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

From Rural to Urban

New Stop….Seattle.  I have just spent one month in a place, cut off from the United States but still part of Washington.  Point Roberts.  You have to go over the Canadian Border, drive a bit and then go back over the US border to get there. Then to go shopping at the nearest Safeway equivalent you have to do that all over again.  The rub?  Sometimes the border crossings are an hour wait.

But, Point Roberts turned out to be a haven for my writer’s soul:  Pastoral, wild, rural and  bordered on three sides by the Strait of Georgia. And if the solace was not wonderful enough, the place was crawling with film industry writers, producers, camera men and great interest in the screenplay I am writing.  I found that as I kept aligned with my inspiration to tell a story, to care for self and find joy in the beauty around me, I continued to experience the magic of living in the flow.  Wonderful people and experiences have flooded my life and led me to deeper and more meaningful expressions of myself.  But time was up and I needed to head for Seattle.  My next home for a month.

Seattle is where I will be attending The Film School (www.thefilmschool.com) to immerse myself in a month long intensive bootcamp for screenwriters.  Working with Tom Skerritt  (A River Runs Through It) will be amazing.  My hope?  To polish a form of writing that is not a perfect fit for wordy ole me and to create a final version of the story I am currently writing.  As I will most likely be the age of most of the other participants parents, I am excited to have this opportunity to strip down to the most basic me, pull out all my writing weaknesses and build my skill as a screenwriter.  Somehow, at this moment I am remembering Demi Moore in GI Jane and a shudder runs up and down my spine. Twelve hour days, six days a week with Sunday for sleep and laundry.

And, since I last wrote about my travels, my trials and my over the top excitement about the life I am living, the following things have happened:  I was ultimately denied a driver’s license after five months of effort with my lawyer.  I am quietly considering my options and have not a bone in my body that is having a problem with my new non-driver status.  My not driving has led me to more experiences and people I would never have had or met otherwise. I am determining which radical path I will take to solve the issue.  But ultimately  I  have found out first hand that no one really needs a car.  No one.

I have met producers interested in the film I am working on and I have joined as a full partner with AOMUSIC which I count as the greatest gift from my not driving, for if I had my driver’s license way back in September I would have been off to NYC and I would never had met Richard Gannaway, who is the heart behind the music that I believe can change the world.  It has certainly changed mine. (please read about AO and Richard on my new website http://www.mayalunachristobel.com)

I have a new website which has been the best therapy I have ever done with people I love helping me to create myself in the world…. anew.  I have attended an Oscar Gala hosted by Tom Skerritt and won a raffle that benefits The Film School, to do something I have wanted to do all my life:  Fly Fish!   And fly fish with Tom and his wife for three days on the Yakima River here in Washington at the Canyon River Ranch Resort.  Pinch me now. Gotta get some waders!

I have also teamed up with Todd Huston to start an independent production company, Light Show Productions, to create films with heart, soul, integrity and inspiration.  Todd has been wonderful to write about, wonderful to work with and he is now headed back to Missouri to the little cabin where we had our “Deliverance” experience.   I am oddly happy not to be going back again if I may say so myself and will just stay tucked in here at the Mediterranean Hotel in Queen Anne.  Hotel living is pretty great.  Simple, small, efficient, friendly and has a 24 hour business center and a coffee shop on the ground floor.  My Leo self really likes this.

And this tiny accounting of life in the flow for a Gypsy without a car, is just scratching the surface of the amazing things that have been rushing into my life since I made this commitment to living on the road as a way to discover what makes me happy.   What I have found out it that I never once had to even look for happiness.  It was there all along and the Universe simply was poised, ready for me to  open my heart and my arms to life in it’s fullest.  Happiness has been that easy all along.

 

Next Stop: The Pacific Northwest

At the most northern border of Washington sits a little peninsula called Point Roberts, which is the only spit of land that is not hooked to the United States, but is still called America, since you have to go into Canada and then back over the border again into Point Roberts to get to it at all.  Three sides of water, 1700 people and a wild terrain make it an unusual destination for anyone.  But not for a writer.

I am here for a month to finish a first draft of the screenplay I have been hired to write.  There is no cell phone service for me and even land line service is unreliable. That is good.  I have the fortune of waking up ever morning to opening my large windows that look out on an idyllic scene.  Right in front of my house is a large winter pasture, filled with Icelandic Ponies that exude a kind of old world energy with their shaggy coats, long trailing tails of rust and black that blow in the persistent wind, and their plush manes.  It is a frequent sight to be watching them and as they are sipping at a winter pond in the field, a Bald Eagle will joint them for a bath.  Everyone completely at home with one another. Everyone certain of their own unique nature and living it without restraint.  Oh if that were true for all of us humans.

