congress and the country, I noticed conversation would spark, and then talk would be quickly shut down. Shut down by others as if the talker were naive for bringing it up.

Conversation over. Crickets. Setting sun. Go about your business, there’s nothing to see here.

This in turn shut me down. A week went by. I got wrapped around an obstacle.

Do people want to hear this—“this” being curiosity about the topics that keep us sleeping?
Do I have authority to talk about it?
Am I naive for bringing it up?

Don’t hold your peace. Live it.

I can thank Rush Limbaugh’s current breach of decency for showing me the way. Rush attempted to shut down critical conversation by shaming a woman for talking.

Aren’t shame and fear and control the reasons most conversations get censored and self-edited? Fear of being misheard. Fear of not being accepted. Shame for one’s belief’s in contrast to a louder voice’s beliefs. Fear of repercussion. Control of the  relationship, lest it…evolve into something different?

Speak now.

Talking is powerful action. Listening is a seat of power, and a gift of creation, collaboration. Listening is growth for both the talker and the listener.

If you cannot say a thing, think it. Write it down in private. Yell it into the woods. Let your beliefs live somewhere. Like us, they have a habit of growing, and bursting out of seams that would hem them in.

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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.


In 2006, I had a series of readings with Robin, the psychic medium who confirmed what another person had suggested were “souls in my field.” Earlier posts refer to her channeling them. It was also suggested that the serious, seemingly impossible-to-heal problem I was having with my skin was directly related. The following is an excerpt from one of our readings.


R: How are you feeling?

PT: I guess it comes in waves, I’m, well. I’m really, really itchy. I mean, that is there all the time at different parts of my body. But in terms of anxiety, like when I saw you guys last, I was a wreck, so anxious from all of the itching. In the past week or so I’ve gotten some calmness but I still get pretty anxious sometimes when the itching is bad.

R: Yeah I would think so.

PT: It’s, bad. I look like I have the chicken pox.

R: I’m so sorry that’s happening to you. What did the doctor say?

PT: I went to the homeopath, and he’s just checking it out. It’s just the beginning. I didn’t go to the regular doctor because they haven’t tended to help me and also, every time I take something for it it seems to get worse.

R: Yeah.

PT: And a couple of things have crossed my mind, like today I noticed, I was scratching and scratching and scratching and the skin I just leave skin behind like dust, and I saw it falling to the ground and I thought, “it’s like ash.” And then I thought oh, it’s like ash, it’s the working title of my book is Voices from the Ash.

R: Yeah, well that is what I feel vividly, is that this is about that, and I guess you have a predisposition to it anyway, but this is really intense. So I am hearing to proceed in reading so I’m gonna go ahead and connect with your soul and say a prayer and then just see where we go and take it from your questions and just see what happens, okay?

PT: Okay.  . . .


R: The voices from the ash are telling me we need to clear your system so that you’re not carrying it through your physical body but you’re downloading their experience through your higher states of consciousness, so that– There it goes it’s shifting.

Now I seem to be inside either a room or an airplane, and I just heard “Airplane is it.” And I’m seeing people in their seats and they’re not very alarmed. There’s people walking up and down the aisle, but there’s no disturbances, no energetic knowing that harm is about to descend on people, so the lack of awareness is really permeating this vision, the innocence of this vision is coming in, and then I’m seeing an individual begin to make some sort of an attack, whether it’s someone taking someone else hostage or a verbal exchange, you know getting people to understand what’s about to happen. And there’s a lot of emotional response here.

You’ve picked up on the emotional charge of the people this time. I’m hearing it’s a byproduct of the people in the plane. I’m hearing there’s 8 people here that are somehow involved with you that are running your energy. I’ve got to find a way to communicate here.

Long strange trip

Okay I’m going back up into the vision of the airplane. And there does seem to be an individual who is remaining calm. Very calm. I’m gonna see if I can bring some of that energy into your field. And I’m hearing that approach isn’t working either. So I’m just gonna stay with that individual and just see if there’s um—okay let’s try tithing that calmness out to the group and bring them in this pre-death experience to—there it goes, it’s shifting. What are you feeling in your body right now?

PT: I feel like  calmness washing over my skin, not just over my muscles or something but over my skin.

R: Good. Your energy became your own again. Now, “transmutation device is deficient.” What the heck does that mean? Is that in Pema or is that in the soul group? I’m getting soul group, Beloved. Okay. So, what is a transmutation device?

PT: I keep thinking that I’m the transmutation device, if I’m trying to transmute their voices out from my body and from this experience into, you know, existence. I feel like, my biggest question is, “How do I train myself through this?”

R: Yeah, I think this is exactly it. And that’s what I’ve been feeling that this story is about your experience with these people, it’s not—Like I think before you were thinking about just channeling them, but what you’re having to go through to be their transmutation device so their voices can be heard I think is just as important, because I think as people. It just feels like it’s really important that in the process of all humans waking up, we all become more telepathic, we all become more sensitive, so how does one cope with that?

PT: Right.


