Shannon M. Wills is a writer and artist based in Denver, Colorado, working at the intersection of psychology, spirituality, and nonviolent activism. A dedicated student of the world’s mystical traditions, her passion lies in delving into life’s mysteries, mining them for wisdom to apply to our modern lives. She previously served as director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and co-founded Nonviolence Lab, a training organization for nonviolent philosophy and practice.
Her current project is called Wake Up, Human is a website and podcast dedicated to "reawakening the native powers of the human being," and our potential for using those powers to build a more conscious, compassionate, and connected world. She explores the nature of our separation from our native wisdom, the sources of our separation, and the ways we can come back into wholeness, for the good of all life.
I was a guest on Shannon's podcast Wake up, Human. Listen here or here. Our conversation centered on the theme of giving ourselves permission to be who we are, and to seek inside ourselves for validation, instead of waiting for the outside world to give it to us.
To connect with Shannon...
You can also find Shannon's writing for Elephant Journal here.
Find Shannon through these links:
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- Permission to Land: Personal Transformation Through Writing
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Hello everyone. And welcome to permission to heal. I am Marci Brockman, and I am so thrilled that you're here on today's episode, we have Shannon wills from Denver, Colorado, Shannon, and I became acquainted through each other's writing on elephant journal. Shannon is a writer and an artist based in Denver, Colorado working at the intersection of psychology spirituality and nonviolent activism, a dedicated student of the world's mystical traditions. Her passion lies into delving, into life's mysteries, mining them for wisdom to apply to our modern lives.
She previously served as the director of the Metta center for nonviolence and co-founded non-violence lab, a training organization for nonviolent philosophy and practice. She recently launched, wake up human, a project, exploring the native powers of the human being and the potential of those powers to build a more conscious, compassionate and connected world, wake up human is a website that holds her writing and her podcasts, and eventually will be the container for courses and resources that she hopes to offer as she dedicates herself to the reawakening of the powers of being human. Welcome. Shannon. I'm so thrilled that you're here.
Thank you so much, Marcy. It's a pleasure to be here with you. Excellent. Excellent. Before we dive into the meat of what, of all of this amazing stuff that you do. I usually start the interviews off with six ice breaker sort of questions. So let's just dive in. Shall we? Yeah. How are you today by the way I am doing really well.
I'm doing really well. You know, I think, I think it's been a little bit of a tough week in our country and I've been processing a lot and I've been wanting to give myself permission to rest. That's really what I've been focusing on and it's a beautiful snowy day outside. And the world is blanketed with just this lovely serene landscape of white.
And so I'm just working on finding peace. It feels wonderful. Sounds excellent. I love that. The deadening of sound that comes with the volume of snow to me, that's like one of the most beautiful sensory. Sensations images, not only the white, but the, the sound of the quiet. Yes. I love that sound is I think is even more , striking.
The silence is even more striking than the white than the color. Yeah, I agree. Yeah. Okay. Six questions. What five words would you use to describe yourself? Hm I've word so serious. Adventurous. Okay. Artistic, compassionate, definitely. And also fiery. Ooh, I like that. Yeah. Yeah. There's definitely some fire in there.
Excellent serious and fiery theme slightly up oppositional in some way. Hm. Well, it's, I don't know about oppositional, but if I'm too serious and fiery at the same time, it can be pretty damaging. So I try to temper both of those aspects of myself and use them powerfully, but not destructively. Makes sense.
Makes sense. I had this image, as you were talking of like one of the Avengers, you know, superhero using the serious fire to like eradicate violence in the world. I love it. Yes, absolutely. We can use that as a tool. We could actually your superpower. Oh yeah. Thank you. I like that super power.
Yeah, maybe it's because I was watching Avengers movies with my husband last night, but that's the image that came to my head. So maybe it does. Yeah. Okay. Number two. What is your favorite way to spend a day? So I don't know how this is going to land, but I think my favorite way to spend the day would actually be cleaning and organizing things.
I do. I love to put things in order. I love to create beauty. So whether it's not that I love doing dishes, but whether it's doing dishes to make my house more clean and open, or whether it's actually organizing or decorating in my house or my yard, that just brings me so much grounding and enjoyment. And when I can step back, basically anything I can do where I can step back and look at something I've beautified.
So, yeah, even if it's creating a work of art or, You know, piecing together something out of wood. But if I can begin with one thing and end with something that feels beautiful and organized, it's a day well spent. That's lovely. I mean, you're getting almost immediate gratification out of it. You know, like I like doing dishes also, I sometimes resist it, but th there's something very sensory about it, the water and the soap and how that feels.
And it's, it's immediate gratification. You're doing this thing. And then immediately the sink is clean and the kitchen is clean and it looks and smells and feels better. I get that. I totally get that. And cleaning and organizing you feel, I feel more grounded. I know that when my house is chaotic, I feel chaotic, which is kind of where we are now, because there are so many adults and no one's picking up their own stuff, playing around.
We'll figure it out. You are. What is your favorite childhood memory? So. I think my favorite childhood memory is a lot of memories. It's the time that the times I used to spend with my dad when I was young. So he was, I was definitely a daddy's girl when I was little. I just loved him to pieces. And, my dad was, unfortunately, my dad was a terrible alcoholic.
He was very, very sick. And, by the time I was late. Yeah. Thank you. That's awful. It was awful. And by the time I was probably 10 years old, he was so sick. Like I can just hear it, feel the emotion in my voice, just talking about it. He was so sick and he really wasn't able anymore to even be a father already by that time, which is probably where I began my own journey with journaling, by the way about that.
Absolutely. That'd be, that'd be great. And, but I just loved him to pieces and he was my best friend. So we watched TV together. We had our favorite shows. We went shopping together. We, I did his hair, he let me shave his face. He was very, we made songs and art projects and he taught me so many things.
He taught me to draw and to write and to tie my shoes. You know, he was just, he was the one who was there. So all those memories I have with him, especially because now he's no longer, I mean he passed on in 2001, actually he's been gone for a long time, but he was really gone before that his personality was long gone before that.
