Ellie Otteson, LPC, RYT200 is…
…A Licensed Professional Counselor: Ellie counsels women, men, adolescents, and professionals from all walks of life. She is committed to the well-being of her clients and dedicated to helping them meet their unique individual life and wellness goals as they optimize their personal satisfaction in life. As a coach, Ellie specializes in the art of positive living.
…A Registered Yoga Teacher: Ellie is a certified yoga instructor, registered with the Yoga Alliance at the 200 hour level. She is currently teaching at the Yoga Loft in Willmar, MN and Genesis Salon and Enso Spa in Hutchinson, MN.
…A DONA-trained birth doula: Ellie is a DONA-trained birth doula. She is enthusiastic about childbirth, and passionate about supporting expecting women and their families.
October 2nd, 2013
p style=”text-align: justify;”>Not long ago I had a very enlightening conversation that I have found myself revisiting from time to time. I do not revisit this conversation because it was a particularly pleasant experience; rather, it was quite the contrary: this conversation was somewhat hurtful and most definitely humbling. Yet, as uncomfortable as it was for me, this conversation was also a positive and insightful experience, because several insightful observations had been brought to my attention that I had not otherwise made on my own. And even while this insight came as somewhat of a jolt to me, it was illuminating nonetheless.
Without getting into the particulars of the conversation, I will suffice it to say that I learned several important things about myself as a result of that uncomfortable exchange. This conversation opened my eyes to patterns in my life that I had been unintentionally, yet actively, perpetuating. I suddenly became more aware of certain bad habits that I have had and the impact they have on my life. And as a result of this awareness, I was also able to finally see the solution to certain problems that have been otherwise quite difficult for me to resolve.
So, even while this conversation was somewhat unpleasant for me, it really was a positive and important experience because of the awareness and potential growth that I had gained as a result.
And so it seems to go for many of us, does it not? Sometimes, it seems, life has a way of holding up a mirror for us to gaze into. And sometimes, looking at ourselves in such a way can be a difficult thing to do, because we may not like everything that we see. We may be startled by a sudden awareness that we had not had before. We may realize that there are hard truths that we must accept and own up to, and doing so is not easy, for there is nothing easy about admitting that we are, quite often, our biggest problem. If you are anything like me, your natural tendency would have been to resist this process and instead become defensive. To explain or excuse yourself. To shut down, to guard your heart, and protect your ego. Yet, if you are able to resist these temptations and instead gaze into that reflection of yourself, and ask yourself what is to be learned, you will grow and you will evolve. Because as difficult, uncomfortable, or unsettling as these experiences may be, they are quite valuable to us, for what we learn about ourselves during these times serve as an important reminder that while we may in fact be our own problem, we are also our solution to our problems.
Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC
September 18th, 2013
With autumn settling in, many of us have already begun to experience the shift of energy that seems to accompany the beginning of each school year and its impending activities. We naturally transition into another season of life, preparing ourselves for the school year of ahead of us, and the change of pace that it reintroduces into our lives.
As adults, it is our job to ensure that things are taken care of, and this time of year has a way of lengthening an already lengthy to do list, and we may get caught up in this shift of energy as we tend to such things as schedule changes, increased responsibilities, and preparations for the months ahead. And as we get caught up in these finer details of life, it can be easy to allow other key things fall to the wayside, such as the emotions, experiences, and stressors that accompany this time of year for adults and children alike. There is a tendency to become distracted by the details of packing lunches and backpacks, getting to and from school and after-school activities, and doing homework at night, and overlook the feelings that students may be struggling with as they complete these day-to-day tasks. We may not realize that a youngster may have a hard time with their peers, or that a freshman is struggling to fit in. Or we may get swept up by the excitement of senior year, and overlook the anxiety involved with graduating. Likewise, we may assume that college students are prepared for the reality they are about to encounter, and perhaps most often, we might forget that parents of school-aged children and empty-nesters may struggle to handle the adjustment with ease.
As most of us know, true school readiness is much more than school supplies and basic skills. Of course it is true that academic performance and effort is important in school, but school is so much more than classwork, assignments, concentration, and organization. In addition to these skills, our children must also feel supported by their parents and their teachers. They must have food in their bellies, adequate sleep, and the ability to manage their emotions. They must feel a sense of belonging amongst their peers and be able to work in teams. They must have at least some budding sense of self, problem-solving skills, and perspective. Similarly, they must be equipped with coping skills, stress management techniques, and resilience.
