The Telling Room

selectric typewriter

My generation had no idea that the age of the computer was coming or what it would mean. Back then spelling was a mandatory class we took. We could not go into middle school without getting a passing grade in “penmanship”. I remember practicing my upper case and lower case letters on lined paper over and over again until all my words flowed like little art forms onto the page without effort. The act of writing with a favorite pen and crafting a story for school magically changed brain chemistry and balanced right and left-brain. But, now days, writing on anything other than a computer is rare and making up stories is becoming rare as well.

Then in college we had Selectric Typewriters that were all the rage, which replaced the typewriters that had spools of carbon ribbon used by Hemingway. Then came the Brother Word Processor and life was about to change forever.

Fast forward to my daughter’s generation who had computers in school, spell-check and there were no spelling and grammar classes or cursive in school. In fact unintelligible printing replaced cursive and the intimate relationship between a well-sharpened pencil tucked neatly in a row inside of a wooden pencil box put to a blank piece of paper all but disappeared. In fact reading books began to disappear and daydreaming and imaginative story telling was capsized by video games and television.

The art of storytelling is under siege and in fact the power of storytelling is rapidly becoming a lost personal art, and an underutilized healing tool in our society. Even movies are slowly giving way to franchised super hero trilogies and beyond that dominate the world of storytelling on the big screen.

But, there are those who want to teach storytelling to kids and young adults as a means to unlock creativity, unleash personal power and heal lives. One such teacher and writer is Susan Conley, a co-founder of The Telling Room, a creative writing lab in Portland, Maine who believes in the power of stories to transform lives and change communities.  She also believes that writing and storytelling healed her from cancer. Here is her story on TED:

Susan served as the executive director of The Telling Room for its first two years of life before moving to China, where she wrote a memoir titled The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf, 2011). This book chronicles the years Susan, her husband and two young boys lived in Beijing, learned Mandarin, set out on The Hunt for the Greatest Dumpling in China, and contended with Susan’s cancer diagnosis. The book was excerpted in The New York Times Magazine and The Daily Beast and was voted a Goodreads’ Choice Award Winner for Best Travel and Outdoor Books of 2011.

Susan has been the recipient of two MacDowell Colony residencies, a Breadloaf Writer’s Fellowship and a Massachusetts Arts Council Grant. Maine Today Media gave Susan a 2011 “Greatest Women of Maine” Award. A graduate of Middlebury College and San Diego State University, Susan has taught creative writing and literature seminars at Emerson College, as well as at Harvard’s Teachers as Scholar’s Program. She continues to teach all flavors of writing workshops at The Telling Room and has a novel forthcoming from Knopf in the spring of 2013. Susan lives in Portland with her husband, Tony Kieffer, and their two boys ages 9 and 11, who are avid story tellers themselves and not at all sick of dumplings.

 

Quantum Storytelling

Man-points-toward-galaxy-in-sc-32849888

I sat in a kind of stupor as the credits rolled, the crowd silently leaving the theater. I had a feeling that being in Oklahoma at the time, the majority of the moviegoers were baffled by what they had just seen. No one was talking, something had happened. I was the only one still in my seat. I had sat through three hours and two full bags of popcorn watching Interstellar. Not because Matthew Mcconaughey is beautiful or talented but because I knew that embedded in this film was far more than star power.

I am not going to review the movie here. But, I want to talk about how story can wake you up. Interstellar was written and directed by the Christopher Nolan who did Inception. Most of us know how it felt to watch that movie and witness something just outside of our grasp, but mesmerizing and intriguing enough to keep us glued to our movie seat. Interstellar was no different for me but far more powerful since it is a premier example of how story can change us at every level. I mean really change us.

That any filmmaker would attempt to take me into the heart of quantum physics and nudge me toward a new and more defined perception of time and space gets my attention. Flaws of moviemaking aside, I loved one particular thing about this story: That it revealed what the shift on our planet and in our own DNA as humans may be all about. And that is powerful.

I find myself gravitating to substance instead of the entertainment value of story. And Interstellar seemed to allow me to sink into the big questions of life, the unanswered questions, the heroic ones and the questions we all fear to really look into the heart of.   Questions of where do we come from, why are we here, what is god, are we alone in the Universe, what is beyond three dimensional existence, is there more than one Maya in the solar system and what does relativity and gravity have to do with everything? As for me, those are the only questions I am interested in.

