Monday, March 29, 2010

Dancing With Discomfort: The Observer: A Beautiful Mind

One of my mentors long ago said “Shasheen, If it ain’t love it ain’t you,” and another keeps telling me that anytime you are feeling anything other than happiness and peace, it is only serving as a reminder to let go of whatever you are holding onto and get back in touch with your Self But what does that mean? 

Without getting too deep into the mechanics of the mind and the idea of a life force or god, what can easily be demonstrated is that there seems to be at the very least some kind of duality operating within the brain. To give you an idea of what I mean… Just sit back quietly and Observe your mind for 30 seconds. What do you hear? What do you notice? What I notice is that there are thoughts and ideas occurring in my brain and there is also “someone” or “something” noticing the thoughts and ideas. The thoughts are some kind of an “object” of  a “subject” or rather that “I” am observing.  Have you ever sat there at night as you are trying to go to sleep and listen to what goes on in your head?  Try looking in the mirror and observe what is going on in your mind.  What is the source of the voice and who is listening?  Have you ever had a song that you can't get out of your head?  What do you say to your friends… “I can’t get that damn song out of my head.”  Where is the song and who is listening to the song being repeated over and over again. To keep it simple all I need to know is that whatever it is that “I” am listening to is not actually “Me” but rather it is the brain, the machinery filled with conditioned brain circuitry that is attempting to make sense of this world FOR “Me.” It is here that I have learned to BE the "Observer"

As I've said earlier, the mind is nothing more than the storage bin for all of the conditioning that we’ve received. It contains all of the energetic imprints of the things we have heard, felt, smelled, tasted and seen and has strung them all together in our brain circuitry.  Its also the place where we make sense of things.  When I  touch a hot stove and feel pain, my brain stores that experience, and the next time I see a hot stove I know not to touch it again.  From what I have come to understand, this IS the function of the brain and it is what it has been designed to do.  Our hearts pump blood, our stomachs digest food, and our brains judge, assess, and evaluate every stimulus that it encounters.  It then personalizes, associates, and creates responses based on its previous experiences. While this functionality has been very useful to me at times and has protected me from all kinds of harmful situations, it has also been the cause of great suffering. What I have found is that the personalized associations, and meanings that get arbitrarily created in this neurological soup, especially the ones that leave me feeling stressed, frustrated, hurt, sad, angry or depressed upon further examination for the most part are really not as dramatic as I seem to automatically make them.

I guess that is the point that I’m trying to make. The goal in the practice of being the Observer for me is to be able to step out of autopilot for a moment, pause, breathe into my heart and reflect rather than BE in some kind of unconscious conditioned STIMULUS/RESPONSE pattern. It is in this practice that I get to desensitize my buttons, I learn to separate the ME from my mind, and it is here that I have found an ability to detach from the intensity and the discomfort of the most uncomfortable moments in my life. 

What I can tell you from my experience is that it is not easy and for me will continue to be a life long practice.   It is a practice that has brought me to my knees in humility and sometimes insanity as I have come to see the extent of the conditioning that is so deeply ingrained within my operating system.  Over time the shock of actually listening to what has been going on has diminished and today after years of practice, there is a level of detachment that has made being the observer manageable. 

I think it is also important to note that for years I had tried to "quiet" my mind and presumed that I would some how be able to stop the brutal judgments and voices that seemed so unbelievably destructive at times.   It was this belief that kicked in the viscious cycle of guilt and shame for me because no matter what I tried the voices would still show up from time to time.  What I have come to believe for myself is that while I may never be able to stop the voices from rearing their ugly head, today I can begin to actively choose my response in their presence.    There is no better illustration of this idea that I can think of other than in than the movie A Beautiful Mind.

As John Nash's schizophrenia began to take a hold of his life it became completely unmanageable.  The three personalities began to haunt him.  They appeared real and he believed that they were real.   He goes through insulin shock therapy and took medications that seemed to help control the voice, but ultimately he lost himself.  It wasn't until he realized that the characters that he was seeing were not getting any older that he decided to get off the medications and begin what he called "a diet of the mind"    He no longer WAS his mind but suddenly was the OBSERVER of his mind.  He says goodbye to his characters and while they do occasionally re-appear, he learns to playfully deal with his world joking about what is real and what is not real.  At the end his strategy works and the academic community embraces his work and the man John Nash.   But what was most powerful for me is the very last scene. After just receiving the Nobel Prize in Economics, while walking with his wife, the three characters pop back up.   When his wife asks him "what is it, John?"  John is able to say "Nothing" and simply acknowledges the characters are there, chooses to turn away, and continues to walk with his wife basking in the glory of his achievement. 

