Goodbye Healing Sessions, Hello World

Yesterday I gave my last one-on-one bodywork session. It was a 90-minute massage with a generous soul who surrendered to the relaxing experience and gave me the gift of witnessing, one more time, the power of healing intention and healing touch.

I was moved. I was sad. I was grateful. I was grounded. I had come full circle.

IMG_20140330_103949Twelve years ago I began practicing Reiki and eight years ago I began my practice as a massage therapist.

It took me a summer sabbatical, a soul-searching autumn, and New Year’s insights, plus listening to my gut and higher wisdom a lot to realize it was time to change course and channel all of the healing experiences I have witnessed and facilitated into my writing, art, and teaching. It was nine months of hard, heart-full work!

This change in my practice is a leap, but not an enormous one. I’ve been infusing the creative arts and healing arts for a while now and it took some burn-out, a realization that I am an empathic sponge, a book deal, art sales, a teaching gig, and my ZenPen online course to see that I was already showing myself the way. I was already making decisions toward my new goal; it just didn’t feel like it because I hadn’t taken down my massage business shingle.

Here’s my wisdom star-blast from this experience: Sometimes all you need to do is look at how you are already doing what you want to be doing and inflate it, expand it, shine the light on it. Make it so big in your heart and mind that it becomes clear (even if it’s hard to admit) what needs to fall away in order to make room for what you are already doing!

Can you think of something that you are ALREADY leaning into, something that you are already doing (even just partly) that you can magnify so you can manifest it?

And there’s the saying goodbye part. I decided to document and ritualize my last session because I didn’t want it to become a blurry smudge in my memory.  So I blew out the last candle still lit in my room after the massage.

CandleCeremony Collage2So what is next?

To make ends meet (and to have some fun, too), I am teaching college writing. It’s interesting how much of the healing arts I bring into the classroom, including essential oils! Our course theme is HAPPINESS and my students are “Happiness Detectives.”

I am working on my book Body Cards: Insight from the Body, Wisdom from the Soul, due out in the Spring of 2015.

I am creating art and working at ways to more efficiently sell my art and art products.

I am a student in Marie Forleo’s B School, learning how to become a soulful, skillful, tech savvy online entrepreneur so I can continue to provide healing-infused creativity inspiration in the form of free e-books, videos, and audios, as well as official e-courses! This is the greater leap part: I’m saying “Hello World!” and more fully embracing having a strong online presence so I can be of service to others from all over the world through these great inter-webs of ours.

I’m already adapting my website to reflect the changes in my business model and will be making more changes in the next few months!

What this means to you…

If you’d like to join me on this journey of creativity and healing, I’d love for you to subscribe to my email list. When you do, you will be gifted with some body-based writing prompts to get your body-wise creativity flowing.

I have moved my blog over to my website at rising-bird.com, and I’ll be closing this wordpress.com page in the next few weeks. So re-set your bookmarks, subscribe to the Rising Bird Flock and you’ll be hearing from me more regularly, about two times a month.

I wish you all the best in whatever leanings or leaps or longings you are listening to and manifesting — and I’ll see you over at rising-bird.com!

blessings,

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A New Year, a New Post

Somehow January just sped on by and now it’s February 1st, a brand new month in a brand new year. When too much time passes between my blog posts, I get a little “blog shy” so I decided I’d drink my shy antidote tincture and post *something* today.  Note to self: when stuck, post something, anything. 1, 2, 3, go!

Out of my writing archives I share with you something I wrote close to twenty years ago!

Somehow even today this three-part prose piece still resonates…

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Taking Root

I am seven.  My pink sweatshirt catches on sticker bushes, my bare feet sink into soft clay.  I stand on the mound of earth that guards the entrance to the steep wooded gully in my front yard.  I call my hill Fernyland. It is a sanctuary for ferns, dark green ferns that never seem to lose their leaves. They are stationed like an army on my little hill guarding the woods, yet their arms spread open to me. It is fall.

