Thursday, December 29, 2011

Peace Now

(Originally published in the Stay Open Newsletter, Feb. 2010)

Greetings, friends. It's always good to be here to share with you.

It's more and more obvious to me that solutions do not arise from thinking about some imagined future . . .

I've had something on my mind for days, mentally toying with me, showing up as thoughts that ask me about how I'm going to manipulate the future. As if I could know anything like that!

Today I realized a sweet and subtle distinction. I felt the sensation of waiting. I felt the mentally un-relaxed state of waiting. As if I couldn't relax now, but in some imagined future, when I tackled the supposed problem, then I could relax -- maybe. Of course the thoughts aren't sure about the future either. So in the moment, I was neither relaxed, nor was I convinced that relaxation was possible in the future, yet I was projecting myself ahead to a moment when relaxation might be possible.

Then, I simply relaxed. I let my thoughts come to rest and noticed what remained.

Peace is available now. There's no other time that you'll ever find it. In fact, it's not something that can be found. It is naturally here - right now - no matter what is arising on the surface.

If you notice that you're casting yourself mentally into some unknown and non-existent future, please don't scold yourself. Don't cause yourself more suffering by making that wrong. Nothing is a problem. Instead, you can just take that moment of noticing to rest. That's it. And then, for that moment, peace.

The restful moment may be fleeting, as all moments, thoughts, emotions, and sensations are, but you have given yourself the opportunity to recognize what is always available no matter what is arising on the surface.

Thoughts and emotions are not problems. The mind that wants to sort things out and plan for unknown variables is not a problem. In fact, they can all be gifts, pointing us home to what is always present, unchanging, stable and peaceful.

The more we can recognize these moments of waiting for peace, and take the opportunity to rest now, the more mellow things become. We find that - in this moment - there is no problem. There may be something that you need to tend to presently, and if so, you do. And if there isn't, you get to have a real slice of life. You are actually living now. Life is spontaneously taking care of all that needs to be cared for.

As I write this I have my front door open and can see the once gray and now chalky white sky and evening approaching this February day in Texas. Across the street I can see just the hint of green fuzz on a tree, mixed with the spidery branches of winter limbs. The rocking chair on the porch is still, yet somehow vibrant, in its effortless existence.

Nothing has changed in the supposed situation that my mind was trying to solve. Nothing is needed. Life is totally managing itself. And when the moment arises that something needs to be done, I can rest assured, it will be. It cannot be any other way.

Peace is now.

But don't take my word for it. Verify for yourself by taking brief moments of rest when you notice this problem-solving tendency in yourself.

* * * * *

If questions arise from this writing, please email

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Class: Creative Freedom in Therapy & Life

*** please note: new dates! ***

From the Creative Expression Series . . .

Creative Freedom in

presented by Carin Channing, LCSW

This class is open to everyone, and we provide
6 hours of CEUs to Social Workers and LPCs.

Through direct experience, I have come to know the benefits of using writing and visual arts in therapeutic ways. Whether you want to access your creative muse or whether you want to unleash feelings that aren't satisfied with just talking about or sitting with them, I stand by therapeutic creative exercises, 100%.

The more we allow our complete and natural experience to be expressed, the more we can experience freedom in all emotional states.

In this two session class, we will practice techniques to put words to that which we have been reluctant yet eager to express, and we will use visual arts to paint a picture of life that's fully allowed and welcomed.

Practical and fresh skills to use in therapy.

Saturday, January, 14 – 4 p.m.
Saturday, January 15, 1 – 4 p.m. (6 Hours of CEUs)

3355 Bee Caves, Suite 510, Austin 78746

Please register in advance by emailing or by
clicking the “Buy Now” button on this page.

A few additional supplies are required. Complete list given upon registration.

Registration is limited to 8 participants.
Call Carin at 847-732-0932 with questions.

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Class! Therapeutic (and fun!) Writing

From the
Creative Expression
Series . . .

Writing for Full Creative Expression,
Therapy & Therapists

presented by
Carin Channing, LCSW

These classes are open to everyone, and we provide
CEUs to Social Workers and LPCs.