And, looking past the field, are the Strait of Georgia, a grey blue ocean with rolling hills of Canada in the distance.  I have not seen the whales yet and do not know their winter migration habits.

So, The Point is full of writers, retired folks, old timers, hermits, eccentrics and transplants like me.  Individuals and families, most of them women so far, that find the seclusion, the simplicity and the rural flavor and rhythm to be just what they are looking for and have moved here from all over the world.  I can see the benefits immediately for me as a writer.

And getting here was momentous.  I left Asheville on the 17th and flew to Denver for two big events.  The first was to meet with my Lawyer about my non-existent driver’s license.  Last judge, Higher Court, made an appeal to change the spelling on the original name change document that was ten years ago, and once again, an inexplicable NO.  So, a new tack is being taken.  I am going to Canada and getting an International Driver’s License.  Now this is creative.  Please send good thoughts my way that this will be easy and simple.  And of course Marriage is not ruled out, so a lottery might just be created in the future.

There is a letter in the mail to my Congressman, I never got an audience with the Governor of Colorado so a letter to him is underway and I am almost finished with an expose for Channel Nine in the special interest category.  We will see where any of it leads, but it is certain that I am having ample opportunity to use my voice in creative ways.

The second big event was re-uniting with a dear friend who I have not seen for ten years , who now lives in Sweden. She is an exceptional international painter and brought a body of her newer work to Denver.  She has had an extraordinary life and was graced to lived inside the wonderful Miracle of finding love on 9/11 while others experienced  the endless losses of that day.  I am so privileged to know her and trying to catch each other up on our many twists and turns of life over a decade filled with love, death, children, changing careers, travels and aging was quite an exercise.

So, I am here now in Point Roberts to write and prepare for my next leap of faith.  Just before leaving for the West Coast for some of my very own seclusion, I was seized with a knowing that I wanted to apply to The Film School in Seattle.  I have wanted to attend their Screenwriters Bootcamp for years, but my faith in myself as a screenwriter was not strong enough and time never seemed to be right.

The school is the creation of actor Tom Skerritt (www.thefilmschool.com) and has reached international acclaim for their commitment to helping writers remember the art of story telling and character development, which we do not see much any more out of Hollywood.  So, as I can feel the power of the story I am writing about the triumph on one man’s spirit, I decided to apply for their Bootcamp in March.  Then of course I noticed they only took 25 people internationally.

There they were.  The voices at my left ear whispering:  “Maya what are your thinking? You are 30 years older than every applicant, you have no production experience on your side of the ledger, you are a woman and you know how that has been and always will be in Hollywood, and you know you won’t get in so what are you thinking…WHAT are you thinking?”   So I applied and told the voices to shut up.

I got in.

Wow is all I can say.

I will leave here on Feb 25th for Seattle, renting a room with a kitchenette and starting a 6 day a week, 12 hour a day writers dream, complete with no time to shower or sleep and lots of coffee I don’t even drink. I need to relearn the bus system, remember how to take a backpack everywhere with my computer and camera, find a local health food store that is open very early in the morning, and forget about all those supplements I usually take and just dive in.

I am so very appreciative of this opportunity.  It seems that when I simply quiet myself and listen intently to what my guiding voice from my heart tells me, no matter how unfathomable, how outlandish, how inconvenient or how much money I think I don’t have  etc…..I am always led to exactly where my soul needs to be and most of the time I did not even really know my soul needed to be there.

After four months, it is clear that living in the Flow of Life, fully surrendering all control, is the only way I want to be living from this time forward. And oddly enough as I arrive at this commitment it is exactly what is called for to live in the year 2012.   I have come to realize that the most important part of living is for me to be deeply aware of what brings me Joy and Inspiration. Period.  People think that living for love, or living for what brings happiness means that you don’t do the responsible parts of life.  That is not true.  You just bring a happier more inspired person to those tasks we have to do to be a responsible global citizen.

All the years of thinking life was about what I DID and not about just BEING happily in myself were years that I know I created my own ill-health and my own struggle to do the right thing, to do the acceptable things, to do too much and overdo it in so many ways that never led me to a sense of calm knowing who I am and why I am here.  I am glad to have found my way out of that illusion and into a space in my life only filled with possibilities.

