IN FRONT OF MY NOSE

nose-clip-art-18I’m pretty good at dealing with stuff that’s right in front of my nose. I was doing dishes at the sink and noticed again that the paint on the window sill is peeling. Given that the sight is pretty much in direct alignment with my nose, I know I will get out the sander and repaint the sill. Maybe not today, but soon, because every time I do the dishes, that peeling pain in front of my nose bothers me.

There are projects that I want to do and need to do, but because they are not right in front of my nose, it’s harder to get them done. It’s as if I have shut these goals in a drawer, and that is a dead zone—the old out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome. Things in a drawer are essential gone.

I haven’t done a blog lately because I was fortunate enough to get away from what turned out to be a terrible winter. I spent three and a half months in Florida and Mexico. It was a lovely adventure in new places, but when I came home, my nose was pressed right up to the grindstone: unpacking my car, putting stuff away, dealing with the mouse droppings and washing everything in my kitchen, the box of mail, rehearsals for a play reading, laundry, and finally taxes. All I did was play the CatchUp Game. Not a lot of fun, but it got done. It was like stumbling over shoes on the floor, picking them up, and putting them away.

A friend declared that he didn’t want to complete his taxes because what was ahead after that was going to be even more challenging.  I laughed because it was true.
The day after I finished my taxes, I slipped into feelings of overwhelm.  I lay back in my lounge chair and sank into exhaustion (my response to overwhelm).  The problem for me now is that the challenges I am facing are NOT right in front of my nose.  They can get put off oh so easily. I didn’t know what to do first.

The Big Whatever must have realized that I needed a little help because I got an email from a friend extolling the virtues of Jerry Seinfeld’s organization system. I looked into it. Though I decided it wasn’t right for me, I was grateful because it reminded me that the only way I can get a challenge out of the Dead Zone Mind Drawer and put it in front of my nose is to write it down in a way that I cannot avoid seeing it.

So, I spent the morning redoing my goals and vision and creating my own system that helps to put it right in plain sight. I took my goals and broke them down into as small, doable bits as I could. I now have essentially three columns:  Immediate/As Soon As Possible/Future. Ticking things off, transferring them to a satisfying “Done” list has lifted me from a state of exhaustion to the thought that I can actually accomplish these new and challenging goals.

Organization is a way of communicating with oneself. I don’t think it matters what system one uses—Jerry Seinfeld’s calendars, David Allen’s files or an organization you invent for yourself. The important thing is to write down what you want to do and look at it every day. When you see these steps toward your goals right in front of your nose, it will be easier to do them than keep looking at them.

Good luck dealing with the challenges you are facing après taxes!

This blog addresses the principle of Communication.

EGO OR HEART

Which do you feed?

hungry monsterIf you’re trying to satisfy the ego, that’s a Sisyphean task.  Oh, sure.  For a moment the hungry monster ego feels gratified and happy when you knock em dead in an audition or win some coveted award/contest/game.  The ever-expanding Python-like ego smiles broadly, burps, and looks really pleased—for about an hour.  Kinda like Chinese food though, anything that feeds the ego just does not last.  Gotta keep feeding it. Filling it is not gonna happen.

The heart, however, is easily and sweetly satisfied.  And, oddly, what feeds the heart is open heartabout sharing and giving:  sharing one’s creativity, helping someone else with their creativity, offering a helping hand, contributing to others.  The heart says, “Here.  Here’s what I have.  Let me feed you.  Oh, good.  You like it?!  You think it’s wonderful?!”

And, in that moment, that dangerous moment of hearing someone thinks it’s wonderful, the ego races in and snatches the food away from the heart because it does not have a clue about sharing.  “Gimme that!  They liked it!  It’s mine! I need more applause!  More validation!  More approval!”

Being an artist is so treacherous in that way.  The loud, hungry monster ego is always there ready to leap in.  And if it doesn’t get what it wants, it cries.  It stomps its feet.  It has temper tantrums.  “I didn’t get enough!  I didn’t get that part!  I hate this world.  I’m going to retreat and never come out again!”  And, the poor little heart is trampled all over by the feet of the dragon ego as it races into isolation.

