I’m about to tell you about what has become an unexpected game-changer in my life: an orange pen.

To say I was resistant to the suggestion is quite an understatement. It wasn’t the color of the pen that put me off, it was its part in an exercise I was asked to do. I was asked to get some paper and use two different-color pens on it – one color was to jot down what was on my mind, while the other was to write responses, as if coming from someone who genuinely cares and sees how everything will work out.

I hesitated for various reasons:

1- It seemed hokey.

2- I thought, “This is going to take a while, and I don’t have the brainpower to put in the effort right now, so it will probably be a waste of time” (i.e. I’ll do it wrong)

3- Pen and paper? Seriously? Can’t back that up to the cloud, or work on it from whatever device whenever I want – it just feels so wrong! 😁

But still, I found an empty notebook, and happened to have a set of colored gel pens handy. I grabbed the first two that stood out to me – one lime green, and the other orange.  And there I sat, staring at that blank page. I didn’t know what to put down or even want to get started.

It’s not that I don’t brain dump ever. I’ve effortlessly typed pages or used mind mapping software to get the thoughts flying through my head out, to slow my brain down and process what’s happening. I’ve done plenty of project proposals and work breakdowns for my own goals and for my job. But this felt different, bigger. I found myself stuck, idling away flicking that green pen around for what felt like several, painful hours. In actuality, it wasn’t even ten minutes.

And finally, I was able to stop thinking about it, and started writing exactly what I was thinking right then. This is what I wrote, word for word:

“I’m afraid of doing it wrong, of knowing the rules and feeling awkward or limited by them.”

Part one done – eureka! The next was surely going to be even trickier, though. Pick up the other pen, and write a response. The Orange Pen. Digging deeper, I took a moment to find any love, truth, and insight out there. Channel what some wise, adoring confidante out there might have for me.

“What is ’wrong’ anyway? Breathe. You got this. Don’t get stuck trying to find the perfect way first.”

Well, that was Interesting. 😳 Aaaand that was about all the time and energy I could manage right then.

A few days later, I tried it again. I wrote back and forth, green then orange, and this time kept at it for a couple hours – not that I intended to go on for that long. I was amazed to see what was coming up in response to my thoughts, which powered me on.

This technique works whether you’re trying to channel your inner wisdom, imagining advice from a distant or passed-on loved one, looking to the universe for guidance, or, like me, all of that plus capturing divine responses as if from a prayer. I gained clarity, resolving a dilemma I’d long been struggling with about what to focus on in my life. I was able to come up with options and make decisions to a few stick problems, in fact, and find even more purpose and direction in my life.

Since then, I’ve pulled those pens out several more times. I always keep them close, especially when I travel. Sometimes, it’s just for a few quick lines, sometimes they again turn into marathon sessions. I have been known to “cheat,” and type with differently colored fonts, too. It still works, though I find the writing process more effective, allowing me to slow down more. I’ve also talked to the mirror, as if speaking to a friend. I’m sure there are many more ways to disconnect and purposefully split and intentionally speak from something other than the normal, automatic, runaway part of your brain.

This is next-level stuff, above what I’ve already been working on these past few years. From understanding the very natural tendency to stay in my comfort zone (level one), to consciously handling more aspects of my life (level two), and now, to level three – tapping in that additional wisdom, connecting with myself and beyond, getting that help available to each of us on our own time. My son would call this “boss level,” alluding to the part of a video game where the hardest enemy and sometimes every other enemy and a few more come out all at once for you to battle, where you need to pull out your power ups and be on your A game. 😁  This pen thing is pretty convenient, and pushes me to stretch and figure out my way. It’s a nice Sunday exercise, which is my current goal to keep it up once a week. I would love to get where I do this daily, as it keeps me from getting locked up in routines and normal drama and doubts.

Being able to do this with no physical tools, in the moment, would be amazing. I’ve seen how I can put a question or thought out there, and leave it. Then at some point later, I come back to it, and that response comes surprisingly easily, where none was available in the moment. Internet search and AI and social media and such make it so easy to poll for external input, which comes with so much benefit, especially as it expands us when we factor in new and different perspectives. Still…

⇒ The real trick is to look to yourself first.

Or not even first, but right after, or as often, or days afterwards. Do it whenever you can. Just don’t skip this step.

I really like this experience with the pens because it is tangible. Visible even. The green words represent what I’m letting go, the unloading with no judgement or fear. The Orange Pen is a physical talisman to remind me of the knowledge and warmth and strength that I can trust will come to me, the wisdom tailored for me and my situation. I’ve always struggled with creativity, and who knew this amount of creativity was all around me and available, all this time?

Remind me again … why did I resist this?