Re-metaphor-izing to summon inner champions

I’ve been doing lots of champion work this week in anticipation of the new Creative Magic Workout – during which we spend a whole week summoning, channeling and seeking out champions within and without.

A key part of this work is looking at the images in our language, and finding ways to swap out harmful or mean or unhelpful images with ones that are more kind and encouraging and useful.

I call it re-metaphor-izing.

Often there is a potent image behind the meanest names we call ourselves — the ideas that sink their teeth in us and won’t let go.

And you can’t force those ideas to let go, but you can seek out new images that entice your mind to drop the old ones.

For example, did you notice that I used a metaphor just now, to describe how powerful our thoughts can be? I said they “sink their teeth in us” even though, of course, they don’t actually do that. But comparing them to a wild and dangerous animal makes my point more vividly then saying “they are very powerful.” (Suzette Elgin talks a lot about the power in metaphor and how we can use language to defend ourselves, and this is what first got me to thinking about the ways our minds use images and associations).

So, let’s say I want to make the point that ideas are powerful without summoning up feelings of dread and fear and danger.

What else is powerful and won’t let go? A tsunami, a hungry child, a great hug, the moon….

And isn’t it true that your thoughts can also roll over you like a tidal wave

Or call out with a neverending urgency

Or wrap arms of peace and security around you

Or ebb and flow like the ceaseless tide of the ocean

My point being: you can put conscious effort into the images you are summoning, and change the feeling, the vibe, the structure, the EVERYTHING around it.

Like with troll work, a lot can change just by noticing the thoughts that are running through your mind, noticing the images your mind is defaulting to – and seeing what happens when you consciously swap in a new image.

I’ll give you an example from my life – I often think to myself, “you are a hot mess,” or some variation on that theme. You are full of shit, you are batshit crazy, you have got to get your shit together.

And when I slow down and look at those images… wow. I’m comparing myself to garbage, to stinking piles of poop.

What is a different image I could use, that would still be true to the facts?

Hmmm… isn’t “a hot mess” also the conditions under which life emerges on a planet? Aren’t swamps and marshlands teeming with life and activity and balance and their own kind of order?

What if instead of you’re a hot mess, I thought: you are a hot thriving ecosystem. You are a marshland. You are ready for new primordial life.

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Here are some other ones:

I am batshit crazy –> I am a night-cloaked superhero

I am flaky –> I am a wizard

I am a broke loser –> I am free as a bird

The facts don’t change. But the way you talk about the facts – the way you tell the story of your life — can change everything.


I’d love to hear some of your images and brainstorm some ways to turn them into champion metaphors! You can register for my free webinar, Champion Yourself, which is Friday May 18! We’ll work this out in real time…

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Glory In Excelsius

(Or, more thoughts on excellence)


Note: I wrote this a week ago in a moment of breezy triumph, and then the mess of life — in the form of my baby coming down with a fever for five days and caterwauling whenever I put him down for one moment, and then passing the fever on to me — got in the way of me taking that extra 5 minute step of posting it here. Ah! The glory of excellence and messiness intertwined…


I’ve been thinking more about excellence and what it means. If my version of excellence is not perfectionism, if it includes messiness, what is it?

Magic is mess and order

Let’s break it down, starting with the word mess

= fertile
= lost
= too much stuff
= overwhelming, avoiding
= piling = stockpiling = hoarding
= natural
= creative = destructive = generative
= fertile
= neverending
= comforting

And there are some parts of that I want to keep and some I’d like to move away from. What are the qualities of this thing around excellence that I want in my life?

I want…

= a well tended garden
= room to expand
= the right tools
= something manageable = a little chaos but not all chaos
= doing = diving in
= to put things away
= to get out tools, make a big mess, then clean up and put away
= enough space to make a mess
= to let things go
= the key to survival
= to tend to nature
= to tend to myself

And what I don’t like about excellence is this idea of the BEST or the FINEST or getting rated or ranked or lined up and compared. This is the greatest, this sucks, this is hot, this is not. Yuck.

I looked up the word EXCELLENT to see where it comes from.

Ex = outside, beyond

Cellence = Celsus = lofty, high

I remember the term “in excelsius” from some hymn… which one, does anyone know? It means higher, loftier, more elevated, ever upward. Glory to god in the highest.

So to be in excellence is to exist to the utmost degree, to be high, to be praised for being what you are to the greatest degree – to celebrate that quality and that desire and that process.