It is so difficult not to fall into the trap of wanting to GET love rather that knowing life is best when we SHARE the love we have.

The good news is that the heart is unbelievably resilient.  It will come back to life in the smallest places.  All it needs is a little room and it is ready to give and to share.

Love the poor ego.  Embrace it.  Hug it, but don’t feed it junk food.

Instead, feed your heart by sharing your light today.

FIRST RESPONDER THOUGHTS

freaked outWhen I have a problem, the first responder thoughts in my mind are not helpful ones. No. They start rattling off the worst case scenarios immediately.

Like a couple of days ago. I woke up at 6 AM, got out of bed, and wondered why it was so cold in my house. I looked at the thermostat. It was 62 degrees. Oh, no! The furnace was off. Again! I’ve had the furnace fixers here five or six times over the past couple of months. Ever since I had the big, old oil tank dug out of my yard and a new oil tank put into my house, I have had problem after problem. I don’t know if these two things are related.

I stood in the hallway shivering. The first responders in my head hissed, “This is the last straw! You’re going to have to buy a new furnace! You can’t go away this winter like you planned! What if the furnace goes off, and the pipes burst?! This problem won’t be fixable. You’re going to have to sell the house!”

Trembling with cold and fear, I called the emergency service, dressed in fleece, and made a hot cuppa tea.

After a few sips, the more helpful second responders showed up. They said soothingly, “Katherine. Wait til the furnace guy gets here and see what he has to say.”

By the time the repairman came, I was able to answer the door like a sane, calm home owner. I showed him the furnace room where the metal, fire-breathing dragon lives. He pressed a button. The dragon stirred to life and started breathing hot air.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “I’m guessing it’s the (whatchamacallit). I’ll replace it and see if that works.”

He’s guessing? I was about to get upset when he continued, “But here’s the good news:  the part I’m replacing is under your service contract. It’s an upgraded version. Your old part looks like something from the early 90’s or maybe even the 80’s. The new version has a brain in it, so if the furnace goes off again, it will tell me what the problem is and how to fix it.”

A brain?!!! I thought. My big, old, dragon now has a brain?! Amazing. The nice man left. I danced around my house singing, to the Scarecrow’s tune from Wizard of Oz, “La la la la la la la. Now my dragon has a brain.”

Three days later. I wake up. The house is cold. I look at the thermostat. Uh huh. The furnace is off. Yet, again. But, I’m on to those First Responders. “Hush up,” I say. “It’s going to be fine. If I have to get a new furnace, I will. The Big Whatever is looking after me. It’s a whole month until I leave for Florida.  It will be fixed. The furnace has a brain and will tell the nice man what went wrong.”

I don’t go right to the phone to call the emergency service. I wait for business hours because there is no emergency, really. At 9 AM I call the number I now know by heart. I drink my third cuppa hot tea. The knight in the shining truck comes. He opens up the dragon and starts tinkering with it.

I ask him the dreaded question. “Ummmm.  Do I need a new furnace?”

“Oh, no!”  he says. “This one is top of the line! It has a lifetime guarantee. If it can’t be fixed, they’ll replace the whole thing.”

Wow. I had no idea. That is such good news! I drink my tea and smile as he replaces the motor and fixes the Z Dimension, whatever that is, because the dragon’s brain told him it was an ignition problem.

Now, here’s the thing. You may not believe this, but I have noticed during the passing of my many years on this planet that when I can ignore my nasty First Responder thoughts, when I can release my fear, and give the problem to The Big Whatever, somehow, amazingly, the problem shifts in the real, material world to something much more benign, manageable, and even good.

I know that sounds like “magical thinking” but I have seen this pattern in my life many times. It may not be easy to do, but whenever you have scary, ole First Responder Thoughts in your head, see if you can turn them into the reassuring heroes they’re supposed to be.

And let me know how it works out.

