Good Books: December 2011 Newsletter

How Georgia Became O’Keeffe
Lessons on the Art of Living
by Karen Karbo
skirt!, 2012
hardcover, $21.95

“Georgia, had she been into discussing ideas, would have probably come down on the side of process-is-what-matters. Once she was immersed in a mad art-making phase, she kept at it until she felt as if she’d gone as far with the theme as she possibly could…. Which explains why there are series of poppies, calla lilies, jimsonweed, iris, New York skyscrapers, cow skulls….”

—Karen Karbo

When I picked up Karen Karbo’s latest book, I’d never read a biography about Georgia O’Keeffe, even though I’ve been intrigued with her work and her life for many years. What pulled me into Karbo’s book was the subtitle: Lessons on the Art of Living. How Georgia Became O’Keeffe is the third and final book in Karbo’s “kick-ass women” trilogy; it follows How to Hepburn and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel.

Karbo uses ten one-word chapter titles to examine themes from O’Keeffe’s life, work, and process: defy, grow, adopt, muddle, embrace, bare, rebel, drive, break, and prize. Her non-traditional biography includes enough O’Keeffe stories to be satisfying, but goes far beyond these. Karbo gives herself permission to enter the process of creation to imagine what it was like for Georgia to become O’Keeffe. In doing this, she invites readers to go beyond reading a fascinating biography to experiencing Georgia as a creative dynamo with real dilemmas. Actively imagining how Georgia lived with her particular challenges demystifies her as a modern icon and permits readers to see a woman artist trying to be who she was. These are O’Keeffe’s lessons on the art of living.

It’s difficult to remember that O’Keeffe, who lived to be ninety-eight years old, didn’t start out famous. This is where Karbo gives her greatest gift to readers: all ten of the themes are windows into O’Keeffe’s process as well as their own. You probably didn’t survive typhoid and take a year to recover the way Georgia did, but you likely had some setback that derailed your life and left you wondering what you really wanted. You’ll find yourself fascinated by the people, circumstances, struggles, opportunities, decisions, and yearning that shaped the life of O’Keeffe. Throughout, Karbo wonders—how are all of these forces present in our own lives too?

If you are a passionate follower of O’Keeffe or an armchair art historian, you might be tempted to silence Karbo and revoke her creative license. How dare she use her imagination to fill in the blanks and tell more than the facts? But that is one of the many reasons O’Keeffe’s life and work continue to thrill us: Georgia went so far beyond facts that she entered and created a new world.

I’m just imagining, but I think this might be Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite O’Keeffe biography. It feels in sync with her spirit and her approach to creating art and living life.

Leveraging the Universe
7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic
by Mike Dooley
Beyond Words / Atria, 2011
hardcover, $21.99

“The only way to fully engage the Universe is to fully engage yourself by doing all you can, with what you have, from where you are.”

—Mike Dooley

In earlier newsletters, I’ve mentioned several books by Dooley including his three-book series: Notes from the Universe, More Notes from the Universe, and Even More Notes from the Universe.
I found a fair amount of overlap between his latest book Leveraging the Universe and his previous two: Manifesting Change and Infinite Possibilities. If you haven’t read any of his books, maybe this will nudge you to check out one of them.

Dooley has a likable, conversational writing style that honors humor, especially when he references examples from his own life. He has tested all of this material on himself and he loves to tell what happened, not just what worked. The heart of all of his books is beautifully captured in his tagline phrase — “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

Mike Dooley is someone who believes in magic, not the “save me from myself because I’m powerless” kind of magic; but rather the “I’m showing up and something is going to happen” kind of magic. 

The seven steps to engaging life’s magic, mentioned in the subtitle, are the seven chapters of the book: Understand your power, Chart your course, Take action and delegate [to the Universe], Leverage the Universe, Align your beliefs, Engage the magic, and Adjust your sails. All of these steps are based on the power of your own thoughts, words, and actions to create what you focus on—even if you have no idea HOW. This is the secret to leveraging the Universe: do what you know to do and delegate to the Universe all that you don’t know how.

When things don’t seem to be working out the way we think they should, we often limit the limitless Universe by thinking we know what needs to happen. If we allow it, the possibilities are infinite.

I encourage you to visit Dooley’s website, where you can register for his daily emails from the Universe at TUT stands for truly unique thoughts. Here’s an example:

There’s always more than one right answer, path, possibility, nuance, or flavor — so insist upon none. Insisting on details always limits you.

—The Universe

Practice Page: December 2011 Newsletter

When I work with the listening-writing process, I sometimes use experiments that indirectly access inner knowing. Instead of posing a direct question—What do you want to do with the rest of your life?—and expecting the answer to show up on command, it’s important to keep the following in mind: none of us likes to feel backed into a corner by a question we might not be ready, or able, to answer. Fortunately, there are many ways to invite responses that richly inform our process, even if they do not directly answer a question.

The thing to remember is that your inner knowing wants to communicate with you, wants to reveal helpful things to you, wants to remind you who you are and what you know. Because of this unwavering commitment to you, your inner knowing will use whatever is available to communicate with you. This means you can work with an experiment that, on the surface, seems to have little to do with you. But, of course it does. Each experiment you are willing to try is an opportunity for your inner wisdom to speak through you, to you, and with you.

The Fake Book Report

I had the idea to try this fake book report experiment when planning for a Discovery Writing retreat. At the time, I was reading Allison McGhee’s prize winning book Shadow Baby. Clara Winter, the eleven-year-old main character, is a prolific writer of fake book reports. Reading Clara’s reports made me want to try writing my own fake book report, something I’d never done.

To get started

Make up a title for the book you’ll report on, and an author, and a publisher, and a date of publication. Include the total number of pages too. Then you’re off. Keep in mind this is a listening-writing experiment. That means you listen to what you hear and you write it all down, the way you hear it. Don’t even think about writing the perfect, fake book report. Write the book report that you begin to hear as you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

Read your book report

Once you’ve written your book report, you have the opportunity to read what you heard and recorded during the listening-writing experiment. Consider reading your book report out loud, in front of an imaginary class, as many of us did in elementary school. Pay attention to all parts of the story that are really parts of your own story. Some people find it helpful to use a highlighter to mark all the places where they notice their own story telling itself, too.

Listen to inner knowing

This is a way to allow your inner knowing to speak to you about your own life, indirectly, through someone else’s story. It can be a powerful and amazing experience to hear your own story hijacking someone else’s story.

Sometimes, what you hear feels more subtle. At those times, it might help to ask a few questions about your book report:

Who are the main characters?
How are they in each other’s lives?
Do they remind you of any people you know?
What are they doing and what do they really want?
What complicates things?
What do you think needs to happen?
Does this relate to your life? In what way(s)?

Yes, you could just ask yourself the question—What do I want to do with the rest of my life? But there is a way in which some of us tend to minimize, even distrust, what we write in response to a direct question, especially if our response feels like the same old stuff we always write. But when you hear your inner wisdom speaking to you from a fake book report, using someone else’s story to tell you about your own, you just might pay attention, really listen to, and trust what you hear.

Laurie Mattila
© December 2011

The Front Page: August 2011 Newsletter

Thank You Nora

For the past nine years, Nora Livesay has been the technical expert behind my website and this newsletter. Our collaboration has meant the world to me: working together we created something that I love. Working together, we also became friends. Thank you Nora, and best wishes for the future you are well on your way to creating.

Sometimes It Seems

“Sometimes it seems that a plan is a useful illusion until life figures out where you really should be headed.”

—David J. Wolpe

“Sometimes it seems as if one thing has nothing to do with another thing, but it does. The trick is to write it down. Not to figure it out. To write it down one vision at a time.”

—Burghild Nina Holzer

My life is blessed with people who call things to my attention—things like quotations, books, poems, articles, people, websites, blogs, and resources. Some of the things passed along to me are clearly related to my work, while other things are meant for me. All together, it ends up being an eclectic assortment of information and inspiration, a good mix of quirky, heartwarming, humorous, you-need-to-know-this stuff. Things often arrive with the message, “I thought of you when I saw this.” I genuinely appreciate these unexpected gifts which affirm my reach in the world; they are from people who know me and know what I’m about. It’s a delicious way to stay in touch.

The first quote above, by David J. Wolpe, came to me this way. Tom, my sweet friend and husband, brought it to my attention. He had just started reading the book Why Faith Matters and found this quote at the bottom of page one. It reminded him of something I would appreciate, and I do. I’ve been holding it in my awareness for the past few weeks, savoring it this way and that.

Not until I sat down, to begin writing The Front Page for this newsletter, did I realize that one of my favorite quotes, from the book A Walk Between Heaven And Earth by Burghild Nina Holzer, begins with the exact same words—Sometimes it seems. The second quote above is one I’ve effortlessly memorized through repeated use. Now it has a companion quote, and together they suggest an interesting listening-writing prompt: Sometimes it seems….

Without intending it, the prompt spontaneously opens for me. “Sometimes it seems that nothing is happening.” I hear the words clearly in my imagination and know: This is my current ongoing dilemma. But do I really want to go there now? I have work to do.

Truthfully, it’s what I’ve been feeling lately—nothing is happening—but I’m hesitant to admit it. On the surface, things are always happening and I’m always doing things. I make it a point to show up daily in my life. For me this is a given. But am I showing up for the things I’m here to do? And if I pay attention beneath the surface, what is this “nothing is happening”?

I’m aware of a pattern in my life: I make the best of things, and I’m good at it. This pattern shows itself in my natural optimism and my ability to see a situation from multiple perspectives. I can genuinely put a positive spin on anything that doesn’t split a heart in two. This is part of the gift of me, a clear-seeing soul who isn’t afraid to help others look—and see—what was, what is, and what could yet be. But when will I look into the “nothing is happening” within my own heart?

As I sit here in my office, writing these words, I feel the lump of truth rising in my throat and tears pooling. The “nothing is happening” is about the possible loss of my own dream, a dream I cherish and still love.

In the next several months, I’m facing a decision about the future of my own work. It might seem odd that in this economy, with so many unemployed people struggling to find work, a career counselor would be lacking clients. Those of you familiar with my work know that it’s not traditional career counseling.

My approach attracts those with deep longings, individuals who have time and an inclination to explore soulful questions about their life and work. From a spiritual perspective, they explore the essence of who they are, why they are here, and what makes them whole. It is also my passion: helping them to hear and trust their own knowing—to hear their heart speaking its own truth. I do this through clarifying conversations, Discovery Writing groups, and all of my work. I do this with joy and a heart spilling over. To me it’s like breathing, and there is no other work I would rather do. Sadly, from an economic perspective, the work I offer is not considered essential; it is seen by many as discretionary, more of a luxury.

It’s taken me months to admit—I’m at a place in my business where I’m not thriving. I need to stop pretending I have enough work. I’m here at the purple table writing, pursuing my vision, one I have faithfully loved. But I need to be asking myself: Is this still where I belong? Why is so little happening? Can I afford to do this? What will I do differently? And, my favorite question for clients, What would be truly helpful?

It would be helpful to feel your love and support as I grapple with my own uncertain future. A frightened, critical voice within scolds me for daring to reveal my dilemma and my vulnerability. But how can I be less truthful than you are when we work together?

In the spirit of my favorite quotation, I tried to write it down, not to figure it out.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

An Update

“The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.”

— William Cowper

Sometimes It Seems was written in late July for the August newsletter, but posted months later than planned. I’d like to fill you in on what happened during those months.

My work flow in July and August was discouragingly slow—the slowest ever. In September and October things seemed to improve a bit.

Remember that I asked for your love and support? Well, I received it, even though my request was not online for you to read. I started to hear from clients and students who generously affirmed the work they have done with me. New clients and students began to contact me, acting on referrals they’d been given.

Over the summer, I experimented with offering Writing at The Purple Table. This allowed me to stay in touch and reconnect with more of you. It was a great experience, and I plan to continue these free monthly gatherings into 2012. See the Events Calendar page for details and join us if you’re interested.

I’m also asking for help. It’s not easy, but I’m doing it. If you see ways for me to work smarter or you have an idea for me to consider, I’d love to hear from you. Even if you don’t, I’d love to hear from you!

This fall I renewed my lease. I made the decision to continue the work I love, the work that is mine to do. I want love, not fear, to be the driving energy in my life. I’m clear about that, less clear about how it will all work out.

Good Books: August 2011 Newsletter

Stop Saying You’re Fine:
Discover A More Powerful You
by Mel Robbins
Crown Archetype, 2011
hardcover, $24.00

“The first and most important step is to stop saying you are fine. You are not fine. You need to quit pretending that you are, and state for the record what’s bothering you. There is a lot more in store for you than what you’ve got going on right now, and the first step to getting it is to stop pretending that everything is okay.”

—Mel Robbins

I’d never heard of Mel Robbins until I picked up her first book, Stop Saying You’re Fine, and learned that she has a syndicated radio talk show, where listeners call in for her advice on relationships and careers. Robbins, a former lawyer turned life coach, is also a columnist in Success magazine and a mother.

Like a certain variety of advice gurus, Robbins initially came across to me as a bossy know-it-all. I was halfway through the book, still debating whether I wanted to review it, before I was able to separate her advice from her in-your-face style. As soon as I made that distinction, I started feeling better about the book. That said, I still prefer a collaborative approach based on respect.

According to Robbins, here’s why people aren’t getting what they want in life: they’re saying they’re fine, when they’re not. This little lie keeps people stuck, because it keeps them from taking action to bring about what they desire. Plus, the real problem is “you;” you are the biggest obstacle you face. You are in your own way. Adding to that, the way the brain functions is a big part of the problem. The brain is constantly working to keep people in safe, but unfulfilling routines.

After making her case, Robbins shares her five-step program, supported by a seven-day stamina challenge, to help anyone make changes in their life and get what they want:

Step 1. Face it, you are not fine.
Step 2. Admit what you want.
Step 3. Go public with what you want.
Step 4. Zoom out and create a map.
Step 5. Lean in to change.

7-day Stamina Challenge

Day 1: Face the day. Get up on time.
Day 2: Admit it. IT is “the big embarrassing idea you want to make happen”.
Day 3: Exercise twenty minutes.
Day 4: Break your routine.
Day 5: Make eye contact “with five people.”
Day 6: Go public. Talk with two people about your big idea and ask for advice.
Day 7: Connect [with someone you care about].

Robbins offers small, practical steps to help you take action, whether or not you know what you want. She says it’s the small things you do—not what you feel, not what you think—that get you unstuck. It’s the small actions that eventually alter the course of your life to bring about the real change you desire. Again, you don’t even need to know what you want. “Every new element that you introduce into your life becomes a clue to help you create a new direction….You just need to wake up and notice.”

There aren’t many books that effectively tackle the dilemma of being stuck. People who are stuck often feel frustrated, fearful, angry, and resistant—a difficult audience for a book to reach—which helps to explain Robbins’s very direct approach. She’s confident she knows what people need to do to become unstuck, and it’s not that difficult: temporarily ignore how you feel, stop thinking, and just act.

“When you’re in crisis, your life will change whether you like it or not. Your major task is how you manage the change. But when you’re stuck, the major task is deciding if you’re going to change at all.”

—Mel Robbins

Practice Page: August 2011 Newsletter

Putting the finishing touches on this page, I drew a random card from Cheryl Richardson’s Grace Cards deck. It ended with these words: “A quiet mind has direct access to wisdom and insight.” Perfect! Invite this quiet thought to accompany you through this practice page as you discover more of the wisdom within.

Just so you know, I’m offering this listening-writing experiment from one of my year-long groups. It’s an excellent example of how to indirectly access inner wisdom, or what Ana Lora Garrad calls the message in the dream, “the wisdom living inside us we forgot we knew.” It’s also an example of how listening-writing experiments are everywhere, waiting to be discovered—this time in a dance review in the morning newspaper.

First, a bit of background.

“Giant Empty” is the title of a dance choreographed by John Jasperse, and performed at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis quite a few years ago. Reading a review of the performance, I was delighted by the names of all the dances: Giant Empty, Excessories, Rickety Perch, and Eyes Half Closed. My imagination immediately saw the possibility of a writing experiment.

Try the experiment yourself.

Make up a name for one additional dance you think fits the program above. Don’t try to come up with the perfect name; there is none. A playful approach will be just as valuable as a concentrated approach. Write the name you come up with at the top of a blank sheet of paper.