Learn and practice exercises to
deepen your own creative expression
and to expand your therapeutic tools. No prior experience necessary!

It's my theory that we all benefit from spaces and activities where full expression is allowed without repression.

As a creative tool, writing in an unleashed way opens up channels to our deepest creative wells. Imagine what might happen to our art (or music or business or relationships) if we started to tell the truth!

Saturday, November 19, 1 – 4 p.m. (3 Hours of CEUs)
Sunday, November 20, 1 – 4 p.m. (3 Hours of CEUs)

Take one or both classes ($40 for one, $60 for both).

3355 Bee Caves, Suite 510, Austin 78746

Please register in advance by emailing or by
clicking the “Buy Now” button on this page.

Registration is limited to 8 participants per day. Call Carin at 847-732-0932 with questions.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oh praise to the unrepressed being!

So convinced, by habit, that there is something wrong, I flail to relax when the thoughts bully me, first thing in the morning, and again, later.

As inseparability becomes apparent, it does so in surprising ways.

Sitting at the table in Whole Foods this morning, my chai and pastels on the table in front of me, and the new Rolling Stone, with Steve Jobs on the cover. The mind goes on another tangent here and wonders how will I die? And as I type this, "I" has no sense that it can die. Oh how the moods, the thoughts, the senses shift, and shift again.

I sat at that table for a few hours, mostly feeling like going to sleep. Also feeling a battlefield of thoughts, of longing, of missing a man I've loved, of feeling that I oughtn't be how I am, conflicted, conflicted. At last the repression can't contain itself and after resting and closing my eyes in prayer, a flurry of an unleashed honest message comes through me and is typed into my phone and is sent.

Oh praise to the unrepressed being!

And it was this that revealed to me its undivided nature. No separate me, no separate message, no separate receiver. Though they didn't disappear, which is what I've thought would happen in the realization of this. My mind hasn't been able to understand that inseparable does not mean one bland pureed soup. I still experienced me, and the phone still appeared on the table in front of me, and thoughts still arose that pointed to this man in my system, and yet the blending of the one dance revealed itself.

Our friend Pema Mags Deane wrote this today:

Oh these places that don't know yet they are Love, that don't know how included they are in the All.

When one of these finally feels the touch of the Heart after eons in the dark, what a cascade of tears , of tenderness, of heart swelling, of gratitude , of utter commitment to know and be this Love everywhere.

The unraveling of what binds us to the dream of separateness as Love shepherds all back into the Fold.

And I so recognized it. This is an unearthing kind of learning. We feel so deeply that we are madly flawed. Embarrassingly so. Shamefully so. Unworthy, broken, in need of repair. I mean forty-one fucking years of being so convinced.

What beauty is revealed when it is seen that nothing could possibly be separate. And that the awareness, to which all arises, holds us in its loving and welcoming arms, whether we are insane with lust and shame or dancing in the fields or resting on the couch and eating a snack.

I feel that I don't put this into words so well, and I hesitate to write, in part, because I do not claim to have reached an enduring sense of oneness. What matter? Whether it stays apparent to the apparent me or not . . .

I'll sign off by sharing my melancholy doodle from this morning, with gratitude for the impulse to rest in the storm being greater than the impulse to run.

I feel drawn to write poetry, where especially that which has been feared and repressed has a creative stage to sing its song.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Unleash creative freedom with Disco & Doodles

Opening your creative freedom . . .

I'm pleased to announce that registration is now open for


This class is open to anyone who wants to spark/expand/loosen/lighten up the world of creativity
(and social workers and LPCs get 7 hours of CEUs)!

Disco & Doodles is here for creative inspiration & ignition. Through writing, doodling, collaging and a bit of disco, we provide a comfortable space to develop skills for releasing and expressing your natural creativity,
without reservation, repression or limitations.

No rules in doodling! Excellent skills to use in therapy.

