BPS 135: The Way of Story with Catherine Ann Jones

We have award-winning author, playwright, actor, teacher, and writing consultant, Catherine Ann Jones on the show today. She’s authored a number of consciousness-raising books, plays, film, and television scripts, including, The Christmas Wife (film), Unlikely Angel with Dolly Parton, The Way of Story: the craft & soul of writing (book), Freud’s Oracle (Play), and several others.

Unlikely Angel stars Dolly Parton who plays a self-absorbed singer who meets an untimely death and gets an opportunity to earn her wings if she helps a family lost in the tragic death of their Mother find each other again. This should be a Holiday movie tradition.

In our interview, we talk about her book, The Way Of Story which offers an integrative approach to writing all forms of narrative.

This illustrated book contains evocative insights from the author’s own professional journey. The emphasis on the integration of both a solid craft and an experiential inner discovery makes this writing book unique.

 

She helps others on their writing journeys through workshops, consulting, and writing

Following her passions for truth-seeking and dramatic self-expression Catherine’s written six books. Her most recent book is a 2013 publication, Heal Your Self With Writing.

Catherine was a writer on the popular 90s TV show, Touch by an Angel.

The series generally revolved around the “cases” of Monica (played by Roma Downey), an angel recently promoted from the “search and rescue” division, who works under the guidance of Tess (played by Della Reese), a sarcastic boss who is sometimes hard on her young colleague but is more of a surrogate mother than a mentor. The trio of angels is sent to Earth to tell depressed and troubled people that God loves them and hasn’t forgotten them.

Let’s delve into Catherine’s writing process and how she helps others achieve excellent stories, shall we?

Enjoy my conversation with Catherine Ann Jones.

Right-click here to download the MP3

LINKS

SPONSORS

  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Alex Ferrari 0:07
Catherine, thank you so much for coming on the show. I truly, truly appreciate it. We had the pleasure of getting to know each other on one of my other shows. And we've just started talking like, Well, I think you'd be a great guest for the next level soul podcast. So thank you so much for coming on. Glad to be here. So I wanted to dive right in. And it's just a heavy question to start with, I'm going to start with it anyway, to see how where our conversation leads. What do you believe is your mission in this life?

Catherine Ann Jones 0:40
Well, in India, where I've spent several, many years, there's a word Sanskrit word called dharma. And Dharma means the law of your existence, it's more than career or job. It's what you were kind of what you came here to do. And if you can be fortunate enough to hook up with, you know, to know what that is, life really becomes magical. So I think my Dharma is writing and teaching. I love both. And I'm fortunate that I've been able to do both.

Alex Ferrari 1:20
And you've been able to, and you've done so much in your life, start, you know, acting and play writing and you know, playing in the shark infested waters of Hollywood, survived and survived with a smile on your face no less. Did you? How long did it take you to find that path? Because I'm assuming when you came out, you didn't like Well, I'm gonna go right and teach. I'm assuming it took a minute to get there.

Catherine Ann Jones 1:48
Well, when I was 12 years old, I wanted to raise Arabian horses.

Alex Ferrari 1:54
Okay.

Catherine Ann Jones 1:55
When I was 18, I wanted to be a missionary in foreign lands. That last my first year of college, then I read and thought too much became an agnostic. And so I had been acting, so I switch to universities to drama school. And then my passion was acting, which I did for several years in New York. And, but I always had a parallel passion. I guess what we called it, finding the truth, whatever that is, you know, at that point. So those parallel instincts pulled me each way, the passion to dramatically express myself, and the passion to go to India or wherever life took me to find the answers to my questions. And does that? Yes, that was,

Alex Ferrari 3:00
yeah, that answers that. But let me ask you, do you think that we have to go through figuring out what we don't want to do in order to find what we do want to do? or do something? Some people just find what they want to do in life? Because I mean, so many of us have to go. I think every one of us almost every one of us. does things like you said acting you enjoyed acting, but that kind of led you towards the writing world.

Catherine Ann Jones 3:26
Yeah, that was all connected. Right? I think I said, when we you interviewed me last about the writing. I can't think of a better background to write plays and movies and television than to be a professional actor. Moliere and Shakespeare started as actors after all, they're not that I'm quiet. Anyway, um, I think it depends. Everything is individual. I, one thing I believe passionately, is there's no one way to write. There's no one way to live your life. It varies person to person. So the search is really to find yourself and discover your own path and process and honor that