And that just makes the time that I had with him when I was young, so much more memorable. And it is enough to last a whole lifetime. I wish I could go back and tell him, thank you for just that short period of my life, because he so much love on you. Yeah, well, much love it will last my lifetime. So I'm so grateful for those memories.
It's, it's wonderful that you're able to focus on that love and all of those experiences and lessons and, and moments that you, that you cherish and not focus on the alcoholism and the illness and, and what he eventually turned himself into. Mm I am grateful. Yes. And I'm so grateful that I have, I think that was a gift that was given to me as a child.
That for some reason I didn't grow into resentment of him because that wasn't a choice. Very rare, Shannon, you know, I think it might be, I think it might be. And I'm so grateful for it that, that the love that I have for him eclipses, and it's not a naive love, I fully understand what he did and what she does to me, but, but he was just, he was just so wonderful and I want to love and appreciate who he was.
That's wonderful. Yeah. Wow. That really moves me. You know, so many people who were children of alcoholics grow up with a heart full of resentment and it shapes their own destructive choices and their own lack of trust and relationships and their own toxic relationship templates, you know? And, I'm grateful that you don't have that.
I think that's fabulous. Well, I mean, to be honest, I think I probably do have all of that shrapnel, you know, I do have that fallout that you're talking about and it certainly followed me through my life and has been a determining factor in some of the. Poor choices I've made. I definitely have that, but I just don't blame it on my dad.
You know, there's I can't, I can't hate him for that. Right. Because I understand that he was sick. Sure. Oh, absolutely. That'd be, Oh my goodness. Yes, I absolutely have it. I mean, my life, I just made a total mess of my life when I was young. And I realized how much of that was related to that experience. Yeah.
W w we all do that. Yeah. That's the basis of a couple of hundred pages of my book, you know, figuring out unraveling all of that complication, from my mother's so much to unravel. Okay. what is your favorite meal? Hmm. Oh, well, this is where my mom comes into the story because I think my favorite meal is just my mom's food.
My mom's comfort food. She came from a big German family and they were all about casseroles and soup send, you know, I grew up eating goulash and things like that, but also everything else, lasagna, tuna casserole, chicken soup, all those kinds of things homemade. And, you know, as I grew up and by the time I was a teenager, I was already.
Endeavoring to eat vegetarian or even vegan sometimes and toying with whole foods and raw foods and different kinds of diets, trying to have a more compassionate footprint on the planet. But when I go home to my mom's house, I eat anything. She puts on the table and it just makes me so happy. You know, there's, it's, it's like a physical comfort that I feel all the way down, deep in my bones when I eat that first love.
Yeah. Yes. That's what it is. Yeah. It's just, it's kind of magical actually what it can do. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I'm trying to. Replicate my maternal grandmother's brisket recipe for years. I've been trying to figure out exactly how to replicate that taste. And, and I, I create some new recipes of my own that all tastes relatively good in different ways, but they're not grandmas.
And I, I, you know, she died with that secret and I don't know what, what it was, but I have the memory of the taste. So, I mean, you know what, that is a worthy endeavor by to replicate that. And you'll make a lot of wonderful tasting things along the way, but I'm hoping that you, that you've replicated, I'm hoping that you hit on it.
Yeah, we'll see. We'll see. It's been awhile. Okay. Number five. What is one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self? Well, I think that the advice I want to give myself as to not give up. Because there were a lot of times, I mean, many, many countless times that I felt that growing up all through my teens and twenties and maybe even into my thirties, that I was just in the wrong place and I was doing the wrong thing and I was never going to make it.
And I was never gonna get my two feet under me or find my path in life. And there were times that I don't necessarily know that I felt I was going to give up, but I felt that things were hopeless. And there was in fact, I remember one time just literally being on my couch and having just darkness, blackness, like a tunnel, just coming over me overcoming me.
And there was a small, small pinprick light. At the end of that tunnel. And I was like, that is the only light. Just keep focusing on that there. And you know, so some of those kind of dark places, a lot of us can get into and just to remind, to let myself know that that light is going to be there and keep going, just keep going, because the only way out is through yes.
The only way out is through. So that would really be the message keep going. Yeah. Yeah. I think I would have a very similar message, but I would add a bit of permission to trust myself, you know, just tell the younger Marcy, just keep going. You're on the right track. Eventually you'll figure it out, but trust your instincts.
Don't ignore them. Oh, you know what? That is really powerful because when you said instincts and I would also say intuition and those, those are related. And, and I think I wasn't even sure when I was growing up. I wasn't sure there even was such a thing as intuition that I could trust it. It was, we, we grew up in such a mind based a logic based society.
And so yes, trust that, that there is such a thing as instinct and intuition and you know, yourself and, you know, you and trust that. Yeah. Yeah. I absolutely did not. So, Oh, no, me neither. Absolutely. Now I didn't even, I didn't even know how to hear it. No, no. Uh, okay. Last question. What is one thing you would most like to change about the world?
Hmm, well, I think this would be related to what we were just talking about, about how we become disconnected from our inner knowing. And I think that the world. Not only do I think that the people of the world, many, many of us are disconnected from our inner knowing, but I think that we're just, we're just blind to the connection that we have with our life.
We're so boxed in and we're so comfortable and we're so computerized at this point. And what I would really love to see in the world is just for people's eyes to open back up to the world, to the natural world, into the sacred nature of life and the interconnected nature of life. And the fact that what, what happens to one of us happens to all of us.
I think we've lost that understanding. And I think that if we could gain back that understanding whether it's the reconnection with our own intuition or our own instinct, or whether it's our connection to other people or beings or, the natural world itself. I just think that we would, we would largely, we would have to stop the extent of the destruction.
Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. I think that as a culture, not just in the United States, but I think globally, we have lost touch with community mindedness. We've lost touch with empathy, for our neighbors and empathy for people across the country or the other side of the world, because we are so programmed to be, individualized , to focus on our own life and our own needs and our own family's needs that.
