book club 21 small

book club

Week 4, by Tammi Scott

Here we go!

Truth, self-development, and authenticity were the thread or themes running through this week’s readings. And while ‘The Inner Experience of Truth’ seemed to resonate the most with me, my feeling of the truth is so did ‘Life Marks Us Up’ and ‘Feelings Are Paints’. So I’m going to try and write about the accumulative resonance of them all.

Once again as I think about the trajectory of my own life since the Pandemic began literally 18 months ago, I am both dumbfounded and unsurprised to be here. I feel split, as opposed to full-on fractured, by my willingness to show up as authentically as I can to these spaces of community while simultaneously partaking of the hypnotic societal drug of “busyness” which also leaves me “distracted by the noise of the world- even hypnotized by it at times”. How does that work exactly?

I show up as a Zoom meeting host twice a week for sober support communities using the poetry and readings of many, including Mark Nepo to facilitate meaningful conversation, connection and truth for hundreds of sober people. I am a sober mentor for one woman and have a sober mentor for myself, both of whom I meet with weekly. I see a therapist and a coach regularly as well. All of these spaces and places I show up with authenticity and heart. In those moments.

But I also work a full-time day job that sucks the energy and life out of me most days. Plus I have this annoying, self-defeating habit of signing up for online training, retreats, workshops, and book clubs that keep me so busy that I rarely have time for the stillness and inward contemplation Mark speaks of as crucial to the life of expression. I’ve been going at this pace, vacillating between hyper busy with my hair on fire and being a depleted slug smashed against the wall of exhaustion and stress. It’s been one or the other with all of the attendant emotions and mental insanity that come with it. As you can imagine, it also left me with little time for the kind of sustaining self-care I need to truly replenish and connect with myself.

As Mark says in The Inner Experience of Truth, “Listening, expressing, and writing are conscious ways to clear ourselves out and to extend and expose the range of what we feel”. There was little to no capacity to achieve any of that with the way I was living. A consistent pattern of avoidant behavior that led me to abandon myself over and over again! He’s also right that “uttering my truth or questioning it does turn on an electricity that “connects me to that immeasurable vastness so close but always out of view”. (paraphrasing here) But I feel the clarity of his truth that is my truth too.

Fortunately, just before this book club started I took a hard look at my schedule of insanity and made some necessary and healthy choices to eliminate, postpone and cut back the larger demands on my time/energy. This has given me some unfamiliar breathing room, space and time. With that has come the needed quiet, stillness, and presence with myself that had been lacking. Having this is why ‘Life Marks Us Up’ resonated with me. The whole passage seemed to shed a light on how little time I allow myself to develop and integrate what I gained from training, retreats and workshops. His accurate metaphor for this is “Unpacking what we’ve been through in the solitude of our reflection-this is our darkroom.” And again plainly stating, “Despite the speed or courage, we need to take experience into our heart and wait for the images of life to show themselves, all of which takes time.”

I’m going to attempt to say the “unsayable” about how ‘Feelings Are Paints’ struck me. The message in his reverent and detailed emphasis of the materials used in Dario Robleto’s piece A Defeated Soldier Wishes to Walk HIs Daughter Down the Wedding Aisle  (2004) speaks to how deeply he respects the artist’s commitment to his vision of his art. For me I saw that as the artist staying with what he knew to be true and would work for his art. He did not abandon himself or his vision for his art. Authenticity in it’s distilled form!

These words of Nepo’s in particular have burrowed into my heart, “So whatever your gift, I urge you to be yourself so you can open up a heart space for the people you are privileged to journey with, whether they are surviving the death of a loved one, or are social workers or grief counselors or a convention of mayors. Offer yourself out of the work you’ve already done in becoming who you are, and give of yourself from there.” I have tears in my eyes as I feel the truth of that echo within me. Because I see now that the drug of “busyness” was also an overly insecure effort to attain credentialing or certification to help me offer my gift to the world. When it’s clear from all I’ve read here this week that I just need to develop the truth and authenticity already inside of me.

What struck you about this week’s reading?

zoom meeting

Save the date

What: Mid-way Zoom meeting

When: Sunday, October 24 at 1 pt/3 ct/4 et

Zoom link will be emailed to you ahead of time. Reminder: there will be no reading assignment or post for the week of Oct. 21 so you can spend some time that week thinking about what you’d like to discuss on the Zoom.

