Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Little things that keep me sane

No Comments 05 May 2012

Esalen garden in SpringThis list is of a different focus than the longer list of favorites and sponsors, and is instead a short list core practices I use to shift my state and  re-connect me to what is essential, life-affirming and self-renewing. In the book Leadership and the New Science, Margaret Wheatley writes about how nature and life in general heals itself by reconnecting itself to as many parts of itself as it can.

If the quasi-ness and pace of modern life has you thinking that peace of mind is no longer a choice, but a distant, out-of-reach memory or fantasy, and your nerves are too frazzled and tweaked to take Timothy Leary’s advice to “trust your nervous system” take a few moments to play with one of these.

Go barefoot. Get barefoot onto some ground or (non sprayed) grass, ideally early morning dewy grass. Being barefoot in dewy grass is actually an ancient Qi Gong move and one of the oldest natural treatments is to strengthen immunity, stimulate intestinal functions, relieve   chest and throat irritation and headaches. Walk slowly, breathe into your belly and feel deeply into your feet while  paying attention to the beauty all around you.

Listen to Music. Find some great music and even better create some or combine some of your favorites. I like listening to Bach when I work and have found Hyperion Records a tremendous source for hard-to-find and excellent classical music. Pandora and Spotify are also fantastic sources for streaming/internet music, and if you want to be entertained with a stream of entertaining and often humorous words, check out the This American Life App, available from the Apple store.

Laugh. I haven’t actually done laughter yoga yet, at least not in a formal way with a group, but I have seen some funny youtube videos of it. But what I do like to do to make myself laugh is hang out with funny friends and also scan Netflix for funny campy comedies and also look on Hulu.com for episodes of Portlandia or Modern Family.

Touch and be touched–with bodywork and energy work. It is surprisingly easy to lose touch with your body and the power of being touched in a loving. healing, non-sexual way and there is something deeply restorative and revivifying about being touched just as the soft animal of your body loving what it loves.

Have some Chocolate. I go for the hard dark stuff..72% or higher and Chocolove is now offering an organic 73% Cacao chocolate with cherries that is primo.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Also known as tapping. When I really need to clear and discharge some feelings and negativity I do some EFT, usually with some videos by Brad Yates.

Meditation and Releasing. I’m really enjoying Jack Kornfield’s CD of his top 6 meditations and the free guided meditations by Aleya Dao and Craig Hamilton. I also listen to a variety of guided Sedona Method releases in the car to and from work. You can check out some releases as mp3 files here.

Run, Jump, Dance.  It is hard to be in a funk or bad mood when you are moving your body, whether that is running, jumping, or just dancing around the room. I include yoga in this category of movement, and occasional sessions of deep breathing or breath work, like the powerful and short guided sessions by David Elliot.

May these little breadcrumbs along the trail to help make your journey more joyful and give you some new ways to be gentle with yourself. Feel free to add any tips or tricks below.

Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Legacy and Lineage Off the Clock

No Comments 01 January 2012

My  birthday falls just  four days after New Years Day, so a kind of “double whammy” of cultural and personal aspirations sends me into a frenzy of trajectory-setting this time of year.

It is strange, lacking both progeny and a wife, to have a strong feeling of wanting to leave a legacy, but here it is. I want to become and express the best version of myself in service of something larger than this life. 2012 I think will be key for that through synthesis, synthesizing being and doing, time and timelessness, and melding the experiences, influences, and talents of 43 years into something deeply personal enough to be universal, and vibrationally true enough to be timeless. With ease and grace.

Yes.. let me be known for following, with clear-eyed compassion, a heroic, even mythic life journey, with an ease and lightness that inspires others to do the same. People after can live it forward.If and when space/time pancakes in 2012 like some expect it to, I say let it collapse into something great. Let my life being a living puja that the world is meant to be free in and life was made to be enjoyed. If it is enjoyed in the 5th dimension beyond the grid of space and time, all the better.

I’ve never expected anything, especially relationships, to last, and often pretend I’m nearly dead, so its not so strange I consider legacies.

