Phyllis Mathis

Licensed Counselor, Spiritual Mentor, Life Coach

Sometimes it takes more than education, experience, and expertise. Sometimes it takes a certain kind of soul.


Filtering by Tag: mindfulness

My Life in My Hands

"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."

--Kurt Vonnegut

3 bowls.JPG

At the age of 55 I took up an art. I enrolled in a ceramics class. My secret dream was to throw pots on the wheel, but it was one of those things I barely let into my consciousness. Part of me just dismissed it as something I wish I would have learned.

Two years later, I'm completely hooked. Completely. I would do it every day if I could. 8 hours a day if I could. If only someone would pay me by the hour, I would quit my job and just sit in front of the wheel and spin it.

3-legged box.JPG

The great thing is, I can't really tell you why. Perhaps that's the point. I make my living with my brain. I love that too, but after 25+ years of trying to figure out the human condition, my poor brain needs a break.

The rhythm, the feel, the spin, the bringing something beautiful out of the mud, brings me a satisfaction that reaches my bones. There are so many things I love about it, but the best one is this:

I have to pay attention every minute.

Every mishap I've had at the wheel, or at the glazing table, was due to the fact that I wasn't entirely present to my task:.

Kind of like life, right?

clay bottle.JPG

"Be (In) Yourself!"


I have read, and re-read, and re-read again, Geneen Roth's wonderful book, Women, Food, and God. Whether or not you have issues with food, I highly recommend it. In it she writes:

"never underestimate the urge to bolt."

She goes on to explain how many of us as children felt ill-equipped to handle what was happening in and around us - in our families, in school, in our emotions and in our bodies. We needed a way to deal with our sense of being overwhelmed. Since we didn't have the mental and emotional maturity to deal with our situation, and since we were children and we didn't have the choice to leave, we needed a way to leave and stay at the same time. 

We learned to shut down our awareness - the sensations of fear or violation in our bodies, the deep sadness, shame, rejection and confusion of our emotions, the input from our senses that lets us know the reality of what is happening. We invented a way to bolt.

It was a necessary skill for some of us. It got us through, helped us concentrate on some of the positive things that were happening. But that ability to shut down, to block sensations, to numb emotions, came with a heavy price.

It cut us off from ourselves, leaving us feeling alienated, divided, and only half alive. It also kept us stuck in a permanent state of avoidance, believing we can't handle what's going on inside us: Strong emotions illicit fear and must be shut down. Bodily sensations get ignored. Denying what's happening in the moment separates us from what's happening now. Our ability to deal with real-life situations in a mature way is sabotaged, because, as Earnie Larsen says, we may be adults on the outside, but on the inside, our 6-year old is driving the bus. 

This urge to bolt is what drives our addictions: alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, video games, crazy relationships, work, power, helping.

Eventually, if we're going to grow up on the inside, we need to find a way to occupy ourselves again, to return to the body, mind, and heart we left behind.

We need a way to occupy ourselves, to be in ourselves.

It's harder than it seems, and it's just the beginning of a long, scary road, but if you're up for it, there a simple way to begin to come home to yourself. 

Try this simple exercise called "come to your senses:"

Set aside 5 minutes of uninterrupted time. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Open your eyes and notice 5 things you can see. Don't just check them off the list, try and experience the sights: the blueness of the sky, the texture of the wall, the curve of your coffee cup, etc. Don't label or judge what you see, just let it impact you.

Now listen. See if you can hear 5 things in your environment. Experience them.

Now see if you can feel 5 sensations of touch: where your clothes touch your body, your feet in your shoes, the pressure of your legs on the chair, the temperature in the room, the smooth surface of the cup.

Are there 2 things you can smell?

Any taste lingering in your mouth?

Now notice how you feel after doing this exercise, intentionally occupying your 5 senses.

Enjoy, and please feel free to share your experience with this exercise in the comments.