those fork in the road moments

24 02 2010

A common refrain: “What should I do?” Another common refrain: “I don’t know what to do.”

These questions refer to both logistical as well as emotional decisions. A decision can be a nanosecond to many months in the making. Either way, we are always asking ourselves some version of these two questions on a million levels all the time.

I have been a student of Buddhism for many years, and when many of us approach the teachers and ask them these questions, the coda response to the refrain question is, “What would you usually do?” “What is your usual response/action?”

And then they say, “So don’t do that, do something different. Try maybe even doing the opposite.”

It’s very uncomfortable to hear this and then try to face the answer and then do it. The teaching dumps upside down my comfort zone and habitual ways of being and exercises muscles that are under-developed.

The creative life, or the awakened life, thrives on randomness, accident, spontaneity, vividness, and immediacy to name a few.

When we are responding or reacting the same way over and over again to the confusing circumstances that present, we cut off the possibility of any of the above-mentioned qualities from entering our lives.

Our habitual ways of being are a gerbil wheel. We feel like we are moving, but it’s an endless cycle of unhappiness and an unexpressed life.

Why not next time you are wondering what to do, ask yourself, ‘What do I usually do?” and then do the opposite.

I’m doing it in my life right now, which is why I’m writing this post, and I’m terrified. But I’m awake and present and open to something new flowing in. I prefer an artful life to a robotic life.


a post from danielle laporte

23 02 2010

When someone posts something that is so spot-on to what you are going through at the very same moment, is a sister to you, and says it as well as you could, or maybe even better!, the only thing to do is post the whole canoodle on your blog.

So here it is, DANIELLE LAPORTE from on;


Me, you, or someone you know:
“I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m going to …”
Fill in the blank: Quit, sell it, leave, cancel, give it away, walk, resign.

That practical voice inside your head, well-intentioned friends, your granny: “Now, why would you do that?! It’s … (fill in the blank) good money, a great opportunity, you’ve worked so hard, what will you do without it? Can’t you work it out?

And you bite the hook. In fact, your psyche’s been hanging on it for quite sometime, gnawing on 101 good, practical, and perfectly reasonable reasons why you have the right to make the decision that you’re making. You know, rationalizing. Well how about this rationale:

It doesn’t feel right.

Stay there for a few seconds. It’s a very powerful place to be. It’s elegant. It’s clear. Declared feelings have sonic reach.

And… it can be very uncomfortable. Like the truth can often be before it sets you free.

I recently left a gig because it just didn’t feel right. I struggled with all of the yes, no, make adjustments, suck it up, expand your perspective, get more creative kind of options. A few people thought I was nuts to walk away. Great exposure, cachet, extra money… All true. The “facts” usually are.

I made the tastiest Excuse Sandwich about why it didn’t work for me. I need to find a baby sitter, it interrupts my week, it’s not what I signed up for, I need a haircut, I don’t like so and so or such and such, I need to focus on … All absolutely true. And in the grand scheme, in the greater gestalt of what I’m capable of, totally lame and absolutely surmountable.

If something felt right, I’d drive all night in a push-up bra to get there. When it really feels right, you go out of your way. When something feels right, you put inconveniences in their place.



  • automatically puts you on the defense. When you’re on the defense, you burn more energy. Rationalization can be incredibly inefficient.
  • over-complicates things.
  • perpetuates cleverness. Clever is not a good word in my personal dictionary. It rhymes with slick, manipulative, covert. When you’re trying to rationalize something that is very often amorphous and insular you’ll reach for smooth answers that you think people – or your subconscious – want to hear. And that makes you a salesman.
  • depresses your essential self. The more you load rationale onto your feelings, the more padding you create between you and your most powerful, unlimited resource. If you make a habit of keeping your instincts at bay, that tend to stay at bay.
  • makes you look and feel like a victim. In an effort to prove and protect, you make up reasons that appear to be more important than your refutable instinct. You whine. You nit pick the situation. You start sounding like the whimp you don’t want to be – instead of the hero that you essentially are. When the passion is there, so is the solution. No problem looks insurmountable when you’re turned on.

