Dear Donald Trump

Dear Donald,

I have been wrestling with the best way to handle the mix of emotions I have coming up related to November’s election.  I doubt that writing and sending a letter directly to you would have any impact.  However, trying to have dialogue and debate with people supporting your ticket has not proven to be particularly productive either.

I am a believer in using dialogue to talk about difficult issues in order to avoid getting into right/wrong positions, working towards understanding people who live by different values than me.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I come into a dialogue quite heated and very unhappy with what I think is another person’s ‘deplorable’ position.

However, I have found that when I listen and make space for someone’s opposing views, I learn something.  Also, I don’t generally walk away thinking they are evil, narcissistic or a sociopath.  I have more space, compassion and even if I still disagree have confidence we can live together with our differences.

The problem currently is that I am having a very hard time thinking of you as anything other than militantly ignorant (In case you are not familiar with that term, read Scott Peck’s, People of the Lie where he provides his definition of evil), narcissistic and more recently have wondered about the label sociopath.

I must be wrong.

I hope I’m wrong.

I must be missing something.

At parties and dinner conversations I have attempted to make a case for where you might be coming from.  I admit most of my friends, family and colleagues, who are Democrats, Republicans or Canadian, are very put off by your bullying, ranting, raving style and your need to incite violence in a crowd of people who are already revved up.  So the conversations have been one sided, and people have at times been upset with me for even attempting to understand your position.

I can’t say I blame them.  The things you say you stand for make very little sense to me.  Building a wall along the border of Mexico, getting rid of all Muslims are just two that seem frankly, crazy.  If not crazy at least anti-social, mean and considering Mexico is a neighboring country and most Muslims are not terrorist, militantly ignorant on your part!  Around other issues such as foreign policy, taxes, the economy, I hear you say, I quote, “I am very, very flexible on many issues.”

Really?! What does that even mean!

I don’t know your position or believe you have one. In other elections, I might disagree with a Republican point of view, but this time, I don’t know your position, other than to inflame.  That really concerns me.

When I read the paper or watch the news, I am left thinking, you seem to like being overly aggressive, you cut people off when they are talking so you can make your own point,  you yell and scream frequently, and you say mean things about almost every race, sex or opponent who has crossed your path.

So I am left thinking…maybe you are a sociopath.

Definition of a sociopath: someone who can be defined as a person with markers of Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one’s goals.

I sort hate to agree with what I have heard others say about you, but it fits what I see, hear and read regarding your run for President.

So what gives?  I think you must be a sociopath? Or tell me what you do stand for?

I don’t want a sociopath as a President.  But the biggest problem is a sociopath makes for a very difficult opponent to beat.  Because underneath, I don’t really think you care and you will lie and manipulate to achieve your goals.

What is worse is I believe you are very good at using the fear of people to get their vote.  That is what bothers me the most, because I don’t really believe you are on their side.  You just know that you can use their fears about the state of the world to get a vote and put yourself in office.

Maybe all politicians do this.  I hope not.

I know this letter sounds mean, but I don’t know what else to do.  I have not heard any information to refute this conclusion, and I’m looking for it.  When I listen to your strong supporters they are either screaming or also saying something  hateful about another group of people. That just doesn’t fit for me.

Okay you people out there who are voting for Donald, maybe you can help.  But I will just say up front, screaming back at me won’t be very effective. I want to hear something genuine, real and heartfelt.   Something other than a hateful reason for wanting to put this man in office.

I will listen to the debates, but unfortunately I doubt it will be any different than the ones I have already seen.  I am actually concerned these will be worse.

I can only hope I am wrong or that others will decide having a sociopath for a President is not helpful.

Hate and anger will never make America strong and those are the most consistent messages I have heard from you, Donald.

America or Donald yourself, please stop this madness.

 

The Secrets About Boundaries and Me

I consider myself someone who is quite good at speaking up for myself in general.  As a result, I have spent years working with clients, supporting and encouraging them to find their own voice and risk speaking up even if it may create conflict in their most important relationships.

