Making Light Work of Getting Unstuck

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I recently had the great pleasure of seeing my friend Kate Sutherland bask in the glow of a wonderful personal achievement. Kate has just published her book, Make Light Work: Ten Tools for Inner Knowing, and last week she celebrated both the official launch of the book and her appreciation for all the people in her life who made and held the space for this wonderful book—or body of work as she prefers to call it.  Kate is a walking testimonial for the effectiveness of the inner knowing tools and practices that she writes about and teaches. She is also a delightful role model for showing how it looks to consciously live in alignment with purpose.  She is totally committed to facilitating personal and social change through grassroots community engagement projects, as well as Be The Change action circles and What’s Your Tree circles.

This post is a brief overview and a wholehearted endorsement of her book. I will freely disclose that I paid full-price for my copy of the book and loved it so much that I purchased another copy as a birthday gift for a friend of mine. I’m being paid strictly in good karma points and the satisfaction of getting the word out into the world about a great set of tools that are available to each and every one of us—when we know how to access them.

Kate’s book starts from the point of view that (1) life doesn’t have to be difficult and (2) we all have access to a vast source of inner knowing that is immediately available and accessible to us.  If this is so, then why do so many of us  find ourselves struggling or spinning our wheels around some issues, frantically looking for answers or solutions everywhere in the world except within ourselves?  If we have this inner wisdom, how come we forget to tap into it or why don’t hear it when we need it?  According to Kate,

… too often we have forgotten what we know, not listened to the whispers and

nudges, or been too enthralled by the whirl of modern life to recognize signs. Many

of us do not know how to gain access to inner knowing and, lacking practice, have

little trust in what comes from within. (2010, p.5)

How the Servant (Rational Mind) Got the Upper Hand

To my way of thinking, Kate’s observations that we don’t know how to gain access to inner knowing and that we tend to put little trust in what comes from within are closely linked.  Most of the developed western nations share an intellectual history of empirical thinking that had its roots in the separation of the study of religious and spiritual issues from science in the Renaissance.  The fascination with logical thinking and empiricism built up to a crescendo of scientific chauvinism in the positivist thinking of the nineteenth century and reverberated into a blind fascination with science and the scientific method throughout the twentieth century.  This chauvinist thinking, according to Paul Feyerabend, has manifested as a type of intellectual elitism that is condescending toward and dismissive of alternative traditions of gaining knowledge, or any methods of accessing knowledge—i.e., inner knowing or intuition—that cannot be tested empirically or reproduced in an experimental setting.

It’s no real surprise, then, that most of us don’t trust, or know how to access, our own inner knowing, even though it’s a valuable complement to logical thinking and scientific knowledge.  Einstein recognized this when he commented that The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” (“What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck,” for the October 26, 1929 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Cited by

Restoring the Sacred Gift of Intuition

Kate’s book is a wonderful resource for remembering and reconnecting with the sacred gift of our inner knowing—and for providing readers with the inner work tools that will make it easier to respond to both the little and big things that life brings us.  She outlines ten different tools for inner knowing and even provides readers with a handy-dandy chart (p. 99) outlining which tools she’s found to be most helpful for different situations.

Kate is  forthright in reminding readers that if they are going to use the tools and hope to benefit from them, they must be prepared to act on the gifts or insights that show up.  She also reminds us that it takes some preparation and practice to create a space where we can hear our inner wisdom (Self or soul) speaking and distinguish it from the voice of ego (self).  Whether you are new to using inner work tools, have used them in the past, or currently use your own variants of these tools to access intuition, the chapter on preparing to use inner tools is a great way to start or re-establish a mindfulness/grounding practice on a regular basis.

Setting Intentions and Laying the Foundations for Inner Work

Inner work is not just about the doing or the form, it is also a state of being—the field or background.  We need both the form and the field to do inner work effectively, otherwise, as Kate points out, “…it would be like sharing a recipe that was missing key ingredients” (p. 20).  The three key ingredients of setting the groundwork for inner work tools are:

1.      Centering through self awareness. In essence, we are bringing our attention to where we are in the moment.  A simple way to center ourselves is through noticing and paying attention to our breathing.  Kate even provides the instructions for a simple yet powerful breathing exercise that she calls “figure of eight” breathing—so called because you are visualizing the energy of each breath moving in a figure 8 pattern—on pages 24 and 25 of the book. Tuning into how you are feeling in a certain part of your body, chanting, singing, or even walking (from a mental place of awareness of the present moment) are other ways of getting centered.

2.      Setting the intention. In this step we are asking that the wisdom we receive comes from our Self (the “higher” self or soul—that part of us that is bigger than our ego concerns and needs) and serves the highest (e.g., God, Goddess, truth, love).  For me, this step is a reminder that we’re asking, from a place of humility, to tap into a place of greater wisdom and a bigger picture for information or insights that will help us to more effectively serve the greater good in the world.

3.      Opening and becoming receptive to the gifts we receive from our inner wisdom. Being willing to act on the gifts we receive is a crucial part of developing and nurturing the connection to our inner wisdom.  Kate is very clear about only engaging in inner work if she’s willing to follow through and acting on the gifts she was given.  She suggests checking in with yourself to make sure you’re open to receiving and acting on what you get from your inner wisdom.  She points out that it’s an act of faith to trust that tuning into your inner knowing is a good thing to do.

