Getting Off the Crazy Train: Living a Soul-Directed Life

Tami Simon: Welcome to Insights at the Edge, produced by Sounds True. My name’s Tami Simon, I’m the founder of Sounds True. And I’d love to take a moment to introduce you to the Sounds True Foundation. The goal of the Sounds True Foundation is to provide access and eliminate financial barriers to transformational education and resources such as teachings and trainings on mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion. If you’d like to learn more and join with us in our efforts, please visit

In this episode of Insights at the Edge. My guest is Cheryl Richardson. Cheryl is a New York Times bestselling author and self-care expert whose books include Take Time for Your Life and The Art of Extreme Self-Care. Her work has been covered on major television outlets like Good Morning America, the Today Show, and CBS This Morning. She was also team leader for the Lifestyle Makeover series on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and she joined Oprah on her Live Your Best Life nationwide tour.

With Sounds True, Cheryl has created several audio learning series, including a new series called Self-Care for the Wisdom Years: Practical Ways to Celebrate the Mystery and Wonder of Aging. Cheryl and I talk about the transformation she has undergone in the last few years from being someone she refers to as a “gladiator,” because she was so achievement-oriented, to now being someone whose primary focus is living in presence. Here’s my conversation with Cheryl Richardson.

Cheryl, in your new audio with Sounds True, Self-Care for the Wisdom Years, you talk about how there’s an invitation in our lives, especially as we age, to move from being more ego-led to being more soul-led. And I wanted to talk about that right here at the start and how, in your own life, you made this, are making this shift and what it means to you to be ego-led and what it means to you to be soul-led—to draw those distinctions for people.


Cheryl Richardson: Sure. This is such an important topic for me in my life. It has been in particular over the last three years. When I talk about living an ego-directed life, and when I think about it personally, I think about the fact that from a very young age, I have been consumed by things like accomplishing and achieving  and acquiring whatever that might be. Just really focused on making things happen in the world. And when I reached my late 50s, I noticed that I just wasn’t as happy as I used to be, number one. Number two, I was getting really tired, just kind of energetically tired, and I was feeling kind of a void of meaning. And yet, I looked at my life and I thought, “Wow, I’m living a pretty amazing life here. I’m writing books, I’m able to publish books, I’m able to travel around the world speaking.” Frankly, Tami, what I thought was so much of what I’m doing in my life is what a lot of people wish they could do.


TS: Sure.


CR: How could I even think about doing something different? And I tell a few stories in the audio about how this came about, but one thing that stuck out that really made a difference for me was something so simple—a piece of simple wisdom that came from a friend of mine, Mark, who was a veterinarian. And he had been a veterinarian for many years, more than 25 years. So it was kind of similar to my time frame in terms of my career. We were sitting in my living room one day and I was saying to him, “I’m getting really tired. There’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to be on the road anymore, doesn’t want to be speaking and doing television and all of that. And I don’t know what to do about this.”

I was feeling really anxious about it. And he said to me, “Well, Cheryl, it makes complete sense. When you’ve done something and you’ve mastered it, you’re supposed to move on to something else.” And as a woman who probably values learning and growth over anything else, that really hit me. I thought, he’s right. I have mastered this. I know how to do television, I know how to work under pressure, I feel very confident as a writer. I love writing, I’ve been writing since I was 12. I love speaking, I’m no longer afraid of public speaking, but something’s missing from my life. And that’s when I began… Well, actually what I did was I listened to Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth with—


TS: Bill Moyers. Yes.


CR: Bill Moyers. Thank you. Yes. And there was just something in what Campbell said that really spoke to me. I had watched it before, I had listened to it before. It’s so beautiful how we can relisten to things at different times in our lives and experience them differently. And Joseph Campbell talked about the fact that when we get to midlife, we have to start identifying more with consciousness in our inner life than with our outer life. And that really spoke to me. I thought, my goodness, that’s going on. And I’ve always been passionate about consciousness since I was a very young girl. And I realized it was time for me to take on a different kind of journey.

And it wasn’t until I hired a therapist/mentor who was older than I was and who was really wise. And he said to me, “Oh, you’re making the shift now from an ego-directed life to a soul-directed life. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I’ll be there with you. And as we go through this process of dismantling this ego-directed life, you’re going to find that you’re going to experience life in a very different way.” And he was right. That’s exactly what happened.

Suddenly I went from accomplishing and achieving and acquiring, to presence and pleasure and play, kicking and screaming for quite some time in the beginning. Today, I would say I’ve got a much better handle on it and I’m doing really well in that arena, but so we all get called to do that in some way. And it can happen with boredom. We just feel bored with our lives, our suck-it-up muscles go slack, and we can’t just keep doing the same old thing anymore. And it can be very disorienting, but it is an invitation.


TS: Tell me about the kicking and screaming part. What specifically did you have to let go of or no longer bring forward?


CR: Well, things like watching colleagues of mine advancing and succeeding at things that I had succeeded in. So let me give you a very honest and specific example. I remember one day, one of my colleagues was going to film Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.


TS: Sure.


CR: And I remember feeling really jealous about that, really envious about that. Like, wait a minute, I want to do Super Soul Sunday. I know Oprah and I’ve done her show many times, and I really want to do that. And I recognized as I sat with that, I remember my mentor said something really helpful to me. He said, “OK, I want you to play that out in your mind, sort of as an active imagination exercise. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that Oprah’s called and asked you to come and do Super Soul Sunday. And I did that. I got really quiet, I closed my eyes, and I imagined she was inviting me to do that. And I imagined myself packing my suitcase and booking the car and that whole deal. And I got to the airport in my mind and went, I don’t want to do this. This is not what I want to do.

