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Humanly Possible with Bryan Kramer, Featuring Beth Killough

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Beth Anstandig

Learning to Continually Shift

September 24, 2020

Humanly Possible with Bryan Kramer is a podcast that reminds us being imperfect humans is our greatest competitive advantage and where guests share stories about small shifts that make an epic difference. Beth shared with Bryan how we can tap into our natural awareness as human mammals for a wealth of information about how to take care of ourselves and operate with others. We chatted further about how we’re all learning together to continually shift.


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Please Note: The content below is a semi-automated transcription of the podcast episode. We recommend listening to the podcast above, in case any of the content above is unclear.

Beth Killough (00:00):
And there’s so much more than we’re used to seeing. So we’ve got this incredible, omnivorous predatory prey, animal awarenesses as humans that we’re not tapping into. And it’s full of information about how to take care of ourselves and how to operate with others. And in our environment.

Bryan Kramer (00:19):
I’m Bryan Kramer. I believe that one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is making smaller shifts. It’s the small shifts in our lives that can create epic outcomes. Your journey, to be more deeply connected to the life you truly deserve starts. Right now.

Bryan Kramer (00:53):
Welcome to Humanly Possible, a podcast focused on shifts that make an epic difference in our lives and at work. I’ll introduce our guest today. Who’s someone I actually recently met, but I feel like I’ve known her a lifetime, which is quite rare, and why I asked her to come onto the podcast. I totally admire the work that she does, and I’m honored to have her on the show. Beth Killough is the owner of the Circle Up, an experiential consulting firm, which provides leadership training and cultural development to corporations, universities, teacher groups, first responders, which we need right now, and nonprofit organizations. Circle Up has trained thousands of leaders all over the country and has designed long term culture programs to transform workplace relationships. But that’s not actually just what makes it unique. She’s a lifelong cowgirl, writer, professor and licensed psychotherapist. And she has 20 years of experiential work with people to awaken their innate leadership gifts so that they can live into more authentic relationships.

Bryan Kramer (01:58):
Kind of sounds familiar to the work that we do here. Circle Up’s model of Natural Leadership and experiential learning is with horses and integrates human psychology, animal behavior and natural systems to offer a unique approach to personal and professional development. And I could keep going on and on about all these wonderful things about how it’s been on BBC worldwide service and on PBS television shows. And we’re going to talk about all these little interesting, unique things that makes the animal spirit come alive. Beth, thank you so much for joining me here on the show.

Beth Killough (02:34):
Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

Bryan Kramer (02:38):
Oh, well we had a conversation. I think it was within the last week and it just knocked me over with the stuff that you were telling me in the work that you’re doing in the world. And I knew, I just knew that we needed to get your voice out, at least to my audience, to our audience, and to have this more, this work, uh, out there in the world a little bit more. So thank you so much. And I’m just going to jump right in and ask you about, as you know, this, this show is about shifts. So I want to talk to you about one or two shifts in your life that made a difference to where you now are today.

Beth Killough (03:13):
Sure. I’m a big fan of rock bottom and the power of hitting these moments where we are inspired, um, oftentimes through big wake up experiences to transform and develop and grow. And those have been the biggest shifts in my life. I’ve been these like rock bottom squeeze points where it’s like this crucible of change. And, and like there’s no going backwards. And so what happened? I think one of my favorite ones that relates to my work is when I finally realized that the human development piece and the therapy I was doing and the work I was doing with people really needed to be done, with my freak flag, fully flying, out at my ranch and in nature and with the horses. And I had to push myself out of my fear that that was not going to be accepted or it was going to come across as too weird. But I knew that this animal piece was essential to the kind of work that I wanted to be doing with people because it was essential to my own process. So when I moved to my ranch, it completely transformed me. And I knew that by having experiences out here with me and with the animals and, you know, in human groups that those, some of those transformations were going to be possible for people that I work with.

Bryan Kramer (04:47):
I’m so curious about the decision and what made it possible for you to do that.