Taking the Tools for a Test Drive

Kate describes and gives instructions for ten different inner knowing tools, including automatic writing, unpacking flirts, setting the energy, muscle testing, working with guiding images and inner guides, and multiple options.  For each tool she describes, she also provides a couple of personal examples, the finer points of using the tool and potential pitfalls.  Some of the tools such as automatic writing and multiple options require some time and a quiet space to use them effectively, but using muscle testing to make a decision (Kate uses the example of deciding what dish to order from a menu in a restaurant.) or setting the energy before going into a situation are quick and easy tools.  I’ve used automatic writing with great success when I’m feeling stuck or frustrated and can’t see my way forward.  I’ve also found that muscle testing to clarify the truth of a decision and setting energy before specific events—not to mention just setting energy for the day—have made a positive difference in my day to day activities.

Multiple options is a great tool for deciding what to do next or for discerning priorities when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a monster-sized “to do” list or complex project. The tool involves brainstorming a list of actions or possibilities, then using your intuition to sort and rank the priority of each option.  I’ve found it’s a good way to help me plan my weekly activities and find the balance between the “must dos” with intractable deadlines and other activities that either support my personal growth and development or actions that are tied to how I express my commitment to bringing about positive change in the world.

I’ve saved one of the most intriguing sounding tools—unpacking flirts—for last.  At its essence, unpacking flirts is about “noticing what you notice”, to use one of Kate’s favourite expressions. Flirts are the objects, qualities, or sounds throughout your day that catch your attention and seem to be a signal related to another issue in your life.  They are subtle cues that can offer powerful insights into our questions.  At first, working with flirts requires a bit of a mind-shift about how we attend to and perceive the word around us, but they can be a lot of fun when you get the hang of working with them.  Kate points out that the main danger of working with flirts is a tendency to descend into seeing everything as an omen for good or bad.  If you’re really curious to learn more about flirts, you might want to check out the sample chapter on Kate’s website.

Aligning with the Power and Integrity of the Tools

Our intuition and ability to tap into a deep pool of inner knowing is, as Einstein pointed out, a sacred gift. Using the tools can be a lot of fun and their gifts can even help to bring more joy, as well as understanding, into our lives.  It seems that the two golden rules for working with the tools are (1) be sure you are using them to help you align with the truth of a situation and (2) be sure that you are open to the responses and that you trust the process.  The best way to build trust in the tools and strengthen your confidence in your inner knowing is to work with small issues first and then move up to questions or issues with higher stakes.

If you are interested in learning more about the tools and want to read the book, it is available on Amazon or through Incite Press, on Kate’s site. If you are already using inner work tools, I hope you’ll share your experiences both on this site and on Kate’s blog.

Here’s to looking for an easier way, trusting in our inner wisdom, and shining more joy and light on our lives.

September 21, 2010 · Susan · 8 Comments
Posted in: Personal Growth

8 Responses

  1. Evita - September 22, 2010

    Thanks for this warm and enthusiastic review Sue. I always love learning about new books on topics that expand the mind, heart and consciousness, so this book sounds wonderful and something that I would love to read!

    And yes, what a celebration indeed to launch one’s first book – I share in the happiness 🙂

  2. Susan - September 22, 2010

    Hi Evita,

    Great to see you here again and thanks so much for your positive feedback and interest in the book. Kate’s book is easy to read and she writes with a warm, engaging style.

    Yes, it is such an accomplishment to write and publish a book–and it is cause for celebration. I think we don’t stop to honour our accomplishments often enough, so I’m always glad to see friends make a point of celebrating their accomplishments. I’m glad to see others sharing in and adding to the happiness and celebration.

  3. Karl Staib - Work Happy Now - September 22, 2010

    Setting my attention for the day has made a huge impact on my life. It’s surprising that a small intention can help me stay focused on my happiness.

    I love the idea of unpacking flirts. We all get distracted by our senses, but it’s how we use them to grow that matters.

    Thanks for a great review Sue.

  4. Susan - September 23, 2010

    Hi Karl,

    I’m glad you liked the review. You might enjoy reading the entire chapter on Flirts that Kate included as a sample chapter on her website.

    Yes, it is amazing that just taking a few minutes to get ourselves centered or grounded and then setting the energy can make so much difference in how our day unfolds. I certainly notice a difference in my day when I take the time to get centered, and set the energy for the day.

    Your comment about getting distracted by our senses is very astute. If I recall correctly, in the yoga sutras of Patanjali, the five senses were compared to five unruly horses drawing the chariot of our body. The intellect is the charioteer and needs to be able to rein in the horses for the benefit of our true (higher) Self.

  5. Tess The Bold Life - September 29, 2010

    Unpacking flirts…I was making my salad and the thought that came to me today was how beautiful the yellow pepper was. It caught my attention. Like it was telling me to include it more in my diet. I love this idea.

  6. Susan - September 29, 2010

    Hi Tess,

    Thanks for dropping by. Yeah, the flirts tool can be lots of fun. I’m just curious as to whether you got anything else out of your flirt. Have
    fun with unpacking flirts and if you have other tools that you like to use for checking in with and accessing your inner wisdom, I’m sure my friend Kate
    would love to hear about them.

  7. Graham Trevor - October 8, 2010

    Hi Sue,
    Sounds like an interesting read. Trusting that inner voice is one of the most difficult things to do. Although the three times I have it has been worthwhile. Marrying my beautiful wife, pursuing a guitar career, and finally beginning to follow a dream of becoming a writer. Usually I back into a corner before acting! Take care

  8. Susan - October 8, 2010

    Hi Graham,

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I generally do better when I trust my inner wisdom and follow my intuition. I hope you’ll also check out Kate’s blog, too. (There’s a link to her blog in the article.) How did you find my blog, by the way? I checked out your blog and really enjoyed the article on the path to education. Your observation about the crazy circle between needing experience to get into a field, but not being able to get a foot in the door to start gaining the experience is right on the mark.


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