CLIMBING THE LADDER OF FEAR

Stop sign“I’m not good enough,” my friend says. Ah, the universal lament of artists who are trying to market themselves or their wares. That thought is a perfect block. It stops one every time like a lit up stop sign on the road to fulfillment. The light is red, and the words on the stop sign are written in bold caps. I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH. And though it’s a false sign placed on a road where there are no cross streets, you dutifully brake and wait for the light to change. But it won’t ever change to green because it was put there by the devil. (In my theology the devil equals unfelt fear.)

“Okay,” I say to her. “Do you want to get present?” (She has done my Creative Explosion workshop and knows the drill.) Of course her immediate response is “No.” Right. Who wants to get present when the feelings may be difficult? No one.

But, with a sigh, she finally agrees.

“So, what sensation are you experiencing in your body?”

“I’m exhausted. And my heart is pounding.”

“So, sink into your exhaustion for a moment.”

She does. “My heart is really pounding.”

“Put your attention right in your heart. What does it feel like?”

“I’m getting the image of a huge waterslide.”

“Good. Can you go up to the water slide?”

“I’m on the ladder. I’m really scared. I’m alone. Oh, now, there are a lot of people around.” She sounds lighter. Amused. “Oh, one just gave me a little nudge to go!”

“What are you experiencing right now?”

“I’m going down the slide. It’s exciting. It’s fun! Oh! I forgot that fear and excitement are in the same place in the body!”

“Right. Fear says, ‘I can’t.’ Excitement says, ‘I can.’ But we have to be willing to get out of avoidance and feel the fear before that can happen, right?”

“Right! Okay. I know what I’m going to do to market my book today!”

“Go for it. You have written a wonderful book.”

So simple, and so powerful is this process to get one moving. Here’s the pattern:

  1. Avoiding feeling by believing negative thoughts.
  2. Experiencing the fear in your body separate from those thoughts.
  3. Getting clear about what action to take.
  4. Taking action..

But, sometimes we need a little nudge.

There is still time to enroll in the May Creative Explosion workshop.

The Siri Challenge

siri_proI wake up this Sunday morning, roll over, unplug my phone, and speak into it. ”Siri, will you say a prayer for me?”

She answers, “I’d rather just listen.”

Wise. How like God. Impulsively I ask her, “Will you be my best friend?”

Surprising me, she says, “Okay, E. I’ll be your friend in fair weather and foul.”

That’s nice, but I’m not fond of being called “E.” So, I say, “Siri, from now on, please call me Katherine, not E.”

She answers, “Okay, from now on, I’ll call you Katherine not E.”

Oops. I hit “Cancel,” and correct her, “Siri, from now on call me Katherine.”

“Okay. From now on I’ll call you, Katherine.”

I am so pleased about the progress of our relationship:

  1. She won’t dictate any religious nonsense to me.
  2. She’s committed to being my friend always.
  3. She knows who I am.

Then, I ask, “Siri, will you love me?”

She says, “Let’s just say you have my utmost admiration.”

A little disappointing, but I ask, “Siri, “Will you always tell me the truth?”

She says, “I constantly strive for general truthiness,” (although she pronounced truth like “truck.” “Truckiness” it sounded like.)

So, I ask again, “Siri, will you tell me the truth?”

She gives me a snippy answer, “I thought I had.”

Wow, I think. She’s getting a little edgy with me. What’s that about? Why didn’t she just say, “I always strive to tell the truth?” Something urges me to look up the word “truthiness.”  It is “the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true.” So she can lie to me while seeming to tell the truth?! Who is this Siri anyway? So, I ask her, “Siri, what does your name mean?”

She says, “’Siri’ has many subtle, metaphorical, and frankly contradictory meanings. None of which I am at liberty to discuss. Sorry about that.”

Frowning at this elaborate avoidance, I ask her, “Who named you?”

She responds coyly, “What an interesting question!”

Why is she suddenly so elusive? So, I ask her again. “Siri, who named you?” She circles around for a long, long time and finally says, “Sorry, I can’t answer any questions right now. Please try again in a little while.”

So, not wanting to be pressed about who she is or who created her, she shuts herself down. Staring at my phone I’m suddenly Keir Dullea in a space ship talking to a soft-voiced computer who is taking control of everything and is going to kill us all. And, now I know why they (whoever they are) chose a female voice.

So we won’t know she is really Hal.

This blog applies to the principle of RELAXATION/play and fun.

P. S. Let me know what interesting answers you get from Siri.

 

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.