Begin listening:

Beginning with Giant Empty, make a list of your random associations to the words Giant Empty. What does Giant Empty remind you of? The full moon? An empty house? Loneliness? Hunger? A vacant mall? The number zero? Listen to all that surfaces and write down whatever comes to you. You can’t have a wrong association. Your list might contain single words, short phrases, statements, questions, doodles, or something else.

On a separate sheet of paper, make a list of associations for Excessories. Make another list for Rickety Perch, and then another one for Eyes Half Closed. Finally, make a list of random associations for the dance title you named. It’s okay to work on one list at a time, or to jump from one list to another as things occur to you.

When you’re done listing associations, look through all five of your lists and highlight whatever stands out for you.

Take a few minutes to thoughtfully look over what you highlighted and proceed as follows.

Begin listening-writing:

Write for at least ten minutes, maybe even twenty. Begin by focusing on the highlighted fragments from your lists. Don’t try to analyze them or figure anything out. Instead, listen to your impressions and begin to write down what you hear: become the scribe making the accurate record. There is no need to feel concerned about or responsible for the quality of what you are writing. This isn’t even about “the writing”; it’s about a process of listening within.

Voicing inner knowing:

If possible, read what you wrote out loud to yourself. Then consider the questions listed here. What are you hearing? What are possible clues to deciphering the meaning? Do you detect any repetitions, patterns, or themes? How is the dance you named connected to all of this? Does anything here seem related to anything in your life? What are you really saying? If you had to say it in only one or two lines, what would they be? Be spontaneous as you write or speak your responses to these questions.

Note: This experiment can also be done using the titles of books, movies, songs, poems, or stories.

Optional: Draft a poem.

Return to your five lists of associations. As you review all that you highlighted, listen for the poetry waiting to begin forming itself in the words and phrases you’ve collected. Begin arranging, and rearranging, the highlighted bits and pieces in order to create a first draft. Also listen for a title.

Read the draft out loud to yourself and make any changes your ear suggests.

Laurie Mattila
© August 2011

The Front Page: April 2011 Newsletter

The Season for Becoming

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

—Anna Quindlen

I found the title for this essay on a piece of paper, clipped to an old body + soul magazine I unearthed during a recent de-cluttering project. Written in my own handwriting, the words—The Season for Becoming—still resonate with me, even though I can’t pinpoint what originally prompted me to write them or when.

It might have been an idea for a workshop, a seasonal writing workshop, that would offer an opportunity to gather a small group to explore becoming, in each season and throughout a year. Or it might have been an idea for an occasional column I would write about becoming who we are. Those are my two best guesses. But now a third, new idea occurs to me: I could write to explore how the season for becoming relates to this issue of the newsletter, making it a listening-writing demonstration.

As I entertain this new idea, I listen for questions that might get me started. Isn’t it always the season for becoming? What difference does a season make to the process of our becoming? What part (or parts) of the process of becoming is unaffected by the particulars of a season? Is it possible to take a break from becoming, like a person might take a spring-break vacation? Or does the process move along, with or without our awareness, a silent backdrop to every breath and heartbeat?

There are more questions. Do we even realize who and what and how we are becoming? Or is that something more evident to the world around us than it is to us? What role does personal choice or intention play in the process? What are our responsibilities? Who and what are our inspirations?

I sense my focus shifting toward my ongoing attraction to quotations. This has me mentally sifting through fragments I sort of remember, searching for words that might inspire or illuminate something. This is what I dredge up: It takes courage to grow up and become who you already are. There is no name attached to the memory I’ve hooked. Was it Einstein? I get online and discover it was the poet e.e. cummings, and I was pretty close on the way I remembered the words.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” —e.e. cummings

I agree with cummings: it does take courage to grow up, and it takes courage to be who you really are. Or as I remembered it, who you already are. Is who you already are different from who you really are? And what does this have to do with the season for becoming?

My listening-writing has taken me on a ramble and, in this moment, I want to write my way home. I want to discover something that connects one thing to another. The words—“in this moment”—leap forward to become my clue: this moment is the time and place for becoming, the only opportunity for becoming.

Unlike a season with its sweeping vistas, cherished traditions, and visible transformation, for many of us one moment is impossible to grasp; it’s invisible, it’s here and gone, and it can’t be contained. Plus, even when we notice moments, there are so many of them in which not much seems to happen. It makes it easy to ignore what we do with them, or fail to do with them.

Yet, each moment is a tiny building block for an hour, a season, and a life. It is the space in which we become—however, whoever, and whatever we become. What we do again and again, makes us who we really are. In the accumulation of our thoughts, choices, and actions, we create and recreate ourselves. We don’t do it tomorrow, or next month, or two years from now. We did it yesterday, and this morning, and five minutes ago.

Spring arrives offering another season for becoming who you really are. It brings moments of sweet birdsong, greening landscapes, warm sunshine, puddles, sidewalk cafes, outdoor markets….

Will you inhabit the moment? Will you be who you really are, who you already are? Will you dare to be perfectly yourself—in the only season for becoming—in this moment?

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: April 2011 Newsletter

The Power of Receiving:
A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve

by Amanda Owen
Tarcher/Penguin, 2010
paperback, $13.95

“Whatever we don’t include, we marry, go to work for, or give birth to.”
“The world will give only as much as you can receive.”

—Amanda Owen

In The Power Of Receiving, Amanda Owen writes about fulfilling the desires, dreams, goals we have for our lives, a topic already explored by thousands of writers within the self-help genre. Owen’s approach is unique, going beyond identifying, attracting, and manifesting, to actually receiving what we desire.

It all begins with developing an understanding of the wholeness inherent in receiving and giving.

The book includes twelve interesting exercises designed to help readers practice receiving. The very first step, in the first exercise, is a simple warmup: Accept All Compliments. This sounds so easy, but it was very revealing when I tried it. I especially like that all of the exercises are conveniently summarized in the final chapter.

As readers begin to strengthen their capacity to receive, they move on to write and attract a goal, and cultivate a healthy relationship with it. By referring to your goal as “someone,” Owen demonstrates a way to easily shift how you think about, communicate with, relate to, and feel toward your goal.

Two chapters are devoted to understanding and working with what lurks in the shadow and stands between you and your goal. Using the little circle of what you exclude, separate from and outside of The Big Circle of all that you include, Owen provides a simple, visual representation of the forces at work within each of us. When it comes to manifesting your desires, what’s out wants in, or else.

The book offers practical things you can try when facing one of life’s common disappointments: working toward something that never quite seems to materialize. Owen offers a possibility that makes complete sense: some of us are missing out on a dream because we didn’t know we needed to receive it.

I highly recommend The Power of Receiving, especially if you recognize yourself as someone who prefers to do it yourself and has difficulty receiving.

The Art of Non-Conformity:
Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want and Change the World

by Chris Guillebeau
Perigee, 2010
paperback, $14.95

“The purpose of this book is to transform your thinking about life and work.”
“You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”

—Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau is a thirty-something writer, entrepreneur, world traveler, and non-conformist. On his website, he admits he writes “for a small minority of people interested in living life on their own terms while making a dramatic, positive difference in the lives of others at the same time.” If you’ve been led to believe this can’t be done, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Guillebeau spent four influential years as a volunteer aid work in West Africa, followed by a return to the U.S. to work on a graduate degree in International Studies. When asked by friends what he was going to do next, Guillebeau eventually responded, “I’m going to start my own social movement…. The Art of Nonconformity.” This is the heart of his compelling life, work, and story: “How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World.”

“… on a train ride between Slovakia and Hungary a couple of years ago, I figured out that the cost of visiting 100 countries would be roughly equal to that of buying a new S.U.V. When I saw how relatively little that was, I felt encouraged. I gave up the hypothetical large vehicle and received the world in return.” Just so you know, Guillebeau is now well on his way to reaching his goal “to visit every country in the world.” So far the count is at 151 out of 192 countries. He is also actively partnered with Charity: Water in Ethiopia sharing royalties from the sale of this book.

If you’re withering on a conventional vine, wanting to “create an opportunity for change,” or just launching your life, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in Guillebeau’s writing on life, work, and travel. The book might make a wonderful gift, and a world of difference, for a high school or college graduate you know, or someone with a passion for traveling the world.

Take time to visit Guillebeau’s website too:

Practice Page: April 2011 Newsletter

“Nothing happens next. This is it.”

Cartoon Published in The New Yorker
8/25/1980 by Gahan Wilson

The line above appears in a cartoon showing two monks seated side by side, meditating. The older monk is responding to the novice who has asked the question, “What happens next?”

The young monk’s question is similar to a question one of my students reported asking himself for most of his life. As he went from one accomplishment to the next, he rarely paused. There was alway the driving question, “What’s next?” Then one day he stopped long enough to consider an equally important question, “What’s now?” As he paused to think about his life, he realized the magnitude of his accomplishments and the many ways in which he was blessed. In order to truly enjoy the life he had, he decided to change his focus and ask a new question, “What’s now?”

Interview Yourself

Identify a few key questions and use them to conduct a written interview with yourself.

Begin by pausing. Listen to any and all questions that occur to you. Write them down the way you hear them. Don’t worry about finding better or more perfect questions. Instead, make a list of the questions you hear, knowing that you can refine them later.

The following are examples that might help you to start hearing your own questions:

What’s next?

What’s now?

Who inspires me to live true to myself?

What inspires me?

What is the most wonderful thing I can imagine happening in my life?

What do I like about the person I’ve become?

What is everyone else doing that I’m doing too? ….that I’m resisting?

What is my relationship with the present? ….with my future?

What are the most important things I’ve learned from living my life?

Select the questions you want to use for your interview with yourself. Respond to each question, rather than trying to answer it as though it had one correct answer. Allow yourself to be curious about what your response will be.

This is one listening-writing experiment that benefits from being typed and printed. Most of the interviews we encounter are in typed format, rather than handwritten. Seeing your own interview, looking like the others, gives you an opportunity to experience yourself in a new way.

I predict your interview will be as interesting to you as any you might read.

Laurie Mattila
© April 2011

The Front Page: December 2010 Newsletter

A Gift of Listening

I’m excited to announce an audio project, completed earlier this year, that is now available on my website for you. Ron Duffy, of Inner Journeys Radio, worked with me to record this conversation about my work. The five tracks include

Track 1 Introduction (2:04 mp3)

Track 2 Trusting the Process: Becoming Who We Are (24:12 mp3)

Track 3 Discovery Writing (33:11 mp3)

Track 4 Clarifying Conversations (18:14 mp3)

Track 5 Closing Comments (2:02 mp3)

I hope you enjoy them all.


A Year of Readings

“Join me late some afternoon or evening, wherever you are. Join me for ten minutes or for five. Savor the silence and the candle’s flame that marks your place on this globe of wonder. Breathe out the old and breathe in the new, and do it again. Scan the horizon for the light you’ve been ignoring, or the one you didn’t yet know was there. Then look for it again, and again and again. And on the days you trust it’s there for you, a guiding signal toward something, offer thanks. And when you’re ready, stop sitting and get up and give it all you have, whatever it is. And if it seems more than you can handle, ask for help. Then expect help to come. Whatever you do, don’t let the flame in your imagination go out. And in the full light of day, don’t for a moment believe it isn’t burning—for you, for me, for everyone and everything, everywhere.”

— Laurie Mattila, December 2004

In all the years that I have offered and facilitated Discovery Writing groups, I’ve collected an assortment of readings that have taken on powerful associations for me and many others. Each spring I anticipate reading an essay by Ellen Goodman, Lilacs, like lives, speed past us all too quickly, which I first read in 1996. Of all the readings I have used, this is probably the most loved. In June there is Jane Kenyon’s poem Peonies at Dusk, and in October Mary Oliver’s poem At Blackwater Pond.

At the beginning of each Discovery Writing group, regardless of the season, I read the beginning of an essay by Mary Oliver: Pen and Paper and a Breath of Air. It contains the perfect words to inspire one who is embarking on a journey to write in a notebook—”these are the pages upon which I begin.” Mary Oliver is referring to her notebook, but we know it can be true for ours, too.

Then there are all the quotations that capture the process of what we are doing, in words that flow like poetry, even if our lives bump along. Words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Burghild Nina Holzer, William Murray, Rachel Naomi Remen, Dawna Markova, Laurie Colwin, and many more. The truth of their words intersects the truth of our lives and inspires us to go deeper, in order to go beyond. We write in the moment, making our way toward clarification, understanding, acceptance, meaning, truth, and life-changing action.

I can’t forget the essays: The red dress never fit by Jacquelyn Mitchard and It’s time the carpet came out for good by Catherine Watson. And The Birthday Party, an excerpt from Linda Hogan’s book The Woman Who Watches Over The World. And the book review of Cheap Hotels by Daisann McLane which offered a great writing idea— Ten Places I Was Happy. Or the idea for writing Fake Book Reports encountered in Shadow Baby by Alison McGhee. Or the lyrics of the songs Holy Now by Peter Mayer, and Canned Goods by Greg Brown. The list goes on.

My favorite reading in early December? It’s an essay I wrote for this newsletter in 2004: The Necessity of Darkness. It might not fit the picture of midwestern modesty, but I love that essay and want to keep its spirit alive. Each year since, I make a point of searching it out once the days feel steeped in darkness. I read to myself and remember.

I invite you to use the link below to find the essay. Give yourself the gift of reading it. Share it with someone. Maybe write about it. Most importantly, savor the love and light of your being, and allow yourself to shine in a world that is desperately seeking light.

The Necessity of Darkness by Laurie Mattila from The Front Page of the December 2004 Newsletter


With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: December 2010 Newsletter

The Gifts of Imperfection:
Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

by Brené Brown
Hazelden, 2010
paperback, $14.95

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves.”

— Brené Brown

Brené Brown is a high energy researcher, and academic, telling a down-to-earth story of imperfections—her own. Brown spent the early portion of her career exploring shame and fear, then moved on to love, belonging, and worthiness, the subject of this book.

In this memoir about wholehearted living, Brown’s personal and professional journeys are intertwined. As she conducts research interviews, defines terms, and identifies patterns in her interview notes, she unearths more of her own story and tells it with honesty and humor. Brown enters therapy for a “long year” to work through her Breakdown or “Spiritual Awakening” as her therapist calls it.

Following this intensely productive year, Brown has the insight to write what she now knows, as her memoir. “I’ll tell the story of how a cynical, smart-ass academic became every bit of the stereotype that she spent her entire adult life ridiculing. I’ll fess up about how I became the middle-aged, recovering, health-conscious, creative, touchy-feely, spirituality-seeker who spends days contemplating things like grace, love, gratitude, creativity, authenticity, and is happier than I imagined possible. I’ll call it Wholehearted.”

Following this lively introduction and beginning, the majority of the book is devoted to ten guideposts. Each one focuses on cultivating a desired life quality and letting go of the things that get in the way of living and loving wholeheartedly. For example, guidepost # 1 is Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think, and guidepost # 8 is Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle. Brown makes the point that the guideposts are not a to-do list. “It’s not something we accomplish or acquire and then check off our list. It’s life work. It’s soul work.” The Gifts of Imperfection is Brown’s wholehearted gift, a guide to living—knowing you are enough.

If you’re interested in hearing Brené Brown speak about her work, check out this YouTube video: v=X4Qm9cGRub0

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010
hardcover, $18.95

“The earth is home to millions of potential pathogens, of which a thousand or so depend on human hosts. The pathogen I contracted was, in its own way, an author: it rewrote the instructions followed within every cell in my body, and in doing so, it rewrote my life, making off with nearly all my plans for the future.”

— Elisabeth Tova Bailey

I have never read a book anything like The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating—a beautifully written memoir infused with detailed observations of the habits of a woodland snail. Before you claim to have no interest in snails, I didn’t think I did either.

Elisabeth Bailey experiences an illness that transforms her life, initially confining her to bed and the care of others. It is during this time that a visiting friend digs up and brings in a pot of field violets, and spontaneously places a snail, found on a walk, among the violets. No longer able to do the things she would have done before her illness, Bailey begins to watch the snail that resides on her bedside table.

