The Art Of Being Self-ish With Sarah Marshank
We all have many selves that encompass who we are. Sarah Marshank, the author of the book Being Self-ish, guides us through the journey of discovering “Selfistry” – the artistry of the self. Selfishtry simplifies our selves into three different baskets – the self, witness, and source. Another way of seeing this method is the three aspects of our selves into the personality, the awareness of selves, and the mystery or spirituality, When we can see the many selves, witness them from a distance then we can better lean into the source Sarah has discovered through her own personal journeys how to tap into herself and allow her to be the witness to help her and others realize their many selves. Learn through this conversation with Sarah, how we can allow our “selves” to “just be” rather than hijack areas in our life.
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The Art Of Being Self-ish With Sarah Marshank
Selfistry Is The Artistry Of The Self
Thank you everyone for joining us on the show. When I was making my coffee, I grabbed for one of my mugs and it says, “I talk to myself.” Sometimes I need expert advice. I often do talk to my many selves, not just oneself. I believe that we all have many selves and our guests will talk more in-depth about our many selves. I would like to focus on my open self being open to new discoveries and learnings, perhaps things that I’m not so familiar with. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable. It’s important to get uncomfortable because then you can tap into that inner guidance that can create change. Who knows what it’s going to be like on the other side?
The only way that we can do that is to acknowledge and to witness all of these selves that we have. If I’m getting that right, our guest goddess will correct me on that, but she has a book called Being Selfish. Her name is Sarah Marshank. She is the Founder of Selfistry, a methodology dedicated to mastering the art of being human while integrating theory from Eastern and Western philosophy and psychology. With meditative and sematic practices, Sarah guides practitioners to discover their authentic self and purpose in life. Welcome, Sarah, to the show. Thank you for joining us.
I am happy to be here.
What do you think about talking to me?
I love it. I think it’s precious. The only thing I might tweak a little bit is the discomfort. I don’t believe that it has to always be uncomfortable. I think there is a way for it to be maybe challenging in some ways, but who isn’t challenged now? Who isn’t uncomfortable on some levels? I feel like the exploration of knowing ourselves more fully, sure it has discomfort in it, but it’s also super fun and interesting.
It is challenging perhaps, but I can see it’s joyful too, especially when you can observe that and see how you can move forward. When we were reading your book, we discovered many different selves and the different roles that you have. I don’t even know the right terminology, but many different Sarahs. Can you define who those Sarahs are? How you define yourself?
I love the word role. It fits. We can put a lot of different words in there. We could use selves. The way that I orient who I am in any given moment is a weaving of all of those. I like to think of the weaver analogy, especially as women because we’re natural weavers. At any given moment, a certain self might come forward, my grandmother self, my teacher self, my wife self, my friend self, my sister self, my chef self and my gardener self. Anyone might come to the forefront, but the most important question for me is, what’s breathing life into weaving that tapestry of selfhood? The combination of those, the fluidity of myself and my roles and listening for that or tending to that breath that’s breathing me, that’s where the magic happens.
What would you say to a person who says that they feel totally content with who they are and their self now?
I would say, “Fabulous.”
Do you feel that a person needs to dive deeper to figure out more or just when there’s a dilemma or conflict?
In my earlier life, when I was younger, I might have been more likely to say, “Everybody has to do this. This is what it’s about. It’s important.” As I get more gray hair, I have a perspective that there are no shoulds here. Everybody has their own destiny and their own life movement. If one feels called to self explore, great. If not, great. It doesn’t necessarily create peace and harmony on the planet, but that’s another question.
I would like to welcome our featured goddesses to join us on the show: Lisa, Lara, and Alyssa. Lisa would like to start with a question for you, Sarah.
I read the book and it was compelling. Your whole story was interesting to me how you went through a lot of different practices in your search. You went through Orthodox Judaism. You went through the monastic life for ten years. I looked on your Selfistry website and you talk about how some of these spiritual practices may be helpful or may not have helped. I’m interested in knowing in your journey, which practices or what parts of the practices did you find were helpful? How is going through a Selfistry program different? How do you incorporate them? Which parts do you incorporate? How do you help people incorporate it? That’s what I’m interested in knowing.
I’m going to try and encapsulate it as best as I can. It’s a beautiful question and because we live in an age that’s 2020, all of us here are women, visually at least. I don’t want to make any assumptions about how you self identify, but we are educated, Western women. We have a choice at this point in human history of many different ways of doing everything. What Selfistry does is it simplifies into different three baskets, different aspects of our human beingness. I would suggest that this is across the board throughout human history. There’s the personality or what I call the Self, but then there’s the Witness or Awareness. Sometimes modern mindfulness practices will fall in this basket. The third basket is what we call in Selfistry, Source, which is the mystery, the unknowable “spirituality.”
What I do with these three baskets is I invite people to explore together. Not coming in with any assumptions of, “I should meditate, study, fast, eat this diet or that diet,” because we’re all unique, but we all have these general baskets. For example, in the basket of the Self, there’s an exploration of these different roles and different aspects of ourselves that might be traumatized, stuck or stifled in addition to the ones that are healthy, expressive, and curious. We try to reorganize that basket. It’s unraveling what’s here. Therapy and art might be appropriate in that basket when it comes to practices. I do some sacred theater stuff and we do some journaling and there are lots of different tools for sorting that basket. It is very rich and multi-dimensional.
