Monday, September 30, 2013

Hopping on the Proud Cloud

Hopping on the Proud Cloud

One thing I like to do that really helps as I grow up is to look back and see where I’ve come from. Twelve Step groups use this technique and call it “Telling Your Story.” Sometimes, when we are moving through a rough patch, it can feel like we’ve made no progress at all ever, and it’s always been like this. Looking back can really help.

These days, I feel pretty great most of the time. It seems miraculous to me, but it’s really just the predictable result from the work I’ve done. There have been times when my home was plastered with reminders on sticky notes, Creative Questions cards tucked everywhere, rubber bands on my wrist.

I sought out teachers, always finding the perfect teacher at the perfect time. Sometimes it took a few tries, but then they would be fantastic, and I would emerge from their tutelage happier and wiser.

I didn’t always like it, what they wanted me to try. I didn’t always do it. Sometimes I was a little bit kicky and screamy about it. But the bottom line was this.

I wanted to be happy. I didn’t know what that even meant, but I wanted it. I thought it was the opposite of suffering, self-loathing, and self-abuse, if I thought about it at all. But I felt like I would do almost anything to get there.

We get so good at pretending that things are alright, that we are alright, that our relationships and work and families are alright. It takes a ton of energy to pretend that. We talk a good game, and people may suspect, but they don’t know for sure how bad it is.

Why do we keep it a secret? (That is a bad creative question, just for the record.)

Sometimes we feel ashamed, or scared. We think it’s no one else’s business. Sometimes we tell ourselves that everything is fine, and we choose to believe it even though we are in a bad situation. We convince ourselves that everything is normal and fine.

And we hate ourselves. Or at least act like we hate ourselves. Or we try to act like we don’t hate ourselves, and end up feeling like we are going crazy. And going crazy seems kind of attractive, especially if it means a few weeks in a hospital being taken care of by someone who is nice to us.

We don’t want anyone to know what it’s really like, and so we pull back a little, or push harder, and either way people end up not wanting to be around us very much. And that seems kind of good because then there aren’t as many people to convince that things are okay.

And then we decide we’ve had enough. And we get help. There are so many people, and agencies, and services, and healing modalities, that want you to be happy and healthy, that want to help you climb out of that smelly pit of your life and back into the fresh air and sunshine. Why do I choose to be happy? What makes me choose to take care of me? How do I make room for joy in my life?

When I take this step, when I seriously address the crap in my life with a competent, trustworthy helper, things get better. I can take better care of me, and of you, and all the yous that matter to me.

How have I changed from wanting to hide to being proud of myself?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved. 09302013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fun With Awareness

Fun With Awareness

Today I drew the awareness card. What a good reminder. How useful it is to be aware, or present, or alert.

When I am aware, I don’t tend to walk into things, unless it’s something like an open doorway. I don’t tend to stub my toes or to run into stuff with my car (and there is still that loooong scrape on the fence where I park that reminds me.)

When I am aware, I tend to know right where my keys, cell phone, and purse are. When I am aware, I put them where they go.

It takes practice, well, it took me a lot of practice. I was so unaware of my world. I was up in my head, feet out of my feelings, deaf to the world, not seeing where I was going, either on the sidewalk or in my life.

I started practicing moving with more awareness by looking for coins on the sidewalk. On campus, where I was walking, there are a lot of coins. Don’t know why, there just are.

Before, I was walking with my head hung low; worrying, suffering, in pain, looking in at how bad I felt, how awful I was, rehearsing and rehearsing all that ick. Looking for coins made me look at what was outside me, and I stumbled less often. I liked that.

Little by little, I started to think about where my feet were, when I was walking, or working out, or sitting at my desk, or going to sleep. When I noticed where my feet where, I could get into my body. I noticed how I felt, not just hungry or cold, but emotions and feelings. It made it much easier to tell when I was right there, instead of looking in from some mysterious other place.

When I am not stuck in my head, thinking my horrible thoughts, I notice the beauty all around me. I see people being kind to each other. I am in the world, in the sunshine, in the rain, in the sleet, or wind. I find nature happening all around, birds arguing, squirrels dashing here and there, flowers pushing up within the cracks in the sidewalk. Why do I choose to  see?

