EPISODE TEN- "WRITING DIFFERENTLY: AN INSIDE LOOK AT MEDITATION"
Updated: Apr 23
"I needed to let go of the formal voice and do things differently."
- Carrie Heeter
PhD, Author, Co-Founder of Yoga Mind Tools LLC & Former Professor of Media and Information at Michigan State University
Episode 10: Writing Differently: An Inside Look at Meditation
A Conversation with Carrie Heeter
Marcel welcomes back his longtime friend and student, Carrie Heeter. Listen in to learn how Carrie had to relearn to write in a way that was more personal and authentic to her experiences. Carrie has been studying yoga, meditation, and transformation with Marcel for 10 years. Carrie and Marcel discuss Carrie's adventure with her own healing and transformation and how that has impacted the way she writes. They discuss the book Carrie has written about meditation and how the act of writing the book offered her an opportunity to do things differently.
During her years in academia, Carrie was trained to write with a very formal voice and to include citations and research. However, she found that this writing style was not appropriate to explain meditation. Marcel and Carrie discuss how Carrie's study and practice of Yoga changed her way of functioning, her perception, and her behaviors. Her practice changed the way she approached and carried out the act of writing her book on meditation.
If you are interested in yoga or yoga therapy mentoring with Marcel for personal and professional transformation, visit his Yoga for Practitioners web site.
Here are some highlights from the conversation with Carrie that will help you understand her struggles with writing and how she overcame them:
Those trained in academic writing learn to keep their own experiences out of their writing; but Yoga and meditation are all about experiences
Carrie realized that the strictly scientific approach was not an effective way to write about meditation
Carrie discovered that she had to write differently about not only science but Yoga as well
She needed to simplify the Yoga concepts and the science behind them
Carrie incorporated interviews about people's experiences with Yoga and meditation
We are so conditioned to tell ourselves to finish something rather than letting something happen
Carrie often felt pressure to force herself to write while she was in academia
She discovered that taking breaks and allowing herself time to meditate and think about what she was writing brought the quality of her writing to a new level
An Inside Look at Meditation with be out the first week of December
Log in to yogamindtools.com to get a sneak peak and notifications of when the book is released
Check out Episode 9: Being Aligned As a Business Owner if you haven't already. This episode featuring Chase Bossart discusses how to incorporate your values and authenticity into your business.
Carrie Heeter, PhD, is a recently retired professor of Media and Information at Michigan State University. She conducted scientific research on the process and outcomes of yoga-based meditation. Her book, An Inside Look at Meditation, will be released during the first week of December 2022.
Carrie is also the founding director of Yoga Mind Tools and a certified yoga and meditation teacher.
Yoga Mind Tools
Yoga Mind Tools meditations support stress management, healing, personal growth and transformation.
Our meditations are custom-made for specific individuals, groups, and needs.
Yoga Mind Meditations are different from what most people think of as yoga and meditation. We use yogic tools of movement synchronized with breathing, attention, and unique meditation objects.
Doing Differently - Episode Ten - Transcript
Please excuse any typos. This script was generated by an AI program.
Marcel: Hi Carrie.
Carrie: Hi Marcel.
Marcel: How are you?
Carrie: I am excited to talk with you today.
Marcel: So, Carrie, would you mind just sharing a little bit about your yourself and what you're working on at present?
Carrie: I'm a recently retired professor of a media and information at Michigan State University with a four decade career of designing and studying experiences that matter. I've been studying yoga and meditation and transformation with you, Marcel, for 10 wonderful years.
What I proposed to do first was to write a book about meditation. This meditation that you've been teaching me, this meditation that I love. And it's a journey that you've been on with me.
Marcel: You were writing a book that about meditation, which is what you've been studying and practicing and learning over the past decade, as you were just saying, and that we've been working.
Together with, in terms of my mentoring you around meditation and guiding you also with some practices. But, so the book was a book about meditation, but also a culmination of your experiences working with meditation over the past decade or so.
