Inspirational

We are Ego + Spirit (thank goodness)


So I have finally come to the end of Elizabeth Gilbert's wonderful book, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear."

Or (though it typically irks me when others say this) maybe I've come to the beginning.

When I am drawn to a new mentoring influence, I've noticed that one of the siren songs I absolutely cannot resist is the mentor's ability to marry the mundane (the itsy bitsy small stuff) with the profound (the unknowable, unfathomable, beyond all efforts of the mind to reach it).

Gilbert does this stunningly well in "Big Magic." In each story I find bits of both combined in ways that make me feel like we all belong here together, doing what we do, being who we are, struggling with what we struggle with and excelling at what we excel at.

It is a lovely gift - especially so soon into the New Year.

Right near the end of the book, there is a chapter called "Hungry Ghosts." In this chapter, Gilbert addresses the realization that we are more than "just" any one aspect.

For example, we are - or we have - an ego, and we have - or we are - also a soul.

The Hungry Ghost is our ego, which the Buddhists say is, "forever famished, eternally howling with need and greed."

The howling comes in when the ego gets coddled, perhaps over-fed with the food it likes best, which is success, praise, recognition, reward.

We all have it - this ego presence - that bottomless pit that is so deep and vast and empty that no amount of food can fill it.

But we also have a soul. 
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Animal Mentors

Help Me Make Amazing Happen (A Service Dog for FuMing Cutts)

You probably noticed the last name - FuMing Cutts - yup, we are related. :-)

FuMing, or we like to call him "Ming" for short, is my youngest nephew. But along with hope, intelligence, strength, courage and the love of his new forever family, Ming brought with him trauma.

He brought remembered grief for his birth mom who abandoned him when he was one day old (likely because she couldn't afford the many surgeries his cleft palate would in time require).

He brought PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from the many months when he basically starved because no one at the orphanage knew how to properly feed a cleft palate baby.

And he brought fear from all those moments before he came into our family when he didn't know if he would belong to anyone, anywhere, ever. 
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Mentoring

A World Inhabited by Ideas

I am nearly finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear."

While reading "Big Magic," I have learned all of the following:

It is normal (like, on a biological as well as an emotional and social level) to feel fear before, during and after creating.
It is more important to see an idea through than to see it through perfectly.
Curiosity trumps passion....every time.
We are all creative - whether we think we are (or others think we are) or not.

But by far the most intriguing thing I have learned is this - ideas are alive.

From the chapter called "How Ideas Work:"

I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us - albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. 

WOW.

So if I don't opt in, these poor idea-beings will spend their whole disembodied lives attempting to change my mind? 
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Good News

How I KNOW Body Love is Possible


Over the years, I have detected a pattern to how I tend to do "personal growth."

First, I whine and moan about how I really want something - let's say body acceptance - and I complain about how hard I've been working and why haven't I achieved it yet...?

Then I work really hard some more, and I keep working and working and working.

Then one day, or week, or year, I wake up and there it is - that thing I've been working so hard to achieve. It is sitting calmly on the end of my bed, just waiting for me to open my eyes so it can enjoy the shocked look on my face.

Over the past year, I have had just such a surprise visitor - body acceptance. 
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Shannon Cutts

Why It Is Better to Follow Curiosity than Passion

I would really like a gardenia plant of my very own.

This seems like quite a simple goal.

Except for the fact that I have no yard. And I live in a second-story garage apartment with no outside porch. And I have a renowned brown thumb.

So every time I go to the grocery story and see those short green potted plants with the telltale white tags (the ones with the pictures of the gardenias on them) I force myself to walk by.

Sometimes my willpower flags and I stop. When this happens, I force myself to look at the price tag first. Upon seeing the $30 or $40 on the tag, I then find new motivation to make myself to walk on by yet again.

But this doesn't stop me from wanting a gardenia plant.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned I've started reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear."

Last night I got to the part where Gilbert shares why she likes curiosity better than passion. 
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Celebrity Mentors

How to Know You are Brave


One of my favorite songs of all time is Sara Bareilles' song "Brave."

In the song, she sings "I wanna see you be brave."

The first time I ever heard her sing that line, I thought, "Me too."

I hadn't ever really thought of myself as brave before, but I liked the idea of "me" as a brave person.

And one day, as I listened (for the umpteen jillionth time) to her sing, "Show me how big your brave is," I decided, "Okay, I will!"

