After two decades of therapy untangling survivor’s guilt, anger management, and co-dependency, I was entering motherhood in a way that didn’t carry all the emotions of the past into it. Naturally, the emotions and the memories of the past show up and when they did, I had just a little space to step towards that instead of the pitfalls of guilt for living through a car accident when my mother didn’t and judgment for people who are present when my mom was not. I really wanted things to be different. I was tired of the emotional swings that went from abandonment to success or from grief to devastation. There was a desire to be more present to myself and to my two young children at the time. With enough tools to describe what I was feeling and managing my emotions, I discovered there was something else I needed…some other tools or support that could offer me clarity on what’s next.
Basically, I’ve healed. Now what?
Taking Action...what a concept. The Oceans series always had me enthralled with the grandmaster plan making and then the curveballs thrown the team's way and when it was time to execute the plan, the team did it. In Ocean's 8, the cast was an ensemble of women and they delivered a high and tight heist in during a Met Ball Gala. High fashion, high stakes, and high levels of attention towards all the details to make the plan work.
When Sandra Bullock's character -- Debbie Ocean (Sister of Danny Ocean - played by George Clooney) outlines how long it took for her to prepare the plan mentally, I have to appreciate the focus. As her character serves her sentence, she played the long game in squaring up business for herself and for her old and new found associates. This project required her to tap into some energies - time, creativity, movement, and relationship - and as she dreams of this heist, she makes moves all along the way to make it happen. When she describes the plan in more detail to the team, they are astonished with her version, and yet, are clearly in the game with her.
Each actress imbued their character with purpose and collectively, they wanted to make this plan work. As a viewer, we experience the worry, fear, and thrill all along the way. There wasn't time to sit in doubt, there was only room to say or do what was needed to meet the objective and with each objective came progress towards the finish line.
What can help you take action?
How much time are you willing to spend dreaming before taking action?
I'm interested to know about what finish line you are seeing.
Leave me a comment or schedule time to chat!
Keep looking, learning, and moving on.
*credits to IMDB and Fandango Movie Clips respectively
Pause and Reflection is an important tool in life and mindset coaching. It is a practice that taps you out of the action and into self-inquiry, awareness, and noting what is coming up for you at that moment. When you are in the thick of things in life, it can be challenging to notice the ideas, the lighthearted moments, the things you would like to improve, and perhaps some choices you need to make. It's so much easier to be distracted and keep it moving isn't it?
In the spirit of distraction and in anticipation for the new movie, The Matrix Resurrections coming out in December, I did a rewatch of The Matrix and it remains (for me) a pretty revolutionary movie when it premiered. Bullet time, stop motion, and the cool cinematography set it apart. The story rolled the coolness of technology with the dangers of it into one. I still appreciate the core message from this first installment, What happens when we lose human connection or when machines evolve faster than humans do?
One of the things humans can do, is pause and reflect. When Neo is having his first experiences in a new world with a new companion, he is enthralled with everything around him. As Morpheus is walking and talking on the busy street, Neo is trying to keep up, looking and absorbing all that is around him. Morpheus picks up on Neo's energy and calls out the shift in Neo's attention, "Were you listening to me Neo? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?" This scene continues to support me in summoning up the power to pause. Wouldn't it be GREAT to pause life sometimes and take a look?
You can. Whether it's through journaling, walking, or sitting for a series of moments, you can stop everything and take stock of all that is around you. Morpheus breaks The Matrix down for Neo. (Didactic learning work here) and then there's a little space for Neo to take it all in and Morpheus recognizes Neo's capacity for greater things - a hero. We can look at the soulful, spiritual, thoughtful, playful, and dreadful aspects of an idea or thought and circle back to what is truly important right now.
For Neo, it was shifting to learning mode and not sheeple mode.
For you, what can you shift to after a pause and reflection?
Here's a few steps to get started:
Repeat in 5-7 days.
I'm interested to know how it went.
Leave me a comment or schedule time to chat!
Keep looking, learning, and moving on.