The wonder of the living snail soon preoccupies Bailey, creating a focus in her now unknown world and helping to transport her through the first year of loss. “After weeks of around-the-clock companionship, there was no doubt about the relationship: the snail and I were officially cohabiting. I was, I admit, attached…. It was adding a welcome focus to my life, and I couldn’t think how I would otherwise have passed the hours.”

This small book is so very lovely, right down to the delicate pencil drawings scattered throughout. I offer one caution: I think this is a book for introspective personalities. Given a slower pace and narrow focus (hope in the isolation of illness), and an abundance of scientific and natural details, it will not entertain the average reader. That said, I found it fascinating and inspiring, and couldn’t put it down. I loved it and so might you!

Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less
by Marc Lesser
New World Library, 2009
paperback, $14.95

You are perfect the way you are…. At the same time, we must embrace the paradox that, despite being perfect, we can all “use a little improvement.” Needing “improvement” does not make us less perfect, just the way we are.”

—Marc Lesser

More-with-less is a favorite concept of mine. When I discovered an article about Marc Lesser’s new book—Less— in EXPERIENCE L!FE, the Life Time Fitness magazine, I was intrigued.

I enjoyed learning that earlier in his career Lesser was the founder and CEO of Brush Dance, a favorite publisher of inspirational calendars and greeting cards. Prior to that, he left college in his senior year and spent ten years as a resident of the San Francisco Zen Center. For five of those years he lived at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Zen monastery, where he was assigned a variety of kitchen jobs and then became director of Tassajara in his tenth year. Lesser is now the founder of a management consulting, coaching, and training company. He also holds an MBA. I’m mentioning all this to highlight his background in spiritual practice, business, and creativity.

Lesser points out that few have escaped the life-altering consequences of a “more-faster-better” mindset that dominates life at work and at home. In response, he proposes The Less Manifesto which “focuses on engaging less in five self-defeating habits in order to experience more ease—more composure and better results—within ourselves and with others.” The five self-defeating habits he features are fear, assumptions, distractions, resistance, and busyness. He devotes one chapter to each habit and includes worthwhile exercises and practical advice on how to shift behavior. Chapter 8 on busyness, or finding the one who is not busy, will leave you yearning for more time with that essential, unchanging part of yourself.

Less is a very useable guide for assessing how life is going and making adjustments to improve the overall flow. I didn’t find anything astounding or new, rather an engaging and grounded review of trusted practices. It seems to come down to making sure our habits and routines are positive and healthy.

Lesser’s recommendation to most of his coaching clients is threefold: practice meditation daily (if possible), exercise three days per week, and write every day in a journal. We already know some variation on this advice, but knowing isn’t doing. That’s where Lesser’s book can help you begin to apply the small things that will bring about disproportionate rewards.

If you’re looking for a book to provide a supportive, helpful structure for an end-of-year review, this might be it. The tone is consistently respectful, compassionate, encouraging, and hopeful.

Here’s a link to the EXPERIENCE L!FE article, where I learned about the book Less:

http://www.experiencelifemag. com/issues/december-2009/life- wisdom/do-less-accomplish- more.php

Practice Page: December 2010 Newsletter

“Love is the willingness
to give up a part of yourself

you think you know,

to discover a part of yourself
you never knew existed.”

John Squadra
from This Ecstasy

These words grace the front of a greeting card, produced by Heron Dance, sent to me by a friend as a thank you note.

The card has been on my work table since it arrived a few weeks ago. I want it handy, so I don’t forget. On some level I realized—I need to do more than savor words. I need to go on an adventure and discover a part of myself I never knew existed.

This is something clients say to me, and now I’m saying it, too. Want to join us? I’m going to open my notebook so you’re able to observe what happens, as I listen and write what I hear.

Challenge: Discover a part of yourself you never knew existed.

I’ll start out slow and warm up, even though I don’t know where I’m going with this, even though I could easily charge forward saying, “Now is the time. Today is the day. I’m here to discover a part of myself I never knew existed.” I resist the urge to charge forward and choose a more deliberate path—writing on a laptop.

I want to be open to discovering any and all parts of myself I never knew existed. All parts?

I don’t think this is something I can orchestrate and bring about on my own. I can’t. Other forces need to be at work; they probably are and have been for a long time.

I just read this in Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser: “All the while, deep within us, flows an endless river of pure energy…. Up on top, as we make our way through life, we may sense the presence of the river. We may feel a subtle longing to connect with it. But we are usually moving too fast, or we are distracted, or we fear disturbing the status quo of our surface thoughts and feelings. It can be unsettling to dip below the familiar and descend into the more mysterious realms of the soul.”

This is not a project for an afternoon or a weekend.

Slow Warm-up: Think back over the past year and list a few discoveries you’ve made about yourself.

I discovered I’m interested in book groups, woodland snails, and Facebook. Is that it? For now.

More Warm-up: Are you aware of any clues pointing toward what you might discover in the future?

I’m always interested in things of the North, the arctic region, cold and ice. Traveling and living north of the arctic circle for a time appeals to me.

Ideas for listening-writing experiments. Social networking.

Being an exchange student at my age would be an adventure. BINGO! That’s enough to begin.

I just realized a potentially helpful link to discovering a part of myself I never knew existed. Being in a new environment, with new people, experiencing new things, doing things in new ways. This is more than enough to bring about discovery, both inner and outer.

As is staying where I am and seeing anew, but my comfortable habits and patterns resist.

Would it help to remember a part of myself I forgot existed? Ana Lora Garrard says that’s what dreams are for.

….to be continued


Laurie Mattila

© December 2010


The Front Page: August 2010 Newsletter

A Longing for Quiet

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”

—Marcus Aurelius

Thirty three years ago, when I was 24, I made a small decision that took root in my life. Unlike other decisions that I have attempted, some repeatedly, this particular decision was not difficult to make or maintain. One part of me hesitates to mention it. I don’t want to be judged, or have assumptions made about me and what I believe. But I also want to use it as an example of how easily life can shift.

What I decided was to live without television, not for the rest of my life, for awhile. My reason was simple: I had been living with a roommate who enjoyed having the television on for company. I felt overexposed to the constant background noise, not that it was so loud. It wasn’t. But it seemed to me it was always on and I had a longing for quiet.

When I moved into my own place that fall, I didn’t have a television and I didn’t want one. Years went by and I didn’t miss it and I never thought to want one. Eventually, I married a man with a portable, black and white t.v. that was soon stolen in a break-in. No loss. We didn’t replace it. Awhile later, we won a portable, color t.v. at a company picnic. After some discussion, we decided to keep it and store it in a closet, because we didn’t plan on watching it much. If we ever needed it, it would be there.

I don’t want to imply that I’ve never watched a single television program since that decision back in 1977; of course I have. I’m not against television; I just don’t want to live with it.

As a kid I adored television and remember vividly the first one our family owned. I had many favorite programs that I still enjoy thinking about. Who didn’t love I Love Lucy? But after those early years, I have a giant 33 year, and growing, gap where my firsthand knowledge of television is hit or miss. There are hugely famous shows that I never saw, not even one episode. Add to that, thousands of unseen commercials.

In spite of this, it’s pretty amazing how much a person who doesn’t watch t.v. knows about what’s on and what’s hot. Television is such a pervasive force in our culture. Even without watching t.v., we can be exposed to up-to-the-minute updates about the shows, the characters, the actors who play them, love interests, challenges, scandals, addictions, and on and on.

In all these years I’ve rarely mentioned this decision to anyone. Who honestly cares whether I watch t.v. or not? Well, there was one person who did: the cable guy who stopped by right after we moved into our newly purchased home. When I told him we didn’t watch t.v., he blurted out, “What are you, Communists?” I’d never thought of it quite that way myself.

Thinking about this recently, I was curious about how much viewing time I’d gained during these 33 years. Here’s my estimate: Suppose I had spent one hour a day watching television. That’s 365 hours in a year or 12,045 hours in 33 years. Converting that to 40-hour work weeks, I got 300 weeks, roughly 5.75 years of at-work time.

It strikes me that a person could accomplish a lot in the equivalent of almost 6 years of freed up time. Which brings me to a question I’ve never considered. What have I done with those 6 years?

Even though I don’t have a quick answer, it feels important to ask the question. Have I enjoyed them and used the time in ways that interest and matter to me? Do I have anything to show for it? Or it is just gone?

Years ago when I was an employee, I remember yearning for one thing: time off, but not a day or two, or even a couple of weeks. I wanted blocks of time where I could be my own person again. I wanted time to read the newspaper leisurely, muck around in the garden, help out a neighbor or a friend, volunteer, browse in a bookstore, get lost in a project, just be.

That is how I’ve spent my 6 reclaimed years; surrounded by a bit more time to live quietly, with minimal distraction, at my own pace. Since I am a person who wants to be in my life, not distracted from it, this has been truly helpful. I know that whenever I become too distracted, I feel myself losing focus and drifting out of my life. Thirty three years later, I still feel a longing for quiet and need it to hear the inner promptings that guide me home to who I am.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: August 2010 Newsletter

Infinite Possibilities
The Art of Living Your Dreams
by Mike Dooley
Atria Books / Beyond Words, 2009
hardcover, $25.00

“As you begin uncovering more and more of life’s truths, so will you begin to understand the awesome potentials that are latent in all you think, say, and do.”

—Mike Dooley

You might remember that I mentioned Infinite Possibilities in the December 2009 issue of this newsletter. I was looking forward to reading it and, now that I have, it deserves further mention.

When the book came out in September 2009, it made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. If you can’t find it in stock locally right now, you can still find it on the internet.

The heart of Mike Dooley’s work is centered on helping people to grasp that “thoughts become things.” What we repeatedly think about, is what we get. It doesn’t matter if we’re aware of our own thoughts or this principle. It’s simply the way things work.

In the first chapter, Thoughts Become Things, Dooley includes the story of the totally miserable start to his first career, working as an auditor for the former accounting firm Price Waterhouse. Things were not going well, everyone knew it, and Dooley didn’t have a clue what to do. He feared he was going to be fired and was obsessed with these dire thoughts. Since Dooley had no idea what a successful auditor did, he couldn’t visualize himself doing those things. Instead, he leaped to the end result and began to visualize himself walking down the hall—greeting and being greeted by partners and staff—happy to be at work and loving his job. Shortly after he began his visualization project, he was loaned to the tax department. “…in what seemed like no time at all, I was walking up and down the hallways of P.W. just beaming with joy. It turned out that the tax department loved me, and I loved being in the tax department. My short-term loan became a permanent transfer, and from that day forward my career at P.W. took off.”

Dooley has a way of taking what could be slippery concepts and making them user-friendly. He wants readers to understand the basics of living their dreams and begin applying them, now. You’ll find lots of help for understanding the thoughts and beliefs at work in your life. “You want to go from thinking the kind of thoughts that have delivered you to this day to thinking the kind of thoughts you’d think once your dreams have already come true.” An important step in living your dreams involves recognizing what has worked superbly for you and what isn’t working at all. Dooley never implies he has the answers for your life; instead, he wants you to remember they’re already arriving for you.

If you work with visualizations and affirmations, you’ll probably discover a few tips you haven’t encountered elsewhere.

Create for yourself a huge palette of thoughts to dwell on.

Don’t link your dreams together. Visualize one at a time. (Why? See page 49.)

Five minutes, once or twice a day, is enough.

Infinite Possibilities does an excellent job of balancing the world of spirit and intention with the material world of action and results.

What Your Birthday Character Says About You
by Lisa Finander
Quirk Books, 2010
paperback, $16.95

This is the first book I’ve mentioned in Good Books that was written by a friend of mine. It’s an amazing, fun, and spirited book. Did I mention it’s beautiful, too?

For each day of the year Lisa selected a Disney character whose personality and traits represent the essence of that day. Readers will be delighted and amazed how the character of their birthday reflects back to them their own strengths, gifts, and challenges. You’ll see beloved and familiar characters from the Disney Classics all the way to UP and Toy Story 3. You’ll also meet characters you might have missed, or totally forgotten about. Lisa brings them all to life for you.

You don’t need to be a certain age or even a Disney fan to appreciate the truths of each character’s story and celebrate their special contributions. But if you’re a follower all things Disney, or you know one, this is definitely a book to add to the collection of Disney favorites.

Congratulations, Lisa!

Here’s a link to Disneystrology on Amazon where you can order a bunch.

Practice Page: August 2010 Newsletter

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

—Ralph Hodgson

Here’s something to do: a perfect summer project using magazines, scissors, and glue. It’s also something to think about, write about, talk about, and wonder about.

Vision Board / Collage

This classic experiment has a number of names and is suggested for a variety of purposes. Most often, it is used to create an intentional, visual representation of what you desire. This includes material things like a red sports car, a laptop computer, a new puppy, a romantic partner, a remodeled kitchen. These are represented by images cut from magazines. Less tangible, desired things like confidence, adventure, freedom, success, creativity, spirituality might be represented by words alone or by a combination of images and words. When creating a collage in this way, you search for specific pictures and words to represent what you already know you desire in your future.

I like to suggest a variation on this experiment as a means of discovery. Instead of picturing what you already know, you create a collage that is guided by deeper inner knowing. This is not a better way to do the experiment, it is simply a way of bringing less accessible truths to the surface to be worked with.

supplies needed:

a stack of magazines
glue stick
foamcore board (20” by 30”) or poster board (22” by 28” or half a sheet) are appealing sizes

Guidelines: Collecting, Assembling, Processing

Give yourself enough time and space to enter into the project and enjoy it. If it works better for you, focus on collecting,
assembling, and processing on three different days.

Collecting means sitting with your stack of magazines and rather mindlessly flipping through the pages. You are paying attention to anything that captures your attention and ripping out those pages for later use. What you notice and rip out will likely be a mix of pictures and words. Remember, in this version of the experiment, you are not hunting for specific things to include in your collage. As a result, your collection might contain things you would not have expected.

Assembling means beginning to arrange the images and words you have collected on the blank vision board. I suggest trying out arrangements without glue first; then when things start to click into place visually, glue them to the board. You can use scissors to cut out just the parts you want, or tear them out if you prefer. You can also overlap things and completely cover the board, or place things on the board with the background visible in places. There is no standard of organization, creativity, or quality for you to achieve.

Processing means sitting for awhile with your finished collage and taking it all in. You might think of this as beginning to read your collage, or listening to the messages within your collage—messages eager to reveal themselves to you.

Consider the following:

Are any themes or repeated patterns visible?

Does the board seem to have distinct sections or moods?

Is there a feeling of movement of flow?

Do any things seem curiously missing or present?

Where is the most energy revealed?

Any surprises?

Take a tour:

Look at every single image and word you glued onto your collage.

Ask yourself what it means or what it reminds you of?

Trust your spontaneous responses. It’s okay not to know.

As you tour your collage, it’s possible you’ll spot a theme or pattern you didn’t notice before.

Maybe something else will leap out at you.

Take good notes:

Here’s where you stop the doing, in order to really begin listening.

Allow your collage to speak to you in your imagination. Listen closely and write down everything you hear. Some people tend to hear in the first person, I need….. Others, in the second person, You need….

Examples: I need to spend more time in nature. I love to be involved with children learning. I want more orange and yellow in my life. I have funny stories to tell. I want to laugh out loud with others.

Try not to censor anything, no matter how peculiar it might initially sound.

Working Title:

Look at your collage again as you review your notes. If you had to select one overarching theme or message, what would that be?

Examples: You’re as ready as you’ll ever be. You were born to travel. Inspiring people is what you always want to do. Nothing is holding you back now.

I suggest finding a place to display your collage where you can see and enjoy it often. If you feel shy about others seeing it, pick a private or less visible location.


In your collage, see what you know. Believe it. See it in your life.

Remember the saying, Seeing is believing. And it’s twist, Believing is seeing.


If you love resources, here are some you might enjoy looking at. Keep in mind, it’s more important to make and process your own collage than it is to read everything others have to say about them.

The Vision Board:
The Secret To An Extraordinary Life

by Joyce Schwarz
Collins Design, 2008
paperback, $18.99

The Complete Vision Board Kit:
Using the Power of Intention and Visualization to Achieve Your Dreams

by John Assaraf
Atria Books / Beyond Words, 2008
paperback, $24.99

Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams
by Lucia Capacchione
Tarcher / Putnam, 2000
paperback, $14.95

The Happiness Project Toolbox
Here you’ll find a variation called Inspiration Boards.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vision Boards
by Marcia Layton Turner
Alpha, 2009
paperback, $16.95

I’m mentioning this book, but not recommending it. The example vision boards feel uninspired compared to most I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find some useful ideas.