So when I took the leap three months ago out of the world of psychotherapy and embraced what I truly love the most in life, I did so with the understanding that story would heal us as individuals and story would heal the planet in ways that are ineffable, illusive, complex and sometimes simply a mystery.

I held up a torch in my life to ask for stories to come to me. I held tight to my deep love and passion for stories of transformation, survival, hope and love as the greatest power in the Universe as I intended to write only these stories, and help others bring their amazing adventures and dreams into reality. I got far more than I bargained for. Gratefully.

People from all over the world are finding me in some of the most unusual ways. Phone calls and emails from those who suddenly feel ready to reveal secrets of the Universe only they have been entrusted with, stories of unparalleled heroism that will change lives and creative dreams and fantasies that speak to transforming our own natures from war to love, and from fear to magic.

I am pausing to allow myself to feel how very important each one of these stories are and how I can be a part of birthing weapons of mass love and power which is the medicine our planet needs. Medicine the storyteller needs as well, which will affect them on the deepest level imaginable and affect the lives of their families.

Storytelling is a sacred event. I cannot urge everyone enough to begin to see the stories that you have lived or imagined as sacred energy that you were entrusted with long before you were born.   You alone are the keeper of your own unique story of bravery, courage, pain and suffering, triumph of the spirit, love and lost love, finding god or becoming god.

The energy inherent in a great story or film creates a resonant response in our physical bodies, our thoughts and our hearts. That resonant energy begins a cascading shift and change in our own cellular nature. We are not only changed emotionally or intellectually when we read or watch an amazing story, we are changed energetically and physically. This is why I would always caution against the Horror and Death Film. We are changed in ways that only fear can accomplish when we subject ourselves to the images that these films provide in abundance.

And fear releases adrenaline and then fear becomes an addiction to the thrill of the adrenaline. In the end we are physically, emotionally and spiritually changed. The same can be said for the stories that we need far more: Stories of love and hope and courage. Stories of overcoming the unthinkable.

So, I am blessed to be given the opportunity to help any storyteller birth what is uniquely their primary and most powerful contribution to their legacy on this planet: A personal story that will resonate with the people who have simply been waiting for your story and just have not known it.

Later this week I will post under Screenplays the movies that are must sees and the books that should be movies. We all need food for the soul since our souls are under siege by technology and a planet in peril. Your story is a life raft, is a story to help each of us remember who we are, who we were born to be and who we have yet to become. Bravo to our brave storytellers.

Find your voice

Oral Fixation

by the fire storytelling

I have been back on the road as a gypsy for two months now and what living every day by the seat of your pants, or more accurately, navigating by the stars, is that your identity is up for grabs and your work in this world begins to reflect what you are learning along the way.  

“I took the leap. I reinvented my work and what has happened in three short months is magical. I have the privilege of coaching and consulting with single mom’s in Colorado, professional women in Panama, a novelist in Ottawa, a single dad in Seattle, a poet in Boston, two medical students in NYC, a pastor writing a play, a dentist changing his world, entrepreneurs starting real estate businesses, beginning food blogs, writing memoirs and screenplays and self-help books. And it all stared with a fixation I had.” 

I like to think of myself as a good communicator but that is not everyone’s sentiment about me. My friends and family might say I am a big talker, my father said I was “overly verbose”, one of my husbands just shook his head wishing I could simply embrace his silence and my daughters used to sit far from me in a theater when we were watching a movie, since they said I talked too much. And loudly I might add!

I confess. Most of that is true. But, in my defense, I am so in love with story that I always seem to have one to tell. But, since the advent of the computer and the communication gadget era we are loosing something profound: Our oral tradition. And the oral tradition is all about family and community. The era of sitting around the radio and hearing stories with others, since there was no television, or sitting round the fire hearing the local storyteller raise the hair on the back of your neck and now, even reading a book is becoming something from the past.

Storytelling was a community event. Now, we are all separate from one another even in the movie theater. There is no gathering of the clan; no family story night and bedtime storytelling has given way to watching something on an i-Phone, even at the age of 7.

The new ‘oral tradition’ is not really even oral any longer. The cell phone and finding a friend for a chat, has now moved to cryptic texting. Beautifully spun stories are now shared in sparse sound bites and short cut conversations. We are loosing touch with each other in the illusion of being in touch. We are forgetting that intimacy needs meaningful contact and we are trading a great story or a profound movie experience for the 3 min web-series while waiting for the subway seated next to four more strangers staring at their phones and pounding away on keys.