Alex Ferrari 4:17
Yeah. And that's the thing I it took me it's taken me 40 years. To find my path, though. I dabbled a little bit in it. And I would see hints of it. And I'd be like, and I would reject it, which is the third of the thing that we do is, as human beings is like, no, that's no, I don't want to do that. Because I have my mind. Like, I want to be a missionary. I can't go teach and stuff or I want to be an actor. I don't want to go teach and stuff. And I've had that happen. But the moment that I ran into my my calling, which is what I'm doing now, is I became so much more happy because I was angry and bitter and oh Oh my god, I was so angry and bitter at people. And I felt that I'm like, I need to do this, I need to do that I need to be this. And those those wants and needs, by the way, haven't gone away. And I think they all still work within the world that I'm in. But I'm much happier now. Because I've fallen into

Catherine Ann Jones 5:17
that's what I call one of my exercises and heal yourself with writing both the workshop and the book is I call it the coming home exercise. And finding your Dharma is a coming home experience. You know, there can be other coming home experiences, meeting someone for the first time and you feel you've known them all your life. Acting was that for me when I first started, it just seem almost too natural. No. So coming in what you describe when you found what you want to do, that's the coming home, you're coming home to your self, your capital SELF.

Alex Ferrari 6:04
Yes, exactly. And, and it's so funny, because when I first picked up a microphone to be a podcaster, which is insane thing, I liked it. And then I was like, wait a minute, I kind of really enjoyed doing this. And I've actually really kind of enjoying talking to people and, and meeting people. And it's just and then I'm able to help other people and things like that. But it took me a minute before I accepted it, you know,

Catherine Ann Jones 6:29
doesn't matter. As long as we get there. Some people lead their whole lives and haven't found what what did for them. I think the thing to remember, there's a saying in India, it's better to be a good servant than a bad King. So it doesn't matter what it is your Dharma is there's no judgment on that. It's just finding what's right for you.

Alex Ferrari 6:58
And connecting with it and when it does show up, not to reject it.

Catherine Ann Jones 7:03
Now, well, my word could be honored. Yeah, I think that's the word serve it

Alex Ferrari 7:09
Serve it. Because it's true. Like it's I think that most of us go throughout life, walking against the current. And we like fight, what our incent instincts, our nature is and things like that. But the moment you sit down and let that current understand that there is a current taking you where you need to go, life becomes so much easier and so much more happy you become.

Catherine Ann Jones 7:34
It's the kind of surrender really, my go when you find your spiritual path. When you find your Dharma, once that's in place, you can it's there is a kind of surrender of the ego, and that the invisible and visible allies magically appear to help you on that journey. against it the opposite.

Alex Ferrari 8:01
Right?

Catherine Ann Jones 8:01
It like climbing upstream.

Alex Ferrari 8:03
Yeah. And I love I love the term you use invisible and visible ally show up? Because, yes, because there was definitely forces of things that happen you just like, how did that happen? And in my, in my journey, just with my simple podcasts, I've had access to talk to people who are just insane kind of people I've been able to get access to. And sometimes it's just like, oh, an email dropped in, you're like, how did that happen? Like, how did that connection happen? Like it's it's mind blowing. But I would have killed years earlier, to have a sit down conversation for an hour or two with some of these individuals. And now they're asking me to this conversation, which is mind blowing.

Catherine Ann Jones 8:49
Yes, but it's made you who you are. Maybe you wouldn't done it as well, it should do it now. If you had done it 15 - 20 years ago, who knows?

Alex Ferrari 9:00
That's very true. That's very true. Now one of the things we've been talking a little bit about is finding that inner mission, the inner, inner purpose of yours, how can you better connect with the inner voice? Because we all have that inner voice that thing in the gut, which we ignore a lot of the time. How do you attune yourself to that?

Catherine Ann Jones 9:25
Well, it just so happened so wrote a book about it that it's that book called heal yourself with writing, Scott double themes. It's about self healing, grief and trauma, my graduate degrees and depth psychology young in psychology, and it's about deepening the dialogue with the self capital S, not the ego but the self, that deeper part of us and and I've created short exercises prompts that I use in the workshops and the book. And that seems to it's amazing people have come out of that workshop and say this was life changing. Because they find parts of themselves. They didn't know they were there. And they read what they've written. And they say, Where did that come from? So they're writing from a deeper place.

Alex Ferrari 10:26
So when you're writing, you're almost tapping into that inner voice, because you're just kind of letting it flow of consciousness almost like that.