Carrie: Right. So it's about the coolest thing on the planet.
Stuff I absolutely love and I wanna get it right. I also came into writing this book Hating Writing,
Marcel: You and I had worked together previously on writing some research papers on meditation, and I remember that you had a kind of narrative, an identification, that you were not a good writer.
And I felt like. That you were a good writer. And what I was, what I was observing in your writing was that you were a very good academic writer, but often you weren't in the writing. Like your presence wasn't as much there, your voice.
Carrie: Well, I did not enjoy writing. . Academia has huge expectations.
So you have to have citations for everything. You have to do lots and lots of research, which, which I actually love doing research, but you don't just say what you think, you don't even put yourself in it. It's formal third person usually many citations and elaborate and all that kind of stuff. And so, It was just painful and I would just push through so I would be feeling terrible and just not leaving my desk for, for weeks until it was done and it was submitted.
Marcel: I was in academia for quite some time and I remember like, you're trained.
To write in a way that is supposedly objective and you're not biased. So essentially you're literally trained to take yourself out of the writing. But I think what was interesting about that was in meditation, like there's a question of how do you understand meditation or how do you teach meditation or how do you relate to it?
And it's so much about experience, like having the experiences, which is so different from how we taught in academia. It's like, keep your experiences out of the writing
Carrie: I promised that I would write a book as part of my last consulting year for the university, and I spent the. Six months worrying about writing a book and not writing a word. And so I read all of these wonderful scientific books and took pages and pages and pages of notes. I did all sorts of research articles.
I just had notes all around me. I reviewed nine years of studying meditation with you and formal classes from the Yoga Well Institute, I just had all of this stuff and I wasn't writing a word.
Marcel: You were going a, about it the normal way you would, that you had in a way that you had been trained to, which is research, read about it, structure, and organize in a way, huh?
Carrie: Well, I never got to the organizing. I just, I just was doing the research stuff. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And so there is these. So I'm, I'm lost and this is not fun cuz I have to write a book
Marcel: Yeah. You were frustrated.
Carrie: I was struggling. Yeah. And I, looking back, there are these periods of feeling totally lost and then you get a little bit found and then you're lost again and found.
So my first breakthrough was when I decided to write it in PowerPoint. Hmm. Because normally you write it in Word and it's this long narrative and things like that. Mm-hmm. and my mind doesn't really think that way. I think in much smaller clips. And I had this beautiful book that I liked that was a nine by six trade book.
So I created this template that was nine by six in PowerPoint with a headline on every page. So that I could write in a space that felt comfortable.
Marcel: We were meeting regularly and talking about the book and discussing ideas and approaches to writing it and this sort of thing.
Carrie: So I was really resistant to the big picture of who's your audience, who is this for, and that kind of thing. And Yeah. And what, what really lights me up is all these cool ideas and facts and, and experiences related to meditation. And so I started compiling individual cool ideas about meditation, and I started putting each cool idea at the top of a slide.
Oh. And I started building up the slides. And there were first, there were 24, and then there were 74, and then there were 102 hundred and 300. So, So I was very focused on individual cool ideas about meditation.
Marcel: So it seems like you're saying that there was a shift when you went to the PowerPoint and focusing on the individual cool ideas in meditation.
So like what I'm hearing you say, and I may be plying a bit, was as opposed to feeling more of the pressure about how do I write this book, you kind of were able to shift how you were interacting with all of it. So it became more about, Hey, I'm fascinated. With this, and I enjoy this. And it's almost a reminder to yourself about that.
Carrie: So you're right, I was approaching it with a sense of wonder each time I wrote instead of a sense of obligation,
Marcel: which is what your original motive was from the very beginning when you were interested in studying yoga and meditation. And we began to work together. .
Carrie: And I actually did a meditation.