And I am not immune to these radical changes. Since I drive a lot I have traded thick page-turners for a book on tape. I have driven two entire states and missed most of the countryside because Stephen King, the master storyteller, and his book Dr. Sleep, was spellbinding. I really tried to get through Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, but after two disks and horrible writing I peeled into the nearest Cracker Barrel and traded it in for one of the best books thus far, The Litigators by John Grisham. This is the closest I have come to listening to a great storyteller tell me an amazing story.

My commitment to shifting my work to mythotherapy and away from psychotherapy, is to assist people in finding the story in them that needs to be written and that can heal their lives. This adventure has turned out to be one of the most amazing adventures I have invited into my life thus far.

My work for 30 years has been with people and hearing the stories they endured, the stories that they want to overcome and heal from. As a therapist this was my life’s work. Healing stories has become something far more for me and what I am watching and experiencing is that unpacking a story, whether a personal one, a fantasy or a gigantic creative endeavor has the healing power of the best therapy out there. So, I took the leap and created Mythotherapy and made the strong intention to help people get their stories told, while writing my own.

In three short months I have left the east coast with my cat, created a Skype practice and put out the beacon for storytellers that I here to help, to coach, to collaborate, to work on writer’s block and get their story written and published. It has been amazing. Intentions are beacons. They are like a red flare shot over the ocean of life that the right person sees, when they need to see it. As a result, I have fabulous new clients from all over the world, thanks to the Internet.

I have the privilege of coaching and consulting with single mom’s in Colorado, professional women in Panama, a novelist in Ottawa, a single dad in Seattle, a poet in Boston, two medical students in NYC, a pastor writing a play, a dentist changing his world, entrepreneurs starting real estate businesses, beginning food blogs, writing memoirs and screenplays and self help books.

I am consulting with these wonderful and talented people on the next great Harry Potter book, a spin tingling thriller, a cookbook, essays to get into doctoral programs, a real estate blog that will make you want to rush out and buy every house in site, an unsolved crime, a Dr. Phil story that is shocking, a paranormal mystery and an alien Sci-Fi. And, I am blow away by those who are writing memoirs of true stories that we all need to read and hear.

My writing is better for every one of these people who are courageous enough to reach out and email me and then create a commitment to their story being told. My hope is that this oral fixation I have on telling stories, continues to manifest more amazing relationships and life changing stories we all need to hear.

Stories are our soul’s food, or hearts inspiration and our creative juice. Please. Tell yours.

PS: Did I fail to mention that committing to doing what you love works? Just sayin.

Manly Men

Fury men

Ok, I admit it.  As I travel I have a little game since I am a big movie goer.  I see where the cheapest movies are and hands down they are in Oklahoma.  So is the gasoline for $2.35 a gallon.  First run, big screen, movies are…wait..wait…$5.75. In Denver they are nearly $12 for one ticket, Asheville, NC $7.75 and in NYC $15 and up.  And in Oklahoma you can get popcorn and a drink for under $6 compared to the usual $13.50.  But, movies won’t keep me here for much longer as I wander back to Denver for the holidays and family.

 

But I have seen some movies lately that have shifted my consciousness.  Interstellar being one which won’t let go and tonight I am seeing St. Vincent with Bill Murray.   But, for the moment I want to speak about how my relationship to men is changing because of an uprising of movies… about men.

 

One of the most tragic stories in the history of our planet has to do with men. Yes you heard it hear from one who has spent thirty years speaking to women’s empowerment, raising one voice for women of abuse and delving into the history of terror for women which continues all over the world by the hands of mostly, men. So, this is a big moment for me as I come into my own deeper realization that we ALL have been brutalized at the hands of the Patriarchy whether it be religion or governing bodies, husbands, employers or terrorists.  Men have suffered, as have women.

