What is in your backpack?

What is in your backpack? 

If day to day life is like a backpacking trip, would you have an interest in what is in your backpack??

What is backpacking?  It is the ability to travel over a designated terrain or hiking trail, with everything you need for a “happy life” being carried in your backpack on your back.   You may or may not feel you can choose the trail, but you do have control over what goes into the pack to ease your life experience while on the trail.  

In my experience, I love this analogy. It is simple.  If life is like a backpacking trip, there are only 3 components: the one carrying the pack, the backpack itself and then the terrain that you are traveling.  As with all trips, sometimes the terrain is unpredictable, and we do not find ourselves prepared. Also the journey is long and sometime not what we imagined, our tools and ways of coping are incomplete or outdated.  Checking and rechecking our pack to become efficient and effective and carry the lightest load is the goal.

Component One: The one carrying the pack is your life force, it is not just yours, and it is the life force of all of life. This life force is the aliveness that came into the egg and sperm that created your physical being, that life force will leave at some point and leave your inanimate shell behind to be cremated or interred.  While this life force is within all of life, it has a special quality in humans and some mammals. This special quality is called awareness. Awareness is the evolved capacity for me to know myself and see myself as separate.  An example: I can look in the mirror and know I am seeing myself.  My puppy on the other hand can look in the mirror and start barking because it sees another dog and does not have the capacity to know that it is seeing itself.  Seeing ourselves as unique and separate is also something that dolphins and great apes can do as well. Seeing ourselves as separate is what allows us to create a personal identity, and also become attached to that identity. In psychology we call that your ego. Your ego is something you make up about yourself and your identity while your life force just is, whether you think about it or not.  The life force that moves through you and all of life is the unifying field or element that connects us all and allows us (through awareness) to know each other in unity.  The ego identity is what allows us to believe that we truly are separate, when in fact that is impossible by virtue of the life force that permeates all of life. Seriously, think about that!

Component Two: Your actual physical form. What an amazing creation this is.  We humans have evolved through the eons of time, from Stone Age tribes to modern mayhem and delight.  Your body and mine carry the memories of our ancestors in its very DNA. Our bodies are hard-wired (and can be rewired) for survival. We are most efficient at this. In fact, your body has a mind of its own; preferences of comfort and familiarity for community, connection, predictability and safety.  The majority of these preferences  and safe guards (85% to 90%) are stored in our unconscious, and show up as automatic, emotional reactions and behaviors.  Think of it like this; most animals, but most often mammals take care of their young until the young can take care of themselves.  This protective capacity is hard-wired in our biology and it has evolved over time.  As modern humans, becoming aware of our evolutionary program is important. Accumulated life experiences also become a part of this hard-wired unconscious automatic capacity.

Awareness, your life force, your ability to observe gives you a special talent to observe your behavior and automatic reactions, this alone give you power over your hard-wiring. Now we know, through science, how to access these unconscious processes for an opportunity for change.  Neuro-physicists’ study our brain chemistry and help tremendously in giving us insights into our hard- wiring. Sometimes our body’s autonomic systems work in our favor and sometime they do not.  Understanding how our bodies are wired for survival  and becoming familiar with our personal brand of wiring can go a long way to allowing each of us to help ourselves when it comes to alleviating anxiety and depression.  This does not of course preclude standard medical care, but in addition to it.

When your fears outweigh our ability to know peace, you are out of balance.  While medical science knows that it can assist us to feel more in balance through pharmaceuticals; the amount we consume in our culture is a good indicator that we are not using our self-awareness in addition to medications to find new balance.  There is a wonderful book called Wired for Joy by Laurel Mellin that explains this very well.  In short, you are not just your body, your capacity for awareness (which is your life force and the one carrying the backpack) has the ability to observe your body, detach from it, and expand past it.  You are more than just a physical body hard-wired beyond your capacity for change.  Your awareness alone creates change!

Component three is the terrain of life. Everything you personally encounter from conception, through death makes up the terrain your life.  So, there is the terrain. It encompasses all the paths I choose and all the things I don’t feel I chose. 

So let us review: there is first of all the terrain (component #3), then there is my backpack, my physical form; how my physical form (component #2) manages the terrain.  Most important there is the traveler, (my awareness) the one carrying the pack.  We are not taught to look deeper into these components without fear.  We are not taught to make an easy distinction between these three components so that not only can I understand but I can rearrange and discard, add new tools and processes and ways of being and thinking to our packs.

Here is a question for you!

