I Kissed a Spider (and it wasn’t awful)

By Shannon Cutts • 2 min read
Perhaps if my many-legged visitors looked like this I wouldn't be so quick to the trigger!

Perhaps if my many-legged visitors looked like this I wouldn’t be so quick to the trigger!

Well, not exactly.

But at least I didn’t kill it.

That – for me – is major progress.

Lately I’ve found myself having a number of conversations about why we human beings spare – or kill – what we choose to spare or kill.

Growing up, my family lived in a humid place near a bayou, so every day was like a brand new episode of “Bugs Gone Wild.”

I got used to killing with impunity (the other option being the possibility of ingesting, being bitten by, and/or sleeping with whatever creepy-crawly I was staring at at that particular moment).

But then I started meditating….and studying teachers like the Dalai Lama (a bug pacifist if I’ve ever met one).

Enter guilt.

From an interview with the Dalai Lama:

His Holiness particularly emphasized the role of education in developing compassion so that intellectual development is concurrent with moral development. He urged that children should be taught the value of compassion when they are small. He said that Tibetan parents teach their children not to kill insects and the children grow up to value all life. If children do not value insect life, that can be a slippery slope to devaluing all life.

Yet, when asked (by Oprah) if he ever needed to forgive himself for something, His Holiness stated:

My attitude towards mosquitoes is not very favorable, not very peaceful. Bed bugs also. 

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My Struggles with Evil

By Shannon Cutts • 4 min read
This is (of course) very simplistic, but here is a photograph I took of some oranges. Are they evil, good, or just oranges?

This is (of course) very simplistic, but here is a photograph I took of some oranges. Are they evil, good, or just oranges? This is how I feel sometimes, trying to detect and label the presence of “evil” with any accuracy.

“Evil” is not a word I am comfortable with.

Part of the problem is its range.

“Evil” can be used to describe anything from a bad temper (“an evil disposition”) to a bad cup of coffee (“that is just evil!”) to a bad person (“s/he is evil to the core”) to something bad we can’t even comprehend (“I felt the presence of evil”).

Evil can also be applied in both religious and secular situations (although the latter tends to talk in terms of “positive and negative,” “white and black,” “light and dark”).

In this way, using the word “evil” feels more like a description or a judgment – in other words, more like an adjective than a noun or verb.

But where I have no real issue in cases where one person’s opinion may be that the coffee is stale and another’s is that it is fresh, I don’t like to think of “evil” as a matter of personal opinion.

It is a strong enough term that any use of the word should be (in my, um, opinion) definitive.

For instance, let’s say there is a fire raging. Someone yells “fire!” and everyone makes a run for it, injuring or even trampling others in the process.

No one wants to find out later that the person who yelled only thought s/he saw fire.

In the same way, if a fire is on the loose, we don’t want a situation where a person in a position to issue an alert isn’t sure what to call it or if it is dangerous and so hesitates to sound the alarm.

And while I feel like I have a deep inner faith that presents itself to me at the level I can open to it, I don’t personally process evil in religious terms.

It feels like it must be broader than “just” religious or “just” secular (or even scientific) to be classified as such.

This means that sometimes I wonder if evil is “real” – in the sense there is a spectrum ranging from “very good” to “very bad” and evil is just a hair beyond all of that. 

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Traveling Along the Continuum

By Shannon Cutts • 2 min read

If you ask me, I think Netflix is one of the most wonderful inventions ever.

It has everything from nature documentaries to crime dramas to sci-fi thrillers – in short, all my favorites!

Since I find great mentoring through movies and television programs, this means a) I am choosy about what I watch, and b) I watch a lot of things to find what I am looking for.

Recently I’ve been absolutely hooked on a series called “Continuum.”

'Nuff said!!

‘Nuff said!!

The central character is a young wife and mom named Kiera. Kiera is a “protector” – a cop in the year 2077. She takes her job very seriously (and has a whole suite of cool gadgets, including a metallic gold suit, to help her reel in criminals).

Then one day, in an attempt to prevent the escape of a group of convicted terrorists, Kiera gets zapped back in time to the year 2012.

Suffice it to say she finds this very challenging on multiple levels.

