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Inspiration on Loan

June 7, 2013

As a way to find myself in the writing again, I’m taking Susannah Conway’s course, Blogging from the Heart. One might argue that finding yourself in the writing is not the point, that it is navel gazing and narcissistic, that effective writing is observation outside of you. But after having tried that out, I’ll argue back. Without yourself in the writing, where is the heart?

I ghost wrote a book once. For six months my client and I talked out the characters, the motivations, the message. But I didn’t have the story till I dug deep into my life and fastened our story to mine. There was the meaning the characters needed. There was the heartbeat. It was painful. I felt not at all like a ghost, my flesh and blood wrapping around the bones of this job. But it was enlivening, too. Something outside me was animated, finding life from my skin graft.

This morning was spent in 2009, reading my blog posts from that year, hoping to remember the feeling of writing for the sake of writing, saying things for the sake of being heard. How did I forget that skill so completely? New blog home a clean slate, I’ve been looking for a way in…and so today I return to draw inspiration from the mission statement of my beloved first blog, the one I started in 2007 for the sake of practicing writing in public, Park Bench Daily:


This is what one of the edgy kids in college said one day, as our writing was read aloud in class. Some of the work was lascivious, some of it was limp. But the most interesting stuff was bare. Revealed. Unapologetic. These pages may approximate art. They will more often observe. Hopefully, they will always be naked.
These years later, sounds like naked = heart in the writing.

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It was a tiny room with historic wooden floors, a single bed, and summer ants that would eat holes in the crotches of my underwear. I pilfered food that wouldn’t be recognized as missing off the shelves of my landlord, and at work, stole quarters from the prospective-client-parking box to buy gas station egg salad sandwiches at lunch. I did this every day till I noticed I’d lost months of memory focusing solely on the next meal, and then the next.

On the phone with my dad, I reined in tears while he romanticized poverty, saying this life is a choice I made, and praising the fact that every successful writer has “eaten bark” to get by, eventually, refusing my just-in-case request to come home for a while if it was confirmed that, in fact, I was losing my mind.

Mirror, plate glass window, each one I walk by, I double-take at the reflection of my mother before realizing it’s me. This is me. Is this the way it’s going to be till the end? If the physical gene is this strong, surely the emotional one has some horsepower, too, and if that’s true, what will I, daughter of a mother who bolted when her kids were toddlers, face as womanhood takes hold? She is no longer nibbling at the edges of me. She’s inside.


I live under the roof of the most creatively suited mentor I could have imagined, help instigate a writers group dreams are made of, and make community with writers whose eventual films and plays call to mind the times spent creating those pieces in our living room readings. I fall in love with two kids and a dog. Family.

I’m writing an electric story. It’s characters are taking over and I long ago forgot the time.  When, suddenly, I stop. It stops. The flow of the thing. The words, the characters, the picture I’m describing freezes like a Polaroid in its frame, nostalgia-tinted. I scratch at its surface trying to get back in. But it’s an inanimate thing, and I am locked out. Each day I return, I jangle keys outside it, doorless, frozen in time. Inaccessible. I slink away. But visit often. Visit all of the stories often. Pace the tiny room. Fuzz my vision at a golden afternoon edging windows, floor. Angry as the light wanes. Another day stunted into snapshot. Why do *I* have to heal before I can write? and then I wonder where that thought came from? Heal what? It’s just writing. Anyone can write. Especially writers. Paw again at the Polaroid. Notice the dust between bare feet and the floor. Let go the picture and find the broom.


How do you know when a story matters?
You know when you don’t want to tell it.
Or when it makes you feel short of breath, or feel anything at all.
You know when time disappears while you’re telling it.
And when your audience is tearing up without noticing. When they’re silenced in wait of what’s next.
You know it matters when you have to be cajoled to tell it.
When people ask to hear it again.
When listeners and readers ask questions, and read the next one.
And when it heals.