Unfortunately, though, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of such survival skills. Or perhaps more commonly, such skills are difficult to teach and are therefore not adequately addressed when they may be needed most. Because of this, these intangible assets often fall lower on our list of priorities than they really should. And while it is admittedly difficult for parents to instill such traits in our children and feel confident in their ability to do so, it is paramount to their well-being, happiness, and success.
This fall, I encourage you to continue to take extra care as you prepare your children for this school year. As you tend to the preparations and details of school readiness, ensure that you also tend to the full spectrum of your child’s needs. Remember that as a part of a greater system, collaboration is crucial. Check in with young ones regularly, encourage them to express their concerns, remain involved in their lives, and support them as they embark on this year’s journey.
Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC
August 28th, 2013
Quite often, we tend to think that peace may be obtained by adding certain things into our lives. However, it has been my experience, that the act of letting go is equally important. The following list originated from the article entitled, “Eight Things You Must Give Up To Find Peace”, and it describes eight essential things that must be given up in order to manifest peace in one’s life.
1. Past regrets and excuses.
As most of us well know, we cannot always choose what happens to us. But, we do have the power to choose how we relate to our circumstances and what we choose to do about them. Quite similarly, we also have the choice to forgive ourselves for our misgivings and refuse to define ourselves by the things we have done, or left unfinished.
2. The desire to have all the answers.
Learning to accept the unknown in life is a profound lesson, indeed, as uncertainty can be rather frightening. On the other hand, however, uncertainty can also be quite liberating because it means the possibilities are endless.
3. The false hope of a pain-free life.
As I am sure you have heard many times, pain is an inevitable part of life, and it comes in many shapes and sizes. Pain accompanies the good in life, just as often as it does the bad. Pain is for the living only, and as long as we are living, we are bound to encounter it now and then. And despite what many of us tend to think, this is a good thing, as pain signifies that our receptors to the world are working. And it signifies that we are indeed alive and interacting with the beautiful world around us.
4. Ties to insensitive people.
People are extremely difficult to change, and based on my experiences, they rarely do as a result of the efforts of someone else. So, rather than attempting to change people and creating space for hard feelings, opt to invest your energies into other, more worthwhile things.
5. Obsessing over negative news.
Do your best and try not to obsess over negativity. Like pain, there will be hardship in the world. So rather than allowing it to weigh you down, use it to propel yourself and the rest of the world forward, in a more positive direction.
6. The belief that fulfillment resides in the end result.
Like peace, fulfillment is not obtained by achieving a specific goal. Rather, fulfillment is obtained by having a sense of purpose and living with authenticity and intention.
7. Measuring your success by material wealth.
Stuff is, well, stuff. It is of the essence. It can add to various parts of our lives, and it can send a message to those around us. But, like anything of the material world, material wealth does have its limits.
8. The need to keep everything the same.
Change is an inevitable part of life, as everything is indeed temporary. And while change can certainly be uncomfortable, it can also be quite beautiful, for it is change that is at the heart of all growth and progression.
July 31st, 2013
Before you read any further, consider the following passage by Rainer Maria Rilke.
“Have patience with everything that remains unresolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves… Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
As you let these words soak in, take a moment to reflect on how they apply to your life. How often do you procrastinate, putting things off until “later”? How often do you tell yourself to wait until “things settle down” before embarking on a new journey in life? How often do you view time as some sort of enemy, something that you lack or have to “beat”, rather than the abundant gift that it really is? How often do you postpone your life until the perfect time arrives for you to start living it?
If we are to be honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we fall into these traps from time to time. We get caught up in the preparations of life. The moments of hesitation. The anticipation of something better that is just around the corner. We play mind-games with ourselves and allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that we should wait for the answers of life to arrive, rather than living the questions themselves. We sit idly waiting for something to happen, and in doing so, we let the here-and-now pass us by.
Rather than waiting around for the “perfect time” to arrive, I encourage you to shift your perspective and instead embrace the present time. Arrive each day and practice dailines. Aim for reality. Put time to good use, rather than allowing yourself to be used by it and make the most of each day and each moment as it is at this time. Resist the temptation to resist or force life and instead have the courage to live with “what is”. Remember that life, and everything about it, is fluid. It is a dynamic, ongoing, and ever-evolving process, and because of this, nothing is ever really finished or complete. Nor will it ever be. And while this can be frustrating at times, it can also be comforting and encouraging to know that there really is time for everything and everything has its time. So, as Rainer Maria Rilke writes, do not search for the answers. Instead, live everything, including the questions themselves.