By learning to become the observer, pause, breathe, and reflect I give myself a moment to bear witness to my mind rather than BE my mind.  

Just like John Nash it is only when I give myself the opportunity to pause, to take a deep breath, and reflect that I truly have the ability to exercise choice. With that choice comes a profound freedom greater than any other freedom that has been granted to me. It is a freedom that I have come to value and one I continue to practice exercising every day. It is here that I find the opportunity to dance and play with the INTENSITY and the DURATION of any experience that I encounter and it is why I have come to embrace my Dance with Discomfort. 

I would love to hear the voices in your head... :)

From the heart


Friday, March 19, 2010

Dancing With Discomfort: Energy - The Ever Expanding Me

The idea that we live in an ever-expanding universe and that we are nothing but energy is really appealing to me on so many levels. It wasn’t till recently that I connected the dots for myself in a way that has really made it easy for me to understand the “dance with discomfort” and give up the idea of getting there.

First of all, if I accept this statement on face value then as a part of the universe, I am ever-expanding as well. If I am ever expanding, it is completely ridiculous for me to think that the experience of discomfort or suffering can be avoided. I’ll say it again… If I am ever expanding, it is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS for me to think that the experience of discomfort or suffering can be avoided.

It is inevitable, it is to be expected, and it is necessary for my expansion.

If there was anything in that elusive manual that I missed, it was this. For me understanding this is huge and it sets up a whole new paradigm to understand the human experience. In this paradigm there is no room for feeling any kind of shame and guilt in the face of experiencing discomfort or suffering.

The expectation of finding the “solution” or getting “there” is no longer a valid expectation.

Going back to the Windows metaphor. Since 1985 there have been over 27 releases of the Windows operating system which is consistent with the above notion of an ever-expanding universe. In each version, Windows created an upgrade to withstand the expansiveness of the programs and functionality that became possible as a result of the operating system that was currently being used. In each version users suffered and experienced various level of discomfort and the developers at Microsoft systematically rectified each challenge with their weekly “Critical Updates” and eventually THE NEXT operating system.

We are no different, we have to keep expanding, and what gets delivered to us in our experience in life is another opportunity to give ourselves an update. The dance with discomfort is nothing more than that. Experience the discomfort and manage the intensity and the duration of that discomfort by continuing to examine the conditioning that is responsible for the perspective. I think the way the way I was thinking about finding the solution was the equivalent of saying “that thank god WINDOWS XP is here, now I wont have any issues any longer.” When I look at it like this the notion is simply absurd.

Secondly, the idea that we are energy also provides me with a very interesting and useful perspective on what is going on in our brains. Our thoughts and beliefs are nothing more than energy through a complex and interconnected brain circuitry. It is just energy moving from neuron to neuron and somehow being translated as our experience. Without getting in way over my head in trying to explain this, what’s most important about the idea to me is that when I find myself in the middle of an intense emotional response to something, I can usually talk myself off the ledge fairly quickly when I remember that while it may feel intense and real, there is nothing actually going on other than energy that is following a conditioned response to a certain stimulus. Again its simply that the brain circuitry has been wired in a particular way without my conscious permission.

But what does that mean? Not the energy part but the “when I find myself” or “I can talk myself off the ledge.” Who is the "I"and who is the myself?  Who is talking who off the ledge? This is the world of learning to be the Observer.

From the heart


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dancing With Discomfort: Conditioning: The Human Operating System

"How can we be free to look and learn when our minds from the moment we are born to the moment we die...have been conditioned by nationality, caste, class, tradition, religion, language, education, literature, art, custom, convention, propaganda of all kinds, economic pressure, the food we eat, the climate we live in, our family, our friends, our experiences - every influence you can think of - and therefore our responses to every problem are conditioned.
Are you aware that you are conditioned?" “Freedom from the Known,”Krishnamurti

What I love about the quote is that he really levels the playing field for all of humanity and points out that every response that I have is a conditioned response. Another way of looking at it is, it is my perception a situation that is responsible for the experience that I am having. So ultimately it comes down to being responsible for my interpretations or to take it another step, being responsible for my own happiness.

At first glance I felt like a fish in the water saying “what water.” My sense of right/wrong, good/ bad, and every opinion that I had always seemed to make sense to me. But upon further reflection, I began to see that my opinions, my view, my perception was actually not the only way of looking at the situation. There were many perspectives that were possible, yet I responded to the world in a way that just simply wasn’t working for me. Being right all the time can be exhausting.

