Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

Tara Sophia Mohr, Playing Big. Find Your VOICE, Your MISSION, and Your MESSAGE.

Collective Courage

“If one woman told the truth about her life, the world would split open.” – Muriel Rukeyser

Today’s TIME cover is about that truth-telling. It is also about the shift away from the individual, toward the collective.

When I saw the cover, it reminded me of a conversation I was a part of a few weeks ago – a conversation about a different act of resistance, of women’s rebellion, from a few thousand years ago.

In the Book of Exodus, Pharoah commands two midwives to kill any Hebrew baby boys that they deliver. But, the text says, “The midwives, fearing God, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live.”

What enabled the midwives to do this, to be so brave?

“They were together, they had each other,” one person in the group said.

I’ve read the story so many times, but that insight made me look at it in a whole new way. It was a pair of midwives, two women who jointly chose this act of defiance.

We can imagine what happened between the lines of the text. Did they speak with one another and decide to take this risk together? Did they just look into each other’s eyes and silently agree on what they would do?

Sometimes we have to look away from what our peers are doing to find our individual, courageous choice. But sometimes, in community, we find courage and clarity that we cannot summon on our own.

It is no accident to me that women appear as a collective in this portrait in TIME. They break the world open not only through the truths they tell but also by upending the idea that the “person” of the year is an individual acting alone.

Today let’s be conspiratorial with each other, for the good.



there are no enemies

I have been writing online enough to know this opinion is an unpopular one, but I will go down saying it.

I don’t believe in enemies or villains. I know hurt people hurt people.

In our wisest selves, our grandmother selves, we take destructive behavior damn seriously. We work to root it out, but we don’t give it mythic power, its own force.

Instead we just know it is what happens when love and wisdom are absent, and when the culture has taken the matriarchs off their thrones.

Sending love to you today,


a simple way to feel better

In Naomi Levy’s beautiful new book, Einstein and the Rabbi, she shares the Hasidic teaching, “There are ten levels of prayer, and above them is Song.”

This past weekend, I spent a lot of time singing. I went to a couple of religious worship services and sang and sang… and then sang some more.

Now let me tell you, I was not in a good mood when I showed up, but I left feeling so much better. I was a little shocked, because there was no problem solving or unpacking of the issues, no talking about them. There was just song.

I was reminded of the primacy of song, and why every spiritual tradition involves singing in some way.

In the Jewish tradition, there is a word, nigun (pronounced nee-gune), which refers to songs without complicated lyrics or a set tune, but rather with very simple sounds in repetition. It’s a term for what so many of us often do naturally – make up a song of “da-da-dahs” or “la-la-la’s”. Or we might pick a simple phrase – “I love you” or “it’s okay” – and sing it in repetition, varying the tune organically.

When it comes to singing for spiritual and emotional reasons, niguns work particularly magically. We aren’t worrying about what words come next or how to sing the song right. We get out of the thinking, language-based place in our heads into something much more intuitive. And the repetition of the sound offers a kind of container to go deeper and deeper into the intoxication that comes with singing our hearts out. We go into that special place that chanting takes us to.

There’s so much emphasis on “getting still” in spiritual circles these days, on being in silence, on “quieting the mind,” that we may have ended up mistakenly associating spirituality with quiet. And our spiritual practice may entail something very hushed – silent prayer, meditation, yoga.

But of course, spirituality is not just about finding quiet in a noisy world. It is about finding the sacred in the mundane. It is about re-contacting our aliveness after experiences that have deadened us. It is about crying out to something larger than ourselves. Song allows us to do all of this.

And spirituality aside, singing is also – a host of studies show – one of things we can most reliably do to change our mood, to simply feel better.

How can you bring more singing into your life? Perhaps through spiritual music you sing along in a house of worship. Perhaps singing along to a favorite artist in your kitchen as you pack lunches or scrub dishes. Perhaps adding chanting to your yoga or meditation practice. Perhaps singing again in the shower or the car if you’ve gotten out of the habit.

