I CAN Live With or Without You

I have a bit of a grudge with American television, movies, and popular music when it comes to the issue of romantic love.  Most of the songs you’ll hear, for example, suggest this kind of crazy notion: “I can’t live if living is without you.”  Themes that feature ideas like “you complete me” are blatant lies.  Not only can you live and be complete without a partner, if you expect anyone to save your life or complete you, you’re guaranteed to end up in the bitter recrimination that ends so many relationships.

If you want the truly magical experience that romantic love can be, start where we always start: clean up your mind. This doesn’t mean ridding your mind of sexual thoughts.  Quite the opposite.   It means getting rid of any idea that an external circumstance, like being in a relationship, is responsible for determining whether you are happy or not. Once you know you’re complete, you are fully available for the wonder of discovering life and yourself through the experience of falling in love.  This is literally like a drug trip.  Your brain on love puts out so many delicious hormones that you’ll be stoned for a good two years.  Knowing that this is part of the life you have created frees you to adore your beloved without grasping or fear, and you are able to absorb the challenges or losses you may experience without being devastated.  Our crazy codependent culture notwithstanding, falling in love is probably the best reason to be human.  

Martha Beck and Seth Godin discuss the future of publishing

(Pam Slim here once again to give you a sneak peek into a discussion between Martha and Seth Godin.  Both are doing a lot of thinking about the future of the publishing industry, as well as the emerging role of author as coach and leader. Enjoy, and please share your reactions in the comments below!)



Drawing and painting were used to convey images before photography, so representational art was considered most valuable.  When photography was invented, realistic images could be replicated easily and accurately, so the value of drawing/painting as representation collapsed.  Impressionism and other non-representational genres emerged as “valuable” art.

For centuries, the only way you could hear a musical piece written by a certain musician was to write down the music note for note and get another musician to play it exactly as the first one had. When recording equipment was invented, replication was easy and accurate.  Immediately, jazz and other improvisational forms became highly valuable.

You see where I’m going with this, right?  Since Gutenberg, the printed book was the cheapest, quickest way to transfer a large block of written work.  With Internet technology making replication quick and cheap, publishers everywhere are seeing themselves become unnecessary.

Question:  What is the literary equivalent of impressionism or jazz?

Because that’s what’s going to become valuable in what has always been the book world.  I have a few ideas of my own, but I’m dying to hear your take on this.



Painting and music moved in two different directions because of technology.

Painters discovered that in order to succeed, they needed to become more human, more emotional and less like cameras. Pushing to the cutting edge and being personal were the two ways painters thrived over the last hundred years. When you see a painting, you probably know who made it.

Musicians discovered that in order to succeeded, they needed to create music that would spread, recordings that would be shared and talked about and bought in bulk. They didn’t write on commission for the king, they wrote for the radio. Ideas that spread, win.

Writers are discovering that a book that tells people how to do something is obsolete. Knowledge no longer needs to live in an arcane format like a book. And facts are free, because they spread easily.

So, writing that is worth paying for is either encased in a souvenir-like rarity, like a limited edition, or a reading or a conference…or it’s delivered quickly and personally so that the convenience and exclusivity is worth a premium or it’s personal and direct… almost bespoke.

The last is the biggest opportunity. Our tribes need leaders. We need people who will assemble and introduce and connect and lead. People who will help us get to where we want to go. Writing (at least a certain kind of writing) is now more like coaching or governing or teaching. And there’s a real shortage of that and we’ll happily pay to be part of this tribe if someone will only step up and lead us.

Seth Godin blogs at www.sethgodin.typepad.com. His new book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? hits shelves today.

The Joy Zone– It’s Too Good to Be False

I was just reading over the copy for this month’s telecourse, “Get What You Want  — No Resolutions Required“, and at first I thought, “this sounds too good to be true.”  But for this year of my life I’ve decided to question every limiting belief that passes through my head.  I recognized a limiting belief and immediately turned it around. What came out was, “this sounds too good to be false.”  And this felt much, much truer.   

As we begin 2010, I have a feeling that all of us in this Tribe, and perhaps all others, are achieving new levels of capability when it comes to things like remaining rooted in joy, working effortlessly, and achieving a magnificent relationship with money, and becoming friendly with our own bodies.  I have a sense of things speeding up, although this may just be my medication. 

This is all the more reason for us to communicate with one another, share new insights and celebrate both the useful and not so useful outcomes of all of our experiments.  I like to emphasize the fact that these are skills, not circumstances.  Friendships, abundance, rapid learning–all of these are inside jobs.  As we correct what is disordered in our own thinking, miracles trickle into our lives and then become torrents. 

I don’t expect everyone to commit to questioning every disturbing thought, but I can tell you that this single process has vastly accelerated the influx of miracles to my life.  I wish the same for all other beings and the tools are right here in our hands and our minds, or at the very least our libraries.  

Today, please connect with a book or person who pulls you into the zone of joy (or I should say helps you pull yourself into the zone of joy), and feel the beauty of that experience.  Nothing I can say here will give you half as much insight as a moment of living it.  You’ll discover firsthand that living in the joy zone is itself “too good to be false.”

I’m Creaning Up My Mind in 2010


Hello, dreamy friends!

As you know from our frequent conversations, I’m a HUGE lover of Asian philosophy (though I am trying to take off a few pounds).  Finding the world’s wisest book, the Tao te Ching, was one of the two good things that came from my naive college decision to major in Chinese, a language for which I have the aptitude of a potato.

The other good thing was my early and continuing exposure to a phenomenon known as Japlish, Chingrish, or Engrish, depending on your source.  Recently, I found the meaning of life expressed so concisely in a few words of Engrish that the Tao te Ching now seems overdone by comparison.  Allow me to explain.