Truth is, surfacing conflict really did save my life.  So I have been passionate about it.  It’s not that I love conflict.  I don’t.  However, a lack of conflict and overly nice and calm is way more of a safety issue for me than loud and messy.

Why?

The easy answer is simple.  Not speaking up can and does lead to health issues.

Stay silent long enough and your body talks, in the form of headaches, backaches, joint pain, and even cancer.  If you want references check out Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, When the Body Says No.

My personal experience is that my cancer began to resolve when I found my voice and spoke up.  I believe staying silent creates ‘dis-ease’ in you, negatively impacting your health.

But please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying if your are ill you must not be saying something.  It is not that simple!  However, speaking up and speaking your truth does help your sense of well-being and life energy.

But there’s more to it.

I’ve been in relationship now for over 16 years with a classic Conflict Avoider, CrisMarie. Yes, she has good reasons for having developed a super power in navigating and defusing conflict.  In many ways, it has served her well.  However, there has been a tremendous cost to her.  You can hear her story in our TED Talk, Conflict Use It, Don’t Defuse It.   It’s also been hard for me and our relationship.

See I do not pick up on her subtle cues. I am also the first to own up to being blunt, persistent and persuasive about my ideas.

As a result, I have gotten upset when I learned later that CrisMarie was quite uncomfortable with my strong debate style, but didn’t say anything at the time.

I am sad when I realize she was asking me questions and working to meet my needs without ever bringing up what she wanted.

I feel blindsided and betrayed  when she has addressed her unhappiness and even once thought she might want to end our relationship because she wasn’t sure there was room for her.

Wow!

That particular situation was a horrible moment for me.  In my past, I would have quickly tried to change and  stopped speaking up.  Although, having done that before and knowing it did not work,  I chose I different path.

I stayed with me and my style, and I also encouraged her to do whatever it took to find her voice even if it might meant leaving me.

So far, that has not happened.  She’s been working on her own track for a while now and yes, it has impacted our relationship.  She is speaking up. We fight more or at least differently.

Things get tense we sometimes separate and each take space to settle ourselves.  When we’re with others she doesn’t often come to my defense when I get into my own reactive style. No, instead, she usually tells me what she really thinks.  Sometimes that stings.  Yet, I know I am getting straight feedback from her these days, and I like that – even when I hurt myself with it.

As a result, I have also discovered my own issues with boundaries.  For me, it’s not so much saying something I don’t like or think differently about. No. It’s often more about saying, “Ouch! That hurts.”

I tend to have a protective layer that can be more like a wall than a boundary.  I have a fight style that served me well in my past and now can be hard to dissolve.  So people may not know that they are having quite a significant impact on me, and my angry face or silence is a mask.  Underneath, I may be swimming in uncertainty or worse hurting myself with something they’ve said.

When I am at my best I drop the wall and stand forward in my vulnerability.  However, that’s at my best, and I am far from perfect.  I do still wrestle with my walls when I interpret an attack. It is often worse when I am blindsided by a situation where I thought someone was standing beside me, and later learned they were just too afraid to speak and tell me they didn’t like what, or how, I said something.

That moment.

When someone finally finds their voice after long time, and I didn’t know they were being silent to avoid conflict with me.

That moment.

When that truth surfaces, is the most painful for me and yet, the most valuable. It’s the reason I believe surfacing conflict, speaking your truth in real time and hanging in through the messy is so worth it.

I also know I have my own work to do.  Because when I don’t say, “Ouch!” or own up my wobbly vulnerability,  I am really just as dishonest and in avoidance for being real in that moment.

Walls are not boundaries.

Boundaries are not about defense but about self-definition.

Boundaries are for defining me and showing up – not about changing you.

When, and if, me and you ever learn that lesson – well may be then we can live in a more self-responsible relational world!