So just a simple reminder today to sing – it is potent medicine.



pain of the soul

I’ve been in a hard time lately – nothing alarming, just the kind of hard time that life brings all of us.

In a recent moment, when I was thinking about what was so hard and what I could do about it, I remembered something I wrote eight years ago, something I hadn’t thought about for a long time.

I had written this: the amount of pain I experience is directly proportional to the amount I’m out of alignment with my soul.

(And I’m talking emotional pain here, not physical.)

When I first wrote this idea down, hearing it from somewhere inside me, I wondered, could that really be true? Didn’t pain happen simply because life is full of challenge and suffering and injustice, or because really bad things sometimes happen to us? Couldn’t pain just have to do with our emotional lives but really have nothing to do with the soul?

Yet when I inquire into my own pain, and work with others around theirs, I find that with pain, there is also often some soul starvation, some soul violation or denial that is at the root of the pain.

Our souls long for freedom, and oppression pains our souls.
Our souls are meant for love, and animosity and hatred pains our souls.
Our souls are meant to be treated with reverence and care, and callousness pains our souls.
When our soul doesn’t get what it needs, we feel pain.

What I find to be the miracle in this way of working with pain is that it means our pain doesn’t only teach us about the shadow side of life.

If we let it, our pain can always teach us about the light, our own inner light. Pain is always a little arrow pointing you to some unmet need of your soul. Your pain will point you to some part of your divinity that is being strangled or stamped on – by yourself or by others.

Pain can always lead you there, if you follow it to that discovery.

In my own life,
the pain of isolation tells me about the connection my soul is meant for
the pain of exhaustion and overwork tells me about the vitality and balance my soul is meant for
the pain of experiences of harassment, objectification, and abuse tell me about the free and joyful sensuality my soul is meant for

And what the soul needs, the soul is. The soul needs love and is the energy of love. The soul needs creativity and is the force of creativity. The soul needs compassion and is the spirit of compassion. So your pain not only tells you what your soul needs, it tells you what your soul is. And that tells you about what the holiest part of you is.

And so, in pain, we can ask:

What part of my soul got hurt here?
What need of soul was denied or ignored?

And as we choose where to devote our time and energies, we must keep asking:

Where is the misalignment between my life and the longings of my soul?
Where is the misalignment between our society and the needs of its members’ souls?
What can I do – small things or big things – to bring about more alignment between life and soul?



the instruction we got…

You can listen to this post in audio, too. Click the player to download an mp3 file.

the instruction we got …

The instruction we got was crystal clear. The instruction was to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This is our primary human task.

I fail at doing it fully, you fail at doing it fully – we all do. But the good news about that is that since we never complete the task, it can remain the central, in-progress project for our entire lives.

It can – and should – compel our focus for a lifetime.

To love our neighbors as ourselves can’t simply mean to regard them positively in our minds and hearts. After all, we don’t love ourselves that way.

We love ourselves by working to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves, to protect ourselves from harm, to give ourselves comforts and opportunity and liberty.

Loving our neighbors must be like that: it must be made manifest with what we do with our dollars, our time, our actions, and our compassion.

In a recent interview, Diana Butler Bass said the brave thing that needs to be said about this: everyone is our neighbor. Everyone, the victimizer and victimized, is our neighbor.

We are one body. If part of our collective is sick, deluded, abused, insane, the rest of us cannot escape the suffering that that part will cause us. To be well, to be safe, we’ve got to help everyone get well.

I believe that the charge to all of us is to keep asking, day after day: how can I live up more to this instruction to love my neighbor as myself?

How can I love my neighbor as myself in this situation?

How can I today do it a little more courageously, and with more challenge to my ego and my comfort?

And how do I do that with the neighbor that I might be tempted to hate, with the neighbor that I deem evil, the one who is against what I am for?

As clearly as it has been told to us, as clearly as it has been given, we have still strayed very, very far from this core instruction. But it waits for us, waiting for us to see its wisdom and understand its promise. And life will keep showing us the tragedy and waste that unfolds when we do not follow it.

May you hold this in your heart today: may I love my neighbor as myself. And everyone, everyone, is my neighbor.