When I looked up the definition of continuum, my favorite one reads like this:

[A] continuous series of elements or items that vary by such tiny differences that they do not seem to differ from each other.

A runner-up favorite:

[A]nything that goes through a gradual transition.

I never used to think I liked time travel movies or television shows, but somehow this one really resonates. Perhaps it is because I see myself in Kiera.

Even in 2077, Kiera somehow seems a lone wolf, slow to trust, vulnerable to those she has allowed in to her inner world, with a warrior spirit she doesn’t always understand.

In the year 2012, watching her attempts to find her place in a city both vaguely familiar and totally alien reminds me of myself.

From the time I was old enough to call myself “me,” I have felt a little separate, apart, alone. I have struggled not to play the “lone wolf,” to accept my place here, to permit myself to bond, to connect, to fit in.

So as I watch Kiera struggle to make a place for herself, forge new connections, find patience with her situation, and work for good because that is how she is wired (no matter how much she misses her family and her home in 2077), something in me resonates. 

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To Love is to Struggle (Thank Goodness!)

By Shannon Cutts • 2 min read

This morning in my Facebook travels, I came across this quote from Mr. (Fred) Rogers:

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.

As my mentor, Lynn, often likes to remind me, the moment I set an intention towards achieving something, what comes up first are all the obstacles in between me and the full manifestation of that intention.

Fun.

Speaking of which, one ongoing intention I’ve been working towards for the last few years is learning to love unconditionally – myself and others.

So far, I am finding this very, very difficult.

There are several challenges (and here, I also have to mention that these challenges are just the ones I know of thus far!): 

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What it Means to be Divergent

By Shannon Cutts • 3 min read
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

When I looked up the definition of “divergent,” I found these interpretations:

a) having no finite limits (a mathematical expression).

b) tending to be different or develop in different directions.

c) farther apart at their tops than at their bases (of plant organs).

I was doing this, of course, because over the holidays I finally got the chance to watch the first film in the “Divergent” series, and I have been pondering it for some weeks since.

In the film (and the book series by the same name by Veronica Roth), there are five segments, or factions, of society.

These factions are:

  • Abnegation (serving others selflessly)
  • Erudite (thinking, using the intellect)
  • Amity (pursuing peace)
  • Candor (honesty, truthfulness)
  • Dauntless (bravery, pushing limits)

But there is also a sixth faction – the “factionless,” or divergent, group of people.

These folks have strong elements of more than one faction present within them, and as a result, a) tend not to fit in, and b) tend to be hunted and destroyed mercilessly by those who do fit in.

Of course.

I say this because I am divergent. 

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Releasing False Low Self-Esteem

By Shannon Cutts • 2 min read
All I have to do to remember what natural self-esteem looks and acts like is to hang out with my naturally confident baby tortoise, Malti (show here with a tasty green UFO in-mouth).

All I have to do to remember what natural self-esteem looks and acts like is to hang out with my naturally confident baby tortoise, Malti (show here with a tasty green UFO in-mouth).

I have been working on this lately.

In fact, in the last couple weeks alone I have been hearing a (surprisingly sane) voice in my head giving me very clear instructions.

Here are some examples:

  • It is time to give up this “body hate” business.
  • It is time to let go of your so-called low self-esteem.
  • It is time to release your fearfulness around money….and everything, really. 

These messages feel like some kind of inner knowing, combined with an inner call to action – a reminder that time’s a’ wasting, and I only have so many years left to be as happy as I possibly can be as me.

Often I hear the “it is time” messages in the morning while I am meditating.

Often emotions will arise, and then the messages will come.

I will then breathe and do my level best to release the emotions I am feeling – fear, anger, disbelief, whatever – into my meditation.

Sometimes I will get a message reminding me that it is okay if I don’t understand the emotion I am feeling – what matters is to release it into the meditation so it can be free of me (and me of it).

So I always do my best to follow these instructions to the letter.

I have started to call the issues I am releasing “false low self-esteem,” because I can’t trace the origin of any one of them back to me. 

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Navigating Big Changes

By Shannon Cutts • 2 min read
Image courtesy of IMDb.

Image courtesy of IMDb.

In my last post, I shared that so far, 2015 is a year of big changes in my life.