Stories matter when they’re true. True to struggle, to human nature, true to experience.

You don’t have to tell on yourself. You don’t have to share your story if it’s too scary to reveal.
But consider this next suggestion: Tell yourself. Even if you don’t let others see it, write your stories that matter.
Let yourself feel the memory: Stark joy. Shocking fate. Painful mediocrity.
Notice the feeling of it, then write into it. What hurt? What stuck? What’s hardest to say out loud?
Say it. Let it out. Then watch it shimmer.
It has a life of its own, that experience, and its own little piece of soul—yours, shimmering in it, that you’ll never get back if you don’t first let the story out.
Stories lose luster without that piece of soul. Just words without it.
So listen. Feel. Find what catches, what makes you want to hide.
And write it. You’ll find the soul. And in finding it, repair.


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.


Waking up

Awakening is sometimes hard. The body is aching. I’m longing to continue dreaming my dream. Staying unconscious. Floating between space and time.
Wake up, wake up, wake up – whispers the timer, whispers the soul, whispers the world.
Wake up to create the new world.
Wake up to make your dream come true.

Waking up means

To open eyes, that have been closed.
To notice the light.
To allow movement.
To get in touch with the world. Your environment.
To feel the flow.
To feel myself.
To feel what I want and what I don’t want.
To feel what I love, to feel what is moving me.

Awakening is a way

It is arising. More and more.
Twinkling eyes, moving fingers and toes, yawning.
I open my eyes, beginning to sense.
I dislike much of the things I notice. Much feels like it is not alive. Not known.
A cold breath is beating against me.
I prefer to dream again.
Then I open my heart. I warm up the air around me. I’m moving with the stream of love.

To be awake

To be awake feels good. It’s a pleasure.
When I wake up, I stand up, I begin to live; it’s fantastic.
Arising dynamic. Life.
Clarity in each movement. Silence. Awareness.
I decide. I do. I’m free.
I feel. Awakening senses.
I taste. I smell. I hear. I feel. I see.
I realize. Endless opportunities. Joy – flow.
The pain was worth it.
I move. I dance. I love.

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Irka Schmuck is multi-talented as a healer, editor, and soulful copy writer. I’m enamored with the phrase she uses to describe her work: New Communication. “Because I understand the healing, the consulting and the text work is all a kind of communication,” she said. By allowing all of her talents, she’s at the front edge of holistic business writing and alignment to purpose to achieve that with her clients. Irka is based in Germany, educated as a linguist, and gifted by experience. Her website is linked and is in German. You can Google her to find great snippets of conversations in English.

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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.


1. One Voice Ain’t Enough

So I figured it out. With the help of Dyana Valentine and Stephanie Murphy, my confideante, the Wake Up Series will continue like this:

Through March 31, Story Charmer will be a platform for community pieces, conversations on waking up. Send me your stories, your moments of awakening, and I’ll post them here. Depending on time and space, I may send the piece back to you with questions to help you elaborate–I’m a Story Charmer after all.

There’ll be one posted per day through March 31. I’ll be writing mine, too. The project MAY continue if story submissions dictate, but for now, we’re looking at the end of March as the end of the Waking Up Series. We’ll all be perky, awake, and a full leap into spring by then.

2. The 7-day Wake UP!

Then! March 20 is the FIRST DAY OF SPRING! The Northern Hemisphere is waking up all over with longer hours of daylight, blossoms busting out of their bulbs, grills emerging for outdoor dinners (albeit in jackets).

For SEVEN days, we’ll get up at 4 a.m., get on a call together, and talk (or sit quietly together) for 15-30 minutes.

Four a.m. is said to be a holy hour for those who meditate. Here, we’ll see the other side of day. Wake up and welcome the divine in us to open. Lean into our animal limbs before dawn, the physical reality of the human body emerging from its nightly cocoon, to explore the possibility of wonder.