 

Men designed, supported and have lived by powerful beliefs since the beginning of time with regards to what “manly men” are, why war is necessary, why bravery and courage and fighting the good fight is at the heart of what men are required to emulate. Men grew up thinking about the hero, the warrior and living under authority that was not their own. As a result, most men simply learned to soldier through life with no idea of what really lurked on the other side of this dysfunctional set of rules for being masculine.  Still in the most current dictionary the word Manlycarries a heavy weight:

  1. Having or denoting those good qualities traditionally associated with men, such as courage and strength.
    “looking manly and capable in his tennis whites”

What is wrong with this picture?

performing, providing and protecting became the most important part of what made a man a man, which morphed over the centuries, as any imbalance does, into a toxic reflection of the masculine that took on the mask of control over, power hunger, greed and a disrespect for anything that is not…all of the above. But, what about the human condition that is innate which men were encouraged to exorcise from their self-concept, namely, emotions, creative and spontaneous dreaming, and anything that seemed to scream the feminine, as in intuition as power, emotional intelligence and compassion for the most part, all aspects of our humanity which were not in the game of being a man.

 

Today, through the widening crack in the system, we are hearing some clear thinking and feelings on this subject as they spill out into our collective conscience. And, at the front of the line for telling the truth of what men have endured in the attempt to adhere to the “real man syndrome”, is the movie industry. Hidden and not so hidden in the fabric of the movies that are coming out in droves this fall, is the untold story of the patriarchal underbelly and the price being paid not only by women, but by the men themselves who have fought for their country, for families, for putting meat on the table and for simply doing what authority says in order to get ahead and be the norm. But the norm is not normal. These movies not only hint at the corporate rape of men’s souls, the pressure of being the provider, the soul crushing reality of all war, but they expose some of the most vulnerable truths that men never really talk about.

 

This underbelly of the patriarchy is fraught with guilt, shame, emotional pain, fear and suffering that the soldier from war arriving home with a life long case of PTSD is simply a mirror for. The men who were trained out of a large part of their humanity are equally pained by what lies buried and seemingly out of their reach and far from the light of day: Their inherent lovable-ness, their soulfulness, their feelings and their fears. Personal suffering that is hardly measurable, that has no way of being addressed, creates anger and depression, suicide and alcoholism and men litter relationships with brokenness, heart attacks, stress reactions and lack of intimacy.

 

There are at least four movies that stampede onto the screen this fall and winter and are couched in what you might think as being a “guy movie” but under the surface you are witnessing a revelation of the inner life of men. I am not talking about any of the Hangovers, The Interview, all the Seth Rogen movies and the plethora of wanna be cop movies since they just keep men Dumb and Dumber. But Fury with Brad Pitt, the up and coming Unbroken by Angelina Jolie, The Railroad Man with Colin Firth and The Judge with Robert Downey Jr. and the impeccable Robert Duval are stories of men who did what was expected of them in war, in work and at home and paid a horrible bone crushing, life sucking price which the women in their lives inherited.

 

Men brokered their own deeper humanity for towing the line and for fear of not being one of the boys.   These movies eek out themes of the loss of love, the powerful bonding between men that can only be expressed by the short hugs or the slap on the back, the cold war between fathers and sons who cannot express emotion and the inability to be fully themselves are rare confessions from men in movies. And we as the onlooker with popcorn in hand, rarely get to see these themes unfold in all its pain.

 

As stories go, this story is the one story that our society needs to look square in the eye since things are changing and they will not be returning to “normal”. Men and women alike are crying for balance within and without between the masculine and the feminine and in the long run the shift that everyone is heralding on our planet has, at its heart, the crumbling of the patriarchy in all is dysfunction and abuse of spirit. Movies start consciousness moving outside the box, whisper the unspeakable, leave us breathless with visual brilliance in a moment that captures anguish which cannot be expressed any other way than with flying body parts. Then we watch the inevitable as Brad Pitt takes all the suffering of war and buries it deep inside just as our fathers, brothers and lovers have, only to create suffering for the generations that follow.

 

We have spent decades in the arms of a feminist movement that has made clear how ravaged, and how brutalized women have been from the beginning of time at the hands of the patriarchal model, but it is now time to have the conversation that is so needed regarding the wounded warrior, the brutalized man, the man who has been denied his soul.

 

I am inspired by the list of “man movies” that should become the most important “chick flicks” to see. So in the service of story telling I want to review all of the movies that I have mentioned here, not to give anything away, but, to coax you in seeing violent and harsh movies as a way to more fully understand the darkness of the patriarchy and what men have endured. I will add a new post for each movie to the Screenplay section of my website, starting with Fury.