Catherine Ann Jones 10:34
Yeah, it's, I call it in a way an intuitive inner voice. You know, it's inside. It's a kind of thing. I know an example i given. I also have in the book, heal yourself with writing anecdotes, from my own journey to illustrate the points I'm teaching. And show it to you tell you one, this is it's a pretty good story. I was living in New York, what I call my theater years. And an actor, actress friend of mine had just come back from making a film in Europe, and invited me to her flap her apartment on Central Park south. So I went there. And as soon as I walked into her apartment, something I felt very uneasy. There was no logical reason why should I know this woman for years, there was no problem. But I felt very uncomfortable. Like I shouldn't be there. And I should leave. But of course, my logical left brain came in and said, Oh, that's nonsense. So she placed me in a big chair by the window overlooking Central Park, where she ordered out for tea and snacks and things, and sat in that chair. And then it was even stronger. It was like get out of dodge now. And I stayed about 5 - 10 minutes more struggling with that, and it became so overpowering. I suddenly stood up and I said, Patricia, I have to go. I will talk to you later. You know, which was quite rude of me. And so I got home about 15 minutes later, 20 minutes later, I live not far away over by Lincoln Center. As I was walking in the door to my place, the phone rang. I picked it up, it was Patricia. She says Catherine, you won't believe what happened five minutes after you left. I said what? Now in these old buildings in New York, they often have AC you know, been huge box the size of a room on top of the building. It was a very windy day in the winter. Somehow that big, huge thing as big as half a room, fell off the roof crashed into her window, landed on the chair I had been sitting here I wouldn't have been killed. So the moral is, listen to that intuitive voice. It may even save your life. True Stories. So from then on, I was in my 20s. Then, from then on, I never doubted my inner voice says something like it might say don't walk the usual way home go around. I just follow it. It never lies.

Alex Ferrari 13:47
It's always got your best interests in mind. Yeah. Well, the thing is, when dealing with your inner, inner voice, or gut instinct, or whatever you'd like to call it, how can you balance the voice in your head with the feeling in your gut, because that mind is the most powerful and wonderful thing but it's also your darkest enemy sometimes?

Catherine Ann Jones 14:11
Well, they're both our highs. We don't want to throw out one or the other. I love integrating the two giving because we're conditioned in a way and educated in a way totally listened to the logical left brain, right? And the intuitive voice gets short shrift. So the work is bringing you know listening to both at least equally.

Alex Ferrari 14:38
So but there are moments where that brain that brain when you overthink something and your guts telling you just do this and then you start making excuses, or there's fear involved, which there's generally always fear involved. Things like that their fear our desire, fear or desire writing for us. Exactly. So if your mind is creating, let's say fearful thoughts or fearful thing, like, take that job, no, don't take that job because if you take that job, this will happen or this or Apple, this happened, but your guts telling you no idiot take the job?

Catherine Ann Jones 15:17
Well, there's an interesting something in Young's autobiography. It's a wonderful book. He wrote it when he was in its 80s. And one of the things he says that always stuck with me is that, you know, that intuitive voice gives you little murmurings, like, do this, or don't do this, like little whispers in your ear. And when you don't listen, sometimes you need to be hit over the head with this stick. I had a feeling for about three years, I should leave New York. But logically, my son was still in school with one attempt to finish high school, before I got out of the city. And I did a Fulbright year took my son with me, came back and my apartment was stolen by a student, I had let stay there. Now there's a saying in Manhattan, people will kill together great apartment. Right? You know what, she didn't do that. But she changed the locks. And anyway, I would that was my head over the head. So it was a terrible thing to happen. But in the end, it was a blessing because I realized this was my hit over the head. It was time to leave New York. And about that time I won that award in how in Los Angeles for one of my plays, and it was optioned by MGM studio. So I had no reason to get out, you know. But for three years, I had the I had the gentle whispering in the ear from that inner voice. But I didn't listen. So it had to be something extreme to

Alex Ferrari 17:11
say yeah, and yes, the structure of the universe will try to teach you lessons. And if you don't listen to, when it's a gentle, they will then sometimes literally will crash into you, literally a car crash, something will happen that will force you to go down the path that you need to go or less or learn the lesson. I hear

Catherine Ann Jones 17:32
all the time from participants in my workshops, that like someone got cancer, because they were doing a job that hated or whether or in a relationship that was not positive. And the cancer woke them up. And they live in they said the cancer is the best thing that happened to me, it changed my life. My life is so much better. Now. I would recommend though listening to the gentle voice and not go through having your home stolen or cancer.

Alex Ferrari 18:08
There's so much pain that we as as humans go through unnecessary if we would just be more connected within ourselves to go inward as opposed to go outward. There's so much we look for happiness outward, we look for peace outward. Everything's outward. But all of that lives within us. Do you agree?

Catherine Ann Jones 18:31
Not only that, psychologically, I think there's a fear of change. I lived 20 years in New York City, you know, and to suddenly start a new life a new career in Hollywood. It's daunting, you know, on the way. So sometimes, even though the current status quo doesn't make us happy, it's familiar. It's happened is vitual. But going on to what you're saying, you growing, you're going up to the higher level here. And yes, I think the most important part is enter. In the external will express the image

Alex Ferrari 19:13
with yes without question. Now, you wrote the book, heal yourself with writing. What do you see writing? How do you see writing as a potential healing force in a person's life?