And in that moment, I recognized, Tami, that was the ego hooking me, and I needed to just relax around that and let it unhook so that I could continue with this life that I was living. It’s one example, but kicking and screaming was… The ego is so seductive. And let me just say, I don’t see the ego as a bad thing, it’s the personality, it’s what we need in order to function in the world. It has served me incredibly well, but at some point in our lives, we have to recognize that we’re not going to get from that personality what some deeper part of us wants. And so there were many times where I would sort of get pulled into, oh, I should be doing this project, or I should say yes to that, or wait a minute…” I mean, there were so many activities that I was involved in my life, and I was suddenly starting to let them go.

And so every time I said no to a speech, I questioned myself. Any time I said no to an interview or to a writing project, there was always this voice going, you’re going to become irrelevant. That was an important thing. You’re going to become irrelevant. People aren’t going to know who you are anymore. And I thought, OK, that’s a really serious thing to consider, but what if I don’t know who I am anymore? That means more to me than the general public knowing who I am or colleagues knowing who I am. And I’m so grateful for that. I think it’s because I got my butt into therapy when I was 19. And so I’ve been checking under the hood for a long time. And I became more interested in my inner life, as Joseph Campbell said, than my outer life. And as I stuck with the kicking and screaming and stayed true to the soul and got good support to do that, it became easier to recognize and to kind of live that way.


TS: Do you have an inner litmus test you use, whether saying yes or saying no to something is the right soul-led way to proceed?


CR: Yes, I do now. And so my litmus test is if it’s not an absolute yes, like I feel it in my being, then it’s a no. I do want to say though, that I’ve earned the right to be able to use that litmus test. And I’m very sensitive to the fact that there’s a lot of people who are doing things they don’t want to do, but they have to do them. And I was one of those people for a long time, but I also am grateful to have grown up with a father who taught me a lot about managing money and taking good care of business so that I’ve reached a point in my life where I have the opportunity to make choices based on a soul level. So if it’s not an absolute yes, then it’s a no.

And if you think about that litmus test, Tami, you can apply it to anything. If somebody invites me—I mean, I’m at the point now where if someone says to me, “Hey, Cheryl, do you want to come and like cold plunge in the ocean in the middle of January?” It’s an absolute yes because I’ve been doing it for a while and I love it. If somebody said to me, “Hey, we’ve got this big speech that’s happening and this self-help conference, and we really want you to be the keynote.” It’s probably a no, and I would know it right away. But if you said to me there’s some speech related to bettering the Earth or some kind of humanitarian speech, that would probably be more of a yes than a no. I mean, that’s something I would consider. So it’s a part of what’s changing for me in my life at this time.


TS: Now, in Self-Care for the Wisdom Years, at one point you refer to your former self, your super achiever self as a “gladiator.” And I thought, wow, that’s really strong. And you also have this quote, you say, “We have to grieve who we were in order to welcome in who we are.”


CR: Yes.


TS: And I wanted to understand more about that sense of grieving who we were and what that process has been like for you?


CR: It might be that you’re grieving being a mother or grieving being a CEO, or grieving being a daughter or a son, you suddenly lose your parents. We have multiple identities as we go through life. And certainly for me, I have grieved this big life that I’ve lived. I still, till this day, I used to love being on stage, feeling a connection with the audience, because it was a flow state for me. And I grieve that. Yet, the cost of doing that, for the most part, is too high. So every now and then, that will come up for me again. Or I grieve the exciting life, especially during the pandemic, grieve the exciting life of getting on an airplane and going someplace new and hanging out with colleagues. And so much of the grieving relates to the identity, the personality.

But then there are times, Tami, where I’ll be sitting on my back deck and a hummingbird will come up out of nowhere and suddenly just be right in front of me, just hovering in the air. And it feels exhilarating and so exciting. And I think, I’ll take that. Like that’s kind of a bomb for the grief. I think we all grieve in different ways. I think it’s so important to be respectful of each other’s grieving process. I think what’s really hard for people is to actually sit in that grief. It’s not hard for me anymore. It used to be a little bit, but it’s not. I actually am comfortable. Grief is a doorway to the soul. And when we allow ourselves to really feel the loss of what was—you have to be able to do that if you want to move on with your life. 

And let me also say this, part of the motivating factor for me is seeing my parents die, seeing my father die, or seeing my mother age, seeing other people in my life age who haven’t really built a relationship with their inner lives, who are so invested in their outer lives that it feels tragic and terrifying to get to the end of their lives. And I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that. The longer I invest in my own inner experience and the more I’m willing to grieve what was in order to welcome in what is… Well, actually, let me say that differently. It’s not a strategy. I’m not actively grieving what was so that I can get something next. That’s the gladiator talking. It’s really the more I can just be present to life, the more everything just seems to work and the more meaningful and rich life is.


TS: Makes sense to me because that richness and that meaningfulness, to use the phrase you used, is coming from your inner life.


CR: That’s right, that’s right. I mean, the other thing I love that Joseph Campbell said was he talked about how so many people think they’re looking for meaning. I did too, but really what we’re looking for is aliveness, a sense of being plugged into life, feeling a sense of adventure and a connection to our inner lives. And how to do that is exactly what the program’s all about. How do we begin to develop a relationship with our inner lives and live a more soul-directed life?