I've been waiting for Denis Villeneuve's take on Dune. I've enjoyed this story since watching the David Lynch version numerous times over and over again. Reading the book helped me understand some of the deeper messages that were missed in the Lynch film...and which were explored to a greater degree in the new movie. For me, the Litany Against Fear has helped me so many times in my life, I can't even count it. I can outline when I do employ it.
1) Competitive Moments
Whenever I was challenged for first seat in concert band or competing in a speech and debate tournament, I would utter the words before I hit the drum or said my speech. As much as I practiced, there was always a level of uncertainty on how well I would perform. Would I be able to summon up the proper passion and purpose to convey the piece as I imagined, as it should be? What if I hear someone play the piece better or a better speech? What if I miss a note or stumble a word? What if I dropped my sticks...or my argument faltered? There were so many scenarios dancing around in my head. Uttering the words helped me focus on the task at hand. And the task was to play or speak and compete.
2) Medical Moments
Health issues always bring a level of anxiety for me. Especially when the health issue may be chronic in nature. Will the pain ever go away? Will the symptoms dissipate? What will the doctor say this time or next time? Will I ever feel like myself again? Can I wear what I want to wear without feeling so self conscious about the scars? The worry. It hovers and there is nothing you can do while it surrounds you like a blanket not quite touching you. It's just messing you a little bit. A wisp of worry in your head, a frightful flutter in your heart, and a feeling in the pit of your stomach. Saying the words supported me when I couldn't always hold someone's hand sitting in the doctor's office.
3) Final Word Moments
Judgements, conclusions, or decisions that are out of my hands -- these experiences led me to a fever pitch of stress. Job interviews, promotional opportunities, and getting accepted into different educational or leadership programs would take me into fearful places. Questions of worth and value swirled in my head. Should I have gone to a better school? Man, I should have not asked that one question when I did. Did I put enough on my resume? Were the words I chose not formal enough? How many better qualified candidates can there be? Whispering the words offered me a sense of what I can control...my breath and my thoughts.
When the brain veers off into fear, doubt, worry, and stress, it's doing what it's supposed to do -- protect you from danger. We're all programmed to feel it. What's different? The source. Developing the skill to respond accordingly to the source takes time. For me, these few sentences helped me build a foundation of recognizing levels of uncertainty as well as levels of agency -- what I can control. Leading with my breath, taking what is before me all in, and then closing my eyes to settle into what I need to discern and inform me on what to do next. Is it to play? Is it to speak? Is it to listen? Is it to say "Yes"? Is it to say "No"? Is it to just be? Is it to flow?
The precious seconds I give myself while I say the words allow me to shift my focus and perspective into an action that serves me. Although I've been practicing this since 1987 (Thank you to Kyle MacLachlan for saying them so well in the first movie that I watched over and over again), it wasn't until 17 years later in 2004 did I realize how and when I employed it. I'm grateful for this tool in my calming toolkit. What's most special is how I see it's usefulness passed down from Lady Jessica to Paul in the new movie where both mother and son say it in concert as well as independently from one another -- how each character experiences the same feelings and leverage the words when needed.
If Dune inspires you...and you need a virtual hand hold, try this practice out.
Litany Against Fear
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
It was 1999 and I remember watching trailers for Fight Club. I was struck with its themes of identity, life’s purpose, and honestly, quite confused – a movie about dudes fighting for no reason? As a fan of Helena Bonham Carter, I was truly excited to see her play a non-period piece role -- which up until this point, many of them were period piece roles and had Ms. Bonham Carter in a corset. A Room with a View – the movie that jump started my Merchant Ivory fascination and Helena Bonham Carter fandom – CHECK. Hazard of Hearts – check. Lady Jane – check. Maurice – check. Hamlet – check. Howard’s End – CHECK! The Wings of a Dove – check. I watched many of her movies and always enjoyed her performances. Her presence, her commitment to the role, to the words, and just bringing the character to life was incredible to watch – and still is, hello The Crown. I was intrigued when I saw her in the trailer. Not to mention the lines – “your life ending one minute at a time”, “what piece of furniture defines you” and a sense of foreboding that is this what I have to look forward to – never feeling like I was enough? I was 25 years old living in the Bay Area of Northern California struggling to make rent -- which was $500 a month for a basement studio underneath a main house in Hayward. I was between relationships, wanting to get promoted, and wondering why I was feeling so sad all the time. ALL THE TIME.