I was guided in the meditation where we were noticing if there was any uncomfortable part in our, in our upper torso as we were breathing. And then to sort of focus in on that part. And then later in the meditation to ask that uncomfortable place what it had to tell us. And I kind of like rolled my eyes and thought, Oh great, it's just gonna tell me to sit differently.
Mm-hmm. . And instead, the message that I got was that, that discomfort was from the academic writing that I had been doing all of this time. And I needed to let go of the citations. I needed to let go of the formal voice and I needed to find a way to be clear and interesting and, you know, do things differently.
There, I just stole your title, that realization didn't mean I knew how to do it, but I had this, this goal. And then I also had you telling me you need to put yourself in the picture.
Marcel: , Here's what's interesting about all this. So yoga and meditation, Like Carrie uses a lot of science in the book, and, and science is very helpful when it's applied with meditation to help our understanding. But, but the, the western science was not the system under which, and , from which all of this knowledge and wisdom came.
So the science is helpful in explaining, but if we start from the science, this can be a real mistake with trying to understand meditation because the phenomenon is the meditation, I would say having, being a trained social scientist and a trained yoga practitioner, that yoga is actually a more anxious science.
With respects to the fact that it's a system that is looking to reduce uncertainty and understand a phenomenon. The point I wanna make is I realized early on that it was not gonna be likely that we would be effective at helping people understand meditation if we strictly adhered to , the norms of scientific writing without allowing for a lot of focus on experience and interpretation of experiences.
Carrie: So I had to write differently about both yoga and science than I was ever used to. I started putting it in my own words and simplifying the yoga ideas, not just the science and coming from diagrams and easier words. I'll give you an example.
So yoga talks about sort of three forms of yoga and to use the Sanskrit Chiquita, RNA and Shah, which somewhat translates into yoga and meditation for healing, for sort of balance and maintaining life is the second one. And for transformation and discovery is the third. And so I didn't talk about those at all.
I just had this full page that just had a picture of healing balance and discovery and say, these are some of the reasons people meditate. Right? There's so much more behind that. But I'm just doing super simple each time, you know, with the yoga ideas and with the science ideas and in my own words, that's, and it's like I'm not even using the yoga words.
Is that okay? But
Marcel: yeah, and I think, you know, part of this is you've been on this path of mastery in understanding meditation and yoga and I've been on a the same path. And what, what I realized in my life is that when you're on a path of mastery, when you, when you truly like are going in that direction of mastery, what happens is things become simpler.
Because you begin to understand things with more depth. And so there's also not the need to complicate something beyond a point that's necessary. And I think from a scientific standpoint, simplicity, like AUMs Razor this idea that the simplest solution is often the, the better one. It like when something is simpler, it's easier to understand and it's easy to understand what's going on in terms of the interrelationships of the variables.
And so I was always for this approach to have things be more simple. And I was like, so delight. When you kind of like organically moved into that space, all of a sudden of having it be very simple, very direct, and very clear. I mean, to me one of the, the greatest things about the book that you have written is that it talks about a lot of fundamental concepts to meditation and understanding what it is, how it works, why it works, these sort of things and people's experiences with it.
But what's really powerful about it is those concepts are explained very clearly and in a very, a way that's very accessible and relatable. So it helps people that are new to meditation understand it much more richly and it helps people that, that are veterans of it actually reach a place of greater depth.
Carrie: What I ended up loving about. And how it came out is that if you're brand new to it, it makes sense. And if you're really experienced in it, it brings in all the other stuff without me having to say it because you already know that. Beautiful. So another of the ways that I was feeling lost about the book is, you know, I'm so weird, right?
And so if it's, it's my experiences, maybe nobody else will feel this way. And it say, Who wants to read about strange carrie's meditation experiences and things like that. So I, I had the idea to interview. other people who in, in this lineage of, of yoga meditation, who I know love meditation.
And so I interviewed total of seven people about their experiences of meditation.
, and each interview led to many, many stories. So I ended up with there are a total of 89 stories about yoga experiences in the, the book.