The Witness or the Awareness basket is very empty. It has awareness in it. This is what’s cultivated through contemplation and meditation, but we have to unpack what we mean by meditation because there’s a lot of meditation practices that would fit in the Self basket to help us calm ourselves or get to know ourselves. This is a unique kind of discipline or practice. I look at it like an atrophied muscle because most of us in the West never even knew that this muscle existed though it’s ever-present. The third basket of Sources, which is our spirituality or our relationship with the mystery, is also quite open and vast and how we might want to cultivate that in ourselves. For me, for a while, it was through prayer and through keeping the Sabbath and I love Hebrew. I speak Hebrew. I still speak Hebrew when I’m talking to Source or God or the Great Mystery.
I have my own personal rituals that cultivate my self-relationship with Source, and those are unique to each individual. I call it your freedom to accessorize, but it’s important to revisit that because a lot of us have belief systems, which you live in the realm of the self about Source rather than a present moment present-day experience of it or relationship to it. As we recalibrate that individually, something happens to us collectively because of the same Source for everybody.
If I understand correctly, you’re saying you don’t take anyone’s space. There is no specific practice that works for everybody. You have gone through all these different ones and yourself have kept the ones that you find valuable.
Along those lines, for me, I’m thinking of Yom Kippur coming up. I am Jewish and every year, I struggle with the shoulds that I need to forgive and ask for forgiveness. It’s difficult when there’s a person or certain people that I feel that, “No, it’s been too hurtful and harmful.” How do we forgive? You talk a lot about releasing the should and not allowing that to take over our being, but it’s still there in my mind. Every year, I encounter this, and when I hear about people forgiving and saying, “You should forgive. It makes you feel so much freer and so much better,” I don’t personally feel like it works for me. What would you say to that?
First of all, I love your honesty. It’s like, “Forget it. I don’t want to forgive him or her. He or she doesn’t deserve it.”
It’s been a lot of hurt and heartache and I don’t think that that person cares. I don’t think it would change anything for that person. Even if I did forgive that person, they would say, “F you, I don’t care.” I’m just curious.
Let’s go back to Lisa’s question and let’s stick with the three baskets metaphor because it’s relevant. Maybe this will help us carry the conversation through. The realm of the Self, that’s where all the shoulds lie. I suspect you have a self that is feeling like, “F you, I don’t want to forget.” I also suspect you have a self that’s like, “I wonder if I can get to that place of forgiveness, then I wouldn’t be busy with this all the time.” Maybe there’s another self in there that’s like, “This whole thing is boring already. I’m over it.” The journey of Selfistry is to present all those selves and let them out. You can journal them, draw them, speak to them, ask them whatever you do to get them all up and then we rest in the Witness. What happens here is the Witnesses, what I call loving awareness, it doesn’t have an agenda. It just sees all those other-selves as real and valid, but only partial. None of them get to run the show.
Who’s running the show? When I’m able to rest as awareness and see all my self, play with me here because we’re all together in this skin suit called Sarah, but I’m able to take a breath and get perspective and say, “I guess I have mixed thoughts, emotions, feelings and sensations here. What’s the right one for me now?” That’s where I lean into Source because if we visualize Source as the tapestry that unites us all, theoretically, there’s a right move in each moment from my little thread that will serve the whole tapestry without dissing any one of my selves. This is the seed of intuition.
When I trust that intuition and let’s say I get the message, “Forgive her,” the message is coming through to the self. One Karen is going, “I’m not doing it, no way. I don’t care. That’s not intuition, that’s bullshit.” The other-self is going, “Let’s do it, but how do we do it?” You then learn to trust that. The forgiveness comes not from the self who does or does not want to forgive, but from a deeper place of bringing coherence to a greater field. In that regard, you can like it or not like it, but you do it because it’s the right thing. Similarly, I want to add, it’s possible that your intuition would tell you, “Let it be. Do not forgive. There’s nothing to do now,” but be careful that it’s not just coming from a resentful parent.
I see the distinction. My intuition is telling me, “Forget it and move on,” because I feel that nothing would be accomplished, but the should in the Judaism that I do also traditionally believe in and cultivate in my family and my life is saying, “You need to forgive.” That’s the juxtaposition of the two. I feel like in reading about what you do, what resonates with me is it’s okay if I witnessed that the self that feels best for me is to let it go. That’s what I’m going to do no matter what the should is.
One of the things say to that briefly is that forgiveness and compassion are two different things for me. I can have compassion for this person and understand that their behaviors coming because they’re stuck in the self in some way. I can have compassion for them without excusing their behavior. I can understand it without excusing it.
I often say, “Sending love and light, and hopefully, that will help.” We’re going to move on to Lara. She has some questions for you.Selfistry is weaving together spirituality and science. Click To Tweet
Sarah, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I enjoyed reading your book. In the end, something stood out on the page when you were explaining them. Our experiences in life are not defined by the experience alone. It’s by the quality of the way we experience something. That being tied into your wisdom about how everybody has a balance of pain and joy, that they bring to experiences and to the way they mesh the two together. Could you elaborate on how the balance is brought to experiencing life?