As we do that, life becomes an exciting adventure. And I’ll tell you, death becomes a lot less scary because you tap into something much greater than our physical existence. Consciousness is powerful. When we have the experience of being more focused on ourselves as conscious beings, there’s a whole other interesting, exciting, alive life just waiting if people would slow down, stop long enough, and invest the time and energy into their inner selves.


TS: Yes, I mean, just to highlight this for a moment, what you’re saying is that you started at a certain point in your life to experience a greater sense of aliveness from watching a hummingbird in your backyard—for example, just an example—


CR: Yes.


TS: —than getting on a plane and traveling and being in front of 4,000 people who gave you a standing ovation because of the energy and effort. And that it wasn’t aligned anymore. It just wasn’t aligned anymore.


CR: That’s exactly right. I mean, I remember the day, and I think I wrote a blog about it. The day that that happened with the hummingbird, my husband and I were sitting on the deck. And I remember thinking to myself, this feels better than the day I found out that I hit the New York Times list for the very first time.


TS: Wow. Wow.


CR: Because of where I was in my life, it felt better than that. I couldn’t have appreciated it years earlier. But today, it was a signal for me. You’re absolutely right. It was like, whoa, sweetheart, if there’s some kind of a deep payoff here just from sitting on your deck watching a hummingbird, you need to pay attention to this. And so now it’s an extraordinary sunrise or wonderful, meaningful, fun conversations with friends, jumping in the cold water, which I love to do. And nature for me has a lot to do with that sense of presence. It’s really all about presence, as I said, presence and pleasure.

And there’s a way in which, Tami, I feel like we have to stop pretending that we’re going to be here forever. In our culture, we don’t face death. That’s why I talk a lot about mortality in the beginning of the program, like you are not going to be here forever. So at some point, regardless of your life circumstances, you’ve got to make a decision that the quality of your life and the quality of your inner life is going to matter more than all the craziness going on outside of you. And that’s kind of my rallying call.


TS: Yes. Well, I want to talk to you more about that because I think we hear a lot from people, the value of facing our mortality. You say you need to recognize that your life has an expiration date. And honestly, I get it. I was part of a meditation tradition, just to share for a moment, where “Death is real” was one of the sentences that we studied again and again and again. However, it becomes kind of, I don’t know, conceptual or something.

Then I go about my life as, oh, 60 is the new 50. And now I can live to 100. Even though I know conceptually that death could come at any moment, and you never know when it’s going to happen. The person who suddenly died and whatever, wasn’t necessarily thinking when they woke up, today’s the day I’m going to die. So I get that conceptually, but I don’t live with it.


CR: Right.


TS: So my question to you is: How do we let that expiration date on our life actually penetrate us, so it’s in our awareness?


CR: Well, I mean, the first thing I want to say to you, Tami, is do you realize that 60 is not the new 50? It’s just not. It’s 60. And I don’t know about you, but 60 was different for me than 50 was. Does it feel different to you at 60, when you turned 60?


TS: Well, truly, this is something I wanted to talk to you about, Cheryl, because I noticed that when I try to think about ideas about age, and I’m going to just get into it because you bring up this really important point in Self-Care for the Wisdom Years. How do you feel? How old do you feel inside? It’s a question you ask people. And many people that you asked who were in their 50s, 60s, 70s said, “I feel like a 20-year-old inside.” And you say this is a dangerous idea. This is dangerous because you don’t know how to care for yourself properly if you’re considering yourself like a 20- or 30-year-old when you’re not.

  1. So I got that, but I had this other kind of complicating thought come into my mind, which is, people will tell you a lot of things about what you’re supposed to feel like when you’re 60, etcetera. And in some ways, I’m in the best health of my life, actually.


CR: Me too.


TS: I’m taking better care of myself. And so I don’t want to fill myself with notions that as I get older, I’m supposed to mirror the culture’s view of aging. So I’m trying to have an inner way of looking at it. So I’d love more clarification on this.


CR: Well, we could talk about this for a long time. I mean, let me just say that the culture actually glorifies youth. And one of the ways that I think we can trip people up is when we… I mean, God, there’s like seven things I want to say all at once.


TS: You can take your time and say all seven.


CR: Yes. I think that I’m not suggesting, really what I’m doing right now is there’s something you said that made me think of something important, and I can’t remember it, so I’m going to just affirm it’s going to come back. I think that we do live in a culture that glorifies youth. I would agree with you that I’m in better shape today because I made a conscious decision that I wanted to live a high-quality life going into my later years. When I turned 60, it was clear to me I’m on the back nine. This is me. I can’t pretend I’m at midlife. I’m now beyond midlife. And there’s a real advantage to recognizing that, to recognizing that we have limited time. I think I say during the program at one point, every now and then, I will stop and say to myself, Cheryl, if this were the last week of your life, are you happy with how you’re spending it? And I’ll literally look at my calendar. And if there’s anything on the calendar that I don’t want to be doing, I’ll get rid of it.


TS: Wow.


CR: As a way to keep that idea of mortality in place. And I do that sometimes if I’m feeling frustrated during the day, I’ll say to myself, OK, sweetheart—I call myself sweetheart a lot—all right, sweetheart, what’s going on? What are you doing that you really don’t want to be doing? Because one of the advantages of facing the reality that we have a limited amount of time left, is you get really choosy about what you do and what you don’t do. And it makes it easier to say no. And people, especially women who I’ve worked with for years who struggle with saying no, suddenly find they’ve got some courage muscles that show up and they’re able to just say no.