Engrish for All

On both sides of the Pacific Ocean, humans are busily slapping foreign words on T-shirts, signs, bags, and magazines, with only the vaguest idea what these words actually mean.  Asians love the look of certain English words, as we love the look of Asian characters.  But we often use these words without quite catching the nuance of native speakers.  For example:


Thus it is that early ads selling Coca Cola in China bore characters (chosen by Americans) that were supposed to recommend a refreshing beverage, but actually said “”Bite the Wax Tadpole!”  Pepsi, not to be outdone, ran ads trumpeting, “Come alive, you’re in the Pepsi generation!”  which really said “Pepsi will make your ancestors come back from the dead.”  This made Chinese consumers uneasy in the same way this Chinese sign unnerves Americans:


When I lived in Singapore, I thrilled to daily doses of Chinglish, like the whippy marketing slogans on my favorite brand of toilet paper (“Clean Grape Toilet Tissue: It’s sturdy and tenacious!”) and my South Winds water cooler (“When we hear the voice of the south wind, we always meet with happy chances.  Now is the time!  Let your hot heart swing with it together!  Good luck!”).

After returning from Asia, I missed all the happy chances that made my hot heart swing with it together.  But now, thanks to a website called “Engrish.com,” we can all enjoy the fount of wisdom that comes from randomly swapping Asian/English words.

It was on this site that I found the meaning of life stated with such poetic brevity that it took my breath away.  Here it is:


This bag is my new scripture, my latest memoir, and my motto for 2010.  It is changing my life, and it can change yours too.

My Rife-Changing Resorution

For as long as we’ve known one another, you’ll recall, I’ve made just one New Year’s resolution each year–but I always keep that resolution.  Try this only if you cope well with change, because it will make over your life like the Oprah Show on steroids.

For example, my 1990 resolution was not to tell a single lie for the entire year.  This immediately cost me the vast majority of my relationships, plus my career, my home, and my religion.  The only thing I got back—myself—barely seemed worth it.  (But things worked out well.  I gradually began to tolerate, then grudgingly accepted myself.  Flash forward: myself and I moved in together, and now I just can’t imagine how I got along without myself!  We’re, like, practically the same person!)

So this year I couldn’t wait to open my resolution.  I started a little early, on my birthday, about six weeks ago.


This year’s resolution?  During 2010, I will question any thought that causes me any kind of unpleasant sensation whatsoever.

Revorutionary Thinking

Now, I’ve been questioning my painful thoughts for years, but until recently there were so many it didn’t even occur to me that I could get rid of ALL of them.  It would have been like performing a whole-body electrolysis on Sasquatch.  Which could easily happen at this spa in Thailand.


But that’s another story.

My point here is that toward the end of 2009, I noticed my negative thoughts slowing down, thinning out, and becoming more obviously absurd, like the elderly grayhound pictured below.  So I decided it was worth attempting to eliminate them entirely.

elderly greyhound

My recent negative thoughts.

Total Tolerance for No Tolerance

My resolution is basically a “no tolerance” policy for thoughts that caused me to feel trapped in any degree of suffering.  (Quick reminder:  I believe the fact that a thought causes suffering is evidence it’s false, and that questioning such thoughts until their untruth is obvious clears them out of the mind, thus setting the thinker free.)

Ironically, the most important step in dissolving a thought is to love it unreservedly as if it’s a brand new baby.  So my 2010 policy is absolute tolerance of all thoughts for which I have no tolerance.  This may sound odd, but as the following masterpiece emphasizes, it’s always a natural and it exists!


So for weeks, I’ve been noticing every negative thought and taking a few minutes to question it lovingly until it dissolves, like Jack Bauer handling a terrorist.

I’ve found that this causes the running verbal commentary in my mind to stop.  And in the absence of thinking, just as all those wacky mystics have been telling us for centuries, the simple perception of what is present fills one’s awareness with a strangely vibrant stillness.  Truly, my mind is paralyzed, and it is a delightful day!  There is…how shall I say…no hullabaloo!



Everything Is Silly

I’d love it if you joined me in my 2010 resolution.  But I must warn you:  If you decide to question your thoughts, expect to spend more and more of your time laughing.  When I completely accept a thought that makes me sad, mad, or scared, it generally starts to seem amusing almost immediately.

For example, when I have a sorrowful thought, I allow it to be by reminding it of this incisive Asian aphorism:


When I’m frightened, I quote to my scared self the riveting, evocative prose from another Japanese handbag:


And when I burn with rage over the malfeasance of other drivers in traffic, the inconsideration of acquaintances, or the whole Tiger Woods thing, I find solace and fellowship by reading this sign from a home in Southeast Asia:


As I regard these testaments to negative human emotions, I realize that my darkest thoughts probably seem equally ridiculous to a state of being that speaks the language of pure presence.  I experience anew the powerful truth of impermanence, summed up here so compellingly:


And almost immediately, I am at peace.

For the Love of Truth

I made my “no lies” resolution after a surgery where I encountered the White Light people sometimes describe after near-death experiences.  What surprised me most about this overwhelming experience of love and truth was that the White Light and I spent almost all our time together laughing like there was no tomorrow.  Because, of course, there really is no tomorrow.  There is only now, and even the concept of “tomorrow” is Engrish to anyone who lives outside of time. I think all spiritual masters, human or luminous, find our mental resistance to reality adorably hilarious.

Long ago, Asian philosophy brought me to the idea that our mental stories are the source of suffering.  Now I find that dissolving every negative thought really does fill me with jolliness.  And if I ever begin to think otherwise, I  only need to glance at a trans-Pacific handbag to remind me.  May you too, my dreamy friend, have a year made up of delightful days.