Do you recognize yourself in any of the above?

CrisMarie and I started Be BRAVE, a six week virtual program, because we believe that speaking up, learning to self-define and stay in your own shoes is critical for aliveness, health, success in business and in any significant relationship or partnership.

If you want to learn more join us for our FREE Training, September 14, How To Set Boundaries that Stick!

Also, we are so excited because we have added a 3-Day In Person Retreat for Be BRAVE!! It is right here in in our charming town of Whitefish Montana.

I’ll be working with you on boundaries using a horse in an arena! You’ll meet a real life cowgirl, horse whisperer, there will be a photo shoot with you and the horses, and mind-body work to help you settle your nervous system in the midst of conflict!

Plus you’ll be eating organic and gourmet food, staying in luxurious accommodations!

You just get yourself to Whitefish and we take care of the rest! Sign up now there are only 6 spots left!!

Check out our three options for Be BRAVE if you are ready to find your voice and speak up!

 

 

Why I Work With Horses

IMG_0198I was listening to a webinar by the awesome Susan Hyatt, on getting people to say yes.

I suck at promoting myself.  Yes, I can promote The Haven, CrisMarie, Be BRAVE, thrive! – but when it comes to my work – well I just – don’t!  Okay may be that is a bit to universal.  I don’t think I do it well.

Here’s the deal.  I do enjoy working with people and introducing them to Mojo Coaching with the horses.  I have put it out a little online and with a local card rack offering.  I’ve had some great sessions, but I would not say I am gaining the traction I want.

So as I listened to Susan, I came to the conclusion that I have not yet really landed on my message and passion for doing this work.

I know I love it.

I know my heart opens when I am working with the horses.

But I am not yet communicating why you might really want to work with the horses!

So I decided to work on my message through just doing something else I love writing.

Why do I love Equus coaching and why might I be just the perfect person for you to come and give it a go?

What you need to know about me is that I have many layers of protection.  I have some great reasons for all that protection.  I have done 10,000 hours of working on my reactivity and learning how to clean up the messes I make, and I am still a work in progress.

However, when I started working with the horses, something new and profound happened.  I discovered just how quickly I could drop those protective walls and relax.  I can’t totally explain why, but when I step into an arena with a horse or horses.  I settle.

I don’t have to explain my face, my intensity, my reasons for being nervous or fidgety.  All I have to do is be me, fully and freely.  I get that a horse isn’t asking for anything more.IMG_0196

There’s an acceptance – as though that horse knows the inside of me not all the packaging or protecting I may attempt to do on the outside to keep myself safe.

I am invited to feel when I am scared, when I am angry, sad or upset.  The horses have the capacity to handle all of my energy as long as I am not pretending to be something I am not.

That acceptance has been profound for me.  Horses seem to genuinely want the company of someone who is fully themselves. They love it and they live it themselves.

I actually think that is one quality I share with horses. I can and love holding a space for people to bring all of themselves.  I don’t shy away from BIG feelings – be they happy glad, sad or mad.  I also haven’t yet heard a story I couldn’t hold when someone is sharing their truth.  But unlike a horse I am not without my flaws.  Sometimes my face isn’t easy to understand, or I do feel deeply and with intensity.  But like a horse, I relax when someone drops the walls and stands forward – scars and all.

I think that is what my Equus coaching practice offers.  A moment and a space where you really have a felt sense of being received and accepted for all of who you are. You really don’t have to do or be anything more.  Having that experience is life changing because being able to accept yourself and be yourself is what creates happiness and fulfillment. I don’t know about you, but I could always use more self-acceptance!

 

 

 

Living It! Bring Haven Home!

imageI love leading, teaching and learning in groups whether it’s a Haven program, or our Be BRAVE Women’s group, leading a team transformation offsite with a business team, or speaking to an entire organization. I love the live, face-to-face contact.

