Thursday, February 26, 2015

Whatcha Doin'?

Whatcha Doin’?

I think it’s so funny that so much of how we are is about what we spend our time doing; things we think are fun, things we think are hard, things we love, and other stuff maybe not so much.

We have so many ways of doing all that stuff. We do some of it alone, we do some of it together. Sometimes we do it alone with others all around.

I can tell you this, when I feel engaged, whatever I’m doing is more enjoyable. I like to do stuff with you.

One of my teachers would draw the distinction between withdrawing and isolating. When we withdraw, we recharge our batteries, we regroup, we marshal our thoughts. We emerge stronger and clearer, and feeling like re-engaging.

On the other hand, when we isolate, we are often in hiding. We are trying to feel safe, or looking for temporary relief. Isolating ourselves doesn’t really help.

Sometimes I need big chunks of alone-time. Most of the time, little chunks of alone-time are sufficient. I use that time for contemplation, or just thinking about stuff. I figure things out, I find solutions. And, of course, do stuff.

And yet, for example, even though I am alone when I write you each day, I feel connected to you. I feel engaged with you, I feel presence in our community. Even though I’m alone when I practice my qigong, I feel a part of a large community. Even though I spend most of my sacred porch-time alone, I feel connected to my neighborhood.

Being engaged, involved, and connected is enlivening and energizing. Feeling engaged is interesting. I get curious about what will happen next. Curiosity is a by-product of engagement. Support is a by-product of engagement. So are love, creativity, openness, and aliveness, to name a few. Relaxing into these feelings, allowing our thoughts to be of this kind, brings us back to our natural lives, and isn’t that nice.

Sometimes we force ourselves to be in a group. Yuck. That isn’t being included, it’s not engaging. We feel unnatural, we say weird stuff, or get overly emotional, or really shut down. We feel horrible. We often feel super vulnerable and raw, and want to take everything personally. We get really defensive or self-protective and offensive.

If we can identify the first time when we experienced that, and integrate it, we can get back to our natural life of delight. Sitting at the wall of our icky stuff is uncomfortable, but so gratifying when the wall melts away, and so nice to have all that fresh, cleared out space.

Sometimes, when we are trying something new, we are inclined to hold back. When we can find one person to connect to, one person to engage with, we crack open that door of new experience, and can often find ourselves in the midst of a wonderful adventure we never could have imagined, much less imagined enjoying.

How have I changed from fearing change and involvement, to embracing the opportunities?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2015 all rights reserved 01192015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

You Plus Me Equals One

You Plus Me Equals One

You and me, aren’t we interesting? What is a relationship, anyway? I love to have relationships, I like to think about relationships; it makes my brain feel kinda swirly. Be warned. The stuff that’s following is really deep.

Here’s why.

On the one hand, you and I are separate. We can never know what the other one is truly thinking, although we can get good at guessing. We can never know everything the other one has really been through, especially when the other one doesn’t remember herself. We can never know the entire scope of the other one because, thank goodness, it’s never completely tested.

On the other hand, you and I are one. This is where it gets weird. I can only know you through me. And what the heck does that mean? I cannot know what you have experienced, I can only know what I think your experience has been like. I cannot know what you are feeling, I can only know how I feel when I use the same words you use, or show the body language you show.

I can only see you through my filters. And that means that, no matter how different we are, you are a version of me to me, just as I am a version of you to you.

I don’t know about you, but that makes my relationships way more important to me because if I don’t like ‘em, I don’t like me. If you are driving me crazy, it’s got to do with me, my ways of looking at the world, my limitations, my degree of evolution.

I can’t change you, but I can change me, and when I do that, our relationship changes. It has to. The metaphor that I like is of a mobile, and we are the things hanging off it. When I change, my weight on the mobile changes, and that shifts everything.

If that doesn’t make your brain feel kinda swirly!

So what does it mean if on some really deep, cosmic level we are one? Well, for me, it changes how responsible I feel toward us. I am not responsible for you, but I am responsible to you. And what does that distinction mean?

