Posts tagged ‘Brooke Castillo’

December 30, 2010

The gap between the sofa cushions

When I came to my notebook to write today, I was feeling rather scattered and depleted.  So I decided meditate briefly, to quiet the buzz of my scattered thoughts, refill my well of peace, and to see what would rise to the surface.  The phrase that popped into my head was “the space between desire and action”.  I think of this space like the gap between sofa cushions.  It’s where we tend to lose the small bits that make up the whole of our selves, where we lose our dreams.  Everyone has dreams and desires, but how many of us fall into that gap where we see only the darkness, think it’s too hard to get out and never take action towards what we want our lives to be?

 In that gap between desire and action we are living among thoughts and ideas that we’ve come to believe- but are the ones that limit us and create feelings of hopelessness.  These beliefs tell us how much safer we are to not take action, and how likely we are to fail if we do.  What we forget is that the world outside this little hidden place isn’t as scary and unfamiliar as it seems when you can only see a small slice of it.  That big place outside is nothing more or less than where life takes place.  It takes action to get there. But those thoughts and beliefs swirl and make noise and keep you distracted so you can’t think of what your first step could be.  They say “It’s too hard”, “Don’t bother”, “You’re not good enough” and “But you’re safe here!”  Luckily there are some things we can do to get out of that gap.

 The first is to take action anyway.  Stop thinking, just do it.  I love this most when it’s the action I can’t not take, but it does also work to say to those thoughts, with determination, “Yep, I hear you.  But I’m doing this anyway”.   I admire the people who seem to only need this approach.  I’m not one of them.  The second way out is to look at and listen to the cacophony of thoughts and beliefs and pick out just one.  Then look at it.  Ask it why.  Ask yourself if it’s true.  Step outside of it and see if it’s serving you or if it’s holding you back.  One thought at a time you can turn them into the rungs of a ladder into action. 

 There are so many approaches to this practice of examining our thoughts, this process of inquiry.  I’ve written about some of them before- The Work of Byron Katie and Self-coaching 101- but one thing I’ve learned over this past year is the value of reaching out and getting the help of someone well versed with these processes and with working on thoughts.  For me this was a life coach.  A life coach, from my experiences acting as both a client and a coach, can help you pick a single thought from the swirl of many that are creating the distracting background noise in your life.  A coach can walk you through your inquiry process- figuratively holding your hand as you look into the impact this thought has on your life and gently keeping your focus within the process.  My own tendency is to distract myself, particularly when I’m looking at a thought that has a strong hold on me, and turn to the nearest shiny object or fall back into a loop of my story so that I remain stuck.  A coach can gently, or sometimes firmly and lovingly, say “let’s set that aside for now and come back to it later after you’ve finished exploring THIS thought”. 

 The results of this process have varied from instantaneous “WOW!  I never thought of it that way!” to getting only tiny, almost unrecognizable shifts, that with continued exploration of a thought and it’s many companions and shape-shifter forms, looking from many angles, lead to the experience of a larger shift.  Those are the ones I find most life changing- when I can’t see movement from one day to the next, but over time find there’s been a complete change.  It’s like a force of nature. 

 Honestly, I didn’t know when I started writing this that it would end up being about coaching, but it’s wonderful that it did.  Tomorrow’s post will be more about coaching and I will be making a very limited offer to my readers, friends and family.  But it will not be entirely about coaching.  It is also about some shifts I am making in my writing focus, and changes to make your experience as a reader more enjoyable and valuable, regardless of your interest in life coaching.

 With love to you all,


November 18, 2010

Almost Affirmations

Affirmations feel kind of stupid to me.  When I think of affirmations, my first thought is always of the character  Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live back in the 80’s.  This said, after hearing of how many people find affirmations uplifting, helpful, inspiring and well, affirming, I’ve made some attempts at using them.  The first step is usually coming up with a statement that doesn’t feel completely fake and silly (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”).  The second step is to generally repeat this statement to yourself over and over and over.  Some suggest saying it out loud while looking in the mirror (a la Mr. Smalley), some just suggest saying the affirmation out loud, some suggest writing the affirmation repeatedly- which makes me alternately giggle and feel queasy because it makes me think of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix and “I must not tell lies”.   While participating in a group coaching program this summer I came up with the idea of using a bracelet as a form of “prayer beads”- which are used in many religious traditions throughout the world for the recitation of mantra or prayer.  I used my beads to repeat my affirmations.  Repeating your affirmation is supposed to have the effect of something like self-brainwashing.  After much repetition the hope is that you now believe this new uplifting thought and that this new belief creates a new reality. 