I am thinking about what it feels like to sit alone on the school bus. I am thinking about how hard I listen to conversations of other kids, how much gossip I secretly know. It is on my hill where I can speak.  Finally.  Open my mouth. Here.  I am protected by maple trees and the yellow ceiling they create for this mound.  For my body. It is like a cave in this space.  Moist and dark and safe. I want a voice, my voice, to surface here. I know the ferns are waiting.

It has rained and the earth beneath me is drinking. Slowly.  I can no longer stand on this mound of earth; I crouch down, staining my knees gray and brown, touching the wet clay with my fingers. I dig paths with my knuckles; rainwater slides out of puddles into these trenches.  Deep. Deeper. I wish I could fold myself into these creases of cool, moist earth and sleep.  But I open my mouth. A bit.  I dig my fingers down, down and feel roots.  Something smooth and definite emerges. It is my voice.

* * *

 I am twelve, blasted with high bangs and makeup.  I am hairspray and zit cream and menstrual blood finding refuge here.  I enter Fernyland with tennis shoes, careful not to dirty the white canvas and silver laces.  I want to leave behind the sounds of television and radio tunes, but discover that clay is loud. Heat is never quiet; it is always snapping and splitting open like dry wood.  I listen to my shoes scuffing against the clay powder. I can almost ear the earth cracking in this heat.  It is summer.

They have drilled and cut and driven over this mound.  They have pushed a water pipe through its heart, cracking the clay, tearing up roots. The army of ferns has been destroyed, but is beginning to surface again.  I sit in the center of my hill, filling its coarse skin turning to powder in my hands.  There is nothing to smell, nothing to taste. I hate my body. I feel ugly. Dirty.  There is something about dryness that makes me want to become stale, empty, starved.  In front of the mirror I feel barren. I cannot relate to my own image, so I find myself here on this wounded mound, in the clay dust and dry heat.

I am remembering a story my brother told me about the fox king and the squirrel who lived in Fernyland. He said the fox king chased the squirrel into a drain pipe and died.  For several years I checked the spot where I knew the squirrel decayed.  When I peered in, I believed I saw him there.  I believed. A year ago, my brother told me he lied about the story.  Why does it seem a comfort now to know that he lied?

I long to feel cool and moist again, protected by vines and ferns. Dust sticks to my oily face.  I am glad I cannot see my reflection in earth. I know my nose would look large, my pimples swollen and red.  Exposed.  Knowing that a metal pipe runs through this mound makes my stomach sting; I know the small ferns and new growth trees must be stretching their roots down, only to find something metal and hard.

* * *

 I am sixteen.  Fernyland is holding the weight of new couplets of maple trees. Trains of ivy and vines and sticker bushes twist into braids and knots.  Ferns are standing guard.  I can feel their leaves brushing against my calves as I trace my way through the darkness.  The clay is smooth and wet, like my face.  I am standing in the dark, accepting the musty smell of rain, my feet burrowing into the loose earth where I have just buried my dog.  It is spring.

Clouds hide stars tonight; rain makes the ferns droop and cry.  For the first time since my childhood I crave the taste of dirt. I want to plunge into this moist clay feet first, cool wet life pressing through layers of toes, against skin, into my nose, mouth, and eyes, feeding me.

I am sixteen and I am curling up on his grave, my knees against my chest.  The light from the house filters through leaves and vines. I am living only in stringy shadows.  The wind is carrying chimney smoke into my cave, reminding me of heat, of being dry.  It reminds me of summer, of clay splitting open, splintering like bark.  Dry is too open, too exposed, too empty.  I am full when I breathe damp air, fog.  I hold my breath in intervals, blocking the smoke from my nose and mouth.  Why is it that I have come here to breathe, and now I must hold my breath?

I am thirsty.  I wonder how long it takes the rain to reach the roots of the maple trees, of the ferns that stand like army brigades, protecting me.  I wonder when the rain will reach his body, making him soft and cool. I wonder if roots will ever travel that far down, touch his bones, twist around his body.  I grab for the strong arms of ferns, and feel what it’s like to take root and grow.