When I am aware, my food has flavor, my coffee does, too. When I am aware, I remember to breathe, big, lavish breathes all the way in, all the way out. All the smells, all the tastes, all the sensations. What makes me present?

When I am aware, I notice where I need to soften, to lighten up, to be gentle. I notice, and stop awful thoughts. I notice and change bad behaviors. Why am I relaxed?

When I am aware, I see you. I see the little, sweet things you do. I see the kindness inside you, I see your heart. I hear you, I hear your words, and what you mean. I notice how diligently you work at making the world, and your community, your family and yourself the best they can be.

When I am aware, I naturally take good care all around. I sleep better, I eat better, I love movement, I enjoy my work, I savor my friendships more deeply.

Awareness brings me easily into my life. When I am present in my life, I can appreciate more, enjoy more, evolve more easily. Awareness is fun.

How have I changed from stumbling through my days to savoring the living of my life?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved 09292013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Emotions 101

Emotions 101

Emotions are amazing things. They are the bridge from our virtual world of thoughts to the real world of our physical bodies. This is the beginning of how thoughts become things. We can see it happening now with brain scans, and it’s astonishing.

Every single thought we have produces an emotion. Every single one. Mostly, they are tiny emotions, and we can’t even feel them. Emotions are a simple way of saying that we have a complex set of physiological responses; things dilate or contract, go faster or slower, secrete stuff or stop secreting, to name a few.

Thoughts becoming things.

So when I have a scary thought, my pupils dilate, my heart and respiration rates go up, my adrenals start pumping out adrenaline. Over time, I learn to call that set of responses “fear.”

And when I have a peaceful thought, my body creates a very different set, with different heart rates, hormones and neurochemicals, and I learn to call that set of responses “calm.”

This is useful information when, for example, you are having your blood pressure taken.

Meanwhile, our brains are thinking thoughts at a mile a minute, most of which don’t even show up on our radar, that is, in our conscious mind.

When my brain is thinking scary thoughts a lot of the time, I end up with feelings. and call the set stress or worry. If I don’t change it, modify it by doing stuff to make other feelings happen, I can end up with physical symptoms. For example, lots of scary thoughts can make my adrenal glands work too hard, and I end up with a set of symptoms that  wrecks my sleep, makes me achy, messing with my stomach, and so on.

Emotions just happen, as a result of thought. Feelings are something we cobble together based on how we interpret what is going on around us, our long-term experiences, our beliefs. Is there a current events thing that, just the mention of it, you have giant feelings about? Or thinking of the smiling and happy face that belongs to someone you love, you get a woosh of feeling of another kind.

We have emotions to act as a kind of life-GPS, to let us know how we are doing, where we are at, and what we might want to do.

Our natural life is kind of like a fabulous candy bar, with nutty fun, and a peaceful nougat center. We can have a ball, and still have that centered stillness.

When we don’t feel that centered stillness, regardless of what is happening, our feelings let us know we have strayed. That wiggly feeling in our gut, the tightness in our shoulders or neck, the squinched up toes; these act as markers to let us know that we need to regroup, to calm down, to notice what we are thinking and change it.

Worry devours your well being and sleep, anxiety is a painful habit, anger can be so destructive. When we shift our thoughts, even just a little bit, it can make such a difference.

How have I changed from ignoring my thoughts and feelings to respecting their value to me?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved 09282013

Friday, September 27, 2013

Choosing Happiness

Choosing Happiness

What an interesting choice I made back in the day when I decided to choose happiness. I find it kind of poignant that, when I made my grand and dramatic declaration of intent, I had no idea what happiness was, what I would need to do to get there, and how much more wonderful it was than ever I dreamed.

I was just tired of feeling bad all the time.

Little by little, I was able to start paying attention,and noticing when I felt good. And then noticing what I did that made me feel good. Trauma by trauma, incident by incident, I began to clean out my past. Each thing I let go of, each thing I worked through, made more room for joy, made the path to my perfect self a little easier to navigate.