For me, it’s art. I don’t know balance. Sometimes I have trouble with that word because I see these static scales that don’t move. It’s more about fluidity, agility, and artistry. Selfistry is the artistry of the self. Once these three baskets get clarified, then it’s possible to just have our identity or our attention flow between all three. If any moment I see myself getting stuck in resentment or in a story about how hard it is, I’m free to go to the basket of the witness, take a deep breath, pause, see a bigger picture and go, “Sweetie, as much challenge as there is, there’s also beauty now in the world. Every moment, both exist.” Our ancestors and my ancestors, at least in the Holocaust, there were people in every moment who could see the beauty in the horror because they live in the realm of the Self.
As I become more agile and fluid, and tend to my relationship with Source, so that bigger picture, isn’t just a belief, “The universe has my back or the universe is all-loving and kind.” It may be true, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t suffering. I learned to toggle between the basket at any given moment and trust me, it’s not necessarily easy. I get stuck in Self land too, for sure. At the moment when I’m forgetting, if I remember or I’m hanging out with you and you remember, and you go, “Sarah, come to the Witness for a moment. You’re stuck. You’re spinning,” I can then unstick myself and I can find my way too. I would like to say that the choreography brings joy or the happiness that we long for that isn’t in emotion. Emotions are in the realm of the Self and they change. We’re all going to be grumpy some days, but that joy or that acceptance like, “This human life is a miracle. Even when it sucks, it’s a wonder. To sustain that is having access to all three baskets in my view.
It is an important point for people to believe in and understand, especially I’ve experienced great pain. I often will share that with my friends and family and say, “It’s hard to believe, but the losses and the painful moments are going to make you appreciate the light moments and the joy more fully.” It’s a wonderful quality to keep that in mind on almost of a daily basis to have it as part of the fabric of your life. It’s interesting the way you teach it so thank you. I enjoyed that.
Sarah, thank you for being a guest. I have to say, I enjoyed your book. I think Lara’s question leads to what I’ve been thinking about, which is how do things like great pain, illness, or disease affect the work that we do through Selfistry? You talk in your book about having rheumatic fever as a young child and coming through that. Staying on medication for a decade and feeling fatigued, you were feeling something was not right. I’m thinking about that because many of us, have pain and illness and it may be hard, I would think to treat all of ourselves equally at that time.
You just alluded to the fact that all the selves are valid. They’re all equal. I love almost picturing as you’ve done an exercise themselves above your head, but I think the illness self that Sarah with rheumatic fever, someone with cancer, that self is going to bulldoze all your other-selves. That self wants top billing and probably supersede your selfless and gracious self. What’s going to take precedent? I’m wondering how that affected your own journey and illness? Speaking to others about, what we’re feeling truly physically affects our ability to do the work of Selfistry?
We want to get to know it. We are opening up and wanting to dive deep. Thank you for trusting us with this.
One thing you’re bringing forward, Alyssa, that’s important is that there will be selves that want to run the show and hijack the whole thing. I would say those sick ones, once where there’s physical challenge come forward primary for many of us because we’re living in these bodies. Even though we’re talking about these three baskets, it’s all happening in here. If I feel like shit, I feel like shit. It’s a beautiful question and it speaks to how the process begins to unfold over time. It’s hard to get the one that’s hijacking to relax and trust in the Witness and Source. That becomes the primary. I wouldn’t work so much with the other-selves. I would meet that self that suffering and I would encourage her to take breaks, pauses, and practice the meditation I teach in the Witness realm so that there’s space there and then to lean into Source. Especially with somebody who’s suffering physically to lean into source genuinely is because my experience there has told me that there is no such thing as you create your own illness, it’s your fault.
This is a nuanced conversation because there are cause and effect. There is a relationship between our physiology, psychology, and spirituality. That’s true, but how they interact with one another and who’s at fault or who’s the one that’s causing is something I can feel the chills coming up because I feel like there’s a lot of disservices done in the new age communities around how to be with illness. Sometimes a banana is just a banana. Sometimes you’re born with a genetic makeup and live in an environment where you get cancer not because you did anything wrong.
I would meet that one who’s suffering and I would cultivate a capacity to get distance from it and breathe. From my book, for me, the most important discipline to get that shift was through fasting. Not through a silence so that helped in stillness. Fasting was the hardest for me because physically, I wasn’t well. Fasting was wrong for my psyche or my soul, depending on which word you want to use. It gave me perspective. I could both feel like shit and not feel like shit at the same time. That was the beginning of bringing some space into my human beingness to both be okay and not okay at the same time. The self-started to lose it, untangled and reorganized. I could have one who was sick, one who was healthy, one who was discouraged, and one who was encouraged. Make room for all of them to be on the bus towards health and well-being. What does that look like for this 57-year-old woman? What it looks like in Alyssa, Lisa, Lara, or Karen is super important.
There are many illnesses that I’ve been reading about that the New Age says. Even eczema, my daughter has eczema. I remember when she was younger reading about, “It’s because she’s nervous or anxious.” I am like, “She’s not.” That’s interesting because a lot of new age does say that, and then you feel like, “Why did I get cancer? Why did I have a heart attack? Why did this happen?” If you look at that, that’s interesting. Alyssa, does that answer your question?
It does. We’ve had such an amazing array of guests on the show and we’ve talked a lot about spiritual to get self-healing, but not of what the psyche of real disease forms of cancer and I am not sure where I come out on that. I would be interested in your thoughts in all honesty. A lot of it does feel New Age-y to me, not just about the cause of cancer or of the disease. I live my life in moderation in many ways and I feel like a combination of Western and Eastern medicine is probably a good way to go. You never know, had your backs and see what helps, but I’m not sure how I feel. I’m wondering what your thoughts about spiritual healing.