What is a little strange is how rarely our legacies relate to our personal goals. There are so many seen and unseen forces that can live through us and leave a breadcrumb trail behind us on our behalf even when we forget or choose not to. I’m proud and excited for my sister who recently, at 40, discovered the gift of silence and spaciousness and has learned to love the very same unstructured time that used to tyrannize her.

If  I have a choice/influence in the matter of a legacy at all it is in paying attention to the people and places that open me to new frontiers of experience and ways of being.

I think that is why I have lived most of my life in beautiful and inspiring places like Aspen, Esalen, Ojai, Santa Barbara and Carmel.

Why my pantheon of influences is multi-clultural, multi-dimensional, and both incarnated and not.

Why I don’t use an alarm clock or carry a watch. With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Eckhart Tolle spent the two years on the park bench, Joseph Campbell 5 years in the cabin with his books, or Julia Butterfly-Hill 2 years in the branches of a redwood named Luna.

There’s something there.  In the commitment to the chrysalis. This post is to the people who inhabit and tend those sacred places and inner spaces and fires, who organize their lives around them and soak them into the marrow of their bones in a way other people can feel and recognize.

In 2012, here’s to renouncing entitlement and sacrifice and living true lives that burn hot and leave a glow for others to see by. See you around the campfire.


Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Whats So Cool About Esalen Institute?

No Comments 29 October 2011

You mean..
Apart from being the birthplace of the Human Potential Movement, and resting on 22 acres of some of the most ruggedly stunningly beautiful coastline in North America?

Apart from the hot springs and schmorgasbord of every kind of movement/artistic/creative/spiritual/deep change workshop you can imagine?
The long smooth slippery and patented strokes of the Esalen Massage, and the fact that their 50th anniversary is coinciding with this whole 11/11/11 thing?

Well..there are quite a few other cool things, things I learned when I spent five weeks there as a work study participant in fall of 2005. If you haven’t dropped out of society yet, try it, you’ll like it!

  • There is amazing wholesome and nourishing organic food, grown a few steps from the kitchen.
  • There are the famous natural hot spring tubs and glass-walled showers on cliffs above the Pacific.
  • There are great conversations with fantastic people who have lived there on-proprerty or are visiting from all over the world.
  • There is a fantastic meditation hut over a creek, a quiet and private beach and lots of room to just meander.
  • There is an outdoor early education preschool called Gazebo Park School that looks super fun.
  • There is an intellectual/research brain trust called the Center for Theory and Research that was started by Michael Murphy in 1962 and is still going strong.

But to me and my Apollonian temperament, the best of the best is that the whole place (its values, buildings, people (past and present) and future vision is organized around supporting and accelerating the evolution and transformation of individuals and scoiety.  Something in the air, the light, the place fosters that inner alchemy in just the right way for you, whether that takes the form of a gentle and private retreat and soak, dramatic play, somatic work, meditation, or some esoteric woo woo sister Moon practices to rock your whole personality structure to the core and shake your Etch-A-Sketch clean.

This about says it: “It is a place, as Thomas Wolfe said about America, “where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time.”

All this and more and more is why, starting November 10th, I am excited to become the new Marketing Communications Manager at Esalen. You’re invited to celebrate that and yourself, by nourishing yourself as deeply as you care to.

Oh, and here is the link to the PDF of the new catalog that just came out.

And you can get a print version mailed to you too. How cool is that?

See you soon.

Doug E doug ellis signature



Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Thoughts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

No Comments 31 August 2011

I don’t believe in beliefs but if I did one might be that our brains secrete thoughts the way our other organs secrete hormones or neurotransmitters. They’re not really good, bad, or ugly, that was just a catchy title that squirted through.

Sometimes I’ll secrete  a thought that seems like a fantastic point of departure to a faraway land–an eccentric is a pioneer turned inward-– and I’ll wait on the dock with it and enjoy its company while it rattles around looking for a happy home in a photo, journal or blog.

Other times I’ll have a judgement disguised as an observation–people who wear leather vests are lost in a haze of Harley noise, bourbon, and cigarette smoke–so I’ll add another repentant  thought over the top to cancel it out: I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.

Still other times I will think something prideful about how thoughtless I am–Wow, so quiet. Like a  cat or a zen master. Oops wait, they don’t think that.