Catherine Ann Jones 19:27
Well, first of all, I developed the workshop at Esalen Institute, Big Sur where I'm going Monday morning to teach a live class with real people. I know, right? I'm so happy. So I developed it there. Because I've wanted to do I had done the way of story workshop for years and the book, which is for people interested in writing, all forms of narrative. This was different. This is a course I wanted to do for writers and riders to use writing as a healing modality, a self healing modality, especially for grief and trauma. And anyway, I had very powerful results from the participants at our salon. And that led me to write the book. So it's not about learning to write, it's just letting I do it in such a way, these short 510 minute exercises, where you write from the unconscious, you know, and it's sort of automatic, but it's specific, I call it focus journaling. It's not about write whatever you want, you listen to the prompt, and you write whatever associations arise, and people are amazed what comes out, which is, it's also never the same because everyone's story is unique. So lucky for me, it's never boring.

Alex Ferrari 21:02
Now, I know a lot of people out there. You know, when we're born, when people are always telling us, you have to have to find a career, you have to make money, they have a stable life and all of this kind of stuff. How How do you? How did you balance a career in Hollywood, which is, I have a lot of experience in Hollywood. So I know how hard that is the very kind of physical or egocentric world of Hollywood, or of any career for that matter, and a spiritual path. And I think a lot of people have trouble balancing those two, not from Hollywood, but just as general career.

Catherine Ann Jones 21:44
Thanks to the pandemic, the last two years, you know, I these years, I usually travel all over the world teaching workshops. Thanks to the pandemic, all of that was cancelled, I had to stay in Oh, hi, California. And I had no excuse not to write, I had been asked to do my memoir over the last few years. And I kept putting it off. And so this year, I wrote two memoirs, they were published. And that's the theme of the main memoirs, which is really more than autobiography starting, when I was living in Japan at the age of four, the books called Buddha and the dancing girl. And that became, it was two experiences I had as a child in Japan. And that became an archetypal metaphor for my whole life. Buddha is a search for the spiritual dancing girl is the compulsion to express dramatically through acting and writing. So these two seemingly polar opposites, were the driving force of the last several decades. And at some point, they had to merge. And when they become integrated to use Young's word, then there's no out and in that sort of one, one, I don't know if that makes sense. In my experience,

Alex Ferrari 23:25
fair enough.

Catherine Ann Jones 23:27
So it's like, I was always having some success in New York as an actor and later as a playwright. And the first thing I do instead of opportunistically make, make something out of the success. I would get on a flight to India to my teacher and spend three months, two months, whatever. It's not the best career move to do that. But it was my way and it worked. And then when it merges, there's no where I realized there's nowhere to go. There's nothing to do. There's no one to be.

Alex Ferrari 24:10
You've mentioned, the India's one of your favorite places to visit in the world.

Catherine Ann Jones 24:18
No, no, that's not exactly what I'd say. The climates the worst in the world for me, right? Um, I get terrible jetlag. I said, India is my spiritual home.

Alex Ferrari 24:32
That's okay. So,

Catherine Ann Jones 24:34
I used to dream I told a friend of mine who also went there later, I said, if only our teacher had been born in Hawaii,

Alex Ferrari 24:46
but yeah, you do what you got to do. So can you do what you got to do to find you know, inner peace and enlightenment? When can you talk Can you talk a little bit about your journeys in India? I'm meeting either sages, gurus and what they've taught you along the way.

Catherine Ann Jones 25:12
Wow. Okay, I'm going to start with the dream. I have a rug. I'm a young yet not hard to fit the age of seven. Until I was 21. I had a recurring dream. All those years simple dream. I write about this in the Buddha book. But the dream was this I was in the backseat of a car. The car went into a hot desert. And there was no driver at the car, the car was driving itself. Suddenly the car stop this, my door opened by itself. And I looked up and on higher ground, there was a huge rock and a dark scan man appeared. He was wearing a white shirt and a white sheet wrapped around his waist that went to his ankles. And there was a feeling I've come home. That was the dream. This stream reoccurred over many years. When I went to India, I went to South India to a sage I had heard about hits what they call a householder sage, not a monk. He had wife and children. And the car, the taxi drove up, I was in the backseat, I opened the car door, I looked up and out of on a higher ground out of the big white house. This man came out with darker skin, a white shirt and a dhoti wire wrapped around him. It was the same man. It's in my dream. So I never searched anywhere else that was decades ago. And I was very fortunate and that so there was no question this was the right place, for me, may not be for someone

Alex Ferrari 27:17
else. Now, what were some of the things that he taught you along the way?

