Quantum Storytelling


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

Who is your Neighbor?


NOV 23, 2012

heart world

I was rushing to a meeting with a new strategic planner and felt a little unprepared.  I’m a bit of a stickler for getting places on time.  I threw my briefcase into the car with some bottled water and tried to stay under the speed limit, since here in Point Roberts, Washington there is one policeman, known as Officer Slick, who has little to do but give tickets for tiny offenses.  He is Point Roberts onlypoliceman.

I pulled up to the four-way and turned onto Gulf Road, making sure I came to my full stops at every stop sign, one of Officer Slick’s pet peeves. It was raining cats and dogs as it frequently does here in the Pacific Northwest.  I glanced at the clock.  I was just going to make it to my meeting.

Suddenly there he was.  Al, a very old man in a green wool sweater shuffling down the road.  He seemed to barely move and was soaked by the driving rain.  “Should I stop?”  I glanced at the clock and kept driving, seeing that it was straight up 11am.  But, there was that feeling in my heart that I have often, making it impossible for me to continue.  I spun around doing an illegal U-Turn, hoping that officer Slick was nowhere in sight.  I pulled up next the man who had not even made it three feet since I past him.  I rolled down the window and asked if I could take him somewhere.  He was disoriented.  Maybe he couldn’t hear me correctly or maybe he was not used to being helped.  I pushed open the door and asked him to get in out of the rain.

He could barely close the front door behind him and sat slumped in the passenger seat.  His wool sweater smelled of a dog or maybe a wet horse. “Where are you going on a day like this?” I said, smiling.  He took a moment to look over my car and then answered, “Food for Isabella?”  Was she his wife?  His friend, I wondered.  He was shivering as I pulled back into the street.  “Are you going to the Marketplace?”  “Yep, she woke me up this morning and said she was hungry”.  How could that be? I thought.  “Is Isabella you wife?”  Al turned and smiled.  “No, miss, she’s my cat.”

This man looked in his late eighties or early nineties, worn out by a life I knew nothing about.  He then started to talk about what a friend she was to him and the best cat he had ever had. I pulled up to the Marketplace and said I would wait for him and then take him home.  I called my strategic planner and said I would be…quite late.  So much for strategically planning my day down to the hour.

Twenty minutes later there was no Al I sight.  I got out and dashed into the store only to find that he was lost somewhere between the cat food and the Skippy peanut butter.  I helped him find the last item on his list:  Gator Aid.  Checkout took forever since in this man’s life everything moves at a snails pace.  I taped into my deep reservoir of patience and finally got him in the car with packages and all.

He talked of his cat and then tried to remember what street he lived on.  We had to backtrack a little and then he pointed to his house.  The classic home of a recluse, a person who barely subsists, even though when you look at the house you know it used to be something special at one time.  There was a broken down truck in the driveway since they took away his drivers license he said.  An old skiff for fishing in the front yard that looked like it had been there since I was born.  All the drapes were pulled tight and held in place at the windowsill with pieces of firewood.  I worried that he heated with wood.

We got him out of the car with my umbrella, packages almost too heavy for him, yet he insisted on carrying them himself.  Then a thank you.  Then a sideways smile.  Then he disappeared to the back of the house and was gone.

I sat in my car for a moment nearly having forgotten I had an agenda.  All I could think of was Al.  His life.  His devotion to walking in the rain for cat food and his love of his dear Isabella.  All I could think of was his living alone and in dire need of what most of us take for granted.  I was no longer in a hurry.

This past year I have aligned my life with a cause to help children in crisis situations who have no parent, no food, and no shelter. Children who have lived through the unthinkable like the earthquake in Haiti or the Tsunami in Japan.  I left thirty years as a psychologist to pursue a larger passion.  It is very important to me to be living from the center of what I believe I was called here to do.  Helping children have their basic needs met and helping others open their hearts to people they may not know is now my work.  And, yet, Al lives right down the street and he is in dire need too.  Al needs food and help.  Al needs love.  All is my neighbor.

I don’t need to go to Haiti or Osaka to look right outside my window to see loneliness or need.  In fact I wonder if the nightly news of chronic devastation, war and poverty desensitizes us to recognizing who lives on our own street when we watch nightly crisis and dramas around the globe?  How many houses do we pass with overgrown yards, drapes pulled and old people shuffling out to try to bend down to pick up a newspaper?  How many homeless people could have a square meal and tell me their story, if I were to simply stop ‘strategically planning’ my day and take the time to take them for a lunch?