R: Okay. . . And now I’m back up on the airplane and the man who was calm had the tools to remain calm in a crisis. He had the metaphysical tools, he had the knowing, he had the trust, that you know, no harm would come to him, you know, even if he blew up in an airplane, he trusted that everything was happening for a divine purpose and he was equipped for the danger, if you will. So okay let’s see, he says he wants to speak a little bit more here. I’m feeling that he might have been either of Indian descent, although I feel he may have been American as well, so he may have been both, or he had studied the India approach to using the different tools of staying calm.

It seems like this person had something red. And I’m also hearing he had prayer beads. And the power of prayer is very strong here. He’s saying that he was praying that their voices would be heard. He was praying for peace. He was praying that there would be a transmutation device who would hear him beyond death and be his voice and speak this information that’s coming through. And he’s saying it’s not about religion it’s not about that separate thinking. There you go, you’re taking it in. What’s happening with you?

PT: When you were talking I had chills all over, I have tears in my eyes, like I’m here, like I hear him, like, “Oh, it’s me.”


R: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like tonight is really about connecting with this particular soul, because he knew that there was no other means of communication but to go directly to his soul, to his high self, and put out a signal from that high place, that he would be heard beyond the grave, that he knew the eternal.

PT: I feel that so much I just keep getting chills all over my body, and I feel really close to him.

R: Yeah. He feels really close to you too. My feeling is that there was almost like a moment of impact where your souls connected. And I’m hearing prior to death is strong, so his conscious attempt to reach out to someone and your willingness in your ability to pick it up feels very very strong to me.

PT: I have chills again.

R: Yeah. So I’m feeling like he may have actually had some kind of a vision, or a knowing, he’s saying it wasn’t a vision it was a knowing just prior to the impact that caused his death, he knew someone had conn—he knew he had connected, and he’s saying when that happened, his soul purpose was fulfilled, and what you do with it, Beloved, is up to you.

. . . . . . . .

(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar –->)

Thanks for reading Day 29 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.

Join me

Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.

Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.


Beginnings and endings

I hear so many stories of beginnings from people who were witness to the 9/11 attacks in New York. A friend I met recently arrived the day before in a moving truck. Meg got sober the day before, conceived her child two days after. I arrived three weeks before: Grad school started on 9/10. And the stories continue. Was it a season of beginnings? Or was it a heyday of creation, creativity always beginning at something?

When I went to grad school, I didn’t do it alone. I often referred to it as church camp without God. We bonded immediately, the actors, directors and playwrights. Orientation week got us settled into the city, and on the first day of classes and the first night of taping at Inside the Actors Studio, we laughed as Bruce Willis told us he had saved the world 17 times in his movies. We were 12 hours away from a plane hitting Tower 1 two miles south.

Light framed

We would get to know each other deeply in the ways we exposed ourselves in our work. But the events of 9/11 sped that up in a ghastly precursor that blew open the doors of us, ready or not. Being creatives, the only way to survive was to create. Being theatre folk, the way for us to create was to be together, to open up and dive together into the places in us that would be freed.

Last weekend, Rhea MacCallum, my fellow classmate and playwright, posted a letter on Facebook to Cohort 8 of the Actor’s Studio Drama School. She captured with crystalline detail our excited sense of “purpose, potential, community, security and hope.” Her images are so clear, her memory so dear in framing our hopes and courage and leaps of faith and people who supported us to be there taking them, that they tell a story of light I have wished for as this series nears its conclusion.

With great thanks to Rhea, I invite you into the picture of light that brings to life those days in the beginning, as the end of what we knew of our world was beginning, too.

Dear Cohort VIII,

Ten years ago today we introduced ourselves to each other. So much of our orientation week bounces around like a fiery comet trapped in my brain.  As we filtered into Tishman we were continuously instructed to ‘come forward, move to the center, leave no empty spaces’ and the mostly vacant auditorium vibrated with our exuberant energy.

That day, that first day, we met James Lipton.  We were told that our talent was as recognizable as spotting your sister in a crowd.  We were told playwrights don’t hug and most of us promptly decided that we would be the exception.  Then we got up, one by one, alternating sides of the room and introduced ourselves.  Our name, our track, where we were from, what brought us here.

A few weeks later, after the planes hit, after the towers fell, after walking from hospital to hospital looking to give blood, after surviving world altering events, we gathered again, a bonded unit, for a workshop led by Lisa Formosa.  Our homework was to bring a personal object, something of great significance to us.  Our class work was to share with each other what we brought and why we choose it, in three sentences.

Ten years later our orientation week and personal object workshop have become bits of memory strung together in a not so linear fashion.  When I look back at our grad school experience, and think of it fondly, these two events emerge as moments in which I was filled with a sense of purpose, potential, community, security and hope.

This is what I remember…

Henriette’s map of NYC.

The wooden box A’ndrea received from her boyfriend.

Jamie’s chilling rape monologue.

The beer scarf.  I think it was Waldron’s.

Bi with her boyfriend’s wallet filled with cash he’d earned over the summer.

Pema, the freelancer from Santa Barbara/San Diego/San Francisco, who had a 30th birthday/going away party who also received cash… in a wallet?

Holly and her grandfather’s cross, monologue about being invisible and mutual North Dakotian cheering with Brandon.