I will do what I can to respect your beliefs, your actions, your body, your thoughts, your emotions. I will do what I can to treat you well and with kindness. I will be aware of my emo stuff and try not to project it onto you. I will do what I can to follow through on my commitments to you. I will be aware that you are vast in my experience, and have a thousand faces, a thousand dreams and fears and desires.

I cannot fix you. I cannot change you. I cannot make you be someone you aren’t. I can do these things for me, and trust that I use good judgment when I do, like not trying to be someone I’m not. All I can do is love you as you are, pray, or whatever word you prefer, for your well being, emo growth, and health, as I pray for my own. I will do what I can to help you if you need help. I will endeavor to be a role model for how to live a good life.

How have I changed from thinking we are separate to understanding that we are all one?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2015 all rights reserved 02172015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Our Fleshly Home

Our Fleshly Home

How do you feel about your body, your physical manifestation? Do like living in your body? Do you appreciate your body? Or are you critical about your body, and unkind to it?

What a big set of questions that is for us.

I sure didn’t like mine. For decades. My list of complaints about my body was long, from it’s appearance to how it felt. I felt betrayed. I felt abused. I didn’t trust it to do what I wanted. I felt a lot of icky stuff. And I did a lot of nasty stuff to my body, too. I obsessed about how my body felt, what was wrong with it, and how much I hated it. Oy.

I remember sitting down in front of a mirror to do an exercise I found in a self-help book. I was to look at my face and stay three things I liked about it. That seemed impossible. What a complex set of emotional responses and feelings I had to that assignment. It took me several tries, but eventually I was able to do it.

Chronic pain, chronic sick, chronic misery. I had the Chronic big time. I blamed and hated my body for it. I am sad to say that I hurt my body intentionally a lot during those years. It never occurred to me that it was trying to communicate.

When I was a kid, just learning to think about stuff deeply, I remember hearing a lot about the impossibility of the mind/body connection. It was too strange! How could they be connected? How could our mind impact our physical well being?

Instantly and deeply, as we are proving scientifically. Researchers are showing us that prenatal programming helps us cope with our own, personal family. Mind-generated stresses  and their related physical conditions like tension headaches and tummy upsets are mind-body concepts we are all pretty familiar with, and accept.

It’s not a long step then to the new research that shows us that each thought, one kind of energy, triggers a physical response, another kind of energy. Series of thoughts produce series of physical responses and we call these emotions, or symptoms, depending on what’s going on in our minds.

Curiously, our language uses these symptoms as idioms. We actually say it. For example, if we are feeling overwhelmed, we may be using the phrase, “Carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders,” and have a lot of tension and discomfort in our trapezius muscles in our upper back, shoulders and neck.

Following this line of thought, what kind of messages might your body be trying to send if you’ve had “the rug pulled out from under you,” or “Can’t see the big picture,” or “put my nose out of joint.”

When we start seeing our body as our ally rather than our nemesis, we start to learn more about ourselves, about what drives us, what scares us, what we might want to consider working on. When we consider our symptoms as messages from our unconscious mind sent to us by way of our bodies, we open a whole world of self-knowledge, and free ourselves to love ourselves.

How have I changed from hating my fleshly home to loving my body?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2015 all rights reserved 02092015

Wednesday, February 04, 2015



Why do I like what I do? This is a challenging question for a bunch of us. We don’t like what we do, or we feel ashamed or guilty about what we do. Or we feel like we aren’t living up to our potential, or we feel like fakes. Oh, there are lots of things we think and feel about what we do.

So what do we do about what we do?

I was really fortunate in that I had a wonderful teacher who told me what to do, or what to stop doing, and I mostly did what she said. It was great. It was also scary and challenging. But I did it.

There were several tricks I used that really helped. When I was looking for the “real” job, I would “act as if” I already had a real job, and not my 3 cool but crappy part time jobs. I would act as if I already knew how to dress for corporate America, as if I knew how to interview. I looked into these things, and made some changes and adjustments. Deciding first to act as if really helped me.

When looking to change other circumstances; habits, activities, unsupportive friendships; I decided I might not have all the answers and asked for help from people who seemed to get it. I tended to get similar kinds of advice from them all about a specific topic. Then, and this was the important part, I would do what they suggested. Novel concept.

