Lily Diamond and Rebecca Walker: Your Creative Power to Write a New Story

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 new Sounds True Foundation. The Sounds True Foundation is dedicated to creating a wiser and kinder world by making transformational education widely available. We want everyone to have access to transformational tools such as mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion, regardless of financial, social, or physical challenges. The Sounds True Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to providing these transformational tools to communities in need, including at-risk youth, prisoners, veterans, and those in developing countries. If you’d like to learn more or feel inspired to become a supporter, please visit

You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guests are Lily Diamond and Rebecca Walker. Lily and Rebecca met in 2009 at Rebecca’s Art of Memoir masterclass. They spent the next decade developing What’s Your Story?, a self-inquiry method that integrates insights from their combined 40 years of personal and political activism, memoir writing, and their practice in Buddhist, Hindu, and western healing traditions. Rebecca Walker is a best-selling author, lifelong activist, and TV and film producer. She was named one of the most influential leaders of her generation by Time Magazine. Lily Diamond is also a best-selling author, and a photographer, wellness advocate, and creator of the award-winning blog and memoir cookbook, Kale & Caramel.

Together, Rebecca and Lilly have written a new book. It’s called What’s Your Story? A Journal for Everyday Evolution. It’s comprised of 150 questions designed to be answered in as little as five minutes or as long as a lifetime. These are deep questions. Questions that ask us, that move us in the direction of claiming our narratives as people, and also using the power of our imagination to create our future. Here’s my conversation with Lily Diamond and Rebecca Walker. I’m here in Boulder, Colorado from my home, being joined by two new friends: Lily Diamond, who’s joining us from Maui, and Rebecca Walker from the Los Angeles area. It’s great to be with you, and to start out, I’d love to know how the two of you met and became collaborators.

Rebecca Walker: It’s great to be here and what a great first question. Thank you so much, Tami, for having us. And I think I’ll let Lily answer this question. I want to hear her version. Reminds me of the beginning of the Big Friendship book that we are just sharing.

Lily Diamond: Yes, the origin story. Yes, so good to be here with you, Tami. Thanks for having us. I was just reflecting on this, actually. I think about it often, but Rebecca and I met in 2009. I was 25 years old and I had just come through a period of really great loss in my life of a lot of different kinds. Very significant heartbreak, a big move, and my mother became very ill and had passed away just a year before. And I was in a space where I was deeply seeking to rewrite many of the stories that I held about myself and the work that I did in the world. And I was leaving one part of my life and my work, and I was wanting to take a writing workshop to get back to what I knew was most true for myself, which had always been writing and storytelling.

I got an email about Rebecca’s Art of Memoir masterclass that was happening on Maui, and it was starting the day that I was leaving behind the old work that I had been doing, which was as a yoga teacher and philosophy teacher. And I stepped into that course and met Rebecca that day, and it completely transformed the trajectory of my life. And I took that class with Rebecca and I hadn’t really thought at that moment that I was going to be telling the stories that became clear that I needed to tell, and the truth that I needed to tell. But through the course of that time, that week together, and then as Rebecca and I began to work together more deeply, I started to assist in some of the Art of Memoir courses. The scope of how we were working together really deepened and transformed. And as I was writing new stories for myself, we began to rewrite the story of our relationship as well.

And what began as real mentorship and Rebecca very much so as a mentor of mine, also became a collaboratorship. And we started What’s Your Story? a couple of years after that, in 2011. And the past decade has really been this process of cultivating the method of What’s Your Story?, these questions that bring us to the truth that we carry, that are often so hard to name on our own, that can be terrifying to name. And so, starting to bring some of those questions together, many of the questions that I ask myself– that we ask ourselves– as we move through the course of our connection and our relationship. So yes, I’ll leave it at that. And Rebecca, please fill in any question story elements that I may have left out.

RW: Oh, well, I think you did a great job. I mean, I would say, I was living on Maui and at the time deep in study with one of my most important teachers, a Tibetan Lama from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and was not only teaching dharma, but also figuring out a way to integrate my writing practice with this spiritual practice. And so when I was… So Lily appeared at the very first Art of Memoir masterclass. And so I was in this space of really trying to figure out how I could be most of service to the people who were drawn into this space, and how I could help them to release some of the old wounds and old stories that they were carrying and that were so heavy on their bodies and their minds through the process of writing.