Catherine Ann Jones 27:23
It's not like this, that I can make a list. It's not a lecture. He didn't lecture he uses a Socratic dialogue. That means if there are no questions, he just sit silently. If there are questions, he would respond, not only to the question, but the questioner. In other words, if you and I asked the same question to the sage, we would get different answers. So that's one thing that struck me right away, he was answering the person who was asking the question.

Alex Ferrari 27:59
So can you explain that a little bit like when you mean he answered the question and the question, or was he answering the question,

Catherine Ann Jones 28:08
what the question are needed to hear what he has to know? Because sage, of course has those cities or powers.

Alex Ferrari 28:18
Interesting.

Catherine Ann Jones 28:19
It's more the presence of a sage. It's not just the words. The philosophy is a Hindu philosophy behind the religion. There's no God concept. It's it's called that Vedanta and vitae Vedanta advisor to means not to and ending with Bhagavad Gita. All these great Indian shoe polish sheds, Rama, Mama Ohashi, yoga, Nanda para Rama, Krishna, these are nisargadatta. These are former sages.

Alex Ferrari 29:03
So is there something that he said to you that changed your path in life? One thing

Catherine Ann Jones 29:11
was, yeah, but it's not what he said. Sometimes I used to worry, because after a talk, I would totally forget everything, anything that was said. Because just being in his presence, you would kind of dissolve you weren't there. So I couldn't and I said, I'm trying to be attentive. But why is you know, I was 23. So I asked a lot of stupid question. But I said, I'm trying to be attentive, but I can't recall what you said. And he said, that's good.

Alex Ferrari 29:48
Interesting, very interesting.

Catherine Ann Jones 29:51
It's a very different process than like being in a lecture at the university.

Alex Ferrari 29:57
Of course. Now, I'm assuming I know from our last conversation that you meditate and you've been meditating for a long time. What What does that practice done for your life? And how has it changed your path?

Catherine Ann Jones 30:13
Oh my goodness. Well, first thing, my worst trait is impatience. I'm an astrologer on the side. And I have nine planets in fire. So it's good for teaching. It's good for acting. It's not so great for the personal life. But, you know, so to meditate for the last 4050 years, which, that's how long it's been. You know, you have to sit still to meditate. And it's, it's given me I'm not home free, but I'm certainly a lot more patient and tolerant than I used to be.

Alex Ferrari 30:57
So, so yeah, so it definitely I am with you 110%. Because I'm a very, I was a very impatient person, I still am. And I'm not 100% there either. But meditation in my life has definitely caused me it is it is slowed things down a little bit. As opposed to

Catherine Ann Jones 31:14
something else Salix, I got a phone call half an hour ago, a friend I've known since I was in the drama department, undergraduate. And she lives in New York working actor, she and her husband, she called me from the hospital. She has cancer, and will face surgery. And so I told her, I said, Let the surgeons do the external work, but you have inner work to do. I said, Well, they're putting you under meditate, take deep, long breaths, and visualize something beautiful, or whatever your spiritual orientation is. I'm a firm believer in the power of thought. And that you can't just expect the doctors to do everything the inner work can help you heal. I've seen this enough times that you know, and she responded very positive to that.

Alex Ferrari 32:27
When you say inner work, what do you mean as far as because we all have inner work to do? So can you kind of define inner work for me?

Catherine Ann Jones 32:33
Sure. Well, the deep breathing helps make you still if you're have anxiety, or fear. And then to place your mind on something positive, I would think about my teacher, I would visualize him sitting in the chair, walking, whatever, eating a meal, whatever. And that would end in they put you can put you in a state of bliss. And then you if you go into a surgery in that thing, it can make a lot of difference. I've heard too many examples to confirm this. So So visualize, if you have a mantra, do that arm, wrist, if you're a Christian, the Lord's Prayer, whatever works for you, someone that's Frank Sinatra wants what he believed in. And you know what he said? He said, What ever gets me through the night? So whatever gets you through the night or the dark night, which surgery would be so anyway, I just thought that because it was half an hour, of

Alex Ferrari 33:47
course, not so many. I think that the world has an epidemic and I think we've had it since we, you know, we were put on this planet is dealing with the fear. Fear of you know, originally it was the fear of the Tiger eating you around the corner. And now it's the fear of your boss or the fear of failure or the fear of being you know, not accepted. Cow, do you have any tips on overcoming fear because it's something that every human being on the planet deals with?

Catherine Ann Jones 34:20
I have an anecdote to share. This, you know, life is story to me. so

Alex Ferrari 34:27
sure.