If we presume that throughout human history, humans have been animals and personalities and some sort of mysterious, energetic manifestation that none of us understand. Science is calling us quirks and glue-on now as if they know what those are. I feel like what we’re up against is if we recognize that there is a relationship between the unknown or the mystery and what we think we know or what we can touch and feel and experience. In Eastern, it would be called the formless and the form, matter and spirit, energy and matter. There’s always been this dichotomy between the mystery or the spiritual and the known or what now is being called psychological.
If it’s true that there is some relationship between in Selfistry’s Source and Self, then the question is, can we be more consciously engaged in that relationship? There are many stories in Eastern traditions where that relationship was tended to. In the Western world, what I discovered, and that’s changing now and Lisa alluded to this and the Native American practices that I did, where they were tethered to nature and mystery or Source in the manifestation of nature. They tended to that relationship. If we tend to relationships, whether it’s with our beloveds, our children, our neighbors, our pets or ourselves, things happen. We start to feed each other and this mysterious dance of relationship. A lot of what Selfistry is about is recalibrating that relationship and how that’s going to recalibrate for you might look different than how it will for Lara.
The two pieces that you’re wanting to recalibrate are the same universally. Where some of us trip and get confused is when we get stuck in either one. I’m all about upcycling. Let’s recycle and upcycle all the good stuff from Judaism, Buddhism, and Native American is without appropriating because that’s an issue too. We’re not appropriating when we’re tending to our relationship with Source. You can feel the difference when you meet somebody who’s putting on a headdress and pretending to be a Native American and somebody who’s shaking a rattle and who’s connected you all. We all can feel it when they hook up. There’s magic.
We know that Sarah, you’re a grandma. We were talking about our kids and Lara has a question regarding that.
It’s about the younger generation and how you might inspire them, but I think it will relate to all of us. In our world now, we’re faced with technology. The burden of watching the people around us being addicted to technology, especially for Generation Z. They were born with computers, Facebook, and social media in their lives. How do you give advice specific to the younger generation? How do you instill that it’s important to unwind and have that downtime?
It’s a different approach and conversation with each person and each generation. I initially speak to the self that’s presenting. Let’s take my grandchildren. My ten-year-old granddaughter, she’s the oldest. I have an eight-year-old and a six-year-old. She was born reciting the periodic table on earth. She’s this total nerd science geek. She’s already coding. She’s tethered to technology from the very beginning. For her, it’s a different approach because of her relation, it’s not the technology that is the issue. It’s the she that’s going to be relating, using, and playing with that technology. My tendency with her, for example, is to get to know her, to not should her or judge her or make any preconceived decisions about how much technology she should be doing, when, where, and how, but being present with her as a unique Self, Witness, and Source and tending to the cultivation of all three baskets for her.
For example, we can sit on the couch and read together. I can feel energetically, starting to breathe together and have the Witness come forward without even naming it, without even having to say to her, “Get off your Kindle. Here’s a paperback book.” Similarly, I can say, “Let’s go for a walk,” or, “Let’s go outside and play.” We’re then in the wonder of nature, which is also super fascinating to her because she’s excited about the wonder of the universe. Technology is in her field. That’s wondrous for her, but so is the tree creating 8,000 plums on it. We’ll also watch a documentary that the universe is how many billions of years old.
If we can reignite the wonder and the curiosity about what it means to be human in 2020 and looking towards the future. Dealing with the ethics, the moralities, and the existential crisis that we are all facing as a species and individually, the more genuinely we can do our own recalibrating and then bring that into every relationship, the more we can trust that it will sort itself out. She will find her way without me prescribing it. I’ll add one other thing is I’m her grandmother and not her mother. That also gives me a unique position to bring this kind of teaching to her, whereas as a mother, I might be more inclined to say, “You get two hours on the iPad,” and that’s it and you decide when. I want to also present that.
I know those two different roles of mother and grandmother. However, I think you hit the nail on the head with the should because all of my adult children feel and we have this dialogue all the time. There are some amazing benefits to technology, but when the addiction comes into play, it’s hard to see that. This should set the beginning when they’re younger and the pressure of the should and taking that off will help. It’s a challenge, but I like that idea.
I know that Lara is a very good example for her kids. Often, when she has family dinners, she’s not on her phone and her husband is not on his phone. They may have their phones, but then they put it away. I’ve seen that. I think us being examples to our adult children helps them to see the benefit of being present.
I know you live in California, which is a hotbed of tech companies. I know that you do a lot of consulting for companies. I know eBay is one of them. Aging, bringing it a little older, we were talking about our kids and our grandkids. I’m thinking about Millennials and Gen Zs and all these people who are out there and working in. I’m trying to understand what are you seeing for these people in their major roadblocks and conflicts? In your work with them, how does their personal growth with you translate to professional growth in their work and therefore make them better employees? Maybe it’s so much personal growth that they think, “I’m out of here,” in eBay or whatever company they’re working with. I’m curious about what you’ve observed in your work with these employees?