What I have found over the years is that the more I become aware of the extent of my conditioning the more I can really detach myself from most of the uncomfortable moments in my life. That is not to say that I don’t have my preferences and that I continue to have my own opinions about things. Rather it’s the realization that the moment I’m experiencing any kind of INTENSITY in my emotions it is simply a reflection of how “right” I feel about my perception of that situation. To put it in a greater context for humanity, if you believe Krishnamurti, that means we’ve got almost 7 billion perspectives interpreting the world in their own unique way. No wonder why conflict continues to show up for me on a day to day basis. It is this idea that inspired me to start The Pink Elephant Project to assist with communication issues with the people most important in our lives.

But lets take this another step further. Its not only the awareness of the fact that I am conditioned that is important but rather that I am constantly being conditioned. Every single day I am getting inundated with all kinds of images, sound bytes, ideas, and concepts without my permission. There are countless studies about the subliminal messages that we are taking in that we are not even aware of. Today’s marketing and advertising worlds are so good that I still find myself paying $2 more for a well dressed household product that has the same exact active ingredient as the generic version. I guess the point for me is that if I don’t pay attention to the extent to which I’m being conditioned on a day-to-day basis, I begin to do things like some kind of automaton, completely unconscious, reacting to stimulus rather than consciously choosing my response. When I’m not choosing it eventually catches up and the experience of my life suffers.

The metaphor that comes to mind that is helpful to me is surfing the web on a Windows machine. All day long I surf around looking for what I’m looking for, reading what I’m reading, and unbeknownst to me there are all kinds of adware, spyware, and other kinds of malicious viruses penetrating my operating system. It’s virtually the exact same thing with my brain.

Eventually my Windows machine slows down, programs take longer to load, and eventually those programs start to crash. If it gets bad enough, the blue screen of death shows up and I’m forced to get some kind of help. POINT OF PAIN.

Its really no different for me in my experience in life. If I don’t periodically run my maintenance programs, and spend time doing my version of a virus and adware scan, I too eventually crash and my system shuts down.

What I have learned over the years is that the conditioning continues to infiltrate my subconscious and that there are many modalities, exercises, practices, and disciplines that can help gain an awareness of the conditioning and there are also many that help me deconstruct the stimulus/response pattern so that I can consciously choose a responses from my heart. It’s a journey of lifetime that for me has no ending. What I continue to get better at is managing the INTENSITY and the DURATION of the discomfort and suffering by systematically reconditioning my perceptions to allow for a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience on a day to day basis. 

In the next segment I will discuss the concept of Energy as I understand it.

From the heart,


Dancing With Discomfort: The Operating Manual I Found Within Myself.

Why Dance in Discomfort? Because it is unavoidable and inevitable! I would even go on to say that the idea that “suffering is optional” is a bunch of nonsense and that it is this belief that has been responsible for the unnecessary suffering that I’ve put myself through. Today I believe that suffering is also unavoidable and inevitable. The only two levers that I truly have in my power at any given moment is the INTENSITY of the suffering and the DURATION of the suffering. 

It is here that I have learned to dance.

In my attempt to create my own operation manual from all the information that I have gathered from my therapist’s, coaches, guru’s, seminars, sweat lodges, retreats, classes, books, and inspiring audio’s programs, I have distilled all of these various teachings into three basic concepts: Conditioning, Energy, and the Observer.

From the heart


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dancing With Discomfort: The Viscious Circle of Guilt & Shame

A simplistic look at the insanity that I have put myself through in the pursuit of getting "there" 


COMFORT: Things are manageable to the extent they can be. Life seems to be going moving along and the little twists and turns of the journey seem navigable. Everything is pretty much on autopilot and life is good.

DISCOMFORT: Some kind of emotional response is experienced as a result of some kind of stimulus or repeated stimulus. I find myself disappointed, frustrated, upset, angry, confused or simply unhappy with someone, something, or some event.

POINT OF PAIN: Ultimately it’s the duration or the intensity of the feeling inside that breaks me and I can’t take it anymore. Typically I’ve tried to make it ok and employed some kind of denial strategy that eventually doesn’t work or I’m totally exhausted after fully immersing myself in the discomfort in some kind of narcissistic fascination with the pain and suffering that is called “my life.” I think its here that the belief that “there must be something wrong with me” gets created.

SEEK SOLUTION: I’m now ready to do something about it. It’s where I tell myself “never again,” “Enough is enough, and the false belief of the conditional IF THEN becomes so attractive. I make a new promise to myself, find a book, teacher, and adopt some kind of discipline with the expectation of curing, fixing or solving the very thing that was at the root of the last experience. It is here they say when the student is ready the teacher appears and “the solution” always show up. Whether its me or the teacher that puts “the solution” on a pedestal it invariably ends up there and it is here that that a “false promise” of getting “there” is created.