I think so many people have stopped caring about their neighbors or their neighbors, family, or what the people in another state are going through, or like we've lost a lot of human empathy along the way. And. We need desperately need to find that back. You know, I mean, like you said, every single problem on the face of the planet would be improved.
If we all just had a little outward reach and a little respect for others and a little more empathy. Absolutely. Just opening our eyes to that sacredness of life and understanding that just because someone is in China or just because someone is in Russia or because someone is a Republican or a Democrat right there, they're still sacred.
They're still life. They're still human. And there's just a natural, if we have our eyes open to that, we will that knowing will supersede whatever kind of labels that we place on one another. I agree. And fundamentally, regardless of what side of the aisle or what side of the ocean you live on, we all want exactly the same things for ourselves and our families when it's, when you all boil it all down to its most essential.
It's all the same. Yes, it's, it's so true. And, the, tradition, I guess, of nonviolent communication is completely based on that. Not nonviolence itself, but the nonviolent communication, which was started by Marshall Rosenberg. Who's an incredible resource for it, for anyone who wants to look into how to use language, to facilitate some of these things we're talking about.
And he focuses his teaching on the belief, the philosophy that we all have a core number of shared human needs that we all need exactly the same things. And that the way that we express those needs and the way that we ask for them to be met varies by culture and by experience. But when we come together and if we can actually get past those blinders and those walls that we've built, and we can pull, we can pull away those brick by brick and we can get down to those shared human needs.
We can actually have some pretty, some pretty powerful ahas about the humanity of the other when we get down to just those basic seeds. So it's a key, it's a key concept in, for me in, in, uh, resolving conflict is fine, is understanding the other person has the same needs because you do. How do you, how do you begin to create those tools in, in the teachings of non-violent communication itself, there is a step-by-step approach and it sounds mechanical, but in practice it's not so mechanical.
It actually starts with understanding that you have those needs. So some inner work to understand what are the needs that are underlying these different things I'm saying and asking for, and there's actually lists of those needs. So you can like what, like being seen, like safety, things like that.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Like if I say, you know, my partner comes home and I get angry with him and I say, you didn't tell me where you were. And I was worried about you and you got home late and you didn't , you don't care about me. And I could feel very upset and I could make this about him. And there could be a big conflict, but if I can step back and if I can in that moment, understand that I want to be, I guess, that the need under that might be something like, I want to be respected.
Let's say. And him not keeping in touch with me and letting and knowing that I'm going to worry, shows me that I'm not being respected. And so if I can, and again, it's, it ends up being not less mechanical than this, but if I can actually come to him and say, I have a need for respect, I have a need for myself to be respected.
And when you didn't let me know you were coming home, I didn't feel that need was being met. And then from, and I was scared and worried about you. And I, I felt out of control. It made me feel such and such. Yes. He made about yourself rather than accusatory. And you did this, right? Absolutely. Absolutely.
And then the next step from that would be saying something, then it would be asking the other person, if they are willing to engage differently, In order to help me. So I could say, would you be willing the next time you're going to be late to send me a message and let me know so that I don't worry for you so much.
And then it actually puts the ball in that person's court, but not in a way that makes them defensive or wrong, right? It's not confrontational. Yes. Yes. And the beauty of this is that it can work from in the smallest cases as such as the one that I'm talking about, but it can also work in large scale, conflict resolution or mediation circumstances.
When you can bring these potentially warring parties to the point that each of them can see what their basic need is and are able to express it to the other side there's potential for then asking the other side, what they might be willing to do to come up with some sort of mutually beneficial, compromise.
Yeah. It has very far reaching implications. I could see that ending Wars or circumventing them before they begin. And I could also see that really make things better on an elementary school playground, you know, at the same time. Yeah. Because we're all human and we work this way, whether we're children or whether we're adults now, whether it, when we become adults, ideally we ha we are become more capable to determine what it is that we actually need.
When we're children. We kind of have a harder time of that because we're still developing, but, but we are all human and we are still operating from those basic needs. So even as parents, if we can look at children and we can say, we can see that they're angry and we can say, you know, we can say, Oh, I, I see that you're very angry about this.
Did you want someone to. Play with you this morning. Were you wanting something to play with you? Yes, I was. Oh, you were, maybe you were wanting someone to pay attention to you. Yes. I want someone to pay attention to me so we can actually help draw those things out for sure. And you're teaching them emotional literacy along the way so that they're able to identify, okay, that's what this feels like.
And mommy labeled it as me wanting to have attention. Yes. That's what that's called, you know, and then they learn by repetition and by example and absolutely. And wouldn't, we all benefit from having that kind of emotional literacy taught to us? Oh God. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I've worked very hard with my own children to give them those tools as they were growing up, you know, really trying to draw out how they were feeling about certain things and empowering them to communicate that and to figure out.
To look, as you say, at their inner knowing and sort of figure out what it is they wanted at the core of that. So I think that's helped both of them. And, uh, I know it's helped me. I bet it has. I bet it has and good for you because not every parent does that and not every parent is capable to do that. No, I, I, I loved both my parents for the people that they were, but I, as I grew up, I didn't always agree with or respond to the way they parented or the way they lived.
And, my dad and I have come to. He's going to be 81 next week and we've come to a lot of, peaceful resolution for a lot of the things that happened during my formative years, , that he didn't know he had impact on somehow. , and my mom passed on for seven years ago, after a very long bout with opiate addiction and fighting her own undiagnosed bipolarity and narcissism, and a lot of terrible, awful things.
But, uh, but, uh, I've I've I sort of used my mom's. My mom is a cautionary tale, like in a lot of respects, like, like you had some very good childhood memories of love with your dad. I had a lot of really wonderful, generous, loving, caring, beautiful memories with my mom when I was very little that kept me in the game.