It’s pretty much what you pointed towards. eBay takes a risk when they bring in somebody like me and I encouraged them to take it for the benefit of the company because here’s the deal. When you have people who are working for you, who are passionate about being there, this is a rising issue among the next generation. I have a 25-year-old stepdaughter, with who I’m very close. I am watching her on her career track. These younger kids, many of them, and probably you have children that age as well, they are wanting to have meaningful lives and meaningful work.
What I do when I go into working with individuals in eBay is I get these young people to start recalibrating in these three baskets. Tell the truth about what’s meaningful and important to them and to not compromise that and to be willing to explore the different dimensions of their selfhood conflicting desires like, “I want to make a lot of money, but I’m willing to compromise. Money’s not that important, but I want to work near home,” and how to sort through the complexity of making these important life decisions.
These are not overnight insight. These take time to explore and inquire and to unearth. What is intuition? What is the should? What is authentically and genuinely mine? Even to the point where that young person says, “I shouldn’t be working at eBay. “eBay loses some of its employees. It’s okay. If we’re all finding our genuine connection to what brings us alive, I feel that’s better for everybody in the long haul. That’s how it ends up playing out pretty much.
I would think he doesn’t want somebody working for them that doesn’t get any sense of fulfillment or joy. They’d rather find somebody else.
Maybe other companies might not have that position. They might be like, “I don’t care if you’re happy here. Do the job.”
Lara, did you want to add to that?
Sarah, do you work in Selfistry with younger women in their mid-twenties? I was telling my daughter about the book, suggesting it for her book club, which she started with her friends when they were all in lockdown. I think it would be eye-opening for that age group. Do you work with that age?
I have. As you know from my story when I came out of a retreat, Selfistry is young and new. The business and the brand, in the sense of putting together everything I learned in a way that I could then share. My training is as an educator so I feel that it’s what I do well. I understand pedagogy. I understand developmental theories. I understand how kids learn and how people learn. I’m wanting to create an environment for discovery. With that said, in order to enter into the Selfistry ecosystem, you have to already be wondering like, “Who am I?”
It takes usually until the Saturn return, which is in the late twenties for that to get ignited. With that said, I’m co-teaching a freshmen seminar at UC Berkeley on Ethics and the Existential Crisis of Our Time. There are nineteen-year-olds in that class that are intelligent, awake, and alive. It’s delightful for me to be with them and to listen and explore with them. I also have a long-time student who wants to write a Selfistry children’s book. I would say that for anybody curious about figuring out more of the nuance and the complexity of who we are and having that complexity simplified, Selfistry could be a great fit.
Lisa, did you have another question that you wanted to ask that’s not necessarily on the ones that we had discussed?
I am interested in how you went into the field of teaching originally. I’m a teacher, so that stood out to me as well. I am at a crossroads where I am not working because of COVID and I don’t want to have exposure. I did go through trying to train myself to do Zoom teaching and things like that. That is alternative education. You said you’re teaching a freshman course. Has that all come back to you? You didn’t use it for a while. You put it on hold and you rejected that job originally. You walked away from a job. Now, it’s a full circle. How do you feel about that?
It’s mysterious and beautiful. It does speak that there is a choreography of the self and each one of us that is unique. It has its own kind of constitution and uniqueness. I feel like my archetype that I came in with was the teacher. One of the things we do in Selfistry is we stop trying to be something other than we are and we try to enhance what we are while recognizing our limits. Even though I never would have imagined that working out this way, it’s not surprising to me that I’m teaching again. I love it. I miss the classroom. If you come on retreat with me, which I invite you all to do, once COVID settles and gets more into the fabric of how we’re going to be together gathering, I teach or I facilitate.
Whether a teacher or facilitator, it would be fun to have a deeper conversation with you about how we define those roles and what they mean. Alternative education for me back when I was 25 and in grad school means going back to Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori. We create an environment for the spirit or soul or magic of the child to emerge. We don’t impose shoulds on them, but we create structure and we create limits. That’s the ecosystem. It’s a learning ecosystem of Selfistry and that structure is there, but there’s the freedom to roam.
The other thing I would say is that Selfistry has a somatic or a body-based practice that I can only do in person with people. I’ve tried it on Zoom and it sort of works. I’m like, “Forget about it. We’re not going to do that.” Those people who have learned it are doing it on their own, but there’s something about coming together and doing it with our bodies. We take our bodies through the house basically in the three baskets and get inside as you wouldn’t believe. It is the full circle of being a teacher.
I wanted to know your thoughts on teaching. For me, as a teacher, I do see it as a calling or an archetype of my life. That’s why it is hard for me to not be teaching now or to not find a way to do it. I wanted to know your thoughts on how you can come back to it.
I would encourage you to be in the pause, do the recalibrating, and lean into Source and say, “Where do you want me to go next?” Listen and then try stuff on. You never know what’s going to fit. I’ve been teaching on Zoom for a while. That has the potential to be a great adjunct to our learning. It is technology, but it is how we use it. It does take some time to get used to. Lisa, I don’t know if you feel willing, but would you play with me a little bit around teaching, what’s next for you and we can use that as a little mini example? You’re going into a classroom and imagine the classroom has lots of different options and ways to learn. That’s Selfistry.
What we’re going to do is one way of playing with the three realms or the three baskets. The first place I would start and I understand time-wise, we want to condense this. Imagine Lisa, we would spend more time with this, but can you close your eyes or if it works for you to keep your eyes open, that’s fine. Access for us the different selves around your role as a teacher and see who’s there. There may be 2 or 3, there may be dozens, but see if you can get 2 or 3 of them to speak about who they are, how old they are, and what they’re wanting regarding your role as a teacher. Can you share those with us?