Laurie Mattila

© August 2010

The Front Page: April 2010 Newsletter

On My Heart and Mind

“Why should employers take steps to help make their employees happy? Two reasons. First, because it’s the right thing to do…. Second, employee happiness is GOOD FOR BUSINESS.”

—Gretchen Rubin

A recent newspaper article in the business section caught my attention. It concerned the results of a survey of 1000 U.S. working adults. I got distracted before I read to the end, but one thing stuck with me: employees are worn out, not wearing out, already worn out. Because I continued thinking about the article, I finally went in search of it, read it from beginning to end, and found that the actual word was “exhausted.” Employees are “exhausted.”

The survey reported on falling percentages in the following areas:

  • employees who take pride in their company
  • employees intending to stay with their company
  • employees willing to go “above and beyond” their duties
  • employees who would recommend their company to others

Ouch! Some of you don’t need a survey to tell you this; you are either experiencing this yourself or know others who are.

It seems this decline in worker loyalty is related to a workplace practice that has been going on for too long. Instead of adding more jobs to spread out workloads that have become unrealistic, employers are still making do with current employees who are expected to get it done. And mostly they do; it’s their job and it’s better than no job, so they do what needs to be done. But as you can easily imagine, people are spread dangerously thin, and have been for quite some time. Yes, you can ask—or tell—someone they need to do more, faster and they will. But it costs them personally: they pay with their life.

How can you honestly expect someone to be genuinely grateful for a job where the work has grown joyless, dehumanizing, and is likely killing them?

Human beings are both incredibly strong and shockingly fragile—at the same time. We can make it through a few stressful days, weeks, or months. But three, four, five years? Something’s got to give.

It seems employees are denying—and being denied—their human side. Because they have gone “above and beyond” time and time again, it has evolved into the new norm. They are now expected to perform at previously extraordinary levels, on an everyday basis. Who will say enough is enough? When will we focus on sustainable ways of being in the workforce? What will it take to cultivate the values of common sense, respect, and kindness? When can employees stop subsidizing employers?

Maybe you’ve heard it said that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bad managers. Bosses who are insecure, defensive, frightened, mean-spirited, and stingy. Supervisors who either can not or will not express genuine appreciation. Managers who tolerate work environments that actually prevent employees from doing and enjoying the work they show up to do.

Good work. What would that be? For employees? For a company or an organization? For customers or clients? For owners or stockholders? Let it be productive, and profitable within reason. Let it restore the planet to a better condition than we currently find it. Let it be a force of healing. Yes, healing.

Good work heals. It connects us to the needs of the world. It also connects us to an invisible force within and enables us to go beyond ourselves, where we experience joy, discovery, and healing.

Could we admit we need to change, and leave behind the attraction of greed? Could we move toward ways that are sustainable—inspired and guided by wisdom, respect, creativity, and integrity—working toward goals that hold a promise for everyone and for the planet?

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: April 2010 Newsletter

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to….
by Gretchen Rubin
Harper, 2009
hardcover, $25.99

“During my study of happiness, I noticed something that surprised me: I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies. I find greater value in what specific individuals tell me worked for them than in any other kind of argument—and that’s true even when we seem to have nothing in common.”

—Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin didn’t spend a whole year working on her happiness project because she was so unhappy; she wasn’t. As she tells it, riding the bus one morning she realized—time was slipping by. Aside from knowing that she wanted to be happy, Rubin hadn’t given much thought to what made her happy or how she might be happier. This was the beginning of her happiness project, a year spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” Rubin experiments with hundreds of ideas, and begins a blog that leads to a book. And she becomes happier.

Rubin makes it clear that everyone’s happiness project will be different. In her book she allows readers to see how she sets up her project and what happens. “I made up my mind on a Tuesday morning, and by Wednesday afternoon, I had a stack of library books teetering on the edge of my desk…. I couldn’t just jump into this happiness project. I had a lot to learn before I was ready for my year to begin.”

This passion for books, reading, ideas, truth, learning, and writing is what makes The Happiness Project such an exciting and inspiring resource. Rubin tests out ideas for herself, candidly recounts what happens, and summarizes her thoughts about what worked, what didn’t, and why. I appreciated her openness to trying out worthy ideas that didn’t particularly appeal to her, as well as her willingness to say up front that she wasn’t going to do or continue some things (therapy and the daily gratitude journal).

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s use of a Virtues Chart for daily scoring his own progress, Rubin creates her version of a Resolutions Chart. This allows her to focus daily on how well, or not so well, she’s doing with the resolutions of the month, and as time goes by, all the months preceding.

The book is divided into twelve chapters, one for each month, each devoted to a topic Rubin wanted to work on in her life. The year begins with Energy and ends with Happiness. In between, you’ll find familiar topics like Friends, Money, and Work, as well as a few novel ones Eternity, Passion (Books), and Attitude. Each month Rubin identified the resolutions she wanted to focus on. These resolutions are specific and measurable, so that she can evaluate her progress or lack of progress. “Be a better friend” is vague and more difficult to evaluate than “Remember birthdays,” “Show up,” and “Don’t gossip.”

Rubin obviously loves to do in-depth research. For her happiness project she read things I would probably never read myself—finding them too scholarly or too academic—but I enjoyed her reports of what she discovered and how she applied it to her own happiness project. For me, the most compelling aspect of the book was discovering what happened when Rubin tried to keep her resolutions. She is a gifted writer—honest, smart, witty, entertaining—the sort of person you want for a friend because she is trying to “Be Gretchen,” even as she tries to change her life. Mostly, I enjoyed the matter-of-fact accounts of how a resolution played out on an ordinary day. It was the clarity of Rubin’s insights that made this book a page turner. I witnessed her becoming happier in small but real ways. From her I learned that becoming happy is an impossibly difficult goal, but becoming happier is a challenge worth pursuing.

Subscribing to the Happiness Project blog reminded me of happiness every time I received an email, even if I didn’t take time to read it. These regular “Happiness” reminders were making me happier; I guess I was paying more attention to happiness and experienced more happiness in return. This qualifies as an example of you get more of what you focus on.

Since I subscribed to the blog and had read hundreds of Rubin’s entires, I wondered how similar the Happiness Project book would be, and whether I’d be interested in reading it. As I thought about this last fall, I realized I had become a loyal follower and fan of Rubin and her about-to-be published book. So, when The Happiness Project book came out last December, I wanted it to be a success, which it is—making it to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and I wanted to do my part. I bought the book, read it and I love it.

This is one book you don’t want to miss, even if you are already happy, and especially if you aren’t. Understanding what makes you happy and discovering what makes you happier is crucial information, since all lives inevitably have their ups and downs.

Visit the Happiness Project blog to find:

  • Gretchen’s Twelve Commandments, Four Noble Truths, and Secrets of Adulthood
  • Happiness Quotations
  • Tips to try
  • Resolutions to inspire
  • Interviews with valuable insights
  • Archive of Gretchen’s blog entries
  • Sample chapters from the book

Also, check out the related web site to begin your own project.

Practice Page: April 2010 Newsletter

“Creating is about making it up.”

—Robert Fritz

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

—Alan Kay

Here’s something for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about, and try out.

The quotations on this page are among my all-time favorites. The first one is the simplest definition of creating that I’ve found. I love how it helps to demystify creating and offers permission to go ahead and get started: what you are doing is making it up. When creating, you often don’t—and can’t—know clearly, because you are in a moment-to-moment “making it up” process. You might experience frustration, terror, and exhilaration in quick succession, or you might plod along seemingly forever, still not knowing, hoping for something.

The second quotation reminds me that we can create the future. In the midst of day-to-day living, it’s easy to lose sight of this and live as though the future is something that happens to us. We forget that the future is an idea in our imagination; it’s always at least a few heart beats ahead of us, more often weeks, months, or even years. The future is seen as “someday” we’re moving toward. In truth, the future is in our ordinary moments.

This moment, right now is when we create—whatever we create—with or without awareness. Although a moment is a short period of time, they have a way of adding up. You could say they trend. Repeated moments of something tend to create that something. One or two moments don’t create it, but hundreds and thousands of moments do. You might wake up one day and wonder where did all this hesitation come from? It takes courage to look and see the pattern you’ve been creating, moment by moment.

What if you shifted your focus to create more moments of magic, inspiration, curiosity, or adventure? Imagine how different the creation of your future will be.


Notice a moment. Without judging, see it as it is.

Now see it as the building material for your future—your life.

What might you be creating with this moment or ten thousand similar moments?

An Affirmation:

You’ve probably heard the advice to begin with the end in mind. Affirmations are an excellent way of doing that. When you write an affirmation for yourself, you focus on what you want to experience in the future and you bring it into the present moment.

Pretend for a minute that the following is true for you: I want to get up in the morning excited about the day ahead of me, because I’ll be doing what I love to do—making a difference in the world.

Creating that Moment: Making it Up

An affirmation is a positive statement about what you want, expressed in the present tense.

In this moment, my life is good. I wake up every morning to a brand new day.
I’m excited to be who I am, eager to do what I love, confident I make a difference.

Do-It-Yourself Affirmation

Give yourself some quiet, alone time to focus your attention on something you want to happen in your future. As more details occur to you, write them down. Once you’ve gathered your thoughts on paper, you might already be feeling and picturing what you want more clearly.

Adjust your focus back to the present moment, as though you are already experiencing what you want. Select one detail you jotted down and describe it in the present tense. Examples: I am content. I wake up rested. I choose wonderful friends. I eat fresh foods.

Add another detail, and then another. Play around with the order of what you’ve written. Read it out loud to hear how true it sounds to you. Do the words flow? Do you like the feel of the words when you repeat them to yourself?

Finally, check that your affirmation is positive, in the present tense, and what you want.

Notice how your affirmation is both future and present focused: that is its power. An affirmation becomes your future, only when you make it your present moment.

“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created—created first in the mind and will , created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.”

—John Schaar

Laurie Mattila

© April 2010

The Front Page: December 2009 Newsletter

Genius at Work

“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”

Gertrude Stein

In late July, this Gertrude Stein quotation appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in one of my favorite features: you don’t say by l.k. hanson. In case you don’t get the Star Tribune, you don’t say appears every Monday in a box on the Opinion Exchange page. Hanson selects and illustrates a quotation, like the one above. Being a person who likes to ponder things, I find rich material in these weekly creations.

In my work I’m fascinated by the sparks of genius I encounter. I intentionally watch for them, so I see a whole lot more than anyone would ever believe. It might seem to some that I do not grasp what genius is—something quite extraordinary, spectacular, rare—a one-in-a-million sort of occurrence; it certainly isn’t something you expect to find in ordinary people the way I seem to do.

I believe we all have our moments of genius, even if genius isn’t our everyday method of operation, the way we are day in and day out. Returning to Gertrude Stein’s words, genius isn’t the way a genius appears day in and day out either: sitting around doing nothing.

Everywhere I look I see people doing, often multitask doing. Most of us are busy, busy, busy—way too busy. Even people without 40+ hours of paid work report how busy they are. So busy, they wonder how they ever had time to work that much. All this busyness appears productive, but what is it producing? And is it producing what is truly desired?

Sitting around doing nothing appears suspect: aimless, unmotivated, lazy, unproductive, something we should apologize for doing, or not doing. How could sitting around doing nothing be associated with genius? Who would dare to enter into this experiment to find out?

Isn’t taking time to be, rather than to do, what vacations are intended for? Even then, it’s difficult to stop and be; the momentum of life propels us forward long after we stop. Not only are our lives busy, our minds are even busier, making it truly difficult to come to rest. Our thoughts are often speeding along hours after we need to be asleep, restoring ourselves for a new day.

It’s startling to admit how much of our activity isn’t generating anything new, helpful, or particularly interesting. It’s a lot of repetition: thoughts, conversations, behavior, plans, ad nauseam. There is so much to do, and do again, that we don’t have much room in our lives to create what is new to us. Our best ideas might never see the light of day in our rush to get it all done.

So, when I sit with someone who is taking time to stop, even briefly during an appointment, I know there is probably a backlog of thoughts and emotions waiting to be heard. There are fragments and snippets likely glimpsed before, but never given full attention. They constitute a real mix, everything from old grudges and disappointments, to hopes and dreams, to sparks of genius, waiting—like the next audience in line—for the movie theater to empty and everyone to move forward.

One of my responsibilities when I work with someone is to listen for the inner genius that reveals itself, and when the moment feels right to return to it and give it full attention. Over the years I’ve become more trusting of being able to recognize genius in a person. Often it’s the unique example that grounds a telling story, or a particular choice of words I’ve never heard before, or an aliveness that suddenly animates a conversation, or a life, that seemed to be going nowhere. Sometimes I sense it before my client does; sometimes it’s a mutual knowing. However it happens, it feels like we struck gold, oil, water, and the divine, all at once.

Daring to stop, remaining still enough to hear your own breath, gazing into the unknown expanse—all look like doing nothing. Sitting, breathing, and staring into space are likely prerequisites for meeting your own genius. Only after you’ve accomplished that, does it make sense to be busy, busy, busy making real what thrills your heart and soul.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: December 2009 Newsletter

What Matters Most:
Living a More Considered Life
by James Hollis
Gotham Books, 2009
hardcover, $26.00

“We do not serve our children, our friends and partners, our society by living partial lives, and being secretly depressed and resentful. We serve the world by finding what feeds us, and, having been fed, then share our gift with others.”

—James Hollis

I read Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, an earlier book by James Hollis, when it came out five years ago. This fall when I picked up a copy of What Matters Most and noticed that Hollis was the author, I remembered how much I had valued his thoughtful wisdom and fascinating insights. In addition to writing and teaching, Hollis continues in private practice as a Jungian analyst.

In the preface to What Matter Most, Hollis states he will not be focusing on the standard list: “friends and family, love, honor, good work, reputation and the like.” Instead, he offers an “eccentric compilation” written to engage readers in considering what matters most for them.

Notice how these select chapter titles/ subtitles act as invitations for consideration:

That Life Not Be Governed By Fear
That We Learn to Tolerate Ambiguity
That We Consider Feeding The Soul
That We Step Into Largeness
That We Write Our Story, Lest Someone Else Write It For Us

In each chapter, Hollis offers ways to encourage readers to show up for their lives, in spite of difficulty, uncertainty, disappointment, and suffering; because there is also imagination, creativity, beauty, truth, and courage. Working with life stories and recounting dream memories, Hollis illuminates the soul’s deep and guiding wisdom.

Once again, I found Hollis to be an absorbing writer-teacher-storyteller. I appreciate his willingness to occasionally use himself as an example, as well as his unwavering respect, awe, and wonder for the dream material offered by his clients. He frequently comments, “Who would make this stuff up?”

The exquisite way Hollis unravels dreams, to get to their deeper meaning, is lovely to observe.

I See Your Dream Job:
A Career Intuitive Shows You How to Discover What You Were Put on Earth to Do
by Sue Frederick
St. Martin’s Press, 2009
Hardcover, $19.99

“Your life is on purpose. There are no accidents. Every event, circumstance, and relationship has been nudging you to follow your true path and do your great work—which is the only path to real success and abundance.”

—Sue Frederick

I See Your Dream Job is the first book I’ve discovered written by a career intuitive. From talking with clients, I know that many people consult with psychics at some point in their search for the work they are meant to do. Frederick is in a unique position to write this book, making the tools of her trade accessible to readers seeking to discover their life purpose.

If you aren’t open to, or interested in, ancient wisdom, astrology, numerology, symbols, and inner guidance, you can skip this book. On the other hand, if you find these topics fascinating, whether or not you understand them, I See Your Dream Job offers a step-by-step process that might allow you to see things from a perspective that dots the i’s and crosses the t’s for you. It probably won’t reveal anything you don’t already know, but it will remind you how much you do know and what perfect sense it makes.

Once you confidently own and affirm the truth of who you are, Frederick suggests how you can move forward and initiate desired change. I See Your Dream Job could be an important step in trusting yourself to do what you were put on earth to do.

