Writing your way to self-understanding

Holding On and Letting Go

let go

I’ve held on to my dream for a long, long time: the dream of a business that inspires me to get up in the morning, one that takes into account my values, my skills, my gifts and my hopes for individuals and the world.

Recently I’ve been diving more deeply into the dream, watching the dream morph into something new, something more genuine, something more positive. I used to think these changes in direction were because I was flaky and not committed to one true thing, that I was indecisive and easily swayed by any little idea breeze that ruffled my mind. Today, I’m not so sure this is true.

My dream becomes clearer when I observe who I am.

I learned early in my life to deal with transition.  One of my strengths is resilience, another is a love of learning. I am challenged by change, yet I thrive on it. I love to listen and be compassionate with those dealing with loss and sudden change. I love the written word. I learn from new experiences. I am spiritually grounded. It is important to me to find words to describe for my spiritual experiences. I love to teach. I am a student of life. I have something to share.

Story is a marvellous place to bring order to the chaos of an unexamined life. What doesn’t always sit well with me is that story is not the be all and end all. That’s what makes me go deeper. There seems to be more than meets the eye. There is more inside me, out of sight for sure, but important enough to bring to the light. In order to do that I have to set down my certainty, the certainty that “I’ve got it!” I have to let go of my grip on what seems to be the thing, and pick up my shovel.

When I do that I find new things. A willingness to walk through the hard stuff with myself and others, an open mind, an attitude of gratitude, an acceptance of dark and light in all of us, a hope for balance.

The dream is evolving. I am growing. A transition is at hand.

Change can be a challenge. One thing I know, I have to let go of the old before the new can become.


Hiking the Inner Landscape

Do you want to hike your inner landscape, find a path to your Essence? Do you want to fall in love with yourself and your life? Do you want to wrestle with paradox and shadow box with rules and expectations, look fear in the face, peek behind appearances and take off the masks? Do you want to risk authenticity?

I’ve asked myself that many times. “Why do I keep doing this inner reflection? What’s the point?”

The answer comes when I get a glimpse of my real Self turning a corner up ahead. I see that girl kicking through leaves, walking along a forest path. Then she’s gone again, out of sight. I know she’s happy, and at home with herself. That’s so different than my every day ego and personality self. That part of me is always afraid. Afraid of seeing “bears” on that forest path, afraid I’ll never be good enough or smart enough to fight off the wild things and make my own way in the world. That part of me is caught up in body/mind/heart worries and fears that keep me stuck in the backwoods of my old story.

But that real Self, she’s made of essence, and lives in the moment. In the reality of life as it is. She loves the mystery of not knowing what’s next, not knowing who she will meet next, and who or what the great Power of life is that keeps the world spinning. She only knows that she is part of all that is and that she has a purpose created from the sum of all she has experienced, felt, thought and learned.

Her moments are grist for the mill of her knowing. For her, nothing is wasted. Even her dreams are made up of recycled images – yesterday’s news, feelings and thoughts, or archetypal constructs from “out there” and from “in here.”

Do you ache to know this essential Self?  Then write her a love letter, ask her a questions, listen for her whispers. She will answer you.

I believe the world is a mirror to us, and it’s important to observe and connect to how we feel about what we see.

I once perched on a stool in a coffee shop downtown on a windy late fall day watching pedestrians outside the window. Fine flakes of snow and the skeletons of fallen leaves whirled about between office buildings.

I challenged myself to write three sentences describing the passersby. Fascinated by the gaits and strides that I observed, I lost track of time. Little old ladies inched painfully along with their canes watching the ground for obstacles; long-legged teens swaggered proudly showing off their high top sneakers and low riding jeans; young women teetered by on shaky stilettos; middle-aged businessmen strode along with briefcase in one hand and cell phone glued to the other. I discerned much about these people: their physical prowess, sore feet, self confidence, cockiness and self-awareness. Their clothing, hair style, body type, age, and weight all contributed to what I imaged them to be.

Just as I did that day, you too can observe and then imagine the inner thoughts of others who are part of your story. But beware, you will be writing fiction. And that’s all right. Some writers in the autobiography genre say that it is unwise to approach personal essay or memoir unless it is truth. I believe that when memory plays tricks on us, we can play tricks on it too. Great examples of this are in the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder who wrote Little House on the Prairie. The truth of Wilder’s stories is conveyed through the authenticity of emotion, natural dialogue, social expression of the era, and nonverbal and social cues of 19th century culture.

Your short life stories are about you. Do you know how others see you? Do you see things from a 60s hippie-point-of-view or that of a Gen Xer or wartime bride? Listen to how you describe the people you see. It will give you great clues as to your self-perception.

Try it! And let me know how it works for you.

“It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight and the world to you should be a mirror to reflect to you your image; the world should be a mirror that you reflect upon.”  
―     C. JoyBell C.

Please visit www.kathiesutherland.com to receive your free copy of

“Soul Perspective Heals”.

Have you ever considered just how many people live in your head!!?? We all have Shadow selves that hold us back, tell us what to do, and control our behaviour. The amazing thing is that they have powerful lessons to teach us.

Here is The Pusher. As you can see, she is dressed in military garb (check out “About Kathie for the history). You may have a similar Self. What does your Inner Pusher look and sound like?? What does he/she say to you?

sergeant major swift

she’s a harsh taskmaster

on the parade ground of life;

her swagger stick under her arm,

she snaps orders daily,

hurry up, step lively

quick march, double time

prepare, think ahead

don’t procrastinate or dawdle

go quick like a bunny

or a bat out of hell

because the devil is on you

for your idle hands


she’s  got

medals and commendations

pips and promotions

for smart snappy behavior

but she’ll push you to the limit

insisting you’re just a grunt

and you need to change,

right now, this minute

and you need to keep yourself

spit shined for appearances

on the long trek toward change.

she’ll remind you everyday

that maybe, someday,

you’ll be good enough,

be a soldier in this man’s army,

worthy of admiration

and respect.