Beth Killough (04:55):
It’s so funny. It wasn’t…it was a lot of things that started coming my way and me being awake enough to see that there were these open doors. And so the ranch became a place that I was already familiar with, and it became available for me to purchase. And it wasn’t until I was standing on it with ownership that I realized that this was the place that I’d been dreaming of. And the shift that happened inside of me was to finally own, it was like, I owned the land and I owned a part of myself. There was like an inner land that all of a sudden I stood in that moment, like, I know exactly where I was standing in that moment. And I think we have to start looking for those moments because they’re there now that I know how to look for that, they’re everywhere. There are the signposts that we’re on the right track or that these opportunities are opening up. But if we’re caught in that busy disease, we can’t see them. And so that was one of those big openings, but now I’m in the habit of just looking for them everywhere. And they’re beautifully, consistently occurring all day long. So that’s really one of the things that I help people get an awareness of in their own lives.

Bryan Kramer (06:19):
Well, you almost just throw me a great softball, like how next question, how do you get awareness of that? It doesn’t sound like it’s like, you, you go find some dirt, stand on it and go, Hmm. That doesn’t feel right. Like, it’s like, is there, how do you help people do that?

Beth Killough (06:41):
So I have this memory, um, from when I was about four years old of observing, for whatever reason, there was like this exquisite moment where I was observing humans, doing human things. And I was observing the dogs that I grew up with doing dog things. And it was like this turning point of focus where the human piece made zero sense and seemed very off kilter and out of balance. And the dog piece drew me in, and for the rest of my life, I have been drawn into it, to the part of me that is a human animal. And I’ve found the most, most of my lessons, even though I sought out lots of traditional education and degrees and licenses, and all of that, most of my real education has come from, from being learning, really learning, to taking care of my human animal, the mammal part of me.

Beth Killough (07:42):
And so that’s the first piece that we work on is what do you do with your animal so that you can learn a new part of awareness. And we, so we do a practice of settling in and taking your human animal for a walk. And that is not about mindfulness. It’s about taking your nervous system and all that you notice and all that you observe and giving it space to come alive. And the more we do that, the more we see, and there’s so much more than we’re used to seeing. So we’ve got this incredible, omnivorous predatory prey animal awareness as humans that we’re not tapping into. And it’s full of information about how to take care of ourselves and how to operate with others and in our environment. So the biggest shift, and it’s like, what’s one small thing that is the thing. And it’s small and it’s giant at the same time. And so it’s funny to talk about it in those terms, because it’s like, well, this small shift, it’ll just kind of rock your world, but it is the littlest thing. Cause it’s right there. It’s just right there below the surface.

Bryan Kramer (09:02):
Wow. Um, you know, this makes me think of a time when I did a 24 hour, silent meditation. And that was, uh, I have a friend that actually did 30 days. And I’m like, how in the heck did he do that? Um, because 24 hours was hard, but this sounds, you said, not meditative, but something different. And I can’t quite comprehend like what’s that different than, and you’re standing next to an animal. How does that change the behavior of your being?

Beth Killough (09:40):
So sometimes it is standing next to an animal, but oftentimes, you know, the thing about meditation, which I love, and we do a lot of meditation work here at the ranch. But the thing about taking you’re, like really familiarizing yourself and acquainting yourself and becoming an ally with your human animal is that it wants to do lots of exploring. It’s more interactive. And so, and sometimes what feels good is to sit quietly, but sometimes what feels good is to look and observe and interact with. And so that’s, you know, you’ll watch children. If you think about the child, part of us, it’s very connected. Our children are very connected to their natural leadership because they don’t have any of the judgment or adult expectations that have been layered on top of it. So they’re very interactive with their environment.

Beth Killough (10:39):
And so the difference is that, and the reason why we do this work with animals is because they hold us to that natural leadership piece because they only want to interact with the human animal. So when we start to go off track into the human mind and ego, which we need, and we want to integrate, they give us gentle feedback, but honest feedback, that we’ve strayed. And so what we’re looking for is trying to do a bit of both. We want to be using our thinker and our emotional selves and the part of us that’s able to strategize and innovate, but we also want to bring this grittier part of us to the table and the animals bring that out in us.

Bryan Kramer (11:24):
Wow. It’s so interesting to think that there is a side to us that, and I make this up in my head cause I obviously haven’t done the experience yet, but that the animal will me trust that side of us. And how do we bring that? How, how do you bring that out? How do you grab onto that piece of us that, that is that animal side?