Less frequent but more fun are the times when I consciously  take advantage of the mind’s infinite innocence and naivete and slip it a placebo–Sting is on his way over for breakfast.

I cleaned my apartment in just under an hour this morning with that one perched on my shoulder.

What is your relationship to thought? Can you say me what your next thought will be?


Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Suffering: You’re Soaking in It

No Comments 26 August 2011

“If suffering made a sound we would hardly be able to hear ourselves think.”
–Master meditation and grief teacher and poet Stephen Levine

The last thing a fish would invent is water. In the same way the last thing I noticed I was addicted to was suffering.

It was everywhere, I was soaking in it. My body was wafting a feeling tone of bone-weary sadness and lethargy from every pore. The pain body took up occupancy then slimed every square inch before bolting all the windows and doors to make sure my identification with it, as it, was complete. Its jangled and spiky vibes were systemic, pernicious. As Adyashanti would say, I was “Velcro’d”.

Where I was was off. If I was there, even I wished I wasn’t. Kids would go find another room to play in. Dogs would growl. Even my body odor smelled like it belonged to someone else.

Have you ever tried to out-affirm, out-pray, deny or step over that kind of pain? To stuff a steamer trunk of %dc# like that into a space no one would recognize? There is nothing more pathetic and painful than watching someone do that to themselves. The heart knows the truth.

So, you might ask, how did feeling like Eeyore become my drug of choice? Who knows. All I know is it did feel familiar, in the sense of family, or ancestry or at least collective. Like the uh-oh you get in your gut when you step off the plane onto the tarmac of a war-ravaged country. Its not really personal until you make it so. Then the parasite of suffering sucks up to a new host.

Looking back, I can see how I was continually gathering evidence of not enough, animating it with my attention, fertilizing it with the foods I ate, the way I held my body, even the way I breathed. My first few breaths of each morning were puffed into this gloomy little ghost, the rest of the day spent idly stroking it with two fingers…one of encouragement, one of dread. And I was so proud of that angst, protective of it as mine, my special artistic and intuitive sensitivities and pessimistic proclivities.  As if brooding made me European and mysterious instead of just an annoyingly brooding American. Pride and shame together make a kind of emotional epoxy.

So how did I get unstuck from the addiction to suffering?

I’ll tell you: merging onto the highway today (which takes time in an old 4 cylinder Subaru) I realized that what I thought was “being in my heart” was actually a lie: I was leaking energy to my feelings and giving my power away to my feelings of separation. Compassion had turned to wallowing, self-care to neuroticism.

Today I chose to let go of wanting to be controlled by that feeling, and instead to  re-claim and re-direct my energy and love to someone else that can truly benefit. In choosing to cut that cord, I feel my energy rise, spine lengthen, and heart expand.

If I get caught by that feeling again, I can rest in knowing that feeling is arising in or on that which I Am, and not the other way around. And if I really look deep within, I can’t find anyone home to actually take posession of that little package of pain.

And that is a huge and blessed relief.

Just for Fun, Life Coaching

Perfectly Broken: Following Your Voice Home

2 Comments 19 August 2011

What if…
we all just stopped, looked up, and let Life ring through, as clear as a birdsong or a bell?
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”—Leonard Cohen
What if…
Instead of becoming infatuated again with all the bluster and footwork of passion and will, we remembered that..
Life is designed to support full expression and growth.
Our mammal bodies are 2.5 million years in the making and we can trust their innate wisdom.
As spiritual beings we are eternal and can never get it wrong because we are never really done.
What a blessed relief, to be out of the how and what business, all those beginnings and middles.  All that self-loathing disguised as self-help. All that crack patching.
What a blessed relief to love yourself because you are that way.
“You do not have to be good.  You do not have to walk on your knees through the desert for a hundred miles repenting.  You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”—Mary Oliver
If expression has any point, it is that.  Just the soft animal of your body giving its grief cry or joy cry, or maybe its particular flavor of silence.

Denying the soft animal of your body makes it sad and can also make it sick.As Carolyn Myss says, “if you don’t have passion you do have symptoms.”