The duration of the zoom is dependent on the conversation, but you should feel free to hop off when necessary.

Schedule to date:

  • Week #5 <<<Break>>> No post. A chance to pause, breathe, and catch up, Sept. 30
  • Week #6 The Energy of Hope through Love at First Sight, Kim Prendergast, Oct. 7
  • Week #7 Living a Making through Drifting in Immensity, Joan Sherwood, Oct. 14
  • Week #8 <<<Break>>> pause to prepare for Zoom discussion, Oct. 21

A link will remain here to week 1 in case anyone wants to review the spearheading guidance. Week 1.

Joan letter colalge

Joan’s collage image!


  1. I first want to respond to Tammi’s post by saying that I was very moved by your deeply loving heart which enables you to give so much back to your community. Your final revelation that you just need to embrace the truth and authenticity already inside of you is a great realization. You are already enough and embracing that truth will serve you well.

    The chapter that most resonated with me was “The Inner Experience of Truth”. The journal exercise said to describe who you explore your experience of truth with. In thinking about this I am aware that I need to feel very safe in order to express my truth.
    But even with those I feel closest to I often edit myself to avoid conflict. This comes from my extremely co-dependent nature which comes from growing up as a parentified child with a bipolar mother and no father. As a co-dependent I am often taking care of others at my own expense. Even in these responses I am aware of not wanting to write anything that will make anyone uncomfortable. Another gem from Ram Dass was “Give up your role and embrace your soul”. At the spiritual retreat I attended with him there were some really amazing people who had dedicated their entire lives to spiritual growth and the search for God. At times I felt like a 65 year old in kindergarten. No one there was interested in any of the usual roles that we all hide behind. People were looking at me and seeing me as a spark of God expressing herself. No one cared what I looked like, how much I had achieved, or how much money I had. It was both freeing and terrifying. I felt free to be more honest because no one seemed to be judging me. I am aware that I want to bring more of this into my everyday life. I want to stop editing myself. I want to stop caring about your feelings more then my own. I want to speak from my heart as often as possible even if it creates conflict or causes someone not to like me. The people I am supposed to be with will stay, the other will fall away.

    Although I loved my psychotherapy career giving it up was one of the most honest things I have ever done. After 25 years of containing feelings and problems that were not my own I was tired. It was hard to admit that I was out of emotional supplies and ready to focus on myself. Now my own well being is my highest priority. I am taking life at a much slower pace and it feels really good.

    1. Thank you for your kind words about what I gleaned for myself from week 4’s readings.
      I loved reading about your growing emergence from roles you lived in for much of your life. I understand the thrilling freedom and fear of shedding those roles through personal development and spiritual growth! And that you’ve prioritized and centered yourself❤

    2. Thank you for this gift, Diane. For verbalizing how hard and scary it is to try and be who we really are in this world! Another awesome Ram Dass gem. I need to start writing these all down!! I see another ART PROJECT on the horizon, lol. I am so glad that you are making your health and well-being a priority. What a beacon for people! And I so agree with what you wrote about sharing/exploring our experience with truth. One (like me) might wonder..who cares anyway? I think it’s important to acknowledge that we do need to be smart and save about who we are sharing this type of stuff with…not just anyone will “get” this or support us in this work! Thank you!

    3. Thank you so much Diane for sharing, what a wonderful experience! i have been in a similar retreat, is so liberating!!

    4. Diane,

      So much of what you have written resonates with me! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so openly. I love the Ram Dass gem, and it’s wonderful that the retreat is still with you. It’s like the darkroom; the images/feelings are appearing with time and exposure. Keep taking care of you!

    5. I also really related to Tammi’s post on so many levels. I currently am struggling to name some truths in my life so I will leave that there as I sort it out and integrate. The piece on The Inner Experience Of Truth spoke to me most this week.
      And I came away thinking the following:
      You know truth when you hear it but not because you hear it; not because the content can be fact checked.
      You know truth because it reverberates within you like an electric current. You know truth when your heart beats warm. You know truth in the part of yourself that just knows. I call that my soul.

  2. Tammi, it is wonderful that you’ve slowed down your pace enough to focus your attention on the most important things. No one can do it all. We each need to prioritize who and what needs our attention and we can’t leave our own joy and mental health out of the picture.