Bryan Kramer (11:51):
So in the moment that the, that the equine animal or canine animal, or sometimes it’s sheep, cause I do have sheep here also. It depends on what animal shows up in that moment, but it’s often horses. At the moment that animal gives feedback,  I see that happening and we can call attention to that with whoever, you know, with the client, with whoever’s around in that moment. And what we want to do at that point is to go inward and notice, what did you, where did you abandon that part of yourself? Because getting other people to trust us is a really hard sell if we’re not actually connected to our core self or to our own trust system, but human animals are the only mammals that follow unstable leadership. And so we’re wandering around following people that don’t even trust themselves. And so part of the work that we do is, is really learning to notice where we stray from our own integrity when the animals show us so that we can start to get a feel for that and create a bit of discipline.

Beth Killough (13:05):
And that’s actually a mindfulness piece to know when I’ve abandoned that part of myself. So I can get back on track. It happens to me all day long. It’s not that we can stay perfect in it. It’s just, we get much better at shaping it. The animals will, they’re so immediate about their feedback because of their sensitivity, but the more we can hone this, we can, we can get that sensitivity back in ourselves. So I’m the same way I can tell when we’re off track, without the animal being there. Cause I see us as animals and I’m like, Oh, you know what we need to, we need to reset. And so I’ve just made it a practice of resetting, resetting, resetting for myself and in my relationships.

Bryan Kramer (13:48):
Obviously, without going through the experience, it’s a little hard to feel that or know that, but what’s one thing that people can do, especially right now when they’re in the middle of, you know, a little bit of chaos or maybe even a lot going on around us here and especially the Bay area or anywhere where there’s maybe even fires or pandemic or, Oh my gosh, so you can rest medicine. How can we, how can we identify? Maybe what’s a, what’s one easier way to do that?

Beth Killough (14:20):
There’s two elements that we talk about and teach in natural leadership. The model that we work out of and one of them is the concept of pressure. And the other is the concept of pace and in the world of other mammals and in nature, both pressure and pace. They’re just natural elements in the world that have to do with how the systems work and move. And humans don’t talk about pressure until we’re overwhelmed. So we’re overheating, but our pressure system, it lives in our nervous system, is actually very, very sensitive. And the more that we can start to tune into it, the more we can adjust as pressure builds. So pressure is needed in order to move things forward. And it’s a good thing, but there’s a point where it starts to go into a place of tension and then stress and then pain, and then it can go two directions.

Beth Killough (15:20):
One is an explosion or the pressure blows. Um, and the other is numbness. And so, and that’s like an implosion. And so we can start to notice what are the signs that my pressure system is building and to tune in on like a very basic level. Oh, I noticed that my pace speeds up. I notice my tone changes. I notice that I can’t, my focus shifts. I notice that my breath changes or I, my jaw gets tight. Or, and then how can I start to back up the piece that we’re not used to doing? And this is why we work with the animals; we actually notice it. And then we adjust. And this is where people are really interesting to me because we override the signals in our own bodies that something new is needed. And so this is like the most basic element of self care is getting to know your own pressure system and then making a radical decision that you’re going to adjust all day long every day, all day. It’s not like once a month, I go get a massage. It’s literally like, where am I in that system? So that I’m using pressure in a good way that moves me forward or resting until I can interact with it again. And so, because there’s not a single mammal on the planet that can live with a pressure system that’s flooded without symptoms and disease.

Bryan Kramer (17:01):
Oh my gosh. I think we could be on two more podcasts together talking to you. Cause those, it’s like you’re saying there’s, there are shifts happening almost every minute through your pressure system and you’re regulating that to maintain a healthier lifestyle. And by observing it, it becomes much easier and better for you also in the long term, which is so, so amazing. And I am blown away at how we can regulate that. That’s where I think the work needs to start from what I’m hearing. It’s kind of ironic coming into this year. I usually pick a word. This year, it was two words, “Be present.” And then the pandemic hit and there was like, Buddhists were like all around the world were like, yeah, welcome. Um, you know, because we can’t help but be present now. So I just changed my word in March/April to  “surrender” because that’s all we can do. We don’t have control or anything if that’s taught us anything here. How do you see that kind of surrender in the animal mind, or that kind of a behavior through what you’re talking about, through the regulation of this pressure system and being? Is there too much being? Is it not enough? How do you regulate that?