Waking Up

I woke up this morning , cats perched on my chest purring so loudly who needs an alarm clock.  I had great plans for my day.  The sun was finally out after a few days of torrential rain and I had plotted out my next installment of writing to be done on the screenplay I am involved in, a screenplay that tests my very metal.  I would get up and then reward myself with watching the Golden Globes. So, I got up and did the usual.  Brushed my teeth, fed the now yowling cats, poured a cup of Masala tea and headed to my desk.  But I got waylaid.  Something tugged on my heart from the inner realms and stopped my trajectory toward the computer.

It was a large purple and white orchid I had sitting in the window.  The sun was streaming in behind the  spider veined  petals and they seemed to be lit from the inside out.  Suddenly, nothing seemed relevant at all except to drink in the beauty of the petals and the cosmic design of it’s very unique personality.  No orchid is the same.  No petal the exact mirror or design.  Humans are just like that even if they are twins there is one mole or a different shape to the smile that makes them one of a kind.

Already my day was traveling down a different road.  In the past, I had my list, my “to do’s” numbered one through infinity and would start the day by reminding myself what I was up against and then like my exercise regime, I would just do one rep at a time till I was done.  Sometimes that would take me till after midnight.  But, my life has changed since those days. Living in the flow of life makes living by lists a bit obsolete.  And you may ask, ” If you live in the flow how do you get anything done”.  Well that is truly a mystery.

Somehow, even when distracted from an original intent to sit at my computer and answer emails, and instead sitting with the orchid as it vibrates its neon colors, as the sun pours in the window one minute, illuminating shapes and hues that I have no name for and then a cloud mutes it all into an impressionistic painting, my vibrational frequency rises to the experience.  My field of the heart opens, I am more in a feeling state, feeling my life, I am more joyful and happy.  I am changed for those moments I INTENTIONALLY allow myself to “wake up” to what is right in front of me. To slow down to notice life.  My heart is met with a kind of energetic communication that changes how I hum through the day.  And subsequently, how I hum through my to do list.

I know you.  You and I are very similar.  We each have a habit of thinking just the opposite:  “If I get everything else I need to do today out of the way I will feel satisfied, less stressed, more productive and then I will have the time to sit and really look at the flowers in front of me, the ones that have been there all the time.”  And I am here to tell you that this is an illusion.  When was the last time that really did happen in just that way?  What really happens is we believe the illusion, start ticking away at a list that is filled with not terribly inspiring things like calling the insurance company, taking out the trash, answering emails, vacuuming, that oil change etc etc etc.   And before we know it we have little time left for anything creative, joy filled or contemplative.  Right?  We are simply too busy to be happy.

Well here is the truth.  Somehow, very much a mystery to me  (and the mystery is what makes my life worth living), somehow when I am awake enough in my own body and my own intentional life, and I make the room to let myself be surprised by joy, interrupted by the unknown and the unplanned, then my to do list gets done and then some.  Because you see, when I vibrate at the level of love and joy, I hum along in an open posture to life, not reactive to it and I draw in a total experience of every thing else humming along and vibrating at the same rate I am:  Faster.

Everything is done with efficiency, every call to people who I usually have to struggle with like a credit card person or a tech person for my computer are all in good moods and get the job done for me in a blink.  And I just find myself un-flustered, and just a more pleasant person all the way around.  Then what happens is I draw in more very pleasant people, more inspired experiences, more surprises to throw me off my game on getting things done and I “flow” toward those new and wonderful interruptions to my day….and it still all gets done because I am feeling happy and creative.

“If you want to make god laugh…tell him your plans.”

And there is a caveat to this truth.   Sometimes those interruptions are hard, sad, filled with crisis and a demand to do something that feels entirely unpleasant or unwanted.  A car accident, a friend suddenly dies, a husband cheats with his secretary, a foreclosure, lost job, illness.  These harder aspects to living still require the very same posture.  Move with the flow, feel it all, see the opportunity to be a bigger, better, less reactive you.

And in the contrast of this difficult moment is its opposite:  In the pain there is the joy you would rather feel, in the shock is a calm place inside of you that you can reside, in the anger is a compassion available at all times.  The bumps and bruising of life is only a contrasting experience that reminds us of what we truly do want,  what we are capable of and what we desire.  It is our business and our choice to decide where we focus.  Do we want the pain or the place of relief.