July 17th, 2013
In 2010, Debbie Ford, with the help of Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, published a book entitled The Shadow Effect. In this book, Debbie claims that we all have a dark side, or what she refers to as a shadow.
Our shadow, she explains, contains all the parts of ourselves that we have tried to hide or deny. It is the parts of ourselves that we believe to be unacceptable, both to ourselves and to others. It is comprised of everything that we struggle to accept about other people and ourselves. It is our bad habits, our dark and lonely secrets. It is the things that we have done, and the things that have been done to us that we keep buried deep within ourselves. Most simply stated, our shadow is the person within ourselves that we would rather not be.
Because of the shame and guilt associated with this part of ourselves, our shadows have the potential to wield enormous power over our lives. If we let it, it will determine what we can and cannot do, what we are drawn toward and what we avoid. It dictates our attachments, our fears, and our feelings about ourselves. It influences how we treat ourselves and others, the way that we love, and our ability to be vulnerable and authentic. Quite simply, our shadows have the power to affect every ounce of our being, if we allow it to. Particularly when we try to keep in the dark.
On the contrary, though, this shadowy part of ourselves also has the power to transform our lives for the better. For when our shadow has been seen, heard, and embraced, it may be our greatest teacher, our trainer and guide, leading us to incredible strength, creativity, brilliance, purpose, and happiness. It is when we are able to shine light on our shadow that we are able to see that our shadow also contains some of our greatest gifts and treasured aspects of our truest selves buried inside. Rather than focusing on the ugliness of our shadow, we instead see it as a source of compassion, love, and authenticity. We no longer invest our precious energies into denying aspects of who we are, nor do we have to pretend to be someone we are not. We are no longer concerned with proving ourselves to others and we release the guilt, shame, and fear associated with this vulnerable part of ourselves.
As we further explore our shadows and make peace with it, we realize that it is not what we once thought it was. It is not a problem to be solved, an enemy to be conquered, or something that we must fear or hide. Rather, it is simply a part of who we are and where we have been, and in embracing it, we become free to experience our entire self.
Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC, RYT200
July 6th, 2013
p style=”text-align: justify;”>While visiting an Xhosa tribe in south-eastern Africa and studying its children, an American anthropologist placed a basket full of local fruits near the bottom of a tree. He explained to the children, as he walked away from the tree, that whichever child was able to reach the basket first would win the entire lot of fruit.
The anthropologist then instructed the children to line up, in preparation for their race. The words “Ready, set, GO!” barely crossed his lips before the children took off toward the tree. To his surprise, however, the children were not running separately. Instead, they had grabbed one another’s hands and ran in unison toward their goal. Upon reaching the fruits, the children each helped themselves, and sat together in a circle enjoying their treats.
The anthropologist asked the children why they had run as they did, when one child could have had all the fruits to himself. The children simply replied, “Ubuntu.” “How can one of us be happy if the others are sad?” they asked the anthropologist.
Ubunto in the Xhosa culture, the anthropologist learned, means “I am because we are”.
…I have come across this message a handful of times recently, and each time, its beauty brings a smile to my heart. I love the idea of a such a cohesive group of children. I love their sense of unity and together. And I love that they were able to teach the anthropologist something about “Ubunto” that day.
I also love this message because I think it serves as a beautiful reminder to everyone that we really are all in this thing called life together. It reminds us that no man is an island. That both our differences and our similarities are to be celebrated and embraced, and that we can be for one another and for ourselves at the very same time.
Today, I would like to encourage you to incorporate the Xhosa word “Ubunto” into your lives. As you make your way through the world today, notice the people that you are surrounded by. As you become aware of the similarities and the differences among us, embrace and celebrate them, rather than making a judgment or an appraisal. Ask yourself, “How can one of us be happy if the others are sad?” and then consider what small acts you can do for strangers and loved ones alike in the name of “Ubunto”. And, finally, as you consider how you fit into this world with the people around you, reflect on the lesson you personally have to learn from the Xhosa children, their approach to togetherness, and their belief that “I am because we are”.
Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC, RYT200
June 19th, 2013
Some time ago, in my yoga study, I was given the assignment to journal and reflect on the connection between love and fear. Our homework began with the task of taking note of that which we are afraid of and compare and contrast it with that which we love.