And Lily came in. I remember her from the very first moment as, as this tender, light being, very curious, very open, but also someone who was clearly carrying a lot of pain and confusion about where she should be in her own life. And I was really drawn not just to my sense that I could be of service and help her, but also to her, what I saw immediately as her own capacity, her own potential for being able to actually do the work that I was offering, which was to go deep into her story and release it and to blossom and really come into her own fullness, which is what she has done. And it’s been wonderful to watch and co-create our relationship as it’s moved from that, to where we are now, which is in a deep friendship. And we are now happily co-authors of this incredible book that has really come out of everything we’ve ever done together. So, that’s what I have to add to our origin story.

TS: Now, that’s a little bit about the origin story of the two of you and your friendship and your life as collaborators. But now we get into the origin story of What’s Your Story?, this actual book of 150 questions designed to be answered in as little as five minutes, or as long as a lifetime. And there are questions in this book that I read… Some of these questions I was like, “Yes, that would take a lifetime or 100 journals to answer a question like that.” But what I want to know here at the outset, as you talk about the origin of What’s Your Story?, would you say that there are principles or foundational ideas that underlie the method of the book, that really underlie this method of self-inquiry?

RW: Absolutely. I mean, I would say that one, in order to create a better future for oneself, in order to change, evolve, transform, release, imagine, move into a more fulfilled, aligned, happy, empowered, righteous selfhood, one must honestly, deeply, courageously excavate one’s story. The thoughts we carry about ourselves, the places we’ve been wounded, the stories others have told us about ourselves, everything that we’ve ever known about ourselves needs to be examined and assessed based on whether it serves us or injures us. And the process of doing that creates a release from it that opens up a new space of imagination and a new space of potential for changing one story and embodying a new set of ideas that one has written for one’s  self, that has not been given to one by one’s parents or one’s culture. I think that’s, for me, one of the most important foundational ideas of the book. Lily, what do you think?

LD: Yes, absolutely. I think there’s something to be said also, two points that I think are constellations of that central idea. And one of those is the absolute willingness to be honest, and to encounter spaces and ideas within ourselves that may feel very frightening, but may feel like territory that is challenging or confusing, or that leads us away from the concepts that we’ve held about ourselves– as Rebecca was saying– for so long, perhaps a lifetime. And to be willing to be honest in that way, that is often so difficult for humans for a million reasons, but we are fundamentally creatures that seek comfort in so many ways. And during this time, especially that we’re living through to have a guide that holds us and keeps bringing us back to whatever our truths are.

And to know that… To cultivate that willingness to continually step into honesty with ourselves, first and foremost, no matter how difficult things may be outside or inside. And so I would say that is really at core of the What’s Your Story? method. And then the other that I would say is just, again, a continuation or expansion of what Rebecca was saying is that as we do this in our work, it begins to shift the way that we approach every part of our life beyond ourselves. Every relationship that we have, the work that we do, the way that we see the environment, the way that we look at our phones, our technology, the way that we interact with our community, or even think about community, the way that we think about culture. And so that transpersonal sense that as we do work within what we see and experience without also changes.

RW: I would add too, one other thing, that fundamentally, this started with writing, the book is really about writing. It’s about the power of writing, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted it to be this interactive journal with plenty of space for people to write. We ask questions and we ask people to respond because of this deep belief in the power of writing. That there’s something that happens when you hold a pen or you sit at your computer and you download, you translate, you articulate whatever it is, that magic that happens when you commit your story to the page, and then look at it and sit with it, and then rewrite it in a different way. There’s something about that ancient experience that is real and enduring and can be offered in this kind of book.

TS: Well, it’s interesting, as you’ve both used this term “rewrite.” And Lily, you used it in terms of when you first met Rebecca and that there was a need in your life to rewrite your story. And I think it’s interesting, this whole question, and you explore it in What’s Your Story? of what does it mean to look at the past and rewrite it through a different lens?

I just want to start here. I want to share with our listeners the very first question prompt that you offer in the book, because it actually was quite revolutionary for me. Very first question, “What is your first memory? Did you experience it or did someone tell it to you so many times it came to feel like yours?” And I realized in my own life that I had taken memories that other people told me and turned it into my story. And in doing this, I had the chance to actually ask myself what was the first memory, nothing like what I had internalized. So I’d love to hear you both talk about this art of rewriting. The narrative we think is ours into this new narrative.

