Expert Interview: Maria Nemeth, author of Mastering Life’s Energies: Simple Steps to a Luminous Life at Work and Play
Name: Maria Nemeth
Book Title: Mastering Life’s Energies: Simple Steps to a Luminous Life at Work and Play
What is your latest book about? At the bottom line, success is doing what you said you would do, consistently, with clarity, focus, ease, and grace. Clarity involves being clear about what is important to you, rather than just going after experiences or “things” that you really don’t care about. Focus is about learning to focus your attention upon what’s important. There’s an old saying: “things grow where attention flows.” For example, are you focusing on what you fear, what you don’t want, rather than what you love, or do want? Ease is about learning to take small, sweet steps in the direction of your goals and dreams, instead of trying to do so much that you become exhausted and irritated instead of being satisfied and happy with what you’ve accomplished. Grace has to do with being grateful for what is in front of you, right here and now. One definition of grace points to “unearned blessings.” When you learn to see and experience the blessings around you—when you become grateful—you learn to dance with your life instead of struggling with it.
Why do you write? What is your vision for your writing?
I write for two reasons: so that people who might never work with me personally can learn some of what I teach, and so that those who have worked with me have some way to remember what we have covered together. I also love to write because it helps me clarify my thinking. If I can’t say something simply, then I don’t think I know what I’m talking about.
My vision for writing is to leave a legacy of tools that show people how to put principles from wisdom teachings into their everyday lives. I haven’t invented the principles. They’ve been around for millennia. However, if I can write down my experience and the experiences of others, so that readers see for themselves how to live the successful life, then I’ve pretty much fulfilled my unique contribution. And, here’s the great part: everyone has a unique contribution. It just takes some practice to discover what that is. Once that happens, it’s heaven.
Can you describe your writing process?
On a good day, I’ll sit in front of the computer’s empty screen and wait until I start sweating blood and then, before I pass out, I’ll begin to write. Incidentally, that’s partly true. In order to get out of my own way, I’ll read a few pages of something inspiriting, like Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. That gets me into the energy of writing. She’s so masterful in her descriptions of what it takes to write. You don’t feel like you’re alone.
You’re a professional coach as well as a psychologist. Do you coach authors to keep motivated and moving ahead with their project? How do you do it? Do they have to be advanced authors?
I do coach authors to keep moving. They don’t have to be advanced authors at all. In fact, those of us who are less advanced are sometimes easier to work with. I have them start small. There’s something I talk about called “Trouble at the Border.” It’s a place that we run into when taking an idea from visionary reality to physical reality—in this case through the written word.
At the border—which occurs especially when we’ve just started the book—there’s always a temptation to stop. To give up and put the project off until next time, whenever that might be. There are so many reasons for this phenomenon and it would take pages to write them all. But basically, you have to handle the border by continuing forward and not stopping. You keep going by taking small, sweet steps. That’s the “ease” part of clarity, focus, ease, and grace. You can’t run headlong into the border because you would get smashed like a bug on a windshield. You can, however, approach it slowly, like going into a pool of water slowly instead of jumping into it from a high precipice. Sometimes writing one paragraph a day for a week will take us past this inevitable border. And make no mistake, it is inevitable.
So, that’s one way to keep going whether you feel motivated or not in the moment. If I were to wait until I felt motivated, I’d never finish a written project.
How did you come to do what you’re doing today? I started with some of my own difficulties. Some pretty big failures—like unwise financial investments and business ventures that didn’t go right. And, in learning how to face them and keep going, I discovered how to teach other people the same thing. I’ve learned from people I consider to be masters, one of whom was Reverend Dr. Johnnie Colemon. She had a huge ministry in the south of Chicago, and knew Oprah and other luminaries. She was my personal mentor and gave me books and teachings she thought I needed. She was in the audience to support me the day I appeared on the Oprah show. I was also honored to have spoken at several of her huge conferences, called Panorama of Truth. Incidentally, it was she who first coined the phrase “It works if you work it” when talking about spiritual and success principles (which were really one and the same thing to her). While earning my PhD in clinical psychology, I was fortunate to have studied with other people who recognized that we all have a personal mission to fulfill.
What is your definition of “writer’s block,” and what can a writer do about it?
Basically, writer’s block is that experience of being at Trouble at the Border. It’s something everyone experiences at some time(s) in his or her writing career. It’s when you hear that voice in your head—the Buddhists call it Monkey Mind—that chatters at you to stop. That you don’t know what the heck you’re doing. That no one will want to read what you have to offer.
The only way through it is one small, sweet step at a time. One paragraph a day…then two a day, then a page, and finally taking it up to three pages a day and holding it there. Did you know that three pages a day are essentially three books a year?
Can you describe a typical day in your life? Please believe me when I say there are few typical days in my life with the exception of meditation and inspirational reading at the beginning of each day.
What do you most enjoy about what you do? I love to see that look of amazement and satisfaction that someone gets when they see how their personal success is both possible and achievable. I love to see the anxiety melt away, replaced by creativity and joy. That’s what has kept me doing this for almost forty years.
Most of all, I love to see people who are happy when it comes to their money lives. When they are living the life they love.
Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?
Wallace Wattles: The Science of Getting Rich
Emmet Fox: The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life
Paramahansa Yogananda: Autobiography of a Yogi
Michael Talbot: The Holographic Universe
Carlos Castaneda: The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones
Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you? Dennis Hopper and I were an item. He and I starred in a student film produced at UCLA called Lightyears. Dennis and me on a motorcycle and in a bedroom with me in a white bikini. Many of my friends didn’t believe this until they unearthed the film at UCLA, had it transferred to DVD, and then surprised me with a showing of it on my 60th birthday.
What’s next for you?
Continuing to bring this work onto an international stage. At the Academy for Coaching Excellence we continue to teach people to be powerfully transformational, professional coaches. I get to travel to work with our Swedish partners. I’m working on my next book, born out of years of leading seminars on forgiveness. I was given permission from Father Jerry O’Rourke, a Catholic priest from the San Francisco Archdiocese, to use his forgiveness questions in a program that I subsequently developed. This book will be simple, pragmatic, and, I hope, entertaining.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Just how honored I feel to have been asked these questions. Thank you for so generously asking them!