Upon being given this assignment, my fellow students and I were encouraged to be mindful of the fact that our feelings of fear and love come in many forms: fear may be experienced as fright, anxiety, vulnerability, or insecurity, while love may be expressed as emotional investment, passion, fondness, or true love itself. After mindfully noting our emotions, we were instructed to carefully consider the triggers of these experiences, with the intention of deciphering where exactly our attachments lie.
This assignment is based on the theory that fear and love are the only basic emotions that we as humans feel, stating that all other emotions arise from the love of our attachments and the fear we have of losing them. Accordingly, greed is said to stem from a fear of going without, anger or stress from a fear of a perceived threat, humor stems from a love of the lighthearted, joy from fulfillment, and so on. As you can imagine, this assignment highlighted the fact that I experience some profound kind of love every single day. And, likewise, each and every day, I encounter something that I fear.
So, in the spirit of this yogic assignment, take just a moment to reflect on what this means for you personally. Where do your experiences of love and fear intertwine? What attachments of yours trigger these feelings? As you further analyze your emotions, notice if you are able to also see that fear is nothing more than an attachment to something you love and wish not to lose. If you are able to see this, then you will also see that what you fear may not be so frightening after all
Of course, I must concede that there are plenty of things in this life that legitimately inspire fear. And, that is natural and okay, because fear does have its purpose. After all, fear is always looking out for our best interest, demanding our attention, warning us of potential danger, and guiding us toward safety, security, and familiarity. And this is good.
That is, this is good until we realize that which we love lies beyond our fears. For it is then that we are required to really listen to what fear has to tell us. We must confront our fears and decide between two choices. We must decide whether it serves our higher purpose to listen to our fears, hold fast to our attachments, and do nothing. Or, we must call upon courage, take a risk, and “do it anyway”.
Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC, RYT200
New London, MN
June 5th, 2013
p style=”text-align: justify;”>It was recently pointed out to me yet again that I am not all that good at vulnerability. Of course, I can recall numerous occasions that I have gracefully sashayed my way through a moment of vulnerability or two; however, all in all, I must concur with my critics and agree that vulnerability is not exactly my greatest strength.
Like most of you, readers, I have spent a great deal of my life proving to myself, and others, that I have value, strength, and character. In doing so, I have worked hard to get where I am at by carefully aligning my strengths with my confidences to overcome hardships, triumph over obstacles, and trudge through the sloughs of wilderness that seem to be inherent to our human experience. As such, I have relied on these virtues to thrive and survive, while making a (sometimes very conscious) decision to hide certain parts of myself in order to be strong, sure-footed, and unequivocal, and protecting myself from what I have perceived as potential weakness. Naturally, then, putting myself in a position to be vulnerable is not exactly my first nature. Rather, doing so can feel quite foreign, counter-intuitive, and uncomfortable.
Yet as I have grown older, I have come to discover that strength and vulnerability are not exactly opposites. On the contrary, vulnerability requires a great amount of courage, for being vulnerable is to be authentic despite our greatest fears and put ourselves at risk of rejection. Similarly, vulnerability requires that we accept and embrace the parts of ourselves that we would rather ignore, change, or deny. By definition, vulnerability even takes this one step further and requires that we do so in the presence of others, forcing us to acknowledge these protected parts of ourselves, talk about them as they are, and claim them as our own. The very nature of vulnerability requires that we feel raw, unsure, and exposed.
So, how to we evolve in the name of vulnerability, and allow ourselves to transform? Consider the following exercises:
Practice Self-Awareness: Begin this practice by simply being mindful of your feelings of vulnerability when they arise. Take note of what has triggered these feelings, and reflect on the qualities of yourself that you would rather have camouflaged. Bring yourself to the edge of this practice by asking what exactly it is that you do not accept about yourself regarding these attributes.
Reveal Something: Revealing parts of ourselves can feel risky, it is true. However, in doing so, we are sharing who we really are, thus encouraging others to connect with our truest selves on a more intimate level.
State How You Feel. At That Moment: When you feel that you have lost your footing, find your voice and give a name to what you are experiencing. Not only is this transparency authentic and true, but it gives others permission to do the same.
Admit When You Are Wrong: Be accountable. Accept your mistakes. Forgive yourself. Then, move on. You may be surprised to learn that most others will follow your lead.
Admit Your Weaknesses: Despite the fact that no one of us is perfect,admitting our weaknesses to others can take great strength. Yet, doing so allows us to be better supported by those that complement who we are, thus allowing us to grow.
Celebrate Your Imperfections: Allow yourself to be “good enough”. Embrace your idiosyncrasies. Consider how your weaknesses are in reality your gifts. And finally, fully accept all that you are, for that is heart of vulnerability.
