Tell Your Joyful Story

Our experiences shape us. Define who we are. Our experiences influence our perspective on life. And the stories we keep of these experiences are important to share. Sharing stories from our life with others builds deep connections that otherwise may have never been made.

That’s what drew me to Guided Autobiography (GAB) and that’s why I lead 6-week Guided Autobiography workshops four times a year.

But there’s a problem with Guided Autobiography. The themes we are presented with more often than not lead us to explore in 800 words or less moments that are sad or heartbreaking. And while sharing our heartbreak helps us to process the event that caused our heartbreak, for our September session of Guided Autobiography I’ve decided we’re going to take a different approach.

We’re going to process our moments of joy. Because those moments, too, shape our perspective on life. Our next GAB workshop will offer themes that encourage us to recall experiences that made us happy. That brought us joy. Experiences that surprised us with a positive outcome.

There are a few spaces left in our Guided Autobiography: Lean into Joy workshop. The workshop begins on Thursday, September 15th from 2-3:30 PM PT/5-6:30 PM ET. Registration is as simple as an email. Tuition is on a sliding scale between $60-$120. Once I receive payment via check or PayPal you’ll receive GAB’s Zoom link.

Our past is filled with profound experiences that shaped us into the people we are today. Isn’t it time to remember the joyful ones?

A short video we more details about Guided Autobiography plus one of my essays written for GAB.

Guided Autobiography: Not a Writing Class

Our next six-week Guided Autobiography session begins Thursday, January 6th, 2022 from 2:00-3:30 PM/PST. Tuition is on a sliding scale of $60-$120.

Curious? Ready to dive in? Contact me for details.

Guided Autobiography is a powerful catalyst for improved self-esteem, self-confidence and communication within our communities and our families. 

Guided Autobiography is not a writing class and no previous writing experience is necessary. Guided Autobiography is a class that will make you laugh and cry. It will break you open in the most wonderful way. It’s an exhausting, exhilarating and soothing balm for the soul.

Since the mid-1970’s Guided Autobiography (GAB) has been a method for helping people document their life stories. Researched and developed by Dr. James Birrin, GAB leads us through themes and priming questions that evoke memories of events once known but filed away and forgotten. A new theme is introduced each week. We have seven days to ponder, remember and write two pages inspired by that theme. When we meet again we share our story. The sharing process forges a deep connection within the group. We gain a greater appreciation not only for our own lives but for the lives of other. Writing and sharing our life stories with one another in a safe space is an ideal way to find new meaning in life and to put life events into perspective.

Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful way to begin the New Year?


The Little Things

I’ve begun packing. Our new life on the East coast is still eight months away but I’ve begun to bundle in bubble wrap those things I don’t use but don’t want to lose. It would be far easier to send these silly tchotchkes to Goodwill – after all, they’re just ‘things’ – but I can’t seem to find the resolve. The attachment I have to them is visceral and giving them away at this point is like giving a part of myself away. I did not feel this way when I was younger, when I moved across an ocean and back again. Then, I gave most of what I had away to friends with ease. At the time it was like a cleansing but I realize now that I knew so very little about myself. I had no connection to my own history and thus no connection to the things I kept around me.

But now I do. And it’s these things I’ve packed away – my grandmother’s vase from Germany, the desktop magnifying glass my grandfather used to examine the coins he collected, the wooden puzzle boxes with inlaid images of Mount Fuji my sister and I were given as children, the Bible my mother carried with her through three marriages –  these things connect me to my past and to the blood flowing through my veins. They tell the story of who I am and how I came to be. 

These stories are important. And yet, if a calamity occurred and everything was lost the energetic imprint of these things I hold in my hand would still be held in my heart. 

With the image still fresh of Afghan families huddled by the perimeter walls of the Kabul airport desperate to board a flight that will take them to an unknown destination far away from where they are, and as Haitians emerge newly baptized by the waters of the Rio Grande to gather under a bridge in the sweltering heat of our southern border I am more than aware that the circumstances of my life are sweet blessings.