What makes me feel good? How am I nurtured? What makes me comfortable?

I used so many different techniques to clean up my stuff. There is not one right way. You need to find the ones that work best for you.

And if you want to be happy, you need to do this. Why would I choose to be happy?

When we ignore our own past, we are setting ourselves up for really interesting times.

Old patterns will replay over and over and over. Look for your “why does X always happen” things for examples of what I’m talking about.

We may find ourselves screaming at current loved ones about things we should be saying to people from our deep history.

Anxiety reactions and phobic responses are both very often based on ancient personal traumas. Curiously, so are many allergies.

I had a thing about phones ringing late at night. I would get so anxious I could hardly breathe. My hands shook like crazy and my heart pounded. I took to unplugging the phone. Imagine my relief when I discovered the single incident that happened when I was ten that scared me so much, and resolved it. Now, I just don’t like the phone ringing in the middle of the night, but it’s no longer traumatic. (I used hypnosis. It took 20 minutes.)

I had nightmares that would have made Stephen King itch.

Point is, if we don’t address the topics from our past that need addressing, we are likely to be living in our own version of “Groundhog Day,” replaying the same events over and over and feeling like we are just horribly unlucky, and longing to be happy and not getting there.

My most recent triumph has been the releasing of about 25% of my physical stuff from my home. I’d wanted to for ages, but something was in my way. Actually, several things. I got them rooted out, and used Creative Questions, “Why is it so fun and easy to clear my home?” as an example.

Each of us has something to clean up, some of us more than others. It is worth it. You are worth it. This life, of feeling loved, of being happy and peaceful, of loving with all my heart, of satisfying work, of daily joys, is so pleasant. Being relaxed, no worries, falling asleep feeling peaceful, these are benefits that cannot be dismissed.

How have I changed from ignoring my past to cleaning it up with an open and loving heart?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved 09/27/2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Tsked at the Task

I Tsked at the Task

When I am happy and engaged, doing work that seems to have a point to it, I strive to do a great job. I want to support our mutual  goals with my best work. That’s easy, I can do it with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back. So to speak.

On the other hand, when I feel isolated, when I don’t know what the point of this tedious task is, when I don’t know what your goals are, doing my best work takes a different skill set. I need both eyes, and both hands.

Used to be that when I had a task giver like that, one who withheld information, who didn’t include me, I felt that I should do a half assed job as a kind of passive aggressive commentary on his, or her, behavior.

It’s the “bring me a rock” scenario, for one. “What kind of a rock?” “I’ll know it when I see it.”

So, in days gone by, I would have behaved poorly and felt both vindicated and ashamed.

Poor me, it was so challenging and unpleasant being a passive aggressive dork.

Curiously, I kept encountering task-givers who favored the :Bring me a Rock style of task-giving. Finally, I had to accept that this was a pattern of mine.

Dang it.

So then I had to ask myself what the heck was I doing to make this happen? What could I do to make it stop?

I will not always be working with people who are grown ups. We each have our own values, and while I highly value personal evolution, many others value other stuff more highly. Work, like money and sex, can be charged with weird behaviors. As a grown up, my job, should I decide to accept it, is to do my best, without engaging in bizarre circumstances.

My job is to stay clean and separate. I do not have to buy into someone else’s crazy behavior. I get to do the best I can at each task, irrespective of the interest it holds for me. That is to satisfy me. I get to find ways to make that happen when the task is potentially annoying or ennervating.

Why do I like what I do?

I do a lot of cut and paste type projects. Audio books have turned into a blessing for me. I can look forward to those tasks, and enjoy doing them now. For example.

Sometimes, I like to play pretend, and imagine I am someone else who likes to do the task at hand. I did that last night when I was doing a deep clean in my kitchen. “Lorelei” LOVES to clean. Oh, the satisfaction “she” felt seeing the shine come up. Oh, the satisfaction “she” felt as she put things away, threw things out, dusted things up. And I ended up with a sparkly kitchen.

