Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Relationship Agreements ~ Who Needs Them?

Are you in a relationship?  With anyone?  In reality we are in relationship with everyone we meet or even walk by.  It is with some unspoken agreement that if you walk by someone that you do or don’t say hello (or make eye contact).

Let’s at this point just consider the important ones.  Significant other, workmates, friends, business partners, family.  Are you crystal clear about the roles you are each agreeing to?  How do you know?

How much time have you spent making explicit agreements as your relationship(s) evolved?  In my business I find that it is only when you disagree that you realize the answer to that question.  And usually it is ‘not enough’.

When we get together with people it is usually because we have some affinity.  We like what they say, what they are doing, how they look, etc.  We talk and we are mostly relating to our imagination of who that person is because we can’t possibly know.  And because we are limited to using words (mostly) to communicate, we don’t know until we do that when you said a particular word, they imagined something completely different than you did.  And most often, there is no way to know it.  We thought we were in complete agreement!


Take a minute to get comfortable.  Now I am going to give you a word and I want you to fully imagine it in your head.  Get a clear picture. 


Okay…what (who) did you imagine?  Maybe your own mom, maybe mother earth, maybe your children?  Possibly there are more than one image, activities that you did with your mom, the special time you baked a birthday cake together, and/or particular feelings.  Maybe your image conjured up feelings of nurturing, or possibly the opposite, maybe disappointment.

Can you now imagine anyone else having the exact same image(s) in their minds as you?

Probably not.

Let’s use the example of TREE…imagine a tree. 

Likely no one else has the exact same image as you.  Yet, when you talk you agree that you love trees, maybe you move in together and completely agree that you are going to plant trees.  It may not be until you get to the nursery that you realize you had been imagining completely different things all along.  You wanted a huge maple tree and your partner imagined a row of fruit trees.

This is when communication, self-awareness, care, compassion, curiosity (all the skills that Nonviolent Communication teaches) are critical.

Even when you do ‘have an agreement’, you may realize you can’t really count on an agreement with someone else.  It may be simply because language and filters get in the way of actual understanding as in the examples above, simply different images/experiences are imagined when we speak.  And, as often happens, it may be that the other person simply does something other than what they agreed to do.  Possibly even just minutes or days after they made the agreement.

It really doesn’t matter what the agreements are or why the outside agreement is no longer in effect.  What matters ultimately are your agreements with yourself.  What needs/values you are committed to.  Knowing this leads to confidence and trust.  Confidence that you will trust yourself no matter what.  Trust yourself to get your own needs met.  Confidence that what ever the circumstance, you have other resources and/or strategies to get your needs met.

I am not suggesting that we don’t make agreements with others.  I am full on in support of making agreements and often.  However, I am encouraging you to stay out of the trap of depending on someone else to do what they agree to in order to be happy.  The more you can keep your own agreements to your values, the more resourceful and creative you will be in connecting to life, meaning what is actually happening, and ask for what you want.  Which may or may not include the person who just broke the agreement.

Monday, June 26, 2017

When Enlightenment Hurts

Have you ever wanted to do something or thought things yet weren’t really able to take the action required?  Until something happened and made it so you kind of ‘had to’?

I have a friend/colleague ~ Raven Dana ~ who introduced me to the phrase “brick to the head enlightenment”.  I love this! 

As I reflect on my own life, I can think of an example or two. 

The first time was my unhappy marriage.  I had some clear ideas that this was not the man for me.  If am totally honest, I knew before the wedding, I just didn’t know how to not marry him.   We were not a match in any kind of satisfying way, and long story short two years in I got sick.  I was in the hospital for 10 days, and when I came out, within a few months, we separated.  I wish I had the communication/self-awareness skills I have now back then, because I feel sad when I think about how we broke up.  I did the very best I could, wanting to be fair, and friendly, and yet it was one of the three most challenging experiences of my life.  But, I digress.  The point of the story is that I was unhappy and stuck and I got sick!
I had cholecystitis.  Gallbladder disease.  So painful.  I suffered for years, and finally had it surgically removed.  People talked about the idea of holding feelings in as being part of what might create such a condition, which is what I did for most of my relationship with my husband. 

The enlightenment came because my first thought was after being diagnosed, “This is something that happened because of my choices.  I did this.”  Almost instantly I changed my diet, stopped smoking (yes, I smoked) and left my marriage.  The 10 days of my hospital stay was my ‘brick to the head’.  I will spare you the emotional trauma of my hospital stay.  It was enough to realize, I will die if I don’t speak up, if I don’t take care of myself.  It was what I needed before I could take action, even though I knew what action needed to be taken years prior.

Recently, I had another experience of “forced mindfulness”.  One thing that was/is distinctly different is how much gratitude I have for the ‘help’.  So much gratitude.

I took a train to visit my boyfriend Steve.  13 hours.  When I got to his place, I noticed some pain in my low back.  By the end of the day, I was barely able to move.  Without pain that is.  And it got worse from there.  I don’t remember having back pain like this ever before, and we were busy that weekend, so I was feeling all kinds of scared.  Long story short…I got to take a sleeper car home (very cool ~ ask me about it!) and upon my arrival home, taking care of myself was my number one priority. 