With her bipolarity a lot longer than I probably would have been if I didn't have those memories to fall back on. I don't know if I'm making myself clear. So because there were so many loving moments and so many wonderful memories, I knew that she could be that way. And so when she became Cruella Deville, I was still waiting for snow white to come back, you know, but had I not had snow white and it was only Corella Deville, I might have walked away much earlier than I did anyway.
But as a parent, as an adult, I kind of would in my mind, map out what my mom would have done and then made the opposite choice and it worked out much better, you know, so absolutely we can learn from our parents on both sides of that. That coin, right. We can learn from our parents, what is, what we, what we should do, what we can do, what works.
And we can definitely learn what doesn't work. We can, you know, I, I promised myself when I was young, that I would never, well that I would never turn into my dad. And I know some of that, we don't have a choice because some people just, they do just become sick and it's despite their very best intentions, but point being, I did use him.
I did hold him up as an example of the kind of person, the kind of parents or the kind of adult I did not want to be. And that's also very powerful because we can raise ourselves to the best of our ability in contrast to that image. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
But I think that, that you and I both have used journaling as a healing tool for.
Processing emotional experiences and trauma in a healthy way. Wouldn't you say? So, yes. I mean, and so far as journaling can help process those traumatic experiences in a way that's different than, I mean, look, there's a something that I wrote. I think when I was in high school, I wrote diaries when I was younger, starting when I was about eight or nine years old.
And a lot of my diary entries where I hate my dad. I hate my dad. Here's what he did. Here's what happened today. I did the same thing. Yeah. And I'm, I'm not surprised because we're processing processing. And then I would say things like, you know, I just want to, I just want to take a, uh, one of his wine bottles and just smash it over his head.
Right. That was my, this destructive impulse. I was so angry with him, but I would write that out in my journal. And then some, some part of me would be, I don't want to say healed, but would be a swaging SU just by, just by having a place that I could say, this is what I want to do. And it can stay in those pages.
And I feel like some part of my heart has been able to be expressed because there's no one else I feel is there to receive it. Right. And this is, I wouldn't have put my words, those same words to it when I was 10 years old. No, of course not. Yeah. But, but that was what you were doing. Yeah, absolutely. And then that journal or that diary can become our, our close friend and confidant.
And we can say things to that journal that we wouldn't say to anyone else. And, but there are things need to come out of us so that they don't bottle inside of us and injure us from the inside. Right? Yeah. I started keeping journals in 1983, just shortly. Now, I've never actually realized this until this moment, but just shortly after my dad left, I didn't realize the coincidence of that until right now.
I don't know how that's very peculiar anyway. So my dad left and then I somehow congruent to that, started writing in an, I have a box of journal books and pads and notebooks and stuff. And I used to write all sorts of stuff like that. Like my had a fight with my mother today, who the hell does she think she is?
One minute. She says one thing. And the next minute she says another and I really wish I could run away. And part of me was like I had a dream last night that my mother died and, and how wonderful that would be to be free from her. But then that would mean I would have to go live with my dad and I would hate that.
Like they wish I was piecing together and processing all of this stuff because they were in. A very awful, awful divorce for a very long time. That was like egged on by their attorneys who saw that they were making money out of my parents' divisiveness and, and violent anger toward each other.
And just kept egging that on throwing gasoline into the flames and shame on them. Oh, awful, awful. Awful. What could have been resolved in 12 months took them four or five years. It was just terrible. And then, and then they weaponized me in the process, which was really freaking awful for me, but , the, the process of writing all of that out, the expressive writing, what is such a powerful psychological I didn't have access to, To therapy at that point, my mom did bring me to a therapist, but then insisted on sitting in on the therapy session.
So I was muted. I couldn't really say what I wanted to say without facing repercussions. And it was a stupid therapist to assume that it was okay, that my mother be in the room. She should have insisted, you know, and she asked me in front of my mother. Is it okay that your mother is in here? Or would you rather her sit in the waiting room?
And I'm like, I can't answer that question safely. You know, cause if I say I need my mother to leave, then I'm going to face the wrath of Khan when I get home. Yes. And that is, that just makes me so sad hearing about that Marcy, because it is a poor adult role model or adult role model and it completely shut you down.
Totally. You know, one of the things that happens in our society I think is that we are devoid of. What I would call, um, rites of passage or rituals of growing up that many cultures and native cultures and indigenous cultures around the world hold sacred for children as they grow up into adulthood. So, and , we are largely devoid of those in our society.
So here we are, as, as teenagers, as young people transitioning from one life stage to another, and not only do we not have a container to hold us and usher us into the next stage of our lives. And, but in addition, we actually have the opposite. We actually have the, the negative role models and the people who have no idea how to usher us into that who are actually causing us sometimes causing us more harm than good.
Right? Yeah. So it's just incredibly sad to me when I hear a story like that. And there's a potential, there was a potential right there. For something really cathartic and wonderful to happen for someone to listen to you. And that's where that journaling can come in and how, how saved my life, if absolutely saved my life.
I mean, I could have very easily rebelled and become and made all sorts of toxic, awful decisions. And, and I processed every single thing through journals. I mean, which proved immeasurably valuable when I was writing my memoir, because I was, I used it as primary source documents, you know, like not looking at my 52 year old memory of something happened when I was 13 or 15 years old, but I could go back and listen to that younger Morsi and, and like, all right, all right, cut the shit.
You were just as shitty as she was. And this is what you said, and or this is how you felt or, you know, it was, it was. Amazing. That's a cathartic experience. I must say it is cathartic. I can agree with you. I have that same experience. And so even though I think it's incredibly sad that we don't have the culture to, to usher us into our adulthood in the way that I think that we deserve.
But at the same time, I'm so grateful that we are, I mean, we're so smart. We're so smart. We, we are so intuitively smart and I don't mean book-smart. I mean, like just human beings, we're so smart. We can realize something's wrong. Something's missing. I need something. I need something to fill this gap. I need something to guide me along the way.