When Bill and Ted say, Excellent! — they are saying, this is in alignment, this works, this is how things should be. When they say, be excellent to each other, they mean, bring out the best in each other. Enjoy each other. Treat each other well.

My excellence encourages your excellence. When I see you being excellent, I want to be excellent too. Our mutual excellence is a game, a way of taking care of each other.

I want to fly high to the limits of my nature. Which also will mean, failing. Failing and flying are both included in excellence, two sides of the same process.

It is the opposite of calcifying.

It is the process of alchemy, of change, of evolution.

It is stretching and morphing and molting and figuring out what you are now in this moment, which is impossible to figure out, which is why it’s so fun.

Fun is not COMFORTABLE.

But it feels right.

You’re glad on some level.

Like when the toys are scattered everywhere

And cleaning them up will take a lot of work and you don’t FEEL like doing a lot of work, you’d rather go to bed

But you take a deep breath and you put them all away

And it only takes five minutes

And it will only last about five minutes

And when they are put away you look around and feel a surge of goodwill, of pride, of rightness, of clarity

And you make yourself a cup of tea instead of the beer you feel like reaching for

And you feel cozy and comforted and strong and healthy

As you close your eyes and drift off to sleep

In alignment with yourself and the universe

In this moment

That is excellent

May you be excellent to yourself this weekend! Let’s all be excellent to ourselves and each other.

When you encounter a troll in the shower

We’ve been working with our trolls this week in the Creative Magic Workout, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Trolls are what I call the critical thoughts that divebomb you when you’re trying something new or creative or risky or, you know, taking a shower.

That’s what happened to me this morning! I was in the shower and the thought popped into my head: “You should have figured this out five years ago.”

(“This” being “how to balance motherhood and making enough money and having a career that makes everything you want in life possible.”)

And I almost let that thought slip by unnoticed – it’s a thought I have often — but because we’ve been working with trolls, I did notice. I stopped and went, wait a minute, what was that? Is that a troll talking?

You should have figured this out five years ago.

So I did a transformation spell. This is what I call the process of considering, questioning and turning around those critical thoughts.

I considered it: is it true, that I should have figured this out five years ago? Do I agree?

Well, not really. I wish I had figured it out, but I also don’t know how useful it would have been. Or how possible. My life was totally different then, and I’m not sure I could have even imagined how it would change, much less figure out how to respond to that change.

I questioned it. What would be different now if I had “figured it out”? What does figuring it out even mean? Is it possible to figure it out? What is the benefit of figuring something out in advance – wasn’t I figuring things out then that were useful then? Aren’t I figuring this out now? Are there other women I can think of who have figured it out? Honestly, I can’t think of a single mother who has figured it all out. Everyone’s struggling with something.

And I turned it around, which means, I came up with opposite thoughts that are also true.

I should not have figured it out five years ago. In fact, it would have been ridiculous and impossible and kind of miraculous if I had.

It is a waste of time to try to imagine what your life might need in five years. It would have been a waste of my time then.

I am figuring this out now and that is the best use of my time and energy.

I did figure this out five years ago! I figured out some of it, anyway.

Once I went through all this – which was less than five minutes, tops – I was able to laugh at that troll. I wasn’t wrestling with it or struggling to shake it off. It stepped away of its own accord.

Later when I was out of the shower I thought: who is this troll, exactly?

And what came to mind were associations of impatience and wanting to know everything in advance and being very annoyed when things don’t go a certain way. I got an image of the classic rom-com business woman protagonist who falls in love with a laid back handyman and learns to laugh and not take herself so seriously.

So I sketched a picture. Here it is:

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Do you want to try it? Notice your critical thoughts as you go about your day, and when you have a couple minutes, jot down associations with that critical voice, sketch a picture, and give that troll a name.

And then do a quick transformational spell.

  1. Consider the thought
  2. Question the thought
  3. Turn it around

And see if the troll doesn’t soften, stand back and let you cross that bridge after all.

TRY THIS: HAIKU YOUR LIFE

Here’s an exercise I’ve been using a lot lately.

It evolved out of my daily creative check-in — a 2-minute self portrait, then a 2-minutes free-write. I felt like I needed something to cap it off, so I  started circling 5-7 words and making them into a kind of poem or mantra. A haiku for the day, if you will (though it’s technically not a haiku).

Lately I’ve been trying a different kind of haiku hybrid: the 7 words or less challenge.

The idea is simple. You pick your topic — maybe an event in your past, or what you want to do today, or looking back on the week — and then express it in seven words.