CHOOSE LOVE NOT FEAR

Life really may be that simple.  LoveLiving seems so complicated, but maybe it’s not.

Yes, we have problems to solve.  We have boogie men thoughts that wake us up in the middle of the night and scare us.  We have doubts.  We have insecurities.

We have things to take care of.  Some people have a lot of things.  We all have to take care of our things and whatever box we live in and whatever box we drive.  Sometimes we box ourselves in with these things.  We fear getting out of our boxed-in boxes: relationships, jobs, and life styles.

Fear is practically our default mode.  It’s easy to choose fear.  We can find so many ways to scare ourselves.

But what if you decided to choose love, not fear?  This is such an ancient idea.  It has been said in every language and in every human religion and understanding of enlightenment since the beginning of human wisdom.  So simple.

Start with yourself.  What if you decided to love yourself?  What if you loved yourself as Love?  What if you walked into your fear and embraced it with Love?

What if you said to yourself, “I choose love, not fear.”

Try it now.  Say it as if you mean it and see what happens.

TAKE A JOY PILL

PillWe’re all so caught up running around the CatchUpKeepUpGetAheadeFallBackCatchUp wheel of work and life.  We face so many problems in relationships, health, and money from annoying and irritating to deeply grave.  And we deal with them somehow, God Bless Us One and All.

So, with all that.  We need to take our joy pills.  It’s the vitamin we need to give us the energy to do the other stuff.

Of course, a great vacation is like taking a whole regimen of joy vitamins, but what about the little joys that one can take in a day.  Unusual joys.

For me, a joy pill is sitting on a bench at the river in Westport watching the sunset as the Canada geese, ducks, and swans converge to exchange news of their day’s events.

Or, taking a drive by myself to the elegant Mayflower Inn in Washington, CT, ordering the $17 soup (because a whole meal there would put a huge dent in my fun budget) and then, taking a walk in their beautiful, formal Shakespearean garden.

Or, playing bridge with friends on a Sunday night.

Or, meeting someone for breakfast.

Or spending a long time watching a spider in her miraculously constructed, nearly invisible web, as she waits for dinner to come to her.

Or getting out my kayak and paddling around the Saugatuck river until the peachy full moon comes up, as I did last night.

Joy pills are very individual. I have a dear friend who takes trapeze lessons.  It gives her a kind of joy that lasts for days.  For me, that would be like taking a terror pill.

What’s your joy pill?  Share it.  Maybe it will inspire me and my readers.  We can always use a little more joy.

THE WASHING MACHINE

washingmachineOne of the most fun things I do in life is help people get present.  I do it almost every day.  It’s surprising, inspiring, creative, and healing.  I’m eternally grateful and amazed by this simple process that was dropped in my lap by the Big Whatever.

A dear friend calls.  She’s really frightened—scared about money.  (I have observed in the past that fear is attracted to money like mosquitoes are attracted to blood.)  My friend goes on for a bit about her desperation and talks about some not so good solutions she is considering based on this fear.

After a moment, I ask her if she wants to “get present.”

“No,” she says, “I don’t have enough time.  It’s late.  I have to get to bed.”

Right.  NO ONE really wants to get present.  I understand that completely.  Who wants to feel deeply—to go into the body and discover what is really going on?  Getting present takes willingness and courage.

But, she’s done my Creative Explosion workshop, so after a bit, when I gently ask again if she wants to get present, she says, “Okay.  Let’s do it fast, though.”  I laugh to myself and ask the familiar, dreaded question.  “So what sensation are you experiencing in your body right now?”

“Fear.”

“Where?”

“All over.”

“Is there any predominant sensation?”

“In my heart.  I feel a lot of agitation in my heart chakra.”  (She does yoga.)

“What does it feel like?”

“It’s like a washing machine.  It’s agitating too fast.”

“What does the washing machine look like?”

“It’s not like mine.  It’s old fashioned.  Loads from the top.”

(Just like mine! I think but do not say.)  “Can you go to it and touch it?  Don’t do anything.  Just be with it.”

“Yeah.  I can feel it vibrating.  It’s going very fast.”

