New Quest

May 30
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Conversations, Reflections, SHINE

Those of you who have followed my blog for years have wondered where I’ve gone, I’m sure. I’ve been taking an unscheduled hiatus from posting here since shortly after we arrived home from Chile. To be honest, although my five months in Chile were wonderful—full of adventure and beautiful new friendships—it was also a time full of serious reflection for me.

One of the things that came to me while I was in Concepcion was a good old-fashioned sense of my own mortality. I began to think about how short time is on this globe, too short to let life pass without really committing to living out our fullest potentials.

Part of the reason I was reflecting on this is that I had downloaded the Feminine Power course by Claire Zammit and Katherine Woodward Thomas, which I listened to whenever I ran alone on my signature Maslowroute around the U de C campus. In the course, Claire and Katherine, two women I would call “evolutionary leaders,” talk about how right now, more than at any other time in history, western women enjoy the opportunity to be asking questions about self-actualization. This is luxury our foremothers did not enjoy (and a luxury many women around the world still do not enjoy) due to their location in the social stratosphere, financial dependence, and lack of available birth control. Claire and Katherine’s message—that to whom much is given much is required—really resonated with me.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to save the world. For many years, when I was involved in an evangelical faith, I thought that meant saving people’s eternal souls by telling people what they should believe. In the days since I gave up that notion, I haven’t been sure what my contribution on the planet should be, but I’ve always felt strongly that I wanted to leave this place better than I found it.

Only how? There are SO MANY causes I feel passionate about: saving elephants from poachers, cleaning up the massive island of plastic that lives in the ocean, protecting orca whales from toxins that may have been making the NW resident pods infertile in recent years, stopping human sex-trafficking and female mutilation, etc.

As I listened to the FP course over and over on my little runs, I came to a place of clarity. I had to come home and do what I was born to do: to bring healing to people who are stuck in their pain. I suddenly realized that I was perfectly positioned to see EVERY single one of my causes attended to because I had the gifts and skills to free people up out of their small visions of themselves so they can live bigger, more contributing lives.

I knew I had to go back to helping people tell their stories—in therapy and in memoir. When people tell their stories, they move beyond them.

So I’m on a new quest. I’m still running of course (I’m off to a half marathon as we speak), but I’m committing significant energy to growing my business(es) this year and next. For starters, I re-opened my therapy practice in the Seattle area and am also offering online memoir writing classes. Both of these endeavors are bringing me a lot of joy, but there’s more joy to come, too! I’ve hired a coach to help me develop a program that will help my clients quickly break through their inner glass ceilings so they can launch themselves into the causes that are meaningful to them (I’m calling it SHINE, of course).

So forgive my absence here on 7marathons7continents. I’ve been busy. Follow me here on my new quest. I can always use your cheerleading and encouragement. Running is the practice that keeps me centered, and the running community is my Sanga. I can feel your support.

The “N” in Shine

Feb 7
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Reflections, SHINE

The “N” in SHINE

Nurture your deep self.Years ago when I went through my divorce, I started a practice of visualizing myself walking through a big field to a water well that sat on a knoll in the middle of a grassy expanse. In my imagination, I would sit down next to the well and wait. A woman I recognized as the healthiest, strongest, wisest part of myself would come out of the well, sit down next to me, and we would talk. I could ask her questions about my life, and she always knew the answers.I started this practice because at that point I’d spent three decades worrying about not being good enough, smart enough, or strong enough to navigate the twists and turns of life. I’d been immersed for years in a dogma that located wisdom and truth outside of me and, as a result, I’d put a very anxious Inner Critic—one that was always trying to please other people (and God)—in charge of many of the decisions I’d made throughout the course of my life. The Sitting by the Well visualization let me get in touch with the fact that I really WAS up to the task of navigating through my own life. In Second Wind I wrote about how I learned to make friends with my deep Inner Wisdom and how to put my Inner Critic in her place.Over the years, I’ve let the Sitting by the Well visualization go by the wayside. I think the reason for this is that I got caught up in more mundane aspects of life—busyness, socializing, volunteering, promoting books. But while I was away from home in Chile, I had a lot of time to myself, so I started the practice back up. I took runs around the campus of the Universidad de Concepcion, stopping on a set of stairs that led down to a beautiful fountain.