With that in mind, it’s healthier for me to see the task of deciding what to bring and what to leave behind as a joy rather than a burden. And in the process I can refine the vision I have of the life I want to live with my beloved human and beloved feline in rural Virginia. I can refine the vision of how I want to walk through a world that is so beautiful and fragile.


A Bitter Pill

What will I tell them? Ten years from now, maybe twenty – what will I tell them – the grandchildren Ben and I might have – about all of this? Will I tell them at first I didn’t know? That in the thirty minutes it took for me to walk from my home to the pain clinic where I worked the world shut down? How is that possible I didn’t know? When the clinic sent me home as soon as I arrived they offered no reason – only that our clients had left for the day. I didn’t mind that they hadn’t called to tell me. It was a beautiful day and I was happy to have a relaxing afternoon to myself. 

So I began my walk home at two in the afternoon, past the crowds at Trader Joe’s with shopping carts overflowing, down the bike path to Channing Street where the cars queued for the light at Alma to turn green with what felt like more than a little impatience. I walked past an empty Peers Park. I walked all the way home and still didn’t know.

Is that what I’ll tell them? Will I tell them that even though the air was filled with the same strange energy a person might feel after an earthquake – the same strange energy that makes everyone your friend – that I didn’t know?

I don’t remember how I found out – whether I turned on the news when I returned home or if I bumped into someone on the street. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that when I found out everything changed. I crossed the street to Mollie Stone’s and wandered through the crowds among the rapidly emptying shelves until I found something Ben and I might need. Toilet paper.

What will I tell them? Ten years from now, maybe twenty. Will I tell them how our dear cat Bruce, a ginger memory by the time this year is decades in the past, woke me at 3 AM on a Sunday morning. How was it that the wind didn’t wake me first? And then the lightening came and it was both beautiful and tragic. One night a few days later I kept the window by my desk open and when I woke the next morning it was covered with the ash of other people’s lives. Will I tell them we were far away from the flames and still couldn’t breathe? Will I tell them the sky turned orange and the sun disappeared? And on that day everything was illuminated in a way that was both foreign and frightening? 

I wonder if I will tell them a man named George died with a knee on his neck? Or that a woman named Breonna was shot dead in her home. And that their deaths changed everything. Except I don’t know if that is true just yet. I hope it is. 

I wonder if I will tell them about a notorious grandmother named Ruth, and that when she died we lit candles on the steps of the Supreme Court and little girls wore lacy white collars. 

I might mention that it felt like a game at first. That we laughed at people hoarding even the things they did not need. But then we began to miss one another.  

We were angry when there were no more masks for the people trying to save our lives. And we cried when there were no more respirators for the people dying. I wonder if I’ll tell them that?

I don’t think I’ll tell them how scared I was sometimes. And worried. And so anxious that I drank too much wine and even when I told myself that I knew all the tools I could use to not be anxious none of them worked and that finally a doctor gave me some bitter pills.  

I don’t think I’ll tell them that.

Our current Guided Autobiography cohort went rogue and created their own theme and their own sensitizing questions. We wanted to capture this year – what 2020 has done to our lives, our health, our relationships. Wanna go rogue with me? A new 6-week GAB workshop begins on Thursday, October 14th from 4-5:30 PM.

Class size is limited to six. If you’re interested but want to know more you can leave a message at the bottom of this post. You can register for the class here.


Practically Twisted

5F257BA5-57C4-4C13-85AB-0570EB5B7E2E_1_100_oWhen I decided to create Practically Twisted it was because I wanted to present yoga and yoga therapy as a practical solution to health and wellness issues.

In the fifteen or so years since my first post I’ve continued my education and have grown as a student and teacher of yoga. I’ve grown as an artist and a writer. I’ve completed a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology, a diploma in yoga therapy and have become a SoulCollage® and Guided Autobiography facilitator. 

In 2020 I’ll complete a sixteen-month course of study in coaching and will begin David Emerson’s eight-month trauma sensitive yoga certification. 

I’ve changed. My teaching has changed. My attitudes have changed. In fifteen years my body, my yoga, my life has changed.