“Anything else about it?”

“Yeah.  The top is open and the water is filthy.”

“Okay.  Just be with it for a while.”  She’s silent for a spell then says.  “the water is all draining out.”

“Okay.  Just let it.”

Another pause.  “I feel much calmer.”

A moment.

“Oh, now I see myself standing on a crack in the earth.  There is a chasm below me.  On one side is negativity and fear.  On the other is all my spiritual work and trust.  They are moving apart and I’m doing the splits.  I have to choose which side to go to.”  It takes her a moment, surprisingly, but eventually she chooses trust.

She is present and calmer so I ask her to invite her Higher Power or Higher Self to be with her.  (This is an important part of Getting Present.  It’s not necessary to believe in God, and she says doesn’t.)  Her Higher Power turns out to be a guru who gently laughs at her fear.  He is full of good, calm, heart-centered advice.  In a very short time, she has moved from fear to peace and sees her life rationally and calmly.  She decides to continue with her creativity, do the work she has, and if it really becomes necessary, in the future she knows she can find a supplemental job.

That probably took no more than five or ten minutes.

I just love this Getting Present process.  I don’t have to advise anyone or listen to a long story or harangue.  People find their own peace and wisdom inside once they have moved into and through the uncomfortable sensations and feelings.  The images and what happens is usually surprising, healing, creative and entertaining.

I get present too with partners.  We generally laugh a lot.

What could be more fun than that?

THE FIFTEEN MINUTE SOLUTION

imagesSome projects look like mountains to climb.  They are overwhelming: Taxes.  Writing the Novel.  Paying Bills.  Hammering out a Business Plan.  Buying Christmas Presents.  Cleaning out the House, the Garage, the Closet.  Reorganizing the Office.  Mailing out Inquiry Letters.

A nap looks like the only solution.

Some of these mountainous projects have deadlines.  They get done—maybe with resistance and complaining, but they get done.

The ones that have no deadline are the hardest to tackle.  They can become invisible in my mind and disappear behind the clouds of other activities.  Then, one day, the out of the haze, the mountainous task takes shape again, and I can’t ignore it any more.

Starting these projects is the hardest part, I find, but breaking it down to bite size actions helps me.  Someone once asked Stephen King how he could write so many books, “One word at a time,” was his quick response.  So, I am learning that when it is an overwhelming project to chunk it way down to edible bits.

I can do almost anything for 15 minutes at a time, so I set a timer and, say, go into my office to tackle the paper tiger snarling on my desk.  After 15 minutes, most times I just keep going, but by setting the timer, I can get myself started.  For me, starting is the hardest part.

That’s my 15 minute solution.  Hope it helps.  There goes the timer.

The July Creative Explosion Workshop

Sunday and Sunday, July 14 and 21
12:30 PM to 5:30 PM in Wilton, CT

“I was in a production of Urban Blight at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City with E. Katherine Kerr.  I watched her, riveted, in the wings every night in one of the most powerful moments I had ever seen onstage yet it was never the quite the same.  I enrolled in her powerful Creative Explosion Workshop.  My career and my life have never been the same.  The Four Principles are life altering.”
—-Faith Prince, Tony Award Winning Actress

“E. Katherine Kerr is a brilliant actress.  It is very rare to find a great teacher of acting who both has the gift and the craft to be able to pass it on.”
—-Mike Nichols, Emmy, Grammy, Multi Award Winning Director

You do not have to be a performer to do this workshop!  

The Purpose of the Workshop is to create the energy to start what you haven’t started and blast through the block that is in the way of going where you want to go.  In this powerful, easy, and fun workshop you will learn about and apply the four principles of brilliant acting to brilliant living.
1.    Commitment.  Become clearer about your own authentic commitments.
2.    Being Present.   Learn a simple and fascinating technique to help you be in your body and access amazing creativity, healing and wisdom.
3.    Relaxation.  Do a simple exercise to release fear and negative judgment.
4.    Communication.  Upgrade your understanding and application of communication.