Naveen and her frog puppet Dostoevsky.

Monica, who left us for Cohort IX, delivered a monologue about feeling like an object.

Chantel and her cherished bookmark

Fred who brought a telegram from his sister and sang and sang and sang his little heart out.

The clown that Vered brought creeped me out.

Kari’s plain vs. pretty monologue.

Sean Harris in his Counting Crows t-shirt and Claddagh ring.

Bob and his backpack.

Nancy who people seemed to already know and talked about a Friday night party at Battery Park City.

Jacqui tripping her way out of the aisle to introduce herself sang Easy to Be Hard, dedicating it to the people working in the Financial Aid office

Moti sang a funny song.  I want to say from South Park, but something tells me it was Russian.

Mr. Lipton calling attention to Ronit who he swore was the spitting image of Susan Saradon.  And a sheep.  I’m pretty sure Ronit’s item was a sheep.

Billingsley, who made me snort when he delivered the line “Fat people make me feel good.”

Eriko and her father’s watch.

Francis’ photo album.

Cole’s navy polo tee.  It’s the only top I ever remember seeing him in.

Terry who made a number of people sit up and take notice when he said he applied to grad school because “he always felt like a fraud.”

Yasmin calling herself a former Muslim and carried a new ID having destroyed all others.

Uran who sang White Snake, “lived all over” and within seconds of knowing me talked ‘shrooms.

Sari’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody and her brick napping picture taken on Lucielle Ball’s property during construction/demolition.

Melinda bringing an American Flag and espousing the virtues of exercise in her monologue.

Larry’s Hairy Ape monologue and plaque that was given to him as a thank you gift from a recent production.

Jesus who sat next to me and already had an MA from NYU.

Kawanda who thought life stopped after 25.

Luis’ hand carved lady with his grandmother’s name on the bottom.

Casy brought and wore a brooch of comedy/tragedy masks.

Brian with the mug with his brother’s picture on it.

Nichol who ranted like Homer Simpson, carried a journal that was a gift from his father and had just returned from an amazing hike in Alaska.

Sean Stevenson’s miniature mouse.

Kristen, the NYC tour guide whose friend had recently passed.

Mary, who was still holding onto Beth’s ring when she walked away to go to the restroom, leaving a nervous looking Beth alone.

Sayeeda singing You Are My Sunshine and weeping unabashedly about Ellen Burstyn’s performance in Requiem For A Dream.

Soft spoken Matt from So. Pasadena who seemed to have a case of the sniffles.

Rich, who I met in line at the registrar’s office, brought a wallet with an emblem on it.

The ball from Arnold’s first date.  I think it was orange.

Miranda, who tugged at our heartstrings as she spoke of her janitor father who worked extra shifts so she could pursue her dream and made us all chuckle when she brought in a strawberry air freshener that survived, what was it, 7? car accidents.

Trevor and his passport.

Michael Raimondi who had never lived away from home and brought a turtle from Brandon… I think.

Jonathan and the journal his mother gave him.

Colette brought a book.  I’m guessing it was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, not that I remember the title from that day.

Doug and his flask.

Aziza’s evil eye.

Stephanie called herself a Jewish drop out and brought a stuffed animal from an ex-boyfriend.

Seibert who sang The Smiths.

Max and his ball.

Nicole Hurley who sang Lean On Me.

Linda, the lawyer, whose conservative mother would rather she was unwed and pregnant than going back to school to be an actor.

Kira who worked the hell out of her Vagina Monologue.

David Salsa, as in chips and salsa, who spoke from the heart about the Smurfs.

Seth, in his white baseball cap, who showed up to the workshop with Papa Smurf.

Jake who sang If I Were A Bell brought a sprig of eucalyptus, one of my favorite scents.

Kristen and her pig.

Poorna and her house keys.  At least I think it was Poorna.  There were definitely house keys.

I remember we prayed to the sun and the moon and the stars.  We burned sage.  We sat in silence.

I also remember my mother being comforted to hear that I was studying playwriting with a Teeter (my grandmother’s maiden name) and a Stevenson (her maiden name) taught by a Laura (my sister’s name).  She wasn’t normally one to view the world through cosmic signs, but she made an exception.  She felt I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

Try as I might, I don’t remember every one from those early days.  Isn’t the brain a funny thing?  Why do I remember, so vividly, Nicole Hurley who I spoke to once, once in my life, but not so many others?  And as for the accuracy of my memory, well, only you can tell me how well I did.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you, as I do every year when it gets to be about this time.  And when I think of you, when I think of us, as we were in these days, I smile through the tears.

Lots of love,


P.S. from Pema: Rhea brought that day a wooden, multiple-holed picture frame filled with pictures of family and friends and inscribed with “Best of Friends.” It was a thank you gift from a dear friend for having hosted her baby shower.

Rhea’s most recent production, “Independence Day,” won the Audience Award for Best Drama at the Life and Death Matters Film Festival last weekend.

Not her first, and not likely her last award. Congratulations, Rhea. To find out more about her work, find her on her Facebook page.


(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar –->)

. . . . . . . . . .

Thanks for reading Day 27 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.

Join me

Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.

Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.