Navigating the Times

life-in-denver

Having left the Rainforest of North Carolina and headed west I’ve landed in the middle of the country.  I can’t say that travel through Tennessee and Missouri was the least bit interesting and at one point I just wanted someone to please beam me up and out of the sandwich I had become on I 40, as I crawled along with packs of sixteen wheelers for nearly ten hours.  Crossing into Oklahoma, well, was a relief, as the trucks moved on toward Little Rock and finally let me out of what had been an interminable prison of fumes.

 

Sunsets.  The best part of Oklahoma especially as they light the sky and on the horizon are mechanical oil wells pumping away with their black silhouettes like ancient dinosaurs still roaming the countryside.  But once here, I remembered the years as a child on my grandparents farm but also remembered why this is not the state for me.  The simplest way to describe my being the one to feel so alien here is to say that the mindset is overall…confining.  Enough said.

 

I came to Oklahoma to house sit  for my sister and hunker down to serious writing.  But it took about a week to recover from packing, moving, packing some more, storing the last bits of my stuff, packing the car, saying goodbye to people I love, and then listening to my beloved cat meow for over a hundred miles.  I have made this nomadic choice before but this round of simplifying my life in order to create more financial freedom and just more room in general for shifting my focus to my life as a writer, has not been easy.  Age? Maybe. A very hard year?  Maybe.  But that’s not what I really think the difficulty has been.  Each of us has our own personal stories we are living but on a global and cosmic stage that exerts a powerful influence on each and every one of us.

 

I believe that navigating the prevailing winds of change on the planet takes great focus, greater personal energy and impacts all of us at a deep level.  Yet I keep orienting to life’s changing landscape as if it were twenty years ago when none of the challenges that currently impact all of us had revved up to the peak we are now facing.  And so much of the shift all around us is …mysteriously unseen.

 

From ever-increasing electromagnetic assault, fear pollution, cellular change at a powerful vibrational level to inner tension from financial stresses, relational endings, health concerns, lost jobs, and the nagging questions of “why am I here and what am I doing with my life?”, these issues, energies and questions are epidemic for a huge part of the population.

 

These shifting inner and outer tides are no more prevalent than with those who understand that they are “old souls” on the planet for the umpteenth time.    So, why is this the case?  Is this collective phenomenon pressing on the old soul community harder because they have more tools or a greater commitment to change or transformation?

 

Is it because the shift that is brewing on our planet is simply requiring that old souls who have incarnated now are more responsible to lead the way out of one collapsing paradigm and into an emergent one of love and inclusiveness?  Or is it that old souls are being pushed hard to shed all attachment of any kind, especially to lifestyle and constrictive or uncreative work in the world, so that they are unencumbered as freedom and mobility becomes a necessity in our lives?  Yes.  The answer is yes to all of the above.

 

So I confess.  As I was swept along in between these loud, lumbering behemoths barreling down the road, containers full of mail, milk, food, tech, cows, horses and cars, I thought more than once, “What the hell am I doing?”  And I have thought that many times as I drive from Oklahoma to Colorado.

 

Jumping into the unknown does not give you wings to soar above the fear or an endless measure of faith to overcome the doubt.  In fact, taking a leap of faith because you cannot do anything other than jump, assures you that you will have a daily practice of quelling the doubt and fear, talking yourself into a few more uncertain miles until the Universe very predictably leads you into all the magic and the moments, the people and the places that you know instantly are why you jumped in the first place.  Then you get up and do it all over again.

 

So tomorrow I will be in Denver, the Rockies looming in the distance with their first snowcaps. I look forward to being back to where I lived for eight years and crossing over the border, on through the town of Limon and then the vast vista of the high plans, the rolling sagebrush, and the cloudless sky stretched out before me. When I get there I will breath in the cooler Colorado air and simply say, “So, what will today bring?”  I say that most every day now.

 

 

 

 

Back on the Road Again

sarah conner terminator

I am about to be on the road again as a Gypsy. Willy Nelson nailed it with the lyric about bands of Gypsy’s in his song, On the Road Again, which I find myself humming as I pack a few more boxes here in Asheville, NC. But, I relate a bit more to Linda Hamiton in the Terminator when at the end of the movie she is alone and pointed west going into a storm. Very dramatic don’t you think?