RW: Great. Great problem. So glad that you shared that. Lily, you want to talk about that?

LD: Yes. I was going to say one other thing about the point before, but it connects exactly with what you’ve just shared, Tami. And that is that I remember when I first took Rebecca’s Art of Memoir course, that she addressed this question that people often carry of, “Why is it important for me to tell my story? Why should I, humble old me, why should I dare to share my story? Why is it important?” And one of the answers to that, that Rebecca presented was, because nobody has lived in your body in this specific time, through your mind, seeing and experiencing the world as it is right now at this moment, nobody else has. And that story in and of itself is distinct, is unique. And yet, I think, because we hold often this fundamental lack of self-confidence, that in and of itself is an inherited cultural story, right?

Who–we ask later in the book–who gets to tell their stories in our culture, whose stories are uplifted, and whose stories are silenced? And I think similarly, when we look at memory and our first memories and how that same power dynamic functions within families, and within family systems, we start to ask ourselves, “Well, wait a second. How am I remembering my own life? Have I written my own life or did somebody else write it for me? And do I now have the opportunity to go back and make my own sense of the pieces that I remember, how do I start to cultivate a narrative that is true to what I experienced, not just what all of my family members experienced and told to me, not just what my culture or the media told me it was important to remember?” I would start there.

RW: Yes. And I would say, for me, writing memoir was the beginning of that. My first book, Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self was about growing up as a mixed-race person. My parents met in the civil rights movement. And I was thought of as a movement child. I was the embodiment of a post-racial reality that we are still yet to even glimpse. And when they divorced, I ended up a remnant of a dream and having to move back and forth between these very different worlds of a white upper-class Jewish world on the East coast, and a black Afra-Bohemian progressive world on the West coast. The idea of being a movement child, that narrative, that story of being an embodiment of the future and something positive and something transcendent, that story dissipated.

And all of a sudden my new story was of a being who was impossibly fragmented, impossibly split into a million pieces and possibly broken. I’ve often said that if I hadn’t written Black, White, and Jewish, I might’ve had a mental breakdown. Because I felt that I was so fragmented psychologically, and the book was the very first place that I could see all of the different parts of myself actually in one place, one visible place. And so the process of writing that book was a process of letting go, refusing, rejecting, excavating the story of the broken Rebecca and deciding to claim a story of an integrated Rebecca, a whole Rebecca, a Rebecca who might, from someone’s point of view, be seen as broken and a child of divorce and a tragic mulatto, all of those narratives. It was about saying, “No, that is not my story.”

My story is one of someone who relates to all, who is a citizen of the world, who is beyond dualism, who loves, who understands that I need to take off the different masks of identity in order to feel truly grounded in myself and truly connected to all other beings. I think that’s a great example of what we mean when we say rewriting our story, and that was an act. It was an active process. I remember the writing process, lighting my candles before I would write and saying a prayer, “Please let me release some of this old story so that I can make room for a new story.” And that’s really been what my writing has been since the very beginning. So I think it definitely comes out of a lived experience of the power of assessing the old stories that I have had to carry on my own body, in order to make space for my own new story.

And also, in all of the anthologies that I’ve edited, trying to make space for new stories in general, from One Big Happy Family, which is about new family configurations, everything from polyamory to open adoption, to mixed marriages, to house husbandry. I’m always interested in trying to deconstruct old stories of what it means to be… What Makes a Man was another book, really looking at toxic masculinity, making space for new stories about what it means to be a man. It was a great project. So I think, I don’t know what it is about me, a deep longing, a deep calling to do this particular kind of work to make new stories possible on behalf of myself and others and the culture.

TS: That specific example, Rebecca, of you rewriting the story from your past was very helpful. I wonder, Lily, would you be willing to share something personal about that, how you use this work to reclaim your own narrative from the past in some way?