The song was released in April 2013, and it is now January 2016.

I am happy to report I've been brave lots of times since then.

But until I recently began reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear," I still wasn't really grasping how unusual "being brave" really is - for me or anyone.

In the chapter titled "The Fear You Need and the Fear You Don't Need," Gilbert shares:

Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means. 
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Inspirational

How Star Wars is Helping on My Quest for Faith

I was 7 when I first saw "Star Wars."

I think I saw it at least 7 times in the months after it was released.

For years, I chose "Princess Leia" as my Halloween costume (which thankfully at least kept overall costume costs low in our household).

In the interim months and years, my brother and I compiled a massive collection of closely guarded action figures, stored carefully away in our own separate black "Darth Vader" carrying cases.

Why? What was the obsession? Why did I have Luke Skywalker posters on my wall instead of Duran Duran? In a phrase - The Force.

Ohhhhh how I wanted it.

In hindsight, The Force may have actually been my first formal introduction to the concept of "faith"....years before I would learn about monks, meditation and the like.

On that note, it seems a rather too fortuitous coincidence that the latest movie episode of Star Wars came out one day before my 45th birthday (December 19, 2015) and less than two weeks before January 1, 2016, which kicked off my Year of Having Faith.

Perhaps I thought that if I just kept watching the movies and collecting the action figures, The Force would become real, decide it liked me and show me where I could find my own personal Yoda.

On that note, perhaps The Force was also my first real taste of the power of mentoring (about which this blog and, basically, everything else I do is based).

Maybe the relationship my youthful self envied - the bond between Luke and his teachers, Ben and Yoda - was what has driven me for so many years to seek out mentors of my own.

I also remember how angry I was when after that very first viewing of the original Star Wars. 
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Mentoring

Finding a Replacement for Worry

This week I worked up the courage to try again to meditate on my new New Year's intention, to "have faith."

As I prepared to do this, I remembered my first lesson about faith from last week.

So I went right away to the intersection of resistance (mind) and "because I said so" (heart), eagerly expecting.....something.

What I got instead was worry.

What if faith isn't really there after all?

What if I can't find my way back to those exact coordinates?

What if faith ends up being totally different than I expected it to be, and I don't like it, and I decide I don't want any after all....?

Needless to say, my mind had come along with me with equal eagerness - and plenty of worries.

And in that moment, it hit me. My mind worries a LOT.

I mean, A LOT.

It is both an active and an expert worrier, so for it, suddenly "having faith" is akin to giving up both its best skill and most favorite hobby cold turkey. 
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Shannon Cutts

My Main Issue with Having Faith

Just to clarify, I have more than one issue with the phrase "have faith."

And in previous years (decades), I have mostly ignored these issues, sensing that any enlightenment I may find around them will come neither quickly nor easily.

But when "Have Faith" recently presented itself as my New Year's Intention for 2016, the matter got a bit of a bump to the front of the priority line.

Since I trust my intuition as a mentor that always knows best what I most need to learn about, I immediately tackled the goal of "having faith" with gusto.

It then tackled me back.

To date, we seem quite evenly matched, with Faith insisting it is real, valuable, achievable....and the rest of me insisting it is impossible to locate or perhaps even a figment of my overactive imagination.

This is important because my mind (which seems to have elected itself as spokesperson for the anti-have faith committee) very much wants and needs to participate in any project I undertake.

So if my mind doesn't understand what, how, when, where, why or for whom we are trying to achieve something, there will be many delays until it gets its demands met.

Right now, my mind is really, really, really insisting that "having faith" is a very specific something you only do when things are either, a) very bad and you want them to get better, or b) very good and you don't want them to get worse.

In other words, there is no "faith for faith's sake." There is only "faith towards a goal" - which is either a goal of better or a goal of not getting worse. 
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Mentoring

The GPS Coordinates of “Faith”

In my last post, I shared my New Year's intention to "have faith."

Setting the intention itself went fairly well, I thought.

So perhaps I was feeling a touch over-optimistic about how smoothly the rest of the process might go.

That ended this morning, when my very first meditation around the phrase "have faith" quickly devolved into a vigorous inner argument.

"Let's meditate on 'have faith,'" I suggested to my mind.

In what....?" my mind replied.

"Just have faith."

"But in WHAT?"

"Just HAVE FAITH!"

Needless to say, this wasn't going well. 
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