What helps with my sadness? Cinema. Films. Movies are an escape from the real world for me – especially when I see a movie in a theater. I can disappear for 2-3 hours and sit in the dark, anonymously amongst others and laugh, cry, and think about what I am watching. After pulling together enough money, I went to see Fight Club and I was astonished from the jump. Watching the opening sequence with the brain firing up, I became more mindful of the brain’s response to stimuli. In this case (and based on some IMDB trivia), the pathways demonstrated the narrator’s response to fear. And pretty much after that, the whole movie deals with that response to fear, authority, purpose, self, and relationships with others. I have mixed feelings with the violence, edgy pillow talk, and Project Mayhem – but there are a few key takeaways that ignited my curiosity about the mind and the mindset. And as I embark on my life and mindset coaching work, the call back to this movie seems appropriate and worth a pause and reflect moment.
When I heard this line, I knew I could never forget it. The grind and hustle culture endures. Not taking time to understand your life’s purpose or your calling can be a hindrance to your joy. We think we can buy happiness. We think owning certain things will fill a void. In this movie, we can see that this is not the case. Fight Clubs and Project Mayhems aren’t my source of joy – the lesson to seek joy or that feeling of aliveness – that is what resonated then, and still does now.
Chuck Palahniuk’s debut novel contains unforgettable lines. His amazing way of capturing everyday conversations, weird happenings, and orchestrating a narrative that played out well in the book meant that this movie could pull the whole thing off cinematically – and it did. When the camera pans around the circle of fighters and before the first fight, the rules are said allowed. As the first rule is said, my immediate reaction is, “Hell yeah I am going to talk about Fight Club!” In the not talking about the subject, your behavior, your posture, and your temperament speaks volumes. Your presence brings forth that joy and excitement into other areas. We’re not processing feelings here – we are taking action on the feelings. Again, Fight Clubs and Project Mayhems aren’t my source of action – the lesson is to put an action behind what you dream about – that is what resonated then, and still does now.
Movie Image from
Fight Club -
Jack and Marla looking out a high rise window.
This was the moment in the movie that pulled it all together. When The Pixies’ song, “Where is my mind?” came on with Jack and Marla looking at the window watching the buildings crumble – it brought the metaphor of breaking down all my sadness to begin again. When you have things taken away – the conveniences, the crutch, the go-tos, the band aid solutions – what are you left with? Diving into the mind – understanding your energy and where it is flowing, attention will go. Minding the mindset became very clear here. I’ll say it one final time, Fight Clubs and Project Mayhems aren’t where my energy lies – but it illustrates where you point your attention, things become attainable.
With a play on the song title, I often ask myself, “What is my mindset? Right now? Where is my mindset?” Whenever I consider my mindset first, I set the stage for what comes next. There is something poetic about that brief pause and reflection to set up and follow through on something. It’s that call to occupy a certain space, execute and enable the necessary skills, and move forward with action.
My name isn’t Robert Paulson. My name is Elaine…and thanks for reading my first blog-flection - highlighting movies (or books or shows) that offer me lessons in life, leadership, and parenting.
Elaine Dizon is a Filipina American Life and Mindset Coach, speaker, storyteller, mother, and runner. She is also a recognized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion at AT&T. In her coaching practice, life-intention-action, she uses an iterative approach to support her clients in deepening their core values, tapping into their inner wisdom, and creating habits and rituals that support their goals. She helps clients get out of their own way, move past stopping points, and to reckon with fixed mindsets that disrupt showing up authentically in professional and personal spaces through brain training exercises and tools geared towards mindfulness.