In these extraordinary times, everything has changed.

Practically Twisted is changing, too. This is who I am now:

“Mimm is a yoga therapist and transformational life coach with a passion for supporting personal journeys toward a more creative engagement with life through self-discovery, movement, writing and contemplative craft. She weaves a gentle and relaxed approach to both yoga and coaching with good humor and joy.”

Yep. That’s me. In addition to community zoom yoga classes and one-to-one sessions of yoga and therapeutic yoga, I’m now happy to offer transformational life coaching, Guided Autobiography for groups and individuals as well as SoulCollage for groups and individuals. Online contemplative craft classes will be coming soon.

Click on the appropriate page to find out more about coaching, SoulCollage®, GAB and contemplative craft. And join me in the morning for yoga.

Community Yoga Classes

Morning Flow

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 – 9 AM

Brighten your morning with joy and good humor. This class is great for beginners and continuing beginners. Our practice includes deep, sustained stretches and a strong standing flow. Work at your own pace in your own space. Classes are donation based.

Zoom Meeting ID: 889 0996 9020   Passcode: yoga

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Movement & Breath: Gentle Yoga

Mondays from 9:30-10:15 AM

This forty-five minute class is designed for people with limited mobility or those recovering from illness or injury. A combination of chair and standing work, this slow paced class is about embodiment, awareness of sensations and breath.

Zoom Meeting ID: 853 3057 0467   Passcode: yoga

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If you are interested in working one-to-one please email.

I’m happy to arrange a free 30-minute phone or Zoom consultation.


Guided Autobiography

9F61C78F-98F4-4952-B808-307B50D191E1_1_201_aThe global pandemic is forcing social isolation but technology can bring us together – at least electronically. When we come together with the intention of actively listening to the stories that have shaped our lives – even if it’s through Zoom – our hearts break open. We connect on a level that isn’t available in our day to day interactions. 

This June I’m offering a four-week Guided Autobiography experience. The date will be confirmed when I have the minimum number of participants. If you’re interested, continue reading then reach out via email (mimmpatterson@gmail.com) and I’ll send further details.

What is Guided Autobiography?

Guided Autobiography, a method developed by James E. Birren, is a semi-structured process of life review – an opportunity to reflect on our life story and to share it with others. Reflecting on our life through story supports our health and wellness and offers many emotional and mental benefits. Guided Autobiography creates the space for that reflection. It shines a warm light on memories and helps us to process ‘what came before’. It brings meaning to our lives and helps us to better understand our past and our present. Guided Autobiography shifts perspective.

Our introductory course will be just four weeks, with each weekly session ninety minutes long. We will work through four themes (the first being introduced via email) and each week share with others a two-page reflection written on that theme. We will ‘prime’ each theme with a series of sensitizing questions that are designed to assist in the recollection of memories related to the theme. The sensitizing questions encourage us to look at aspects of our histories that have been overlooked.

This is not a traditional writing class. We won’t be offering critiques to one another. Instead, we’ll be exploring self-awareness and human development. We’ll be sharing personal experiences. For that reason participants must agree to attend all sessions, to complete all writing assignments and to honor confidentiality – what is shared in Guided Autobiography stays in Guided Autobiography. We will create a supportive environment that accepts individual differences and will listen actively while others are sharing. 

I’ve been wanting to become a Guided Autobiography facilitator since I first stumbled upon the process while falling down an internet rabbit hole (the same way I discovered SoulCollage®). The pandemic and shelter-in-place order offered space for that to happen. I’m excited to now be able to share the process with others. 

Join me for this four-week, donation based course. Class size is limited to six.

 


Guided Autobiography: My Aunt Mimm

One benefit of the lockdown: a calendar that has room for classes I’ve been wanting to take for more than a year. Cheryl Svensson’s Guided Autobiography class has been on my radar for over a year. Here’s one of my stories from the eight-week class.

 

IMG_6225My Great Aunt Mimm’s small apartment in Allentown, Pennsylvania had the soft scent of age with a dusting of Shalimar. Her’s was one of several apartments in a pale pink two-story stucco complex built in the 1930’s on one of Allentown’s broad, tree-lined boulevards.