If I woke up every day expecting to witness something around me, some person, some animal, some situation that could use my attention, my dollar, my car, my excess and be better for it…I would be better for it. Our world would be better for it is we each committed to this action of love.  Millions of people would be helped in a single day.   My question to every human and to myself is this:  Why don’t we all live like this all the time?  What will it take for all of us to start?  Who is the Al in your life?

The Seed of Truth


A Seed Planted

It has been one year since I sold most of what I own and drove away from Tulsa Oklahoma.  I had been called there to help my mother die.  Four years later, my time was done in Oklahoma and I asked a question. “Now…what makes me happy”.  Then I turned the corner into my sixties.  For the first time in nearly forty years I had no children at home, no husband, no clients to care for.  I just had me.  And my two cats Hazel and Snow.

The question of what makes me happy was new.  It was asked in a new spirit with the emphasis on ME.  What makes ME happy.  I had spent decades organizing my answers around the ‘whole’ of my life.  My happiness was always intertwined with my daughters, or the man I loved, my mother and family and the concern I had for my clients who entrusted me with their stories and their care.

There had been little time to truly know what my own seed of happiness was.  So, I set out for one year to discover the answer.  Not by making a list of what made me happy, but to have an experience of “being happy”.  What became quickly obvious was that I was surprised by happiness.  I never went out looking for it or trying to create happy moments.  Happiness found me.  And in unexpected ways.

And what also became a life lesson was discovering that the way happiness found me was because I slowed down every aspect of my life and made room for happiness to come in.  The art of allowing my life to flow and simply following the current has been the gift of this past year.  Our society is focused on doing, on making, on busily trying to get our life to look like our vision.  This presupposes that we are the only one to make or break our own possible happiness.  That boot-strap mentality locks us out of the experience of being part of the mystery, of the divine, of a destiny that has a design and pattern to discover.  It creates isolation.

Allowing life to move us has at the center this divine mystery of a perfect design. But allowing is a relational word.  Allowing does not mean I do nothing.  Allowing means I hold the vision, embody the energy and move my feet and then the dance begins and my partner is Spirit, God, the Universe, and Love.

I did do one important thing before I put the carrier on top of my Nissan and drove away toward the East Coast:  I set an intention.  A strong intention.  I sat up late into the night and wrote my vision for my life.  I soaked it in, knowing that somehow I had captured on paper a glimpse of a life I would love and then I tucked the writing into my Tarot Bag.  The vision was filled with joyful ideas of being closer and working with my daughters in a business, of being surrounded by music, living in nature, writing for film and seeing myself succeed with my writing.  I wrote of being in a common community with like-minded people, increasing my health and prosperity and being with children in my work.  Then I drove to Asheville, North Carolina.

Now, one year later I am astonished.  When I arrived in North Carolina to spend a short time with my daughter I ran into a problem renewing my driver’s license.  This problem still persists and even baffles congressman Perlmutter in Denver.  No one seems to know how to solve my lack of ‘drivability’.  The loss of easy mobility left me stranded in North Carolina longer than expected.  So, I went to a workshop on manifestation and then two days later met Richard Gannaway from AOMusic through a Craigslist ad of all things.  Four hours later my life rearranged.

Richard handed me two of his Grammy nominated albums.  Driving home I slipped them into the CD player in my car and headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was raining. My first big surprise was about to occur.  I started weeping, pulled off the road and nearly one hour later had finished listening to’ And Love Rages On’, with the windows fogged and motor still idling.

The weeping was a direct message from my soul to me.  Weeping with joy validates the moment I am in as sacred, as important, as inspired.  In that moment something redirected in me and pointed me back to Richard and AOMusic.  My mind said “this is crazy”, “this wasn’t on the agenda!”, “WHAT are you DOING?”.  I kept driving. Now one year later I am a partner with Richard and AO and proceeding with a vision for a film series that is inspiring great interest.  I am immeasurably happy.