One More Recently Published Book

Infinite Possibilities:
The Art of Living Your Dreams
by Mike Dooley
Atria Books / Beyond Words, 2009
Hardcover, $25.00

“We have our dreams for many reasons, not the least of which is to make them come true.”

—Mike Dooley

Last December I mentioned Mike Dooley’s trilogy, Notes From The Universe. His latest book, Infinite Possibilities, quickly became a New York Times Bestseller this fall. Prior to publication, the information was only available in audio format. Thousands of Dooley’s readers and supporters swooped up the first several printings, putting the book on backorder as soon as it was released. Infinite Possibilities is on my list of books to read.

Practice Page: December 2009 Newsletter

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

—Chinese proverb

Here’s something for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about, and try out.

Once we enter December, the race to the end of the year picks up the pace. Who hasn’t experienced genuine relief knowing a particularly difficult year is ending? For however long it lasts, we feel the pull toward a new year: a fresh start, a blank page, a brand new beginning. Maybe it’s the clarity and crispness of the unspoiled that calls to us. We get to begin again.


Notice any themes that call for your attention as you head into 2010.

Before you begin to automatically fill up your days, what do you want your focus to be this year?

Is it your desire or intention to have 2010 be The Year of Dancing Marvelously and Often? What about The Year of Feasting on Fresh Food? Or maybe The Year of Living True? Making A Difference?

Can you see how easily this is becoming a listening-writing experiment?

Listening-Writing Experiment: The Year of….

Even people who dislike lists find themselves drawn into the wordplay of listening and listing. It’s a simple writing experiment that can lead to valuable insights, quickly and playfully.

Consider the year 2010 and your hopes and dreams for yourself and the world. Try playing with the following format for this experiment: The Year of…..

Begin to list possibilities as they occur to you, one after the other. You don’t need to critique anything. Just keep the flow of ideas open and write everything down.

Examples of Themes:

The Year of Inspired Generosity
The Year of Going Social
The Year of Earning My Worth
The Year of Working for Pets
The Year of Fearless Travel
The Year of Befriending My Soul
The Year of Living The Moment
The Year of Cultivating Community

After you’ve listed everything that comes to you, set your list aside. You can always add to it later if you want.

On a fresh page, begin to focus on any guidelines or truths you want to live by in 2010.

Examples of Guidelines:

I will not rush.
I say what I mean and I mean what I say.
I’ll let you know if I’m interested.
Let go and be the flow.
Because I like it.
Does this matter?
Is it worthy?
Who will benefit?
How do I feel?

Now scan your themes list for the theme of the year that most clearly resonates with you.
Try adding it to the guidelines you just created. How do they seem to fit together?

At this point, you might want to pair your list of guidelines with another theme or two to see how you react. Or, you might decide to customize your list of guidelines to fit one particular theme.

Whatever you do, this is a beginning. It’s a way to begin consciously approaching 2010.

Maybe you’ll be energized by considering possible themes for the year. Maybe writing clear and simple guidelines will feel inspiring. Maybe something unexpectedly wonderful will occur to you, if not right now, perhaps later.

Remember: Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.

Maybe listening is a green tree; maybe you are the singing bird.

Wishing you only the best in 2010!

Laurie Mattila
© December 2009

The Front Page: August 2009 Newsletter

My Unlikely Role Model

“And that’s the way it is.”

Walter Cronkite

I’ve appreciated reading remembrances which appeared soon after the death of Walter Cronkite on July 17 at the age of 92. I’m one of the children who grew up listening to Mr. Cronkite almost every night on the CBS Evening News. Thinking back, it’s not images that I remember. It’s the familiar sound of his voice—calm, steady, knowing—the memorable voice of someone who could be counted on to be there, night after night.

I heard snippets of Cronkite’s voice played in the days following his death, and again during a special program observing the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. What surprised me, both times, was how precisely I remembered his voice, even before hearing the recordings. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory, that voice had etched its pattern.

Thinking back to the evening news of the ‘60s, I’ve realized what a powerful role model I witnessed in Walter Cronkite. For me, and many others, it wasn’t what Cronkite did as much as the way he did it. Each evening as he worked, Cronkite modeled integrity. No wonder that in 1972 a national poll referred to him as the “most trusted man [voice] in America.”

Even though my professional aspirations never included becoming a television news anchor or managing editor, Cronkite’s work powerfully affected me. Walter Cronkite showed up, focused intently on the task at hand, and did it splendidly. He relied on his respected presence, distinctive voice, and thoughtful manner to talk through the news of the day. Several of the pieces I’ve read about Cronkite’s life reminded me that, from today’s vantage point, it’s easy to overlook what a pioneer he was in the field of broadcast journalism.

It’s occurred to me that there are ways in which the work I’ve chosen is not that far removed from the work I saw Cronkite performing. My primary tools are a table and chairs. I show up expecting to enter into uncharted conversation, sometimes feeling like a pioneer. My own presence is key to creating a place of safety and acceptance where the important things of life can be witnessed. Integrity is a touchstone for listening to the heart of another. There might be more, but these are the discoveries I’ve made so far.

These few connecting threads offered up an unexpected and exciting insight: Here was someone whose work had positively influenced my own, even though I had no clue this was occurring, night after night on the CBS Evening News, all the way back in the 1960’s.

Thank you Mr. Cronkite for being a role model for me—for perfecting your gifts in the way you did—so that I could begin the process of discovering and offering my own gifts, and then go on to guide others in the discovery and expression of theirs.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: August 2009 Newsletter

Instead of writing substantial reviews for this issue, I’m giving myself permission to take it easy this summer. I’ll briefly mention a few books of possible interest to you.

Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life
by Todd Kashdan
William Morrow, 2009
hardcover, $25.99

“Go beyond the need to predict, understand, and control your…world. Attend to what you don’t know, expand the boundaries of who you are and what you do, follow your instinct of what is interesting to you and what is interesting to other people, and this will lead to positive changes….”

—Todd Kashdan

In my work I observe what happens when curiosity is ignited: it turns into a powerhouse of focus and energy. Curiosity can even fill in for courage. In spite of its importance, I don’t remember ever seeing an entire book devoted to the topic.

Kashdan works as a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University. His book identifies curiosity, rather than happiness, as the “central ingredient to a fulfilling life.” Kashdan introduces readers to the science of curiosity and then weaves in interesting stories to illustrate the concepts. You’ll also find exercises intended to develop the “curious explorer” within.

Did you know there are five significant benefits to being a curious person? Health, intelligence, meaning / purpose in life, relationships, and happiness.

My one disappointment was that some of the exercises reminded me of those a researcher might use to gather data for a study.

Career Renegade:
How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love
by Jonathan Fields
Broadway Books, 2009
paperback, $14.00

“So many others I knew had found a guru and their lives seemed so much better, more directed and purposeful for it, but that never happened to me…. Why couldn’t I find that person? It finally dawned on me: The person I was looking for was the one I would need to become…. Upon that realization, I began to accept responsibility not only for my life to date, but for the process of making it come alive from that point forward.”

—Jonathan Fields

I don’t know why, but there is something about the word “renegade” that I enjoy. So when I saw  Career Renegade mentioned on Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness-Project, I wanted to know more.

Although the title reminds me of Marsha Sinetar’s Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow, one of my all-time favorites, this book is very different. Fields is into the practical, telling you what he and others have done so you can maybe do it too, but with your passion. He does a fabulous job of identifying resources, including techie tools, telling you why and how to use them, and what they can do for you. His information is rarely in-depth, but it will definitely increase your awareness and your options.

You can visit and download the book’s introduction for free.

Break the Buying Obsession and Discover Your True Worth
by Sally Palaian
Hazelden, 2009
paperback, $14.95

I just learned about this book, so I haven’t read it yet. But I’m planning to check it out, thanks to Kim Ode’s interesting piece, Needs vs. wants: a tough lesson to heed in a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Practice Page: August 2009 Newsletter

“Sometimes it seems as if one thing has nothing to do with another thing, but it does.”

—Burghild Nina Holzer

Here’s something for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about, and try out.

It’s fascinating for me to discover just how connected we really are, even to the point that someone else’s story, fictional or biographical, contains bits and pieces of our own story. And those bits and pieces hold a gift for us, if we can only find a way to access it. Listening-writing is a way for opening to inner wisdom; it is also a helpful device for revealing mysterious inner codes.

Listen to how Burghild Nina Holzer describes this process, “But you trust, by writing down the daily fragments of awareness, that a larger network will gradually emerge, that images will come forth, a theme or direction may appear, all of which you could never have outlined, but which emerge out of deep necessities within us.”


Pay attention to the “daily fragments of awareness.” You could also think of these as clues seeking you.

Listening-Writing Experiment:

Here’s an excerpt for you to read, found on pages 54-55 of EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had a difficult time choosing just one selection from this book because there are so many remarkable passages. If you haven’t read it yet, treat yourself before the summer ends.

“Tonight, this strange interior gesture of friendship—the lending of a hand from me to myself when nobody else is around to offer solace—reminds me of something that happened to me once in New York City. I walked into an office building one afternoon in a hurry, dashed into the waiting elevator. As I rushed in, I caught an unexpected glimpse of myself in a security mirror’s reflection. In that moment my brain did an odd thing—it fired off this split-second message: “Hey! You know her! That’s a friend of yours!” And I actually ran forward toward my own reflection with a smile, ready to welcome that girl whose name I had lost but whose face was so familiar. In a flash instant, of course, I realized my mistake and laughed in embarrassment at my almost doglike confusion over how a mirror works. But for some reason that incident comes to mind again tonight during my sadness in Rome, and I find myself writing this comforting reminder at the bottom of the page:

Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.”

If you prefer to work with another selection, go ahead and do that.

With pen in hand, read the selection again; this time, highlight the words that are part of your story, too. Keep in mind, there is no right and no wrong, no too-many and no not-enough.

Here’s an example of what this step might produce:

gesture of friendship
when nobody else is around
reminds me of something
New York City
I walked into an office building one afternoon in a hurry
waiting elevator
I rushed
glimpse of myself
my own reflection
with a smile
to welcome
name I had lost
face was so familiar
realized my mistake
incident comes to mind
my sadness
myself writing
comforting reminder
the page
once upon a time
you recognized yourself
a friend

The next step is to read all the words you selected, as though you were reading a sort of list poem. Whether you do this alone, with a partner, or in a group, I think it’s helpful to read out loud. In a group it’s interesting to hear which word combinations are repeated.

Working with your own list, choose one or more of these “fragments of awareness” to explore further in writing. Here are three possibilities created from the above list:

• gesture of friendship – reminds me of something – embarrassment
• waiting elevator
• incident comes to mind – myself writing

As you begin to pay attention, your fragment of awareness acts as a listening-writing prompt. It gets you started, but it won’t define or restrict what you hear and what you write. Listening, without judgment, and writing what you hear, also without judgment, swings open the door that leads to discovery.

Discovery of what, you ask? There is only one way to know, and that is to pick up your pen, listen, and write what your hear.

Laurie Mattila
© August 2009

The Front Page: April 2009 Newsletter

All Things Possible

“Our life is not a problem to be solved, it is a gift to be opened.”

—Wayne Muller

Some of you know that I have an ongoing interest which I’ve affectionately referred to as my one and only hobby: reading used car ads. Not just any used car ads, Volvo station wagon ads. Except for one new car that came with a loan right after college, all of my car buys have been older used vehicles, cash cars I call them. Except for a 1974 light blue VW Super Beetle, all of my used cars have been Volvos, and all but one of those have been station wagons.

I didn’t plan this, it’s one of those things that happened. As I think about it though, it really fits who I am—practical, thrifty, adventuresome, helpful, and a dreamer. Even though I live in the city, I like a vehicle that can haul stuff at a moments notice without a fuss. Stuff like building supplies, compost, groceries, friends, furniture, pets, plants, and the unexpected find.

For as long as I’ve owned cars, going on 35 years, I’ve been fortunate to know and work with wonderful mechanics whom I’ve learned about by word-of-mouth. In all those years there have been a grand total of four mechanics in my life. Two in Duluth, one in northeast Minneapolis, and one in Dinkytown, where I’ve been a loyal customer for over 25 years.

Originally, the auto repair shop in Dinkytown, on the corner of 14th Avenue S.E. and Eighth Street S.E., was the Gorshe Brothers Garage. Greg worked there with Mr. Gorshe and his brother, who have since retired. I cried when I found out about the retirement, but the business still bears their name, Gorshe Auto Service, and, fortunately, Greg continues to work there.

Because I choose to buy and drive older used cars, it’s essential for me to have a mechanic I trust completely, as well as AAA extended towing. That way if something unexpected goes wrong I can be 100 miles from home and still be towed back to the “garage of my choice” in Dinkytown where Greg will take care of everything. Over the years that has happened on several occasions, but it’s nothing I worry about anymore. When a mechanic like Greg always does good work, is knowledgeable, honest, and fair there is nothing to worry about.

Even though I regularly scan the used Volvo ads, I’m rarely car shopping. I just like to have a pulse on what’s out there and what it’s going for, in case. Lately though, I find myself scanning with more focused intent. This past winter has been particularly hard on my 1992 station wagon. Mechanically it’s still sound at 221,000 miles, but the driver’s side doors are beginning to visibly rust along the bottom. I checked out the possibility of buying a used door from a recycler of Volvo parts and I’m actually thinking about that. I guess it depends on the door repair estimate and what shows up in the ads.

I recognize that my car hobby parallels what many employees have always done with jobs. Right now, so many people who are employed are especially grateful to be working, even if the work they do isn’t the work they really want. They show up and do their best, but they’re also keeping an eye and an ear open for what’s out there. They want and need to know, in case they happen to uncover something of interest or find themselves in a position of needing to make a quick change. In both of these examples, we’re now seeking and using information online rather than in the newspaper that’s delivered to our front door. And who hasn’t noticed, there seem to be more cars to be sold than jobs to be filled?

So much has changed, and is still changing, to the point that many of us feel disoriented in an increasingly unfamiliar world. Stable things we counted on to guide and ground us, to act as landmarks in our lives, suddenly vanish or seem in danger of toppling. It’s easy for worry and fear to overwhelm us and paralyze our best creative energies. But that is only one aspect of what is possible.

I’m reminded of a favorite line of mine from Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath, “often it is when we do not know the outcome that all things become possible.” This, too, is an aspect of what is possible now, a time to awaken and channel our individual and collective creative energies. We do not know the outcome; it is still being created—by you, by me, by all of us.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: April 2009 Newsletter

Success Intelligence:
Essential Lessons and Practices from the World’s Leading Coaching Program on Authentic Success

by Robert Holden
Hay House, 2008
hardcover, $26.95

I picked up a copy of Success Intelligence, not recognizing the author or his work; the title just intrigued me. It turns out that Robert Holden wrote the best-selling books Shift Happens! and Happiness Now! which are both available in paperback. Holden is the Director of Success Intelligence and The Happiness Project, and his work is featured in two BBC television documentaries: The Happiness Formula and How to Be Happy, neither of which I’ve seen.

In the Prologue to Success Intelligence, Holden tells the story of when he was sixteen years old and the painful reality of his father’s alcoholism confronts him on the public sidewalk of his hometown. Questions, triggered by what was happening to his father, haunt Holden as they also shape his life’s work. What is success? What is happiness? What’s real? What is life for?

In seven parts, Holden explores the primary, interweaving themes of vision, relationships, and work as they relate to success and happiness. He also considers the importance of potential, wisdom, courage, and grace. In the final part, Renaissance, his focus is on the “challenge to take your true place in the world.” Thirty of the chapters end with a Success Intelligence Tip, which is really an opportunity to personally explore an aspect of Success Intelligence in your own life. Expect more of Holden’s original questions.

Robert Holden is a thoughtful and engaging writer, who knows and appreciates the challenge of living and working in a “Manic Society” that values busyness and speed more than vision. He is also a leader in the use of positive psychology to bring about individual and organizational change. Reading Success Intelligence had the feel of talking with a wise and caring mentor who took the time to pass along what he has learned and believes will make all the difference—a life with authentic success and real happiness. I am grateful for this book.

The Hay House paperback edition of Success Intelligence is scheduled for early May.

“What looks like a dead end to our egos is really an invitation to go higher than before. It is a lifting-off point where you are asked to give up your own efforts for more grace and to let go of your own plans for greater inspiration. Every dead end is a place in the road where you must let go of what does not really work for what really can.”