Here’s the thing…I had been saying that I wanted to prioritize my well-being for 1.5 years, knowing I wasn’t well, and didn’t seem to be able to actually do it.

With the amount of pain I was in, I literally (not literally, really ~ but close) had no choice.  Every move was deliberate.  My body (the universe?) had created a condition that I was able to actualize what I had been hoping for.  Pain was not pleasant, yet kept me honest with my choices.

After one month the pain mostly dissipated.  In a weird way, I felt afraid.  I wanted the pain to keep me focused.  And, I didn’t want to hope for pain, so I chose to remember the pain.  Act as if.   So that is what I have been doing.  I am remembering the choices I made when I was in pain and continue to do those things.  In my case, take walks, stand and lie down ~ reduce sitting to almost never. 

It is now two months.  I am still able to remember.  I can move much more now, yet I am listening much more closely to my body signals.  Certainly there are whispers of ‘you are sitting too long’, or don’t bend down quite like that. 

Say This Not That (to yourself):

Next time you find yourself in pain ~ physical or emotional… 
  • You might consider what is your circumstance?  What is your body asking you for more (or less) of?
  • Check out the stories you immediately are telling (asking) yourself.  Is this going to last forever?  Why am I being plagued with this?  What the hell is wrong with me?  Why did this have to happen now?  
    • Now, take some time to actually answer the questions.  I’m guessing there is some valuable information if you take the time to listen.       
  • Consider the ways you can incorporate some new/old/different habits into your life? 
    • Have you been thinking that life is hard and people don’t support you in a way that you would like?  Now might be a good time to ask for the support you need.
    • Have you been longing for rest and didn’t know how to get it into your schedule?  Is this the ‘excuse’ you have been looking for?  Start saying more effective no’s and yeses.

Don’t let the bricks keep hitting you and piling up!  Take the brick ~ and the message it is delivering ~ and put it in a safe place.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day...I Insist!

Many people come to me in hopes of finding ways to deepen their connection with loved ones, partners, family members, workmates, etc.  So often they are confused thinking it is the other person who is creating the distance.  I invite you to consider the ways you separate yourself from the people in your life, often with simple greetings, intended to connect.  

Here’s an example:

Once again, it is a ‘holiday’ ~ Mother’s Day (don’t get me started on what I think about this) and I see on facebook and have been hearing multiple greetings of “Happy Mother’s Day” all morning.

How is it that happy is the only feeling offered?  Can people be delighted?  Can they feel satisfied or content?  How about devastated or grief stricken?  

Which feelings are you okay with?  And why?  

I am thinking of the mom who lost their child suddenly this year, struggling in every minute to understand how to feel happy, and on this day being bombarded with demands to do so.  I am thinking of my niece who who lost her mom and is reminded today how many big events in her life she won’t have her mom to cheer her on, or ask advice from.  I am thinking of the mom’s who are struggling with their kids who aren’t quite thriving and suffering with their own thoughts of “I’m such a bad mother”.  Or the many, many people still longing for a feeling of connection or nurturing with their own mother and confused about the pressure they might feel today ~ given the call to honor their mother ~ deepening their feeling of disappointment or despair.

I encourage you to be mindful today (and every day).  How about instead of dumping your insistence on how someone should feel about the day, you offer a connecting request?  

Say This Not That.  

How about trying a few of these greetings?  Notice if you are more connected with the person you are talking with.
  • How are you feeling this Mother’s Day?
  • Is Mother’s Day a holiday that has meaning for you?  I’d love for you to share a bit about your day with me.
  • I am missing my mom today and feel lonely on Mother’s Day.  Is this a day you celebrate or mourn or both?
  • This is such a hard day for me, I’m curious how you are doing today?
  • I love Mother’s Day!  It is an opportunity for me to celebrate all the people who have nurtured me.  Would you like to hear a story about one?  Is there someone in your life that you feel that way about?
If you want connection, it is simple.  Ask for it!!

Blessings to everyone out there with deep feelings today, whatever your experience is.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The OTHER Choices You Are Making this Election

This election season seems to have been particularly trying.  In ways that I do not remember.   Of course, it also seems that my memory is not what it used to be.  Why am I at the computer again? 

Oh yes, this election has had and continues to have so much energy, it is pulling people, squeezing out the hard, built up apathy and inertia.  A deluge of thoughts and feelings are being thrown around flooding the thoughtfields.  I am experiencing it like some serious weather.  A hurricane or a tornado of sorts.  Can’t get away, nowhere to hide, hard to breathe.  And it is a bit scary and painful.  Not sure what will be left of my life when it is ‘over’. 

I hear talk of choices, “If you do choose this, you are actually choosing something (someone) else.”  “The choices both are horrible” (sometimes with one being more horrible being thrown in).  “One is dishonest, the other uniformed, spewing all kinds of rhetoric without much of what is said based in fact.” I hear it being said over and over by my friends, almost everyone on facebook, the media and the comics I think are so funny.

I hear so much ‘they’.  They are this and they are that.

So who is they?

They is you.  At least to the other person.