Wow. Seven of them are mine. 40, some come from the people I interviewed and then also from my students and research. And so some, some of the stories are one sentence long and one is six pages. So it's packed with stories that exemplify the concepts of yoga for healing, of how you use different meditation objects.
So, so those stories really brought it to life for me.
Marcel: Yeah. I know like another reason for that is yoga and meditation and ancient anxious systems of knowledge. They're experiential. By nature, they're not informational. Like when Carrie first came to me and, and wanted to learn meditation, I was like, Sure.
But then she realized that in order to do that, it would be about having these practices and going through a lot of these experiences herself. And also not only having the experiences, but changing her earth suit, changing her own personality and emotions. So that I mean this is where it's like understanding of meditation actually comes from participating in the act of it.
Like it changes you and. As a result of being engaged in the experience time of and over time, you gain a greater depth of knowledge and understanding about it. What fascinated me great deal about when you wrote this book was you actually started writing differently and you started approaching the process of writing in a way that was in some ways fundamentally different from how you did it over your career.
And I think a lot of that was due to your own process of transformation and being engaged in a guided practice and all these experiences you had with meditation.
Carrie: So I come to meditation from many different standpoints. I began as someone fascinated by it as a student learning from you, and also learning how to design and, and use it.
So I've, I've gone on to have a decade of meditation experiences with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of meditation objects. I also come to meditation as a researcher, and I, and you have worked with me on doing studies of how meditation impacts people, of designing a, a series of meditations for hospice professionals and studying how that helps with burnout.
I also come to this as an experience and game designer, right? So I have a lifetime career in experience design and creating software experiences and that kind of thing.
So, so I come to this and as, as a game designer, So I used to work in serious games, so I would take something that was fun, which is games, and also add a serious component. That same logic. I get to meditation, I take something that is serious and I add a fun component in play.
So I'm also also this game designer. And thanks to the training, I also am a, a meditation designer. And so I have all these different hats that I wear at different points in the book where sometimes I'm telling my own story revealing, , here's what happens for me. Other times I'm talking about these are the meditations I design and here's how it affected people and things like that.
And so there's just so many different perspectives and different carries that are showing
Marcel: up in the book. Yeah. And part of this is like the way that, like when we study yoga and meditation. Eventually in a certain way, we start to make it our own. And what I mean by that is we integrate our experiences.
Previously before I came to yoga, I did a, a lot of work in academia and, out in the world working with organizational development and process facilitation. And so then I left that and a whole decade of studying yoga. But then I went on to integrate both of those. So, you know, now in addition to teaching yoga and being a yoga therapist, I work with
individuals and organizations helping them in terms of coaching and strategy, planning, all of this coming from these principles of yoga and healing. So I think that that is so important and that was another reason why it was so important in the book that you brought yourself into it, you know, with your, with your voice and your experiences.
It just made it more powerful as somebody that was reading the drafts . , the more you started inserting yourself and as we said before, started, like presenting things very simply and clear the more powerful the book became.
We, we learn and practice yoga, but it is us that are doing it. So you, you know, we're our, our earth suit is what's delivering it. So it's super helpful if you allow who you really are to be a part of that.
And I thought in the book that started coming across like so strongly and beautifully the simplicity and you like really focusing on experiences and using experiences to explain meditation To me that what makes the book very effective and profound is that you, it's reflecting this mastery that you have achieved in your practice and study and integration of that.
But it's also coming from your own experiences and coming from the experiences of others and explaining it in a context as opposed to just it being about information.
Carrie: So in the book, there's a headline on every page, and then there's, there's some ideas sometimes or there's a story, there's examples.
It's extremely rare. For text to go more than one page. In fact, it really goes a full page. Right? And so this is a very different book full of sort of chunks of ideas spread to get, and it's richly illustrated. There are lots and lots of images and it's also illustrated with stories and story lits.