What Happens When You Enroll in the Workshop. The moment you register the process begins. You may have:
1.    IMMEDIATE BREAKTHROUGH.  And find yourself starting to move forward in an area in which you have been stuck.  Miracles may occur between the time you register and the time you arrive at the workshop.
2.    RESISTANCE AND/OR FEAR.  The very act of commitment may bring up all the unexperienced feelings that have been in the way of your commitment.  Things may seem to you to “get worse.”  Negative thoughts and judgments may become more prevalent.  This is fine.  Bring them with you to the workshop.
3.    INTEREST/OPENNESS.  You may be ready for something new and not quite know what it is.  This is a very powerful position.  The workshop may hold many surprises for you.

What Happens in the Workshop.  The first day will be instruction, sharing, exercises, and time to record your experience.  Bring a notebook—preferably a large, three ring.  Wear comfortable, layered clothing (you will feel hot or cold depending on your own emotional temperature.)  Bring a snack or two.  If you have any medical problems that need attention please let me know what they are. On the first day you also will learn a technique that can change your life.  It’s called Getting Present.
On the second day of the workshop, using what you have learned, you will present a monologue, song, poem, short story, anecdote, or speech or a combination.  Four or five minutes is the preferred length, but it (or they) should be no shorter than one minute and no more than 10.   If at all possible, memorize or extemporize rather than read from a paper or note cards.
While the workshop is experiential, there is no pressure.  We write, share, and laugh a lot.  People leave feeling clearer, energized, and sometimes utterly transformed.  Committing to the workshop begins the process.

Fee Schedule: (Check or Paypal)
First time participant: $250
Repeating participant: $150
Questions? Call 203 563 0363

 

DON’T BE A BOOB! GET SUPPORT!

BraSo, you have driven your vehicle (hopefully not a motorcycle) through The Fear Car Wash, and you’re on the road to follow your dream, right? Or have you stopped to get a Big Mac and a shake, and then taken a nap on the beach?

It’s so easy to slip into unconsciousness or indifference or a kind of lassitude. “Yeah, I know what I want. I’ve faced my fear about it, but I’ll get started tomorrow,” you say Scarlett O’Hara-like while you’re playing Spider Solitaire.

What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened.

You did not get support.

Once you face the truth and the fear about what you want, you’d better get support, because every step you take towards something that looks difficult or challenging or overwhelming will bring up fear again and again. And fear will, as it loves to do, disguise itself. It will become tiredness, indifference, amnesia, distractions, confusion, conflicts, indecision, and addictions—oh the list is long and insidious.

Depending upon how long you go without taking action toward your dreams and goals is how much fear you will have to face to get started again. So, if you have to go through the big Fear Car Wash again, this time, make sure you have lined up the kind of support you need to greet you on the other side.

What kinds of support are there?

1. God is a good one. God? Who? Like me, you may not even understand what that means, but you don’t need to. Surely you have known times when you are calm and still and willing to listen. At those times, some Guide, some Wise Self or Higher Consciousness emerges to guide you to truth and the right action. So, meditate. Get some kind of spiritual practice: yoga, walking, praying, anything that helps you go within and listen to your Higher Self.

2. Get Present with a Compassionate Witness. (See my book, The Four Principles.) Okay. I do have to say that this technique is one of the most powerful ways in which I get clear and access the kind of wisdom that I cannot seem to find in my normal, conscious mind. It’s always surprising. (Side note: While writing this, a friend called on the phone to “Get Present.” It was fast, easy, and the guidance she received completely surprised her.) I don’t know where else you can find this except in my Creative Explosion Workshops, so feel free to enroll in the next one in July. (See sidebar.)

3. Support Groups. Go to any support group that feels right to you. There are masses of them out there. The Twelve Step Programs are, of course, beautifully effective, free, and there’s practically one for every need. Not being formerly acquainted with them, I have discovered Underearners Anonymous which is not just about making more money. It’s about getting out of hiding in one’s lovely, safe cave.