Ellie Holbrook Otteson, LPC, RTY200
May 21st, 2013
p style=”text-align: justify;”>We are all human. And as humans, it would follow that we all have good and bad days, now and then. So as a fellow human, I would like to share with you a few of the reminders that I give myself to achieve mental and emotional balance as I make my way through this very human experience that I am having.
Do not lose sight of what truly matters. Your definition of what truly matters will be your compass, your North Star. It will help you remember that petty things do not, in fact, signify the end of the world, and it will redirect you to what is truly important to you.
It is okay to be alone. When you find yourself cocooning, remember that it is okay to pull back from the world, to take rest, to re-evaluate, and to take time. Quite often, this quality time with yourself, this time of hiatus, is also a time of profound healing, growth, and transcendence.
You are not always in control. Recall the Serenity Prayer. Whether we like it or not, we are not always in control. We cannot predict the future, nor do we always know what is “best”. It is during these times that we are best served to “let it go” so that we may instead “let it come”.
What other people think is irrelevant. Of course, we want people to think of well of us. And this is okay, because it means that we care. Yet, in the words of Dita Von Tess, you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there is still going to be somebody who hates peaches. As such, we must accept, and move on from, the fact that we will not always be accepted as we are. And this is okay.
Do not give up. Ever. Never lose sight of what you are fighting for, and why. Likewise, do not confuse “giving up” with letting go, and surrendering to something greater.
You need not know all the answers, all the time. Quite often, not knowing what to do means that it is not time to do anything at all. So, learn to embrace uncertainty, as uncertainty is certainly part of life, and living the questions is often the source of enlightenment.
You are enough. You are. And that is enough. Give yourself a chance to prove what you are really made of. We need not conform to our own limiting beliefs, much less the limiting beliefs of others.
Be here. Now. Stay present. This is hard, as we have a tendency to relive the past and lean into the future. Yet, doing so changes nothing about what has been, nor does it control what will be.
Your feelings will not kill you. Despite what it feels like, feelings are fleeting. Just as joy does not last forever, neither does heartbreak. Find the strength to ride the wave, and you will find that you can endure anything.
You are human. Therefore, give yourself credit for your triumphs, and forgive yourself for your short comings. You will have many of both, so rather than clinging to them and tearing yourself down, build yourself up, and embrace everything about this very human experience that you are having right here, right now.
Ellie Holbrook Otteson, LPC, RYT200
New London, MN
May 7th, 2013
A friend of mine posted this story on Facebook earlier this week, and I thought that it was worth sharing:
While going through a particularly trying time, a young woman went to visit her grandmother. As they spoke about her difficulties, the young woman told her grandmother that she could endure no more pain. “I can’t go on any longer,” she told her grandmother, “I feel like giving up!”
After quietly listening to her granddaughter, the old woman silently rose from her seat and led her granddaughter into the kitchen. Without a word, she filled three small pots of water. In the first of the pots, she placed several large carrots. In the second, a half dozen eggs. And in the third pot, she poured in a handful of coffee beans. She then set them on the stove to boil.
After several minutes, the grandmother turned off the burners and removed the pots from the stove. She emptied each of the pots of their contents in to a separate bowl. When she had finished, she beckoned her granddaughter over and said, “Tell me what you see.” The granddaughter peered into the bowls and answered, “Carrots, eggs, and coffee, of course.”
“Come closer,” said the grandmother. After taking a step closer, the grandmother showed her granddaughter how the carrots had become soft and tender after boiling in the water. The egg, had become hard-boiled. And the coffee beans had stayed much the same, however, the water that been strained from them was now richly colored and fragrant.
As she showed her granddaughter the changes each of the foods had undergone, she reminded her that they had all faced the same adversity, the boiling water, yet they had reacted very differently. The carrots were once strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after boiling for several minutes, they softened and became weak. The egg, once fragile with a liquid interior, had become hardened. The coffee beans, on the hard, were different. For they had changed the water itself.
She then asked her granddaughter, “Which one are you? When you are faced with adversity, how do you respond? Are you the carrot that once seemed so strong but with pain and adversity had lost all its strength? Are you the egg, whose heart had hardened after withstanding a trial? Or are you the coffee bean? Do you have the ability to change the boiling water, the very adversity that had caused so much pain? After hardship, are you able to reveal your true beauty as the coffee bean does?
Ask yourself, “Which am I?”