Tuesdays, October 25 through November 15, 7:00 – 8:45 pm
Monsterlove Art Studios, 3119 Prado St. Austin TX 78702

* If this time doesn't work for you, please contact me with alternate times. More sections coming soon! *

Class cost: $50. This is a deeply discounted price that we are thrilled to be able to offer for this round of classes only. Check, cash or credit card through PayPal.

You may pay in 2 installments, with final payment due by the first class.

Moderate additional supplies required.
Must attend all four weeks for CEUs.

Contact Carin Channing, LCSW at or click the PayPal "buy now" button on this page to register.

Please register early and share with your friends and colleagues!

No prior art (or dancing) experience required!

Monday, September 5, 2011

An Unexplored Assumption: there is such a thing called "thought"

I went for a walk and found out that there is no such thing as thought.

Those of us who are on this so-called path (next we'll unfind that!) carry an assumption that there is an actual something called a thought, that is different from something called awareness or presence.

I've looked and have seen that actually awareness is not missing when what-we-call-thoughts are arising. How could it be gone? If it wasn't there, how would we even register the thought?

So there's that. I'm here to go further and say that there is no such thing as a thought -- at least not in the way we've come to assume it.

Let's start really, really basically.

Show me a thought.

Can you show me a picture of one? Offer me a recording? A YouTube video? What does it feel like? Can I touch it? Hold it in my hand? Sit on it? Eat it? Can I eat a thought?

I've thought that my thoughts wanted to eat me alive in the past . . . have you?

Okay look . . .

next time you notice a thought, drop the name "thought" and look at it.

What is it?

Can you find the dividing line between it and you?

Just take a look.

This is radical for those of us who have been distinguishing between thoughts and a peaceful or quiet mind for so long, especially those of us who equate quiet mind with healthy, spiritually high, potentially enlightened . . . and who equate thought-filled mind with unconscious, un-present, unenlightened.

Keep looking at this assumption that there is something called a thought that exists.

Maybe there is an occurrence, but the occurrence that we would call thought cannot accurately be described as a separate object.

At least I can't find it as separate, especially when I don't have a name for it.

Something to play with . . .

enjoy. xx

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Peace within the Storm: the first ever Stay Open Singing Response

Hey Carina,
I took your last advice and i've actually fallen in love with someone. He literally is the only person who can ever make me happy, I really think were soulmates. While this might sound good, I have other issues. We're in a band together and I'm 19 so I still live with my parents. My mom really doesn't like him at all and she makes fun of me for liking him. Now she tells me we actually have to stop dating if we're in a band together. This kills us and we end up sneaking around when the other band members aren't present. It also doesn't help that my sister is in the band who is best friends with my mom. She just told me that i can basically never date him again. and I really don't know what to do this whole situation makes me really sad :(
I hope you can help somewhat or give me some sort of advice,

* * * * *

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Seeing through resistance

I can't say that anything I say here is, in an absolute sense, true.

But this is how it seems to me . . .

There is no such thing as resistance.

There are thoughts that say, I don't want to or I should.

And there is doing or not doing.

Ah yes, all concepts in themselves.

Look into the word resistance and show me where it is.

* * * * *

I also don't believe in blocks. (Don't shoot me!)

I had long thought that my life looked a certain way or didn't look a certain way, in part, because of blocks or resistance I had about something. Something was in the way of my wholeness, my success, my happiness. And my not being there was in my control and it was due to resistance or blocks.

How many of you have a block against something in your life, the removal of which you feel would give you freedom? Let's see a show of hands.

How many of you would say that you are resistant to some action that you know would make a difference for you? Raise your hands. Hold them up there. Let me see them.

Okay, put your hands down.

* * * * *

Now, what if the entire concept "resistance" was just gone? Poof. What's left?

I believe we are back to I don't want to or I should, and doing or not doing.

Where is the actual resistance?

I definitely have this kind of conversation with myself around exercise. But I no longer call it resistance. I can just see that there's this debate that goes on within me about when and what I'm going to do for exercise and this whole world of should-ness around it. Like there's a moral connection with whether or not I exercise, and so an inherent and true "should."