Courtney E. Putnam, c. 1995

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2013 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Top Five Tips for Thriving During the Holidays

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Welcome to December, everyone!

For many of us December is a month of paradoxes — delight and stress, celebration and exhaustion, peace and chaos, wonder and worry, love and loneliness. The holiday season, for those of you who participate, can lift us up or bring us down — or maybe a bit of both! Today I am going to share with you my top five tips for thriving during the holidays:

1) Be authentic. Check in with yourself and your body often. Ask yourself, “Do I really feel like eating/watching/wearing/buying/doing this?” If the answer is “no,” honor that. If the answer is “yes,” party on. If your mind and heart are making it difficult for you to make decisions about how YOU want to spend your holiday time, ask your body for help. Find a moment to sit quietly and breathe. Find where your center resides in your very own being. Connect with that center and then ask your questions again. Your body will respond with resonance or repulsion. Another way to imagine it is that you feel an opening in your body or a recoiling or a closing up. Notice what you feel and honor it.

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2) Dance and sing. Even if they’re not holiday songs. My friend Jessica just described having a family Les Miserables-style sing-a-long through dinner and during after-dinner clean up to help with a stressful day. I love that! Find ways to let go, let loose, feel free, and be light. Be silly. I am known to put on my holiday disco (!) album and shimmy in my living room this time of year. Moving your body releases built-up adrenalin and singing opens that all-important throat chakra.

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3) Make it simple. Now if going whole hog and decorating like crazy is the thing that lights your fire during the holidays, I say go for it! If it’s not, and you’d like to participate in the season in some way, give yourself permission to make it simple. In my household, simplicity is the WAY, so we go for a minimalist approach. A small string of lights on the mantle, a few paper snowflakes, some candles — and voila!, we have a little winter wonderland on our fireplace mantle. This simple design makes me happy each time I walk by, and knowing I spent next to nothing on making some wintry beauty makes me delighted, too.

IMG_20131209_1613244) Mind your “musts.” Every time you start a sentence with “I have to…” take a moment to breathe and check in with yourself. Ask yourself if your sense of obligation is genuine or if it’s a “must” that is butting in out of guilt or fear. Are you committing yourself to things that don’t resonate with you? Even if doing something is a duty, when we truly want to do it we more often say things like “I am going to” or “I get to” or “I want to.” Certainly, we all have obligations and responsibilities, but when it comes to the holidays in particular, notice when “have to” and “must” enter your sentences.

Photo on 2011-07-03 at 15.535) Take care of yourself. What can you do for yourself that will balance out the high energy of the season with some respite and relaxation? Take walks? Go to a spa? Get a massage? Do yoga? Meditate? Listen to music? Pet your cat or dog? Be creative? Get out of town? Read? If you are feeling stress, scan your top list of feel good activities and choose one, two, or ten. This life is yours and your health and well being are of supreme importance.

IMG_20131207_130003with healing snowflake dust,

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Question #30

I’ve come to my last day and last post for Courtney Answers Questions Month (CoAnQuMo)!  I’m ending with a futuristic question….

Here it is:

How do you imagine yourself as an old lady? What would your ideal 80th year of life look like?

Interestingly, the first thing I imagine is my having long and straight white-gray hair. I’d really like to look like the poet Sharon Olds

sharonoldsNow Ms. Olds is a young 71 years old, but you get the picture, I hope. Think “Wise Crone Artist Poet Hippie” and you’ve got my vision for myself!

I’ve always loved the word crone and I imagine myself embodying wise crone qualities. I see myself in Maui, Hawaii, living a vibrant life of painting, watching the ocean, walking the beaches, growing my own food, and being a mentor for healing practitioners. I would have a labyrinth, lots of fountains, and Buddha and bird statues galore (hey, this isn’t much different than my life now!). I also see myself writing poems, making healing tinctures, and having a solid personal meditation practice.

