BONUS: Exploring Inspiration with Sister Unity

episodes show notes Sep 18, 2020

Hello GerleMen listeners.

She is hilarious. She is irreverent. She is devastating in her academic acumen and her theatrical talent.

And, although we may be laughing, her messages are packed with wisdom and insights many listeners will find life-affirming.

While we pause our regular episodes and prepare a spectacular Season 2 of the GerleMen Podcast, we’d like you to enjoy some short, bonus episodes, co-hosted by my dear friend and rambunctious orange Nun, Sister Unity of the Los Angeles House of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

So enjoy the show my friends! We’ve packed all this awesomeness into some very short clips.

Mentioned in this episode:

“Ruminating” in Improvisation for the Theatre (pg. 137 - 168/435 in pdf)
by Viola Spolin.

Sister UnityListen to the 1st Episode of the podcast with the hilarious Sister Unity.

Sister Unity on Social Media:

Get connected:


Full Episode transcript:

Mike Gerle  0:00  

Hello GerleMen listeners. While we pause our regular episodes and prepare a spectacular Season Two of the GerleMen podcast we'd like you to enjoy some short bonus episodes co-hosted by my dear friend and rambunctious orange nun, Sister Unity, the Sister Unity of the Los Angeles House of sisters of perpetual indulgence that we had in Episode One. She's hilarious and she's irreverent, but she's also devastating in her academic accuracy. And her theater talent is brilliant. You'll hear the joy we have into laughter while we're digging into these ideas, but our messages are packed with wisdom and insights many GerleMen will find life affirming. So enjoy the show my friends and pay attention. Remember, you can find us anywhere podcasts can be found from iTunes, Stitcher, to Spotify, wherever you find us, please hit that subscribe button. Sign up to our newsletter and our website at It's a place to see some of our video outtakes from each episode. or contact us on Facebook again just search for GerleMen. And if you're feeling old school send me an email at [email protected] Enjoy the show.


Sister Unity  1:18  

What do you wanna know about inspiration?


Mike Gerle  1:21  

I want to know what it means. I need to teach people.


Sister Unity  1:25  

It's from the Latin root "Inspiratus", which means to drink alcohol. And that's why people screw up their courage to do things or go out in public or have a fun night life by drinking themselves into oblivion. And they're inspired by the alcohol.


Mike Gerle  1:44  



Sister Unity  1:45  

None of that is true. Know why you have me on your show? I lie. Okay, now inspiration as it relates to our complete sidetrack about alcohol. But I do think that there is a point about people who resort to substances to achieve something that might be recognized as an inspired state, inspired to be free, inspired to dance, inspired to act and be bold and colorful and lively and happy and wonderful. Can you do it without substances? Well, yeah, that's what art's about. And certainly, you know, meditation and spirituality, but that's not for everyone. But there are many, many doorways just like alcohol and pot and other things are doorways to what seems like an inspired state if we can sort of loosely equate inspiration and heightened awareness and heightened titillation and heightened sensory experience inside enough. So there's a lot of vehicles, a lot of doorways and tools that you can use to achieve inspiration. I mean, there's certainly you know, sort of going inside yourself and looking, I don't know people are like writers, you know, they're all supposed to sit at the typewriter and then just like be inspired. And some people are and some people aren't and writers, even the best writers go in and out of it. So what is it? What, what gets you there? If you're not there when you sit down at the typewriter or an easel, or a barstool or whatever.


Mike Gerle  3:16  

That's what I asked you.


