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.
…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.
August 22nd, 2012
With September quickly approaching, many of us are experiencing that shift of energy that accompanies the start of each school year. We begin thinking about wrapping up the summer and transitioning into fall. We begin to make arrangements for ourselves and our children, readjust our lives, and prepare for the first day of school and the excitement that follows.
As we get caught up in the excitement of the school year, however, we often feel ourselves getting overwhelmed. We stress ourselves out about practicalities, tending to the planning, the details of activities, the logistics of schedules, and the added responsibility of schoolwork, and we forget to take a moment to slow down and gaze at the bigger picture. We forget about the softer side of things, and overlook the emotions the often accompany the transition in to school.
It can be so easy to forget to check in with our children and ask them how they feel about the impending school year. We often assume that because our young ones have a backpack full of supplies, new clothes in their closets, and shiny shoes on their feet, they have everything needed to start the school year. We like to consider them prepared because they have attended the open house, met their teachers, and memorized their schedules. Or because our kids know where their lockers are located, they are ready to roam the halls of middle school. It can be so natural to allow the anticipation and excitement of senior year to overshadow the anxiety and fear of graduating. Likewise, we often tend to assume that our college students are prepared for the reality they are about to encounter, and perhaps most often, we forget that parents of school-aged children and empty-nesters are handling the adjustment with ease.
Yet, in truth, true school readiness is so much more than material things, basic skills, and partial truths. Of course it is true that academic performance and effort is important in school, but school is so much more than that. True it is classwork, assignments, concentration, and organization. But to succeed as students, 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 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. 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 year, parents and support people, I encourage you to take extra care as you prepare your children for the 2012-2013 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 one part of 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 Otteson, MA
Willmar/New London, MN
August 7th, 2012
There once was a man who wanted to teach his four sons a valuable lesson: He wanted them to learn how to refrain from passing judgment too quickly. So with this lesson in mind, he sent each of them on a separate quest with the same goal. Each of his sons was to travel, in turn, a great distance to a far off pear tree he knew of. He helped each of them prepare for their journeys, and sent them on their way, one by one.
His oldest son was instructed to go first. He left after the first snow fall, and returned just before spring. The second son embarked on his journey shortly after the arrival of his brother,and returned early summer. The third son left promptly thereafter and was gone for the duration of the summer. The fourth son finally took his turn that autumn,and returned just before winter.
Once all four sons were gathered back home after their journey, their father called them together to describe what they had seen. The first son, who had traveled to the pear tree during the winter, said that the tree was ugly, twisted, and lifeless. The second son, who had been gone that spring, disagreed. He said that the tree was covered with green buds and was full of promise. The third son, who had seen the tree in the summer, said that it was laden with sweet smelling blossoms, and he described it as the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The fourth son disagreed yet again; he said that the tree was bountiful, drooping with fruit, and full of life and fulfillment.
After listening to his sons, the man explained that each of them was right, as they had seen only one season of the tree’s entire life. He asked his sons to imagine what the tree had looked like during the other seasons of its life. How it had looked when it was just a sapling, and what it might look like when it is twisted and old. The man told his sons that they cannot just a tree by only one season. That the essence of that tree, and all that it is has offered in its lifetime, can only be measured when all its seasons have passed.
And so it is with people, is it not? Quite often, we judge ourselves and others too quickly. We base our perceptions on just one season out of many. Too often, we conclude that “what we see (now) is what we (will always) get”. And this is not true. Like the pear tree, we humans have many seasons that we are continuously cycling through. We each experience the harsh resilience of winter, the promise of spring, the beauty of summer, and the fulfillment of autumn. Yet, if we are to judge ourselves too quickly and only acknowledge one season, we lose site of the true meaning and value behind the bigger picture.
July 24th, 2012
p style=”text-align: justify;”>Once there was an elderly carpenter who was preparing to retire. He had been in the industry for many years, and while he was once quite talented and passionate about is work, he no longer felt fulfilled by his career and knew that it was time to make a change. So, he went to work one day and told his employer of his plans to leave the business in pursuit of a more leisurely life.
Of course, the employer was sorry to see this accomplished worker go, but he understood the change he sought and he wished him well on this new chapter of his life. Before bidding him his final farewell, however, the employer asked the old builder that he build one more home as a personal favor home to him. The carpenter agreed to grant him this request and slowly began working on his last project. Over time, though, it became apparent that his heart was not in his work: he dreaded coming to work each morning, he often left early, and he resorted to shoddy workmanship. Even the employer was saddened to watch him work, as it was a very unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter had finally finished his work, he called his employer to inspect the house. After thoroughly reviewing the home, the employer handed the key to the front door to the carpenter and said, “My friend, you are a fine builder and a prize employee. This home is yours. It is my gift to you!”