And we do. We look for those now in, in some cases we find the wrong things. We may find a friend group that's very damaging to us, or we may find. Substance abuse or all kinds of manner of destructive things that we follow. But we also, we also have so many other opportunities to connect with things like mentors artists or writers or musicians or people in culture where people in history who inspire us.
And one of the things that we can find that we can latch on to and use as is the journal, you know? And so even though it's w it's sad that we have this loss in our culture, but we also have these great, great, great gifts. And the journal stays with us, right? The journalists, like you said, you have a big box of these journals.
And so you can actually go back and you can use those not only to write your memoir, but I imagine that you can remember and learn some things about yourself. Oh my God. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I was able to, upon the, the long look back as I keep referring to it, I learned. I learned that I had tools that I didn't really realize that I had along the way.
And I started to see patterns of behavior to figure out like, well, why did I keep going out with the same type of guy? Why did I put up with that toxic relationship for so long? What was I getting out of that, that I might not have acknowledged. And that's when I, when I sort of realized that. What I was missing in my life for so very long was a feeling of safety and a feeling of, of comfort that you have that a person would have when they were home.
You know, because my home where I grew up was tumultuous and scary with a bipolar mother and sort of an absent dad who had to work 99 jobs because my mother didn't have a job outside the home. , and then I th my parents sold the marital residence while I was away at college. And didn't tell me, so I came home from school and there was no place to come home to that.
She moved in with her husband and my dad moved in with his wife. And so now I was a guest in both my parents' homes. It didn't really feel like I was home. And it was like totally screwed with my head until I realized well into my thirties, That I could be my own home and I could establish my own sense of that.
I didn't have to rely on external sources, but for a very long time, I stayed in relationships that gave me a sense of home or comfort or safety or belonging, even if it was not true or reliable, but I clung to it because it was such a sharp, emotional deficit in my heart. and once I started really looking at that, I, it healed all of those unanswered or previously unhealed open wounds.
You know, I mean, I've owned my own home now for 12 years and I've, haven't had that feeling in a very long time, but it was still unresolved. Those younger versions of Marcy still had all of that unresolved because it was unacknowledged. And now I was sort of able to like close my eyes and fall into myself and acknowledge that younger version of me and, and emotionally embrace her.
Like I imagined myself in my, in my, in my head, literally hugging the younger Marcy and saying it's okay, it's all better. Now, you're home. It's safe. And it healed all of that in a, in a miraculous way just by going back and rereading what I had read. Hmm. It's so powerful. Isn't it? The. Ability to acknowledge that younger version of you who needed to be acknowledged, and you are able to acknowledge her right from the future to the past.
Right. And it makes me think also about the, those core human needs we were talking about. We may not know at a certain time in our life, even what we, what we need, but in you looking back over your journals, you can see, Oh, that young Marcy who was in need of safety and security and acknowledgement.
And I wonder if there's a sense of when you're, when you, when you can look back and see what those needs were, and then maybe you see some of the behaviors that came from those needs. Is there a sense of then forgiveness? Oh my God. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Instead of, instead of feeling bad about myself or I'm ashamed of having made certain choices, like, why did I do that again?
Why didn't I learn my lesson? I totally get why she did what she did. Yeah. Yeah. Good for you. So powerful. And it Def, it, our conversation is making me want to go back and read through some of my old journals and get a sense of what, what my needs might have been and those themes, I haven't actually done that long look back that you speak of.
And I think it sounds so valuable. Oh my God. Yeah. And there were so many things that I wrote about passionately vehemently that I have no working memory of at all. Now, you know, how could Carla do that? I can't believe Carla said that and I have no idea who Carla is. I was so mad at Carla. And I've no idea who Carla is.
I even called my best friend from high school and I'm like, all right, so you and I were friends with some girl named Carla, who did X, Y, and Z. What, why were we so mad? She's like, I don't remember, Carla either.
It's so funny, you know, we do. Yeah. We do give more importance to somethings than they deserve teenagers. You know, you don't have life experience to realize, okay, this is just a flash in the pan tomorrow. It's not going to matter. Yeah. And ideally we do learn that by the time we're adults, but sometimes we don't then I think maybe looking back on some of our old behaviors and going well, that was kind of silly that I was giving all that attention to Carla.
She didn't matter at all. And then you might go, well, what am I giving attention to today? That doesn't matter at all, thinking about something, maybe there's something that's replaying through my mind. That really is worth very little of my attention. Absolutely. When I get upset about something now I think of what my, my husband says.
And he says, when he's upset or when I'm upset, he looks at me and he says in five years, are you even going to remember this incident? And the answer 99% of the time is no. And instantly I'm able to like compartmentalize it and say like, okay, that's that I'm done with that. Let's move on. Sometimes it still needs attention to sort of resolve, but I'm no longer as emotionally invested helps circumvent a lot of that.
Well, and if he asks you in five years, is this going to matter? Your answer could be, yes. Right. In some cases it is right. If it has to do with my children's wellbeing or something, or, you know, something that our grandchildren are going through. Totally. But. It can help us. It can help us determine where we do want to place our energy and be a little bit more reflective about those choices.
Exactly. If I'm angry at the landscaper, no, that's not going to matter. You know, that's not gonna matter in five days, let alone five years. Right, exactly. Right. Okay. so walk us through a little bit like your, your idea for the birth of wake up human. I want to know more about, about this. Hmm.
Thank you. Yeah. Thank you for asking that. I want to say wake up human is probably the culmination of all of my life up to this point. And it's just an idea whose time has come for me in my life. So it's not a brand new idea to me, but it's something that has developed over time. So when I was young, I was.
I was, I was kind of skeptical of, of the status quo from the time I was very, very young. I was an artist and people kept telling me, Oh, you should be an artist. You should be an artist. And I started looking, well, I started looking around like, Oh, what can an artist do? I would love to be an artist. Well, the job at that time, the way I understood it was if you want to be an artist and make money, you need to be a commercial artist.