By the way, I don't believe in morality either. Not in an absolute sense. I hesitate to type those words, for the slippery slope that they have trailing them. So I don't want to linger here. But I will point out that "morality" is also a concept, and as we look at it closely, we see that it's made up of more concepts.

My friend tells me that she is resistant to doing her homework. I say there are the thoughts I should and I don't want to (or I want to), and there is the moment of doing or not doing. And I don't feel that the two have anything to do with each other.

The thoughts are arising, and the doing is arising (or not doing), equally, spontaneously, independently.

It seems to me that telling ourselves or others that we or they are resistant to something creates more of the feeling of resistance, or, to put it simply, more tension. It creates this attribute that is seen as negative and as something that needs to be changed. But how can we change something that doesn't exist?

We achieve what we achieve when we do. We hear what we hear when we do. We see what we see or understand what we understand when we do. And we act when we do. Or we never do. Even the word "when" doesn't mean anything. What is RIGHT NOW is what IS RIGHT NOW. And NOW. And NOW.

In this infinite series of infinite NOWs, how can there possibly be anything other than what is right now? Doing/not doing/wanting/wishing/relaxing/resting.

The more we relax, the more relaxed and trusting we are, and look at that: life still happens! And quite nicely, I might add.

No blocks, no resistance, no barriers to freedom. Every appearance is as it is, perfectly and effortlessly appearing. See what happens if, when these notions of resistance or being blocked come through, you simply relax. Find out if they're for real.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Relief comes
but it may not stay.
How sweet it is
to know this.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Freedom from "Why?"

Sometimes I joke about the joy of not knowing (see video below).

But ultimately, I'm finding it to be pleasant and relaxing, even restful.

There are some things in this life that curiosity wants to investigate. How do leaves change colors in the fall (and how does my hair turn gray, for that matter)? Then there are practical questions: which road do I take to get from here to the bank? or what time does the bank open on Saturdays? There are questions that have specific answers: what was the Billboard #1 song on this date in 1973? It was Crocodile Rock, by the way.

Then there are questions that have answers that might make sense to us, but they are less certain: why does my partner yell at me when I leave the clean laundry in the basket instead of folding it? Why won't my mother learn to text? Why do I keep texting that boy who doesn't text me back?

I work in a psychiatric hospital, and I was considering these things as I walked through the unit today. In the mental health world, we often look to two major areas for answers. One is chemistry. We say that bipolar disorder comes from an issue with one's brain chemistry and there are medications that can help even out the mood swings. This is often shown to be effective. The other area is social history. What was the scene like in the patient's house while growing up? Is there a history of abuse or other trauma? These lines of questioning also lead to answers and conclusions that often make sense.

But then there are exceptions to both of these scenarios. There are people for whom medication doesn't work. There are also people who have had intense abuse histories who appear to be healthy, well-adjusted and healed. So how can one history (or explanation) be the cause of the current situation, when there's so much variety in results?

Before I go on, I should say that I'm not suggesting people shouldn't take their medication, especially if they've found it helpful! And I'm not suggesting that if a person has trauma in his or her background that he or she should go through life unaffected by it.

What I'm saying is: in the present moment, there is no history, and there is no "why."

What is - right now - is.

I was walking through the hall saying hello to different co-workers, noticing that I smile at some, say hello to others, warmly greet others, nod and pass by the rest. I started to wonder how it is that this happens. Why do I not offer the same greeting to everyone? Why would I be warm to some and lukewarm to others?

And then the questioning dropped away and there I was, walking down the hall, being in the experience. I notice in moments like this that the sensory experience often brightens. I see colors more distinctly. This morning I was eating grapefruit, mulling over something from the [recent] past in my mind. Then I checked in and saw that nothing right then was happening - or needed to be understood - other than exactly what was happening in that moment. Suddenly my grapefruit cheered with flavor and I found myself saying, "Mmmmm."

In our own mental/emotional lives, we often look for the "why" behind what we do, especially behind what we do that we don't like or don't approve of. We also do this with our partners, parents, siblings, friends, bosses, teachers, etc.