For a majority of my career, I have been a firm believer in face-to-face interactions as the best way to create transformational experiences and learning. However, times have changed and much of life these days takes place online and with people miles (may be even countries) apart. This is true in organizations, on teams, in families and even for couples. Life happens from a distance. Sure I love my face time and that is no longer required for developing trust, intimacy and transformation.

Having now participated in a number of online learning programs, I have developed friendships and connections that are as life enhancing has those that came from face-to face group experiences. As a member of a working team, I have found I can stay up-to-date and clear with colleagues moving significant projects forward and never or rarely getting together in person.

This week, CrisMarie have been delivering week four of our Be BRAVE class to a great group of women,  coaching sessions, webinars and radio programs, all from our home in Montana. That’s been great because not only have we gotten feedback that the work as been solid and powerful – we get to hang out at home with our dog, Rosie!

Why am I writing about this? Because in about six weeks, Haven’s Living It program is due to start with a weekend intensive on Gabriola. Living It! Is the first and only blended, meaning in person and online program,  Haven has offered.  It kicks off with the Haven magic of engaging in a circle on Gabriola with an awesome staff creating a great container for transformational learning and then continues for two months after online through webinars, groups and an online community site. Last year was our pioneer group. We were small but dedicated and worked our way through the challenges of technology and being the first!

Over the many years I have been at Haven, I have heard people speak of the challenges they face going home. Having had an intensive experience with deep connections and trying to figure out how to maintain that aliveness and engagement once back home in their ‘real’ world. I know it can be a challenge. In part it is why I am so committed to Living It! I know there are other paths at Haven like Staying Alive and Haven Coaching that can and do support the integration process. But I love the idea of meeting the challenge of integration while still in a program. In other words, taking Haven back home for a period of time and really having the support to try things, check in and try again!

So this blog is a really an ad! If you know that Haven has been an awesome transformational path for you and you have been challenged or want to bring more of that Haven magic back to your ‘real’ life, then consider signing up for Living It! It is powerfully helpful whether you have done just a Come Alive or the entire phase series.

Click here to learn more and sign up.

I do believe this is the next level of self-responsible relational living – being able to relate and create intimacy in person and online!

Join us! You’ll be amazed at how your life improves!

The Silence Isn’t Quiet

There’s this knot that aches in my chest.

It goes away when I see my dog play at the dog park or listen to a piece of music, but it doesn’t take long to come back.

susie2When I turn inward that knot belongs to a little girl inside. I promised her I’d take some time to write. To see if words or telling her stories would help heal, or at least allow, the grief.

There is so much about my life now that I love! I love my relationship. I love our dog Rosie who thinks life is all about play. I love living in Montana.

It’s true, lots of my life is good! Very good. So where does the deep ache come from?

Maybe it’s hard to be happy when I see so many people suffering. There is so much that goes on inside as I watch the news, read about the shootings of black men, and of white policemen, listening as people around me talk about racism, sexism, homophobia, politics, being white, being black, being young, being old, just being human. I often stay silent. But I am not quiet inside.

Maybe it is about how all lives should matter, not just white ones, and how some people have to work harder to get that point across.

The thing is, I am part of all this. I am racist, sexist, homophobic.  I probably don’t know the half of it. The events of my life color how I put my world together, and I make judgments in a heartbeat. Sometimes I’m conscious of it, sometimes not. I believe it is how we humans are wired. It is the best of us and the worst of us.

And so, I can certainly educate myself about cultural diversity and learn about the history of systemic white privilege. It’s important to know. But unless I pay attention also to the very personal and emotional filter of my life, it’s not going to make much difference.

And so, when I hear that little girl screaming inside, I must pay attention.

She asked me to tell her story, to write my book, and I keep getting stuck.

Stuck living in this moment or that next one, and the book goes background.

Until a day like today, when she feels so angry because she hears that she was privileged.

My little girl doesn’t get it.

I tell my little girl there’s truth to that – that white privilege is real, and that my life really could have been worse.