We are in total control of our experience.  If we panic and rush headlong into finding a solution to the crisis we will certainly be met with the same energy; chaos, reactivity and confusion.  If we can take a breath and step out of the crisis for one split second and see the other side, see the beauty of our lives, the design, the people who love us and will give a hug freely, the dog still centered and waiting for you, the opportunity to be a stronger version of yourself, then you will find quickly, the appreciation you have for the crisis and the pain.  It is a choice.  And what’s the worst thing that can happen?  Really?   You die.  Isn’t that liberating.

So. I have yet to do my exercises this morning, make my breakfast and sit to write the next scene.  I am a few of hours behind schedule.  And that’s ok.  I have had such a lovely experience communing with my orchid and my cats and now with you, that my writing will be the better for it.  And about those flowers right in front of us.  Look around.  There are “flowers” blooming everywhere.  Those little faces of the people we love, with children inside of them, that just simply want someone to say, “come out and play”.  Then there are our dogs who need that brushing we have been putting off or that walk with you, without you being on the cell phone, but paying total attention to this being who is the most unconditional love you will ever experience.  Or that clerk at the coffee shop that you have meant to speak to and thank for helping you every day, but you are in too much of a hurry.  The trees blowing in a rhythmic dance outside your window, decorated with singing birds that are there for you to notice and appreciate, the feel the water pouring over of you in the shower, the smell of the roasted coffee in the kitchen, it is endless.

Wake up!  Are you paying attention to everything around you so that you can then FEEL everything inside of you?    The universe supplies you with endless opportunity to stop and smell the roses, hug the loved ones, see, and I mean truly see the sky and breath in this new day you have been given a chance to truly live.  This is the only day you have right now.  The to do list will wait and in fact it will all get done.  I promise.

 

The Power of Words

Naomi Shihab is one of our greatest poets.  She has married words to her heart. We would all live so much more richly if we would recognize that words have power.  We would do so much less harm and so much more good if what we said and what we wrote, if what we whispered on the phone or text to a friend understood the power of words.

Shoulders

A man crosses the street in rain,

stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

“Shoulders” by Naomi Shihab Nye, from Red Suitcase.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o said, “In writing, one should hear all the whisperings, all the shouting, all the crying, all the loving and all the hating of the many voices in the past. Those voices will never speak to a writer in a foreign language.”

The Self Help Community Needs Some Self-Help

I have been up in the air.  Between San Diego, LA and Denver.  I do not really like to fly but driving across the country seemed too long and too costly, so I bit the bullet.

This October travel has been focused on finally embodying my desire to publish my writing.  Each day I have envisioned an ease at navigating myself toward publication and my travels have materialized opportunities to talk with authors in Boston and agents in San Diego, so I can become educated about the complex publishing world.   It has been a true adventure to foreign lands.  Eye opening does not cover it.  But before I get ahead of myself lets talk about publishing and the writer’s world as it is today.

The publishing world has morphed into an animal that either seems designed to be about who you know and your skill at schmoozing and networking, or having the self power, self determination and stick-too-it-ness to self publish.  Then recently another group arrived to throw a life line to those who needed some mediation and help to do all the nitty gritty of getting something you love and feels like a brand new baby you just birthed, into print and with a cover that might compete in the ocean of books that come and go every single day, most ending up on the Barnes and Nobel 99 cent table.  This is where I chose to start.  And now the baby that was conceived nine months ago has been born., delivered and is sitting in my living room in Asheville.

This year I published with a group of women a book called “Freeing Godiva:  On Women’s Empowerment”.  It arrived in eight big boxes today. Way too heavy to carry up three flights of stairs.   And in April my book “Roadmaps to Success”, with Deepak Chopra will come out.  So, I have both feet in the rapidly moving and ever changing world of words on paper and ideas for the masses.  Now it seemed like time to take some of my writing that is inspirational and provocative and find a mainstream publisher who will think it is better than Hemingway or Miller and sign me on.  This is a new animal for me. This means I have to believe in myself.

So, as I envisioned the possibilities, I got a call and invitation to come to San Diego for the 85th birthday party for Louise Hay, the grand dame of the self help publishing world.  450 people, consisting of closest friends and authors contributed to an extravaganza honoring her ground breaking presence in the self-help community. She is truly an icon for us as women and for having launched the most famous names in the self help industry.  I was excited to go. I stared at my closet, I did not have any high heels.  Sneakers would not work. Then came the old feelings.