Of course, sometimes your greatness demands that you explain your reasons in no uncertain terms. Taking the time to explain yourself can be a fantastically creative act. If that’s what’s called for, then explain how you feel. Hold the excuses. Stand by your heart. Make it matter.


19 02 2010

Mynde Mayfield from wanted me to comment on comparing ourselves to other people. Her twitter handle is @myndemayfield

My short answer about comparing is that it’s ALWAYS a losing game.

So why do it? You’re never going to come out on top, so do yourself a favor and resist the temptation.

It’s human nature to always be checking ourselves. But there is another way. We can practice just allowing ourselves to be.

We can begin to practice letting go of the reference point of “other” to know we exist and are okay.

We compare ourselves to others to either feel superior or to feel like crap.

We like to feel superior so we can fortify against any soft spot we know darn well is there.

We like to feel like crap because there is some weird comfort in our little putrid cocoon of low expectations for ourself, and our victim story that goes round and round and gives us an excuse not to take responsibility for our lives.

If we feel like crap all the time and keep feeding that, we never have to take any risks, and never have to feel the bracing wind of vulnerability, or failure, or *gasp* success!

There are always going to be people doing things better than us, and doing things worse than us. The main thing, from my viewpoint, is to be as genuine as you possibly can in everything you are doing and to be fully present. My teachers have mentioned about a gazillion times to me, that those two things can bring you ALOT of happiness and contentment in life.

SECRET: there’s nowhere to get too. There’s no giant prize for being the best. We can just relax and enjoy the process of expressing ourselves fully and releasing our attachment to the outcome. Things don’t have to be perfect or masterful to be effective. Notice how AFFECTED we are by dogs and children. They certainly don’t know how to write well or market well or get a lot of followers on Twitter. But they are genuine and present and are doing the best they know how. It’s quite beautiful isn’t it?

Trust your own path.  A Buddhist teaching goes something like this; Better to walk your own path well than another’s poorly.

a reader’s questions answered on writing

18 02 2010

Kathleen Nolan asked a few questions on writing. You can find her at

On Twitter @readwritecook

* Why is it so hard to write even when it is the thing I most want to do?

There are endless reasons, and some that are common to all writers and others that are specific to you. I can only answer the ones common to all writers, but I think each writer must answer for herself the specific why’s as to the difficulty of writing. Self-knowledge is an imperative for a writer. It’s my opinion that the extent that we know ourselves is the extent we can know our characters (in fiction), and other people (in non-fiction). You cannot be a really good writer without a whole bunch of looking inward, although people try it all the time, and in my opinion, the result is writing that is shallow or undeveloped and ultimately uninteresting.

Some of the common reasons; (I am a non-fiction writer so therefore am going to address that genre here)

-to sit in a chair alone not speaking to anyone for hour after hour is plain old difficult.

-Grace Paley once said in a workshop I was in that the state that writers need to be in to work, is the state that most people are paying therapists to get out of.

-writing in particular is an art form that creates something from absolutely nothing. We make worlds with little black marks on the page and they have to make sense, be emotional, and touch something universal as well as reveal something personal.

– the level of vulnerability is hard to live with.

*In your opinion, what makes someone a really good writer?

For me, there are three things that make someone a really good writer.

1. The amount of personal emotional processing that the writer has done in their own life with regard to the past.

2. Their voice (which is to say, their ability to connect with the reader)

3. Craft. The writer’s understanding of rhetorical frames, architecture of the piece, rhythm, editorial surgery, etc.–all the aspects of the craft of writing. (And there IS an actual craft to it, which is where many writers stop. It takes years of practice to learn the craft of something).

*How do you get your own writing done? Do you suggest a writing schedule?

I make many sacrifices in my life to write. it’s just the way it is when you feel you must pursue something. I know the Winter Olympic athletes understand, and I don’t view myself as any different from them, although I wish I could get a sponsor and have great sporty clothes to sit here and write in and look as strong and healthy as them.

Nothing gets done without setting up some kind of schedule and sticking to it. People get up early everyday and go to the gym, it’s the same thing. You must log many many hours at the desk of practice, and so because human beings tend to take the path of least resistance in most cases, a writing schedule can be very supportive if you tend to cast it aside when something else comes up. I view my writing as a job. I show up for it just like I would do for any job, the difference is, I really enjoy showing up to write.

