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
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.

Why I Write

Aug 11
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Conversations, Writing

My friend Leah Lax invited me to be a part of her blog tour by answering the questions below about my writing life. Leah is one of the authors in our book Beyond Belief who is currently shopping her own beautiful memoir. She’s a dog-lover, a writing teacher, and a musician. Leah lives in Houston.

Note: I have a sinking feeling that I was supposed to do the interview questions below and then send them on to three other bloggers. I never sent the questions on, so the chain-letter experience will end with me, but after the body of this post, I have listed three bloggers whose sites I go to almost every day. Check them out just for fun.



  1. What are you working on?

Right now I have a few projects in the works. For one thing, because we are on this grand 5-month adventure to Chile, I’m BLOGGING as regularly as I can! I love blogging precisely because people read what you write almost instantly. Right now, blogging is a way for me to stay connected to community back home.

But I’m also working on a book (working title: Running Undercover—or something like that) which chronicles the history of women’s running. Before women comprised more than 50 percent of the runner population in North America, we were discouraged from running, told our wombs would fall out if we ran long distances, and prevented from signing up for races. We’ve largely overcome all of that in the west, but there are still populations/communities where running is rare, discouraged, or even illegal for women. This book explores the lives of women who buck their respective systems and find their way to running as a subversive activity that ultimately leads to life-changing freedom and self-authority.

  1. How does your work differ from other work in your genre?

I’m sure as a writer I share some qualities with others who write memoir or who write about women’s issues and/or running. Because of my background as a psychotherapist, what I think I bring to the table is a unique blend of story-telling and psychology. In every story I write, fiction or non-fiction, I’m looking for/listening for the metaphor that makes that story applicable to other people’s lives. Everything has a lesson for us if we pay attention. I’m not saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” The idea that everything which happens to us is pre-planned for a specific reason is a philosophy I don’t have much affection for. I don’t feel like I have any idea WHY things happen. What I’m saying is that we can choose to consider each thing that happens to us an opportunity to find a way to grow. WE construct the narratives of our lives. When I write about my own life or about the lives of others, I look for how to tell a meaningful story that has some generalizability. I want people to relate to what I write and to feel encouraged by it.

  1. Why do you write what you do?

Well, I alluded to this above. I want those who read what I write to walk away feeling like they can take hold of life and live it on their own terms. This passion to encourage others probably comes from my years of living inside of a small religious dogma that made me feel there wasn’t much wiggle room for self expression. Now I feel like creative expression is central to my sense of well-being.

  1. How does your writing process work?

Ah… Well, it starts with my calendar. I block out chunks of time and then I put my butt in the chair, open my computer, and place my hands on the keyboard. I always have at least one project going. If I can’t come up with anything to write on any of those projects, I open a blank document and listen to the voice of my deeper self. I write down whatever she tells me. Eventually, I settle down and feel I can get back to one of my projects at hand.



So three blogs I go to very regularly:

A. Pam Helberg. Pam is runner as well as a memoirist, poet, and essayist who is currently studying to become a therapist. I’m watching her journey closely.

B. Wendy Welch. Wendy is my pal in Big Stone Gap. Her life couldn’t be more different than mine, and so I peer into it through her blog with fascination (and sometimes with befuddlement).

C. Dawn Landau. Her website, Tales from the Motherland, features such posts as “I May Be Lame, Clueless and Demanding… But You Still Came out of My Vagina (and other ugly truths).”

Meet Sarah Attar, one of the First Saudi Arabian Female Olympians!

Jan 30
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Conversations, Guest Blogger, Read This

As you know, I’m in the process of doing research for a new book on women runners who run covered (such as with clothing prescribed by their religion, or by secrecy because running is forbidden to them for some reason).

A few weeks ago, in the process of doing my first round of interviews, I had the pleasure of meeting (via phone) an extraordinary young woman. Sarah Attar is the first female runner to participate in the Olympic Games on behalf of Saudi Arabia.  Sarah grew up here in the U.S. and runs for Pepperdine University in California. A mature young woman who understands her place in history, Sarah told me she dreams of a day when running for girls in Saudi Arabia is “no big deal,” but just something girls do. I share Sarah’s vision. Running makes a girl feel brave, proud, strong, and free. Girls who run come to know that they can think for themselves and stand on their own two feet–literally and metaphorically.

Graffiti of Sarah's image running in the Olympics by the artist Shaweesh

Graffiti of Sarah’s image running in the Olympics by the artist Shaweesh


As a senior in college, Sarah is an art major. And at this time, she is working on a creative project for her senior project. I’d love it if you would consider helping her with it. Check out what she has to say:

“From my experience in the Olympics I have started exploring and researching the idea of participation in sport, and my art has been a great way to do that. With my senior thesis exhibition coming up, I am starting a global collaborative project to collect runs from people around the world. Powerful things happen when people come together, and I would like as many people to be involved with this as possible. This project will demonstrate how all of our runs, while individual and distinct, are all part of a larger community, that we are all connected through the simple and beautiful act of running.