So I actually think when you say, I don’t want to buy into the cultural belief that… I know what I was going to say, I don’t want to buy into the cultural belief about aging. The cultural belief about aging is we’re going to live forever and you can look like a 25-year-old forever, from my perspective. Now, it’s interesting. This is what I was going to say. You brought up that exercise that I talked about, that I did with an audience where I asked them how old they were. We are timeless. The soul is timeless. So if I were to ask you to go back to when you were 10 or 12 years old, and just notice the being that lives inside, is that being any different than who you are today? You’d probably say no. The soul is timeless in that way.

But what I was talking about was that we were looking at it through the lens of aging, and so many of these people, they’re thinking that they were 25 and 30 and 35 was a part of the problem of not recognizing, oh, you know what? My body isn’t a 25-year-old. And honestly, Tami, most people are not in their best shape at 60 years old. So it’s like, wait a minute. And this is why I did the program like, what do you need to do to take care of your body? What do you need to do to take care of your physical environment? How do you protect your energy? What are some of the things draining your energy that it’s time to let go of?

This is the beauty of facing our mortality and the reality that I believe the culture keeps reinforcing. Oh, you’re going to live forever. Oh, you can still… For years, I told people, Louise Hay started Hay House when she was 60 years old. Now, I’ve thought about that a lot as I’ve gone through this process of living a more inner-directed life. I don’t want to start a company at 60 years old. Like, no. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. And who knows? I could change my mind a year from now, but we need to look for role models that embrace the surrender of glorifying the outside world and youth. And instead, embrace the inner life. Like Marion Woodman, I’m sure you remember Marion Woodman, who was an important mentor of mine as a young woman, who still influences me till this day. She was a passionate advocate for the soul at the expense of everything else.


TS: I want to pick up a thread, because I was curious to know how you keep the fact of our expiration date in your consciousness. And you said one thing, you imagine that this is the last week of your life and you look at your calendar. That’s very radical, Cheryl. I don’t know if I was looking at my calendar and I looked at a lot of the meetings and things I have, I don’t know what I’d say if I thought it was the last week of my life.


CR: Well, that’s something to check out then, isn’t it?


TS: Yes.


CR: I mean, this is what I’m talking. It is radical and I want it to be radical. I want it to be that we… You talked about being of a meditation practice where you would contemplate death, right? I have laid in bed in the morning and imagined that I was dying. In my meditation, I imagine that I am as best as I can, as honestly as I can, imagine that the personality called Cheryl is dying. And I’ve had amazing dreams where I’ve come to the—I’m a big dream work person, I’ve been doing them for 30 years, and I’ve had wonderful dreams where I’ve died and then seen the consciousness go on. I mean, so I contemplate that, I contemplate my death.

I am a voice in my family for the reality that as we get older, into our 80s and 90s, we naturally start to withdraw our energy from the outer world, and sometimes the body forces that, so I bring it into conversations. I mean, my husband Michael and I have conversations with friends where we’ll talk about, “So, have you thought about your death lately?” Just bringing it more into our lives. Now, I know it might sound morbid, and I don’t know, there’s something really interesting to me about contemplating your death. Maybe it’s just this whole process that I’m talking about, Tami, is I’m just not as afraid of it.

And so I would challenge you to look at your calendar, because when we get to our 60s, especially and beyond, if we’re not really intentionally looking at how we’re spending our time and energy, we may live to regret it later on because you get one shot at this particular lifetime with the kind of aliveness and pleasure and play and adventure that you can experience towards the end of your life. And I’ve been with people when they’ve been dying. I was with Debbie Ford, I talked about that in this program and the powerful impact that had on me.

I mean, literally, she’s on her deathbed, she’s about to go, she was a dear friend of mine. And she says to me, “Stop doing things that bore you. Facebook fans, it doesn’t matter. Bestselling books, it doesn’t matter. Stop doing things that bore you.” And then she went through a whole list of things that bored her, just to give me specific examples. And I never forgot that. It’s very powerful, of course, when you’re with someone at their deathbed. And that’s the other thing I would say is if you have a chance to do that, please do it. Please do it. Keep your eyes open. And my friends and family know that if someone’s dying, I’m the gal to call because it’s a very sacred experience and it will keep you connected to the reality that we’re not going to be here forever. I hope I don’t sound morbid.


TS: No, you can’t be morbid with me. That will never come up for me. You mentioned that your relationship to death has changed, that you don’t feel the same kind of fear. How do you feel about the prospect of dying?


CR: I would say there’s like 20 percent of me is really excited to see what happens. When I look at—


TS: What’s going on with the other 80 percent?


CR: I’m still not so sure.




CR: Still not so sure. But to me, that’s a great accomplishment that I’m… I mean, not accomplishment. Listen to me. See? There’s the gladiator, right? To me, it’s very interesting when I notice that the more I contemplate death, it’s like anything, Tami, the more we talk about something, the more we experience something, the more we explore something, the less charge it has. That’s really what it is. And so I would say, really, there’s like 20 or 25 percent of me that is like, wow, I’m really kind of excited to see what happens. And I’ve studied a lot of different spiritual traditions, and I have since I was very young. I believe when I look at the wisdom, the great masters who have lived and some pretty incredible people that I’ve had the privilege to meet, I have no doubt that there is something beyond this physical existence. And I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s higher than what we have here.

And so I am more able to talk about it, I’m more able to consider it. There are times where I’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll lay in bed and I’ll think, I could die today. This could be my last day. And how do I feel about that? And in the beginning, it scared the crap out of me, honestly, to just lay there and think this could be my last day on Earth. Or to see a loved one and watch them leave the house and think, that could be his last day on Earth. And there’s something so immediate and important, and there’s a connection to love that happens when we keep the reality of that up close and personal. I think I’m a better human being because of that. I’m able to self-regulate a lot better. I’m able to let a lot of stuff go.

