Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Get Going

How to Get Going

Ok, I pulled the “Why do I commit?” card today. I am so in love with this question these days. I tend to pair it with “What am I committed to?” because the two together are so darn powerful.

One of the most insidious blocks to us living the life we think we want is habit. I am smack dab in the middle of this right now because I had to totally revamp my routines while I was playing chemo-surgery-radiation. Now that I am in recovery mode, I find that I often fall into doing those routines, a lot of not doing much that gets me not very anywhere. They were great when I had little energy and almost no attention span, but they are no longer of much use to me. Just habit.

Did you notice that I said, “the life we think we want”? Do you know why I said that? Cuz whether we like it or not, we are living the life we are choosing. It’s those thousand tiny choices we make every day. The choice not to think about “that thing.” The choice to eat this. The choice to ignore our longings for all sorts of reasons, often unconscious reasons at that!

The point is that we are committed to the life we are currently living regardless of how we feel about it.


So what do I do about that?

I like lists. Thing is, my ToDo list is about three miles long and I am lucky if I get a thing or two done on it a day. I’ve been working on it for decades and mostly I have found that it just makes me feel guilty. Now, there is stuff that I get done pretty much every day. There are deadlines that I meet, goals I achieve. How do I do that?

It’s not the list.

I get stuff done when I make time for it. Doesn’t matter if it is on a list. Before my adventures in wonderland started, before my emergency surgery, I had some pretty slick routines going. I got stuff done. I felt productive. I was accomplishing stuff I wanted to accomplish. It was easy and fun.

I kinda feel all balky about starting them up again or even making new ones. So then what?

Why am I inspired? What makes me feel motivated? How am I so creative?

When I am needing a nice kick in the starter, I ask myself, “What am I committed to?” Frankly, despite what feels like evidence to the contrary, I’m not really committed to watching all of Netflix. When I ask that question, I remind myself of what is actually important to me; fluffing up my living space, physical culture, learning, emo growth, social interaction, self-care, art and craft.

One of the kinds of lists I do like is a Be-Do-Have list. I’ve been using these forever. Take your time to think about and write down 100 things you want to be, 100 things you want to do, 100 things you want to have. It’s surprisingly challenging, but keeping that list around helps me remember to make time for that stuff.

How have I changed from living habits left over from old circumstances to committing to the life I really want?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2016 all rights reserved 09192016

Friday, August 26, 2016

From Want to Luxe

From Want to Luxe

Something I hear about a lot is how some of us we feel like we never have enough money. We can’t do this and we can’t do that because we can’t afford it. We think about money all the time, about not having it, and we don’t. Funny how that works.

Why can I live in luxury?

How do you feel when you ask yourself that question? When I started asking it, I would feel kind of anxious. I had a lot of mislearning around the notion of luxury. I mixed up luxury with opulence. I tied it to great wealth. I believed it was out of my reach.

I had to soften the Creative Question up; Why would I live in luxury? How could I live in luxury? Frankly, I didn’t see how it could work. I mean, I live in a sweet little duplex, not a mansion with pool and grounds and gates. I messed with the wording some more and started asking, “How do I live in luxury?” Well, that did it for me!

My home may be cluttered mess at present, but it is a luxurious cluttered mess. It has treasures I love, colors that make me feel happy. I’ve put in things like a fireplace and a piano that please me. But beyond that... I can support pets and give them a nice life. I have electricity to light the night, cool a hot day, chill food. I have natural gas to heat water, to cook my food, to keep me cozy in the winter. I have access to exceptional health care. I am loved by people I think are amazing. I could go on and on with all the ways I am blessed with more luxury than most of the kings of history.

In fact, the more I appreciate how much luxury there is in my life, the more luxury shows up. How’s that for a neat trick. Maybe it’s because I’m on the look-out now for it so I notice it.

Luxury isn’t about expense. That sounds weird, but it’s true. We can experience luxury in all sorts of ways. Like many people, I love the feeling of fabrics like silk, cashmere, alpaca, but I’m not interested in paying a lot of money for them. In fact, I’ve found that I prefer to find these luxury fabrics in secondhand stores. I love the feeling of giving them a new life.