In this time when the people who have risen to the top (however it actually happened) is what we have to deal with, we get to ask why.  We feel so much more comfortable when it is ‘their’ fault.  However, what I know to be true is that we are all a part of this, somehow. 

I would like to consider this in a bit smaller context.  If we were talking permaculture, I would be saying consider this hyperlocally, or zone 1. 

I am asking you to consider how you have been being during this election season.  How much listening have you done?  Actually listening for the deeper fears – under all the stories of what is showing up ~ for all the people you disagree with?  How much dialogue have you even considered. 

I’m not even suggesting that dialogue is possible.  I am curious if have you even tried offering empathy to those who are saying and doing things that you really, really don't like?  This is when it really matters, when we might really make a difference, when we can discover how committed to understanding, compassion and nonviolence we really are.

How much of the name calling, forcing your opinion as truth, hoping to drive the outcome you want, have you engaged in? 

It seems so easy this time.  So obvious that ‘they’ are doing it.  I wonder if you might take a breath and see if you can notice when you are ‘doing it’. 

In this election, I wonder if we all have lost a bit of our own compassion, our own values, our own open-heartedness.

For me, that is a choice.  And if you choose to lose this in yourself, what is (has been) the cost?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's Your Evidence?

Are you telling people what you think using language that masquerades your story as truth?

I believe the quality of your life depends on a few things, one being the language you use and the words you say.  For that reason I offered you this question.  I think with a few tweaks here and there in what you say, you will feel more free, more open, more empowered in your life.  And, I think it starts right here with how to share what you think.  And why you might not share it all.

When intending to connect with another person, offering them a peak into your inner world is  an invitation to know you.  Sharing what is important to you and what meaning things have for you is connecting.  So is the inverse.  Listening for what is important to someone else.  And this can be quite alluring and connecting even if what is important to you is different.  Unless, of course you are talking about your interpretations as truth.

Most often you are so quick to do this, you don’t notice.  You may have difficulty pulling apart the ‘what is’ from the meaning you make about the ‘what is’.  When was the last time you said, “It is a beautiful day!”  or “That is such a great restaurant!”?  Interpretation.  What is the evidence you use to make the determination of a ‘beautiful’ day?  Perhaps, the temperature, how many clouds you see?  In language it seems like nitpicking, in the experience of the person listening to you, it is a challenge and a suggestion. 

What if you love sunny, brisk days, and your friend loves the gentle rainy ones.  In the sentence “It is a beautiful day!” there is no invitation for your friend to have a different experience of the weather.  And, really, there is little sharing about what is important to you.  Very little revealing of your inner world.  Try this on:  “When I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and the breeze in the air, I feel so happy and alive.  I am so grateful for this sun-shiny day!”  Now your friend knows exactly what is important to you in the moment and how you feel about it.  S/he can share in your joy, even if s/he prefers rainy days.  Connection is made.

If you say, “it is such a great day!”, your friend actually has very little information as to why.  No understanding, no connection and there is no invitation for your friend to have another experience of the weather than the one you declared as the truth.

Let’s break it down a bit.  Static language – it is, you are, s/he is.  Nothing exists as static.  If you use these words, you will be mixing your interpretation of the facts as a declaration of the truth.  In a situation more important than a discussion of the weather, you will most likely receive a response that you do not want ~ if the person doesn’t agree with your interpretation.  Instead, offer them the evidence, what you notice, how you feel, and what is important to you about it.
What can you notice?  Three things ONLY!
1.  Things outside of you
2.  Your bodily sensations and emotions
3.  Your thoughts

That’s it!  Nothing more.  

You can notice what someone says or does, how you feel about what they say or do and what you think about it. 

Here are two possibilities...
Your boyfriend comes in a closes the door more loudly than you are used to.  It has happened in the past, when he was angry.   You greet him by saying, “What are you so pissed at?”  He replies, “F*ck you, I can’t believe you just said that.  I am so sick of your self-obsession.  I wish, just once you could be caring about me.  I just saw two guys fighting outside, and its pretty bad.  I’m going to call 911.  Just leave me alone.”  So now what?  This conversation needs an intervention.

Your boyfriend comes in a closes the door more loudly than you are used to.  It has happened in the past, when he was angry.   You greet him by saying,  “Oh my!  I am thinking something is up for you given how you shut the door.  Will you talk about it with me?”  He replies, “I am so glad to be inside.  There are a couple of guys outside fighting pretty seriously, I want to call 911.  Will you make me a drink and wait for the cops with me?”

In the first situation, you confused your interpretation of the sound of the door shutting (noticing) with your boyfriend being mad (interpretation).  You shared it as the ‘truth’.  Basically demanding that he buy your assessment of the facts.  While there was a question, there was no invitation to share what was happening for him.

In the second situation, you offered what you noticed, your guess as to what was happening and an invitation for sharing.  What you got back was connection.

Take a minute before you speak ~ especially in difficult conversations, to separate out what you notice, and the meaning you are making.  Share them as two separate things.  I believe the quality of your relationships and your overall experience of the world will be richer, more connected and you may have more freedom in all of your relationships.