I think I’ve gone through different stages as a teacher. Those would be the three different teachers selves. I was inexperienced, but I had a lot of energy, at one point. I was a substitute teacher while I was also raising my kids. I wasn’t 100%. I was holding the fort for other teachers. I then had a great job. I put a lot of work into it. I had been teaching older kids, but this job was teaching young kids. It was a completely new experience and I had to relearn everything. I was experienced with a little less energy.
Tell me if this is true. I heard once that is passionate, one that kept the toe in the door and was steadily absorbing input and output, and one who feels more experienced, capable, and confident. We’ve identified three Lisas and I suspect that there are other Lisas in there. One who doesn’t want to ever work again in her life and wish she was wealthy and could retire on a beach or the mountain somewhere. There are other voices inside her as well. What we invited forward were the teacher’s voices.
I would like you to imagine those three selves, along with all the other Lisas, the cacophony of them, if we tell the truth about it. Imagine they’re all in a house together. I would like for you to walk through the house and wave and say hello to them. I want to invite you to imagine that you’re going downstairs into the basement. If you can close your eyes, the passionate Lisa is up there. The one who’s holding space, the young one, the older ones, and the one who doesn’t want to work at all. They’re all up there and they’re in different rooms. They’re playing with each other or they’re not playing with each other. They’re doing whatever they’re doing and you are walking, driving, or taking an elevator downstairs into the basement and there’s a chair there. It is a recliner and it’s your favorite color.The journey to knowing yourself can be challenging, but it is also fun, joyful and rewarding. Click To Tweet
I’m going to invite you to get on that recliner, recline it, and just breathe. As you let your body, you imagine your body sinking into the chair. You can gently open your eyes and look up because the ceiling is glass. From this recliner, you can see all yourselves, all of them. Here you are breathing in the chair, observing, loving, and accepting them. You can hear them in the background, but no big deal. They’re not burning down the house. You can rest in the recliner and this is what we call the Witness. This is the place that can observe all of ourselves without being identified as any of them for a moment. You can’t stay here forever.
This is not the totality of who you are, but there is an aspect of you that can observe yourself. I would encourage you to stay there for a while and come back and visit whenever you feel caught up in, “Should or shouldn’t I? I don’t know.” Come and breathe. I would encourage and invite you as you tap into the breath. This is one of my favorite questions. It’s simple and mysterious is to ask the question, who or what is breathing me? This is where you start to tap into the mystery and into the source. What is it that is breathing me alive?
Without it being a cognitive exploration. Cognitive is wonderful. I’m a big head girl, but I’m also inviting us to go into a more intuitive somatic, and energetic realm without collapsing into woo-woo. I can’t stand woo-woo. To be able to relax as the Witness and to breathe and observe yourself, then lean into Source, whatever that looks like for you. Go back upstairs, hang out with yourselves again, leave the house, go into your life, and see what’s changed. That’s a condensed exercise that you can do to orient yourself in all three of the baskets. In our modern age, some people say to me, “Which one should I focus on more?”
I say to people, “I took years and just focused on Source. The Witness came as a consequence of that.” I don’t necessarily recommend that. If you have the opportunity, you may choose that but I wouldn’t recommend that. What I would say spend time in all three. Create a lifestyle where you weave throughout your day time to tend to the mystery, to tend to your own pause, relaxation, and breathing. To tend to your unique self-hood, needs, limitations, accepting, loving yourself in that way, and then see what emerges.
With anyone in your family, do you have any regrets when you look back at your journey?
Regret is such an interesting thing. There was also a question about the guilt that came up, that I wanted to explore with you too. My foundation is gratitude for everything that has unfolded. If I could go back to do it differently, the one thing I would do differently is how I engage with my family in the process of isolating for those years. I felt the sincerity of my longing to include them. Over the years, I would reach out and I would write letters. I think it was too weird for them maybe or too incomprehensible.
I didn’t understand how it was incomprehensible to them. Did you ever have somebody you’re doing this with? We just weren’t meeting. It’s like the grandmother in me. I wish I would have had a grandmother like me so that I wouldn’t have had to treat my family the way that I did. It was hard on my mom, bless her heart, and her soul. That is the one thing I would have done differently. I don’t regret not having children. I don’t regret having those years alone and quiet. I feel grateful for the beauty in my life and where I am.
Thank you for sharing that.
First, what stands out is when you touched upon choreography in your life and it seems like the choreography has come full circle. I love that you take all of your life and all of us are going to have regrets. We question every day, “Did I say the right thing? Did I do the right thing? Is my relationship going to suffer? It’s beautiful to see when it comes together in the end, that’s what everyone hopes for. I was going to say that technology would have helped back in the day when you were doing your thing. I do find that if people have challenges communicating with different family members or friends, maybe texting and a quick message here and there is much easier for people to express their feelings.
One of the things I wanted to say was, I don’t know if you’ve watched the documentary, The Social Dilemma. That’s been streaming on Netflix.
You’ve been talking about that. Lara told me to watch it.