When I close my eyes and wander back to that time and place I remember black out shades and Venetian blinds, a spinet piano in one corner and an early Hammond organ in the other. I can see her long hallway painted with shafts of light from the late afternoon sun. I can see the oak barrister bookcases, with a complete set of Harvard Classics and Aunt Mimm’s collection of tiny porcelain dogs.

These are my memories. But memories are nothing more than stories that change with each telling.

What doesn’t change is the warmth that I feel in my heart for Mildred Matilda Barber. As a young child surrounded by a strange cast of characters, my Aunt Mimm was a soothing constant. She was the one who read to me from storybooks she always seemed to have with her. She was the one who played Heart and Soul with me for hours on my grandparent’s upright or, in winter, suffered through Jolly Old Saint Nick as many times in a row as I asked, until I was certain that Johnny would get his skates and Susie her dolly.

Aunt Mimm was a slight and gentle woman. Her personality illuminated a room not with a frenetic sparkle but soothing glimmer.  She had a solid sense of adventure but was not the type to convince anyone to take a risk. After graduating from Allen High School in 1916, and determined to continue her education, family legend has it that young Mildred visited the local bank seeking a loan to pay for college tuition. They say she pestered the exasperated manager until terms were agreed to and the papers signed.

6E34D4B0-66A3-4B12-B614-4F5025F5C42D_1_201_aShe attended Keystone State Normal School and began teaching with the diploma still hot in her hands. Aunt Mimm loved children and any child would be lucky to have her as their teacher. She loved dogs, too, and often brought her Jack Russell Micky with her to the classroom.

After retirement she traveled. Most often with friends. Once she brought me a tiny steel drum from a trip to Barbados. 

I don’t recall her ever driving. In my mind’s eye she is always dressed in a brown wool skirt that hits just below the knee, a matching cardigan over a white cotton blouse with a pixie collar, thick flesh colored stockings and sensible tie-up shoes. She never married. She never had children of her own. 

My Great Aunt Mimm was buried the morning of my ninth grade algebra final exam. A few days earlier I sat at her viewing with my mother, sister and grandmother on the funeral home’s hard mahogany folding chairs. Four women from the Order of the Eastern Star stood in front of her open casket and sang. I stared at the ruby red carpet not knowing what to do but certain that I didn’t want to cry.

It had been awhile since I’d seen Aunt Mimm. I was in the throes of becoming a hormonal teenager and she was old. My love for Aunt Mimm was muted by pimples and first periods, schoolgirl crushes and broken hearts. I didn’t have time to notice  when she became so lost to herself that a care home was the only option.  It was there that she passed in her sleep.

After her apartment was emptied my mother arrived home with a small bag holding a few porcelain dogs and some jewelry. I was given the gold mechanical pencil she wore on a chain around her neck when she was teaching. I still have that pencil. Her initials are engraved on the side. The spinet piano arrived for me, too, but before I left home for college my mother told me it had to go. And so I sold it to a music teacher for $200.

When I was thirty-five, I was an artist living rent free in exchange for light janitorial work at an art club in Palo Alto, California.  While I swept floors and cleaned studios, my friends were finding partners, having babies and beginning to make money in a fledgling Silicon Valley. 

IMG_6227People knew me as Robbi then, because that was my nickname, having been given the name ‘Roberta’ at birth. I put up with being called ‘Robbie the Robot’ – the character from the move ‘Forbidden Planet’ – in grade school, ’Roberta Flat’  – a play on singer Roberta Flack’s name – in high school, and ‘Rotten Robbie’ – after the chain of gas stations in our country’s middle – while attending college in Nebraska.

But in the summer of 1993, I decided to change my name to the only one that fit: Mimm.

Changing my name did not change my life the way I thought that it might. Still, I take comfort in knowing that twenty-seven years ago the universe had wonderful plans for me to which I was not privy. I also take comfort in walking through life with the same name as the one true and happy constant in my young life.