That one surprise by the side of the road…of joy…love…creativity…happiness has led to me back to digging out that piece of paper I put into my Tarot Bag just a year ago.  I re-read my hopes and dreams.  I smile when I realize that almost everything I envisioned is in my life right now:  I work with children who sing, I am surrounded by music, my daughter Jessie and I work together on a project she helped to shoot in Nepal, I write for film, have gone to film school, live part time in two amazing natural environments, Asheville and the Pacific North West.   I have a community of inspired, creative, loving co-workers and friends.  I have a new kind of partner of the heart with Richard Gannaway.  I have been prosperous and happy and healthier. All because I opened to the possibilities, allowed for my life to move with serendipity, coincidence and intuition.

The art of navigating life this way has been the largest learning in my lifetime.  And now as our holiday season begins I have a new question.  Not about what makes me happy, or what’s next.  But a question about where is home?  Having been nomadic for over a year now it is time to find ….home.  And finding home is never possible until each of us feels entirely at home in the self.  This year of SELF discovery has brought me to a new way of thinking about home.  Home is the space that is a sacred anchor for our soul to live out our purpose for being here.  Finding home is my next adventure. Or better yet!  I will let home find me.



A Sore Subject

I have had so many inquiries from those of you who have been following my journey this year, regarding my having taken a job with a friend to write a screenplay.  I have posted many funny and amazing stories about this journey of taking one man’s experience and writing a screenplay that does justice to his extraordinary moments.  All in 120 pages.

My work on this project took five months of my life and led me to amazing people and my going to The Film School in Seattle, fly fishing with Tom Skerritt and his wife Julie, finding amazing mentors to work with me, learning about fundraising and producing. What I have learned about myself as a writer and about the business of making movies has been invaluable.

Yet, what I have learned about the way the industry works has been disheartening even more so than I already thought I was aware of.  In the end, as those who become agents or lawyers in the mix do, the project was taken away from me, contracts disregarded, I was not paid and my friend vanished in search of Hollywood.  So I lost a friend. It is always hard to deal with any disappointment or feeling of betrayal anytime, but when it happens with a friend, I am always stopped in my tracks and need to find my way to making sense of what happened.  And I notice here that I use the phrase, “I am always”.

What I have come to know is that betrayal is commonplace.  Betrayal is to be expected.  Betrayal is in fact …necessary.

The irony is this.  My very first screenplay of nearly 20 years ago was entitled “A Necessary Betrayal”.  It is very appropriate that I must revisit my premise in that screenplay in my own life.  The pitch went something like this: “The wife of a pedophile priest finds her own dark side in the arms of another”.  Very melodramatic eeh? The rub in that story was….who did the betraying?  Did the priest betray the wife and the children or did the woman who dealt with her pain and claustrophobia in the church, betray him?  Did they each betray themselves and their higher sense of what is right?  All of the above.  So, in that story the pain of the betrayal by someone she loved led her to see how she had betrayed herself and in fact was capable of the same things she railed about.  Hmmm.

Wiki says this about betrayal: Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals.   It always seems easier when it is an organization or anonymous person you feel backstabbed by, but when it is your family and friends it is an entirely other thing. We least expect betrayal from those we have learned to trust. The hardest part of this story is the need to ask this question:  How am I responsible and how did I contribute to the outcome and create the betrayal?  This question is far more difficult to sit with than the event of loosing a job, or pay or a friend. Because if we answer the question honestly, we cannot be a victim.

In the end this question leads to our inevitable responsibility for “self-betrayal”.  I, in fact, did not listen to my inner voice whenever it cautioned me to not take this project.  I over-road my inner knowing for the glimpse of a possible future for the story I was writing being on the screen. This was no different from my friend over-riding his loyalty to our agreement for the lure of a possible bigger deal in Hollywood.  Therefore, as within, so without.  OUCH!  My inner reality of self-betrayal was mirrored by the circumstances of betrayal in my relationship to my friend and the project.

This awareness is life changing.  In embracing the painful truth of this, there is no victim.  I am not done to.  I am a creator in my own outcome. In all honesty if I had listened to my own voice from the beginning I would not have taken the project.  I believe this wholeheartedly.  Bravely, each of us would do well to look at those betrayals in our lives that we hang on to or feel so effected by.  Affairs, swindling, robberies, cheating, broken promises done with intent, broken contracts for a better deal.  How have we contributed to those outcomes?  Has our fear created a response in kind?  Have we failed to speak up when we see injustice happening?  Did we fail to confront our deep intuition that a husband is cheating or a boss is ripping us off?  Did we have our head in the sand?  Why?  These are hard but necessary questions.  Blame is far easier than self inquiry.