Setting describes the time and place of story. In my experience of life, setting kept changing. In yours, it may have been a constant and the only thing that did not change. Everyday places in your life: classrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, offices, playgrounds or backyards are the places of story. For some generations, world events created chaos and confusion, and stories grew and altered families and societies. What if one of your life stories took place in London during the Blitz? Or a story on a packed train in India. We can be moved to silence, tears or action by the places around us.

Gardens are transformed by time and maturity and we watch the seasons come and go. The mood of a place changes with the time of day, with the light and temperature, and with the people in the room. Holidays are filled with colour and music. What effect did/does this have on you now in 2013?

The day I left home I got on a plane in Victoria at dusk in the fall. It was rainy and the roads glistened. The air was cool, the windshields foggy.  My father’s cheeks were wet, but I didn’t know if he was crying or raindrops made it seem that way. I like to think he cried in sadness because I was leaving but that may not be so. I can still in the present day smell damp, see the blue lights of the runway winking. Do you feel the sadness in this goodbye? My setting in the dusk and rain adds detail to the picture you are seeing.

When I was ten, I walked home from the show with a friend of mine. I remember passing old barracks blocks, grey painted tanks outside buildings, jets breaking the sound barrier, a chainlink fence. Maybe your stomping ground was on a farm with a shed or barn, a granary, old tractor parts partly covered with thistles, acres of wheat fields, a huge sky and constant wind. Or you may have arrived from Kenya to a prairie snowstorm in November and suddenly you wonder why you left red soil and dry land, dust and walking miles to water.

What does story setting teach us about ourselves? Try writing a story scene of your happiest memory paying particular attention to your surroundings. Enjoy the journey into the past.

Tell me a story! Have fun!

Life Writing Triggers

Life Writing Triggers

Just for fun!!

Write two pages in your journal or on the computer using one of the following triggers. Remember that triggers, also known as sentence stubs, will transport you into story, no matter the genre.

1. I was born…
2. _____ is the colour I remember.
3. I want to tell my mother…
4. The smell of _____ makes me think of…
5.  Children are _____.

Review is a powerful way to harvest information from your writing. Read through what you have written. Summarize the theme, insight or learning in your story.

child on path
Early in my life, traveling was a fact of life. I thought it was normal to move frequently, change schools, make new friends, fit into a new neighbourhood and readjust every few years. It was normal, whatever that means. There was always a sense of excitement about going somewhere new. I’ve only recently, at the grand old age of 62 come to appreciate the gifts of a transient upbringing.

Life too wanders, circles back, and detours. We go off on side roads, lose the path, get caught in the brambles. Even when I have a sense of direction in my life, I wonder where life is taking me and what the purpose and meaning of experience is. So I journal with questions. Lately I’ve been asking, “What are you looking for?” because I am such a striver.

If you too are seeking to understand your life, ask yourself “What is it I am seeking from the life story process?” Do you know? When I began writing life stories in the early 1990s, I didn’t know why I was writing. I thought I was looking for material for writing poetry. I was surprised when a writing instructor suggested I write prose and that I had “a wide canvas to paint.” I didn’t realize it would turn into a passion. That’s why its so important questions. I realize now after years of writing that poetic inspiration was exactly right because poetry is my way of expressing my soul journey. My soul ached to speak. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and soul speak was not in my sights then.

This is a good one, especially when I’m not sure if my creativity is “uplifting.”

imagesCA1QI6CG…but there are some factors which can influence your completion of your life story. It is not easy to face your past, your fears of failure and mediocrity and your shadows. You CAN get past the habits of the mind that keep you stuck in negative programming, those messages that tell you “you can’t” and “you’re not good enough” and “you’re not a real writer.” 

You can move past this and succeed! You can gain confidence from exploring your joys, courage, talents and skills. 

An excellent first step is to learn to begin with journaling techniques that will give you a framework for your story, help you see the bigger picture of your life and allow you to see from new perspectives.

Begin with a question. “What thoughts rise up in my mind when I consider expressing the truth of my life?”  Write for 10 minutes in your journal without lifting your pen from the page. When the time is up, draw a line under your writing and summarize your thoughts in one or two sentences. Repeat this process over a period of days and make a list of subjects that arise. Tackle each one in the same manner. You may be surprised at what you find yourself saying!

Your life always happening. Your story is always in progress. So, you begin where you are.

Here is an outline of workshops I have developed to encourage beginnning.

Write to be Present and Aware

  • Explore the gifts of the physical senses
  • Become present to your emotions
  • What are you thinking?
  • Intuition and instinct

Creatively Write Your Life Story

  • Personality Story: The Events of Your Life
  • Soul Story: Your Inner Truth
  • Discerning your Story
  • Healing your Heart

Inner Child Workshops

  • See the world from a child’s perspective
  • Be inspired by music, colour, touch, taste, sight, smell, sound
  • Return to the place where awe and wonder began

Creativity Workshops

  • Words, words, words
  • Connotation
  • Poetry, myth, fairy tale and legend
  • Archetypes and images

Legacy Writing

  • You are the story you leave behind
  • Document your values
  • Your successes
  • Your hopes and advice for those you leave behind 

Even if you are not a “real writer” you can do this. If want to write for your eyes only, you can do this.

What message do you have for the world?


Visit me at http://www.kathiesutherland.com