So that we can welcome the dawn, chase the edges of sleep in togetherness, curiosity and witness. What is out there? What is inside us in this journey into night to find the dawn? What in our lives do we want to wake to? What waking is there to be done?

Join us –> Hi [at] StoryCharmer [dot] com

3. Your Life Is Ringing. Pick Up.

The origin of this project: I’m sitting on my bed, dead of night, laptop on lap, giggling to myself at the mental image of a character waking up early each morning in an effort to become enlightened. Mid-giggle, I ask, Why not?

The destination may call us, but the journey attends us. It’s the journey we intimately come to know. It’s the practice that brings us the most valued reward, and surprise. Why not wake up to wake up? Why not see what the night, and the dawn in its wake, has for us? In failing, the only thing lost is sleep. And gained? That’s the journey. Adventure, I hear your call.

So I commit to the project. And the minute I do, my life starts popping open all over, so much so, that I can’t keep up with it. Even the method I’d planned for the Waking Up Series–intended to be a sequel, of sorts, to the Memory to Light story circle–woke UP three days before the start. It plugged into community, making VOICE the prong and community the light socket.

My single voice that led the last project said, Congratulations, you’re a deep thinker. What will your deep thoughts awaken plugged in? What voices can yours plug into? What systems will they wake up, in small quivers or tsunamis unleashed, by thinking out loud?

Wake Up to Wake Up – Made to Scale

Get up with me at 4a.m. Get on the call. See what the darkness brings in the hours before light. Listen to what your community is finding, feeling, waking up to in their lives. AND IF YOU DON’T get on the call, ANSWER THE CALL. Wake up anyway. Watch for the FB + Twitter correspondence. Read the stories here. Keep a notebook in your pocket and note the brightness that was missing the day before. Note the revelations and the serendipities. Note the corners of your peripheral vision that widened over night.

Want to wake up with me? Send me a note at Hi [at] Storycharmer [dot] com. I’ll send you details. Call will be at 4 a.m. Pacific, March 20-27. How about that, yous in other time zones can get up a bit later. Or, you can get up at your own 4 a.m. and tell us about how it went, encourage us along in our West Coast hour.

Ready for wide open wonder? Turbo-oh-my-stars awakening?

The dawn. Is ON.

Join me –> Hi [at] StoryCharmer [dot] com

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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.


The Waking Up Series

March 1, 2012


I lean against the headboard, laptop and late night my company, lights dim. I’m traversing mental whimsies, and snicker when I imagine a character thinking he can achieve enlightenment simply by waking up early in the mornings, as a practice. “Waking up to embody Waking Up,” I think. “That’s cute.”

I’m still snickering, when I hear in my head, “Well…why not?” Why not practice something physical to find something spiritual, or cerebral, or emotional…some parallel experience by which we can compare another experience for better understanding how to maybe bring it about.


My new blog project is conceived, just like that in the late night and solitude. A 30-Day project about waking up, stories and experiences and guest posts. “My, the topic is so broad, anyone can relate,” I think. I start reaching out to people to open the conversation, asking them to be a part of my experience. I jot down memories and story ideas that illustrate examples of waking up. …But along the way, I start thinking, “My, the topic is so broad, I wonder how anyone will relate. I guess I’ll write stories about my experience, invite others to do the same, and people can follow along if it speaks to them.” I make a contributor calendar and set a start date.

A Swerve the Size of A Continent

I hear a fantastic radio story on “This American Life.” It’s about a guy, a normal dude, who looks so much like this other guy who’s running for president, that he shaves his beard, buys a suit jacket and starts showing up places to feel the rush of the Obama-for-President experience. It’s a story about the way up, the way down, it’s a story about the way people look at you, and about racism, and about hatred by proxy. It’s human and heartfelt, and more shocking by the minute. By the time it’s over, my blood boils, my skin sparks, and I can’t stop wishing, once again, that I could find a conversation-in-progress about racism, buried deep in the recesses of the ways we think and feel and fear, specifically racism quiet or loud in the American electorate, in Congress, staunching the yeses and swaying the no’s, on the House floor, in living rooms, and in the darkness of the never-said but leaking out to the surface in action, inaction, refusal to be led by a Black man.

