Charlottesville

Aug 13
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Reflections

I didn’t know what happened in Charlottesville. I’ve had my head in the sand the past few days. Sometimes after a long week of therapy, sitting with people struggling with deep sadness, I bail out of life and stick my head in a book.

Today I was planning a walk with my friend Jason, but when I called to confirm, he told me he was going to a march downtown. I asked him what it was about and he filled me in on the recent news (without scolding me for my ignorance, for which I’m grateful). So I got online and started reading. I moved from news sources to Facebook to see reactions from friends on both sides of the aisle. I was almost more disturbed by  some comments on FB than I was by the news.

Honestly, dear ones, I can’t understand how anyone cannot see the institutionalized racism and white supremacy here coming from the highest office in our land and trickling down through all of our institutions.

 

Listen, I’m one of the least political people I know. I don’t say that proudly. In fact, I’m embarrassed by how little I march for what I believe in. To be completely honest (and I’m sure I will be judged for this as a weakness—but that’s okay), I am someone who has always been overwhelmed by the pain in the world. I used to cry as a child when I saw homeless people. When I finally got a job working with Seattle’s homeless population, I cried after work many nights. I became a therapist 20 years ago because as a high school teacher (my previous profession), I felt CRUSHED by the pain of the 150 adolescents I spent day after day with. My intuitive nature means that I take pain into my body and stay up at night when I know someone I care about (sometimes even someone I encounter briefly) hurts. Becoming a therapist, I hoped would give me a sense that I was bringing healing into the world one person at a time instead of simply ingesting pain through less intimate contact.

In some ways I think I was right and I’ve helped people heal. When it comes to the grown woman who was repeatedly raped by her father, I feel I can offer safety and warmth. For the man whose parents abandoned him, I can offer connection and mirroring. But for my clients of color, or GBLTQI clients, the perpetrator of their pain is represented in my skin color, my cis-genderedness, and my class. The healing I can offer, though it may be minimal, is both personal and much more than personal.

When Txxxx was elected, I thought my own heart would break. I couldn’t believe so many people could think he was the better choice, and I was afraid of how the United States would look to the rest of the world. And then I went into work and sat with client after client who cried through our sessions for many weeks. The brown-skinned political activist, the Indian immigrant, the Southeast Asian mom, the middle Eastern dad raising daughters alone, the MANY gay or gender-nonconforming teenagers… My god, pain and fear after the election was so thick. So deep. What could I do for my clients. Even the therapy room cannot be neutral.

As the damage continues to deepen, ONE thing I can do is to listen without defense. When whiteness, white privilege, and class privilege are the causes of pain, I DO NOT defend myself or anyone else. I do not tell people to “get over it” or demand that they be more “fair.” I don’t accuse anyone of reversing prejudice or racism. I don’t encourage my clients of color to move beyond their “hang-ups” about white people or call people ungenerous. When people are angry, I don’t demand they settle down to make me feel more comfortable.

Listen, would you tell a rape victim she should look at both sides of the story? Would you say that the rapist has a right to self-expression and accuse the woman of being unforgiving?

I would not. I hope you would not. If you wouldn’t do such things over an individual perpetration, why do it when the perpetrator is a wide-spread and often-unconscious worldview (unconscious to those who hold the worldview, I should say)?

Dear white friends who feel defensive, please deal with it by digging into your own reactions with curiosity and fearlessness. When a friend who is not white challenges you, notices you are short-sighted or leaning on your privilege, do not speak. Listen. Don’t speak of forgiveness. Please do not ask for fairness. Please do not use the term “reverse racism.”

I’m talking to white friends here. YOU have nothing to lose by listening and eschewing defensiveness. YOU have something very important to gain. Humility. A new perspective. The opportunity to see your world from a different angle. A chance to change.

Ultimately, though I hope so very much that presence with my clients brings healing, I KNOW my time in that space with them changes me, deepens me, makes me a better ally.

I didn’t go downtown and march with Jason today. I wish I had. Instead I sat and stewed and wrote this blog. I’m thinking about my own inactivity, how my own head-in-the-sand avoidance actually makes the world a LESS safe place. I’m thinking about what I don’t know that I don’t know, and how that is not an excuse, and how none of this is about me, anyway.