It’s fabulous. Russell Brand did a little fifteen minutes. He’s going to have all those people on his show and he’s an interesting character. I don’t know if you’ve listened to him at all. One of the things he said when he was talking about that documentary, he’s been in recovery for a long time as a recovering addict. I have many students who have come to me through the recovery pro. I think AA is a beautiful system. I think it has its problems, but in general, it’s done so much good for our generation. One of the things Russell said talking about addiction to technology, “I’m an addict. I’ve been in recovery. I’ve been addicted to substances, pornography, and sex. What I have done is I have not laid down my addiction to any of those things. I have laid down the self that wants those things.”
That distinction, I was like, “That’s it right there.” That self and that self-awareness are what thousands of years of Eastern traditions and what the esoteric traditions of our own traditions are offering us. What mindfulness in the best of ways is offering to us is to wake up to a vaster yourself that can put that self down without demonizing it, without making it wrong, without punishing it or shaming it. It’s to say, “Sit down. You’re going to get in the back of the bus. I’m driving now.” This self is driving. I encourage you to check them out.
I got goosebumps hearing that. That struck me.
Without shame and regret it’s, be there because that’s what people need to understand.
Otherwise, it takes over. Who’s driving your bus? Who’s the one conducting the show? Who’s the person in charge?
That’s so much of what you teach and what we’ve been talking about. In some ways, it simplifies all of this by being able to visualize things, whether it’s Lisa sitting in that chair and looking up and all the visuals. People may come to their own decisions or work through their own conflicts in a lot of ways, many of which are esoteric. When you condense it down to these physical manifestations of these skills, that’s helpful. Physically, the act of laying down oneself putting that to passion.
I’m excited you’re saying this Alyssa because she is very A-type. You are like, “This or this.” Good for you.
I’m also very visual and yes, true. It’s having all these thoughts and reading a book and concepts that get confusing and muddy things up. I’m also a very simple person. You are telling me to visualize something and I can visualize something. That approach that you employ in your teaching has got to be incredibly helpful in assisting the people who come to you with, how do I do this? How do I put my guilt or my regrets? You would have to physically put them out in the trash.
Not in the trash, in the back of the bus. What happens over time is they’re happy to be on the bus. They only picked up that addiction to protect you, to get you love, to feel good, and to stop hurting. Over time, they start to relax and trust those self that’s come forward to drive the bus in is quite beautiful. There are moments when they reel their head again and want to take over and it can be hard. There is never any like, “You’re finished. You’re arriving. You’re perfect,” not that I have found. Even the Dalai Lama says he gets angry sometimes.
That’s a good point. We’re taught the ten easy steps to authenticity or enlightenment. It’s like, “How about creating a lifestyle and giving it space to grow?”
Thank you for doing and for sharing that with us. If our readers want to contact you, to perhaps do one-on-ones, do the monthly gathering or take your courses or when the time does open, when the world opens up again to go on retreat, how can they do that?
The best way to learn more about this work is to do my online live course via Zoom, which I run three times a year. It’s five weeks long. You get videos. We get together, hang out, and explore this. It’s a great way to learn the framework. I run that three times a year in the fall, in the winter, and then in the spring. Check my website, Selfistry.com, the artistry of the self. From there, there are a few different routes that you can take and I’m always available for a free talk. Book a 25-minute consult with me and tell me what you’re up to. There are a lot of great teachers out there that are teaching this integrative approach and that is weaving together spirituality and science and bringing it to a more modern gestalt. Selfistry may not be the right fit for you, but I might be able to help you orient towards what could be a better fit.
Before we say goodbye to you, we have to know how your husband is doing.
My beloved husband, bless his heart, is on his way from Atlanta to Los Angeles. He’s CEO of a company that he’s working hard. Maybe one day, you’ll all get to meet him. He’s a wonderful human being. He is flawed in the most remarkable and beautiful ways, but very much grounded in this journey that we’re talking about here. With that, as the foundation of our marriage.
Thank you for joining us and for teaching us so much. We hope that people will connect with you because I have. Even for the monthly gatherings and not just meeting you, but meeting other people from everywhere has been so enriching for me and my life. Thank you for doing that. Thank you for joining us.
Thanks for having me.
Welcome to Favorite Things with our guest, Sarah Marshank. We’re going to start with Lisa. What did you bring along?
A fountain pen. Where I taught for years, previous to this, it was in a school for kids, mostly from France, whose parents are working in the United States. In the French education system, children in about grade two, their handwriting is extremely important. That’s something we grew up with, probably most of us. Some of you remember when you were in second grade and you were able to do cursive, you were allowed to have a ballpoint pen. I noticed that these children, my own children don’t know how to do cursive. When they do a signature, it’s just with printing. I noticed that my students all got a special pen. Their parents would buy them a fountain pen.
It’s a simple thing. You would think, “Big deal, what do you write with?” You write with what you grab whatever you want to grab. I decided, “I wanted to have one of these.” I got myself a whole bunch of them. This is my favorite. I like the colors and it makes writing anything. If I write a shopping list or if I write something in my calendar, it’s weird. I can’t explain it. It’s a pleasure to write about it. I like how the ink flows out. I reach for this pen to do anything. If I’m scribbling somebody’s phone numbers or a note, I thought it’s a nice, fun, pleasure in life to do mundane things with what I call my very fancy pen. It has a cartridge. It is not the old way. It is not a calligraphy pen, but it’s got a little cartridge. They still make them. They’re mostly made in France and you get them on Amazon. There’s a whole bunch of different ones. They have different colored inks. This is my favorite thing.