I’m still boiling when I fire up email and reply to a Waking Up contributor asking for clarification. I let it rip. I don’t know her politics, but off I go, spewing like a geyser, connecting an example of waking up to what I just heard, to allowing different conversations into one’s life, to examine how he or she feels and thinks, and to question if it is fairly serving self and community. I hit send.

I don’t hear from her for a week, till I email her again and apologize for my outburst, and for connecting it to the project between us when I don’t know what she feels, where she stands. Politics, everyone knows, is not for polite company. And heck, I’m the one asking for her contribution here. I’m a jerk. I welcome her to vent anger in reply. I ask for forgiveness. I hit send.


What I get back blows me and my little Waking Up project into the stratosphere. She takes time to tell me her experience, her observations, her profound and profoundly calm assessment of the same things I have been spewing about, whether certain No’s would be simple Yeses if the man were not Black, if certain classes of poor would vote against their economic interests if they were being led by a fair skinned leader.

I finish reading the email and my idea to write introspective stories about personal consciousness, on the path to individual waking, seem tiny in comparison. Then my bell gets rung even louder. I sense, through the clanging of it: this project is not about my personal awakening alone, or others’. It’s about where we wake up and plug it into community. It’s about lighting up our cultural realities with personal possibilities turned outward. It’s about plugging in and flicking awake, like a string of lights down the line, one person and the next, one community coming into consciousness and then the next.

My idea is not new. Religions have been proselytizing for centuries. But it’s not evangelism that powers my exploration. It’s the curiosity of what will happen when we take our own personal revolutions and plug them into the cultural status quo. What then? Even if cultural status quo refers to your personal environment, your family culture, your work place. What happens if you take what’s been waking you, and slip it into a community’s dark edges?

Crack! The lightning of cold meets warm. Current races across the sky. And thunderous conversation roils, about seasons, elements, change.

Building It

That’s the result. That is what we’ll get to. Before then, there are inner miles to explore. I meant to start a 30-Day project today, wherein I wake up at 4am to embody waking up and write about it, toy with metaphors of the physical feeling, see if I can speak the language of wake-up in this way. I will get to that, and will ask for a cohort to wake up with me for that time.

There is road to cover first, however. It’s a road I’m not exactly sure about, but the beginning of which I can see. So today, I step into it. I invite you to walk with me. I’ll post on waking up throughout the month. I’ll publish guest posts. We’ll get out conversations that live in the dark. We’ll retell stories of how the light got in. We’ll follow the yellow brick road. It’s all WONDER after all. And begins today.

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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.


Today’s post is about evolution. And checking your pockets for the wads of greatness you stashed there and forgot about.

In it I talk about Sinclair Ashley, Danielle Laporte, Kelly Diels, Matthew Stillman, Bridget Pilloud, Bindu Wiles, Jasmine Lamb and Meg Worden.

And I push the paper boat of a section of my service menu out into the waters, to be sacrificed to the gods of growth. Water is a sign of change, after all.

Growing my business story

Steeped in the work of Sinclair Ashley’s Action Studio, my brain has been like a bloom of tea in a morning mug. The water is hot. The pressure in the experience is a fierce hug from a parent before sending her kid off to his journey. And the possibility is so vast that, being the kid on the journey, I’m overwhelmed by the opportunities. Where do I start? Whom do I invite? With what color do I begin to paint the vision?

So I stared at the vision that’s been staring back at me, seduction all over it. And I thought:

“Forget what you can’t do yet. What can you do now? What do you know already and from what edge of it do you want to reach?”