The carpenter was shocked. “What a shame!” he thought. Had he only known that he was building his own retirement home, he would have done it all so differently. He would have cared more about the outcome.
And so it is in real life, is it not? We are the carpenters, and each day we build our lives, one day at a time, often putting less than our best effort into our work. And then, with great shock and regret, we realize that we must live in the house that we have built for ourselves. We look back at our work and wish that we would have been more diligent. We think to ourselves, “If only I had known, I would have done it so differently.”
But, of course, we cannot go back. Instead, we must live in the homes that we have built for ourselves. We must carry on and learn to appreciate and find beauty in even our shabbiest work, and perfect our skill with each project. This thing called life is a do-it-yourself project, and the choices we make today is what lays the foundation and builds upon our homes of tomorrow.
Ellie Otteson, MA
New London, MN
July 11th, 2012
Fun fact: I almost never remember my dreams. However, when I do, I am usually in flight. Ever since I was quite young, in fact, my preferred mode of transportation while dreaming has been flying. I had not thought much about this dream-theme of mine until I studied dream analysis in college and learned that dream flying is considered the perfect metaphor for living the soul’s longing, or life purpose. Upon learning that, I did a forehead slap and thought to myself, “Duh!” The symbolism is unmistakable: For many, flight is associated with freedom, ascension, exhilaration, and peace. Yet, not ironically, many of us have a fear of flying. The idea of free-falling, losing control, letting go, and most obviously, the hard landing is incredibly frightening. The metaphor still holds true, does it not?
And so it is with fulfilling our life purpose, for doing so involves navigating obstacles, conquering incredible feats, and then making a conscious choice to evolve and grow. Living out our soul’s longing means choosing the challenge of change over the difficulty of remaining the same while conquering fear and overcoming resistance every step of the way.
If you have ever set out to accomplish something meaningful, you will know that resistance is an inescapable part of the journey. And if you are anything like the rest of us, you have likely experienced resistance as an adversary. And this was likely so because you did not understand your resistance well enough to make it your ally. You tried to avoid, persist, and resist, rather than carry on with intention, commitment, surrender, and trust. Because resistance really is nothing but a form of fear and insecurity, we are much better off examining it with self-awareness and honesty, getting to know it, and thus better understanding ourselves. For the sooner we are able to do that, the sooner we are able to live out our higher aspirations.
So in practice, what can we do about the resistance we experience? We can start by being mindful of all the big and little things that distract us and slow us down as we set out to do the things that our hearts are telling us to do. Notice when you procrastinate, when you make excuses, when you are highly defended, and take note of the things that you worry about. Likewise, acknowledge any patterns that you discover, the limitations you perceive, and the strength of your resistance, and remember that most often, the greater the resistance surrounding a particular longing, the more important it likely is.
As you make a habit of examining your resistance and get comfortable with it, you will become increasingly aware and empowered to move beyond these distractions and forge ahead into the creative and authentic territory of your soul. With more and more ease, you will bring your mind, body, and spirit into alignment and make decisions during each and every moment that support your higher purpose. And ultimately, you will feel at home with yourself as you fly, and live a life of conviction, intention, and peace.
Ellie Otteson, MA
New London, MN
June 27th, 2012
Several weeks 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 the what we are afraid of as well as the things that we love. We were reminded that our feelings of fear and love come in many forms: our fear may be experienced as fright, anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity, while love may be expressed as demonstrations of emotional investment, passion, fondness, or true love itself. After mindfully noting such emotions, we were instructed to analyze our feelings to decipher what exactly our attachment is, with the intention of detaching just a bit, and thus gaining a new perspective on life or a deeper understanding ourselves.
This assignment is based on the theory that fear and love are the only basic emotions that we feel, and everything else stems from them: greed stems from a fear of lacking, anger from a fear of perceived threat, humor stems from a love of the lighthearted, joy stems from a fulfilled love of some sort, and so on. And while you may or may not agree with this theorizing, my homework showed me that there is a definite connection between love and fear. That every single day we experience some kind of love. Likewise, each and every day we encounter something that we fear.
…If you take a moment to think about what that means for you personally, you will likely discover that there is a connection for you as well. And as you see fear as an attachment to something you love, you may also find that fear itself is not be so scary after all. Of course, there are plenty frightening things that may or may exist, that may or may not happen to us in our lives, but fear itself is nothing more than a feeling. It is just one of many emotions that we may feel at any given time. It is natural, it is okay, and it is useful. Fear is always looking out for our best interest. It demands our attention, warning us of potential threats, and it guides us toward safety and security.