In some ways as I am imagining my future, I am transposing my current life onto a life 42 years from now. Things are very much the same in my idea of my future, I’m just more calm, more centered, more abundant, more confident, more successful, more clear, more open, and more grateful.

What a powerful realization that what I have in my life NOW is actually the life I want to have…

with less worry and more joy

with less self-doubt and more confidence

with less scarcity and more resources

with less rain and more sunshine (ha!)

In a way, by looking toward my future I am honoring my present — this very life I have created now. I am grateful, truly grateful.

with plumeria blossoms, poetry, and delicate sags & wrinkles,

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Question #29

Today’s second-to-last CoAnQuMo is going to be brief because I have a whopping head cold and my ability to hold thoughts together is a bit weak right now. But I will do my best!

Here’s Question #29: Mac or Windows?

I am presuming that the inquirer wants to know whether I use a Mac or Windows computer and perhaps which I prefer.

First, before you scroll down, I want you to guess.  (Imagine the “Jeopardy” music playing in the background for a few seconds.)

•     •     •     •     •     •

My answer is the tried and true Macintosh. I’ve been a Mac user since the late 90s and fell in love with the easy-to-use, fits-the-way-my-brain-works interface right away. My decision to “go Mac” was also influenced by my need to use graphics programs like Quark, Photoshop, and the like, and Macs just handle those programs mo’ betta. I don’t dislike Windows machines so much as I just rarely use them anymore.

Mac&Bird

I’m trying to think of how to deepen my answer to this question in a way that might be meaningful and insightful. Hmmm…

Perhaps I should take a silly online Mac or PC personality test (and you can, too)!

Here’s one in which the questions are false dichotomies, but my result was indeed Mac.

Here’s another one in which the questions drew upon demographic stereotypes, and my result was also Mac.

What are your results when you take these quizes?

I’m not sure I’ve deepened the Mac-Windows discussion one bit, but at least now you all know I’m a Mac Maven. I’m not sure how this enriches your life, but perhaps you can find some meaning I am not seeing.

For now, I am heading to bed to nurse this cold. I may take my laptop with me to keep me warm.

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Question #28

Goodness, after this CoAnQuMo post, I just have two more before the month is out! Any ideas for a blogging challenge I can do for December? Post below if you have an idea!

Alright, here’s today’s deep question:

How and when did you first realize that you were so sensitive and intuitive?

My own memories (and the stories my mother tells me) take me back to being four years old.

Sensitivity is Your Strength, mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam.

Sensitivity is Your Strength, mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam.

Here is some of my writing that encapsulates my first obsession with (and worry about) death, injustice, and cruelty:

* * *

EYES

by Courtney E. Putnam

I say it’s my first memory, but I may not remember it at all.

I see a four-year-old girl who I recognize as me. I see her with fuzzy edges, as if I am looking through milky glass. At first it looks as if she is smiling—her eyes squinting, watery glints pooling at the creases. Memory is tricky this way. But this is the story I wish to tell: the one where I have a lovely trip with my family at Glacier National Park.  I watch mountain goats, elk, bald eagles. I eat smores and hot dogs. It is fun.

But let me try again:

I am four years old and walking through a mountain lodge with my mother at Glacier National Park. There is wood paneling or maybe it’s actually a log cabin, trees stacked sideways, forming a square. It’s dark inside, dimly lit. Maybe a few streams of sunlight illuminate the space. Men with big, round buckles and cowboy boots head toward the bar, and a woman behind the counter sells turquoise jewelry and postcards of glacial streams and wildflowers. And there are jars filled with hard candy selling for ten cents each. My mother buys me a grape-flavored candy cane.  It tastes sweet and sticky and stains my tongue deep purple.

Or yet again:

I sit in the lobby of a mountain lodge, while my mother asks for directions at the counter. My chair is made of deep-brown suede. I stroke the arms and feel the tiny skin fibers change direction with each swipe of my hand. The hairs on my dad’s arms do this when you rub them. On the coffee table is a moose-shaped ashtray, butts lining the edges, and the fireplace is empty and cold. Above the fireplace, I spot a pair of eyes.