The main reason I love helping people fully express themselves is because I know how much it hurts not to.What a painful lie it is to feel invisible, voiceless, separate.

As a spiritual life coach and photographer, I give space to what is already there and let it shine forth.  It is a simple and healing thing.  Really the most natural thing.  There is nothing to fix.  Makeovers to the soul are a form of violence.
Looking back I can see how all the emphasis I put on my “Hero’s Journey”, my evolution and growth, my specialness and sensitivities, only made the illusion of separation stronger.
22 years of following the Western rabbit trail of freedom later, I have realized I didn’t need to be a ragged individual, didn’t need to create unique gyrations of style to be someone, didn’t need to improve, or even lead, my life.
In fact there is no such thing as “My life”.  Just life.  Just One with Life.
I had followed my voice back home.
In hindsight I see that even my inner resistances and apparent “hitch in my gitalong” was perfectly orchestrated.  All the things that didn’t happen were grace too.

What hasn’t happened lately that you are grateful for?

What is the simplest or most outrageous thing you can be, do, or say now in service of what you love most?

Share your comments and insights below.

Doug Ellis is a professional light-bringer, photographer, and spiritual/somatic life coach. His life is dedicated to heart-centered expression and the healing power of being deeply seen. 

Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Being Here is Triumph Enough

1 Comment 16 July 2011

Existence Exists
Here Is
Life Lives

Here I Am. Here You Are.

If its some random chaotic accident, why not make it a happy one?  If it is an expression of Divine Intelligence or cosmic grand plan then might as well shoulder and savor the responsibility as best a mortal can.

There is not a dang thing we can do or undo to change it.

So, be here reverently or resistantly but pretending not to be here hurts and being non-reverent is kind of ugly.

Here belongs. You belong.

Its a miraculous sleight of hand that we could even think that “something is wrong,” or, “I’m not good enough” when you consider that:

  • The odds of you being that lucky egg-getting sperm to make it to the egg are 1 in 12,000,000,000.
  • The odds of the Earth supporting complex life the way it does are under 0.01 per cent over four billion years.

The odds of you finding and reading this post are probably similar.

Thank you for reading these words.

18% of the world, about 1.2 billion people can’t read at all much less own a computer.

Feeling lucky yet?

A few inspiring sources:

Just for Fun, Life Coaching

Curating or Collecting: Saying Yes to Your No

No Comments 29 June 2011

Our Creations As Extensions of our Energy Bodies

I have accumulated a lot of nice photographs and sometimes, despite all and even during all, my meditating, will hatch a good idea or two. When these thought forms and little energetic dopplegangers pile too high I begin to feel menaced and overwhelmed by my equivalent of  what Spaulding Gray used to call his “Monster in a Box” –a 1600 page and still growing unfinished novel that he carried around in a huge cardboard box next to his writing desk like a kind of cancerous creative sidecar. For all I know it is buried next to him now still throbbing with promise.

To keep that little creative “Mini Me” at least life-sized if not smaller, I set a challenge to myself to do a portfolio review and delete the four weakest images from each of my photo galleries. That got me thinking about curating vs collecting and the clarifying power of a discerning no. A compassionate and loving respectful no, an open-hearted no, the kind that Steve Jobs, King of the Delete Key, alludes to when he says “I am as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” Put another way, he is as proud of the no as he is of the yes.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. ~Gandhi

How often do you do a life review? When was the last time you said no?

Curating vs Collecting: In Art and Life

Curate as a verb actually means to “be in charge of”, and is one of the most underappreciated skills and talents in the arts and in consumerist American culture. Those disciplined choices, all that “negative (no) space” , make the difference between a fine art museum and a warehouse of stacked canvases. Even more importantly, curating makes the difference between all these little creations and choices being in charge of us and us being in charge of them.

As an online reputation consultant, I frequently remind clients that saying no is the difference between having a recognizable identity and brand niche and being tossed into the brand bargain bin (picture Williams-Sonoma vs Walgreens).