And that to me was making commercials. That to me, was making advertisements, right. Even as a little girl, I went, Oh, no, I don't want to use my artistic abilities to, you know, maybe I was a little snotty. I didn't want to use my artistic abilities to help other people sell product. Right. And I, I really felt the need to do something that, that I felt really mattered.
And so even as a teenager, I became involved in activism and especially animal rights who was absolutely heartbroken by what I saw at that time. As it was emergent for me, the, um, the, the factory farming and the testing of, of animals in making cosmetics and beauty products. And there was so much of that, that was just heartbreaking to me.
And so I thought, you know what, I'm going to jump into that world. I'm going to see what I can do to help animals. And I, I sh I shifted my attention to that direction. Well, I started off out of high school. The first post high school education that I had was I started veterinary school where I was going to become a veterinary technician and then a veterinarian.
And I started, yeah, it was, it was very exciting to me. And I thought, you know what, I'll be legitimate. I'll be a doctor. And I'll it. And what I say will go because people respect doctors and they'll tell everyone how terrible it is, what we're doing to animals. And they'll listen to me because I'm a doctor and I have this what I was hopeful, but it was.
Turned out to be naive because once I got into that field, I started noticing that the people around me, the other technicians and students and doctors didn't think that same way that I did, they weren't there trying to save the world and save the animals. They were there for all different kinds of reasons.
But I was actually lovingly made fun of by my fellow classmates, as the charming loving me, made fun of for, you know, being this wacky animal rights activist. And they actually voted me, the student most likely to pick it my own clinic. And they just thought it was hilarious. And I just looked around me and I was like, what is wrong?
Yeah, it was, I was so appalled that I was mad, in this, that fiery part of me, I was furious. And one time I actually threw 'em. I just have to tell this because it'll, it'll show a little bit of that fiery side. One time I threw my bucket of French fries, my bag of French fries on a woman who was wearing a fur coat and she was walking by and I just took my French fries and threw them all over her.
I was so angry, you know, that people couldn't connect to this extreme harm that we were doing. And so I left that field because I was so heartbroken. And that's what, that's what, um, that's what transitioned me into the field of psychology because somehow I understood, I had started studying through my own sort of desire to process my own trauma.
I had started studying some of those spiritual traditions that I had shoed a little bit. When I was a teenager, I thought my, I was a, I was a very strong atheist and I just thought that I knew, I just thought that religion had nothing to show me, but I had shifted from that and I knew that I needed help.
And I had started studying Buddhism and I had started studying Greek philosophy and I had started looking into indigenous traditions that much more deeply valued animals and the natural world. And I, and I could see that there was a place in human experience that valued life. Sure. And I wanted to get there.
And the way that I saw to get there in my modern world mind was I still, Oh, I need to get a degree. So I'll be legitimate. And I can say something that people will listen to. And I, and so I began studying psychology and in psychology, my intention was to start to uncover some of those seeds of disconnection.
Like why are we so disconnected from the effects of our choices? And I won't go into that too deeply, but I found in psychology, a similar, a similar phenomenon, which is that it was so. Intellect based. Yeah. And it was so required. It required data. It required, um, doing scientific studies to prove things that I felt were obvious.
If we feel into our hearts and our intuition, like why do I have to do a scientific study and get published in a journal? What I'm really trying to do is, is get away from scientific studies in journals and get more into our heart. That's how site psychology gains its legitimacy as a science, because it is quantifiable and replicatable and so on.
It is not right. And I understand that that's part of our world. That's what psychology has had to become in order to succeed in our world. Yeah. But I just didn't feel like I was connected there. And, and even though I stayed with psychology and that's how I transitioned into conflict resolution and eventually into non-violence.
So I did stick with that line, that, that professional lineage, but at the same time, I understood that what was really happening in, what I felt was the, the disconnect , in humans with, with the natural world, it was in the veterinary profession. It was in the psychology profession. It was all over the place
and I just understood no, there's something that's disconnected in our spirit. Sure. And our culture isn't even giving us the language to talk about it. And since then, which has been many years now has been an effort for me to cultivate within my own self, that reconnection, because I understood then my own anger, my own trauma, my own, um, you know, inability to make good choices for myself.
I understood that was also coming from that same separation. So I couldn't say I'm holier than thou, right. But I needed to heal my own self and try to come back into connection. So the further that I've gone into that and the, the deepest place that I have found healing in my life is in spirit, is in spiritual traditions and studies practices.
And so the longest sorta this, where did wake up human come from is in this. It's just the culmination where all of this life experience and all of I've learned. And I know you feel this way to Marcy that at some point you become full. Yeah, I am so full of this. I want to give this back. I want to. So, you know, I've, I've healed myself to a certain extent that I feel now that I have something that I can give and I can share.
And so that metaphor through all of that, the value in that process is that I get to share the healing with everyone else. Yes, that's the, that's the gift on the other side of the journey is the boon that we come back with, this boon, where we say, I live to tell about this, and now I have something that I want to give back to my, my community.
Right? And so just this message that, Hey, if you're feeling that, if you're feeling that you're not connected, you probably are disconnected. And if you're disconnected, it's not your fault, right. We're living in a disconnected culture. And that disconnected culture is causing us to be disconnected from our own selves, from our own hearts and intuition.
It's causing us to be disconnected from one another and seeing one another as human beings. And then of course, by extension or perhaps more profoundly, it's causing us to be disconnected to the non-human animals, the non-human world, the natural world. We're not going to feel empathy for cows if we don't feel empathy for each other or ourselves.
Absolutely. Absolutely. So, so that's really the seed of wake up human is just to explore. There's not a, a point that I'm aiming for and trying to get to, I'm not trying to convince anyone, but what I am trying to do is continue my own healing journey and my own journey of discovery and to sort of bring other people along with me, by making my journey public in exploring this question, like, who are we really as human beings?
What are we really capable of it when we're no longer separated from ourselves and our world? Like we. I believe we have a lot of power within us and that we can use those powers. This sounds a little cliche, but we truly can use those powers for good. Absolutely. We connect with them. It's beautiful. I have chills listening to you talk about it.