 Now, I’m a very logical person who happens to also believe in the Law of Attraction.  I agree with the observations made by many that people’s lives tend to reflect what they believe.  I also don’t think of this as anything that’s particularly “woo-woo”.  I just consider it simple observations that seem to hold true in my life and that I’m able to see at work in the lives of those around me.  People tend to get what they expect.  It explains pretty well why a co-worker back in my first set of college days, who was a financial and intellectual equal and had very similar life circumstances- newly married, finishing her degree, same job, husbands in similar fields- was moving into a luxury apartment with no apparent financial distress and without any more financial support from her parents than I had, while I was living in a “good enough” apartment and just making ends meet.  She came from a white collar background and had certain expectations.  I came from a blue collar background and my expectations were different.  She expected financial ease and a certain standard of living.  I expected struggle and “getting by”.  At the time it puzzled me.  But now I think it makes sense.  This is probably why I’ve tried to work with affirmations.  It seems to me if I have more satisfying expectations, I’ll have a more satisfying life.  Affirmations are touted as a sort of way to change your default beliefs.  I just can’t say they’ve been a particular success for me.  The whole idea of affirmations tends to leave me flat. 

 But I’ve also recently been working with a model of thought work that I find pretty useful.  It’s called Self-Coaching 101 and was created by Brooke Castillo.  This model also creates a more nuts and bolts, pragmatic take on what I think is the same thing as the Law of Attraction.  You have a circumstance.  You have a thought about that circumstance.  This thought results in a feeling.  What you’re feeling influences your actions, which create your results.  As it happens, your results tend to reflect your thought or belief.  The incredibly powerful thing here is that if you find a thought about the circumstance that results in feeling better, you quite literally do things differently.  Doing things differently gives you a different result.  That result tends to confirm the new belief.  It’s beyond empowering. Absolutely. Life. Changing. 

 So here I was having a panic attack of sorts about all the things I need and want to do, including writing this blog post, which I’ve wanted to do for weeks.  (well, not necessarily *this* blog post, but *a* blog post).  I decided to sit down with my journal and play around with Self-Coaching 101.  And I whittled down my thoughts a bit until I realized that I wasn’t avoiding this post simply because I’m afraid of what people will think of me- I was telling myself that caring what others think makes me a pathetic loser.  (I’m really only this mean to myself- I KNOW most people care what others think, at least from time to time, and I don’t think that makes THEM pathetic losers, just me.  And yeah, YUCK, right?).  This thought was feeling bad.  Very bad.  And the result was that I was just not getting to my writing.  And I love writing.  So, I played.  I played with some alternate thoughts and some turnarounds (a la Byron Katie ).  And I did come up with some really wonderful feeling new thoughts.  Like “Caring about what others feel makes me a well-respected success” (in my own eyes).  Opinions can differ greatly and others’ opinions are really none of my business.  But I can still care about someone’s feelings if they have differing opinions.  It doesn’t make me responsible for their feelings, it doesn’t mean I have to share their feelings or their beliefs, it just allows me to come from my deepest self and a place of understanding.  And it feels good.  And I’m writing. 

Then it occurred to me that I’d like to keep a record of the better feeling thoughts that are working for me at the moment.  I considered a notebook, but not having a fresh one on hand I settled on index cards.  I wrote down 2 new thoughts, each on their own index card.  I can reference them when I like.  I can check in with them and see if they feel better than what I’m thinking at a given moment.  I can throw them out if they no longer have any resonance for me.  Nothing heavy.  No big expectations that they need to transform my life forever.  Just some play with ideas, with thoughts.  They’re almost affirmations, but not quite.  Because it’s not so much the thoughts that matter.  It’s the feelings they bring, and what I do when I’m feeling those feelings.  And I really do prefer feeling good to feeling bad.

So, what are you thinking about yourself today?  How does that thought feel?  Play around for a bit.  And if you’re up for it, go ahead and share your almost affirmations and insights in the comments. 

 Until next time,


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