Catherine Ann Jones 34:28
Story. years ago, my first long play was produced in Aspen, Colorado at the conference there. And I met James Salter James halter, who died not long ago is a novelist. I think his most famous book is Downhill Racer, which Robert Redford played in the movie years ago. He said something I'll always remember he said, Most of the things I've worried about never happened. And I have an example of that a week ago. I've taught 1516 years. So that's the lunch. But of course I haven't for over two and a half years because of the pandemic. So they asked me to come back and teach. So suddenly, one day, I began to worry, I thought, you know, because of the pandemic, we may not get enough people to make the workshop. And if we don't, they'll cancel the workshop. And so I worried for one day, then the next day, I got a call. And because I told him, I don't want over 28 people at the most, because I like a lot of one on one. So SLN call me and said, it this is a month before I was to go there. I said the workshop is full, and there's 19 on the waiting list. And I've worried one whole day need what a waste of energy, right?

Alex Ferrari 36:07
It is, it is true. You worrying. I heard this crazy comment. Worrying is like trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum isn't a good one. It's like it doesn't. It's useless. It's useless. You know, I mean, it there's a certain level of worry, like, you know, if you're in a bad situation, you could worry about what's going to happen to you in the next five or 10 minutes.

Catherine Ann Jones 36:33
be concerned. concerned. Yeah. And you can think what can I do? Am I Is there something I can do to make sure this doesn't happen? You know, that's a good concern. Worry something else?

Alex Ferrari 36:48
Yeah, worry is a waste of think. Because if you're worrying about something, you have no control over like that, like your perfect example is like, you had no control over who and how many never happened, and it never happened on top of it. If you I think you should, if you're going to be concerned or worried only can be concerned about things you have control over. It makes no sense to be worried about something else that you have no control over. Now that we're going along with fear. So many people live their lives even based on the opinions of other people, the good opinions of other people, as Wayne Dyer used to say, do you have any advice on how to ignore that kind of thinking and trying to break away from other people's not only other people's opinions, but other people's thinking? I mean, it starts with our parents, you know, we're born this glob, and then all the stuff is thrown on us

Catherine Ann Jones 37:49
the first chapter and wait in heal yourself with writing us. What is your story? What story are you living? And I'd say it starts at home. Usually, so one of the exercises is, are you living your life or the life of parent want to doodle live? or so on? That's one of the things to tell you the truth. I don't know if it's a good positive or negative thing. Maybe it's because I'm an only child. Maybe because I'm an Aries astrologically I've never really cared what other people thought I love my friends. But I just feel strong. And whatever it is, I am you know that I've never been swayed. But I do know I've had friends that are are swayed to such a degree. They never follow their dream. They're so afraid of not having, I can't tell you how many people come to my way of story workshop, here and abroad all over the place. And like they want it to be a writer. And they ended up writing political speeches in Washington DC. They ended up working in advertising. They make good livings, they had families. And now they're 45 5055. Now they want to write the all American novel or whatever, the great American novel. So it's dreams don't die easily. And they can lay dormant for decades.

Alex Ferrari 39:30
I get that all the time in my in my other career talking to filmmakers all the time. I have 65 year old filmmakers like I just retired. I want to make my first feature film. I've always wanted to be a director and you just like, wow, like I was a doctor because my parents pushed me into that and I've been a doctor for the last 40 years. And now I want to I want to follow my passion.

Catherine Ann Jones 39:52
I actually I had a play open in New York and it got good reviews and they gave a party at the party and method doctor, he was a doctor on Park Avenue. That's where the high level big money doctors are in New York. And he said, My father was the doctor, he always wanted me to be a doctor. I'm good at it. But I always wanted to be a playwright. You know, I had a, I haven't, I didn't even have a fraction of what this man earned. But I was happy.

Alex Ferrari 40:30
In that's something that's I think we should talk about really quickly is finding that bliss, as your old friend Joseph Campbell, used to say, oh, follow your following your bliss. Yeah. It doesn't matter if you're not super wealthy, super rich financially, or have millions of dollars or anything like that. You can be happy, I think, I don't know where I heard this story. But the story of the fishermen and the businessman that the fisherman was in the Caribbean, somewhere in this new york businessman showed up and like, took them out for a fishing journey. And he's like, Oh, my God, what do you how many fish you catch a day. He's like, Oh, I could do this. He goes, Well, you could do this to build the business up. And then you can get a couple more boats. And you could do this, this, this and this. And he's like, at the end of that he's like, no, he goes, Well, why wouldn't you want to? You know, why wouldn't you want to be bigger, happier, he's like, I catch enough fish to feed my family, then I get to sit down, drink a beer, to hang out in the ocean, and I have time with my family. I'm happy. I don't need any of that stuff. Exactly. And that's it. And I think that's what in generally the American ideal is all about more and more and more and more and more, and I need to be rich, rich, rich, rich, rich, and that the American dream and all that kind of stuff. But how do you how can you like kind of any advice you can give for people to understand like finding happiness first. And oddly enough things follow when you find your, when you find that bliss, things follow? Well,

