I’ve been interested in telling stories, and listening to other people’s narratives, for as long as I can remember. I started writing when I was 7 or 8 as a way of making sense of my thoughts and feelings in a chaotic household, and it became my life’s work, first as a memoirist and writer, later as a teacher.

Writing to Awaken is the method I teach for deciphering the truth in our stories and discarding what isn’t authentic or helpful. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of writing as a tool for insight and self-knowledge and sharing what I’ve learned has become very important to me.

In truth, my personal journey and professional life are completely interwoven; I don’t teach anything I haven’t lived. I approach memoir writing as a spiritual practice, which is why I’m especially pleased that Sex Death Enlightenment has been reissued during this pandemic. We need stories that help us confront our fears, see through our limitations, and touch on the power of spirituality to carry us through the darkest times.

“When you tell the truth, your story changes. When your story changes, your life is transformed.” That’s the gist of Writing To Awaken. Remembering this in times of crisis can be lifesaving. It enables you to reimagine your life (and yourself) in the light of changing circumstances, to draw new conclusions and deeper breath. It’s so easy to hold our breath when times get hard, and forget that until you release the past, the future cannot fill you with life. That’s why I wanted to have this conversation with Stephen Cope to celebrate Sex Death Enlightenment. As a yoga master and cofounder of the Kripalu Institute, Stephen knows as much about breathing – and inspiration as a physical practice – as anyone I’ve ever met.

The word “inspiration” shares an etymological root with respiration, as most people know. We need to feel inspired, uplifted, elevated, and healed today more than ever. The people I admire are the elevators, devoted to helping others rise up. My friend V (formerly Eve Ensler) is an amazing example of that. V has dedicated her life to rising up to shinie a light on what needs healing. Whether she’s writing about homeless woman, the Serbian war, famine in Africa, or the perils and pitfalls of living with a vagina, Eve is laser-focused on raising the frequency of consciousness. She’s an ongoing inspiration for me along with my favorite nondual teachers, Rupert Spira, Eckhart Tolle and Francis Lucille. The lives of these extraordinary people prove that freedom is possible – with practice – and that essential questions are the doorways to liberation.

My work encourages seekers of all paths to ask the big questions while there’s time and pay attention to what they learn. As the world becomes more dangerous, we need more wisdom and insight, not less. Unless we challenge ourselves with essential questions, we’re doomed to repeat the dead-end answers of the past.

So ask yourself:

  • What do you care about today that had no value before this pandemic?
  • What have you lost that has benefitted you, and how have the obstacles of this time served your own awakening?
  • What would you do if you were free, however you define freedom?
  • And what do you know today, after so many changes, that you could not have learned any other way?

The answers to these questions could change your life. They could help you turn a dark tide into a wholly new kind of flow. I hope you will.

Mark Matousek, an award-winning author of seven books, a blogger for Psychology Today, and a teacher and speaker on creativity and growth using the Writing to Awaken method, has written for many publications, including The New Yorker, O, Tricycle, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Village Voice

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