What would it be like if no matter what the circumstance, environment, amenity, you knew you had your connection to peace, safety, and deep joy right there in your pack and you could easily access it? 

The only reason you haven’t accessed it is simply because no one ever taught you how to find it, and have it handy.

Stay tuned!



Self-Awareness Heals

“If I am alive and self-aware, then everything there is to know about life (God and healing) can be discovered there.” Brunch  www.peacefulpoet.com

The above is a quote by my son.  I added God and healing, to put it into my own frame of reference.   When he first spoke those words to me I had to stop and think.  Maybe you do too!  What does he mean by this?

We are all in the habit of seeing ourselves a certain way.  What do you think of, or become of aware of, when you look at yourself in the mirror or self-reflect?

What are you looking at? From what point of view are you looking?  Are you looking on the surface for wrinkles; at body size and shape; at the fashion statement?  Are you looking into your mind and noticing your thoughts, or your emotions? Do you look for your accomplishments or your failures and judge or evaluate what you are noticing?  To look from a point of view that is to review, or compare is a type of self-awareness. It is founded in the belief that we can always better ourselves. How often do you find yourself feeling good about what you are reflecting on?  Really, ask yourself and answer that question right now.  Psychotherapy is founded on this premise; to become aware of our past can help us with our future.  “I am a work in progress that needs fixing.” Most often reflecting on ourselves does not create a sense of joy or contentment within us.  Is that true for you?

The need to better our “Self” through self-reflection often keeps us consistently looking to the future or evaluating our past based on what we think we already know.  It does not allow us to see what is happening right now in this moment.  To look at this moment is to look with a different point of view and possibly use different language. When coming from fix it mode we might say to ourselves. ”I dislike looking in the mirror because I don’t like what I feel or see.”  “Dislike” assumes a preconceived notion that you are not right and you know this even before looking.   Looking in the mirror only reminds you of that fact.  If you look from another point of view; one that does not assume anything, then first you need to be willing to look without a preconceived notion.  Yes, I know that is hard to do.   An example:  “I am looking in the mirror and feeling uncomfortable because I am aware I don’t like what I see.”  You could go on to describe your discomfort as “What I see (right this moment as I look in the mirror) makes me feel …. (you fill in the blank) frustrated, powerless over my body, or helpless or worthless, or inadequate?”   It is all a form of discomfort, do you agree?

Any emotion, by the way, is literally a biochemical reaction that passes through your body that you have learned to put a label on.  In the scenario above I am not labeling myself as fat or lazy or worthless, I am simply noticing what is happening with me. “I am uncomfortable.”  To notice what is real with in me right now, has the capacity to allow you to take the power back from the label. A label that makes you feel a victim to yourself. 

When we dig deeper and ask, “Why am I fat?” or “Why do I overeat?”  or “Why am I afraid?” this takes us into our past to explain it. Often this creates more in this moment uncomfortableness.  This then can leave us feeling worse.

An idea: What if you were to notice your discomfort but be willing and able to refocus and ask a different question?  ”What would it feel like to see myself in the mirror in a way that would give me pleasure?”  “To look and see myself without the need to fix or changing one single thing and still feel pleasure?”

In order to get to the pleasure experience it is important that you know these 3 things.

  1. When we are able to be with the emotions, (these biochemical reactions that move through us like a wave), we have the ability to feel it, notice it but not get lost in it and we can literally ride it out. As the wave within comes to completion, or we experience it as passing, we then have the option to have a different thought or different point of view about this discomfort.  
  2. To allow this wave to pass it is helpful to be willing to consider that this wave is passing through a Self that is whole; not a Self that needs fixing.
  3. To allow yourself to notice what is really happening in this moment (as in I am uncomfortable) curiosity is a helpful tool. So you can now ask “What is this?”

This curious observer has no agenda, or need to evaluate, it just notices what is!   This type of self-awareness is based on the belief that I am fine the way I am, and I can notice without the need to fix or improve.  The powerful and true underlying assumption that truly promotes healing is that in the most profound ways I am whole. This wholeness lives within me and is waiting to be discovered and partnered with now!

Yes, you are whole regardless of the biochemical wave of emotion moving through you.

It is my personal experience that to learn to listen to myself in the present moment with open curiosity is an acquired skill that has put me on the road to healing all aspects of my life. Use your own courage and face what really is present to you and within you.  Notice what is present and then notice where you are looking from.  Are you looking from fear and judgment, or support, curiosity and wholeness?