IMG_0572
There I often sat, closed my eyes, and did the Sitting by the Well visualization. I was surprised by how much I’d missed it—how generative it felt to really listen again to my Deep Self, to the wise part of me who knows what I need, what direction I should take in life, and what makes me feel happy and purposeful.Of course, the Inner Critic is always on hand. During those quiet moments of sitting by the fountain, my deep listening was often interrupted by thoughts of self-doubt, fear, and old childhood baggage. But the Deep Self knows how to manage all of those negative thoughts because the Deep Self has healthy boundaries and, also, compassion for the hurts that inform ugly thoughts of self-recrimination.During my years as a psychotherapist, in spite of the fact that I abandoned my own practice for months and years at a time, I often walked clients through visualizations to help them connect with their Deep Selves. And I watched my clients break free of years of being driven by negative inner voices. Now that I have renewed my own commitment to nurture my relationship with the Deep Self, I want to encourage this practice for everyone I know.Most of us don’t even realize that we carry around inside of us a set of false beliefs that runs our lives. “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t matter.” “I am invisible.” When these are the voices we hear in our heads, we won’t be SHINING. We’ll be dimming down, living less than our potential. Abraham Maslow said: “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

You can spend a lot of years in therapy figuring out where the mean messages in your head come from without ever pausing to listen to the Deep Self who knows how to counteract those messages and ultimately holds the wisdom you need to thrive.

In my upcoming 7-week SHINE program, I will be introducing you to your Deep Self (if you haven’t met already), helping you develop a visualization or listening practice that fits just right for you, and teaching you how to begin to act on what you hear. I’m excited about this because I believe that we, especially as people who have our basic needs met in spades, have the right and the responsibility to live into our highest potentials! In order to do that, we have to listen.

Here are details about how to join in.

SHINE program details:
When: Seven Thursdays, beginning February 25. 4:00-5:30pm PST (with an additional 30 minutes afterwards for discussion applicable especially for writers).
Where: On the phone. Conference call-in numbers provided to participants.
What: Lecture, opportunities to be coached, homework assignments, bonus writing assignments.
Cost: $99

The “H” in SHINE

Jan 30
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Conversations, Current Events, SHINE

Before I get to the “H” in SHINE, I want to tell you about a new development in my life:

I’m re-opening my practice in the greater Seattle area! After several years of focusing on my writing and on virtual coaching, I’ve decided to re-open my therapy doors. On Mondays I’ll be working out of the Eastside Psychological Associates’ office in Woodinville and on Tuesdays I’ll be seeing clients near Greenlake in Seattle—both coaching and therapy clients at that location. (For those of you wondering, I’m not moving out of B’ham, just spending Monday nights down south so I can put a couple of days in.)
 
Obviously, I’ll be taking new clients and will be delighted to have referrals, so feel free to forward my email on to anyone who might be interested. clostman@live.com

 

Now for the “H” in SHINE

Hold your life gently. What does this mean?

HandsThe opposite of holding something gently is to hold it tightly. When you hold something white-knuckled and squeezing for all your worth, you’re attached to it, clinging to it, needing it, wanting it. I don’t know about you, but I hold plenty of things in my life quite tightly. Especially, I think, we are prone to hold definitions of ourselves very close to us. Most of us, after all, want to BE who we think we are; we want others to think we are who we say we are. And we spend a lot of time trying to prove we are who we wish we were. Whew! What a lot of work.

My narrative about myself was challenged during my 5-month trip to South America. In order to go to Chile, I had to put my life at home on hold. Most of the pieces to the puzzle that is me needed to be taken apart and placed in storage, so to speak. Our two sweet little dogs went to live with my friend and neighbor, Julie. Our home went to Hilda, who also took care of the cat. The responsibilities I carry for the Red Wheelbarrow Writers were sloughed off to several dear friends who were willing to each take on roles I had been filling (and who did a better job with them than I ever did—thank you, amigos). And most of my clients, friendships, and writing routines were all put on hold, too. Just to get to Concepcion, I had to strip down my world to me, myself, and I—and a suitcase full of clothes that I knew I would hate by the time I’d worn and re-worn them for five months.