Sister Unity  3:17  

Yeah. I'm just being long winded because I'm a nun and I like to hear myself talk. Who's show is this? Yours or mine? So here are some of the tools that I found to conjure, or to prepare the soil, if you will, for inspiration, certainly spiritual practices, certainly practicing art, or engaging art that someone else has made, whether it's film, television, paintings, music, dance, knitting, anything that is making that draws on your imagination, and employs or mixes into it, your sort of intuition as well. Your intuitive response to a song on the dance floor and how you move your intuition and your imagination makes that all up, as you've been, I mean, no one choreographs their moves before they go out do they? Well, nature, many people are triggered into a state of inspiration, of heightened excitement, heightened pleasure, delight, heightened will to create, share, speak, improve themselves, improve the world, or just to enjoy a heightened state of feeling harmony and feeling peace and feeling centered and grounded or clear by nature are triggered or put in these places by nature, going on hikes, going to a favorite spot. Looking at the sky. My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Smith said once if your eyes are tired and you're looking at your desk in your books, just look out the window at a faraway vista of some trees, and it'll relax your eye muscles could be likened to a source of inspiration. It's a an encapsulation of how nature works. So art, nature, spirituality, If you're an extrovert certainly talking with or being with or sharing time with other people. If you're an introvert, going and sharing time with yourself in your own space can plug you into the wall of your own centeredness and prepare the soil for feeling inspired. Sometimes, like with writers, sometimes you are dry or uninspired. And the process of whatever it is that you're doing your vocation, the process of engaging your creative process, while dry and going through the mechanics of it will kick start the engine over time and it won't come easy or come at first, you have to struggle with it and push yourself but you can work through the dry period and eventually, kick starts the inspiration again, there's this great exercise by Viola Spolin, who was a sociologist who sort of created these sociological, these game exercises for sociological purposes, but in the process, oops, just happen to invent improvisation. So Viola Spolin had this one exercise called ruminating where you the performer sits in a chair and they assume a character, when I did it, it was a grandmother sort of mixed in with Katharine Hepburn. And you just start to talk as that character and you talk. And for the first, however long for me, it was like 15 minutes, the brain who thinks it's so clever spews out all the ideas it has, oh, I'm going to talk about grand and the time in Maine and her sister, and I'm gonna make fun of thanksgiving and then the brain like any muscle when it's engaged and tensed. It can't hold forever, it weakens. It thinks it knows but it can't hold it forever. And when it can't, when it runs dry, then it tries to control by shutting things down. And invariably the performers will look at the instructor of the improv class will be like okay, that's all I've got, I'm done and Viola Spolin and had instructors say no, keep talking, and they're like, but I don't have anything to say just keep talking. But I can't think of anything to say then make nonsense sounds just keep mechanically moving your lips and putting outwards and sounds. And the amazing thing is when you do that, after a minute to five minutes, whatever it takes, the mind that's trying to control things, especially now that it's in danger because it ran out of ideas, eventually, it all lets go and melts away, which, like we said in our celebration podcast gets the junk out of the lane connecting the intuitive imagination that's inside naturally and organically in everyone and the faculties of producing words and and creative output and behavior. And you just get this wealth of improvised intuitive creative material that flows and flows and flows and usually find it own ending point as well, and my experience is that the material that you're writing falls together easily and in much better shape than the stuff you thought up yourself with the intellect, you know, you're the "I've got this!" part of your mind.


Mike Gerle  8:13  

So you're saying that the inspiration gets us right down to actually intuitive nature.


Sister Unity  8:18  

Yes! inspiration is about experiencing the opening of that channel. Move the junk stepping out of the way or being moved out of the way. And then that feeling of all the channels open, and then acting on the inspiration, the pouring forth of whatever is inside. And you can never rarely guess what comes what is inside my improv teacher at the Groundlings Theater here in Los Angeles. used to tell me the best lines in an improv sketch are the ones that you didn't think of that just popped out of your mouth without a single thought a forehand and I have found that to be true. Some of the funny things that we've been laughing about here are things that I didn't think to say to you, I just decided to tease you and these things just popped out as an organic response. So that's the open channel.


Mike Gerle  9:10  

That's interesting. I think I've heard that inspiration or inspire actually comes from like a root word that means to breathe, to breathe in, breathe out, which is what I do when I meditate. And when I meditate, I get to that, I think my intuitive spot, it's that same energy that what do you call it a flow state or intuition, or the real me.


Sister Unity  9:33  

Meditation is a practice that bulldozes the junk out of the lane so that you can get to your inner self.


Mike Gerle  9:41  



Sister Unity  9:41  

And and I love this thing you're saying about the root of the word and the breath, because as you're speaking, I'm trying and I'm breathing a little more deeply and purposefully and the feeling of breathing in totally feels like an opening and expansion breathing right now, those who are watching, breathe into your lungs or your belly are both deeply so you feel your torso expanding


Mike Gerle  10:01  

I'm doing it, till your whole ribcage expands.


Sister Unity  10:04  

Yes, you're expanding, you're open, and then the breathe out. Does that feel good? That's the outflow of the ideas or the material or the behavior, whatever your project is. That comes once you've opened with inspiration, opening, clearing the junk out of the way, expanding, making space, so that then the material can flow out the breath is a perfect metaphor for that.


Mike Gerle  10:27  

That's awesome. I think that's a great place in this third segment. I'll miss you. I'll miss you, too. Hopefully, I'll see you very, very soon.


Sister Unity  10:38  

A matter of minutes. Really.


Mike Gerle  10:39  

Yes. I hope you enjoyed this bonus episode of the girl woman podcast. I want to thank Sister Unity for her magic, her wisdom and most of all, for her huge open heart. We started this podcast with the promise that we deliver heart centered connection, both sister unity and I want you to feel the love that we have for ourselves, for each other and for you, our queer and dear family. We are all one. We are all connected and we'll see you next time.


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