The old saw, “A job worth doing is worth doing well.” used to just annoy me. So squaresville, daddy-o. But, for me, a task I bother to put my hand to is worth my best effort.

I maintain my awareness of the difference between striving for excellence and perfectionism. The former uplifts me, the latter grabs me by the throat and throws me to the ground.

How have I changed from hating the work to loving what I do?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved 09262013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ways to Be My Own Best Friend

Ways to Be My Own Best Friend

I bet you’ve noticed that we have a number of recurring themes in this space. One of them is the whole idea of filters. Other ways we talk about it out in the world are the Law of Attraction, or like begets like. The simple idea is that we get what we ask for, even if we don’t recognize that we are asking for it.

It’s a sneaky thing. Sometimes what we are getting is horrible, and why in the name of all that is holy would we ask for that? And we get mad as heck and say it’s a lie, but it keeps on happening.

What would it mean if it were true, that we get what we ask for and we are somehow asking for crap?

What would it mean if the rotten stuff that keeps on happening is happening because it is a pattern for us?

What would it mean if the icky, uncomfortable places we keep finding ourselves came from inside ourselves?

When I finally got this, I was so happy. If I am causing my misery, out of habit, or horrible patterns, and it’s not fate or some pre-ordained awfulness, then I can change it. Hallelujah! I can really be a good friend to myself.

This is the genesis of freedom. What makes me my own best friend? What makes me take me seriously? How do I know I am responsible for my stuff? How can I help me?

When I own that I am the creator of my life, I have the power to root out my unconscious thoughts, habits, and patterns that are creating a life that is hard to live. Why do I choose to know all of who I am?

When I own that I am the creator of my life, I can bring my dank and sticky emo junk into the light, and clear it out. Why do I let go?

When I own that I am the creator of my life, I can create a fecund space for my beautiful dreams to realize, and my nightmares to shrivel into nothingness. How do I get what I want?

One of my most beloved teachers said to me at least a thousand times, “You do know.”

I really hated it, because on the one hand, she was right, and on the other hand, sometimes I was resisting knowing so much that I couldn’t get there.

Using Creative Questions really helps me when I encounter my resistance places. Do you wanna know how?

First, I identify the Creative Question that I am feeling resistance to. I write that question down. For example, let’s say that I’m having resistance to the question, “Why is it so easy?”

When I ask the question, I think, “NO!” so I write that down next to the question, and on a new line I write the question again, and my response again, until I start getting neutral, and then positive responses.

Sometimes, I will use a drill-down technique, that is, when I ask, “Why is it so easy?” and get a “no,” then I ask “Why could it be so easy?” If I get a response like “it’s not, it’s hard.” Then I will ask, “Why is it hard?” Because life is hard. Why is life hard? Because I am bad. Why am I bad? Because I hurt my mom when she gave birth to me.

Now I have something to work with, something to clean up, and I can dump the guilt, and feeling like I’m not good enough, and like I always hurt people.

How have I changed from getting what my unconscious mind wants to getting what I want?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved 09252013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Use Your Sword of Power

How to Use Your Sword of Power

One of the many things I found baffling in the sorry days of yesteryear was the whole idea of personal power. It made no sense to me, mainly because I had no sense of it. Funny how that stuff goes.

You probably already get this, but I gotta say, it was a serious revelation to me. So let’s lift our Swords of Power and get going.

At the bottom of it all, we are each responsible for own selves. Whether we own and act on that responsibility is, of course, another matter.

I can’t actually give away my power. And you can’t take it from me.  (Oo, the victim inside me is getting pissed.)

What I do is choose to act as though you have my power. That choice is usually out of my consciousness, based on habits I established a long time ago when I was a little child and my access route to my personal power was just developing. People who had authority over me abused that authority, and royally screwed up my system.

The whos, whys, and wherefores of that don’t fundamentally matter. That’s story. It’s good to tell to get it out, so it’s not a secret, but the telling is not necessary to heal.

What matters is that I correct it.