LD: Absolutely. So I can go back to that point that you referenced where I took the Art of Memoir class for the first time when I met Rebecca. And as I mentioned, I was in this period of really deep loss and grief, and I was also working through the life experience of knowing that I no longer wanted to be doing the work that I had spent the past 10 years doing, which was studying and teaching yoga philosophy, yoga practice meditation. And I was in the process of being with my mother and shepherding her through her illness, she had a very late diagnosed endometrial cancer. And as we went through that process together, I began to unravel the stories that I had held for many, many years,  my whole life really, about the way that I had been raised, the ideas that I had been raised with. Both my parents were yogis, meditators, incredible health, really shining pillars of their community in the most New Age way possible, and had studied with great spiritual leaders in Buddhism and Hinduism, and  traveled the world, and I in many ways was their consummate child. 

I went to Yale and I studied and I graduated with highest honors. And during that time, I was also studying to become a yoga teacher and I graduated. My highest aspiration was to become a spiritual activist and to teach yoga and to really transform the world in that way. And I spent years doing that, and as I watched my mother encounter her illness, and experience her mortality, and come face to face with questioning many of the beliefs that she had held as she had formed this kind of eclectic spirituality for herself, that I had inherited from my parents. I was also made to start questioning these beliefs. How did I really feel about so many of these ideas that I was espousing to hundreds of students a week?

How did it really look for me? As a devout yogini, as a devout meditator, as a devout animal rights activist vegan. When everything was pushed up against the wall, when we were looking truly at life or death, what did these ideas mean to me? And what did they mean to my mother? And as I saw her wrestling with them, and as I started to wrestle with them myself, one really big breaking point was my mother had been a vegetarian for most of her life. And at that juncture, I was vegan. She asked, according to the recommendation of her oncological nutritionist, if I would start to make some bone broth for her, it was recommended for her at the time. And I could see, as she was asking me, she was actually mortified that she was having to ask her daughter who had become such a staunch vegan, my mother who was dying, was ashamed to ask for this thing.

And I looked at her and I thought, “ I would probably kill an animal if I had to, if I knew that it were going to make you better right now. And knowing that, maybe I don’t actually believe all of these lofty ideals that I think I believe, that I’ve thought I believed for so long. And what does that mean? If so, who am I if I am not these lofty ideals?” And so that’s just one example, but there were so many ways in which… the way that my mother chose treatment also. She refused chemotherapy and radiation, and that for her and for myself and for my father, that was a very significant awakening for me to start to question the assumptions that I had inherited about the medical system.

The inherent bias that a lot of people in the community that I grew up in held about the medical system. And so as all of this unraveled, and in the wake of her passing, I started to realize that I had to answer these questions for myself. I needed to understand what my story was about. Each of these things: the way that I ate, the impact that I had on the world, on the earth, on my community around me, the responsibility that I had held as a teacher and how I wanted to teach, and how I wanted to reach the people around me. And fundamentally, what I believed was true, and how honest I was willing to be with myself about those truths. And I found that I actually hadn’t been willing to be that honest, that I had been spiritual bypassing a lot. I’d gotten real good at it. And doing that leaping over the truth to get to more convenient spaces of identity, had done me great disservices and had disallowed me from really writing my own story. So that’s a bit of that.

TS: That’s good. It’s helpful, making it real. Some of the questions in What’s Your Story? have us looking back at our life, how are we rewriting whatever story we’ve told today. A lot of the questions have us looking forward, writing as a creative act, as an act of invoking, bringing forward what we might want to create in our life. I thought this was really interesting. It’s in the final section of the book, in the Twilight section, you write this question for people to respond to, “How do you define a life well-lived?” And I thought, “God, well, that’s a really good question, because however I define that is going to have a lot to say about how I live the days or decades left of my life.” So I’d love to hear you both talk a little bit about how working with What’s Your Story? helps us actually create our future.

RW: Well, I think that’s a great prompt to share. Anyone who knows me, knows that I say often that I want to die a good death, and that understanding that I want to die a good death helps me to live my life every day more meaningfully and more in alignment with what’s important. And I think that dying a good death and knowing what’s important to us is something that we each have to find out for ourselves through a deep inquiry, through deep reflection on what really matters. At the end of the day, when your eyes close for the final time, what do you want to have given? What is important to leave behind? What will give you peace? What will allow you to just let go because you know you’ve done it all?