*What are some of your favorite books on writing?

Mostly, I view books on writing as comforting, but none of them have gotten me writing. What has gotten me writing and where I HAVE LEARNED TO WRITE is from reading reading reading. I read like people drink water. I read everything I can find that may be of interest, inspiration and help. When I was first starting out, in the early 1990’s back in Palo Alto, California, I read Virginia Woolf and Ethan Canin and John L’Heureax and Annie Dillard and that’s how it started even though I have been writing consistently since third grade. Reading them made me want to make stories of my own, and I have always felt I have something to say through writing.

But here is a small list of some books on writing that I have read and have gained some useful insight.

Brenda Euland, So You Want To Write

Joyce Carol Oates, The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art

Stephan King, On Writing

Annie Lamott, Bird by Bird

Virginia Wolf, Moments of Being, and, A Writers Diary

E.M. Forester, On Writing

Hope those answers are a start. The main thing is not to let any voices stop you from getting to the desk and writing. That’s the main thing.

the hero’s journey

17 02 2010

Last night I dreamt that I was in my parents beach house giving a talk to several hundred people on the Hero’s Journey.

Arianna Huffington, and Suze Orman, and Oprah were there. And so were all of you, my Twitter tribe and blog readers.

It was summer and we were having cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and bossa nova music was playing.

Everyone was happy.

In the dream, I was giving a talk to all of you about the Jungian archetypes that Joseph Campbell and others have modernized so well.

I guess it has been on my mind lately because my friend Ward @vajrarock mentioned it to me a few weeks ago after my post “On Criticism” a couple blog posts back (scroll down- there are two).

There are generally six archetypes and different writers call them by different names, but here are the names I tend to go by and they are listed in progressive order that is a circle.

The Innocent

The Orphan

The Wanderer

The Warrior

The Altruist

The Magician

The talk I was giving to all of you was specifically on The Orphan. The Orphan emerges when something happens to undermine our faith in authority figures, God, parents, or society.

The Orphan archetype teaches the inner child to survive difficulty.

In my talk I was telling you all that we can’t get stuck in one archetype. That we must keep going, progressing onward, and healing the past.

This is an over-simplified post on archetype mythology, but I wanted to put a small idea in your mind.

I am passionate about each of us healing the past to create freedom in the present.

An unexamined and unhealed past is what is going to drive your present life no matter how hard you try to run from it, repress it, and over-compensate for it.

The past will leak out and seep out and perfume everything in your present life if it is unattended and unhealed.

The archetypes are a way to think about your life, and your past, and what happened, and the journey ahead, with a feeling of camaraderie that you are truly part of the collective unconscious and not alone in your efforts to actualize into your greatest and truest expression of yourself.

I’m thinking perhaps I will post in the future on the Heroine’s Journey and The Archetypes. It’s a beautiful and rich imagery and metaphor to aid in our healing and understanding.

10 questions

12 02 2010

Hi Folks-

So listen, I am going to answer 10 questions from readers.

I’ll probably take the first 10 or something like that.

Email me a question that you would like me to answer to

Let me know in the email if you want your identity to be posted when I post the answer on my blog. Either way, I will honor your preference, but it’s a great way to showcase your blog or website.

Depending on the question etc, I’ll either answer one or several in my posts in the coming days.

The nature of the question can be just anything you are wondering and want to ask me–from books, to art, to writing, to life-journey, to spirituality, to emotional education, etc. etc. etc. Whatever you want! Ready? GO!

an art show brought to you by some of the talented folks on twitter

11 02 2010

Yesterday during the baby blizzard here in NYC, there were some fantastic photos on Twitter. I wanted to showcase some of the ones that I found wonderful. (Make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom of the post to see them all.)

Art should never be a hoity-toity thing. Art should be an everyday activity.

Create something everyday. Make art a part of your daily life.

From Lane Beauchamp. On Twitter @lane1008

And by Mark Fischel from Fort Greene Brooklyn. On Twitter @MFischel