But this is really what happens:

A mountain goat is staring at me. He stares at no one else.  Those big-buckled men walk by and he doesn’t flinch. And I stare back into those clear, brown eyes, wondering why he isn’t afraid of me. Just this morning, on a walk with my dad, we spotted mountain goats on the hillside through our binoculars. Someone shot a rifle in the air just to see them run. I lean forward a bit, then stand as if to approach him to see if he’ll move, but he remains calm. I see now the edge of his mouth curled just a bit, revealing the glint of a back tooth.  His fur is an even mixture of white and gray and two curved horns stand proudly atop his head.  I trace the contours of his face, neck, and torso with my eyes, hoping to see him move, just an inch, but he is still. I follow a patch of white from his neck to his chest and then hit the wall.  Fur then wood.  I try again: antlers, eyes, nose, neck, chest, wall. And again: eyes, neck, torso, wall.  Eyes, chest, wall.  Eyes, wall, eyes, wall, eyes, wall. I hold my stomach with the sting of this lie—the first lie.

This is what my body remembers:

My mother finds me breathless in my suede chair, transfixed on the wall above the fireplace.

“What is it?” she asks, and I can’t say anything.  Tears start to come.  For a moment, I think I see his eyes welling up with tears, too.

“What did they do to it, Mommy?” I cry. There are no legs, there is no back, there is only a wall to complete him.  My back stiffens imagining being cut off from the waist down.  I cannot avoid his unblinking eyes that are so real—wide and proud. My mother assures me that the goat felt no pain, and then I taste the second lie, which falls gently upon the first like a blanket.  There is comfort in her words, the way a bandage covers a wound, hiding the gory scene, pretending that it doesn’t exist.

* * *

From a very young age I had questions about death. Not only was I concerned (and confused) by death in general, but I was witnessing illness and the possibility (and inevitability) of death, too. Most of my memories of my paternal grandmother include her fragile body in a hospital bed in the Putnam family farmhouse in Spokane with a loud oxygen tank murmuring away and tubes flowing into my grandmother’s nose, feeding her what emphysema was taking away.

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Suffering hurt. I felt it. In me. How does a little girl even begin to understand how to work with this sort of visceral empathy? My method of choice? Having deep conversations with my parents about death and dying. A lot. When I think back on it, did my parents think I was a disturbed child? Did they worry I would become so worried and obsessed with suffering that I would forget about joy and play and levity? I guess not, because we had our talks and then I went off to play. And they even endured the phrase we had to say to each other every night before I went to sleep: “I won’t and you won’t and everything will be fine.” (Fill in the blank after “won’t” with die and you get the picture.) This ritual lasted for years.

In my tween and teen years I watched Holocaust films, re-read Anne Frank several times, watched Apartheid movies, and at 13 I became a vegetarian (which I remain today). Of course, I also was a teenager doing teenagery things like going to dances and teasing my bangs and listening to Top 40 radio. But more often than not, on a weekend, you wouldn’t find me at a party with friends. You’d find me at the Crest Theatre watching a $2 foreign film with my parents or crying in my mother’s lap, inconsolable, after seeing Sophie’s Choice for the first time.

Writing all of this makes me especially grateful for my parents right now. Thank you mom, of this world, and thank you dad, of the spirit world. What a harrowing job you had with me — what with every loss so big, so deep, every witness to suffering so heart-wrenching. When I was in my early 20s, my mom once said to me, “Your sensitivity is your greatest gift, Courtney, and it is also the hardest thing in the world.” I broke down into a pool of tears on the floor. Amen, mom. You got it. And you still get it.

A Sensitive Heart, mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam.

A Sensitive Heart, mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam.

When my husband reads this post, I know it won’t surprise him one bit, and he may notice that I haven’t changed much since I was that four-year-old girl crying over the stuffed mountain goat. He knows empathy runs through my bones. He knows I still cry.

with sensitivity and strength,

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