The voices of our culture, the voice of my mother, the voice of doubt, all started to clamor for attention as I imagined my going to this event in California. This was the Academy Award of conscious publishing.  The voices in my head were a cacophony of lecture tones that went something like this:  “You don’t have anything to wear Maya, look you closet looks like a bad thrift store? What will you do if they ask what book you published with Hay House?  If Wayne Dyer is at your table how will you explain that you are a Gypsy and not published on any the trendy themes?  That was just the start of a bad day.

These are words I recognize as the voices that have stopped me in my tracks before, halted amazing visions on a dime and kept me ensnared in my own web of self sabotage, so that my drawers and files and computer are all overflowing with unfinished novels and the next Titanic Movie.    I had to shut them up once and for all and get on the plane.  Not easy.

I have dismantled those voices before but they seem to migrate back at the most inopportune times.  I needed a new perspective.  I heard MY voice say, “just let them run their course”.  Painful idea.  But I did.  I did not resist the messages, the feelings of unworthiness, the shame or the anger at how much room they hove taken up over my life.  I just let them run full tilt until….they had nothing else to say.  All the while I simply breathed.

I think the voices got bored with me.  I did not react and start an inner argument, I did not become afraid, or grumpy, or little or reactive.  I simply acknowledged their words and presence and then when all the hubbub died down and there was some breathing room I added my own voice.  Short and sweet. “You are just perfect the way you are Maya and you love what you write, so be happy and be yourself”.  “Wear what makes you feel good and others will feel good too.  Share about you life as a Gypsy and your passion for the adventure and those around you will feel passion too.”  Quite elegant in the simplicity don’t you think?  My heart felt lighter and certain.  (But I did buy a pair of kick ass heels and have the blisters to show for it).

 

So the day arrived, I floated into a room full of Lady GaGa shoes, all the right Couture, and name tags on every silk shirt, strapless gown and Armani suit. The blazing sun beat down on the patio.  Silk table clothes, fountains of oranges and yellow roses, trays of sushi and glasses of wine began flowing at 11:30 on the dot as the Valets tried to find a parking space for the hundred or more cars.

 

But all eyes were on the name tags.  No eyes met very often, everyone was sizing up either the competition or the comrades in arms.  Most had a questioning look as they gazed at the name tag as if to say, “ Shit!  I should know this person, what the hell did they write?”.  The inner circle had nicely typed name tags and the new people like me that came with another author had to write our names on our own name tags, immediately culling us out to the outer edges of the throng.  But, I managed to write Maya Christobel with some flare.

There was only one important question to ask anyone with a drink in their hands.  “Are you with Hay House and what have you published?  And what are you publishing this year?”  There is was.  The question that would challenge my deep honesty.  So, each time the question came to me I simply breathed and smiled and said, “I have not decided whether I am publishing with Hay House or not.  This year I am Nomadic, living a simple life and the answer will become obvious in time.” (Did I REALLY say that?).    Silence.

Next!

It was a wonderful and sweet exercise in self love.  In not measuring myself against what was being called success and it was fun to find out who would move away from my answer and who would be genuinely interested and not take offense.  I made two wonderful friends in the ocean of possibilities and befriended my own self as I did not try to be anyone other that who I was in that moment.  I watched sharks swimming in search of contacts, acknowledgment, room to plug their next book, business cards flying, face lifts taut with smiles.  And I met wonderful, genuine, heart felt people like Lauren Mackler who made my trip possible.  They, like her, were passionate about their books, willing to admit being afraid or ignorant of the process just like me, or feeling fragile but excited to be swimming in the self-help ocean, limitless possibilities in front of them.

I floated through the the outdoor tent the size of New Jersey with white gauze curtains blowing in the afternoon breeze. I nibbled on fabulous food, sipped Champagne and realized that this wonderful gathering was not about me landing a contact in the publishing world or having a long conversation with Deepak about the book I was lucky to share with him.  It was about finding the amazing comfort zone of myself, in a sea of fame and fortune, in the glitzy world of being a famous author, of loving who I am that is uniquely me, who will write something that will stand apart, even if I have a hand made name tag and heels from Target.

So, when we finally sat, all 450 of us to a beautiful three course meal, I looked down at the artistic birthday invitation that was perched on my plate, orchids and roses the center piece, cascading over the table for eight.  On the front of the card was a hand made glazed paper flower.  When you opened the card there was a circular mirror that immediately reflected you…back to you.  I do not remember the poem on the inside of the invitation.  I just remember the reflection of my own broad smile, smiling back at me.