Luxury is about uplifting pleasure and comfort. I can bring a lot of that into my life in an instant by paying attention to my surroundings and my thoughts. By enjoying my meal or snack or beverage with attention to it, it becomes luxurious. By being present in my body, fully relaxing into it, my bed feels magnificent, sheltering, and deeply peaceful. By being attentive, even something as fundamental as breathing or sitting can feel luxuriant.

Luxury is about appreciation. Coming home is just coming home until I appreciate it. Then, I enter my nurturing haven. It’s warm on cold days, it’s cool on hot ones. There are two little souls who meow at me in greeting, who fill my home with love. Even now, when it needs work, it still is luxurious to me.

Luxury is about choice. Each day is full of a thousand tiny choices. Some of those choices are just at the edge of conscious thought and we call them habits and routines. Other choices determine how we feel in our lives. Choosing presence, choosing appreciation, choosing luxury, will create subtle shifts in our behavior, in our thoughts, in our other choices. These little shifts happen at a very deep level and will create amazing, positive change in our lives.

By choosing to experience all the uplifting pleasure and comfort in my daily life, I am choosing to be fully alive, appreciative, the master of my own life.

How have I changed from wallowing in want to experiencing the abundant luxury all around me?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2016 all rights reserved 08242016

Friday, August 12, 2016

Happiness Runs

Happiness Runs

Sometimes when I draw a Creative Questions card I really like, I wanna just post answers to the question. Like today when I pulled, “Why am I happy?”

It’s like an automatic endorphin release program. I feel better just asking the question, like I’ve trained my brain to crank endorphins into my system with those four words. That’s just fine with me.

But that feeling got me thinking. What do we mean when we talk about being happy? Well, I can tell you what I mean by happy.

When I feel happy, my chest feels open, my belly feels relaxed, my shoulders soft. When I feel happy, I feel satisfied, light-hearted, grateful, and contented. My breathing gets bigger. I may not love what I’m doing, but it’s ok that I’m doing it. I feel loving and loved, appreciative and appreciated. I may be pleased for you about something nice that is happening for you, with you, by you, or other prepositional phrases involving you. I also tend to feeling capable, competent, strong, soft, smart, lovely, and good enough.

Why do I enjoy a sense of well-being?

I was amazed that I could feel this way while in the midst of chemo. That my sense of well-being was there when I had Chester the chest-tube poking out of me, pulling at my pleura. That I felt peaceful and contented with the fatigue and stuff since then. For me, happiness, that rich, complicated, savory, nuanced feeling is a daily practice, like my appreciations practice.

Why would I practice happiness?

Many years ago, one of my most amazing teachers said, “Just because you address your emotional trauma and deal with your issues doesn’t mean bad stuff stops happening, it just means that you will have more and better resources for dealing with it.” Practicing happy is one of those resources for me.

How can I practice happiness?

When I talk about happiness I mean a whole lot of things. I can make the physical changes happen in my body fairly easily. In fact, if you hold a crinkle-eyed smile for a full minute, your body starts releasing those feel-good chemicals. But there are more components to my happiness. Self-esteem, feeling fortunate, having a sense of being in charge of one’s attitude, all of these things contribute to feeling happy in our culture.

I have also been amazed that I can feel happy even when I am sad. Wha??? Yes, it seems like a paradox, maybe it is, but when I am feeling clean, uncomplicated sadness, I often also feel many of the other things I mentioned above, things that add up to happy. Weird but true.

Why would I decide to be happy?

That’s the bottom line. I have to choose it. I have to decide that I’m worth the effort to be happy, or whatever you want to call it. I have to resolve to make the changes I have to make in my thinking, in my environment, in my companions to support an upbeat lifestyle.

How have I changed from being committed to misery to committing to my own well-being?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2016 all rights reserved 08122016

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Own Two Feet

My Own Two Feet

I’ve been at this personal evolution stuff for a very long time. Good thing, too, because I had a lot to work through. Far and away, the most challenging piece I’ve had to look at has been that victim thing.

Why am I aware?