If you can’t find a support group that suits your needs, create your own. I created my own writing support group which has been meeting for about two years now. Four of us. The other three fantastic women are highly committed, intelligent and inspiring. I don’t know how I would tackle a writing project I’m doing without them.

4. Therapy. Find a good therapist. I had a great one, and can still call her as needed.

5. Teachers and Counselors. Find a teacher, sponsor, mentor, or coach. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

6. Experts. You cannot know everything, so you’re going to need contractors, electricians, plumbers, editors, agents, printers, lawyers, etc.

7. Friends. Notice I list them last because friends will be there for you when you need someone to play with, cry with, celebrate with, laugh with, hang out with—when you’re sick, need help, are down and out, need them to take care of your dog, but they may not be the best resource to push you beyond the limits you have set for yourself—unless you set a more formal structure with them for that purpose.

The point is: GET SUPPORT! You are 100 percent responsible for your commitment, and you CANNOT do it alone! We can’t climb mountains solo without the clothing and equipment someone else made. My favorite Oscar speech was Maureen Stapleton saying, “…and I want to thank everyone I ever met in my entire life.” Sounds funny, but she was onto something. We are not as independent as we think. Face it. We humans are a totally interdependent species.

But, we do have to be responsible for our commitments. Nobody can support us if we don’t know what we want. Those of us who live in a relatively free world can either succeed or fail. We can either make a mess of our lives or live gloriously. Voltaire said that freedom can’t be achieved without being responsible; otherwise freedom turns to chaos. Being responsible means being clear about one’s commitments, and getting the support to carry them out.

You may not have a vision yet, but if you look at your life, you probably have a goal or two you haven’t achieved. Get support. And then, get more support. With enough you can achieve anything. You can be president if you get enough votes. You can lose the weight, write the book, go to the audition, sing your song, speak in front of crowds, find a lover, and change the world if that’s what your heart desires—if you have enough support.

Here’s the catch. The only way you are going to get support is by using one of The Four Principles. And the principle is……. Come on. Which of the Four Principles will you have to use?

That’s right! COMMUNICATION! In fact, support is all about COMMUNICATION. So, pick up the phone or put your fingers on the keyboard and start asking for help.

THE FEAR CAR WASH

SG_CARTOON2a

Imagine your car is your body and negative thoughts have dirtied up the windows so much you can’t see where you’re going or read the signs that will help you find your way.  Ever felt like that?

Time to take your body to the FEAR CAR WASH!

Instead of driving around blindly, stop and go in. Go inside.  A sign tells you to put your car in neutral and not to put your foot on the brake as you go through the fear.  You’ll hurt your car if you don’t.

So, you put your car in neutral, take your foot off the brake pedal, let go of trying to control life, and feel yourself being pulled into the fear.  All you have to do is sit there and ride it out as the sensations wash over you.

Your heart is pounding as it starts.  It’s intense!  Whoosh!  Whoosh!  Lots of water.  Tears flow.  Then.  Whap! Whap!  Suds and things slap at you.  Suddenly you see shadows of big shapes coming at you.  Oh, no!  Thump! Thump!  Your heart beats fast as noisy, big brushes roll over you.  You feel weird sensations all over your car/body.  They keep coming and changing.  Red lights flash!  Your heart pounds.  Water again.  You begin to see more clearly, but another big thing comes right at you roaring and blowing air.  Thunderous sounds surround you as you breathe and gasp air.  And then you see light ahead.  A green light turns on and another sign says to put your car/body in drive, put your foot on the gas and go forward.  You do, and before you know it, you’re through the fear!

Out in the sun again, washed clean.  Angels appear and dry you off—making you all shiny and new, and off you go seeing your path much more clearly.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could understand your fear as just a car wash?  That if you don’t jump out of the car or put on your brake or try to speed through it, but just ride it out, you will be cleansed of your fear.

Of course, if you’re really enlightened, you could take your car/body to an upgraded car wash where you can simply witness it going through the fear wash, but that’s really advanced.  Anyone out there that enlightened, please contact me.  I want to follow you to YOUR car wash.