And it takes real honesty and figuring out, I mean, it’s very pragmatic. You really have to figure it out. It’s not a mystical thing. It’s more of an equation. I happened to know that I need to know that my son is OK, that I have done everything I can for my son. I need to know that I have shared every gift that I believe I hold with as many people as possible. I’ve done my work. I believe that my partner needs to feel safe. I believe that I need to have taught my students well. I believe that I need to have served my parents in the way that they served me. And those are things that I have come to, after a lot of deep introspection. And I think that this whole journal, the book that we’re offering helps people step-by-step to finally be able to look at themselves deeply and to figure out the answers to those questions.

What do I need to feel free at the very end? What is this life for? And so I think that’s really what the book… It leads up to that for a reason. We want, ultimately, people to die good deaths, and we want to help them. We want to help them die good deaths because when you’re ready to die a good death, that means that you’ve lived a good life. And so hopefully, the book will help people to imagine what living a good life looks like. And it’s not just buying nice cars and houses and making whatever,  trinkets, it’s about understanding what’s really, really satisfying to our souls and our psyches as human beings, what’s meaningful? And I think on every page of this book, we ask people to reflect on what is meaningful in every situation. In their bodies, when they’re working with people, when they’re in front of a computer screen, and then yes, when they’re about to die, we ask them to write that down.

TS: Let me just share a followup question for a moment here, Rebecca. What about you write down, “This is my definition of a life well-lived” and in that process, you’re also reflecting on how you’re currently living your life. And there’s a gap. There’s a painful gap. I could imagine that’s when you put the book down and go cry…  I’m not sure when to return to it. What would you say to that person in the process of going through What’s Your Story?, who encounters that in answering some of these questions?

RW: Well, we say, fantastic. That’s exactly what you should be going through. This is not easy. This is a process. This is a method, we’ve been doing this for a long time. And that’s exactly what we want, put it down, carry the question with you. Cry if you need to, ask people what they think a good life is, what they think you particularly specifically bring to them, meditate on it. Sit with that question until something comes up. I think we both have deep belief and faith in the truth that the answer is within. If you just allow it to emerge and to sit with whatever comes up, with fearlessness, it could be rage and I want to do all of these terrible destructive things and that’ll pass. But more and more, the more you’re comfortable with sitting in the discomfort, the more likely those small voices will come to you.

Actually what’s important is this. And even though this person told me that wasn’t important, this is actually what feels right to me. And those are those moments that then you go back to the book, and you write them down, and slowly, slowly, slowly, you have more of those little moments and less of the, “Oh my God, I have no idea,” moments. That’s what the book is for.

LD: Yes. And I think too that, to the person who is sitting with that painful gap, as you said, Tami, to believe and really hold to the truth that we know that change is possible, because it is inevitable. Right there, we know that,  there is no escaping that there will be change in the coming moments, days, weeks, months, and to know that, even becoming aware of that gap, of that distance, just like me starting to… just even becoming aware of that shift like, “Oh, maybe the things that I thought I believed, I don’t.” And how painful that was, but to even have that knowledge as a seed is a harbinger of some change that is to come.

TS: Now, Lily, Rebecca answered a little bit about how do you define a life well-lived. What’s your answer to that?

LD: Of how I define a life well-lived? Oh, goodness. For me, a life well-lived is a life lived in deep connection with the earth and with community. And to, at the end of my days, know that I have the human imprint on this earth and in the communities around me, done all that I could to protect life, to nurture life, and to ensure that in the spaces, the communities, the relationships around me, and on this Earth, that new life to come is possible in the most functional, realistic ways in terms of the livelihoods, the health of the people around me, the people that I love. The ability that people have to care for themselves to breathe clean air, to have clean water, that there is some transformative and enduring sense of righteousness and equity.

Right now, I’m thinking of, actually, the Hawaii state motto, which is Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono, which means, “may the life of the land be perpetuated in righteousness.” And I think about that a lot. They’re words that I was given, it’s a story I was given very early on. And for me, it’s a story that I think does inform every day of my life and the way that I think about how I live on the land and how I steward the land and the people on it, and the people that I love.

TS: Lily, it’s interesting that you bring up this passion for the Earth. It was a very profound section of What’s Your Story?, the section on nature and place. And there are a couple of prompts I’m going to throw out here for our conversation. You ask, “What changes do you expect to see on Earth in your lifetime? If our planet becomes uninhabitable, for instance, what will you do? What actions will you wish you had taken?” So I thought that was a very profound question for people to respond to, “What actions will you wish you had taken?” So I wonder if you can speak a little bit about this section of the book. At one point, you also prompt people, “Write a new story of your relationship with the Earth.” So I’d like to just hear more about this section of the book, Rebecca.