This reminded me of Grams. She lost her sight to macular degeneration. It degrades vision over time, starting with the center, so that you’re left with only a murky peripheral view. As time continues, even that goes away. But she came home from Blind School in her 80s to report what she had learned. “They said that many people can see nothing at all. They told me to focus on what I can see,” she said. “They’re right. I can see a whole lot.”

So I unstuffed my pockets

If you’re following along, this is the part where you check your pockets and notice the fabulosity you’ve stuffed there.

Out from mine came this great foundation of writing, this really cool relationship to story that has anchored my life since I was a kid narrating people’s movements across the room, this crazy wild and fruitful imagination that helps people push past problems and into solutions, and this ability to see life as story and the telling of it.

Unstuffed, all that goodness lying there in plain view, I thought about how I learn through doing, watching, listening. And I considered how much I value watching the growth in people around me.

My List of Evolutionaries

I love watching Danielle Laporte’s evolution. She’s the mighty teacher, no? Her channel to the Universe is so supple, her listening keen, that what she shares we tuck into our hearts and take with us. Audiences gather round her fire because it blazes in a blue desert night and casts shadows on the rock wall that we recognize as ourselves. But her evolution has been one foot forward and then the next: A need for freedom. An idea. A simple website. Commitment to service, devotion to growth, making way for the next idea and the next. Until she has a fully loaded, always changing nation of inspiration splayed across her dash. And an ever-richer personal body of knowing, sharing, growing, loving, being.

You can see this on Kelly Diels’ site too. What started as a place to write turned into a place to teach about writing, and then to impart site strategy, and most recently to peek past the velvet rope, into a world that goes on a few steps deeper than her blog, in a sort of Red Light District of the heart.

Meg Worden started with a thought and a leap. Now she’s teaching people to make something out of nothing, create supply out of thin air, wholeness out of a piece, and peace from the whole. Her offer grows with deep, revealing, delicious stories every week, and has evolved in just a few weeks’ time.

Matthew Stillman is total joy to watch. His life is an endless supply of story, and in response to the issues people bring him, he innovates with inquiry, creativity, and more possibility for having asked. And his site is an incremental feast. If humans evolve like Stillman’s site and business are evolving, methodically, intimately, exploratively, I have dear hope and regard for us as a species.

Speaking of evolution and humans, tell me you have seen what Bindu Wiles is up to lately. She is creating an Enlightened Society, actively inviting the web and we who use it to stand on our tip toes and expand ourselves inside of it. She sees what’s possible on the edges of our collective strengths and wants to push us as a people to get wise, be of heart, and move our unified conscience to wake up, think past what’s been, and create something brand new and full and rich for all.

Bridget Pilloud is inviting this same enlightenment on a personal level, internally and in business. She has to be the quickest-on-the-draw evolutionist I’ve ever seen, and the most transparent, calling us all to examine our actions, be in conversation, and get clear at an energetic level, and then to move forward with a new integrity in our businesses and lives. Her conversations are curious and spot on, and always new.

And in praise of slow, sure transformation, there is Jasmine Lamb. Jasmine reminds me of a dear friend who has photographed trees over time. People have remarked to her that it looks like the trees are dancing. Her response: “How do we know they are not dancing in their growth, moving in tree time?” She added, “They could be doing the Running Man and we’d never notice because we’re watching too fast.” Jasmine creates at the speed of life, slowed down enough to hear the sounds in between and the messages in movement. Evolution speaks and she listens.

Back to my work with Sinclair. Of the many quotables Miss Thang brought to bear in her mentorship, one was this (I paraphrase it here): You have no business building your business around something simply because you can. Do something you you dream. Do something only you can do.

So I’m taking the leap. I’m streamlining my offer. I’m letting my storytelling tell my business future and removing the Guided Reverie from my service menu. It was such an awesome gift, both for me and the people I got to do them for. But it’s time to stretch off the edge and cat call that future that’s been ogling me all this while.