Being a victim in life is far too easy.  Feeling victimized carries with it powerlessness.  Taking responsibility for the outcomes of our love or business relationships is a stance of power and personal responsibility.  I am endeavoring to stand in this place even in the midst of disappointment, loss and financial difficulty and dust myself off.  I need to embrace my tendency to believe in only the best in a person and not see other signs that I might act upon to protect myself or create clearer contracts in life.  From this vantage point the loss of this amazing project is simply “a day in class”.  A master’s level course in knowing myself and standing up for what I know to be true.  In this case I can be grateful for the learning so it may not happen again. I have become sensitive to the signs in myself and around me that I overlooked before.

And what I know is that the betrayals, especially in the entertainment business, are inevitable.  I am stronger and more prepared in myself to do a better job of taking care of myself and seeing the industry for what it is.  So, in the end I can thank my friend for all I have learned that I would not have without him and my future involvements will be clearer and more tuned to my own needs and knowing. I can only wish him well and will be the first in line to see the movie if it comes to a theater.

The post script in all of this is a silver lining.  As this project that consumed most of my life slipped away, a space was left, and experiences and opportunity that could not have come my way have.  Projects much closer to my heart and more tuned to the person I am are now available.  And I have finally started to do my own project, a story needing telling that I would not have gotten to for a long time if there had not been room made for me to fill.  I learned that what I am even more passionate about than writing for film is producing.  This is a new awareness for me as it is unbelievably exciting.

So, before I sat to write an answer to all the questions I have been receiving, I thought long and hard about what to say.  Knowing the subject of betrayal is a sore one for most of us.  And I knew I needed to be very candid about myself…publicly.  But, I think that what has come with age is my deep awareness that living a life un-clothed is far more interesting, invites far richer and real engagements with people and allows me to find the honest answers in myself to share with you.

Thank You.

And The Winner Is

I have been in The Film School here in Seattle for five days and some undetermined amount of hours.  I have lost track of when the sun rises and sets, since all my classes are in a grey walled room with no windows and too many banks of florescent lights.  Even though the Seattle Needle is right outside the front door, the Monorail runs overhead and I can smell the waterfront, I only can imagine these things since the four walls of the school are where I will spend every minute of daylight for the next three weeks.

I live by day in a utilitarian room built to show clips of now famous films at the drop of a hat.  Lights on. Lights off.  We then all scramble to determine the arc of the scene, the intent of the character and the question the protagonist is missing the answer to, but chases for 120 pages. We watch Cassavetes, Newman, Altman and countless directors shape films that will live in us forever.

I am in this room for about 10 hours in a day, with an hour for dinner that starts at 4pm when we should all just be having “happy hour” to drown our sorrows, as we realize we are green writers at best. We crawl out of the womb of film at 9pm.  Homework till midnight and by then who gives a crap when you showered last, you flop into bed with all your clothes on, forgetting when the last time you shaved your legs was.

At the end of each day I gather my arsenal of pens, papers, my computer, water bottles, energy bar wrappers that are strewn over the table I share with 19 other shell shocked soldiers of fortune, throw everything into an all too heavy back pack and head for the solace of my hotel. The Mediterranean Inn.  When I push through the now very familiar doors, Cory, who is on duty for the late night shift says, “Ms. Maya?  How was your day in class?  I smile, not having a clue what to say except for, “I found out today I like acting.  Who would have thunk it?”.   And, did I say I am exhilarated?  Did I say that I am exhausted but blissed out to the nth degree?  I will next time he asks.  And Cory always does.

This school is one of a kind, founded, directed and taught by those who have a burning desire to teach a new wave of screenwriters the ancient craft of story telling, long ago lost on Hollywood.  They are reminding us how to craft a story with rich characters and endless tension.  The hero at the center the quest is the driving force of the story and write with few words, with ample non-verbal information and with dialogue sparse and too the point.  Sound easy?  It is grueling. It is yoga with a pen.  It is bootcamp.

I am mentored by famous actors like Tom Skerritt of Alien, A River Runs Through It and Mash.  I have teachers who have written award winning screenplays, have won Oscars and are clear that “story” is everything to any movie and unless we as writers know how to tell that story we will go the way of thousands of writers every year: into disillusionment and back to our jobs at Starbucks.