Once I am an adult, you cannot victimized me. I victimize me in your name. You can be horrible to me, but I have the power to decide whether you will vanquish my spirit. You cannot get inside my mind, I create a version of me that looks like you inside my mind. Then I can blame that avatar, and then blame you, and I get to feel vindicated. Except that I feel like a powerless victim.

Oh, that made me so mad! I fought it for a long time. And when at last I accepted it, I felt such glorious freedom.

You cannot force me to join your rubber room party. If you are inviting me to feel crazy with you, I have to choose whether to go along.

I can choose to be clean and separate from your shenanigans. I can choose to be clean and separate from your anger, or fear, or madness. I can choose to leave, or to allow, or to change. Me, I can. I have the POWER!

How do I know I am powerful? How do I know I am responsible for me? What makes me grow up?

If I want more confidence, all I need to do is take more responsibility for how I feel, and realize that I can choose to think a thought, or not think a thought. This is part of what meditation does for us, and one of the best reasons to practice. I learn to allow my thoughts to flow, and not have to follow them, and if I do follow one, I learn to pull back to stillness, which is the source of our personal power.

When I own my power, I am confident. I don’t need to worry because I trust that I will know what to do as my life unfolds. When I own my power, it is easier for me to love you unconditionally because I know that you can’t make me. So I can let all that go, and open my heart to you.

How have I changed from feeling powerless to lifting my Sword of Power?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved 09242013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pain-body Playdates

Pain-body Playdates

Back in the dark ages, I was a phoney. I hate to say it, but it’s true. I was passing myself off as a normal person when I was actually running around in my pain-body. Ok, so what am I talking about?

Pain-body is a concept Eckhart Tolle came up with.

Here’s the way I understand it:

I have a bad thing happen that I don’t fully complete, that is, I choose to deny that it happened, or had any impact on me, or I stuff the emotions away, or lie to myself about it; I have lots of ways to keep from completing whatever the trauma might be. That incompleteness creates a loop of thought and emotion, which creates a feeling. The more of those incomplete experiences I collect, the more dense the feelings become, and the more of those nasty loops I’m creating.

Pretty soon, I’m living in a place that is almost purely negative thought, negative emotions, negative feeling, negative filters, negative life. Yuckers.

And then I have to start pretending. I have to pretend I don’t feel like I’m falling apart. I have to pretend that I can stand living my life. I have to pretend that interacting with you isn’t exhausting. I have to pretend that I’m a normal person. And all that pretending just makes everything worse and worse and worse. So now I’m getting sick because the stress of my pretending eats up my immune system, and I start getting chronic pain, and sick and oh, god, I kind of wish I were dead, but that’s not okay, so it just goes into the pot of feeling bad.

So I’m all full up with pain-body, and it’s looking for other pain-bodies to compare notes, and before long, my life is full of misery buddies, and isn’t the world a horrible place to live.

Ick ick ickety ick ick.

Here’s the thing. This isn’t old emotion. It’s old trauma. We aren’t feeling feelings from the past, we are feeling brand new, fresh feelings about crap we’ve put in our emo basement and pretended to forget about. Over and over again.

Here’s the other thing. It isn’t Truth, it’s just old trauma we’ve already lived through. Yes, sometimes it is beyond horrible. But not addressing it means that it wins, the pain-body wins, and we just suffer, in the present, for junk that happened in the past. It’s like that ugly old tschotshka in my house that I have to tend by keeping it, by cleaning it, moving it. It takes up space that I forget was space. It requires care I could be giving somewhere else. And every time I see it, I feel kind of bad because the person who gave it to me was such a jerk.

Pain-bodies love those tschotshkes, the ones that make us feel bad, or guilty, or ashamed.

There are so many ways to clean up that old crap in your subconscious. Each time you get rid of some you have more room for feeling good. Each time you notice you are in your pain-body, and choose to come back into the light you weaken its hold on you.

I got rid of all the gifts that people gave me I didn’t like, either the gift or the person. I got rid of the old love letters that left me feeling melancholy. The photographs of relationships that don’t make me happy to think of.

Now I have room to just be me.

How have I changed from pretending to be okay to being okay?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2013 all rights reserved 09232013