God lives in the present moment always. He lives in curiosity in my aliveness in this moment.  He/she lives in the aliveness I am allowing myself to be aware of right this moment.. Now right this moment. Now right this moment.  God did not create fear, God is wholeness creating itself.   

Know this: The labeled emotions regardless of what is it, powerless ness, or helplessness or worthlessness, cannot get addressed when we are in judgment, fear or evaluation of these same emotions.  We are then literally creating more waves of emotion; like embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, remorse, regret, which adds another layer to your already existing angst.  Judging ourselves negatively traps us, freezes us in these waves. When the emotions freezes within we lose the flow that we need to actively take care of ourselves. When this happens, the ability to move forward in kindness, encouragement and possibility are frozen too.

Open curiosity and neutral observation is an acquired skill. It allow you to simply look at what is happening right this moment within.  “I am at rest”.   “I am feeling hungry.”  “I am anxious and feel as though I can’t function.”  “I am noticing that my mind will not stop talking to me.” This is to be self-aware of what is happening with in you “right this moment”.  To simply notice and then allow you to let the thought and emotion pass makes room for a new idea or experience to occur.  This is where healing happens.  Think about it.

There is more to come on tips and tools for understanding awareness, noticing without criticism and letting go of emotions.  

Looking for your Power? It lives….

Your POWER lives within You! 

It is in your Being-ness 
It is in your relaxed vulnerability
After you have stripped away the anger, the sadness, your story
The circular thinking
The push to know the answer

Your power lies in restfulness
In your deep quiet and the knowing that arises from that
In a willingness to let things go
To let things come
To let things be
Your power lies in trust
Trust that you belong here
That you have a place
That you are/have a gift, a contribution
In the simple act of Being yourself
Your power lies in your curiosity, your courage
To look inside the dark, hidden, invisible places
To feel without judgment and 
To know that those places are not you
Just what you have hidden in your invisible pockets
Your power lies in your innocence and openness
A willingness to see with new eyes, all things
Find new meaning
New ways of defining who you think you are
Openness to infinite possibilities, in all ways
Your power lies in faith, in living in the mystery
Living in questions and allowing answers to come forward
Living in the surrender of not knowing and feeling safe there
Shifting your awareness from what you think
What you think you know – to what you don’t know
And faithfully letting that be the place that a new knowing arises
Your power lies in the awakening of your imagination,
Imagine meeting the silent, invisible “Essence of Being” – "YOU"
That arises from The Field of “All Possibilities”
YOU are waiting for YOU to experience the exquisiteness of this
The creative openness
The infinite possibilities that will arise from this meeting

Your POWER lives within YOU!!!
Ruth Kellogg 2008

Imagination, Curiosity and Infinite Possibilities

You and I both know that imagination all by itself has unlimited possibility.  When was the last time you really used yours?  Do you know 90% of what you thought yesterday you will think today and then again tomorrow?   Unless you are in the arts, and creating on a regular basis you probably fall into that category. Scary! Huh?

Think about your day, the routine of your day.  Most of us have our lives down to a system of one sort or another; you know the drill.. . . get up, shower, brush your teeth… in some order.  Within that system we typically have the routines or jobs  we love and those we dread.  There are subsets within the system… you know relationships, work, family.  We may get creative or imaginative if we are planning a vacation, or a party, or we may hire someone to do that for us because we are too busy doing what is required on the list every day.

In fact, let’s look at the definition.  Imagination is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.

What would it be like if you could rekindle your imagination?  Who has time for that? You may ask, ”Why would I want to? I am not a creative person! What is the point?”

I am glad that you are asking why, because at least that means you are curious.  Curiosity is a very important part of an active imagination.  Again, let me give you Webster’s definition of curious;  there are three.   1.  Eager to learn; 2. Unduly inquisitive; prying; 3. Arousing interest because of novelty.    Read this again!

Does anyone want to appear unduly prying,  or feel as though they are arousing interest because they are a novelty?   I contend that even when we allow ourselves curiosity,  we are restricted by the parameters of what it means to be a good person in polite society.  Curiosity is pretty much bred out of us accept in structured or controlled environments, in which case it is no longer genuine but contrived.

We are told from little that too much curiosity can get us into trouble.  So we learn to do what is in front of us, do what we are told and taught in good faith. We are told that doing this will get us the success we aspire to. We stop asking the kind of questions that are thinking outside the everyday box. I believe that when we go along with this
guidance, which most children do, a piece of us dies; that innocent childlike essence within us is given no room to
play beyond our early years; not unless we carve it out for ourselves and make it happen.