However, because fear is just an emotion, and it is just like the rest of them, it is up to us to be aware of our feelings, prioritize them, and act on those that best serve our higher purpose, even in the face of fear so that we do not become its prisoner. So when we feel frightened, what might we do? It seems to me that before we do anything, we should slow down and acknowledge our fear. Really examine it. Take note of it has to say, and ask ourselves if that is worth listening to or if we are better off ignorning it. And then, we can make one of two choices. We can choose to do what fear tells us to do, at the risk of doing nothing. Or, we can remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and call upon our courage and act anyway.
Ellie Otteson, MA
June 13th, 2012
As the old adage goes, “You can’t make a square peg fit in a round hole.” Most of us know exactly what this saying means: You cannot force something (or most often, someone) to be something that it is not. We cannot make a square peg fit any better into a round hole by thinking that the hole should be square or wanting the peg to be round. Instead, we are much better suited to focus on and tend to what actually is, rather than wasting our precious resources fretting about the way things should or should not be. And while most of us would agree with this reasoning, it is certainly easier said than done.
When we are honest with ourselves and examine how we view the world, the majority of us would have to admit that we have a relatively clear idea of how things should be. Whether we are talking about ourselves, other people, the ways of the world, or something different entirely, it seems that we all have some kind of definition of what should and should not be happening. We have our ideals, our beliefs, and our way of making sense of the world, and it reasonably follows that we would like to live in a world that supports our views.
And I think this is quite natural. As humans, it is natural to have personal preferences and aversions. It is even natural to want things to be “our way”. To see the world through our very own eyes. To have a few expectations here and there. To have a compass of sorts, that helps guide us toward betterment, as we see fit.
And while this may be entirely natural, and even beneficial, it is not always in our best interest. For when we become attached to our ideals and fixate on the way that things should be in favor of how things really are, we become frustrated and upset. We might even pass unfair judgments based on our biased perspectives and unmet expectations. As we cling to how things should be, we project them onto the world at large. And when that happens, we react to what we think should exist, rather than acknowledging what actually does. And this, of course, sets us up for further disappointment.
However, when are able to detach from these “should bes” and take the world as it is, in a more objective light, we are better able to accept and respond to life as it truly is. Instead of being obscured by ideals, we understand the facts. Rather than focusing on what is missing, or what we would like to find, we deal with what is actually present. And this is empowering, because it helps us clarify and illuminate what is within our power to change, and what is not. And that is what allows us to integrate our ideals with our reality, live in the here and now, and interact with life as fully as possible.
Ellie Otteson, MA
June 6th, 2012
p style=”text-align: justify;”>This week’s column is about a term that I like to refer to as “horrible-izing”. If you are not familiar with the idea of horrible-izing, it can be defined as one’s tendency to focus on the worst of things. For example, a person may be engaging in the act of horrible-izing if they overemphasize the negative side of life Likewise, those that horrible-ize are those that ruminate, worry about worst possible outcomes, the dreaded “what ifs”, and tend to view undesirable situations as the “end of the world”.
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we horrible-ize from time to time, particularly when we are feeling anxious about an upcoming situation or a troublesome circumstance that we have encountered. We fall into the trap of thinking about how badly things might go, how awful it would be for us if these events actually occurred, and we forget to take it one step further and consider what we might actually do should these things really take place. We might even get so wrapped up in our anxiety that we begin to worry that our life will be forever altered in some catastrophic way.
If you would, take a moment to think about something in your life that is upsetting, anxiety-provoking, or unsettling. Perhaps you are facing a transition in a relationship and you are unsure of how to move forward. Perhaps you have committed yourself to something that is a significant undertaking. Perhaps you have recently encountered a situation in life that you are unsure of how to handle. Or, perhaps, you tend to experience smaller triggers on a more regular basis and you have become accustomed to feeling reactive, tightly wound, or shaken up. Or, perhaps something entirely different has come to mind
Regardless of what you thought of, I would like you to think about how you think about those things. Take a minute or two and horrible-ize. Think about the worst of the worst, no matter what that may be.
Then, take note of what came to mind. I am willing to bet that you stopped short at the worst case scenario and you went no further. If that is the case, I would like to challenge you to change your thinking. Rather than focusing on the bad things that could happen and stopping there, take one step beyond and imagine how you might live through and overcome such an obstacle. Instead of obsessing about the possibility of something bad happening, ask yourself how probable it is that your worries come true. Ask yourself if this is something that you could live through, and if so, how would life look? Would it be that bad?
Finally, compare these two thought processes and decide for yourself which one you would rather invest your energies in to. Take into account that “what we think about, we bring about”, and remember that your thoughts and your perspective on life will always be your choice.
Ellie Otteson, MA
New London, MN 56273
May 31st, 2012
p style=”text-align: justify;”>…Up Next…
I recently accepted a counseling position at Counseling Associates, the Behavioral Health Department of the Swift County-Benson Hospital.