I started my training at a very young age. I bought the message that the big ones had power not only over my physical being but over my emotional and mental bodies as well. I bought that I was less-than. I believed you when you told me I was stupid and ugly, and that you were better. I believed you when you told me that I would never amount to much, that there was nothing I could try at which I wouldn’t fail. I believed you when you told me that I deserved to be abused. Yes, I did.

How am I competent?

That my adults were abusive is on them. That I bought into the system is now on me. As a tiny child, I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. We learn from our adults; parents, relatives, neighbors, teachers, coaches, others in the community, even siblings who get it faster than we do.

What makes me confident?

Part of becoming an adult is working through our childhood mislearnings. In my case, the big one was my victim-hood. I have needed a lot of help to do that. Thing is, with one of those fundamental mislearnings, we often think that’s just the way things are, that’s just the way I am. We think that our mislearning is like air or water, fundamental to life. If I am not feeling pretty good most of the time, I am living with a fundamental mislearning. One way to tell I am in victim mode is when I feel fat and ugly and stupid.

How do I know I am strong?

For me, the first step was deciding that I could have a better life. I needed to accept that misery was a choice I could unchoose. I needed to decide that I was worth looking into my past fearlessly, knowing that everything that had happened to me had already happened to me. I had to trust that I deserved a decent life. Then I needed to find good teachers. I find it fascinating that the first teacher I went to for this was an abuser. I have had several of those since then, but I have also had brilliant, loving, teachers who really helped me.

Why am I grateful? How do I feel when I am grateful?

One of the best bits of advice I ever got was this: Abusers don’t single you out at first. They are abusive to everyone. They see who says, “Leave me alone!” and they do. They see who says, “Thank you, may I have another?” and they give another. If I have grown up with a victim mentality and don’t have anyone around to abuse me, I will often take care of it myself. A clue is when I am feeling fat and ugly and stupid and there is no one around but me. Self-talk is a great way to abuse ourselves. We can do it with worry or fear, with guilt or shame, with anger or even grief.

Why am I powerful?

As I reclaim my power, I reclaim my life. I start to use my superpower of choice to make decisions that improve my circumstances. I start to weed out the abusers, the mean ones, the indifferent ones, and I find myself more and more in the company of those who want my life to be happy and rich and fulfilling and support me in getting there.

How have I changed from buying into victim to standing on my own two feet?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2016 all rights reserved 07102016

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Boing Boing Doing!

Boing Boing Doing!

Why don’t doing and boing rhyme? Somedays it seems like rhyming it with boing is exactly how it goes. Doing doing doing!

We occupy ourselves in a thousand ways for a million reasons. Most of it is habit.

Getting up, we follow our morning routine. That’s good, it lets us get things done efficiently.  Many of us then go to work, and have pretty much the same experience with that every day.  Then we have the same expectations we have for work that we have everyday. Do you look forward to it? Or do you dread it?

How much of what you do during a day is stuff that you like to do? Just a percentage, you know.

We like to be occupied. We like to do stuff. In the olden days, we spent that energy collecting food and fuel. And in our tiny bits of leisure, we came up with better and better ways to do it.

And we all benefitted by enjoying more and more leisure.

So how do you fill your leisure time? Do you fill it with chores and errands and tasks and jobs, effortful, unrewarding, depleting, or do you make time for fun, and self-care, loved ones, and joyful occupations?

Have you discovered that your attitude could be the only difference between a job that sucks the life out from you and one that is fulfilling?

Have you discovered that some of the things on your to-do list don’t actually need to be done?

I used to punish myself with my to-do list, using it to prove to myself how bad I was. I believed that I had no inherent value; what value I did have came from what work I did. And so I worked three or four jobs at a time, jobs that were not my cup of tea. Doing jobs I didn’t like overly much helped to fuel the martyr feeling that I liked. Well, I didn’t really like it, but it was comfortable and ickily satisfying.

Why am I peaceful? What makes me calm? How do I relax?

The brain scientists say that only 12% of our thoughts are conscious, but of that 12%, up to 90% is habitual. Yikes.