It's wonderful. Thank you. And I think it's something that we all need, you know, as you said, compassionate, conscious, and connected. I think we are in the place that we are in as a country, as a culture, because we've lost all three of those. Yeah. Yeah. And one thing I would say is where my heart really aches is for young people and children.
Yeah. Because I know I suffered and I know my whole generation, I think, suffered from the same types of things, um, being disconnected and told that our value comes from. The things that we have or the things that we accomplish or the things that we do rather than inherent value, which is what we're lacking when we're disconnected.
And I just see whole, it feels like Holy agents of young people growing up into the same kind of world and my heart breaks for them. And so what I hope for this kind of work, not just what I'm doing, but other people who are doing this connective work is just to provide some kind of framework for young people who are growing up to say like, look, it is not you.
It is. Yeah. So if we're telling them that their value comes from material things, and their value comes from their service to others, and then. Our economy is in such a way that they are unable to obtain those material things or an ability a career or something, or other ability to be in service to others.
Then we're telling them that, Hey, you have no value because you can't do these things that we would deem you to be valuable through. Yes. So it's like utter hopelessness and then, Oh, by the way, let's throw them into a pandemic while we're there, you know, insult to injury here, you know? So I just see the faces of my students and they all look like deer in the headlights, you know, like to just, they don't, they're just going through the motions.
You know, some of them are doing better than others, but I just see so many of them struggling and getting lost in the cracks now because of where we are, with our global healthcare system and where we are in this middle of this pandemic and trying to do the best we can. I it's. Just falling short of what all these kids need falling short of what they need.
And, and if you look at the way that we have in our country and other places as well, we have chosen to manage the pandemic. And this is not, I'm not jumping onto the dispute about whether we should wear masks. It's not about that. But if we look at the way that we have managed this pandemic, by saying the way that we're going to manage this is by separating ourselves, literally separating ourselves and psychologically what that, the effect that that separation has on people.
And the fact that we see that as the DIY way to manage it. And, you know, perhaps it is the way that we have to manage it because this is a virus and we're trying to keep the contagion from spreading. But what does that mean psychologically? And there is a psychological fallout, a spiritual fallout for all of us, especially as we're now nearing what, 10 months, 11 months in this it's just.
I see it. We have, what, what are they calling a pandemic exhaustion at this point? You know? Yeah. So what does that say to us if we say that? Well, the solution for the solution for the, for sickness is separation well in this case, I think that it is kind of the answer. Yeah. I know. You know, but, but I think we're all going to have a shit ton of work to do once we're finally able to come out of our homes and embrace again, you know, when we can, you know, actually when I can actually see my 81 year old dad, X in person, instead of just doing a zoom call, you know, our last meeting was outside in a park, sitting on opposite park, benches with masks on talking.
And it was like a what'd you say, what'd you say? And we're screaming. And it was just, we couldn't hug each other. It was just like, I would rather do a zoom call and actually see his face and be able to hear him then that outdoor torture that that meeting was, it was just awkward. Was just terrible. Well, and I know this has come up many times, I've heard many people say this during the pandemic that, you know, maybe we'll have a gift on the other side of it, which is that we will appreciate our value with one another, because maybe we do need to solve this sickness with some separation, but then, then if that can actually help us to value the interest.
I think it is Shannon. I really think it is because so many people are talking about this, that it's increased our empathy for each other, and it's increased our appreciation for those of us who we love. And, um, I think find tuned everyone's priorities to not sweat the small stuff so much and really focus on what's important.
No. Yeah. And let's hope that byproduct, that wonderful by-product sticks around afterwards. And it's not just like for a few months. Let's yay. Everything's great. And then we go back to way things were, and I hope that it stays. I hope so, too, Marcy. And again, I think that some of it may come to come down to our responsibility of adults to be the, to provide the example for young people who are, I can see them just very easily just shifting, getting right back into all of those things and, and places that we were before.
But if some of us as adults can, if we can find it within ourselves to shift and, and become even more connected through this process, then maybe it's something that we can also, uh, amplify. And others as well. Sure. Give them hope and instill in them a lasting sense of connection. Yeah, it would be fabulous.
So, so wake up human as a podcast is just about as new as perfect permission to heal is, and, and we're both sort of in parallel, messaging. I think, I think so too. I think so too. I think that we're both exploring, we're both finding our passions and exploring this medium, you know, in a way that can bring people closer to themselves and to, to find that healing in themselves.
And then through that inner healing, to be able to contribute to healing the world or to making the world the kind of world we want to live in. So yeah, I definitely find the parallels in our work and Marcy, and I'm so grateful for the work you're doing. And as I am you, I mean, that's, I I'm, I printed out a few of the articles, that you had written on elephant journal that I found very moving and that spoke to me.
And, just to sort of reacquaint myself with your writing and you have a very keen ability to get at the heart of something linguistically, you know, through the, the word choice and the phrasing. And, and I just think you're a wonderful writer and, And keep at it. We need it. We need it. I think it's, it's wonderful.
You said that you had courses that you were thinking about writing. Might there be a book in there somewhere? Yeah, I've actually, I'm glad you're asking about it because it'll give me some accountability around this. I have an idea for a little book that I'd like to write, and I'm such a perfectionist that I CA I, I keep hesitating and starting the book.
Perfect, babe. Better done than perfect. That's exactly right. And I don't want to fall prey to that perfectionism, which I think is just separating us from doing our work in the world. So what I do, I do have the idea of putting together a book and something that would be. Relatively short and accessible.
I don't know if you're familiar with Steven Pressfield. He wrote the war of art. Oh yes, yes, yes. I do it as a, as an audio book. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, if you look at the book, it's just a wonderful piece of writing because it's broken up into these short little snippets. Each one is pithy and pointed and thoughtful, and you can just literally just flip through this book and come away with a sense of possibility.