Curating is a different mind-set and skill-set than creating. That is why there are writers and editors, artists and museum curators. Until I have my own agent or editor, I have to set aside time and head space specifically for one or the other. Trying to both at once is stultifying to the creative process and not quite rigorous enough for the curation. I generally put a piece away for weeks to months and come back to it with fresh eyes and perspective for a more critical review.

Ansel Adams said that “twelve significant photos in any one year is a good crop.” I still aspire to that kind of discipline, even in these Google Image and stock image crazed times where sheer volume and keyword density appear to reign supreme commercially.

Life as Your Canvas

Its not that there is something wrong with collecting–every curated body of work has to start with a collection, after all. It is when we use a collection as defense, and a kind of insulation or padding to feel safe that we begin to serve it instead of the other way around. There are areas of my life where I curate and areas where I collect. I’m noticing that the areas I curate are the areas where people can most readily connect and relate to. I tend to collect in domains of life where  where I feel insecure or uncertain,  interior, private backwater eddies, subconscious material that hasn’t quite taken shape yet or that I haven’t felt clear enough to shape yet.

  • Areas of life I curate: food/diet, movies/entertainment, books, beliefs/thoughts, camera gear, photos.
  • Areas of life I collect:  acquaintances, experiences, spiritual teachings/trainings/, computer documents, ideas, files, music.

Creating Space for the Next Creation

As an empathic, intuitive and introverted person I can spend a good length of time in that murky cloud of creative chaos and the momentum and solitude of it is fertile soil for the next creation. But as much as I like my alone time I realize its not so healthy to stay in the output mode and all the clutter it generates indefinitely. It has an infinite incessancy, and I feel like an industrious creative little beaver, that must keep gnawing wood or its front teeth will grow too long for its mouth and pierce through the tongue. Meanwhile my creations pile.

Then I know it is time to curate again, time to clear the creative cache. When I want more clients and clearer head, I clean my car and throw away papers.

It is a personal regenerative cycle that informs the next evolution of creation and gives me at least the illusion of doership in whatever it is that life is expressing through me.

doug ellis signature



Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Friends with Silence

4 Comments 01 June 2011

Befriending silence is like having a whale whisper in your ear

or sharing a sandwich with a planet.

A humbling and ridiculous mashup.

Only grace can make you feel both so precious and tiny.

You don’t even need to make the first move.

Silence is already there. And here.

Dissolving aloneness into all oneness with infinite patience.

Might as well stay still.

When it takes you, you want to share it,

the hushed moment.

But moment is all there is,

a moment in a moment in a  moment.

Maybe you can feel it between these words.

Maybe you too are a friend of silence.

When we meet

we’ll greet each other with the space inside.

Maybe it will quietly smile.

doug ellis signature

Just for Fun, Life Coaching

My Fear of Being Vir: Musings on the New Masculinity

No Comments 25 April 2011

I avoided moving to California for a long while, partly because it was Mill Valley and I had this irrational fear about becoming a mousey, mossy, androgynous Randy-o- the-Redwoods spiritual drifter. I was a solid and peak-bagging mountain man and wanted to keep that rocky mountain edge.  In retrospect, I see that I didn’t trust my water nature and emotional self enough to make the leap until I had a compelling reason and community to dive into.

If you haven’t seen “The Man from Marin” and Vir, I will include a link to it here below so you can have some context for what shape that fear might take:

The Man From Marin

I have since embraced my inner Vir, or at least made a kind of truce and acceptance of that flavor of masculine expression.  I’m still warming up to the other end of the spectrum, that sort of militant rigidity some men get after a men’s weekend orwatching too much cage fighting or learning tips and tricks from the PUA community. I am still working on embracing my inner tough guy.

A couple conscious man resources:

No list of feminine/masculine writings would be complete without mentioning David Deida. I really love the Way of the Superior Man and Blue Truth. They are great articulations of polarity and spiritual partnership. He also has a good DVD of a live workshop in Australia that I had but have lost track of.

Another is the podcast and blog The New Man by Tripp Lanier. The tagline of the site is “Beyond the Macho Jerk and the New Age Wimp”.

I can definitely relate to that balancing act…teetering somewhere between Veer and Mike Tyson. To clarify: I am teetering in jeans and not in bell-bottomed Lululemon pants.

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