Thank you for sharing that. That’s what it’s all about. When you’re thinking about what makes you happy, what brings you joy every day and that’s so simple. Alyssa, what did you bring?
I miss those penmanship classes because not only can my kids not write in cursive, they can’t read it either. They would give me letters that their grandmother wrote to them and make me translate. Lara reminded me that I always have one of these on my wrist, but it is amazing. We all have long hair. I’m looking around the whole ponytail thing, especially now when we’re all staying at home. These are incredible ponytail holders. It’s like my jewelry. I wear it on my wrist every day. You can get them literally at Walgreens or CVS or anywhere. Amazon has them. I buy them in bulk. They don’t rip your hair. They don’t make marks in your hair. This is an amazing little discovery for $5.
They’re cute bracelets.
They’re constantly on my wrist. That’s my jewelry every day.
Thank you. Lara?
I have made comments. First of all, Lisa, I need that pen and I am aging myself. I’ve always enjoyed what you’re saying, the flow of the ink. My fingers, even though I consider myself in very good shape, I need an easy pen to write with. I’m going to try that because I feel my fingers are getting a little stiff. That hair elastic I have and it’s for my home chef moments. I’m always putting my hair back because I can’t have hair when I’m cooking. I enjoy those things also. My favorite thing is a hot chocolate made with cacao and reishi mushroom by Four Sigmatic. I’m in love with this drink. It’s something to have before bed. The reishi mushroom is supposed to promote relaxation and liver cleansing. There are healthy properties in them. Funny enough, I decided to talk about this and wasn’t thinking about Sarah and your role as a grandmother. On the top of the box, it says, “A warm hug from your grandma on the box.” I highly recommend this and it helps my sleep.
What are they called?Selfistry is where we stop trying to be something other than who we are and we try to enhance what we are while recognizing our limits. Click To Tweet
Four Sigmatic makes all different types of coffee, but this one is hot. It’s called mushroom cocoa mix.
Before we go to Sarah, I’ll tell you mine. Sarah, we do Favorite Things every show. It is starting to feel we’re going to run out, but the whole point of it is to find every day something that will be positive to you. I had to go back in my memory to when I was younger. One of my favorite things to do was to spy on my older sister. I loved spying on her. Lisa is my sister. I used to read her diary. I used to listen in. You pick up the phone and put your hand over. I used to listen to her life and her talking to her boyfriends. This is how invested I was in spying on her. She was having a party. Before the party, maybe half an hour, I snuck down and I hid behind the black recliner that was in the basement. I stayed there. I got stuck there because her friend who I won’t name was making out with a guy sitting on his lap with her tube top on. He was busy putting around and I was little and I was stuck behind the recliner. I couldn’t leave until she discovered me. She went and told you, “Your sister’s here.”
I have no memory of that.
What I wanted to share was that Lisa, I’m sorry for reading your diary, please forgive me, although it was so much fun. I love you. I’m grateful to you. Thank you for coming because I wanted you to meet Sarah and I wanted you to hear and to meet the other goddesses. I’m sending you this journal. This is a new diary for you. It’s called Happy Bitch Journal: Achieve Happiness, Realize Your Greatness, & Stop Giving a Flying F*ck. I’m shipping it to you. I promise the next time I come to visit you, I will find it and I will read it.
I have the old one that you used to read.
Lisa, did you know she was spying on you?
I have a younger sister and she also confessed, “When you were gone, I used to go in your room and put on your clothes. I looked up to you so much.” I was like, “You did?” I was clueless.
I remember sitting in my closet, listening in when my parents were talking to her about a boyfriend that she was breaking up with. That’s too much information. Sarah, what is your favorite thing?
My favorite thing is a basket of knitting. The reason this is my favorite is number one, my mother taught me how to knit when I was little. She’s not alive anymore, but I’m grateful. I feel like knitting connects me to my mother and to my matriarchal ancestry, all the weavers. We had baskets and weaving. The one thing is the connection to my people. The yarn is eco yarn. It’s cashmere and it’s 50% recycled and 50% virgin. I love that it is environmentally friendly, no animal or human died in order for this to come here. It’s so soft and it’s yummy. It’s so fun to work with. The knitting, this is just a test patch. I’m going to be knitting a scarf for my husband who turned 70 and it’s going to have 70 stitches on it.
Each stitch, I’m going to stitch my love into this scarf. He wanted me to make him a sweater, but that’s too big of a project. It might not fit when I’m done. The other thing is I love knitting because it’s a meditation for me. It’s a way for me to be in that recliner and breathing. Sometimes people get to the witness and it’s hard. I try to help people find activities. People say, “I can’t sit still. I need to move.” I’m like, “Let’s find a movement that can bring stillness internally,” and knitting does that for me. To my ancestors and my mother and my husband, and four of you for being woven into my heart and into the sisterhood.
Thank you so much, Sarah. Thank you for joining us and for sharing your favorite things.
- Being Selfish
- Four Sigmatic
- Happy Bitch Journal: Achieve Happiness, Realize Your Greatness, & Stop Giving a Flying F*ck
About Sarah Marshank
Sarah Marshank is the founder of Selfistry, a methodology dedicated to mastering the art of being human, while integrating theory from Eastern and Western philosophy and psychology. With meditative and somatic practices, Sarah guides practitioners to discover their authentic self and purpose in life.