And I have one amazing man who is changing my life by the minute.  Stewart Stern.  Oscar winning screenwriter of Rebel Without a Cause, The Ugly American and the right hand man for decades to Paul Newman and JoAnne Woodward.  He wrote Sybil with Sally Field and also won the Oscar.  Stewart is 90 years old.  He teaches us about the power of words.  When he speaks to us, he speaks of how his personal life informed every word he wrote for every movie he made.  Every mother was his mother, every troubled teen was his life up on the screen.  We all listen to him until the late hours as he shares his journals and his stories of how his life is the movie he writes over and over again.  Stewart reads to us complete with cookies and milk,

 I put the crusty bread and cold slabs of butter in my mouth with a spoonful of hot soup and the mixture of the cold and hot, the melting butter and the edge of bread in my mouth, took me back to another time when I was sick in bed as a child.  The combination brought back my mothers care of me when I was sick.  I suddenly recalled my entire boyhood room and my mothers steps up the stairs on a winter day. I remembered my mothers foamy egg nog, left by my bed in the sick room and the photo of Johnny Weissmuller I had seen in the barber shop window.  Mother had gone out to Columbus Ave., to the shop there and she bought it for me.  Her face was cold and her nose was running when she arrived back to our house and I made her tape his photo to my window pane so I could look at it from my bed.  I suddenly knew why I had wanted to be sick as a child;  so my father could find stature as the doctor in our house and my mother could show me love that was so hard for her to show most every day of my life.”

Stewart makes every story a tasty morsel that no screenplay can do without and that each of these stories are universal.  When he finally wears out and needs to pack up the dozen photos of him in WWII or the pictures of him with Paul Newman or winning an Oscar one after the other, I float home.  A dozen hours a day with Stewart would simply not ever be enough for me.

But, I am told that to be a writer, a real and deeply meaningful writer, I have to understand the story as the actor and the director would.  So, yesterday acting classes were followed by classes on direction.  What do I know about such things?  Well, apparently more than I thought. And I am thrilled with the opportunity.

At the beginning of the day yesterday I was handed a surprise script.  I had to ACT!  The first of the day.   Piece of cake I thought as I shook, knowing I had never acted a day in my life.  Maybe I would play a pensive housewife, or maybe a political figure with wisdom like Meryl or Helen Mirren and with something poignant to say.  I hoped for a meaty roll to test my true metal as an actor.  But, that is not what happened.

I got the part of a 16 year old girl siting in the back seat of a Subaru with my 34 year old leach of a professor, played by the hottest young guy in the class.  Not only did I have to be 16, but a sexually molested messed up teen, one that had never done drugs before and I had, in the end, to come on to my professor with a out of the box line that went something like this:  “I know you want to fuck me, so just go on and do it!”.  I fell out of my chair hoping that someone much more qualified would jump at the chance for a juicy part like this, but NO.  The job fell to me.  And this was the first scene of the class.

Me, Hot Guy and Tom Skerritt directing.  Oh and did I say I had to jump my co-star in that cramped back seat and have a long passionate kiss?  This new married guy with a 20 month old boy?  Yep!  That’s right.  Me the grandmother of the group and Hotty Boy. I knocked it out of the park, to my own surprise.  Who knew there was an actor lurking in the depths of my screenwriting?  And tomorrow I get to direct another students scene that looks something like The English Patient.

But, before the day was over a surprise guest walked into the classroom.  This woman was so unassuming that I thought that she was a secretary at the school or maybe she was someones mother in class.  Thelma Shoonmaker.  Three Oscars, 22 nominations,  and the editor for all of Scorsese’s films.  She just sat in a chair and talked about 40 years as an editor for films that will go down in history.  This is a daily occurrence.  And I am only on day…5.  16 to go. Pinch me now!

Thelma Schoonmaker

So, it is midnight and I think I will wash my hair, wash out a pair of underwear in the sink, put some hot water to boil on my one hot plate and go to bed.  All I can say is that I am nearly 62 years old  and finally finding out the truth about following my heart and doing what I deeply love.  This choice leads to more of the same.  More of what I love, things with more heart and inspiration and way more joy.  I wonder why it has taken me so long to simply do what I love?  Now I will get to find out if the money will follow. It is certain to.  Or maybe I just won’t even care. This adventure is already worth its “wait” in gold.