For someone like me, who processes visually & verbally – often with a rush of words that overwhelm like a waterfall – there is something satisfying about the limitation of saying it in seven words.  They have to pack a punch, like Hemingway.

And what surprises me is that it often isn’t hard to do. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I could get the essence of any event in my life across to you in 7 words. Maybe better than if we sat down for a long talk over coffee.

Does that sound like a challenge? Join me, let’s give it a shot!

Here, I will talk you through it.

Approach #1: Freewrite and select words

Set the timer for two minutes, and write freely about whatever is on your mind. If you want, pick a starting point or question, like “the week in review,” or “how am I feeling today,” or “what I need to do.”

Now write anything you want for two minutes. Don’t think about it, and don’t try and answer the question. Write whatever words float into your brain, even if it’s just one word over and over. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just move your pen across the paper.

When you’re done, let your eyes wander back over what you wrote, and circle the first seven words that jump out at you. (You can do more or less words, but I find 7 is a good rule of thumb).

Now write those words down, and play around with them.

Here’s an example of how this went for me a couple weeks ago. I wrote about how I was feeling in the morning, and then circled 7 words that stood out:

wild, riot, flower pot, rich, soil, growth

I turned those words into this little poem:

wild riot in a flower pot

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Approach #2: Haiku Hybrid in 7 words or less

Decide on a topic. Here are some ideas:

– a life event I obsess about
– why I’m like my mom
– my first boyfriend
– a fight with my best friend
– my neighbor growing up
– a time I failed
– my year in review
– what I want in 2016
– what I learned from my family
– my superpowers
– my parenting style
– the opposite of what I want to do
– a book that made me cry
– the first movie that scared me
– favorite piece of clothing
– music I will not listen to
– ideal vacation / job / life / day…
– my birth story
– what needs to change
– something traumatic
– something transcendent
– something that changed me
– who I was five years ago
– what I wish I knew when I was 20
– who I will be in ten years

Or you can keep it open and talk about your week or what you’re feeling.

Now say it in 7 words or less. You can use the idea of “words” loosely – I interpret it more as key phrases or  snapshots of the experience you’re describing (as opposed to 7 words in a logical sentence).

So for instance, here is how I would describe my week in seven words or less:

Insomnia
Night weaning
6:30 am
Running hug
Calendar Tetris

That might not make sense to you, but it does to me! Here’s another example:

Theme: Dark time in my life 5 years ago:*

year of yes
goddess group
psychic
pregnant
prediction
miscarriage
year of no

Here’s another one off the top of my head:

Why I don’t watch horror movies:

Blood
Shock
Visual cortex
Stupid
Can’t sleep
Pass out

Isn’t it interesting how this tells you a different kind of story than if I explained in detail why I don’t watch horror movies? It lets your mind fill in the gaps – it’s more of a game between us, which is more interesting for both of us than me telling you what happened.

BONUS: if you do this in your journal, you can look back over your hybrid haikus and see if any themes emerge.

And if you want, post your haiku in the comments or on the facebook page!

*if any of you have seen my solo show / manifesto, you saw me try a version of this in front of an audience! Which you will be able to see again in January when I do the full show here in Portland. Tickets are on sale now!

Being Confident, part I: what does it mean

Confidence is a word that fascinates me.

It seems to fascinate everyone. It’s almost impossible to read anything self-help oriented without someone telling you to BE CONFIDENT! (The other thing you should always do is BE YOURSELF – if your real self is not confident, I guess you’re shit out of luck).

So I thought maybe we could break down the word confidence and see what’s behind it, since we’re all so in love with it.


CONFIDENCE = with strength

 = sureness

 = sure grasp of situation, facts

 = comfortable in your skin

 = leader

 = charismatic

 = fortress – unbreakable – impenetrable

 = armor = projecting an image of strength = invulnerable

 = secrecy — sharing a secret in confidence — a confidante

 = trust — you have the trust of others

 = con man (literally a confidence man) – a professional liar, a swindler


A few interesting things here:

Confidence is an action, an exchange – the act of confiding or being confided in – a transaction between people, not a static state.

Confidence is conferred upon you by others. You inspire confidence, which means you inspire others to trust you.

When people give you their trust, they are opening themselves up to potential danger. They have confidence in you, but they also know that you could take advantage of them.

Here’s another way of thinking about it: we trust someone who is holding down the fort, because we have to. We don’t want someone guarding the gates who will fumble with the arrows. But we also know that no one has 100% sure aim. And so when we put our trust in someone, we are also acknowledging our dependence on them, which is an inherently risky state.

