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 “I” in SHINE

Feb 4
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice, Reflections, SHINE

The “I” in SHINE

Invest in your relationships wisely.

Investment

Because I grew up in a home with dysfunction and chaos (who didn’t?), I learned early in life that I had to cast a wide net for healthy relationships. My four grandparents were the loves of my life, and I had many teachers and neighbors who took me under their wings and taught me what it meant to feel loved and cherished. Over the years, I’ve intentionally cultivated friendships with people who could show up for me during both good and hard times, people who would let me cry on their shoulders as well as call me to the carpet if I was out of line.

A few years ago, I developed for my clients a four-quadrant model (which I will go over in my 7-week SHINE program) of different kinds of relationships that they were likely to recognize when they were working toward their goals. I’ve taught this model at workshops and in private sessions over the years.

All this is to say that I’m not new to thinking about how to invest wisely in relationships.

But while I was away from my home and all of my day-in/day-out relationships, I had the chance to do something I’d never done before. I started from scratch. Because I didn’t know a soul when I arrived in Concepcion, I had to build friendships from ground zero. And this gave me a chance to observe how I did it—and how others do it, too. Below is just a summary of what I observed and an outline of what we will talk about in depth in the SHINE program:

  1. To build a friendship with someone, you have to BE the kind of friend you would want to have. The number one thing you need to have in place in order to have good relationships with other people is solid self-esteem. You have to know you are someone you yourself can trust. Sounds simple, right? But this is easier said than done. Most of us struggle to believe we are worth the effort we want others to put out toward us.
  2. To cultivate and deepen a relationship, you must choose to commit to time with people before you know if they are likely to turn into life-long friends. In other words, you have to take a leap of faith and be willing to adjust your commitment level as you get to know someone and what they are bringing to the table.
  3. You have to find a balance between being vulnerable and over-sharing. Every level of friendship requires both letting go of defenses in order to build connection and holding back so you don’t give away too much too soon. Figuring out what this right balance is with each person you know is an art.
  4. You have to be willing to fall in love even though you know your heart might get broken. I knew right from the first day in Chile that if I really put my heart and soul into building friendships, I would be crushed when I had to say goodbye. But, “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” as Alfred Lord Tennyson said. Satisfying relationships require that we put ourselves in the way of heartbreak. This means we’ve got to be brave.Now, to be fair, I didn’t learn all of this in Chile. In addition to my own life-long quest to build healthy relationships, I’ve also been working as a therapist for fifteen years with people who often bring their loneliness into the consulting room. What I did learn in my travels is that when you know how to do relationship, you take that skill with you everywhere you go.In the 7-week SHINE program, we’ll be talking about my four-quadrant categories of relationships as well as discussing how to cultivate the four friendship stances listed above (to review: be the kind of friend you want to have, take calculated leaps of faith, find balance in your “friendship offerings,” and open your heart to others). 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 “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.