“I would love your help with this. I think we can reach a wide range of people and through that create an even greater global community.” -Sarah Attar


To be a part of Sarah’s project send the following to

1. Your age.

2. Your gender.

3. An image of a running route you’ve enjoyed (this can be a screen shot or a link to your route online).

4. The country where your run took place.

5. Your story about running (optional).

To learn more about Sarah’s project, visit

Wanna Talk to My Coach?

Apr 25
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice, Conversations, Training

Sign up for a free tele-workshop! Details below:

Running 101: Why and How Running is Awesome for You

When: Monday, April 29 at 11:00am Pacific Standard Time

Cost: FREE!!

Tele-Workshop Description: Are you a runner who would like to improve your workouts and feel better during and after your runs? Or maybe you’re someone who has been thinking about taking up running but you don’t feel you know what you’re doing.
In this interview-style workshop, running coach Carol Frazey of The Fit School will talk about good running form and offer suggestions on running workouts that will take you to the next level no matter where you’re starting.

How to sign up: Send an e-mail to Write Running 101 in the subject line. Please include in the body of your e-mail:1. Your full name, 2. Your e-mail address. In response to your e-mail, you will receive confirmation of your registration and the telephone number for the call.

About Carol Frazey: Carol Frazey is the author of The Fit School Newsletter and The Fit School Diet Plan: 1 Year to a Nutritionally and Physically Fit Life e-book and co-author of 26.2 Life Lessons: Helping You Keep Pace with the Marathon of Life. She earned an M.S. in Kinesiology from the University of Colorado while working with athletes who would go on to become Olympians. As an undergraduate at the Pennsylvania State University, Carol was a member of both the cross country and track and field teams. Carol has worked as a teacher, coach, and healthcare professional. Currently, she is president of Fit School, Inc. ( where she provides newsletters, consultation, and workshops for schools, families, and businesses on exercise and nutrition and balancing life, family, and health. Her mission is to educate and motivate individuals to make small changes each day to live healthier lives….and to have fun while doing it! She lives in Bellingham, WA with her husband, two children, and a few furry and scaly creatures.

Week 5 of Training and a Visit from Marathon Man

Feb 14
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Around Town, Conversations, Training

Happy Friday! A big thanks to those of you who have commented regularly on my training updates. I’ve never really blogged about my training process before and it’s fun to hear about your workouts as I’m going along with mine.

This week I’m moving my long run to Sunday because we’ve got company (more on that in a moment). So, quickly, here’s the training for this week:

Sunday: 3 slow miles

Monday: Speed work. After a warm up, Carol’s group did 25 minutes of “ins and outs” (running hard on the straight part of the track and slowing down to bring the heart rate back to normal on the curved part of the track). Carol ran with me and really pushed me on the straights. I was sore on Tuesday.

Tuesday: Off

Wednesday: Pace work. This week I did two-mile repeats (two of them) with two minutes rest between. My goal was to run each of the 4 miles at my 9:30 pace, but I started out too fast. My first mile was about 9:20. I say “about” because my Garmin funked out on me and stopped measuring my pace for the first mile, but I’m starting to get the feel of the different paces. The second mile I definitely ran at a 9:31 pace. Miles 3 and 4 were slower: 9:54 and 9:47, respectively. Carol had encouraged me to slow down a bit from my one-mile repeats, even at the beginning of this workout. She was wanting to make sure I don’t go out too fast (which I did) and that I finish strong (which I didn’t). This is my last pace run before the 10K Smelt Run in La Conner next Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes! Even the pace I did on Wednesday would get me in under an hour (my goal) for my 10K next weekend.

Thursday: 3 slow miles.

Friday: 4 slow miles.

Saturday: I’ll be walking the “Two For the Road” with my pal, Sharon.

Sunday (I know it’s the start of next week, technically): Long run at Birch Bay–maybe 10 to 12 miles.

Marathon Man Comes to Visit:

So, aside from my training this week, the other exciting thing we’ve had going on is that Bill and I have been hosting an international visitor. Trent Morrow, otherwise known as Marathon Man, is here in the States working on his goal to break/shatter/smash/take down the world record to run the most marathons in one year. To complete this quest, he’ll have to run at least 160 marathons in 2013 (that’s right, if you do the math it comes out to 3.08 marathons per week). We are home base for him these last few days as he gets ready for the Woolley Runs (Saturday), the Birch Bay Marathon (Sunday), and the President’s Day Footrace (Monday).

Trent is working hard to find sponsors and welcomes conversation with folks who can share local knowledge with him in the cities he’ll be visiting. See his site for his tentative itinerary. As you can see (below), he spent his Valentine’s Day with two lovely Bellingham ladies and a container of chocolate ice cream. What could be better?

If you’d like to follow Trent on his journey (or contribute to his cause, offer him lodging, tweet him with encouragements, or suggest a sponsor), you can find him on Facebook and Twitter. And stay tuned right here for an interview with him in the coming weeks. We’ve been delighted to have the chance to get to know him.


Don’t Forget

And one more thing, since you’re here. This is the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) you can download our 26.2 Life Lessons: Helping You Keep Pace with the Marathon of Life on your Kindle or Kindle app. Spread the word. The more the merrier!