Living near Portland, Oregon, Debby Potts is travelling half of every year through the whole world, from the States to Europe through Asia, to teach the Tellington TTouch Method for companion animals and horses. I spent half a day taking pictures at a training she taught, admiring her goodwill and kindness with humans and animals and her ability as a teacher to give space for everyone's needs while maintaining a clear focus. I was lucky to enjoy Debby's sparkling humour and to experience her as an amazing pleasant guest, because she stayed at my current home at Bibi's house.
Oh, what makes me happy... I think if you would have asked me that ten years ago, I wouldn't have known so much. By now, I have learned to use my own 'barometer' about detecting what makes me happy and what doesn't. I can tell with the feeling in my body, what feels good to me. I think, feeling your body is so much more accurate than just deciding in my head 'I am happy now' – I really started paying attention to those things that make me feel good or happy, you can't really label that sensation: Sometimes, there are situations that are a little bit uncomfortable and I can identify those as 'This isn't the feel-good picture feeling', but it's one of those that I can learn from. Just because I am uncomfortable, it doesn't mean that it is not a good thing. So I have 'this feels good' and 'this doesn’t feel good' and also 'maybe this doesn't feel good for some really good reasons'.
... The work I do really makes me happy. I don't even call it work, I realized that when paying attention to the words that I use, because I think your brain listens to what you say. I realised that my friends are saying “Ugh, I have to work” and I thought: Oh! I don't think I say that very much; I say 'I am teaching', 'I am seeing a client' or 'I am working with this dog, seeing this horse'- I hardly ever say 'I am working'. That gives me the idea that my work makes me really, really happy.
I love time for myself, because I spend a lot of time with people. I call it 'being on'. And I love it, it's wonderful. I think the balance of that is having solitude and peacefulness and just time that I can choose whatever I want to do. It may be something really silly or mindless, it could be reading something that I learn something from or could be reading something totally unimportant. When I am travelling and teaching a lot, there is the moment when I close the hotel door, when I know that I am alone – My good friend and business partner and I call it the “giddy” moment. There is this moment of “Hehehe, I can do whatever I want – I'll take a bath – no,no, no, I'll – I'll watch a movie – no, no, no – I'll have a cup of tea, yes, yes, yes, I'll have a cup of tea AND take a bath...” So I think it's good to just allow the freedom to do all of that without judgement. Because even something that seems really silly can be just the very best use of our time.
My family makes me very, very happy. My husband and I just celebrated our forty-first wedding anniversary and we still very much enjoy time together. I am very lucky that we both feel like we're the lucky one. Our sons grew up to be amazing, wonderful young men who love their jobs and have wonderful wives and are doing a lot of things in their lives that make them happy, and that makes me really happy. I live in a beautiful place, and just being able to sit outside on my deck and look at the trees and hear the birds – I love your question, because I think people tend to focus a lot more on what's not okay in their life instead of what really is. And I think living in gratitude for all the things around us, that just feeds our hearts, really makes a difference. Taking time for ourselves and realizing how important taking care of yourself is. I love to use the analogy, when you're on the airplane and they are doing the safety instructions, they tell you: In the unlikely event of a change in the air... an oxygen mask will fall off in front of your face. And always put your own mask on first before helping another person with their mask... I think this is a very good analogy for why it is important for us to take care of ourselves. I think it's not so useful that in our society, it seems like in order to be considered successful, you have to be crazy busy. I started not doing that, because for me, success means having the time to have lunch with my friend. Or to sit on my deck or to spend time with my family and my animals. For me, that's what being successful is about. And all of that makes me really, really happy and filled with gratitude. Long answer to a short question!
What is home to me... The place where I live feels like a real gift. We believe, that we were really... guided. I grew up in Portland, which is a big city, and when we wanted to have a family, we wanted to move away from the city and closer to the ocean. We just decided to start looking, but we had no idea what we were looking for. So we sat down and opened up the newspaper and there was an advertisement for a place and we thought well, we are just going to see it and it'll give us a chance to start to think about what we want. And this was our home. We didn't look at any other place, we didn't consider anything else, we just fell in love with it. It doesn't feel like we own this, but we really feel like if we were guardians of this land. It's 24 acres, there is woodland and open fields and it is on this little mountain. There is a big pond on the property, so there are fish and waterbirds and deer, lots of wildlife. It's very secluded and quiet, you just see trees from the road. We've lived there forty years now, and every time when I drive up the little windy road, into the driveway and when the view opens up to the forest the pond and the fields, I have this moment of: “Ahh...”. Debby breathes out. Home to me is exactly this moment where you can just be. There are many places I go that feel very homelike, where people make me feel comfortable like at home... but that peacefulness that goes along with where I live, whether if I am there by myself or whether I am there with family or a lot of people, it is still home. I travel many, many places, I see wonderful things - and then it's still this moment of just driving into the driveway.
Things that shaped my life... One of the things I think about is, how important it is not to label the things that happen in our lives. It is so easy for us to say “This is a good thing” and “this is a bad one”. I know, that some of the things in my life I thought were really bad things – and looking back, they were really important, because without them I wouldn't be doing what I am doing today, things that bring me so much joy. So whenever I think “Ugh, this is really awful”, I think: “How do you know?”