 

I’ve been mulling over the words of my friend, internationally renowned speaker on racism and white identity, Robin DiAngelo:

The default of this society is the reproduction of racial inequality. All of our institutions are set up to reproduce racial inequality, and they do so with profound effectiveness. Our schools in particular are highly efficient mechanisms for sorting children into the racial hierarchy. We all know this or we would not care what schools our children went to (but good lord do we care what schools our children go to). There is no neutral place in this society. To not speak up is to silently support. We now have open white supremacists in the highest level of government. We all knew exactly who they were before they were elected. No surprise there. No subtlety there. I cannot uphold white solidarity by validating the claim that racism – and deep anti-black resentment in particular – had nothing to do with the last election. In the same way that cameras and social media have only made visible to the white collective what has always been going on – the state sanctioned murder of Black people – Trump’s presidency has made visible what has always been there but was barely concealed under the thinnest veneer of decorum – deep white resentment at absolutely any Black advancement (read Carole Anderson’s White Rage). Trump only gave permission to more openly express it. I feel sickened and discouraged by this ugliness and the structures of power that feed and support it, but as a white person I cannot succumb to these feelings, for white hopelessness only serves to sustain the racial order and my position in it. To my white friends: I urge us to get in touch with that racial resentment that lives within us, work to recognize how it manifests in our daily lives and relationships, and fight to uproot it. To my Jewish friends: I commit to keep struggling to see the connections between white supremacy and anti-Semitism. I am so sorry that you have yet to find rest from fear and violence. To my friends of Color: I see the continual terrorism perpetrated against you. I AM SO SORRY. I will not be silent and I will not stop pushing, however inadequate and confused my efforts may be.

 

I want to echo Robin’s words: “However inadequate and confused my efforts may be,” I will not stop listening and hearing. I will speak up and challenge others. I am so sorry.

Dear Friends

Nov 9
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Conversations, Current Events, Reflections
Photo by Josh Adamski

Photo by Josh Adamski

 

Dear Friends Who Live in Places on the Rest of the Planet,

I have visited more than 20 countries (and all seven continents) on this globe. I was not someone who jumped off a plane and booked myself into an anonymous hotel as I was on my seven marathons journey. No. I always seek out connections wherever I go. And I have the gift of having developed and now maintaining friendships with interesting and lovely individuals from many of the countries I’ve been to.

Everywhere I’ve traveled, people have rarely expressed contempt for the American population. Occasionally, well-informed friends (especially in Chile and in parts of Europe) have shared with me their opinions about US politicians or policies, yes, but I have always experienced warmth and openness toward me as an individual and toward Americans as a citizenship.

Thank you dear ones. Today I do not blame you if you are wary of us. We just did something really upsetting and, frankly, despicable. We voted someone into office who would build walls around our country to give you the message that you are not welcome. Someone who thinks you are “less than” if your skin is brown. Someone who will harass and accuse you if your last name sounds Latino. Someone who would grab your “pussy” if you are female. Someone whose best ten-dollar word is “tremendous” and who does not have any idea of the history of YOUR country.

WE did that. WE did that to YOU. Knowing that our wealth, our use of natural resources, our carbon emissions, our purchasing power, our stock market, and many other aspects of our power impact YOUR politics and YOUR individual lives, WE elected this “tremendous” bull-shitter, this dangerous person, into our most powerful office.

I have never written a political blog before. I haven’t done it precisely because my love of running and my love of writing (as a way to inspire others) transcend politics. I know many of my friends and followers over the years come from very different philosophical and cultural backgrounds. I’ve wanted to hold tight to uniting factors: that we are runners, travelers, adventurers, and humans. Most who read my books or blogs are also women.

Today, then, I must speak of this. I must speak of this to and for all of you around this planet that I care so deeply for. I love your countries, your natural spaces, your unique ways of being as people. I respect your histories—the victories and the tragedies. From you I have humbly learned about the effects of my privilege as a white woman born in the United States at this point on the human timeline. And every time I vote—for officials or for policies—I have always kept you in my heart.

This time my keeping you in my heart was not enough. This time a huge portion of the white female vote went to this hostile, ignorant man.

I am sorry; I am sad; I am scared; and I am determined. I am determined never again to shy away from political discussions with friends or family. I am determined to stand up for and stand with my friends of color and my gay and lesbian friends who are now feeling more terrified than ever. I will write my representatives. I will continue to vote. I will look for ways grow in consciousness and in conscious actions.