Like in all time warps, I awoke to having left my life packed in boxes three years ago to hit the road right after my mother died, but suddenly had gotten a little sidetracked in intention. Now I am resuming the journey, which started for me in Tulsa Oklahoma in 2011.

A Case for Becoming Sidetracked

What does that mean. We say sidetracked as if it is not an intended path. We say it like it has been a diversion, a mistake, and now it is time to get on the Right path. Well, I think this is a misconception. All paths lead to one path. Life. And when we look at a “sidetrack” as a mistake we miss the truth that these detours are just that, a detour.

Haven’t you ever taken an unexpected detour and where you saw a house in a new neighborhood you loved, a stray dog you picked up and he was yours forever, a breathtaking vista that you would never have seen…without the detour? You are changed and then resume an intended direction all the richer and wiser for it.   And maybe the detour slowed you down, maybe it avoided an accident. Detours are part of our path. For me the last three years have been a breathtaking detour. But I did not know it.

First Flight

“In 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina.” 

What prompted me to leave my life back then, say goodbye to my friends, my therapy practice and all my stuff, opting for a car full of the simple basics and my adoring and patient cats, Snow and Hazel, was nothing short of a miracle whispering in my ear one night: “Fly Maya and find out what truly makes you happy?” After 30 years as a psychologist, a wife and a mother, I was not sure I knew any longer. So, I set out to find the answers.

Like all of us, I made plans. I had a map of all the stops I wanted to make. I made a commitment to following the “signs” and to listen to coincidence and see where the road would lead. And like you may have heard me say before, “If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans”. Well, I have no idea who said that first, but in my life I found out exactly what that meant in about one week of travel.

Mulder Scully Simpsons

The X-Files

“An X-File is a marginalized, unsolved case involving unexplained phenomena”. 

I have shared the saga about why I took my car off the road and stayed indefinitely in Asheville, NC after only ten days with Oklahoma in my rearview mirror. Nothing sexy, just that my driver’s license expired and I had to get a new one. I went to the DMV and short of them taking scissors and cutting my license up in front of me, like they do with credit cards that have been revoked, my license had been “cancelled” indefinitely due to a little, insignificant, pain-in-the-ass detail that the Social Security Administration could not fix.

I thought to myself, “no-brainer, I can make this happen and get back on the road in no time”. So I hunkered down with my daughter Jessie in her apartment, which was wonderful although she got more time with me than she ever wanted.. More time with her beautiful spirit was a great gift for me. But, with regards to my driving out of Asheville, I am here to tell you three years later the glitch did not get fixed.

Lawyers could do nothing no matter how much money I spent, the government did not care if I had to walk to the nearest ER with a heart attack, two appeals to court got dismissed and my unusual situation got stamped and filed in what I came to know as “the gray files”, back in some official’s pitch black closet that no one ever looked in again. I felt like the X-Files, Scully and Mulder would have been stumped too as my case just got buried since the governing officials didn’t want to take the blame for anything which fixing the glitch would have led to. So, as citizens, our freedoms become expendable at this point.

What Happens When the System Does Not Work?

TV News, the D.A., the Mayor and the Governor of Colorado said, “Their hands were tied”. What does that mean anyway? So, I took matters into my own hands and this summer I am now legally driving with a shiny new photo of me smiling on my brand new driver’s license. But, the road to getting that license is not only another story, but, a carefully guarded secret. It sort of involves meeting a strange man smoking a cigarette on a back alley somewhere. Well you get the picture. I am happy to share the solution with anyone who is “Gray-Filed” in life.

With all obstacles come opportunities. And as I slogged through the bureaucracy of a broken system, grounded in NC, I met Richard Gannaway from AOMusic and knew that my reason for becoming sidetracked in Asheville was to meet him, to hear the music of AO and to feel the certainty that I would become a core support for making a new album, for getting future films made and seeing this extraordinary magic of music change the hearts of people around the world. So, for these last three years I have been doing just that, as well as working on a project with the renown singer Miriam Stockley, which has been an immeasurable gift in my life.

My life, love and work for AOMusic, with Miriam, and with the angels I met in Asheville has changed me entirely. And in the process of being part of this richly creative process I began to notice some things that disturbed me. I became tired although my creativity ran high, I found myself suffering from a weariness that I could not explain. I started to have a long bout with insomnia.