    Diane, I understand how it can be hard to be completely honest when we fear making someone else uncomfortable. I also hold back sometimes when expressing myself to others, for fear of either making others uncomfortable or, more likely, appearing to not be sensitive to their needs and thereby hurting their feelings. I strive to be as honest as I can be these days. I truly feel that honesty (in both love relationships and friendships) brings people closer. For the ones who fall away, well, that’s for the best. The ones who stay are my people.

    1. Thank you Sue. I agree that showing up authentically can be difficult in a world where conformity is built into the conditioning most of us grew up with. It’s been rewarding to do so but not always easy. People have fallen to the wayside, but in the end it’s worth it.

  3. Thank you so much, Tammi! What gifts you are providing your communities! I appreciate you sharing the truth of life so far…in the hair on fire or slug on wall..who can’t relate to that! Knowing you for years now, it’s been such an honor to watch you grow into yourself…watch the ways in which you’ve made yourself and what you are learning and what you want to share a priority. Thank you.

    I, too, resonated deeply to what you wrote at the end of your post regarding Mark urging us to be ourselves. Ugh. Sounds so simple, but is it? I reflect back on the last decade or so of my life. There was SO much going on…and one of those things was my quest to write about the experiences that had so utterly and profoundly changed me and my perceptions of every. . .single. . .thing. I knew I needed more skill (craft) to write about what I wanted to, to even have a chance at capturing the “unsayable.” So I wrote and took classes and wrote and took classes. I got a lot of feedback (some necessary…and some not, some inspirational and some not). I stopped writing. I started a book. Stopped it. Started a blog. Stopped it. I was, for years, seeking the “right person” who could show me how to do this “thing” and do it well…which I understand now meant..I wanted to do it like them. I wanted to be good at it, like them. I wanted to achieve, like them. I wanted to shine, like them. I wanted the gift that they had, the turn of phrase, the connection, the metaphor. The problem, obviously, is that I’m not any of those people. So each time I got certain types of feedback it was a slap across the face. It pained me almost that physically. I suck. I can’t do this. I walked away for long periods of time. Stopped. Like you, during this period, I turned to formal education. Got more letters to put after my name…Proof that I was worthy. Of course, learning how to get better at something is important to doing it well. I did need (and still do!) education on craft, on how to make my work as good as it can be. But the component I was missing before, and the journey I needed to go on to get to where I am today, is, like you, to BELIEVE that “all” I needed and need is to develop the truth and authenticity inside me. To share from that well. I don’t need to become more like someone ELSE. Coming from my most authentic truth is the biggest gift I can give to myself. If it helps someone else then that’s icing on the proverbial cake.

    1. Oh, yes, Tracey! The biggest gift you can give to yourself and to the world is to be your most authentic self. In your book, it’s what YOU have to say that is so very precious and moving. Finding one’s own voice in writing is challenging in part because of the ways we’ve been taught to write. I remember when I was first working on my manuscript, I thought I had to use complete sentences! Oh my! But eventually I realized my voice in writing was more how I talked out loud and less how I was taught to construct a sentence in school. I haven’t worked on my manuscript in years… life got in the way. It’s a big project to take on, and you know that more than I do. I hope to get back to it before too much longer. Of course there are no rules about when I could be writing. It’s just such a huge endeavor that I procrastinate, thinking I need to have everything else in my life in order, nothing left on my to-do list, before I jump off the cliff of bringing up my childhood in such depth again.

    2. Bless you for what you wrote about my growth. It’s funny that I can say the same of you! Watching you, and knowing you while you navigated the writing retreats, workshops, and mentorships. Watching you blossom through your art. Watching you offer others the opportunity to explore and grow, including through this virtual book club.
      They say it’s the journey, not the destination and its so easy to believe having watched you these past six years. Seeing your belief in yourself in action gives me hope that I will continue to find my way.

  4. Thank you Tammi for sharing, I loved what you said about “partaking of the hypnotic societal drug of “busyness”
    Looking back, I can now see that I was addicted to this drug too.
    Filling my day with myriads of things, constantly doing instead of being.
    I had to take a step back and observe that part of me. The part of me that wanted to be a perfectly functioning machine, 24/7, constantly proving to myself and others that “I am not lazy”.
    How exhausting can that be?
    Perhaps, it was just my roommate, this voice in my mind that most of the times, prefers to judge me rather than just love me. Anyway, we are getting along much better now, no hard feelings.
    I remember asking that part:
    What are you doing for me?
    What’s your purpose? Your positive intention?
    What will happen in my life if I let you go?
    Why am I keeping you?
    “You need me to hold the light” it responded “to feel accomplished and productive”
    I was so afraid to be left alone in the dark. See me.
    It was by thanking that part for its positive intention and accepting what it needs to express that I was able to find other ways to bring light to the darkness.
    And I feel so grateful now for all the teachers I have found along the way, to hold my hand and keep the light on.
    I would never have imagined that at some point, the “darkroom” would become my most favourite place, the one I would visit the most and the brightest of all.