I undertook my strip-down happily and willingly, but I didn’t anticipate how leaving behind the trappings of my life would impact me. Once I was on foreign ground, I felt a little out of control, to be honest. While we were in Chile, every time I thought of my dogs, I could do no more than to send a prayer out to the universe that they were okay. Or when I thought of my elderly grandparents, again, I had to consciously offer them to Life to take care of; I could not drive them to doctor appointments or take them out to breakfast (things I do when at home that delude me into thinking I have some influence over their well-being). My loss of control of my life back home was at once terrifying and freeing. Terrifying because I began to realize that my long-held sense of jurisdiction over details was—had always been—an illusion. And freeing because I discovered my sense of identity was not tied to all of the things I thought of as “ME.” In Chile I was not acting as writer or coordinator for other writers, doggie mom, best friend who is always there to talk you through something, therapist, grand-daughter, homeowner. I was just this woman no one knew at first—someone who could be anyone.

It’s rare that most people get the opportunity to open possibilities of identity the way that I did, or at least it is rare that we consider holding our sense of identity with open palms. The narrative of who you are has been, as is true for me and for everyone else in the world, a carefully designed structure, built on the foundation of your history, your activities, and your relationships. But WHAT IF you are more/other/beyond what you know yourself to be.

What if you left your life behind and started brand new as someone else?

I’m not suggesting that you do this!! I mean, even a zillion miles away from home, you carry definitions and attachments with you to a huge degree. I, for example, still Skyped with my friend to check on my dogs, called my grandparents regularly, and called Hilda to look in on the house and the cat. I still knew that I was a writer, a runner, a friend, a wine- and pet-lover. But I also felt I might be more than those things.

Holding our self-definitions very gently, without grasping after what we don’t have control over, can give a person a sense of possibility, a chance to imagine what ELSE we are. What else might you be if you loosened your grip on how you think of yourself? What roles do you have in your life that most define you? And even if you love those roles, what might be freed up in you if you didn’t fill them for a time?

You don’t have to travel around the world to open your mind to new possibilities in your life. In my upcoming SHINE program, I will be sharing some of the discoveries I made about how to dream big. Most people I’ve worked with—therapy clients and writers alike—have a feeling they are not living into their greatest potential. Holding your life—and the self-definitions life has given you over the years—gently can revolutionize the possibilities you see for yourself.

In the 7-week SHINE program I will be talking about how how you see yourself is directly linked to the choices you make in life. We will do a powerful visualization that will help you press through limitations that have held you in place or made you feel stuck. 

SHINE program details:
When: Seven Thursdays, beginning February 25. 4:00-5:30pm PST (with an additional 30 minutes afterwards for discussion applicable especially for writers).
Where: On the phone. Conference call-in numbers provided to participants.
What: Lecture, opportunities to be coached, homework assignments, bonus writing assignments.
Cost: $99 — To sign up, click here.

The “S” in SHINE

Jan 13
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Conversations, Reflections
Sorry for being MIA here on 7marathons7continents, friends. As I got home from Chile, I hit the ground running with work. I do plan to post some additional reflections on re-entry and adjustment, but in the meantime, here is a re-print of my latest newsletter with some thoughts about what I learned while I was away from home and details of what I’m up to.
Before I let you read on, let me just say that Bill and I both appreciate all of you who read along as I posted during our five months away. Thanks to all of you who have written notes or Facebook posts or come up to us in the community to say welcome home. And to my friends in Conce… know that I miss you. You’re forever in my heart. xo
Newsletter:
As I promised in my last newsletter, I’m reflecting on some of the lessons I learned while I was away from home in Concepcion, Chile, for the past five months. I summarized these lessons with the acronym “SHINE.”

See the world through the eyes of a foreigner.
Hold your experience gently.
Invest wisely in relationships.
Nurture your core self.
Expect Life to support you.

In the next weeks, I’ll be writing an introduction to each of these ideas and then, at the end of February, I will be starting a 7-week group coaching session for anyone who would like to go deeper with me into the practices I’ve been developing based on these principles (see details about the group below). Let’s get started:

The “S” in SHINE

See the world through the eyes of a foreigner.

The Buddhists call this “beginner’s mind.”

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice.