Confidence is also something that we project outward about ourselves in order to protect our vulnerable real selves.

And yet by projecting a fortress of strength, we are by nature projecting a false reality, which we know is false. We know that we are not in fact infallible and inviolable.  So we are depending on this fortress of certitude to protect us, and simultaneously doubting it’s strength.

This is very interesting!

It suggests that confidence and doubt are much more intertwined than we think.

Which makes sense to me. I always find it strange when someone tells me to be more confident, because I feel confident, even when I’m in the grips of the strongest self-doubt. Seeing it through this lens, I realize that when someone tells me to be more confident, what they’re saying is, I don’t trust you.

Hmmm. Is this true, or did I just fall down a word association rabbit hole? I’ve got more to say about this, but it will have to wait for next time.

Justin thinks she’s confident (I think this song is terrible)

My year of sea change

I don’t do resolutions. After years of haplessly making them and watching them slip through my fingers like everyone else, I finally figured out that THEY DON’T WORK FOR ME.

For me, the word RESOLUTION conjures up associations of a set jaw and steely eyes, grim determination, pioneers, hardship, winter, wartime. There are times when what you need to survive is RESOLVE, so I’m not knocking it. But that kind of resolve is a short term solution to a (hopefully) short term crisis.

And to be honest, this time last year I was coming out of a crisis of sorts. Giving birth to a brand new human being and then caring for him around the clock was a shock to my system. It rocked my whole world off its axis and one year ago my beautiful son was exactly four months old and the fog was just starting to clear. What I didn’t know then was that the real work was just beginning — the next 9 months were a time of intense transformation. I tried new things (zumba! hypnosis! life coaching!) and I don’t know if it’s because I was desperate for adult human connection or because the timing was right, but these things sparked huge insights. I read books that pinged off the insights I was having (especially these two books: Finding Your Way in a Wild New World and Our Band Could Be Your Life). I connected with artists who made me question my assumptions around making art and making a living (especially TJ Dawe and Itai Erdal and Cynthia Hopkins and Artists U, which anyone who is struggling to balance art and making a living should go check out right now). It’s like everything I’d been struggling with for years suddenly shifted two inches to the right, and snapped into sharp focus.

All of this led me to put together a plan that didn’t involve SACRIFICING anything or choosing between one vital part of myself or another, but was exactly what I want to do — my style, my dream, my pace. I realized that somewhere in the last five years I’d stopped listening to my body and to my gut. And they were telling me very clearly what I needed to do. I quit my job. I started making a new solo show. And I started this creative practice.

That doesn’t mean everything is easy and happy now. The journey was HARD, and I’m still figuring out how to balance all of the things I want to do with motherhood, which continues to be the hardest teacher of all. But right now as I’m writing this at a coffeeshop in Ashland, my husband is on a hike with our son, who is exactly 16-months-old. And even though we ain’t got money, we’re so in love that everything will bring a chain of love and tears of joy to our eyes, etc.

So back to resolutions: last year at this time I was too bleary-eyed from exhaustion to even think about them. And yet, it was a year of sea change — tiny changes that joined together into huge changes, that shifted my whole world.

So I guess that’s what I hope for the year ahead. That I keep paying attention to the little things, that I see connections when they arise, that I keep listening to what my body is telling me, that I keep learning how to appreciate time with my son at his pace.

I don’t know what sea changes will come of that. But I trust I’ll be able to rise with them.

Try this: WORD ASSOCIATION

This is an exercise I use all the time when I find myself stuck around a particular word or phrase. I think I first read about it here but I’ve come across it other places too — in any case, this is my spin on it.

Here’s how it works:

1) Write the word or phrase that is tripping you up in big letters on a blank sheet of paper. Then write = [as many associations that come to your mind as you can].

DON’T THINK, just write as fast as you can. If you want, you can try writing with your left hand — that’s one way to tap into your creative/unconscious/unverbal brain.

Here’s an example, using something I frequently get tripped up over:

MONEY  = cash

= power

= freedom

= pain

= stuck up

= glamor

= fake

= plastic surgery

= cancer

= seductive

= can’t refuse

= Robert Redford, the devil, big ego, blind

= dollars $$$$

= less fighting

= time

= cage

= grandma

= strings attached

= residue

WHEW. That’s a lot of associations. Now you try it! You can use MONEY if you want, but it could be anything. LOVE. BABY. JOB. WINTER. BREAKFAST. Any words that are currently a flash point for you — that shut you down or light you up or make you think in circles.