    “Now, I can see that this desire not to be alone in truth-seeking and truth-speaking is what made me want to be a teacher.”
    It all started at the beginning of the pandemic that most of my friends had time to engage in truth-seeking conversations, so I started experimenting with the techniques and wisdom I have gained during my 10 year journey of self exploration. I just had to provide the space for them, keep the light on while guiding them to see their own reflection in it. We are all extraordinary, infinite beings of love. There aren’t people who don’t have the necessary resources, just situations that are not fruitful and unexploited.
    I am beyond grateful for the last 18 months that I had experienced those truth-seeking explorations with more than a hundred individuals. It is such a wonderful journey.
    “So whatever your gift, I urge you to be yourself so you can open up your heart space for the people you are privileged to journey with..Offer yourself out the work you’ve already done in becoming who you are, and give of yourself from there.”

    I am also sharing with you a part of an essay written by Marianne Williamson, which accurately portrays my understanding of The inner experience of truth.

    “Today I take a stand for truth, as I extend my perceptions beyond what my physical senses reveal to me, to what I know to be true in my heart. I commit to the realization that only love is real, and I recognize the illusory nature of anything else. This way I gain the power of the miracle, the power of conviction, as my mind becomes a conduit for the power by which only love prevails. No matter what situation I am in today, I will remember that only love is real.”

    Sending you all love and wishing you a wonderful weekend.

    1. Thank you, Eva. I see the undercurrent here that so many (all?) of us have fallen prey to the lies that busyness sells. It’s so powerful to wake up to our choices in the matter. I very much appreciate you reminding us that our ego/darkroom or whatever we want to call it is important and has much to teach us. We can’t get rid of it…so coming to a new and valuable understanding with it can make a world of difference in how we experience the day to day.

    2. I love your revelation that “I would never have imagined that at some point, the “darkroom” would become my most favourite place, the one I would visit the most and the brightest of all.”

      What a brilliant way of understanding yourself and your evolution! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Tammi,

    The loving mentoring and facilitating that you give to your communities also moved me. It is very good that you are giving some back to yourself. I know that we all struggle with that. That realization of neglecting ourselves seems to strike us all at different in times in our lives. Thank goodness the universe gives us a pause that allows us to notice. it

    The Inner Experience of Truth was such a beautiful chapter. I relate to a lot of it, but when asked, “describe who you explore your experience of truth with”, it was difficult. The truth is scary stuff. It’s easier and sometimes necessary to “just keep swimming”, to remain in that busyness rather than to open up those spaces.

    In Life Marks Us Up, I had to close the book and laugh when he mentioned the darkroom. I had just mentioned to my husband that I wanted to get back to film photography and a darkroom. It is a perfect metaphor with allowing ourselves the time to develop, to watching what shows up when we expose the light.

    Feelings are Paints reminds me that I have actually been working on these very subjects for the past few months. My father-in-law passed away on April, 12, 2020. Due to the pandemic, we were unable to gather. We are now planning (3rd time) a gathering of family to remember and honor him. I have been going through his personal belongings, gathering photos from his life, and created a slideshow for the family. I spent a fair amount of time with him the last few years of his life, and it has been a joy for me to see him as a child and younger man. I have his Navy uniform, his service records, and his dog tags. Being present with his belongings and the history of his, life my husband’s and my children’s is quite special.

    I have also been delving into my parents’ lives by transcribing letters that they wrote to each other during WWII. There are hundreds! They’re very sweet and as with my father-in-law, a glimpse into their younger lives is a gift.

    With Tracey’s creative guidance, I used a copy of one if the letters in a collage. ❤️

    1. My goodness, Joan. I’m sorry to hear about your FIL, but what a gift to be able to spend the time with him and immerse yourself in his items and his live! And oh my! would you be willing to share a picture of the collage? If not, I totally understand. How meaningful and marvelous to use items for further creative outlets.

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