—Robert Holden

The Answer Is Simple…
Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit!

by Sonia Choquette
Hay House, 2008
hardcover, $19.95

Who among us doesn’t want to love the life we are living?

In her latest book, The Answer Is Simple, Sonia Choquette, writes about how it’s possible to love your life, regardless of the inevitable ups and downs or less than fortunate circumstances you might be facing. As the subtitle suggests, loving yourself and living your Spirit come before loving your life; not the other way around.

Through her work Choquette has been fortunate to talk with and observe people, from widely different circumstances, who succeed in really loving life—and to her they are different. Instead of relying upon ego and intellect to navigate life, these individuals are guided by the Spirit within. They know who they are: they are worthy, part of the Divine whole, here to love what they love, and share that love.

The book is organized into ten simple steps/ideas intended to help you practice “self-love and authentic Spirited living”: Welcome Your Spirit, Connect with Your Soul Family, Remember What You Love, Choose Kindness, and six more. Each idea is followed by practical action you can take to live in the joy, light, and love of your Spirit, rather than the pain, fear, and control of your ego.

Midway through the book, you’ll find an “Interlude” titled The Heart of the Matter. This section focuses on how to fully engage the heart—love yourself and live your spirit—by considering four expressions of Love/Spirit: open heart, clear heart, wise heart, and courageous heart.

The Answer Is Simple is a book that will be valued by readers who seek to know and live the uncomplicated truth of their own hearts.

Choquette is the author of several more best-selling mind-body-spirit books, including Trust Your Vibes. The Answer Is Simple is also available as a deck of oracle cards.

“The ego differentiates…things as more or less important, but not the Spirit…. All gifts are equal in Divine mind. Claiming, valuing, and then sharing yours completely, without hesitation or interference from your ego, is one of the greatest and simplest secrets to loving yourself and living your Spirit. What do you love? Sharing that fully is your purpose.”

—Sonia Choquette

Practice Page: April 2009 Newsletter

“Each of us leaps instinctively at what is needed for understanding and completion.”

—T. Alan Broughton

Here’s something for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about, and try out.

Before this newsletter became available online, I reviewed two books written by Wayne Muller. How Then Shall We Live? came out in 1996, followed by Sabbath in 1999. These are books I still turn to for inspiration, and books that others continue to recommend to each other in some of my groups. The themes are timeless: revealing meaning and beauty in our lives, and restoring sacred rest to our lives. Both of my copies are marked with handwritten notes and underlined passages that leap at me when I read them.

To give you a feel for what I’m describing, here are three portions I highlighted in How Then Shall We Live?

“What is our song? How do we name ourselves? Which word, when we speak it, reveals what is most deeply true about this inner voice, our deepest heart, our fundamental nature?”

“What if the answers to our questions about life and path and practice are already speaking to us, and in our rush to find them elsewhere we miss the easy, gentle wisdom that would teach us all we need to know if we simply center ourselves and be still for just a moment?”

“What are the elements of our craft? What few simple tools are necessary to live a full and happy life? Which few things, if we choose them, would be able to sustain our creativity, enthusiasm, and passion?”


Pay attention to what leaps for you as a way to know, or know again, what matters.

Notice The Leap:

When something leaps for you, it’s as though it’s printed in bold-neon-orange and jumps out from what comes before and after. On the page, it might be a phrase, a couple of lines, or a question. Or it might be something you hear in a song, conversation, or interview. Maybe it’s something triggered by a collage of silky textures and dreamy colors, an unforgettable blending of scents and flavors, or a YouTube video someone sends to you.

Many people make use of the rule of three: the third time something comes up, again, they make a mental note to pay attention. That’s a beginning too: notice what repeats for you.

Follow The Leap:

If you’re open to writing for discovery, this makes a great exercise. You begin by noticing something, anything, that leaps for you. Record the details of what happened. Listen for any associations that are floating around. Don’t evaluate anything. The idea is to document the leap in the way you might record a dream you remember in the morning.

Next, allow yourself to wander freely on the page, considering a few questions. Capture fragments. Note impressions. Make associations. Follow along.

Who or what might be showing up, wanting my attention?
Has anything similar happened recently?
What else am I reminded of?
Do I detect any patterns?
Is there meaning or connection to decipher?
How am I responding to all of this?
What’s my best guess?

A Short Cut:

This doesn’t need to be time consuming. So, if you aren’t interested in introspective writing, just keep a list of what leaps for you. Make it something small you can carry around and review every so often.

However you try it, you will soon notice that your leaps are not random. There are patterns to what wants your attention, patterns deep within you that the world is simply reflecting back to you. As you spend time in a state of curiosity and openness, you’ll be rewarded with glimmers of insight or knowing, confident that the next guiding leaps will be there for you when you need them.

Laurie Mattila
© April 2009

The Front Page: December 2008 Newsletter

Testing, One Two Three, Testing

“Life is what happens to you, while you’re busy making other plans.”

—John Lennon

This often repeated saying is what my life has been like for the past month. Except, it’s not what happened to me, it’s what happened to my eighty year old mother.

The week before Thanksgiving, I received a call from my sister-in-law that I needed to come home because my mother’s health had deteriorated and my parents needed help. My sister and I left town the next day and spent a week caring for my mother and father. Although my mother was the one with increasingly debilitating back pain, my father had become depleted trying to care for her over the course of several weeks.

Fast forward one week. We returned to the Twin Cities with my parents and a copy of my mother’s MRI. Miracle of miracles, my mother was able to be seen by a specialist at Twin Cities Spine Center the Monday after Thanksgiving, and was admitted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital the following Wednesday with an infection in her lower spine.

During these days, marked by my mother’s pain, my world changed. I became focused on now: what is needed now. The list seemed endless. While my sister cooked and cleaned, I cared for my mother. My usual, large world of possibilities shrunk to the confines of my parent’s home. I was away from my home, office, telephone, computer, husband, neighbor, cat, newspaper and routine. After I returned to my own home, I was still focused on the needs of my parents. Even after my mother was hospitalized, I was still focused on her evolving needs and the needs of my father who was staying with us.

Fast forward two weeks. My mother was admitted to Sister Kenny Institute where she will spend time in rehabilitation: learning to stand, walk, and climb stairs again, and do what she needs to do for an eventual return to her beloved home.

Through all of this, I kept thinking about this newsletter which was “supposed” to be posted online in early December. Even after I realized it wasn’t going to happen as planned, and didn’t need to happen as planned, I had to adjust to what was possible. I entertained the idea of an abbreviated version, but even that proved to be a huge challenge.

My life right now is not my normal life. I’m camping on the living room floor, making almost daily trips with my father to visit my mother, and focusing more on the work I love. I’m tired and probably look it. But I’m also excited about the change and growth I’ve realized. I did not know the extent to which I could live in the moment, how physically strong I have become, and how easy it is to let go when you know there is nothing you can do.

For quite some time I’ve been intentional about living in the moment, strengthening my core, and learning to trust the flow of life. But I haven’t had an opportunity to realize my true progress, until this unplanned test happened in real time. Testing, one two three, testing.

I’m happy to report that my mother is working hard in rehab and making progress every day. She will return to our home sometime in January, and begin the next phase of preparing to return to her own home.

Thank you for waiting a few extra weeks for this issue to be posted on my web site.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: December 2008 Newsletter

Thank you Margaret G. and Nancy D. for mentioning the following two books. On my own I might not have picked up either of them, but now that I’ve read them I understand your enthusiastic endorsements.

When Organizing Isn’t Enough:
SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life
by Julie Morgenstern
Fireside, 2008
hardcover, $24.00

Julie Morgenstern, author of the bestseller Organizing From The Inside Out, is back with a new book about getting unstuck in order to create the life you really want, even if you’re not sure what that is. The transformational process she calls SHED consists of four steps: Separate the treasures, Heave the trash, Embrace your identity, and Drive yourself forward. SHEDing begins with thoughtfully naming a theme for the next chapter or phase of your life: vibrant health, close to nature, creative expression, boundless learning, offering expertise, circle of friends….

Along with motivating stories, Morgenstern offers readers effective tools to begin dealing with objects overflowing their spaces, commitments competing for their time, and habits working against them. Once the obsolete stuff is identified and let go, there is time and space to enjoy the treasures, move around, try new things, and reflect on the experience. SHEDing is a way to first discover and then create what you really want.

What excites me the most about Morgenstern’s latest work is the attention she gives to uncovering the positive motivators that sometimes lead to suffocation and paralysis by stuff. Something that appears and feels quite negative, can have truly positive roots. Not an advocate for shaming or ruthless de-cluttering, Morgenstern wants readers to understand the very real needs that drive a person to do what they do. Her goal is to help people understand and shift their behavior, using practical steps that lead to a new way of living.

“You are standing at the doorway to possibility. You will experience a tremendous lightness of being—an energy you haven’t felt for a long time—and the thrill of adventure all around you. Let yourself enjoy the release and the shifts in priorities. There is a sense of vitality, of owning your identity—and choosing your life. You will begin to come up with more ideas of what you want, because now you have space to think. And ideas will have time to develop, because you are no longer distracted with piles of “stuff” or bad habits that you are fighting on a daily basis.”

—Julie Morgenstern

Harmonic Wealth:
The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want

by James Arthur Ray
Hyperion, 2008
hardcover, $24.95

“Harmonic Wealth isn’t just about material abundance…. It’s about abundance in all areas of your life.” In his new book James Arthur Ray focuses on five key areas, which he refers to as the five pillars: financial, relational, mental, physical and spiritual.

In the first chapter Ray includes a simple way to start noting the abundance in your life, using just a few questions for each of the five areas. How much do you want in your financial freedom account? Do you treat yourself the way you want other people to treat you? How many books do you choose to read per month, per year? Do you have all the toys you want? Have you discovered that one-on-one connection with your creative source?

Many of the ideas and exercises included in Harmonic Wealth will sound familiar, especially if you’ve read other books on the topic of attracting and creating what you want. What distinguishes this book is the person of James Arthur Ray. Page by page, I developed a genuine liking for him and his unique style. He is a voracious learner, willing to grapple with ideas, someone who has traveled the world to educate himself. He loves life and wants to share what works for him. Throughout the book he includes portions of his own story, for instructional and entertainment purposes, giving readers permission to consider their own complicated histories and realize what still holds them back. I appreciate that Ray writes transparently about coming to his own understanding of true wealth.

You might recognize James Arthur Ray as one of the featured experts in The Secret. If you liked his approach and ideas in the movie, I think you’ll really enjoy the more in-depth presentation this book allows.

“I struggle a bit with the label self-help, even if that’s the section where you found this book, because I come from the premise that you’re already perfect, magnificent, and divine. To my way of thinking, self-help says that you’re broke and need to be fixed. I prefer personal transformation. Personal transformation says that no matter how fantastic things are for you, you can always grow, expand, and more fully express yourself. There’s always room to receive more of the richness and wealth the universe has to offer. If you’re currently struggling in any area, it doesn’t mean you’re not perfect. It just means you’re ready for shift.”

—James Arthur Ray

I’m mentioning three more books I’m excited to have stumbled upon. They might make a wonderful gift for someone on your holiday list, or for you.

Notes From The Universe: New Perspectives from an Old Friend
More Notes From The Universe: Life, Dreams and Happiness
Even More Notes From The Universe: Dancing Life’s Dance
by Mike Dooley
Atria Books / Beyond Words, 2007 & 2008
hardcover, $17.95

“What if the Universe were to send you frequent reminders of the absolute power you have over your life?”

from the back cover of Notes From The Universe

The trilogy, Notes From The Universe, originated as daily thoughts written by Dooley and sent from the Universe to a list of subscribers, now numbering over 250,001. Dooley intends to delight, encourage and inspire you to think and live large and true—right now—today. He wants you to remember: “Thoughts become things.”

These “reminders of life’s magic and our divinity” began as a labor of love. Even though Dooley has written thousands of them, you can still feel the love.

If you are interested in signing up to receive the free Monday through Friday daily notes, visit Dooley’s website below. Once you’re there, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to read more about Dooley. His path to his life’s work is an interesting story.

FYI: “tut” stands for “totally unique thoughts.”

Practice Page: December 2008 Newsletter

“If people knew the story of their lives, how many would elect to live them?”

—Cormac McCarthy

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

—Annie Dillard

Here’s an idea for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about, and try out.

In my work with small groups and individuals, I use several experiments that allow a kind of  stepping back from everyday life to view the story we are living and creating. While it’s true that some of the story is already history, whether or not it’s been recorded, I want people to see the unfolding story of this moment, and the still to be lived story of the near and distant future.

Working with this idea, some people find it more appealing to think in terms of a film or movie rather than a story. Others like the idea of a screenplay, documentary, novel, soap opera, comic book, tv series. Use whatever form inspires, energizes and resonates with you.

Challenge: Step back from the everyday perspective of your life and see anew.

Use the following questions as a guide to learn more about the life you are currently living.


Where does your story take place? Consider all of the places you spend your life. You might want to include your home, work place(s), school, fitness center, favorite hangout, library, where you volunteer….

The Main Character (You):

Who is the main character? What distinguishes this individual? Be specific. Think about physical appearance, personality, beliefs, habits, occupation, friends, family, beliefs, special stuff….

Supporting Roles:

Who else is in your story? What are their roles? What is your relationship with each of them? What are your feelings for each of them?


What is your story about? What makes it interesting or fascinating?

Conflict / Tension:

What does the main character (you) want or need to do? What is the dilemma? What complicates things?

Working Title:

It’s time to give your story a working title. Make it one that captures the predominant theme of the life you are currently living.

Next Challenge:

Reflect on what you’ve discovered or remembered about your life as you worked through the above sections: setting, main character, supporting roles, plot, conflict / tension and working title.

Repeat the experiment, making whatever changes are needed to create a new version of your story that feels like a life you want to be living, a life you are willing to create. By taking this step, you are clarifying what you need to focus on and bring into your life. You are probably also identifying some of what needs to go. Let your own words and images guide and inspire you—pull you—into a story and a life of your own choosing.

“Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize. Your words are the greatest power you have. The words you choose and use establish the life you experience.”

—Sonia Choquette

“…for to adopt a poetic attitude toward one’s own life means not only discovering a different way of telling one’s story but a different way of living it.”

—Christine Downing

Sending you infinite blessings.

Laurie Mattila
© December 2008

The Front Page: August 2008 Newsletter


Shouldn’t I be writing about surviving in a difficult economy and trying to calm widespread fears about job losses, echoing how awful everything seems right now? Wouldn’t that be the responsible thing to address, given the focus of my work?

Being who I am, I can’t go there. I need to focus on what I want to grow: trust in living true to our own selves, guided by our own wisdom, regardless.

Some have wisely said that it’s not what happens, it’s our response to what happens that matters most. This applies to the big things and maybe more to the everyday things: what we eat and drink, what we think and speak, what we buy and borrow, what we do or don’t do.

Sometimes I wonder if I watched too many “hero to the rescue” television shows when I was a child. I clearly remember the wonderful rush, feeling how it would be to arrive just in time to turn around another tragedy in the making. A smart, chubby young girl with long braids, I wanted to be a hero who rode or flew off to my next adventure as the theme music played in the background.

In comparison to my heroic, childhood imaginings, tidying up my office for a client, returning phone calls, and preparing for a group might seem like a letdown. But I know that most of life is lived in the in-between. I still love heroic rescues, but there are billions of ordinary moments to love and live, all with their own untapped potential. These are the overlooked, almost invisible moments when we are getting by, hanging out, or waiting for some other moment. It doesn’t take much to mine the treasure in these moments, if we remember. We can choose to focus our attention, gifts, and compassion on the situation surrounding us. Or we can ignore, whine, complain, undermine, and feed the popular frenzy about you name it.

On occasion, we all dismiss these in-between non moments, relating to them as though they were disposable packing material wrapped around the real highlights of our life. It’s important to acknowledge that the moments that make up life’s nonevents actually equal years of our lives. These moments hold the undeveloped potential for being more alive and awake to life. Instead of getting through them, wasting precious time counting down the hours and the days, we can choose to more fully inhabit all the moments of life. We can notice who or what is before us, right there in front of us, needing what we bring.