Things that shaped me. My father grew up on a farm and even though he left the farm when he was a young man and became a business man, he still felt like having my brother and I experience a little bit of farm life would be a good thing for us. Even though we lived in the city, my parents bought a small piece of land that was close enough to get to on my bike. My father wanted us to see the corn grow and the chicks hatch, and I figured that if we had chicks and corn, we should have a pony, too – and that's where horses started for me. My dad and I were close and he was really my first teacher about taking care of animals and the land. Being able to learn about animals from him – even though everything he learned, he learned from his father, so it was all pretty traditional kind of handling - was still a wonderful thing for us to share together.
This is a really good question. I like this a lot, because it makes me think – in order to think about what shaped me or my life, it is necessary to think well then, who am I right now and how did I get here?
I had a lot of loss with people dying when I was young. My father died when I was sixteen, my mother died when I was 23 and pregnant with my oldest son. She died two months before he was born. What that did was create a situation where I really trusted my own intuition and my own sense of things, because I couldn't ask my parents what they would do. I learned a lot about being responsible for my own decisions. Like always, there are two sides, but it really gave me the space to explore what I thought was important in raising my kids and in all kind of choices in my life. I think my parents passing away and not having other close family when I was really young shaped me to a certain degree, helping me to figure out who I am, not just as an extension of other family.
There is no question, that the horse that brought me to TTouch had a massive influence on my life. She had a brain damage when she was born, and when the vets didn't know how to help her, I wondered if TTouch could make a difference for her. She, without a doubt, came into my life to bring me to this work and it probably shaped my life more than anything else.
At that time, I was super shy. I didn't talk to anybody that I didn't know really well. So my decision to take this horse and go to a training with Linda Tellington-Jones six hours away from my house was a really big deal. I was really afraid about going, but my desire to help my horse was greater than my fear. I spent nine days with people that were new to me, I was staying in a house trailer with two other women I never met before in this other women's backyard... It was the first time I had gone anywhere by myself - And I got so inspired and curious so that I wanted to learn more. My second training was in Colorado, which meant that I got on an airplane by myself for the first time!
I didn't imagine that I would do anything with TTouch, but I was just so curious, it was so fun and interesting and there were really nice people involved. And my horse changed so much within the first clinic, beyond what anybody would have imagined. This was 30 years ago;, Linda hadn't been teaching in the States that long, so everybody was new (and trying hard to remember clockwise circles or stumble over the poles when leading the horses). We were learning how to do this while working with all these horses with big problems, and they all got so much better! I was really inspired by that, because I had been involved with veterinary medicine before, which I found really rewarding, but I realized that this is something that anyone can learn and that really empowers people to take care of their animals. And while I was helping the horses become more confident and adapt to new situations, all that stuff was happening to me. I started being able to talk to people, after a while I started experimenting with teaching a class for friends and then – Here I am..
The mare that brought me to the Tellington method was sixteen months old when I took her to the very first training with Linda. When she was three, I was hooked, there was no way that I would do anything else. Then she got really sick and she died. As much as it would be a great story if she grew up and my kids rode her into her late years, I think it is a better story, actually, that she died when she did, because it really reminds us that life doesn't have to be really long to have tremendous value. I really believe that she had accomplished her life-purpose and it wasn't important for her to hang around anymore.
So this work has totally shaped my life, it just opened me to so many opportunities and interesting people, it opened up a lot of other things I enjoy learning and doing. And it continues to do so.
Another life changing incident was being in Japan when the big earthquake happened. It really showed me that you just DON'T really know what you are doing two minutes from now. You may think you do, you may have plans on your calendar. In Japan, I had a schedule for three weeks, people had paid, I knew what I was going to teach, I knew exactly what I would be doing. And then there was the earthquake, three days later I was at home, a week later I was in Johannesburg, saying hello to a bunch of people. It was a big reminder to be present. “You don't know what the next moment brings”. And that's not a bad thing.
Lindsey's question: How would you describe the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
This is an interesting question! My first thought would be, that knowledge is stuff that you learn and wisdom is stuff that... comes from a different place. I think, knowledge is really in your head: Stuff I know, like I can add numbers, remember facts. And that's fine, knowledge is a good thing, obviously. But I think wisdom comes from beyond that. Wisdom is in your cells, wisdom is in the collective consciousness around us, it comes from a place we can't always identify. When I look at my dog Kiki, there is just so much wisdom in her eyes. She is like an old soul, that carries the wisdom of the ages. I think, wisdom is something that comes from experience, intuition, tapping into stuff that we may not even know where it comes from. It doesn't have to be something that comes from years of living, because I believe there are very wise, very young people. Perhaps young people even have it more before they are taught that you can't just know stuff. I think that wisdom is more innate and knowledge is a little more active. Actually, I talk to people a lot about the three brains; that you have a brain in your head, one in your chest and one in your belly, and that it's really helpful to check with all three before you decide something. Because your head has a lot of knowledge. A lot of information in here. Not always reliable, because it is often cluttered up with “should”, “need to, have to” and judgement. The brain from the heart is really great, I think, sometimes the emotions might make things not that clear. Down in the belly is a lot of our intuition. Knowledge, emotions and intuition are so useful and when you pull those together, maybe you have a more balanced perspective for making choices.
For me, everything is about balance. Too much of a good thing is still too much. So I think the balance of knowledge and wisdom and looking at things from different perspectives is really useful.