RW: I was going to throw that to Lily.

LD: I can start if you’d like.

RW: Yes, I like. I’m enjoying listening to you talk about the Earth, and stewardship, and Hawaii.

LD: I think so much of the ways that we approach environmental justice right now are connected to other sites of oppression that people are experiencing, and questions of intersectionality and equity. And so for me, this chapter is really about, how do we understand our relationship to the Earth? How do I write a new story that is a story of my caring for, and nurturing this Earth that gives and gives and gives, whose resources we think of as infinite. And yet we know that they are not, we know that they are expiring rapidly, if not, they’ve already expired to some extent. And so starting to shift the story that I tell about my consumption is really not in a way that is meant to be a burden or suddenly have everyone carrying around, walking around in a state of panic, but actually as a means of empowerment of writing a new story of the way that I relate to nature that involves… I’m thinking of the way that Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about the language or the grammar of animacy in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass.

And there’s a story there of giving each inanimate object, that we consider as not having life because we’ve placed human life at the top of the hierarchy, but of giving stones and trees and sky and clouds and water, giving its own grammar of a liveliness, its own life. And when we stop placing ourselves, our own human lives at center, and that also means looking at the hierarchy of whiteness and white supremacy and how that has affected questions of environmental and climate justice. And how communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the environmental crisis. When we look at that, and we look at giving everything life, everything meaning, we really start to de-center both whiteness and humanness. And then we have no choice but to rewrite the way that we see ourselves in relationship to Earth.

So, that’s something that I think about and really seek to practice continuously. And then it inevitably bleeds over into small things, small actions, carrying utensils with me all the time, just the small actions that for me feel like, “OK, I’ve done little bits of things every day, even as I’m seeking justice on larger scales for the Earth.”

RW: Right. And mine are very simple. I mean, there’s all of that beauty. And then I often think when I’m rewriting my story with the Earth about, “I want to plant more trees, I want to grow collard greens.” My mother keeps trying to get me to grow collard greens in terra cotta pots outside and I can’t quite get it together to do that. But I long for that, because I want to feel connected in that way to the Earth, to not just growing my own food so that I can feed my family, but in the case specifically of collard greens of understanding and having a relationship with a food and a practice of growing that food that has sustained my ancestors for generations. So that’s one way I want to rewrite my story of the planet, of the Earth, of the environment.

When I think about things I want to change. I’m in the middle of getting a new car, and even though I’ve had a hybrid in the past, I haven’t for the last three years. And my son and I have just said, “We will never go back.” You know what I mean? These are small things. I’m looking into solar systems and how much they cost and being… Using our Berkey and not using all the bottled water, and really engaging in conversations about what’s happening with water around the world, and the privatization of water. And being aware of the ways in which the Earth and its resources are being commodified and thinking about how they really belong to all of us. And we are now being made to pay for it all.

And so many people are being deprived of those resources that belong to them. We belong to the Earth and the Earth belongs to us. It is all one. We are the Earth. So when you say take care of the planet, take care of the Earth, take care of the environment. We have to take care of ourselves. We are the Earth. There would be no us without the Earth. So, rewriting that story, it’s an ongoing process for me. There’s a lot of thought about consumption. There’s a lot of thought about, how can I be more aware in every moment of how my actions are impacting this Earth? And that’s no small feat, that’s moment to moment. From how many electrical gadgets I have plugged in, that are emitting EMFs and draining various electricity grids that are somehow being created magically somewhere else. It’s every moment trying to consider what it all means. What everything I do means.

TS: Now, you’ve both pointed in different kinds of ways to how it takes a certain kind of honesty or truth telling capacity to get in there with these 150 questions and really do this work. And then I also pointed out how we have to be able to stay and hang in there with the tragic gap in our lives, from the life we want to be writing, and the life we’re actually living, and work with that. What other qualities or capacities do you think it takes to actually engage at the level of depth that you’re proposing here with What’s Your Story? What does it take?