When I decided to learn how to be happy, I had to give up a lot of stuff. I had to give up being a martyr, a victim, and hopeless. I had to give up feeling powerless to change. I had to stop hating myself. I had to give up slogging mindlessly through my days and I had to step up to the plate.

By paying attention to my thoughts and actions, I was able to start changing stuff. Seeing the changes I wrought made me feel good and helped me make more changes. As I felt better, I had room to choose to calm myself. I had time to breathe deeply and slowly. I had time to savor my moments. I discovered that at my core, I am always peaceful.

By noticing my habits of thought, of speech, of behavior, I can start to change the ones that don’t do well by me. By returning to my peaceful core, I can be kind and compassionate with myself.

How have I changed from believing this is just the way it is to trusting my power and my peace?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2016 all rights reserved 06262016

Friday, June 24, 2016

Self-Rising Me!

Self-Rising Me!

How do I know that I am bigger than my circumstances? Wowza! What do you think about that question? I have been asking that one a bunch lately; I like the feeling I get.

How do I know that I am more than my circumstances?

There are times in our lives when our circumstances seem overwhelming. When every minute they are what we are thinking about, what we are feeling about, what we are worried about. Oh, dear.

In the bygone times, I would endeavor to ignore such circumstances and pretend everything was fine. That turned them into the proverbial elephant in the livingroom. Suddenly, everything was about avoiding that elephant. How do I not think about the elephant in the livingroom? Yeah, we all know how well that works. Most recently, My elephant in the livingroom was my fear of having some cancer. Never mind the fact that it had been excised, never mind the fact that I was being treated, that fear was a cancer itself.  I needed to find a way to shift that.

How do I know that I am more than my circumstances?

Turned out that I could acknowledge that fear, the physical discomforts, the apprehensions,  then let it go and do something else. The equivalent of throwing the elephant some peanuts, I suppose. Turns out that overwhelmed is a choice.

Dang it!

What does that mean, overwhelmed is a choice? Overwhelmed is a feeling, not a fact. It’s a kind of fear, a  stress-response to a series of thoughts, thoughts that can actually make us sick. But we know we can change our thoughts. This is graduate level stuff here, so pay attention.

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I need to stop for a bit. I focus on my breath and my feet, and remind me that I am in charge of my thoughts. I disconnect from my Drama Queen. Sometimes I will imagine sending her off to a room with a giant TV where she can watch something to keep her interest.

Why am I competent? How am I in charge? Why do I make good choices? Why am I calm? What makes me feel peaceful?

Now, I can assess my situation. I can prioritize well, I can delegate, or eliminate things from my list. If I am in a real life or death situation, I am calm and clear-headed. Whew.

How am I so healthy? Why do I know I am more than my physical experience? What makes me happy? How have I changed from living in fear to letting my spirit soar?

Our lives are full of stuff that can seem so big. Some of it we handle like champs, some of it throws us to the ground and jumps on us, but it’s still all just stuff. When I trust that I can manage, when I trust that I will find the resources I need, when I trust that the right support will find me, I can get back up, look those circumstances square in the eye, and let go the overwhelmed. I start making good choices again, I start taking good action again, and I open my heart to wonderful possibilities again. Oh, yeah!

How have I changed from feeling bossed around by my circumstances to knowing that I have what I need to rise above them?

(c) 2016 Pam Guthrie all rights reserved 04262016

I Oughta Be Committed

I Oughta Be Committed

What do you think about commitment? I always think it’s funny when I hear people say that they can’t commit. Commitment is part of living. The question is simply, “What am I committed to?”

All I have to do is look at my life to see my different commitments. For example, I am committed to surrounding myself with excellent people. I am committed to maintaining order at my job and in my car, but I seem to be committed to chaos in my home. I am committed to living a happy life. I am committed to sharing the lessons I have learned about how to do that.

Why am I committed? What makes me commit? How have I changed from thinking I can’t commit to choosing my commitments?

Oh. Right. Choice. When I have taken an inventory of my commitments based on my observations, I can compare them to what I want to be committed to. I get to choose my commitments. I get to commit to choosing my commitments! Ahahahahah!