I've noticed that there can be a comfort in analyzing what might be driving someone to behave a certain way. I've mentioned in this column before that I used to analyze my boyfriends with a friend of mine who's a therapist. If I was feeling broken-hearted, it was soothing to me to find reasons why the man wasn't calling or wasn't behaving like I wanted him to. We would come up with scenarios from his childhood about his own trauma in his upbringing that led him to be uncomfortalbe with intimacy. One of my favorites was the one that says he likes me so much it scares him and that's why he's retreated. (As if, I say now. But I digress.)

Making sense of why someone else acts the way he does might work for the mind that seeks answers or comfort. But it's much more challenging when you turn it on yourself. Why do I chew on the inside of my mouth (and drive my sister and people over the past 20 years crazy)? Why am I ambivalent about my own intimate relationships? Why do I still hope for approval from my father, at age 40? Why do I stay up and sleep so late (again, at age 40)?

[It's funny, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing that I don't usually do this with the things I consider positive. Why is my home so comfortable? Why am I a good cook (when I get around to it)? Why do I love to exercise? Why can I sing? Why am I a good writer?]

We seek the "why" in the supposedly negative situations because we think that insight will lead us to some healing or to a change in the behavior. Well, here I am at 40 saying, I'm not interested in "why," and I will go so far as to say, it doesn't even exist. If, in a moment, I find that I'm chewing on the inside of my cheek (I know, it's gross, right?), that's happening because it's happening. There is no "why" about it. If I'm feeling unsure about where I am in a relationship at any given moment, there's no "why" about that either. It's just what's arising right then.

I also see that this sort of allowing - or letting go - results in the dropping away of concepts that have held these scenarios or behaviors in place. Take, for example, ambivalence. For years I've claimed that I am ambivalent when it comes to relationships (and I've often said the men in my life are, too). Well, what if there's no such thing as ambivalence - just as there's no such thing as "why?" What if there's only what's arising right here in this moment now.

When I look for what's there, I don't even see any thoughts. Ask me again in the morning, and there well could be be some mental churning (I do my mental calisthenics most rigorously in the first few hours upon waking). The point is, what's arising right now is what's arising. It might be a thought. It might be a sound or a sensation in the body. But show me the arising of a concept like ambivalence. I'm coming to see that it doesn't exist.

This all begins to sound very passive to me -- and I'm pretty sure my partner thinks so too! And I can understand that. We've been programmed to think that decision-making needs to happen. One teacher years ago told me, "Just keep getting off the fence." And there may be moments to do that.

But what if we don't need to know -- and in fact, we can't know -- until we know?

Two things may happen. One, the questioning, if allowed to come to rest, can drop away naturally, leaving us right here, present, awake, colorful, alert, alive. Or, two, an answer, be it a needed action or solution or possible understanding, is allowed to arise in its time, without our mental pushing for it.

There is freedom here. Freedom for us as individuals and freedom for others in our lives. When we aren't fixated on the questions about why someone is a certain way, that person is allowed to be. Well, the person is allowed to be already, just by the fact that he or she is. And then we no longer have a personal agenda to create anyone in any other way besides exactly how they are right then and there. And the same goes for us as individuals.

So when I wake up tomorrow morning, if I'm churning with thoughts or agitation, I can remember, through resting in the present awareness that is always here, always awake, always inseparable, no matter what is arising, that everything is already allowed and I need not pressure myself to attempt to change it.

Miracles happen through such allowing. The need to repeat behaviors to keep story-lines alive can relax.

But don't let's try to logic our way into this now, folks! That's just more should-ing. That's just more pressure. That's just more rejecting, wearing a dress called wanting-it-to-be-better.

We don't need to know why. We don't need to know what's next. We don't need to look for the causes that will create the next scenario that we then have to feel badly about.

It's all okay. It's all right now, if it's anywhere at all. And if it's not right now, it's not. Don't ask me why.



If questions arise from this writing, please email

Here's the Answer