In my work as a psychotherapist and a healer of deeply hidden emotions; as well as in my personal life, the reactivation of my imagination has meant everything to me. The following is a personal example: I remember the first summer my son came home from college after my husband and I had separated.  He was sullen, and did not speak to me much unless it came out angry.  He was also displaying typical teenage boy behavior of not picking up after himself and not actively looking for a summer job.  If the family hadn’t been going through a major adjustment, I might have just a harassed him.  Instead, I decided to allow my imagination to help me. I began to ask my inner wisdom  ”What can I say to him that would create a door way into his silence that wouldn’t offend him or make our relationship more tenuous?” By living in this question for a few days and not succumbing to my frustration, one morning upon waking a simple idea came to me.  I asked him if I could ask him a question, and when he said yes I asked, “Are you not talking to me because you are mad at me or because you are just mad?”  His response, “I am just mad.” I sighed in relief and told him, “I am happy it’s not me, and I was here for you, if you want to talk.”

Within a few minutes he started to talk. His talking to me came from a place of trust, because I was simply curious without an agenda.  This short conversation set the stage for a heartfelt  summer versus one of adversity.   It took a couple of days of asking myself the question, and searching for a new way of being with my young adult son to come up with something that simple.  However, the time and result were well worth it.

I contend that without our curiosity; what I mean is without our unabashed  ability to ask, “what is this?’  our imagination is dead.  It is important to learn to be able to ask without  judgment or preconceived notions even when this is something we have seen a hundred times before and we think we already know  the answer.  To be willing look and see with new eyes takes us out of being an automaton or a human machine that does pretty much the same thing everyday and into a new world that can bring an aliveness we have long forgotten. 

When we are willing to ask, “What is this?” When we ask with genuine willingness to put aside whatever we think we know and be willing to allow our inner wisdom to form  a  new mental image of something not present to our senses or current reality,  we open a window to a new sense of aliveness.  When I was willing to assume I didn’t know what was going on in my son and start from there,  it opened a doorway into a summer of conversation versus stress. When we are willing to use curiosity coupled with imagination, we are activating our right brain, and bringing a new balance into our bodies.  We activate an aliveness within ourselves that creates satisfaction and a sense of connection.  Curiosity, combined with a willingness to be imaginative in ways we think or believe we have forgotten, opens doors of infinite possibilities in what ever area of our life is stale, or stifling and dreadful. Try it! See what your inner wisdom will bring alive in you.

A great resource for activating your right brain and your imagination is “Breaking The Rules” by Kurt Wright.



About Me: Assisting you in lightening your load!

When I began this practice 7 years ago, Jul 2008,  I was opening up to new ways of seeing and being in the world. I was excited about sharing this with clients. In August of 2008 my life went upside down and I experienced radical change.  Within 4 months, from August to November my mother passed away, my youngest left for college and my husband just left. Losing all of my familiar roles left me in deep grief and in very unfamiliar territory. This coming together of growth and loss introduced me to a wisdom I didn’t know I had. It opened my heart. It introduced me the concept that we live our life in two realms, the practical and the profound

The Profound – In a nut shell, you have a life force. It makes itself known through your breath. It animates you and me from conception to death. We leave our shell behind when we take our last breath. This life force is never injured or broken in our life time. It breathes each of us and informs us if we allow it. While is may seem invisible to us, it lives in the profound elements of life; in our deepest desires, intuitions, insights and joy.  

The Practical – We also have our story. This story is held in our body. I think of our body as the vehicle that travels the terrain of life; similar to a backpacker. Our body is the pack. While we carry our tools and wisdom from the realm of the profound with in our breath / life force; we carry the story of our life in the back pack; our body, your DNA, your family and cultural history. This can seriously weight us down and influence the practical ways that we interact with life every day. We have been taught to identify ourselves with our story and not our life force. We worry about the practical and ignore the profound. Both are important.

We never really know for sure what the terrain of life will throw at us. Just as a back packer doesn’t not always know what is around the bend. As you become familiar with your inbred wisdom, and understand how the spirit of life wants to support you, you realize you have everything you need to travel the terrain. You may not know that when we meet for the first time, but I do.

My job is to help you dump the stuff from your pack, clear your muscle memory, erase and rewrite the story you carry. As you let go of your story, your emotional attachments, habits and patterns that you think define you; you lighten your load and you automatically begin to enjoy the beauty of the terrain. You automatically begin to interact in very practical ways that support you every day.

It is my pleasure and privilege to assist in this process.