In the words of poet Marge Piercy, The Art of Blessing the Day, we can choose to “be glad for what does not hurt.”

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: August 2008 Newsletter

The Second Journey:
The Road Back to Yourself
by Joan Anderson
Hyperion, 2008
hardcover, $23.95

Joan Anderson’s first book, A Year by the Sea, chronicled the “awakening” she experienced when she made the decision to walk out of her old life and live for a year on her own on Cape Cod. Her account of that year touched thousands of women and led to Anderson traveling around the country offering weekend workshops and writing several more books: An Unfinished Marriage, A Walk on the Beach, and A Weekend to Change Your Life. Now, ten years later she finds herself at another crossroad stretched dangerously thin by her own schedule and expectations.

In her latest book, Anderson embarks on a second journey that takes her back to her true self by way of Iona, an island off the coast of Scotland. Her struggle to take her own advice and carve out time and space for herself is complicated by the demands of success, her aging mother, her own health, grandchildren, children and husband. She knows she is living a life that has somehow become not her own; it is this crisis that intersects with an out of the blue invitation to come to stay in a cottage on Iona, a place her immigrant father had insisted she visit.

The month she spends living on the island, exploring and discovering its ancient secrets, turns out to be a spiritual journey of remembering herself. Removed from the never ending pressures and entrenched patterns of life back home, Anderson is free to decide for herself, however she is not free of herself. The outer and inner paths she travels are intricately connected and her telling of both makes for compelling reading.

As soon as I finished reading The Second Journey I went in search of all of her books. I found A Year by the Sea and was immediately happy because I did not want the story to end. Anyone facing the dilemma of living in a life that no longer fits or has become too full to enjoy will benefit from Anderson’s book on beginning the second journey.

”There are the outlived events and relationships that we must celebrate and then let go of, and there are the unlived experiences that we must search for, welcome, and live into.”

—Joan Anderson

Creating Money:
Attracting Abundance
by Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer
H J Kramer published in a joint venture with New World Library, 2008
paperback, $13.95

“This powerful book shows you the way not only to abundance but to something far more important: a life well lived, full of joy and satisfaction, for you are following your inner guidance every moment, and doing what you love to do.”

—Marc Allen, publisher of New World Library
from the foreword

Creating Money, first published ten years ago, has been revised and published as a joint venture with New World Library, after selling over half a million copies. I accidentally discovered the book on my way to locating another title on a nearby shelf. It turns out to be one of the best books I’ve read about attracting abundance.

The authors attribute the book’s spiritual and energy teachings to their spirit guides Orin and DaBen. If you can easily accept that, or forget it, I think you’ll find the book instructive and fascinating.

Creating Money includes four sections: Creating Money – “a step-by-step guide to the art of manifesting,” Developing Mastery – working and moving through “any blocks you may have about allowing abundance in your life,” Creating Your Life’s Work – making money and creating abundance through “doing the things you love,” and Having Money – creating “joy, peace, harmony, clarity, and self-love with your money, letting it flow and increase.” This arrangement of topics doesn’t distinguish the book from many other books about money. What’s different is the way Creating Money helps readers to acquire, and act on, new beliefs and thoughts about money and a string of related topics: abundance, attraction, manifesting, magnetizing, success, fulfillment, trust and worth. After all, we create our reality through what we believe, think, and say. In the words of Louise Hay, “It’s only a thought and a thought can be changed.”

Each chapter is interspersed with well written, easy to locate affirmations in large type. A few examples follow: My prosperity prospers others. I choose beliefs that bring me aliveness and growth. I allow myself to feel successful. I know what I love to do and I do it. At the end of every chapter you’ll find an exercise or playsheet that allows you to thoughtfully apply the chapter’s teaching to your own life. There is a complete list of these exercises following the table of contents.

“The only way you can truly love and support others is to support their aliveness and growth, and one of the best ways to do that is to support your own aliveness and growth.”

—Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer

The following books remain on my reading list:

A Life At Work:
The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do
by Thomas Moore
Broadway Books, 2008
hardcover, $24.95

I haven’t read another book by Thomas Moore since Care of the Soul, so I was excited to find this book on the work we are born to do. If it had been another Care of the Soul spinoff, Care of the Soul at Work, I wouldn’t have picked it up. I’m hoping it contains fresh material and insights.

The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die
by John Izzo
Berrett-Koehler, 2008
paperback, $15.95

I picked this up on impulse when I saw “As Seen On Public TV” on the cover. I didn’t see the television series myself, but I’m attracted to the idea of interviews with 200 people, ages 60-106, who were identified by those who know them as “the one person they knew who had found happiness and meaning.” Izzo distills what he learned from the interviewees into Five Secrets, which are probably things we already know, but need not to forget. That could make for a great read.

The Passion Test:
The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Destiny
by Janet Bray Attwood & Chris Attwood
Hudson Street Press, 2007
hardcover, $23.95

I’ve had this book since it came out last fall and I keep meaning to read it and review it. If it interests you and you don’t want to wait any longer for me to get to it, go ahead and see what you think of it. Passion is an attractive concept that often mystifies us when we try to identify it in our own lives. If you don’t know your own passion(s), where do you start and how do you find them? Maybe the Passion Test will help.

Practice Page: August 2008 Newsletter

“It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”

—from The Cat In The Hat
by Doctor Seuss

Here’s an idea for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about, and try out.

When finances are tight at work and at home, one of the first things to be eliminated is the fun stuff. It’s considered nonessential and an unwise use of limited funds. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s the fun that makes life and work and us more enjoyable. It allows us to tap important aspects of ourselves including our imagination, creativity, and personality. Fun grows self-esteem, confidence, well-being, loyalty, and community. It reduces the negative effects of stress, worry, fear, loneliness, and over working. We improve our world and ourselves when we know how to have fun.

There is one plus side to tighter finances: it motivates people to evaluate what is truly fun. Some of the costly events/ activities we sponsor and participate in might have outlived their fun. Maybe they were fun at one time, but they no longer feel that way. Others never were. It’s important to ask, What’s fun now?

Challenge: Change what you do to make it even more fun and more affordable too!

What is the essence of fun anyway? How do you know when something is fun for you? Using these clues, what else would allow you to have fun?

Making a list might be a place to begin.

My example

• begin with one fun thing

Mine is travel.

• get specific, identify what makes it fun

Before I automatically add the word travel to my list, I consider that not all of travel is fun (retrieving luggage, delayed or canceled flights, feeling sick away from home, getting lost). So, I try to identify all that makes travel fun for me: going and being somewhere else — taking a plane or train — being on a ferry, boat, ship — researching destinations — all of the possibilities — eating good food and drinking good coffee in different places — seeing new things — finalizing reservations — talking with others who enjoy travel — visiting travel web sites — meeting interesting people — people watching — waking up in a different place

• branch out with more specifics related to any fun

As the list begins to develop, I let go of where the list started and focus on the specifics of any fun: laughing — wanting to do something again — doing what I don’t normally do — being outside — sitting at an outdoor cafe — listening to music — relaxing near water — drinking coffee — having dessert — wearing a hat — walking on a boardwalk — going to a museum — walking — watching trains, ships and planes — appreciating art

• make plans or be spontaneous, but create what’s clearly fun

spend an hour sitting at an outdoor cafe enjoying a cup of coffee and people watching

Many of the things I listed are doable today and cost very little or nothing. Travel might still be the ultimate fun, but by identifying and doing more of the things that are fun to do when traveling—like spending an hour sitting at an outdoor cafe enjoying a cup of coffee and people watching—I get to have fun now, closer to home, and in a truly affordable way.

Now It’s Your Turn

• begin with one fun thing

• get specific, identify what makes it fun

• branch out with more specifics related to any fun

• make plans or be spontaneous, but create what’s clearly fun

Begin with something you know is fun for you. Instead of writing this at the top of your list, try to identify the specifics of what makes this fun. Make a list of these specific details and then branch out by adding to your list any other specifics you associate with having fun, e.g. staying up late, sleeping in, remembering and telling funny stories, anticipation, enjoying good chocolate, watching favorite movies….

Just because something costs a lot, or costs more, doesn’t guarantee it will be fun for you. If you feel you have less money to play with this summer, it doesn’t mean you need to cancel or postpone having fun. Why not use your list of clues to create more of what’s fun for you? You might need to change how and where you do things and be more creative than you’ve been lately, but creativity and change can add to the fun.

Wishing you good times in August.

The Front Page: April 2008 Newsletter

After the Leap

With the return of spring many of us experience an infusion of welcome energy and the recurring thought to begin something new. This also happens in the fall when “back to school” sales appear everywhere, and at the New Year when the slate is wiped clean. It can happen too around the anniversary of significant events: a 40th, 50th, 60th… birthday, the ending of a relationship, a life-changing decision, a health crisis, or retirement. But a spring beginning is special; all around us the natural world is reawakening with contagious energy. Daylight hours lengthen, temperatures climb, colors return to the landscape, and enchanting birdsongs and sweet blossoms fill the air. Here in the Midwest, the cold and dark, so suited to hibernating and brooding, release their hold on us. A powerful convergence of inner and outer energies moves us.

Beginning something new can be fun, some might say the most fun of all. Although we work long and hard, it doesn’t feel like work; it’s more like love. We are intensely focused, motivated, engaged, and energized by what we are doing. We become mindful to the point that time is no more. Our imagination and our will enter a collaborative, self-feeding loop. There is a rare quality of seamlessness to our being and doing, often sought by spiritual seekers. Like happiness and the illusive butterfly, this seamlessness arrives as a byproduct of connecting to all that is whole, within and without.

This wonderful phase, beginning, is one of life’s best medicines, reminding us that good work heals. All is potential, and so much more feels possible; we no longer dwell in doubt and fear. Our hearts connect with something that sends us scampering to the highest peak we can reach, where we adore the view, throw out our arms, and leap into the unknown, thinking or shouting “THIS IS IT!” Innocently, we imagine our leap to be a one-time occurrence—a grand finale after which we live happily ever after.

This leap is about as far into the creation process as many of us get. We soon regain full awareness that we’ve survived the leap and the landing, but circumstances haven’t changed all that much. There is still much work to do, and some of it now feels overwhelming, time consuming, and difficult. It’s not that the leap didn’t matter; it did. Leaping marks a critical event—beginning—in the process of creating, but projects always stretch beyond.

After the leap, what needs to happen next depends on the person and the project, but it usually involves a series of deliberate choices: the choice to take a welcome break, to clarify what has happened so far, to consider what hasn’t worked as expected, to ask for and receive helpful advice, to tweak things a bit, to return to the idea board, to try something else entirely, and always the choice of whether or not to continue. What often happens next is an unconscious choice to play it safe and cut our losses, to walk away from the mess and hope to get it right next time. We don’t often consciously choose to stop or head off in another direction, which are completely valid options; it’s more like we fail to show up anymore and hope no one notices. We go invisible as another beginning fades away.

The progression from a pregnant beginning to a non ending can happen in a few days or weeks, or it can take years. Regardless, it can be a completely disabling experience in which every disappointment, self doubt, and fear appears magnified. The loss strikes directly at the heart that wants to love what it does. After even one such experience, it’s easy to understand why some people won’t allow themselves to get too excited about anything and back away from beginning something new. Who wants to risk ending up feeling incompetent and looking like a fool, again?

But the human dilemma is that we are always beginning, always making the choices that create our lives, with or without awareness.

Every time we go conscious, rather than invisible, we recognize the ordinary moments of choice making, and create our lives with intention rather than by accident.

Happy beginnings … happy spring … happy, happy everything.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

Good Books: April 2008 Newsletter

Happy For No Reason:
7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out
by Marci Shimoff, Carol Kline
Free Press, 2008
hardcover, $24.95

If you’ve spent any time browsing nonfiction books lately, you might have noticed quite a few titles on the shelves with the word happy or happiness featured on the front cover. There are books reporting on the science of happiness, books revealing the habits of already happy people, and books teaching how to become happy or be happier than you are. Below are some of the books I’ve seen:

100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman
Choose to Be Happy by Rima Rudner
Choosing Happiness by Stephanie Dorwick
Feel Happy Now! by Michael Neill, Candace Pert
Field Guide to Happiness by Barbara Ann Kipfer
Happier by Tal Ben Shahor
Happiness by David Lykken
Happiness by Matthieu Ricard
Happiness Now! by Robert Holden
How We Choose to Be Happy by Rick Foster, Greg Hicks
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama
What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Cameron Stauth

For the record, I’ve been unhappy and I’ve been happy, and I definitely prefer happy. But glancing at the list above, I’m reminded of how many expectations there are around being happy. What if you aren’t happy now or never really have been? What if you’ve already tried your best and happiness still escapes you? Is happy better than unhappy? What can we learn about being happy that will deepen our understanding and experience, and move us toward an authenticity and wholeness that includes depression and unhappiness?

I chose to review Happy For No Reason because of the title. Learning about the possibility of being happy—for no reason—struck me as a powerful life tool, especially when I discovered that author Marci Shimoff described herself as “unhappy from the get-go.” Her book was born out of her “own deep longing to be happy.”

In researching the question “Could a person actually be happy for no reason?” Marci Shimoff eventually located and interviewed 100 deeply happy individuals who she refers to as the Happy 100. Regardless of the particulars of their stories, Shimoff observed that these individuals seemed to live free of the Myth of More and the Myth of I’ll-Be-Happy-When. Their stories also exhibited several principles at work in their lives: what expands you makes you happier, the universe is out to support you, and what you appreciate, appreciates.

The seven steps mentioned in the subtitle make up the how-to chapters of the book and include: take ownership of your happiness, don’t believe everything you think (my favorite), let love lead, make your cells happy, plug yourself into spirit, live a life inspired by purpose, and cultivate nourishing relationships. Each of the steps introduces three happiness habits, all of which are followed by one of the Happy 100 interview stories, and an exercise to do. In her choice of accompanying exercises Shimoff often draws from, and credits, the work of others, so that readers are introduced to many helpful resources they might choose to explore further.

The book begins with an excellent overview of what is already known about happiness. It offers readers inspiration and ideas to try on their own, simple ideas that can significantly influence the way we feel. At the back of the book there is a generous list of resources that includes books, web sites, techniques, and more.

”When you’re Happy for No Reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don’t need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live from happiness, rather than for happiness.”

—Marci Shimoff

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project will be coming out in late 2009 (HarperCollins). In the meantime, you can check out her blog The Happiness Project and follow along as she reflects on her experiences testing out what works and doesn’t work for her. If you want, you can also create your own happiness project and interact with others who have done the same.

The Three “Only” Things:
Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence & Imagination
by Robert Moss
New World Library, 2007
hardcover, $21.95

If you desire to be more awake in life, to expand the limits of your awareness, and to gain a deeper experience of unseen connections, this book is a useful guide. Moss uses stories—from history, his own life, and the lives of people he meets through work and travel—to demonstrate how dreams, coincidence and imagination make their appearance in our lives and how we can tap their power for guidance and healing.

This is not an in-depth how-to book; it’s more an introductory overview, but an excellent one. The title comes from reactions the author encounters repeatedly: “It’s only a dream.” “It’s only a coincidence.” “It’s only my imagination.” Instead of minimizing these experiences, Moss teaches how to recognize them and how to extract the messages, direct or indirect, that they contain.

In each of the three parts of the book, there is a chapter devoted to everyday ways to develop the ability to use our own dreams, coincidence and imagination: Everyday Dream Games, Asking the Everyday Oracle, and Building in the Imagination. By taking time to read The Three “Only” Things and apply these three chapters, you will acquaint yourself with simple techniques for using information that is readily available, but frequently overlooked. According to Moss, this underutilized information will help you feel more clear and confident about life.

“Living this way—even for just five minutes of dedicated time each day—we put ourselves in touch with our inner truth. We find our inner compass and get a “second opinion” on vital personal issues in the midst of confusion and conflicting agendas. We open and sustain a dialog with a Self that is wiser than what Yeats called “the daily trivial mind.” We allow ourselves to move effortlessly into creative flow.”

—Robert Moss

Practice Page: April 2008 Newsletter

“This is a mystical path. You walk on it daily without knowing what will come tomorrow. But you trust, by writing down the daily fragments of awareness, that a larger network will gradually emerge, that images will come forth, a theme or direction may appear, all of which you could never have outlined, but which emerge out of deep necessities within us.”