LD: I think fundamentally, it takes imagination. And that imagination is something that during times that are… When we are collectively questioning so much about ourselves, who we are, our direction as individuals, as community, as a nation, that it is hard to generate the will to imagine a different set of circumstances, a different sense of who we are, and who we could be. There’s a defiance, a resistance in being willing to imagine. Being willing to imagine a new reality for ourselves. I find it’s very difficult for myself. One of the personal challenges that I have lived with over the past many years is a really deep longing for partnership.

And it’s something that has come into my life in waves, and fits, and starts. I suppose you could say. And I find that there’s a way in which the longer I live without, the harder it is for me to imagine the deep partnership and relationship that I want. That I know is possible. That I know and that I am fully ready and willing to live in and to receive. But the imagining of it, becomes more difficult. And so I think there’s a real daring that is required and an imagining.

RW: Yes. And I think there’s the need to be willing to abandon everything. To release everything that you know to be true, everything that you think is correct. There’s a need to be fearless in that, to let it all go, which is terrifying. And to be naked, once again, in your own mind. Naked, and free, and clear, so that you can begin again. But that practice of letting go is very arduous. It’s not easy. But if you want the new birth badly enough, you can do it. So I think you have to have desire. You have to be done with this living in a way that feels terrible, with holding onto a story that doesn’t suit you, you have to be done with it. And in that exhaustion of it, that I don’t want this anymore. When you get there, then you have arrived at the place of being able to create what does feel good. And so I think you have to be willing to reach that moment.

TS: I’m curious what you both think about What’s Your Story? being a perfect book for this pandemic time, because I noticed when we’re talking about questions like, “What will really matter at the end of your life?” It seems like there’s a willingness in people to ask those kinds of questions. “How do we have to re-imagine our story with the Earth?” There’s a willingness to go there now, that maybe there wouldn’t have been in the same way a year ago. I’m wondering what you both think about that.

LD: Absolutely. I mean, I think that not only in the context of the pandemic, but in the context of this very important reckoning, the 50th reckoning of our country with unbelievable systemic racism and oppression of everyone who is not white, and rich, and male. I think that there is an understanding that not only do we have to grapple with what it means to live a good life, because we could die very soon, or be afflicted in a certain way that would be immobilizing. But also we have to figure out how to be Americans again. We have to figure out how to be citizens of this moment and to rise to the challenge of facing systemic racism, facing white supremacy, facing the kind of tyrannical leadership that we’ve experienced for the last four years.

We have to figure out how to speak to one another, how to speak to ourselves, to figure out who we want to be, what do we want to believe? What do we think about people who are coming to our country? What do we think about what kind of Social Safety Net we want to have for each other? What do we think about, I mean, all of these different fundamental questions need to be answered in this moment. And if we don’t grapple with those questions and with finding a new story of what it means to be an American, to be a citizen of this place, to belong to this land, we won’t be able to go forward in any meaningful way. I mean, this is a real moment for reinvention.

And then obviously there’s the issue of us all being at home, and thinking about everything so much. So in some ways, we have more time to reflect, hopefully, even though all of us have children and jobs, it’s not like we’re all sitting around being bored to death. We’re all working very hard in different ways, and it’s very stressful. But I do think that, if people can take this book in this time, and just find a few minutes every day, we’re in a chrysalis now, personally and collectively we’re in something together. And this book can help you as a participant, as a reader, as a writer to connect with this larger cultural collective transformation that’s happening, and that must happen.

TS: Yes. I was just thinking, as you said that at the end, there’s a way in which, as we have all been so laid bare by these past months, that getting to that breaking point, that tipping point, that crisis point, it’s almost like we’re all already halfway there. Just do it, just go the rest of the way, because the answer is you’ve already thrown the rule book out the window, or the pandemic, or the reckoning with systemic racism has already done it for you. You already know that you’ve been living through this completely dysfunctional story. And knowing that, take it the rest of the way.

LD: Yes. We made a book for you to do it.

TS: So somebody has the book What’s Your Story? and they write their answers to however many of these 150 question prompts they’re able to make their way through. As you say, it could take five minutes, or it could take a lifetime to answer these questions. They’re using the power… Lily, you pointed at the power of the imagination. They’re using their imagination. How does writing and using the power of our imagination to write down our answers to these questions actually create real change? I’m just writing it in my own little book, sitting on the couch. And then I closed this little book. Now I’ve written it. I mean, is that really an action? I’m just writing something down in my own little book.