COMFORT: Like a dutiful and disciplined student I’ve followed the instructions, taken the steps, and did what I was supposed to do. I feel better! I’ve had a “breakthrough,” I have a new “awareness,” I finally “get it,” and I feel good. Sometimes it’s taken longer than expected but eventually I get “there.” Life continues along and everything seems navigable and sometimes really enjoyable.

DISCOMFORT: Suddenly it appears that I’m right back where I started. I experience an intense emotional response to some kind of stimulus again and find myself disappointed, frustrated, upset, angry, confused or simply unhappy with someone, something, or some event.

GUILT/SHAME: It feels like I’ve been here before and now shame and guilt starts to infiltrate my consciousness in profound ways. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why is this happening again?” “I’ve already dealt with that.” “WTF! I’ve done the work already.” “Why can’t I get it right?” Seriously… “WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?!” It seems as if everyone else gets it, everyone else is happy, everyone else has seemed to figure it out but me! How does everyone else do it? What was I missing? It is at this point that the vicious cycle has its greatest teeth and where with fierce determination I run back to the therapist’s chair, back to my coaches and guru’s, take the next seminar, find another sweat lodge, find a new retreat, take the next class, read and re-read books, re-listened to inspiring audio’s and diligently follow the next steps outlined by each teacher and each program only to find myself back in the same place asking the same questions over and over again!

That 's what goes on internally.

On the outside it all looks good and sounds good because over time I have become a master of all of this information that I have collected. I can solve any human issue referring adeptly to chapter and verse of the teachings of the masters, I am acutely aware of my issues and its source, I have exercises, meditations and practices that have worked. I also find myself espousing the virtues of such exercises and practices and became another source of the “solution” for others. Nevertheless something continued to be missing.

After years of running into the wall, banging my head over and over again looking for “there” what I have had to do to break out of the cycle is simply let go of that idea that “there” actually exists. For me that was easier said than done. What I had to do is create my own operating manual that worked for me. 

From the heart


Monday, March 15, 2010

Dancing With Discomfort: That Elusive Instruction Manual

Since I was a kid there has always been this feeling inside of me that some how I must have been absent on the day they handed out the instruction manual for this body and mind that I had been placed in. Everywhere I looked, it seemed that everyone else but me seemed to “get it,” and I often wondered when Scotty was going to “beam me up” and return me to the planet that I apparently was from because the world that I was in didn’t really make any sense to me.

While I waited for what I believed was that inevitable day, I began looking for the contents of this elusive manual and began my search. I became a student and started to watch friends, family, TV, Movies and read books to try to figure out how to avoid the embarrassment of not having my own copy of the manual! I learned how to dress and figured out what to wear and more importantly what not to wear. I learned how to smile in the right places, stand up tall, pull my shoulders back, and hold my head high. I learned to appear humble and confident at other times, I learned how to look people in the eye and give a good firm handshake. I became a master of parroting sound bytes that got the most favorable response. I became a good enough student… not too good because that was not cool and not a bad one because that would reflect unfavorably on me. I learned how to be funny, entertaining and tell a good story. The formula was quite simple: do whatever got the most favorable response and keep doing that over and over again. Was this it? Was this what was in the elusive manual that I was looking for? The formula seemed to be working but something was still missing. Everywhere I looked there were all kinds of signs telling me there was something else to do, something else to buy, somewhere else to go, or something else to learn. I kept looking….

I went to college, I moved out West, I got a good job. I lived in the mountains and lived by the beach. I made money and I had days that I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. I bought a house and lived out of my car. I worked for a corporation, built my own company employing 35 people, and was also a ski bum. I bought fancy things and drove cool cars; and I sold everything I had reducing my life possessions to what fit in my car. I drank, I smoked, I sniffed and I ingested all kinds of substances to reach other levels of consciousness in the search for that elusive information I was looking for. I also learned how to practice meditation and yoga. I learned how to chant and I also sat in silence. I’ve had long-term relationships and I’ve slept around. I’ve been sober and worked the 12 steps and I’ve been stoned. I got in shape, got healthy and also drank black coffee and smoked cigarettes. I ate meat and also went raw. I ate till my hearts content and went on periodic cleanses. I sat in the therapist’s chair, sought out coaches and guru’s, went to seminars, sweat lodges, retreats, took classes, read books, listened to inspiring audio’s and diligently followed the steps outlined by each teacher and each program. I looked everywhere! Still…there was something missing.