—from A Walk Between Heaven and Earth
by Burghild Nina Holzer

Here’s an idea for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about, and try out.

If you’ve read the Front Page article, After the Leap, you might be thinking, “It’s time for me to try something new.” If you’re already playing with a few intriguing ideas in your imagination, why not try one out? Or while you’re waiting for the right idea to show up and grab you, why not play with the process and see what happens.

Pay Attention to Fragments

It’s helpful to remember that not every idea comes to us fully formed. Many appear first as fragments of a larger thing that we’re unable to recognize. It’s like an archeological dig where a small piece of something interesting surfaces. It takes time and attention to search for additional pieces of the original artifact. Following that comes research to understand how an object was made and used. When the equivalent happens in a person’s life, it might begin with the discovery that some fragment matters. It could also begin by sensing an immediate attraction, a natural fit, a burst of enthusiasm, a timing coincidence, a sudden brightness to life. This doesn’t mean that you know what to make of it, or that it even makes sense.

An idea doesn’t need to make sense, as much as it needs a place to begin: call it an experiment. It needs you to notice, pay attention, move it along, and observe what happens—in the experiment and within yourself.

Beginning Matters

If you don’t already have a container in your life where you can collect your fragments, this might be the time to start one. If you’ve already done this and have too many containers, this might be the time to sort through them to see what you’ve collected. In her book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp explains how she creates a project box to help her focus on each new project. The box is a dedicated container for all the things she runs across that relate to her project. Whenever she finds something, it goes in the box.

A box is one way to begin.

Imagine Desirable Outcomes

As an example, I’ll use two of my own fragments of awareness—travel and sabbatical. Next, I imagine desirable outcomes that weave in several other appealing fragments: new places, interesting people, and learning experiences. You can see it doesn’t take long before something begins to take shape.

I search for opportunities where I can give and receive.
I travel to places I’m interested in visiting.
I live there longer than I could as a tourist.
I enjoy getting to know people who share my interests.
We work side-by-side on a project that matters to us.
I experience community and cultural events.
I enjoy discovering foods and crafts that are new to me.
Exploring and experimenting revitalizes me and my work.
I practice to develop basic skills in another language.
I encounter more opportunities to combine travel and work.

A working title makes it real

“leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again”

Naming things makes them real, even if the name is a working title that eventually changes. Authors do this with books, artists do this with paintings, cooks do this with recipes, inventors do this with inventions, homeowners do this with improvement projects. Even proposed public projects have official names and popular nicknames. A memorable working title brings its own energy to a project and keeps it alive in your awareness.

Stay Open to What Shows Up

Expect things to show up. Also, expect what you need to show up, sometimes before you know you need it. Many of us begin to pay attention, especially when something is mentioned to us three or more times: a book, a movie, a person’s name, a web site, a place, an organization…. Notice the information, offers, or opportunities that catch your attention or come to you. Be curious and investigate; know what’s showing up now.

Question Perfection

Consider the possibility that perfection is overrated. It spoils more good things by sucking the joy right out of life. Perfection often surfaces as fear, overworking, procrastination, indecision, and paralysis. You will probably never have all the information to make a perfect decision, so it’s important to realize when you have enough information to make a good decision.

Choose to Explore and Trust the Process

Make a good choice and do what you can to explore it. Remember, committing to it comes later. Let go of the things that are out of your control. Focus your energy on moving forward, with the flow, instead of second guessing and doubting yourself. Every process has a life of its own that unfolds according to its own timeline. Fortunately, this allows you the opportunity to discover whether what you desire, desires you.

Now it’s your turn to experiment. I’ve demonstrated and outlined a process to begin, even without a clear idea.

Fragments are enough.
Pay attention to the fragments.
Beginning matters.
Imagine desirable outcomes.
A working title makes it real.
Stay open to what shows up.
Question perfection.
Choose to explore and trust the process.

Laurie Mattila
© April 2008

The Front Page: December 2007 Newsletter

Shifting the Pattern

“…without stillness, without being present, we will get it wrong. We will miss the simple quiet opportunities for shifting the pattern.”

—Wayne Muller

Of all the completed projects I’m celebrating this year, my front porch project leaps to the top of every list I imagine myself making. This project spent years on every to-do list and in my nagging awareness, needing attention, begging for attention. The ugly water-stained ceiling tiles bothered me the most, lurking overhead every time I entered the space or even thought about it. The 3-season porch was a do-it-yourself project that really needed to be worked on sometime between April and October, since it has no heat, but not on stifling hot summer days, since it has no air conditioning. In all honesty, it was the last thing I ever felt like tackling on a lovely day in April through October.

I think the primary reason this project took so long to begin is that we were focusing on the wrong energy — the energy of ugly; so for years we got more ugly. We were also focusing on, and dreading, the chaos, mess and unimagined difficulties that many past projects have produced. We were acting as though the pattern of the past would also be our future, which turned out not to be the case.

Right now, I can’t honestly remember what nudged us out of our resistance and inertia; it may simply have been that the boards we looked at for the new ceiling went on sale at Menards. Then, by the time we had hand selected all 42 of them, hauled them home, and unloaded them, the project was started.

I also used this project as an experiment to work on and talked about it with one of my groups last spring. My public declaration of desire for a pleasant front porch getaway unexpectedly morphed with the idea of a north woods cabin escape. A conversation about old houses, and an upstairs sleeping porch dubbed The Cabin, opened my imagination to the possibility that our porch could be the place we want to escape to for coffee in the early morning, to relax after work, or to spend lazy hours on the weekend—all without having to leave home.

As soon as we had cut and nailed up the first few pine-scented boards our view of the porch shifted from ugly to lovely. Our new perspective energized and motivated us. We wanted to get the next few boards installed, and then the next and the next and finally the last one. At this point we took a break and went on vacation. Once we returned we primed and painted the ceiling and celebrated the completion of what we now called phase 1.

As many of you might expect this is when the project expanded. I realized that we had accumulated enough short pieces of board to cover the walls beneath all the windows, which proved to be a great idea. However, there were a couple of problems to be figured out due to the slope of the original porch floor. But solve them we did. From there we moved to repairing, priming, and painting the wall that was the original exterior front of the house, back in the days before the porch was enclosed. The last big push was priming and painting the floor, first one half and then the other.

Fortunately for me, we continued to use the porch each step of the way. We frequently marveled at how wonderful it was feeling and becoming, not how wonderful it would be when it was finished, but how wonderful it was right now. One day I realized that some new homes are built and moved into in the time we had been working on our porch, and we still had more to do.

The thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the unexpected joy we experienced in doing this project. I reconnected with my carpentry skills which hadn’t been used since I took shop in seventh grade. As a couple married for over 20 years, we enjoyed our process of arriving at mutual solutions to the dilemmas we encountered working on an old house.

This became an exciting lesson for me in how focus and expectations shape life experience. As long as we focused attention on the ugliness of the porch and expected the project to be as bad or worse than previous projects, our porch languished. The turning point came when we realized that our front porch could be the getaway we were seeking elsewhere. This insight allowed us to use our imaginations to focus on the feelings we wanted to experience sitting in our porch, enjoying life. After that, all that we did was motivated by this enjoyment: enjoying the progress as we inched along, enjoying the fact that we were finally doing it ourselves, enjoying the way we were solving problems we’d never solved before, enjoying that what we were doing was good enough and didn’t need to be perfect, enjoying that we were creating the place we wanted to escape to.

On the surface, my front porch example might seem far removed from my career counseling practice and the lives of my clients, but it’s really the same underlying process at work. It’s one of life’s many opportunities for “shifting the pattern.”

Here are two essential questions:

What am I focussing on?

Am I preoccupied with what I don’t like, what doesn’t work, what won’t happen, and what feels awful? Or am I allowing myself to anticipate feeling how I want to feel in a new opportunity, and feeling it right now? Am I allowing the pattern to shift within me?

What am I expecting?

Am I imagining, and thus creating, a series of disappointments that bring more of what I don’t want into my life? Or am I opening myself to change, considering new possibilities, discovering interesting things, and creating what I want? Am I allowing the pattern to shift my experience?

The most amazing thing to me is that we don’t have to start out knowing what we want in order to experience what will fulfill us; what is necessary is that we allow ourselves to feel our yearnings and also feel worthy of them. As soon as we are able to give them our loving, focused attention—whether or not they are logical, practical, possible, affordable—the pattern is already shifting.

With gratitude,

Laurie Mattila

I wish you a gentle, healing end to this year and all that it has been for you. As the new year begins, I hope you will be blessed with a vital desire to live your intentions and the courage to be perfectly you.

I’m including links that take you back to three Front Page articles I’ve written for December issues of this newsletter in earlier years. If you enjoy them, think about sharing them with other readers you know.

Spilling Over With Joy from December 2005
The Necessity of Darkness from December 2004
Those Deep-Swimming Longings from December 2002

Good Books: December 2007 Newsletter

The Instruction:
Living the Life Your Soul Intended
by Ainslie MacLeod
Sounds True, 2007
hardcover, $24.95

If the idea of understanding your soul’s purpose in this lifetime resonates with you, I can’t think of a more interesting book to recommend. MacLeod is a psychic and the process he calls The Instruction was given to him by his spirit guides. This might strike some as too wacky to be taken seriously, but if you can withhold judgment long enough to read a few chapters, you will discover a fascinating perspective on why you’re here and what you’re doing, along with intriguing insights into the patterns of your lives.

The Instruction is made up of three parts: Direction, part 1, includes chapters about the ten soul ages, soul types and missions; Empowerment, part 2, covers the ten past-life fears, desires, challenges and investigations; and Fulfillment, part 3, focuses on the ten powers, talents and paths. Except for the terms challenge and investigation, most of these concepts mean pretty much what you’d expect.

MacLeod presents a step-by-step process in a matter-of-fact style. Each chapter introduces and demonstrates a topic, before ending with instructions for identifying how it expresses itself in your life. This always involves a simple meditation to ask your guides to help you to make the identification.

The book is full of interesting client stories which ground and illuminate a process that could easily lack integrity or credibility.

The skeptic in me still questions one thing: How is it that almost every list, and there are ten major ones, has ten items on it?

”In everyday life, nothing—and I stress nothing—gets in the way of living the life your soul intended more than this: other people’s expectations.”

—Ainslie MacLeod

Sound Health Sound Wealth:
The Biology of Hope and Manifestation
by Luanne Oakes
Nightingale-Conant, 2006
hardcover, $22.95

“Sound—with the dual meaning of fundamental strength and audio phenomena—is the basis of this book.”

Luanne Oakes writes of science, spirituality and health in order to share her lifetime of studying and integrating Western and Eastern philosophies. As a writer she is a master at making science accessible, demonstrating principles through storytelling, and developing innovative tools with names like Frequency Treatments, Future Memories, Crystalline Language, Your Heart’s Most Treasured Desires, and Your Magical Divine Experiment.

Sound Health Sound Wealth presents dozens of topics which somehow all end up flowing together to become tools for healing. This is an innovative guidebook to help you expand your consciousness by exploring ways of thinking that increase your sense of wellness. Luanne Oakes is a gifted, pioneering healer.

The book contains many wonderful opportunities for directed writing and comes with one of Luanne’s sound Frequency Treatment CDs.

“You cannot necessarily choose your first thought or feeling. Thoughts and feelings often arise unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere. You can, however, choose your second thought and second feeling, replacing fear with faith, depression with hope, anxiety with serenity.”

—Luanne Oakes

The Astonishing Power of Emotions:
Let Your Feelings Be Your Guide
by Esther and Jerry Hicks
Hay House, 2007
hardcover, $24.95

For anyone familiar with the work of Esther and Jerry Hicks this latest book follows the format of their earlier ones: Esther channels the wisdom teachings of the nonphysical consciousness Abraham. Although the process sounds peculiar, their work is engaging and genuinely helpful. The focus of The Astonishing Power of Emotions is on learning to choose thoughts that allow you to be in alignment with your true self, feeling positive emotion, going with the flow—downstream. “Nothing that you want is upstream. Not one thing that you want is upstream.”

Part I – Discovering the Astonishing Power of Emotions, contains nine chapters, but only 45 pages of material, some new and some review. Part II, Demonstrating the Astonishing Power of Emotions, makes up most of the book. There are 33 Examples ranging from I Am Totally Disorganized, I Cannot Find a Mate to People Steal My Creative Ideas, I Keep Getting Passed Over for Promotions at Work. Several of the Examples sounded interesting to me, so I read those chapters, but then skipped most of Part II, which is what many busy readers will do. Considering the cost of the hardcover edition, and the amount of material in Part II which you might not even read, this is probably a book you want to borrow from the library.

“As you begin to go with the flow, since everything that you want is downstream, you begin to float into desired circumstances and events. All kinds of things that you’ve been waiting for—sometimes for a long time—become almost immediately apparent to you, because the only thing that was keeping you from them was that you were paddling upstream.”

—The Astonishing Power of Emotions

Practice Page: December 2007 Newsletter

Here are a few more ideas for you to think about, write about, talk about, wonder about—on your own or with a friendly companion.

A List Experiment

In my classes, many people discover that they really enjoy naming and making lists, as long as the lists don’t involve work they will need to do. You might be wondering, what other kinds of lists are there beside the to-do variety? Here’s where it gets interesting.

How about a list of Anticipation? This list might contain things you love to think about and anticipate. If you take a few minutes to begin jotting down whatever occurs to you, who knows what will happen or what you’ll discover?

You might have so many thoughts rushing forward that it will be difficult to get them all written down. If this happens, your list might end up quite long. Maybe, you’ll be surprised that your list contains just a few items and you can’t think of anything else, even though you return to it several times.

It’s not that a long list is right or better than a short list. What matters is your reaction to what’s on, or not on, your list. You could be thrilled to know that there are four or five, or several dozen things in your life that you love to anticipate. Or, you could notice that it’s been a long time since you’ve actually done any of the things that you wrote on your list, regardless of its length. Some of you might reconnect with the fact that for you anticipation is actually your favorite part of many of the things you’ve listed. Maybe by now your thoughts are stuck in a loop, trying to remember the lyrics to the song Anticipation by Carly Simon. Anything can, and does, happen in these list experiments.

There’s an easy way for you to personalize this experiment by making up your own appealing, possible names for a list about anticipation. Here are a few examples:

101 Things to Anticipate

Things I Will be Anticipating and Doing in December

What I Want to Anticipate and Do in My Life

My Wonderful List of Anticipation for 2008

Places I Anticipate Visiting Before I Turn 35 (or 50 or 75)

What I Anticipate Learning

What I’m Presently Anti-cipating (whatever that means)

What I Anticipate Cultivating

What I Like to Anticipate, More Than I Like to Do

How I Prefer To Anticipate My Future

When you run out of ideas, select a list name that captures your attention and begin to write down your responses to it. Simply jot down whatever occurs to you, without worrying if it even belongs on the list. No judgment is needed. This is an experiment and a warm-up.

Now, switch gears and take some time to consider one new list that you want to create and pay attention to during the upcoming year. Don’t focus on something you feel you should do. Allow this to be something that calls you or pulls you forward. It’s probably not about anticipation, because you just read about that idea and it was my example. It might be about people you want to spend less time with, obligations that are wearing you out, lifestyle adjustments you’re excited to be considering, what you want to add to (or remove from) your life…. The options are unending.

Whatever you decide to focus on, check first to see whether your current focus is more positive or more negative. If you’re thinking of the list, People I Want to Drop (from next year’s calendar), you might notice a distinctly negative feeling around that list. Try instead to focus on the positive side of that same idea, which might be, People I Want to See (on next year’s calendar). That twist will naturally increase time energy for the people you want to see, thereby reducing time energy for those you prefer not to see or to see less of, without it being a big deal. Here is something you can easily experiment with: how does my list shift my life?

So, give it a try. Have fun with it. Be creative. Keep it a secret, or get someone else involved. Do a list-of-the-month in 2008, or a list-of-the-week. Inspire yourself.

Whatever you do, let this experiment introduce a new energy and momentum into your life and your process. Think of this as a gift you give to yourself. Who knows where it will lead or what you’ll discover?

Laurie Mattila
© December 2007