I kept having to reach inside for an example from me or from one of my interviews and or one of my students. Sometimes I would get to a point where I was so sick of myself, I couldn't bear to write anymore and I would stop.
When I would walk away. I had to really change how I wrote. I had to be rested and I had to be feeling a sense of wonder and not feel forced. And it had, it had to be ready to be written. It was a whole different way of
Marcel: writing. Okay. I would love to keep going with this angle because to me this was like super fascinating.
And I love the way you just articulated it, like you had to be rested and coming from a certain orientation around the meditation. The wonder, as we talked about then, it's like it, it was from your experiences and, but, but the point of it is that you actually did this differently. Meaning that your experiences were different in terms of how you approached the act of writing and how it unfolded.
And could you say more about that, especially about waiting for it to come to you.
Carrie: It had to be ready to be written. That section or that page. And, and I, I could tell it wasn't ready and sometimes I would have to wait.
You know? So, so it was, it was a whole different way of approaching But
Marcel: it's, it's like previously when you would write, like in academia, as you just said, in the beginning of our conversation here, it was almost like it was forced. In other words it's like you were in control and you were pushing it out so that it would get done.
And I remember. You trying in the beginning using that approach and it not going so well? ?
Carrie: Yeah. I was very aware that no one won. Wanna read something that I was writing cuz I had to, I would be like bad. Wow. So I have an example, a crisis that I think sort of addresses the letting it happen when it's ready and also is probably interesting in other ways.
Mm. So in section three, the meditation stories section in three different parts. I share a total of 36 example meditations that I taught to give people a, a range of possibilities and joyful and serious and all these different, different kinds of examples. And I had written the first 12 and shared them with you.
And that night before you gave me any feedback I felt physically ill. Hmm. And I just thought, this is, this is just totally wrong. I'm, I'm not doing justice to what the meditation is cuz I'm just doing a few sentences from it. And you have to like have the 10 minute or half hour experience of the movement and breathing to actually do it.
And this is like a travesty. It's, it's, it, it shouldn't be happening. And, and so I, I rewrote it in a much more sort of academic way talking about the effects that were had or how I came up with the idea, but not including quotes from the guidance and things like that. And I said, I sent it to you and I said, here the use this instead.
And you were sort of uncharacteristic uncharacteristically extreme in the negativity of your feedback on that section. Do you remember what you said to me?
Marcel: I don't know if this was before or after, but at a certain point you reached this kind of groove of really listening and, and what you were writing, the quality of it was so high and it was, I really do believe this book is very special.
It, the power of it. Like it really, it was so what you were writing was so simple, so clear and you, your voice was coming through. And I remember at a couple of points in our working together with me, like giving you feedback in the book. The, the quality would go from like a, an eight or a nine to like a or even a 10, to like a four or a five.
And it was, I think because you had done such an amazing job on so much of the book, it was so clear when you weren't up there at the top and I had to figure out how to like, break that to you. But I guess in that instance, I wasn't very delicate. What did I say?
Carrie: You said you lost all the juice.
What you had was wonderful and what you have now is not at all. Okay. And I was confused because there's all of this. Listen to your knowing and my knowing was screaming at me. Right. That that was wrong. And so in terms of the timing, you know, I just sat with it and I worked on other things and it bothered me, but I wasn't, I wasn't ready to approach it or to deal with it.
And I actually waited two months. Wow. So academia had deadlines. And here I said, each thing is gonna take as long as it wants till it gets written. Yeah. And so I waited two months working on other things. And then I came back to this dreaded, cuz this is a big deal. It's three big, big chapters in the final section.
Yeah. And I realized you were right and I rewrote back the way it was and wrote all of the other ones, sharing all of my stuff that way. And so thank you so much for fixing a huge portion of it
Marcel: . Well, you fixed it. I just pointed out that it wasn't at the same level as all the other stuff you were regularly producing and, you know, I think this is speaking to the point of, of this podcast about doing differently and what may be the title of this episode, which is writing differently.