Who is on your list of evolutionaries?

What part of your vision do you have the colors to paint with now?

What can you let fall away in service to doing what only you can do?



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.


On budgeting. In love.

January 11, 2011

I have this story I love to tell about the day I turned my money around. I was broke. Busted, disgusted, can’t be trusted, as my college roommate used to say. So much so that I wondered if I wasn’t broke, but broken.

I was also training for a marathon. Running is free, after all. I loved the daily run. It felt like an accomplishment, not ever having been a runner before. I had unlocked the secret for myself, which was that running is a technical sport. It’s not just an activity where you throw yourself at the road, run really fast and it’s over. You can time your pace, feel each muscle, call on other muscles when those are tired. You can build your stamina by way of strengthening your heart, and you can strengthen your heart with a stretch of road and a wristwatch heart monitor.

You can also let your mind unspool out there on the path. And if you have a mind like mine, you know it’s like taking the dog out to play. You have to let it run all over the place at some point if you want to have a relaxing night.

Not love

For all I loved about running, I HATED the first mile. It’s horrible. It hurts. For the first eleven minutes of every run, I negotiated, one side a chorale spectacular resounding the suck factor and saying I was stupid for even trying. The other side just shouldered the weight, like a grim old man shoveling snow. Nobody else gonna do it ain’t no sun gonna clear it but me coffee’s gonna taste good this mornin, ‘f I don’t stroke before I git there.

So one morning, when I looked up and saw I had run two miles without so much as a peep from my choir, no aching joints, no pleading psyche, I gasped. I laughed. I searched my mind for what had occupied it so intently that I couldn’t feel the vice of my nemesis first mile.

It was my budget. I was juggling it. If I give $10 a week to x and pay my gas bill a little late, then pay y $25 every other…

Not broke

I wondered at this a second. Being broke took up every waking moment. I hated it more than I hated the first mile. But…I LIKED this juggling. It was a puzzle. My mind took it to task and I got all kinds of satisfaction being clever enough to figure it out each moment. In that moment, I was a changed woman. I decided that if I loved budgeting my debt so much, why not budget my millions? Within a few months’ time, I had queued up two job interviews at investment companies.

I got the job I wanted. My broke got healed. I’m not budgeting millions, but I’m not busted anymore either. I AM still enjoying the strategies of money.

So it occurs to me this morning to apply this to love.

The Law of Three

My dad used to tell me that I brought home strays. Which may explain why, in my late 20s, I finally instituted my Law of Three:

If the romantic interest was

Addicted (to even smoking or coffee or Tic Tacs),
On medication for depression, or
Deep in debt due to irresponsible spending

I could not date them.

Having the occasion to pull out the old Law of Three in a recent conversation, I wondered if it wasn’t a little outdated. Nope, still applies, I thought. We all have our issues, but these are the ones I personally need to stay away from.

Increasing the love budget

This morning, I stopped in my mental tracks like I did the day I was running for my money. In setting my standard here, at these bottom absolutes, am I not budgeting my debt, not my millions? If it’s all the same exercise, why don’t I juggle abundance instead of poverty? Poverty of spirit, love, vision, opportunity, happiness. Abundance of the same.

Same coin. Different side.

Same game. Different pride.

My friends, it’s a brand new awareness and I don’t know how to end this post. Seems silly to say it’s a new beginning. Jesus has the corner on that market.

Existential pie chart. Of love.

Maybe borrowing from Joseph Campbell is best here. We’re born whole. We break into pieces. We spend the rest of our journey questing for the pieces and bringing them back to the whole. Peace.

I was broke. I was broken. But that run keeps reminding me, when I’m ready, of different pieces I left behind…and where to find them.

Hm. I’m listening to Pandora right now. The lyrics, “Heaven tastes like this.”

Just looked up the song. “All That Money Wants,” by The Psychedelic Furs.

Don’t you just love serendipity?


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.