This time last year, I was still at the helm of MentorCONNECT, the nonprofit I founded in 2009.

This year, as of January 1, the reins are in the hands of a new group of leaders – people I know and trust, but they are still not me.

This time last year, I was broken up with my boyfriend, miserable yet resigned, stoic yet heartbroken.

This year, we enter a new year together and we are – remarkably – stronger than we’ve ever been.

And these are just two of the really big changes accompanying me in 2015.

A few days ago, a friend and I watched a movie called “Birdman,” starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.

Aside from an instant fondness for the title (feathers are always a win-win for me), I found the movie itself somewhat hard to digest.

For instance, there were quite a lot of scenes with dudes running around in their tidy white undies.

Also, actors were portrayed as (yawn) self-centered, a theme I find both overdone and unfair (i.e., are actors truly more self-involved, or does their profession simply cause them to be unable to so easily hide that aspect of our shared human condition?)

Plus, frankly, I really thought the “Birdman” costume could have been better.

All that aside, the most beautiful part of the film for me was a scene where Norton agrees to play “Truth or Dare” with Keaton’s daughter, Sam (played by Emma Stone).

In the scene, she asks him – flirtatiously – what he would do to her if he was not afraid.

His answer was both violent and beautiful, and has kept me thinking for days. 

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The Year of Living Intuitively

By Shannon Cutts • 1 min read

shutterstock_3193588So yesterday morning was New Year’s Day….my FAVORITE day of each new year.

Even though, technically, January 1 is just one day in a year full of days, for me, it always feels reliably fresh and special.

This particular New Year’s Day feels especially fresh and special because it ushers in some big changes in my life (more about that in my next post!)

To celebrate, I decided to sleep in and meditate for as long as I felt moved to do so – no rushing myself through it so I could rise and do “more important things.”

I’m so glad I did, because my New Year’s Intention was right there and waiting for me.

My meditation revealed that, for me, 2015 is “The Year of Living Intuitively.”

This makes perfect sense, because I am stepping out of some long-term career commitments and into new unknown beginnings.

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Your Journey is Well Worth Your Effort

By Shannon Cutts • 1 min read
Celebrating the arrival of a whole new year with my fav feathery sidekick!

Celebrating the arrival of a whole new year with my fav feathery sidekick!

Well here we are – once again, it is nearly time for a brand new year to launch!

I always get so excited when a new year arrives.

It feels like encountering a giant blank chalkboard, complete with the most marvelous array of colored chalk.

The chalkboard is all mine – as is the chalk. Whatever I draw on the chalkboard is what will unfold in the year to come.

(By the way, I actually do this at home – I have a big wall-sized chalkboard and lots of colored chalk, and all year long I continue editing and adding new dreams to my chalk board).

I can thank my ongoing recovery journey for this wonderful way of welcoming a new year.

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Contact, Part 2: The Importance of Interstellar

By Shannon Cutts • 2 min read

InterstellarIf I had to pick just one favorite hobby (that didn’t involve feathers or shells), I would have to go with “watching movies.”

In fact, in my first book (which is about mentoring for eating disorders recovery), Beating Ana, I included an entire section of mentoring tips based on my favorite movies.

Those movies are some of the best friends I’ve ever made in life.

Over the years, movies have taught me it’s okay to make mistakes. They have helped me learn about myself and the world. They have given me ideas for how to handle different situations with more grace than I would have otherwise.

Most of all, they have offered me hope – hope to grow from my past rocky start into someone wonderful, someone I’m really proud to be and know.

One movie I have watched over and over (and over and over) through the years is “Contact,” starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey (yes, there is a chapter in Beating Ana about “Contact”).

The characters in “Contact” feel like “my people” – in other words, we don’t fit in, we try to pull off the impossible, we cannot resist wondering “what if?,” we are willing to give everything for life’s most meaningful experiences…..

So many nights when I would feel so alone, I would pop in that movie and feel better right away.

Now there is “Interstellar,” which (to me at least) feels like “Contact’s” younger, super excitable sibling (and in fact, there is an actual connection between the two films that goes back to Dr. Carl Sagan himself).

Continue reading… »



 
 

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