The United States is not the center of the universe (as I sometimes think our politicians make us out to be), but we do make a lot of noise and we do impact what happens elsewhere. Friends, I cannot even ask you for your patience with my country. I WOULD not ask you for your confidence. I hope that our constitution and the structure of our three-branch government will provide the checks and balances it was created to provide, but I won’t ask YOU to put trust in this.

Today, I only promise you that there are many of us here in my country who know we are citizens of the WHOLE world and who think beyond our own comfort and our own religious and political values. There are many of us who know that poverty and injustice ACROSS THE GLOBE are also our concern. We were not enough to keep this terrible man out of office, but we are not few.

I thank you for your friendship and for welcoming me into your nations, your homes, and your lives. I know you are with me in my grief today. But somehow (I don’t pretend to know how), we must not let fear rule. It isn’t fair for me to look to you for words of hope (though I’ll take them if you have some), but I do believe that humanity is evolving toward wholesomeness and justice in spite of what this looks like.

Love to you all.

Ragnar and Second Wind Seminar

Aug 2
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice, Conversations, Race Reports, Read This, Reflections, SHINE

How Do You Know When It Is Time to Make a Change?

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” –Abraham Maslow

The weekend before last I participated in the Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay. This is a 192-mile relay run that snakes its way mostly on back roads from the Canadian border down to Whidbey Island, where teams are rewarded with pizza and beer for being crazy enough to stay awake and on the move for nearly two full days. I was runner number twelve on our team of twelve—the last runner, a position I’m used to and comfortable with.

On one of my legs (the second one of three), the one that started at 5:30 on Saturday morning, I ran for nine miles alone over rolling hills on streets surrounded by evergreen trees. I watched the morning gently emerge and appreciated the coolness in the air even as I was beginning to feel the heat the day promised to burn down on the runner who would take the baton from me.

22389948_race_0.9799319939245625.displayBecause I hadn’t slept for twenty-four hours and was addled with fatigue, my attention was hazy. There wasn’t much traffic, so I didn’t fear a run-in with a car, but I did worry about getting lost. Runners were spread out so far that there were several points on the course when I couldn’t see anyone in front of or behind me. I was grateful that Ragnar had placed signs at every turn. This meant I could do the work of running—placing one tired footfall after the next in a rhythm that echoed the beat of the music playing in my ear—without pulling up the map of the route on my phone. I could focus on the task at hand until a three-foot high blue sign with a red flashing light and an arrow appeared on a street corner.

I never lost my way.

Only later, after a couple nights of good sleep, when I was reflecting on the race during one of my morning meditations, did I realize that those big blue Ragnar signs were a terrific metaphor for something I’ve heard many of my clients talking about in therapy sessions lately. At least five different people have recently said something like this to me: “All of a sudden, when my child left for college (or when my spouse died/when I received this diagnosis/when I got divorced), I realized something had to change. I can’t keep on in this meaningless job (or this cement jungle/this lifeless relationship/this breakneck schedule).”

Follow meMy clients are naming something really important: Life sends us signs when we need to make a change. Events, be they crises or normal life-cycle transitions, are very often signals meant to tell us that it is time to up-level our commitment to life, that it’s time to turn a corner and change directions. Our circumstances call us to re-evaluate our approach to our activities and to our relationships (with self, significant others, work, the body, etc.).

Though change can be anxiety provoking, it’s also an opportunity to upgrade your self-image and renew your vision for your future. It is a chance to catch a second wind for the miles ahead.

I’d love to share with you what my clients are discovering in our work together about how to follow the signs to change direction.

Join me for a FREE tele-conference called:
How to Catch Your Second Wind:
Transforming into the Next and Best Version of Yourself

I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve been guiding my clients through:
The three key tasks that you need to complete in order to catch a second wind.
The number one habit you need to incorporate in your life in order to upgrade your Self-confidence.
How to master jumping over the biggest hurdle that keeps people stuck when they hit a crisis or major life change.

When: Wednesday, August 12 at 5:30pm Pacific Time
Where: On the phone. In the comfort of your own home.
How to sign up: Send me an email (clostman@live.com) with “Second Wind Workshop” in the subject line. I’ll send you the conference number and a reminder email.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver

(Note: If you don’t want to be added to my emailing list when you sign up for the tele-workshop, let me know.)

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