The third trick, and maybe the most important trick, and one we will be working on our whole, happy lives, is knowing what I want.

How do I know what I want?

I cannot make a sustainable change if I don’t know what I want to change to.

The most effective internal piece is not will power, it’s want power. But I cannot harness my want power unless I know what I want.

For years I would cry, “But I don’t know what I want!” And my beloved teacher would say, “You do know.” Oh, she made me so mad! (I know. We can dissect that sentence later.)  And so I had to learn to stop, and think about what I wanted. I could sometimes get there by writing out my list of Don’t Wants and then kind of look at the shape of that list to get some hints about what I did want.

Sometimes, I would start with the list of little wants and then grow it.

Sometimes I would write a Be-Do-Have list. I love those! They are interesting and kind of challenging. The rule is simple. Write one hundred things you want to be, one hundred things you want to do, and one hundred things you want to have. As you accomplish, achieve, or acquire something on one of the lists, you cross it out and add a new thing. Hmm. Maybe it’s time for a new Be-Do-Have accounting!

When I have identified a big want, I can use want power to make that dream come true. I want to go on a trip more than I want that thing, for example. I want to feel slim more than I want that extra piece of cake. I want that task accomplished more than I want to play video games. You see what I’m getting at.

How have I changed from trying to use willpower to being successful with want-power?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2015 all rights reserved 02032015

Monday, February 02, 2015

Luxury of Mind

Luxury of Mind

Today I drew the Luxury card. I love that card. It got me thinking, like Creative Questions often do, and I found myself thinking about the luxury of mind.

The Luxury of Mind. I love that phrase. I find it so evocative.

How do I enjoy the luxury of my mind? What makes me aware? How do I luxuriate in my thoughts?

My mind is a place where I like to think I am in complete control. That’s kind of true. It’s also really not true, but there is a lot we can change about that.

They say that about 12% of our thoughts are conscious, and that of those, a goodly chunk are habit-thoughts. A part of cultivating the Luxury of Mind is noticing what we are thinking.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love habits and routines. The things that fire off on autopilot free up my little 12% for other stuff. Getting up; yoga, bathroom, kitchen, coffee, cats, breakfast, lunch all get done so fast that I am sitting down and enjoying my coffee before I’m even aware of being awake. Hand washing laundry, vacuuming, dishes, and dusting are also tasks that don’t require me to be paying attention. I’m mindful in that I try to avoid vacuuming up cat toys or dusting fragile things onto the floor, but you get my drift.

When I am luxuriating in my mind, I am doing any number of think-y things. Perhaps I am daydreaming about a holiday, or having a little fantasy about living in a cloud city with winged horses, or gelato in Venice. Perhaps I am imagining the goals I would like to achieve, or appreciating the joys of my daily life.

Sometimes, in order to clean out my emo basement, I have to think about stuff that is really challenging and I get all full of heavy feelings. It might be that I have to go to a dark place, or look at things I may have done, or things that were done to me or around me, that have caused harm. This is another kind of luxury. What’s that you say? How could this be?

In order to look at our dark stuff, we need courage. We need to have some sense of our own strength. We need to have goals, like being free of our dark stuff. We need time. We often need a teacher. These things are luxuries, necessary, yes, but luxuries, like indoor plumbing or heat.

When I am being aware of my Luxury of Mind, I pull out my favorite Creative Questions. I practice thinking about what is good in my life. I practice thinking about how abundant my life is, how I have filled it with joy. I practice and I let my heart be light.

Sometimes, I bump into a scary memory, or the emotional hurt, and use my mind to work through the topic to the end when I can. I feel the feelings, I stick with it until it dissolves. Oh, man! If THAT moment isn’t Luxury of Mind, I don’t know what is.

Recognizing the difference between luxuriating and wallowing is crucial. When I am all focused on my physical discomfort, I am often wallowing. That’s a good time for me to distract myself. When I am focused on self-care, I am often luxuriating. It’s all about perspective and judgment; do my thoughts leave me feeling light or heavy?

How have I changed from wallowing in my dark space to luxuriating in my mind?

(c) Pam Guthrie 2015 all rights reserved 01282015