Most of the time in this life, I (and I daresay I’m not the only one) walk about knowing—or believing I know—what I’m doing. I mean, I get up in the mornings and make my coffee the same way every day. I can do (and have done) it with my eyes closed. And from my morning coffee forward there are many tasks I complete that I can put on autopilot. Driving my car, for example, is like breathing: shift into first gear, let up on the clutch, push down on the gas. And then I’m in motion.
Furthermore, I grew up as the oldest sister with three younger brothers, a sibling position that gave me something of an expert complex early in life. Then I became a teacher, a therapist, a writer, and a coach. All of these roles have led me to feel I’m responsible for knowing what I’m talking about—or at least for putting on a good show AS IF I know what I’m talking about.
So it isn’t surprising that although I’ve been reading about Buddhist ideas for years and have appreciated many of the concepts and incorporated them into my life, the principle of “beginners mind” has always been a little bit elusive to me. I’ve struggled with how to bring an open curiosity and wonder to my daily life.
This last episode of travel cured that for me. When you go to a foreign land, you can’t expect anything to be as you knew it back home. Whether you like or not, everything is new. Toilets flush differently, the rules of traffic are different, time and timeliness function differently, and people don’t relate to each other using the same paradigms you rely on.
Here’s a concrete example (pun intended): The first morning I walked out my door in Concepcion, the rain was coming down hard. Even though rain irritates me, it is also oddly comforting. As someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, rain is familiar, centering even. “Just like home,” I said to my husband Bill that first day.
But as we walked the two blocks from our new apartment to the university where Bill would be working on his Fulbright duties, I saw that I was wrong. Walking in rainy Concepcion was not like taking a walk in our hometown.
The streets of Concepcion are flanked by sidewalks just as most city streets are around the world, but the sidewalks we treaded on at that moment buckled in places, crumbled in others, left off existing altogether here and there. Concepcion was the epicenter of one of South America’s largest earthquakes only a few years ago, after all. Though much has been rebuilt and reconstructed, the evidence of the big “terremoto” is still visible if you but look down.
Right away I could see that walking around town was going to require the concentration of trail running if I didn’t want to fall and break my nose.
Here is another example, more to the point: Because I possess a very limited vocabulary in Spanish, leaving our little apartment was at first anxiety provoking. What if the concierge, Julio, asked me something I didn’t understand? I had some shame about not being able to speak Spanish, so I worried about what Julio thought of me. How would I manage to communicate enough so that he would let me go on my way and stop requiring me to stand there looking like an uneducated, insensitive foreigner?
But in fact, my relationship with Julio is what helped me truly catch on to the concept of beginner’s mind. I pushed through my shame, and day after day, Julio and I stood at the gate and literally made up a means of communicating with one another. He is a kind, patient man who was willing to spend as long as it took to help me catch his meaning. We often started with charades and graduated to drawings. If all else failed, I ran inside to google how to say something in Spanish, wrote it down, and went back outside to read my scribbles to Julio. We sometimes laughed at our misunderstandings and at my mispronunciation.
I was a beginner. But Julio did not approach our conversations like an expert waiting for me to get up to speed; he attended to my imperfect and garbled language as if my way of communicating was every bit as legitimate as his was. Being on the other side of his patience taught me how to be a beginner with a sense of humor and a dose of nonjudgment. I began to feel free to make mistakes and experiment with new words because of Julio’s attitude.

To see the world through the eyes of a foreigner, or a beginner, we have to remember that we really aren’t experts at living—we are experimenters. We aren’t expected to know what we don’t know, to understand what we don’t understand, or to have an edge on anyone else. And this is oddly both disconcerting and freeing.
I want to continue to practice seeing the world through new eyes now that I’m home. I want to bring the same curiosity and openness to my life and relationships that I exercised when trying to figure out how to say, “Can I buy a token for the dryer?” And I’d like to invite you to join me in this practice.
I made a decision during my first month in Chile to suspend judgment; it was the only way to stay sane in a place so different from home. Even when frustrated by confusion over an interaction or a different way of doing something, I began to tell myself, “Don’t decide what anything means. Just let it be what it is.”
We are meaning-making creatures, all of us. When something happens, we try to toggle it into some place in our schemas that helps us to make sense of it. We do it all day every day. Someone pulls into the parking space we planned to pull into and we decide he is a “jerk.” Someone lights a cigarette on the trail we run on every morning and we decide she is insensitive. But when you are a foreigner in a foreign land where you don’t make the rules, you have to suspend this meaning-making.
Staying open frees us up from misery because we aren’t clinging to how things ought to be, to how they do or don’t fit into our expectations. We simply notice what actually IS.