I’ve been immersed in, the last two-and-a-half years, in a daily meditation practice, and bringing meditation into my daily life so that I’m noticing myself, I’m noticing the personality all the time. And it just makes life and aging a really exciting adventure, not something scary.


TS: I’d love to know what inspired you to start a daily meditation practice, to really commit to it? And then specifically, what changes you’ve seen?


CR: Well, I’ll tell you, on January 1st, 2020, I made a decision that I was going to meditate every single day, whether it was for two minutes or 20 minutes or two hours. And I’ve meditated off and on over the years. I’ve gone to silent retreats and made myself insane. I’ve gone to silent retreats and enjoyed it. But I’ll tell you, I was very much inspired, Tami, by Michael Singer and by his program that you did with Sounds True. Remind me of the name. [inaudible 00:32:58] Surrender.


TS: Living from a Place of Surrender?


CR: Yes.


TS: The series? Yes.


CR: Yes. I had started watching that series the year before, and I don’t know Michael, I know you do, but I feel like truth speaks for itself. And he’s a man who walks his talk, and I appreciate that in a teacher. And so I went through that program, the Sounds True program, and I was really influenced by it. And on January 1st, I decided I was going to meditate every day. And I went from five minutes. It was really, I started out with ten minutes a day, and then I went from ten minutes to 15 minutes. And then sometimes it was twice a day for ten or 15 minutes. And sometimes it was over time, I’d say the first three months, it was really hard to stick with it, but I tracked it, which is important because what we track, we stick to.

So every night I had a little book next to my bed, and I would track that I meditated how many times for how long, just as a way of keeping myself motivated. And oh my gosh, how has my life changed. I understand what it means to surrender, I’m more patient, I’m more present for people and for myself especially. I have really, truthfully discovered something that Michael Singer says over and over again in his teachings, that life kind of handles itself when you get out of the way, when you stop bothering yourself with your mind. And I have had unbelievable, simple little experiences of being faced with a problem and just deciding, I’m going to just come back to being present. I’m not going to engage with it, I’m not going to try and fix it. I’m just going to come back to this moment. And 80 percent of the time, problems handle themselves. I don’t have to do a damn thing.

And I remember the day, it was probably eight months into my meditation practice when I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes, and I was having an argument with somebody in my head, and I noticed that I was having an argument with somebody. And I went, Cheryl, look at you. Look at what you’re doing. You are on the crazy train and it’s time to get off. And that’s what I call it, getting on the crazy train. And then I’ve noticed, and I thought, look at that. My meditation is now seeping into my daily life. And that became a kind of new introduction to, oh, how am I going to be present? I’m going to make it a game to be conscious and present all the time.

Now, of course, that’s a big ask, and it’s not easy to do. But I’ll tell you, I have made a lot of progress, and my life is so much better because of it. And I think it is my one and only primary commitment for the rest of my life is to practice being present. Period.


TS: When you notice you’re not present, do you have some go-to moves that work for you to become present?


CR: Oh yes. I thought you were going to say, do you have some go-to moves to be unpresent?


TS: No.


CR: Because—


TS: When you notice it and you think, “Ah, wait. I said this was the most important thing.”


CR: Yes. So there’s a couple things I do. Sometimes if I’m triggered by something that’s scary, I automatically put my hand on my heart and I say, “Sweetheart, it’s OK. It’s OK. You can handle this. It’s OK.” And I do that because I want to objectify that voice. I am not my mind, I’m not my crazy thoughts, and I am not the voices in my head. Sometimes I have multiple voices. I am a soul noticing this vehicle called the mind that is supposed to be my servant. And so when I say, “Sweetheart, it’s OK.” That’s number one.

Number two, sometimes I actually, really imagine stepping back away from whatever’s going on. So I imagine almost as though whatever’s pushed my buttons in any moment or has just hooked me in some way is on a movie screen in front of me, and I’m sitting back in the audience watching it. Like I visualize that, and that’s very helpful for me. And sometimes I will just say to myself, “Get off the crazy train. Get off the crazy train.” And the other thing I say to myself a lot is, especially as you know, Tami, we have so much stuff stored inside of us. So things, we get our buttons pushed, and there’s old stuff that comes up. And I will say to myself, “Let it rise and release.” I imagine letting whatever it is that just got hit on, got hit within me, I imagine it just rising and releasing.

And I’ll give you an example of that. Earlier today, I was working out and I saw something on the computer about a cat, and it reminded me of my cat Poupon who had died. And I immediately felt this pang of pain like, oh gosh. He was such a little soul animal for me. And my first reaction was to go, no, no, no, you don’t need to go there. Then I was like, oh, no. Wait a minute. There’s more pain in there that just needs to release. So I just sat down and I said, “I’m going to allow this pain to just come up and I’m going to release it, allow it to rise and release it.” And within five minutes, I was on to working out. And you know what? I felt it, tears came to my eyes, I remembered this beautiful soul, and then it moved through me, and I was on to something else. So “rise and release” is also a phrase I use a lot.


TS: All right. I want to ask you, I think, kind of a challenging question, which is when you said, “Look in your calendar, if there’s anything that it’s the last week of your life, would you do it?” And I was like, well, my calendar’s going to get… I’m going to have to start marking all stuff out. And I thought to myself, you mentioned this fear of irrelevance. And I thought, I’m not afraid of being irrelevant. It’s not what other people think about me. However, I do want to give all my gifts. I don’t want to die without giving all my gifts, without sharing the creativity and the love that I have. And that involves me working with a lot of other people, and making commitments, and having things in my calendar.