I hear some of us wondering why we would care about our commitments. You could say it’s all about time and resource management. And about bringing our lives in line with what we want.

When I am obviously committed to something I don’t like, I spend a lot of T and R not liking it. If I whine about it without taking action, I compound the expenditure of resource because now I have involved you, squandering your T and R as well. Dang!

Sometimes we think of our “disliked” commitments more as weighty liabilities, as burdens, as constraints. We say that we want to feel free, but we keep finding ourselves in situations where we feel overwhelmed, or trapped, or suffocated. We feel doomed.

In the days of yore, I was committed to misery. Seriously. I was committed to feeling awful. My commitment was strong, I was also committed to overwhelm and feeling doomed. I would joke that I had three feelings; terrible, bad, and not bad. I hated it, but spent hours everyday talking about how much I hated it. I fed my commitment with attention, with focus, and with practice. I felt powerless to do anything about it.

Turned out I was wrong.

I love to admit I was wrong when it comes to this kind of stuff. It means my life is going to be so much better.

I had to make a commitment to change my bad commitment! I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever it took to become a happy person. I had no idea what that even meant back then, but I was determined. It took me some time. The current spate of information and support didn’t exist back then. One thing I remember doing was wearing a rubber band on my wrist and giving it a little snap every time I had an ugly thought. I didn’t know to change it to a good thought back then, but I did manage to slow down the bad ones.
There is so much help available now. On-line groups filled with like-minded people, wonderful websites, texting, new techniques to help us change. We can, you know, change what we are committed to. We just need to make that commitment.

How have I changed from being committed to icky stuff to loving my commitments to my wonderful life?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2016 all rights reserved 06232016

Monday, March 28, 2016

On Being Here Now

On Being Here Now

Oh, BABY!! I got the Prime Question today! This is the first one, whence all other Creative Questions flow: Why am I aware?

Why am I aware? What a lulu!

“Why is this such a big deal,” I hear some of you asking. Because paying attention to our lives changes everything. When I pay attention to moving around in the world, I stop being a klutz. I see the wall before I walk into it. I see the car before it honks at me. When I pay attention, I notice that I am thirsty, or tired, or satisfied.

 Awareness can be a loaded word for some of us. It can have a lot of connotations based on our learning and mislearning. All I mean by it is paying attention, noticing, being present.

When I am aware, I am using my senses. Food tastes better. Music is more fun. Dancing is wonderful. Kissing is nicer.

When I am aware, I notice my thoughts. I notice how I feel. I make the connection between those two things and cultivate or change what I am thinking. When I am aware, I recognize that I am in charge of me. When I am aware, I can notice the thoughts I have that don’t support me and change them.

When I am aware, the daily passage of time slows down. Seriously! I am paying attention to what I am doing when I am doing it. I am aware when I am being. A day takes a day, a week takes a week, a year takes a whole year. Amazing.

When I am aware, daily tasks become powerful meditations. Washing my dishes is a sensory experience with the scent of the soap, the heat of the water, the rasp of the scrubby, the satisfaction of the cleaned object.

When I am aware, I notice my thoughts. I notice my feelings, I also notice my behavior. Oh. Did I do that? Because I am choosing to be aware, I can see what I’m doing to make my life better, but I can also see what I am doing to stay stuck, to hurt me, to hold me back. And I can change those things.

When I am aware, I naturally grasp that I am responsible for my behavior, for my feelings, for my thoughts. When I am aware, I naturally find joy in the mundane. When I am aware, I notice when I am judging stuff.

Oh, that is a good thing to mention. When I am aware, I can notice when I am judging my experiences as “good” or “bad” rather than letting them flow as experiences. This is high-level stuff. Experiences are not inherently good or bad. Based on my learning and mislearning throughout my life, I judge stuff. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it can hurt me. If I want to go with the flow,for the most part, I do better to let my experience be neutral. If someone is hurting me, or if I am hurting someone, I should judge that and change it. We can learn with practice to when and how to use our skills of discernment.

How have I changed from stumbling through my days to being present and aware?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2016 all rights reserved 03/11/2016