Then sometime later I became ill, had a car accident, become dampened down by a shadow of some kind that I couldn’t shake. I was soul searching about a dozen times a day to see what could be the cause of my electrical plug pulling out of the socket of my life. My heart started feeling like it was getting a little dimmer. But I was doing work I loved, I was creative, I was with people I loved. What was the problem?

“The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

sasha and jess black and white

Out of the Mouth of Babes

One day I was on the phone with my daughter Sasha, having a heart to heart. Now, you need to know that unfortunately for her, all too often this translates as Mom in her giving-advise-mode, which I experience as some kind of hostile take over of the wiser version of myself who knows better than to give unsolicited advise to my grown daughters. But, I did it anyway like a crazy person and what happened next changed everything.

As I was on a Skype with Sasha, who is 30 going on immortal, and we tried to hear one another over the thunderstorm bouncing off the Blue Ridge Mountains on my end and the cement floor coffee shop she was in with whirling blenders and a cacophony of voices blasting through her headphones on her end, that shoe you never want to drop, did. I was met with a stern stare burning right through the computer screen, since she could see that I was about to rev up into one of those Mother Lectures we all know about. I paused.

In the pause, while I am grappling with what should or should I not say, I see an older girl, black horn rimmed glasses making her look scholarly and like an authority on life, lean up close and personal and say. “Well Mom, I think all we can do to help each other is not tell one another what to do, but maybe you just might think about leading by example”.

Ouch.

I heard her like an arrow to the heart makes you sit up straight and get that you are in a life changing moment.   My daughter had the only really wise thing to say. “Lead by example, don’t try to fix anyone”. Ugh.

The Accidental Life

I think I was staring at the screen for a long time after the Skype ended and then I did what any good mother would do. I imploded with the truth of what she has said.

I plummeted briefly into that place of feeling like a total failure with her, with everyone, in life. A failure with myself. The next three days I went off the grid and encountered revelations one after the other. I looked long and hard at my overworking, over-caring for people, worry about money, giving myself away in love or in the need to be perfect. I had become the energizer bunny for everyone, but myself. It was exhausting.

Then I did the bravest thing I could do and got up out of my chair and went and looked in the mirror of my own life. And all of a sudden my depression, exhaustion, and my accidental life came clear to me:

I had been living the dream, but it was someone else’s.

When my daughter confronted me to lead by example what she truly meant was “Mom what about your dreams, what about that book you were writing, that movie you wanted to make and what about that life on the road you didn’t take?” She was all too right. I had found the most amazing people and projects full of love and nobility, all the things that I love and live for. But, the projects were not what my soul came here to do. My soul finally just got exhausted trying to tell me.

This was about one month ago and I have pushed the pause button on my life entirely. Not without guilt, but with a bit more courage than usual to do hard things. Disappointing people is one of those things I hate doing. But, for three years I have put a part of myself on my own “Gray Shelf” and forgotten to check in with the part of me that hit the road to find what made me happy in the first place.

I have surveyed all the work I have been doing as an entrepreneur, a producer, all the people I help, all the commitments I have made to shore up other people s visions, and asked if I loved what I do. The answer was this: I love the people and the projects but I do not like who I have become in order to live inside someone else’s dream.

Impulse or Inspiration: The Thin Line

im·pul·sive

adjective \im-ˈpəl-siv\

: doing things or tending to do things suddenly and without thought : acting or tending to act on impulse: done suddenly and without planning : resulting from a sudden impulse

in·spi·ra·tion

noun \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spi-\

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something: a good idea

When you take a dash of impulse, a pinch of inspiration you come out with the recipe for Faith: Faith is belief that is not based on proof The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust, or belief.  This is the engine of my life.

So, with one deep breath I stopped it all in order to get back to that basic, all important question, for every person on the planet: What truly inspires me and am I allowing all of who I am to shine? The answer? Stories inspire me. Movies inspire me, listening to people share their stories inspires me. I am a writer. I want everything that I do for myself and for work in the world to be about writing.

Wow, that was a long overdue relief. But, with awareness comes that thing that makes us all stumble just a little: Action. Now I had to recalibrate my life, reassess my work with AOMusic, downsize a dozen other commitments and put myself out to the world in a more authentic way. Right about now I started sleeping better. My energy came back, and that dimmed heart light went from a 15 watt bulb to an outdoor floodlight.