And so my question is how, as you focus on presence and pleasure, how do you also still live with this sense, I’ll use another P-word, of purpose? If you feel that you’re a person of purpose?


CR: My primary purpose is to be present and to do… See, I’m looking beyond this life at the greater spiritual work at hand. This is for me personally.


TS: Yes.


CR: I am far more loving and patient and able to give when I am really present. And this could be a radical statement, and this is just true for me.


TS: Sure.


CR: But when I’m operating from a lack of presence, I’m manipulating my environment in some way, or I’m trying to get something. Now, listen, there are times, Tami, where I say, I’ve done a lot of giving in my life, I’ve impacted the lives of lots of people. And I’m grateful for that. If I died tomorrow, I would die feeling like I’ve really had a great impact. At this point in my life, I would like to be a wise elder. This could make me cry when I think about it. My goal is to be a wise elder who can model what it means to be loving and present. And that means it has to be a priority for me.

Now, that seed was planted many years ago. I was given an opportunity to spend some time with one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s direct disciples, and Mukti Mata was her name. She since passed on. I didn’t reveal her earlier when I wrote about her, but I went to see her, she was in her 80s. I had a couple meetings with her, I brought my husband. We spoke on the phone a few times, and I will never forget sitting with her. She was an incredible being. And when I left, I realized I had just been in the company of somebody for whom their presence was their message. She didn’t have to say a word. Her presence alone was her message. And I remember thinking, I want to be like that someday.

And so I suspect, I mean, I am, at my highest level, altruistic at my core. It matters to me. I love people every day in simple ways. And I imagine that life probably has some important ways for me to contribute that I’m open to, but I don’t want to direct that. I want to just be present to life and let life lead me. And so if I look at my calendar and I think, oh, I really don’t want to do that interview, or I really don’t want to have that meeting, and I show up anyway, I mean, yes, I could show up, being present, and sometimes I do, because there’s things that I need to do. But I’m trying to distinguish between, am I doing this because it feeds the ego, or am I doing this because it’s a soul-directed choice?

So it’s complex and it’s brave. I mean, think about what you just said is so important, Tami, when you said, “Cheryl, if I look at my calendar, there’s a whole bunch of meetings.” Yes, it’s a brave act. Like if we could leave this conversation with you looking at your calendar and eliminating one thing because it just didn’t feel like it honored who you are as a soul, I would be very happy with this conversation, because it’s a process over time. And we bring a higher vibration to everything we do when we make presence our priority. And it’s not a sexy conversation, Tami. I mean, it’s not—


TS: I’m enjoying this conversation. I don’t know what the word sexy means, but I—


CR: I don’t know, but it’s not like that hip sort of like “three steps to improve the quality of your…” I mean, it’s hard work. It’s really hard work, but I think the contribution is worth it.


TS: Now, Cheryl, I think you have a real gift for making concepts that can be perceived as esoteric more accessible to people. And so I want to dig in a bit with this notion of presence and being present, and being a wise elder who leads with presence. So for someone who’s listening and says, “I kind of think I know what it means, but I’m not really sure if I know what that means,” what does that actually mean? What does that actually feel like? What is Cheryl actually saying? Can you make it more palpable for someone?


CR: Yes. Well, so I do want to say that from the very beginning of my career, I always said that I wanted to give people practical actions they could take. That it wasn’t enough to say, “Love yourself.” Everybody knows you should love yourself, but tell me how to do it. And interestingly enough, what I would say, Tami, is in the program, I talk about things. Specifically, what we need to do to take care of our health in a new and different way later in life? How we need to eliminate the things that drain our energy? I say that because part of getting to the place where you can make presence a priority is you’ve got to handle the stuff in your life that needs to be handled. So that’s very practical. Whether it’s a cluttered home that just distracts you constantly or draining relationships with people who—a highly critical boss or those things—need to get handled.

Your health. I mean, you know, right? If suddenly I’m not well, it’s a major distraction. Michael Singer talks about dealing with the low-hanging fruit, and I love that. The person driving in front of you or the weather as a way of just coming back to presence instead of bothering yourself with your mind. Those exercises are extremely important because the bigger things like, oh, I have a health crisis. That’s not where we want to start. So here’s a simple thing people can do. Take out your phone, set an alarm for ten minutes, sit your butt down in a comfortable place. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just a comfortable place. I love it. One of my friends says, “Feather your nest.” Give yourself a nice little nest, sit down, set the alarm for ten minutes and decide, let your soul decide, you are not getting up until that alarm goes off.

So the minute you set that alarm and you sit down, here’s what’s going to happen. The mind’s going to go, did I turn the stove off? Oh shoot, I forgot to send that email back to so-and-so. Oh gosh, I didn’t let the dog out. There’s a million things the mind’s going to try and do to distract you. And your job is to say to your mind, to notice it. And to simply say to your mind, Sweetheart, we’re not going anywhere until that alarm goes off. And I would invite people to practice that every day for three months, just ten minutes. That’s all.

And the idea is to objectify the mind, to begin to see, I am the soul, the subject. The mind is the object. And it’s going to do everything in its power to get me on the crazy train. I mean, I remember when I first started practicing this, Tami, I’ll never forget there was a time I was sitting in a chair meditating, and I was so mean to myself during this meditation that I literally started crying. And I thought, wow, this is why people don’t meditate, this is why people don’t like quiet, because we are so hard on ourselves that we don’t want to be alone with that voice. And so the ten minutes a day is teaching you to build a relationship with yourself as the soul by just observing the voice. And when it starts going down the path that it’s going to go down, and it’s really clever, by the way, really clever.