And you can also open it up at different parts of the book and. It, wasn't something you have to read chronologically, you know, you don't have to, I mean, it's helpful if you do, but I just love it. It's accessible. If you just feel like I want to get a little bit of that kind of vibe that he's putting out and you can open it up and just read something and go, yeah.
Uh, that's where there's some, that's where I've confined some power for today. So I'd love to put together something, something short and accessible. That is a source of empowerment for people. And I don't know what that will look like yet, but I'm very excited to be in this world of, of writing and podcasting.
I've written my whole life and it's not easy for me. I appreciate what you're saying about my writing. And I work very hard on that. I will do, I will rewrite a sentence 20 times before I think it's okay. Like giving birth. I think sometimes I feel like emotional, almost emotional pain as I'm trying to write something.
And yet I'm getting all this enjoyment out of it. Like the crafting of it. I find. Just such a cathartic, enjoyable muscular endeavor, but sometimes it really feels like giving birth, you know? Absolutely. It is not easy once in a while something will pour out of me easily, but the vast majority of time, no, it is really just a tug of war with words, but then the results, the result on the other end is so, uh, worthwhile and it's fun to be doing it.
It's fun to do it, or we wouldn't be doing it. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. It's it's too torturous to not have it be fun and to not be proud of the result and be able to feel joy in sharing it. You know, like if we didn't have all of those positive feelings, it would not be worth the torture doing it. No, no, no, we wouldn't.
We wouldn't do it. But, but yeah, thank you for that. And I do want to say also in the listening to your book, permission to land, I appreciate, and actually I read quite a bit of, I've read quite a bit of your writing on elephant journal as well. And I find the same in your elephant journal writing, as well as your book, such a depth of descriptive, of deep, descriptive work and words in your work.
And, and I appreciate it because I notice what happens is I'll be listening to your book or even reading one of your articles and I'm pulled along into the story without even thinking about it. And then I get to the other side and I realized that's because she just described the whole thing from top to bottom.
So beautifully pulled me completely into that scene. So I didn't even have to think about it. So yeah. Very natural. Thank you. Yeah. I, I, I credit a lot of that to my wonderful editor, Craig Lancaster. He, uh, he. I sent my rough draft to him and like held my breath for a few weeks until he got it back to me with commentary and so on.
And, I was like so petrified, but I trusted him, you know, he's a novelist, he's a journalist for 25 years. He's just a, a phenomenal human being. And when I got back the first draft with his commentary, he, you know, he went through Microsoft word, um, in track changes and, and not only did like grammatical punctuation, like structural things that an editor does, but asked pertinent questions about things with surgeon, like precision to help me elucidate.
And describe and add dialogue to, and really round out an experience to make it more accessible for the reader. You know, like, you know, because so much of it was so emotional. Aye, aye. In some cases, my first draft sort of glossed over certain details because it was kind of painful to revisit, but he, we did enough compelling evidence to necessitate that, that digging in that really introspective and analytical, like divulging of all of that.
So I, I was able to, um, To, to do it, to bring it to the, to the page, which thank you for noticing and for appreciating that, because it was difficult to do, you know, I think easier in fiction. Cause you can just make shit up as you go. But this, I was trying to stay as close to the marrow of the truth or the marrow of my truth as I could without victimizing myself and like, look what all these people did to me, but hold myself as accountable as, as I was holding everyone else.
So, Hmm. You know what that suggests to me. And when we're talking about interconnectivity and reconnecting ourselves to one another, is that even in the process of writing, which can be a solitary endeavor. We still benefit from community. We still benefit from taking action. And that was a, that was not only your, your offering, but it was an offering that was bounced off of someone else.
It was a, it was a, I dunno about a team effort, but it was a work that benefited from other people's presence that we think that we can do at all our all alone, which is something else that we're taught, you know, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that the, our work in the world becomes so much richer when we allow ourselves to, to ask for help and to receive help.
Exactly. And to benefit from the collaborative nature of that. Now I had tried to get. Some people in my close, immediate family, or my close immediate friends to be beta readers for this, you know, and to do some of the work that Craig did with me. But I found that their love for me precluded their ability to help me with this because they were so emotionally connected to the stories that I was telling.
And so like fiercely protective of the younger version of me who suffered through X, Y, or Z, that they found themselves getting angry on my behalf and like wanting to go back in time and punch a person in the face, you know, metaphorically. Um, and weren't able to help me with that in a way that Craig, although he's a compassionate, wonderful friend was much less emotionally connected and therefore able to look at the work objectively.
So. You know, there is a bit of that, which I think is important kinds of community, right? We have to meet. If we're fortunate in our lives, we have community that is that who feels that their role is to support and love and fight for us and embrace us and comfort us. And then we have all kinds of community that are there to hold us accountable, to push us harder, to, um, hold a mirror up to us, you know, and both of them are, are so valuable to our growth.
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. So this has been lovely, Shannon. I I've loved every single syllable of this conversation. Thank you so very much for being here and for sharing your, beautiful human exquisite spirituality with us. This has just been a delight. And I hope that if, and I know when you actually write the book, you'll come back and we'll talk about that too.
Or, anything I would love to have you back. This is wonderful. I would love that Marcy and I do, and I love that accountability too, that you're offering me to come back when I've got this other thing created, which is my intention to create. So thank you for that. And yeah, it's been a real blessing to talk with you today, just to share some stories and to connect in the places that we connect.
So thank you so much for inviting me. Sure. Absolutely. we have for doing this little co-lab thing, little collaboration where I am going to be a guest, we're going to turn the tables a little bit and I'm going to be a guest on, on wake up human. , so those of you who are listening to this on permission to heal, you should also check out, wake up human and listen to, , that version of a similar yet parallel conversation.
It's quite quite exciting. Well, Shannon, thank you so very much. Thank you listeners. Thank you all for being here. This has been monumentally fabulous. Yes. Thank you, Marcy. And best wishes to you and all of your listeners. Thank you so much. All right.