Catherine Ann Jones 42:06
I guess I was lucky, I never really cared about money or fame. That was never the driving force. I was I have ambition. But my ambition had a different hue. My ambition was I wanted to work with the best people. I got to work right movies for Dolly Parton. Olympia caucus, Jason robarge. Julie era's. That's my I didn't write thrillers or action films, I could have made more money, because that that's where the big money is. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. So I was never drawn. Here. We're talking about people who are overly influenced by other people starting with one's parents. So they may be living a life unconsciously, to satisfy something the parent failed out and wanted them to succeed in. That's one example of this first exercise. I do, I'll be doing next week. And sometimes it's unconscious. And people don't realize that until they write the exercise. And they've heard, oh my god, for 30 years, I've been living my father's dream, not mine.

Alex Ferrari 43:27
That's, that's pretty. That's a pretty profound realization, you know, 40 years later.

Catherine Ann Jones 43:35
And sometimes it gets more complex. Sometimes the unconscious dynamic can be because a parent failed. There's an unconscious pressure, an unspoken unconscious pressure on the child to succeed up to a point but not to succeed beyond what the parent did. Nothing spoken. It's just an unconscious and it's felt, you know, lose their love. The unconscious is saying if I go beyond my father, or whatever, you know, it's it's complex, sometimes.

Alex Ferrari 44:17
Very complex. I mean, I I truly want my my daughters to be much more successful than I was. Without question I want them to and I want them to succeed. I want them to succeed in anything they want to do. But I understand your point of view. I had to deal with that with my with my father as well. He is there's only so much it was just a weird it's a weird conversation. But that's a that's a that's a that's a session for another day. You could do a session on. Well, I mean, parents, look, our parents are our everything for the first 15 years, 18 years of our life there. That's our world. That's our world. And then when we get thrown into the Real World, hopefully we've been prepared and have enough knowledge and an armed enough with things to protect ourselves to deal in the real world because I do the world world's gonna throw things at you that your parents did and many times other times not but, but your parents are I mean, it's being me being a parent now. I see what my, my mother had to go through raising me and I see so many of her bad habits that I might have picked up or my father's bad habits I might have picked up as well as the good ones that I picked up things that they were really good at that I also drew on but the children are sponges, absolute sponges. And you don't have to say a word they just, they sense it, they just, they just absorb it. They absorb everything all the time, from their environment.

Catherine Ann Jones 45:54
they rebelled against it, too. So Alex, could I read just the introduction from the heal yourself?

Alex Ferrari 46:02
Yes, please, please

Catherine Ann Jones 46:03
give yourselves because you said you want to talk about this. And yes, before this might. I start with a quote from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling. It's all right, it's over. It's just a memory. And then my that's the end of the quote. Our lives may be determined less by past events, then by the way we remember them. I'm gonna say that again. That's kind of the theme of the book. Our lives may be determined less by past events, than by the way we remember them. If we learn how to reframe the pieces of our past and revision, our life story, so that suffering becomes meaningful, we can radically boost our chances of self healing, empowerment, growth, and transformation. Focus journaling, short writing exercises designed to facilitate self healing is an extremely powerful tool to achieve this aim. There were two inspirations to the book and the workshop. One was a Native American parable I read years ago, and it was about an old Native American grandfather speaking to his eight year old grandson. And he says this, he said, there are two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is generous, loving, and kind. The other wolf is greedy, and violent, and mean. And these two wolves are fighting in my heart. Then the little boy looks up and says grandfather, which wolf wins the fight in your heart. And the grandfather answers, the one I feed. So in a way, the word in the workshop or if you do the book are there is an online course is how can we feed the good wolf?

Alex Ferrari 48:27
It's very, very profound. I've heard I've heard of that before as a great, great parable.