My voice will say things like, oh my gosh, did you close the window? One of your cats might get out. It’ll try and frighten me into moving, but I’m onto it now and I know better. And so being able to say, no, no, no, no, no, we’re staying right here. That simple step can transform your life. It transformed mine. It really has. Number one. Number two, anytime you find yourself feeling aggravated about anything, just stop and say to yourself, I’m aggravating myself with my thoughts. Look at me, I am aggravating myself with my thoughts right now.

Just that. I don’t want to do that. I’m going to get off the crazy train. And if you just do that for three seconds, you’re making huge progress. So yes, that ten-minute meditation, and track it, by the way, really important to track it. Get yourself a little notebook. We really do tend to stick to the things that we track. So get yourself a little notebook and every night before you go to bed, and if you go to bed and you haven’t meditated, that’s OK. Close your eyes and meditate in bed. If you fall asleep, it just means you’re tired. That’s OK. But just begin to make it a practice that you track.


TS: Cheryl, one of the things that occurred to me as you were talking is we can talk about being present with sensations or a breath or sitting in a chair. But if you’re sitting in a chair and the room is like a supreme mess and a cockroach is crawling over your foot and you’re starting to tune into your body and you feel terrible inside because you have indigestion, whatever you haven’t taken care of, eating food that supports you, it’s hard to be present. So you’re really addressing people in Self-Care for the Wisdom Years to these factors, the conditions that support presence. That’s really important.


CR: It’s really important. And it’s looking at our finances, making sure that we’re taking care of our finances, all of the things that will distract us from the most important practice, which is presence. But I would say this, if you’re sitting there and you’re trying to meditate and the indigestion starts, then meditate for two minutes. But at least give yourself a chance to hang in there anyway before, because the mind’s going to go, oh, Cheryl, honey, you’ve got indigestion. This isn’t good. You probably should go to the bathroom right now. Nope. I’m going to just stay here for at least another minute. Begin, again, we’re learning to separate the personality, which is mind-driven, from the soul.

It’s the basis of the whole program because eventually what you’ll find, what I find is things that I used to do all the time that I thought were important are so unimportant to me now. Some of the people I used to hang out with are not the people for me to be hanging out with right now. I love them and I bless them, but it’s just not the same anymore. So many of the choices we make are based on the drama that gets created by the mind, by the way in which we grab ahold of something that’s happening and we run with it. And then we usually have people around us who do the same thing. And before you know it, we’re all running with it together. And it looks like it’s a compelling party when in fact it’s just, we’re all on the crazy train together. And that’s a dangerous vehicle to be on.


TS: Now, one of the things that impresses me is that through the course of your life, you have committed yourself to figuring out how to be kind to yourself. You use this example of talking to yourself as sweetheart, using the words and putting your hands on your heart. And tell me a little bit about what you’ve learned about how to not fall into the crazy train trap of that voice inside of us that says such mean things to ourselves all the time.


CR: I’m glad you said that, Tami, because that has been another huge benefit of a daily meditation practice, because as I said, part of what you’re doing when you’re meditating is you’re just watching that voice. It’s why if somebody doesn’t meditate regularly and they go on a silent retreat, they will make themself crazy because we all have a very strong inner critic. We internalize our parents, we internalize our grandparents, we internalize our history. And we all do it in different ways, but for the most part, the person inside is not very friendly. And it’s not somebody that I really want to hang out with.

And I have found that the first step in transforming any relationship is meeting the person. And so that’s why, when we decide to meditate and we set an alarm and we say, OK, I’m going to just watch this voice. We’re going to go through a process. As I said, I mean, at one point I started crying at how mean I was to myself like, oh, no wonder I don’t want to meditate. This voice is relentless and it conjures up every rotten thing that I think I’ve ever done or any stupid thing I’ve ever said. But with some space, it begins to not have as much power. It doesn’t capture us. And that’s really what we’re talking about here, right?

Eventually over time, if you combine that with, I mean, I teach this all the time to friends, to family, if I’m talking with people online, the whole “put your hand over your heart and call yourself sweetheart,” because it works. Meditation combined with, “Hey sweetheart, you’re OK. You got this.” Or, “Sweetheart.” I mean, this is what I mean, “Sweetheart, you’re really being mean to yourself right now. Sweetheart, you’re really being mean to yourself right now. And that’s not serving you. Let’s be kind. Let’s be kind.” And like any habit, if you do that enough, it begins to be automatic.

So that I would say probably six months ago I was… Oh, I know. I was going to the beach to swim in the water and I had a bad experience with a rogue wave at one point, and I was really scared, but I knew I needed to get back into the water. And I was walking towards the water and I thought, oh my gosh, I hope I’m safe. And I went, “Sweetheart, we got this. You’re OK. We’re going to go in slowly.” And I thought, look at that. That just happened spontaneously. I didn’t think about it. And so between meditating consistently, calling yourself sweetheart, I like to put the hand on the heart because it’s a physical anchor that it kind of solidifies that practice in a very practical way and it’s something I’ve done since I was a young woman.

My very first trip to Europe on my own, I was talking to myself the whole way through the airport with my hand on my heart. But now it’s become something that I teach to people and that I practice spontaneously. So we are not very good companions. If you think about it, our mind is just a complete amalgamation of every scary thing that ever happened, every unfinished piece of business that ever happened. And because of our reptilian brains, the first place we go to in our minds are the scary things. And so we’ve got to counteract that with a loving presence. And you’re the only one that can do that, by the way. Other people can be loving and that’s great, but it’s a game changer when you do it with yourself.