2) Now, pick 5 of the words above, and go further. Whatever associations come up when you think of those words, write them down — even if they don’t make sense. Like this:

stuck up = suburbs, people moving away and getting stuck up, beige carpet, too quiet, dream house –> end of something.

strings attached = manipulation, forcing, not trusting, hoarding, puppetmaster.

plastic surgery = hollywood, once you start you can’t stop, can’t hold onto realness, can’t abide realness, cutting out humility and vulnerability and humanity, fucked up superhero.

can’t refuse = at mercy of boss because you need the paycheck, they own you because they pay you. Being bossed around, beholden.

3) Now brainstorm the opposites of those words:

stuck up –> low key, down to earth, more connected, putting time and money into something you love (a house you build with your own hands as opposed to a big cookie cutter house in the suburbs). Sharing what you have. Staying true to your roots.

strings attached –> giving with no expectation. Using money to connect and help people. Cutting strings, letting go. Opened up, not walled in. Giving things away, clearing, making space for new things. Following curiosities, using money to have adventures.

plastic surgery –> Frances McDormand, she doesn’t need plastic surgery. An interesting face. Being ok with your own face, with getting old, with wrinkles. Not improving yourself. Refusal = defiance = badass, refusing to be more than you are.

can’t refuse –> freelancer, what a beautiful word. No boss. Nothing owed to anyone.

Robert Redford –> what is the opposite of Robert Redford?! Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were? Kris Kristofferson? Someone who’s not afraid to play the bad guy, not trying to save the world, just doing their thing. NOT branding yourself.

You might notice some themes emerging, and if it helps, you can put them together into phrases and sentences. In my case, I’m noticing that I seem to believe that money is associated with presenting yourself as something you’re not — a superhero, a moral leader, a dream house — and being controlled by nefarious forces. No wonder I’m having issues with money!

What if instead of this hollywood suburban nightmare, I could exist in a down to earth world where people helped each other out and followed their curiosity? A world where I don’t owe anyone anything and can do exactly what I want and present myself exactly as I am. Hmmmm.

4) In that vein, I’m going to brainstorm all the qualities I’d LIKE to be associated with [that world / thing]:

[new thing]     = cash, free and clear

= paid in full

= currency — trades, services, symbols, metaphors, proxies

= fair exchange, fair trade, fair price for services rendered

= paid gigs

= no boss

= FREELANCER! (this reminds me of HIGHLANDER and immortality and Sean Connery)

= not a guru, not the good guy, not a moral leader, just a person

= being exactly what I am, presenting myself exactly as I am

= helping people, connecting people

= action (actions speak louder than words)

= have more adventures

= crowdsourcing / crowdsurfing

= economics

= transaction –> Trans Action –> exchange of energy, services, goods

5) Like in step 2, we’re going to pull out key words and push them further. Not all of these will lead to something tangible, but usually by the time I get to this stage, tangible action starts to appear. It may or may not be related to my original word, but then again, it might in a way my rational everyday mind doesn’t understand.

freelancer = get gigs, get the word out. Email friends, make facebook page, make business cards, put my thing out there, no big deal, take it or leave it. Explain it exactly as it is.

have more adventures = go on a hike every day. Eavesdrop on people when waiting in line instead of checking my phone…? Listen. Try posting whatever the hell I want on my blog. Wear a radical outfit. Buzz cut my hair.

helping people, connecting people = find free workshops to take, offer free workshops? Share ideas on blog.

trans action = try more things, do things for others, ask for help, ask for support when I need it, share more, risk letting people in even if it scares me. Invite more people over to my house. Set up playdates. What is a playdate between adults (not in a kinky way)?

And at this point, if a word or phrase has appeared that you can use in the place of the original word, awesome! Use it! In my case, I’m going to use the word Trans-Action so I can remember that I’m not cheating people out of their precious dollars by pretending to be a moral leader — no, I am using the resources I have to help people out and asking for help when I need it and following my own curiosity and going on adventures and connecting with other people who are doing this too. We are supporting each other.

So instead of saying ARGHH I NEED TO BE MAKING MORE MONEY I can now say, DANG, TIME TO STEP UP THE TRANS-ACTION! 

And instead of charging MONEY for my services (eeek, what a fraud, I’m cheating people, I’m a poser and a fake!*), I’m engaging in Trans-Actions in which people offer me something in exchange for what I’m offering them. Fair trade. They know what I’m offering, I know what they’re offering.

What do you think? Let me know what you find out if you try this exercise!

*related topic: imposter syndrome. Duh duh DUHHHHH! We’ll talk about that another time.