Catherine Ann Jones 48:32
The other inspiration. There was a great Jewish psychiatrists, New York, who was a Holocaust survivor. He was in Auschwitz. And he was called Viktor Frankl. And he saw his entire family, what doubt in Auschwitz, his wife, his children, everyone dead. And he had this epiphany. He's he realized he had no control over the external situation, not the only power he had, was how he perceived it. How he focused his mind, and this became the basis of his amazing work as a psychiatrist in New York. When he died, The New York Times gave him a full page obituary. And he wrote a book called Man's Search for Meaning. Small book, but a powerful book, but that stayed with me cuz it was very close to the danta the philosophy that influenced me. So part of the work in the workshop is shifting perspective. Like if you've had a trauma, you see life as a victim, sometimes sexual trauma Say. So if you can shift away from the perspective of the victim, your whole life changes. I don't know I'm sort of simplifying it, but that shows up the work we do. So it's deep work, you know it is and work

Alex Ferrari 50:18
for no question and can be scary work because when you start knocking on those doors, those doors will open. Yeah. Sometimes you might not want to see what's behind there, but you're gonna have to deal with it.

Catherine Ann Jones 50:27
The first time I did this workshop at Esalen. I got a letter from I think she was in her mid 30s. Right at the age, she was very successful in Silicon Valley. She had carried a sexual trauma with her for years. When she was 15, she was sexually abused by her brother and her brother's friend. She did the exercises, she never shared what she wrote, she kept to herself. So I didn't think more about it. And then I got the letter and she said, I've been in therapy for 20 years, nothing has worked. After this workshop, I feel I've returned to myself. Now listen to those word, I've returned to myself. Because when you have trauma, there becomes a split between your soul and you know, the outside world, you're cut off. That's why often people who walk around with drama, say soldiers or whatever, they don't feel anything, they're numb inside, they've been split off. So finding a way to return yourself to yourself. That's a mighty work.

Alex Ferrari 51:47
That's, that's pretty powerful. Pretty powerful. Can Can you tell me what the biggest lesson you've learned in your life so far is? Is there one that you can point to?

Catherine Ann Jones 52:02
Well, what comes up is parenting. I, I've had one son, now I have two grandchildren. Nice. But I think I had my son when I was 21. So I was very young, and I had been an only child. So I didn't have a lot of experience with babies or children. And I love being a parent. It taught me as much as anything else in my life. But if I had to do it over again, I think sometimes I rushed in too quickly to try and fix things for my son. You know, I consider this a problem. I'd say what you could do, you know, I tried to have the answers. If I had to do it again, I think I learned it's better to just listen and just be there for someone going through something

Alex Ferrari 53:02
instead of trying to fix it. Yeah. Good. That's a great answer. what came to mind anyway? How do you think people can connect more with God in today's world? Well, you're talking to an agnostic First of all, but what the universal energy universal energy, the absolute pure consciousness, force, death force? Absolutely right. The force be with you. Yes.

Catherine Ann Jones 53:31
I don't think it's a white man with a beard.

Alex Ferrari 53:34
I agree with you. 100%. On that,

Catherine Ann Jones 53:36
I just wanted to clarify, sure. Um, well, I just finished a new book. And I found this quote, it's an unknown source. I think it's, I can't remember some unknown source. And it says, I went in search of God. And I found myself. I went to India in search of God or the truth. And I found myself and not the ego self, again, that capital S I think I shared with you when I finish this, this book is self with writing. And I was just about to send it off to the publisher. I did a read through and I kept looking at the title page. Because you know, heal yourself with writing yourself is one word, usually. And I kept looking, I knew something was missing, but I didn't know what and then it hit me. And all I did was separate the word so it's heal your self capital S self with writing and then I knew the book was done. I compare it to a painter has to learn not to over paint the canvas he has to instinct or intuition. Dibley know when to stop and lay the brush down. And that kind of changed things for me.

Alex Ferrari 55:08
Why do you think we're here? It's a general statement to find that self, not the ego.

Catherine Ann Jones 55:18
In other words, you, I think we're here for the growth of the soul, I could answer it like that. I think the purpose of each life is for the soul to grow. And the soul can be rather ruthless. Some people may grow when terrible things happen in their life, cancer, Death of friends, whatever. Or can be positive things. But I think we're here for that for the evolution of the soul.

Alex Ferrari 55:52
And where can people find out more about you? And the work do you do in the books that you've written?

Catherine Ann Jones 55:59
My website, I guess, way of story.com. And there, my online courses are there on the home page, I do writing consultant. I've done psychic readings for 14 years, mostly now. And I do a blog once a month. And some interviews, maybe we'll put the center of the thing so we have story.com, and they can email me through that

Alex Ferrari 56:34
to Gavin, thank you so much for doing this. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you and, and doing this deep dive into into soul work, if you will. And and thank you so much for all the work you've done over the course of your life to help people and with your books and plays and stories and, and teachings and everything. So I do appreciate you and thank you so much.

Catherine Ann Jones 56:57
Thank you


Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

Want to read all the 2016-2021 TV Pilots?

Learn from the best screenwriters working in Hollywood today!