Now this may not come to a surprise to many of you but what I eventually found is that there was no manual and the answers had always been inside of me. While I intuitively knew that, and went inward periodically to look so that I could get “there,” what I found is that there was nowhere to get to.

So what is it that had me feel this way? While there are many places too look, for now I will simply assert that what I uncovered for myself is fundamental misperception and expectation that had been installed and reinforced within my brain that looks like some kind of conditional IF – THEN mathematical formula promising success, happiness, joy and peace. It was this fundamental belief in this elusive “destination” with the expectation that if I followed the instructions I could get “there” that has been the source of all kinds of unnecessary suffering in my life. Not much of a revelation for most but for me it is has been a profound realization that continues to help me step out of the Vicious Cycle of Guilt and Shame.

Has anyone ever gotten there?  Thoughts? Comments?

From the heart,


Monday, February 8, 2010

Starting Something New

I felt compelled this evening to talk about how challenging, courageous, and exciting starting something new can be. Think about all the great things that have occurred in humanity because someone dared to start something new! We've touched outer space. We've found cures for many diseases. We've built incredible cities and monuments. But what about the little things? The seemingly mundane and what appear to be small beginnings that turn into something incredible? That is the power of YOU!
I recalled today when I was a kid, how fun it was to explore and find new places in the woods behind my house. But when my parents decided it was time to move to a new neighborhood, I decided that kind of "starting something new" was just not as fun or exciting. Leaving behind the old can be so challenging and even downright scary! The comfort of the ferns I grew to know; the bumps in the trails I walked through for years were familiar, peaceful, and gave me great strength. But I had to move away and let them all go. What I discovered was our new house and neighborhood supported me in new ways that I were more beneficial to me as I entered my teen years. What seemed so frightening to me as a new beginning actually turned out to be perfect for me in a short period of time. I still had to face my fears. I had to find solutions to my challenges. And all of that helped me grow in my own power.

I was inspired today by a young woman who has been working diligently to go to school, work full time, and support herself while she goes after her big dreams. I know that she has everything she needs with her, right now, to succeed, and yet I also know that where she's standing is a frightening place. She is beginning something new. She is staring down her fears, her disappointments of the past, and even her regrets of bygone decisions so she can make headway toward her true heart's desire. She's releasing old patterns, old stories, old tapes, and making a plan that will move her forward in a positive direction of her dreams. Nothing is more inspiring than that! Her courage, strength, and conviction that she can begin her life right now, in this moment, again is nothing short of amazing! It reminded me that we all have that power, and we can exercise it in any given moment!

I took a moment to reflect on that power, and I discovered something in my own life that is ready to begin anew! My office is a place that has served many people on their journey to find themselves, including myself and my partner. It was a place designed with deep intention to give our friends, family, clients, and ourselves a space to truly be open, honest, and in touch with our authentic selves. It's been a place of absolute peace, joy, and growth, as well as my home away from home for five years. And today, I could see that I need to let it go. It's time, I thought, to start something new! I cherish my office, just as I cherished those woods behind my house when I was a little girl. But this time I have a deeper understanding that I can recreate the feeling I get from my office (or from those woods) in so many different ways, that I no longer need to be attached to the place or the specific location. I can release that attachment and allow myself to really begin again to have all of the feeling of safety, comfort, inspiration, and love around me wherever I am. It's so liberating--and so scary at the same time!

Beginning something new requires curiosity, courage, and faith. Do you have what it takes to go boldly in the direction of your dreams? What stops you from going? Old tapes? Fears you can not face? I say, go for the gusto and try. What's that fabulous saying once spoken by Neil Armstrong, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Go ahead...take a small step. What you'll learn about yourself and what truly touches your heart's desire will be profound! Who knows what you may impact on a larger scale! I'm going for it! And I'm looking forward to meeting more people on the trail out here who are going for it too! As Shasheen would say....Giddy-up!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Watch our Trailer! Feel free to share it with your friends!

 We tried to use Fantasia's rendition of "I Believe" but we got a nasty copyright infringement notice.  :)  Amazingly enough using Youtube's audioswap feature we found Phil Marshall's "Free" from his album Magnolia!   Thanks for the contribution Phil!   

An Auspicious sign!

An unbelievable auspicious sign showing up on the the street side of our Edmonds, WA office!

Welcome to the yourplanBE blog

Welcome to's blog!   We are so happy that you've made it here.  Lindsay and I are so excited that you have stopped by to check us out and we look forward to sharing inspiring stories of transition from our clients and friends.  Our intention is to inspire you to find what is in your heart and to pursue it with passion.   
From the heart!  

Shasheen & Lindsay