Beth Killough (18:32):
The surrender piece really resonates with me because I think I fought for so long against the human animal part of me that mammal part rather than surrendering and befriending. And so I think so much of our suffering comes from not accepting that part of ourselves. And I know for me, I spent a couple of decades trying to conform into a part of human living that actually just made me super anxious and stressed out and then trying to find ways to numb that. And which is really hard, that’s a really hard pattern, but I think it’s one that a lot of people live in. And so I think the surrender is really elemental. Like it’s, it’s at a very base level, which is, and I think that’s part of what this virus has done, which is it has forced us to have to acquaint ourselves with that mammal self and to really be involved in this worldwide pause to start to look at ourselves and ask that question.

Beth Killough (19:36):
And so I think the thing that I see a lot of people doing though, and it’s still surrender, is part of the wrestling match, right? It’s like the final stage of the wrestling matches when you finally, you know, I still see a lot of like yeah, but, and bargaining and like trying to get out of having to sit with ourselves. And, um, and all it does is prolong that process. So I just, I think the lesson from the animals is that there really is such a commitment to a baseline level of comfort. And when that changes, what do I need to adjust to get back to it? And it’s the adjusting, um, that we like, that’s the part that we seem to not be willing to do. We get really dug in, I think, as a species around a thing, not wanting to make the adjustments. And then we just lie to ourselves that we’re okay,

Bryan Kramer (20:39):
This is, so this is kind of where I think we could leave off there’s something in there there’s such a great nugget of, of seeing something. And so that that’s the blind spot.

Beth Killough (20:51):

Bryan Kramer (20:52):
Of what we don’t see in ourselves of what we need to adjust.

Beth Killough (20:56):
Yes. And it’s like blind spots.

Bryan Kramer (20:59):
Yeah. Yeah. So I’d love to end with that;  in how to see it is one of the reasons why I think coaches and leaders like yourself exist because they can help you spotlight those blind spots. How do you see blind spots being opened up?

Beth Killough (21:17):
I mean, we have to shine a light on them and we have to make a decision to keep shining a light on them. They will always come back. And I think, it’s there that if we know that a blind spot exists or we have an assumption that everyone has one and there, and then the good news is that most of them, there are only so many themes of blind spots, right? This is a pretty core one for people that we’re talking about.

Beth Killough (21:42):
And even if you’ve just took this idea of pressure, that pressure in our nervous systems is a blind spot for the human animal. So what if you just made a decision to shine a light on it for a few days to see if you notice where your pressure is in your nervous system and making some adjustments. What if you did that? And you realized, wow, this is a blind spot that I can actually, I can account for. This is one I can take care of. This. Doesn’t have to be a blind spot. This can be, this can have some light shine shining on it in a way that doesn’t create a hardship, but actually, it makes life easier.

Bryan Kramer (22:20):
Well, Beth, like I said, we could, there’s so much, there’s so much goodness in everything that we just talked through, I love what you said. I know for the next few days now I’m going to be pressure regulating. And it’s just going to be interesting. So I can’t wait to share with you. That goes, where can everybody find you?

Beth Killough (22:35): is the best place to find me. And then that links to all the other good stuff. So that’s my website. And then my ranch is in Morgan Hill, California, and it’s called Take a Chance Ranch.

Bryan Kramer (22:50):
Love it. I cannot wait for everybody to get more, more intimate with what you do in the world. Thank you so much for sharing everything here and all your shifts and for just being, being present and for meeting you recently, we’re going to have some fun here. So thank you.

Beth Killough (23:05):
Thank you.

Bryan Kramer (23:07):
Thank you so much for joining us this week. If you loved this episode, please subscribe. We love having subscribers, just like you. Download a few more episodes. And if you feel moved, we would so appreciate a review. I’d love to also hear your key takeaway. What impacted you from this episode? You can tweet me your answer and reach out on Twitter @BryanKramer. That’s Bryan with a Y, Kramer with a K and definitely be sure to join us in our Facebook group. We have just under 3000 humans, just like you and me looking to connect even more imperfectly until next time.

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