I encourage you to embrace a “foreigner’s mind” this week. What kind of space might open up in your mind and heart if everything you looked at was new to you? If you didn’t try to quickly categorize events and people into your familiar internal filing system?

In the 7-week SHINE program I will be talking about howpeace of mind is directly linked to the practice ofbeginner’s mind. We will do two powerful exercises that will shift the pressure we feel to be experts in so many areas of life (challenging perfectionism and shame), and we’ll create a statement of intention to move us toward an experience of real joy (even without knowing what the future holds).

SHINE program details:
When: Seven Thursdays, beginning February 25. 4:00-5:30pm PST (with an additional 30 minutes afterwards for discussion applicable especially for writers).
Where: On the phone. Conference call-in numbers provided to participants.
What: Lecture, opportunities to be coached, homework assignments, bonus writing assignments.
Cost: $99

To sign up go here.

The Soundtrack of Experience

Nov 24
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Reflections, Travel log

I’ve never been a very sophisticated music connoisseur. Just to give you an example, my high school boyfriend tried to introduce me to Peter Gabriel back in the day, but I eschewed his attempts to educate my taste and stubbornly continued to listen to Air Supply—until MANY years later when my life-long friend Jason made me a CD of his favorite Peter Gabriel songs and I finally understood what I had been missing. (Sorry I was so unreceptive, T.H., if you’re out there anywhere.)

Even as the simpleton I am, music is still important to me. Years ago I compiled a running play list that has been my steadfast companion through 25 (ish) marathons and God-only-knows how many other races and training runs. And I’ve used that same list for so long I can almost tell you what mile I’m on based on the song that’s playing. There is great security in knowing what comes next (in running and in life).

Just before coming to South America, I updated all my technology to Mac products and, because I didn’t have a ton of time to figure out how to use iTunes (which, by the way, I find decidedly NON-intuitive), I simply loaded my running list and a few of my favorite CDs onto my iPhone. This is what I’ve been listening to for four months. Partly because I already have all my old CDs on my old computer, I didn’t want to invest in buying much music digitally while I was traveling, so I made do with what I had for the most part—favorites to be sure, but not the music that I would have chosen as the soundtrack to my experience—in Concepcion, especially.

The music I brought with me was music for other times in my life:

Supertramp1.  Supertramp, Breakfast in America. This was the music for the first time a boy ever put his arm around me. I was eleven-years-old. Daniel was fourteen, and his family was visiting one of my neighbors. We had a campfire in the neighbor’s back yard one summer evening, and I distinctly remember The Logical Song coming on the radio at the same moment Daniel surreptitiously slipped his arm around my waist. I’ve loved Supertramp ever since!

 

 

David grey2.  David Grey, White Ladder. David Grey was the music of my divorce. I got White Ladder almost the same week I separated from my ex-husband. Grey’s mourning tone and deeply honest lyrics made me cry for what I was losing—both in terms of self and other. You’d think I might not love the CD because it evokes the memory of a difficult time in my life, but divorce for me was as revolutionary as it was sad. It upset the narrative of who I was to such a degree that it opened up possibilities I could have never foreseen.

 

 

DMB3.  Dave Matthews Band, Everyday. DMB originally came into my life at the same time as David Grey but called to a different something inside of me. The band, with Dave’s sexy voice, Boyd Tinsley’s violin (OMG!), and LeRoi Moore’s saxophone (RIP), evoked sensuality for me and in me, a sense that I could/should stop and let the breeze brush against my skin rather than bundling up tight to protect myself from the cold. DMB cracked me and opened me up.

But none of this music is fresh to me now. And as I listened to these three albums over and over for the past four months, I started longing for something new, but what? As I said, I’m not a refined music consumer. So as our travel time wraps up, I’m ready to expose my ears to something new. Looking forward to heading home, I can see that I have the chance to push a reset button on many aspects of my life. I’d like to have some background music for the next chapter. And I’m receptive to suggestions. What do you love right now? What is meaningful to you? You know my email (clostman@live.com) if you have ideas (or you can comment on this post).

 

And PS: I will buy a pitcher of beer for anyone who can teach me how to use iTunes more efficiently.