I mean, the whole idea is that we have these practices and we transform and change and as we like get clearer, like we see more of our own patterning and we develop and, , the way I express, we're more of the time we're having our experiences rather than our experiences are having us, We start to do things differently.
And it was beautiful watching you have that experience because it wasn't just the creation of the book, it was also the culmination of the decade of practice you've done with yoga in,, helping to change you and how you show up in the world and what you do. And like this thing about listening, it's so huge because like one of the ways to describe like this is also one of the reasons we meditate is so we can better understand ourselves, our own earth suit, our own being, right?
But like, I guess what I wanna say is, we're so conditioned to come from a place where we're telling ourself what to do to finish something rather than actually paying attention and listening to what's going on and what's happening. And I think what was beautiful with the book is you actually had this experience of you were able to kind of connect with your being and all that you've learned about meditation and what that's all connected to in terms of this being thousands of years old.
And you actually were able to sort of feel the quality of what that feels like when you're listening and connected as opposed to when you're making your system do something just to. To have it completed.
Carrie: I think that the process of writing the book has really changed how I communicate, and I think, you know, thanks to a lot of your support, that I really am much more authentic now.
And I, I mean, I've done so much sharing of who I am throughout the book, that I'm just, I'm just used to letting it hang out. Right. And, and saying the real stuff. And often the example I used would be something that just happened to me that morning.
Marcel: , it made me so happy to watch you do that because in, in the process of developing as human beings, this is like, there's a, there's a way of describing what it's all about and it sounds kind of trite, but it's true. Ultimately, all of this in our own development is about Getting to know ourself and, and having a good relationship with ourself and being able to be in the world in a way whereby it's okay for us to be ourselves.
It's okay to be you. You don't have to be censoring or anticipating or cautious you start to realize it's okay. You can, I can just be Marcel and you can just be Carrie. And like, what's huge about that is once you sort of start to realize that there's so much overhead that you used to use to monitor who you, who you think you should have been to show up and all this kind of thing that, that, that becomes free to now use for awareness, connection, and listening.
Carrie: It was such a good practice to spend all of that time also being aware of the state of my system and how I was approaching things for the sake of the writing. Right. But maybe that translates somewhere else as as well. My final crisis was the epilogue.
I sent you more drafts of the epilog. Usually I would just send you the first draft and then take your feedback into account, ? But I kept sending you another version and another version and another version.
And it wasn't until things were mostly done and I had had a little time off and doing other things and come back to it, that I was able to write the last page of my writing. And that was the page where I say to people in the book I would love to hear about your stories of meditation if this, tell me your stories. If that, tell me your stories, reach out. I was like, Wow. I felt okay saying that and that would, that, that then, then I was done.
Marcel: Beautiful. Yeah. I think it was a process in itself for you, it was a practice in a way, and what's really like powerful about the experience with this kind of thing where something is a culmination of something is that it's not like in this case, it's not just that you did it differently, it's that you had a different experience with doing it and that changed you.
One of the reasons it's, I feel a very remarkable book is because you love meditation and you're passionate about it, but also you you came from inside, you came from inside of yourself, and you brought yourself into the writing of the book, which makes it delightful .
Carrie: Coming from the joy is such a good idea. And it's not just my joy, it's the joy of so many other stories, which, which, which helps a lot. So it's, it's a chorus
Marcel: And you can feel that in the book when you read it. If you've had some level of experience with meditation on your own, it really feeds into those experiences that you've had.
And it gives you some new ideas and insights about how to work with and do more with meditation and be more engaged and more enriched with your relationship to meditation and your interaction with it.
And to me, that's what excites me the most about this book, it brings greater understanding of our experiences with and our relationships around meditation into the world. .
Carrie: So an inside look at meditation will be out the first week of December and you can log to yoga mind tools.com to get a sneak peek and sign up for announcements of when the book is out. So thank you so much, Marcel. You're
Marcel: welcome. Carrie. It's been such a pleasure.