RW: I will say to you that absolutely yes, writing it down is transformative. I don’t know if I can give you the science of it. I don’t know. I can tell you from my own experience that every time I have written a new story, every time I have written an old story, and reworked it, every time I have written a note even, that there is something about the writing process that puts things into motion, that makes it real, that connects heart, and mind, and body. That forecasts, that anticipates, that co-creates with the rest of the world, something bigger. Writing is a declarative, powerful, alchemical experience. It is beyond our understanding. It is this time’s iteration of the ancient tradition of telling stories.

When I think about the Aboriginal people who are able to tell the story of their people for 10,000 years in a song, that was a powerful ritual that called things into being, that passed ideas down. And writing for us is similar. And it has all of these different rules, truths about it. And I think that one of the reasons that we wanted to do this book is that we wanted people to be able to not only do that act, write that down, but to have it with them, to have this writing to refer back to again and again, as a talisman to remind themselves of what they committed to, of what they envisioned.

And I think that act of revisiting and the repetition of revisiting is what feeds you as you walk toward your dream, as you walk into your future. When you get to a fork in the road, you look back at the book, and you remember what you wrote, and you remember how you felt, and you remember how powerful it was, and you take the right path. That’s how you get to where you want to go, little by little by little. And so writing is like charting a map, it’s writing your way from here to there. It’s getting you from here to there, word by word, line by line.

LD: Yes. To continue, Rebecca’s thought about the holding the book as a talisman, once they’ve moved through it, I’m thinking too about how nations are created, how belief systems, how religions are created. They begin with the act of writing, writing a constitution, writing a testament, writing a code of thought, or theory, or belief. And to know that working through this book, you are writing your own constitution. You are writing your own testament, you are writing the core principles of your truth, of your past, your present, and your future. And there’s a way in which, then, keeping this book and whether you return to it and perhaps rewrite a story, every year, every five years or at the end of a lifetime. You will have these set of core principles that have provided you with the ground from which to rise up and to move ahead as a self integrated with your truth, with your honesty and with the stories that you are choosing.

TS: OK, just a final question for you both, the subtitle of What’s Your Story? is A Journal for Everyday Evolution. What do you mean by everyday evolution?

LD: We loved the idea of everyday evolution because of everything that you’ve just been asking about, because change can feel so daunting, because making these transformative leaps and how we experience ourselves and the world around us can feel so overwhelming. To know and to be able to rest in the knowledge that every day we are changing, everyday change is inevitable, every day I am becoming someone new, every day I’m writing a new story. I am evolving. And so in this knowledge that every day I am evolving, I’m going to carve out the space to explore, to document some of that, to write some of that evolution down. So that for me is everyday evolution, manageable.

RW: Yes. Manageable. And also, we know we need to evolve as a species. And when I say we need to evolve, I mean, we need to learn how to be better. We need to learn how to be more compassionate, more patient, more loving, more integrated with the Earth. We need to have a better story of our role, and our responsibility, and our experience. We need to move toward a higher sense of being, a higher level, as we used to say, a higher vibration. And telling the truth, and writing a story that is more aligned with a more evolved version of ourselves, is a way to bring us there. And so, we see the book as a way to evolve yourself, you don’t need anyone else. You have it within you. Sit with this book, sit with your mind, sit with your body, thinking about where you want to be, let go of the old, open yourself to the new, or to the ancient and just grow. Be bigger, be better, evolve.

TS: My code language for the book: not your average journal.

RW: Yay.

LD: We would often be reading the questions to each other and just start laughing, imagining the person picking up the book for the first time, thinking they were holding your average guided journal and encountering this question that would just completely lay them bare.

TS: Exactly. This is a future-powered power-packed journal, What’s Your Story? A Journal for Everyday Evolution. I’ve been talking with Rebecca Walker and Lily Diamond, the co-authors of this new, not your average journal. As you said, it’s time. Let’s go all the way. Let’s take it all the way with this book. Thank you both so much for being with me here on Insights at the Edge. Thank you.

RW: This is wonderful. What a wonderful conversation. Thank you. Thank you so much.

TS: Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at And if you’re interested, hit the “subscribe” button in your podcast app, and also if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world., waking up the world.


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