The other surprising recipe goes like this: A dash of feeling liberated, an ounce of courage, and watching all the dots connect can in fact just… piss you off. Just when I thought I was to the other side of this massive wake up call, I was seized by the need to go out in the dark and get into my car and scream.   As soon as the door closed I started yelling at God, the Universe, Spirit, my parents, myself and anyone else I could yell at. About everything.

And what came of emptying my reserve of pent-up emotions was a new certainty: That all that procrastination, workaholic, exhaustion, worry and fear was simply the by-product of not believing in myself. This was the real epiphany.

This was what my daughter was trying to tell me. I finally looked in the face, my habit of tying my star to someone’s dream no matter how amazing the dream was, because I did not think…I was good enough. Husbands with big jobs, little children, and clients in need, colleagues who I thought were more talented than me were always in the front seat of my life. I sat there in the dark for a long time. I was waiting for the tears to spill over and never stop. But, they didn’t.

“Fuck it”, I said. I felt energized, motivated and excited instead. This usually goes hand in hand with when you align with your soul. I got out of the car and sat in the clearing and listened to the Cicada’s as they tuned up for the approaching rising Blue Ridge moon. And in that quiet after my storm, I heard myself say only one word out loud. “Yes”.

Yes, I will be all of me, yes I am enough, yes I will simply risk over and over again, yes I will have money, yes I will…lead by example. Yes, my daughter is right. Then I said what I had tried to say for decades. I said, “I will be writer I am, tell the stories I have been given and I will make my living as a writer. I will write my own story. I will heal my life”.

Enter the Sledgehammer

sledge hammer 2

There is another saying that I have coined that goes something like this: “If in your heart you feel the truth of a dream and set an intention, sit back and watch the Universe line up behind you to make it happen”. I forget this all too often.

Suddenly, the phone rang and I left the buzzing of the forest and went inside to answer it. It was a friend who wanted to talk to me over coffee. I set a time. I then went to the computer and found two emails from friends who said they needed to share some feedback with me. Hmmmm.

For three straight days eight random people approached me saying the exact, verbatim, remarks: “Maya I don’t know why I am telling you this, but, stop helping everyone else, write your book, sell your screenplay, believe in yourself”. It was staggering and as clear as the Universe knows how to be when using a cosmic sledgehammer.

Beware What You Wish For

I put out that what I wanted was to write my story and make my living by writing. I posted on Craigslist, I sent emails, I shared my clear intention with friends. That was on a Sunday. Five days later I had three inquiries to coach people on books they wanted to write, signed contracts, received money, closed a ghostwriting deal in Denver, started my blog http://www.mythotherapy.com and three other people have approached me to be their writing coach. I then dug out my unfinished books, second draft of a screenplay and began collecting what is ten years of writing. I am a bit breathless over the whole thing and it is not stopping. I guess that when god is finished laughing at your plans, she gets to work on miracles.

Then I decided to pare down my life to the basics once again, let go of my paradise apartment and get back on the road. If I had not been sidetracked by life I would never have come to this place…in myself. The road is where I can see the signs better, where I gather stories, live simply, stop paying rent and utilities and spend that money in the service of writing, discovery and growth.

So, my tiny apartment in Asheville is nearly packed. My two cats are now one since sweet Snow died in the spring. I am getting new tires, hugging the best people in the world here in Asheville and pointing west for an indefinite road trip. And funny, my first stop is back to Oklahoma. My future will once again be full of couches and the good will of great friends. I will let you know where I will be stopping in case you want to have a cup of coffee and… I have a front seat if you want to come along

“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines.― Donald MillerA Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

jump off cliff

Quack or Quantum

Originally posted on Mythotherapy:

oscar winner

Those who tell the stories rule the world.” –Hopi American Indian proverb

 I have been a psychologist for over 30 years. Carl Rogers was all the rage when I went to study for my graduate degrees at Harvard University in Developmental Psychology. The year was 1980. America had imprinted on our favorite therapist through the Bob Newhart Show, and it was the decade of the Rubik’s Cube, Cabbage Patch Kids and Bill Cosby. So, when it came to being a shrink, Carl Rodgers was a next great step forward from Sigmund Freud and the movie What About Bob.

What I took away from Carl was a process called “mirroring”. It goes something like this: “Oh, what I hear you saying is that you feel like throwing your cat out the window”.  At that point the client throws the tissue box at me. This approach rapidly became a tool…

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