TS: Now, Cheryl, one of the things I wanted to bring forward a little bit more into the light here is, at one point you were talking about how being a wise presence is the most important thing to you. And it’s like you were looking at your life from a bigger perspective, not just a singular lifetime, if you will. That’s what I heard you kind of pointing to. Like, I’m not just looking at what I’m going to accomplish in X number of years, but there’s some bigger view that I’m holding. And I wanted to understand more what that bigger view is.


CR: Well, when I talk about being a wise elder, I think really what I mean is a present elder. And the goal for me… OK, so the bigger thing is, and I have felt this, and I have felt this especially in the last year. There is a stream of loving energy that is profoundly healing and profoundly unifying. And I’ve been blessed to feel that in glimmers here and there. And I feel that when I am present, when I am not attached to anything. And so when I talk about being a wise elder, I’m talking about if I’m going to have conversations with people, I want to do my best to be as authentic as I can. I don’t want to manage your perceptions in any way, shape, or form. And most of us spend all of our lives managing the perception of others. I want to say the right thing, I want to appear smart, I want to appear confident. Whatever it might be.

I want to be present and I want to be present without any other agenda or any voice going on while you’re talking. I mean, I got a long way to go, Tami. This is a lifelong commitment. And I don’t know, it’s just the only thing that matters to me now. And so it’s not that I want to be a wise elder, I’m just saying that I think… I mean, I will say I think we need more wise elders. We just do.


TS: Sure.


CR: But I don’t want to be that person. I want to embody that person.


TS: Sure.


CR: I want to just… Yes.


TS: What I want to know about is this stream that you pointed to that you can sometimes feel. What that feels like?


CR: It feels like the most beautiful flow state. It’s that feeling you get sometimes when you watch a video. There’s all of these websites that show videos of people doing good things. And you just get this feeling of a unifying love that is… So, let me think. I’m going to try and… It’s so hard to put it into words, but it’s the feeling I got when I saw the hummingbird and I felt a deep connection to Nature, capital N, and to love. Like there was no separation between myself and the hummingbird. There was this stream of energy, this stream of creative loving energy that connects all of us. And I believe that firmly. And that’s what I want. That’s what I want to experience in life.


TS: And as you’re saying that, I think about how you’ve been a self-care expert, known as the self-care expert for many decades. And how, in a way, this is kind of the deepest sense of self-care, effulgent, if you will, love and connection that we can feel. So I’m so happy that this is what you’re talking about and teaching now.


CR: Yes, well said. Well said. I mean, it really is the most… I mean, honestly, Tami, I feel like love is the only thing that’s going to save us, and both personally and globally. And it sounds so soft, but when you get that flow, when you spend that ten minutes a day, when you get your life in order and you give yourself permission to make your soul a priority in your life, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.


TS: And then here, just the last point, you said to me personally and to all the other people listening, “If you take one thing out of your calendar next week, that will be a victory. One thing.” And you’ve offered this idea of meditating for just ten minutes a day, don’t turn it into some… And it seems like you’re a big believer in incremental change, making small changes.


CR: Yes.


TS: And as we end this conversation, I’d love for you just talk about that idea, especially that person who has this idea that I’m going to have to do some big thing in order to achieve or reach what Cheryl’s talking about.


CR: Yes. Boy, I always like to say that we can grow by leaps and bounds or small steps. The choice is really yours. You could look at your calendar for the week and say, “You know what? That’s it. She’s right. I’m going—”


TS: That’s not going to happen. I’m going to go with the small steps.


CR: I know. I know it’s not going to happen, but I’m just saying it’s an option, right? Well, you could look at it and decide, I’m going to take a big leap. And some people do that. A lot of times, that’s what a wake-up call is, right? The gift of a potential diagnosis is it makes you really look at your life seriously and sometimes make radical changes. But long-lasting change comes like one percent a day, one percent a month. You decide to clean off the nightstand next to your bed of all the stuff that you keep beating yourself up about, or you make one healthy choice of eating broccoli instead of a donut, or moving towards taking self-loving actions, including the ten minutes a day, which I can’t emphasize enough, will have tremendous impact over time.

I’m here to tell you my commitment to ten minutes a day, and sometimes it was two minutes a day, by the way, because remember, I gave myself permission to do that, and it’s important everybody gave themselves permission to do that, exponentially over time, that one simple step, by the end of the first year, I was not the same human being, for ten minutes a day. So it’s not what you do. Honestly, a lot of us know what we need to do to improve the quality of our lives. It’s doing it that’s the problem. So find a buddy, find somebody to support you. I made an announcement of what I was doing to the people closest to me and I talked about it a lot. I didn’t do it as a way to like, you hold me accountable. I held myself accountable. But get somebody else who wants to just support, wants to take it on as well, and then support each other by tracking it together. One small step can make a world of difference in your life without a doubt.


TS: I’ve been speaking with Cheryl Richardson with Sounds True. She’s created a new audio learning series. It’s called Self-Care for the Wisdom Years: Practical Ways to Celebrate the Mystery and Wonder of Aging. And Cheryl, you have such a gift for making it practical, making it real.


CR: Thank you.


TS: Thank you so very much.


CR: Thank you, Tami. Thanks for having me with you. I really have enjoyed it.

TS: Sounds True: waking up the world. Thanks for being with us. Thanks for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at That’s If you’re interested, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. And if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I absolutely love getting your feedback and being connected. Sounds True: waking up the world.

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