Tomorrow, May 31st, will be my last day at the New U Vitality Center [...for now. New U will always be one of my homes, and I will continue to have strong ties with everyone there...].
I will begin my new position at SCBH next week.
Fortunately, this is a flexible position, so I will able to maintain much of what I am doing as a coach, an aspiring doula, and a yogini-in-training, and I will continue to give presentations and participate in special events. Do continue to follow me online, as my pages will evolve right along with me.
I would like to say a very heartfelt “thank you” to everyone for being such a wonderful part of my life. Each one of you has helped me grow both personally and professionally, and I honestly believe that I would not be where I am without your support and encouragement.
I thank you for lifting me up, and I thank you for being my friends.
Continue to do the good work that you are doing!
Love and Light,
May 30th, 2012
p style=”text-align: justify;”>“When things aren’t adding up in life, it is time to start subtracting.”
I came across this quote a few weeks ago, and was struck by how much it resonated with me. As I reflected on the simplicity of the quote and what it means to me personally, I realized that I have lived my entire adult life in a state of perpetual action. As I apply this quote to myself and the numerous aspects of my very busy life, I see that I am quite good at adding, I do rather well at maintaining, but rarely do I subtract. It is no wonder that my life does not always add up.
I imagine, readers, that the majority of you can relate to what I have described. I would imagine that you are no strangers to the busy-ness of life. That the feeling of being spread out too thin is one that you know rather well. That you have described yourself as feeling stressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed at some point in the recent past. And if you can identify with these feelings in one way or another, I would also imagine that you can relate to the quote that began this column. That there are times in your life when things just are not adding up for you. That there are times when you need to subtract.
And yet, even if you can relate to these feelings, the idea of subtracting can be a difficult one to employ. After all, we apply ourselves to the things that we do because we care about them in some meaningful way. Because we have a vested interest in them. Because we have made a promise to someone, or we feel a sense of personal commitment or responsibility to the people involved or the outcome at stake. Because we feel driven by a sense of obligation, pressure, or guilt to do what is expected of us. And because of these contrasting feelings, it is natural for us to be unsure of even where to begin or to resist the idea of subtraction all together, despite our need for a more simplified life.
So as you reflect on today’s quote and what it means to you personally, I encourage you to think about how you might simplify your own life. As you take an inventory of what you give yourself to, consider also what you get back from those things. Which areas of your life fill you up in some meaningful way? And conversely, which areas tend to be more taxing, or stress-inducing, than they are fulfilling? What areas of your life do you feel that you can or cannot live without? And what might be able to live without you? How you might you feel with “less” in your life, and what would you do with that time and energy? How might other aspects of your life benefit from a more wholehearted investment of yourself?
As you consider these questions and reflect on the value of a more simplified life, I hope that the answers you discover are simple in and of themselves, and I hope that they offer you gentle guidance toward a more simplified yet rewarding life.
Ellie Otteson, MA, CPC
Willmar, MN 56201
May 17th, 2012
Before you read any further, I’d like you to take a moment and consider what the word power means to you. When you think of these words, perhaps you think of something or someone that has authority or control over something or someone else. Maybe you think of something or someone that is influential or impactful in some way. Or perhaps, instead, your definition of these words is more along the lines of manipulation or domination. When you think of power, do you tend to associate its traits with other people, or might you also think of the power that things, habits, behaviors, and ideals can have?
As you reflect on what this word means to you, I challenge you to also think about what has power in your life. Are there certain people that have an especially powerful impact on you? People that have the power to influence how you feel and what you do? Do you find yourself concerned with what people might think about you, or how you compare to societal standards? What kind of a relationship do you have with common objects, such as money, food, and alcohol? Do they serve as a simple means to an end, or do you have an emotional attachment to such things? How reactive or avoidant are you to strong emotions or stressful situations? Perhaps none of these examples resonate with you and there is something else that has a powerful presence in your life. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps you are truly your own keeper.
Power, in and of itself, is a dynamic that is neither positive nor negative. However, power does receive value when we let it influence our lives in some meaningful way. If we give our power way to people and things outside of ourselves, we surrender a part of ourselves to them. In contrast, we maintain our personal power when we are able to have a relationship with external things without being controlled by them.
As you think about your personal definition of power today and reflect on what has power in your life, I encourage you to rethink your relationship with those things if it is no longer serving your higher purpose. Remember that no thing can have power over you if you do not submit a part of yourself to it, and that empowerment, encouragement, and liberation are far more powerful forces than domination, oppression, control, or authority. And finally, remember that true freedom lies not in being free to do whatever you wish, but in freeing your mind, your heart, and your true self from negative limitations and constraints so that you may embrace authenticity, peace, and a more harmonious life.
Ellie Otteson, MA, CPC
Life and Wellness Coach
Willmar, MN 56201