She does not agree.
It’s not that simple.

She remembers how it felt when she was raped at four (and again over and over). She remembers how it felt when she spoke up about his horrible acts and was called imaginative.
She remembers that overly liked camp director who preached goodness and for years chose to do whatever he damn well pleased after dark.
She knew. She tried to tell. No one listened.
She screams, “It’s not fair!”
It isn’t.

He wanted her silenced.
She got angry and punched a hole in the wall.
The doctor said she had an anger problem and gave her drugs.

Life moved on.

There was school and the dyslexic issue. But being laughed at for misspellings and not being able to read – that was nothing. You know – sticks and stones and rape and broken bones – that at least had passed – words would really never hurt her.

Except they did.

Then there was fifth grade, where she was at a predominately black school.
Charlotte bullied her regularly.
She spoke up. No one did anything.
So she ran for Student Counsel President on the platform to stop bullying.
She got one vote – hers, which got broadcasted over the public speakers in homeroom.
She wanted to cry and ran to the bathroom.
Charlotte was in the bathroom.
Needless to say tears were not going to help.
But what are a few more bruises and bumps when you are privileged – or will be some day?

She moved on and found a path playing tennis, hockey and basketball. She had loved little league but you know – girls couldn’t play baseball once they hit age 9 – even if they were much better than the boys.

But she was fortunate to be athletic. Baseball may be out, but there were other games to play and ways to run, run, and run from feeling the ache beneath her white skin.

Ugly and athletic. That worked once she hit high school and was the only white girl in an inner city black school. Sure there are some down sides. Like being the poster white kid during the two weeks the TV Series Roots was on and getting beaten up each day for that great honor of being white and privileged.

She was a survivor, and really I think amazingly creative and resilient.

Of course, when being white might have finally been a benefit heading to college at University of Virginia, by this time she was, I’ll just say, different.

She tried to fit in and she did some things really well.

But still there was a lot about life that just kept hammering away at that creative spirit.

After a number of years of fighting cancer in her 20s, she did find a home, a place that welcomed her and made it okay for her to be different. She started learning to be self-responsible and relational.

Not that being self-responsible and relational were easy. Taking responsibility for her life was hard, lonely, hellish at times. But she found her way and finally found a way to integrate – not get rid of – her past.

She found her loving. She didn’t think that it much mattered that it was with a woman.  And it really didn’t, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one more thing that made her different.

So back to me and today and my ache in my chest. Yes, on the outside I stand looking white, gray haired, and privileged. I get it. I am that white woman, who made it out of my past.

And I am privileged to still be walking this earth. But let me just say walking on this earth has not been easy. I haven’t often felt privileged and now that I do have a little taste of privilege, I guess I am not willing to make it wrong. I don’t have any desire to say my life matters more or less than anyone else.

My best friends in high school were black and when I needed people to stand by me when hate was running wild in a crowd – it was my high school basketball team that did. They circled me and the riot police circled them and we walked out of a crazy auditorium of people who wanted me dead. My all black team did not hesitate. We stood together, and I would stand with any one of them again.

I will stand with anyone for a while who thinks they stand alone. Sometimes that is enough to help someone find their own voice. People need to find their voice and legs again – to know they matter.

So back to my little girl, because, the heart of this story is for her – because she really didn’t think she was privileged.

And now it’s me that has to make sure she knows she matters.

When I do that I know that other people matter too. I don’t have an answer to all this pain, but I do believe that it starts by remembering that we are all much more than the color of our skin, our sex or sexuality. We each come with our stories.

The stories won’t go away, but we can take responsibility for what we do with our stories – and I think when we do that we can and will be much more curious, interested and loving when we listen to the story of another!

Don’t Confuse Issues of Velocity with Issues of Incompetence

35018330 - a car driving on a motorway at high speeds, overtaking other cars
Yes – We are moving FAST!

I want to write because each day lately seems to quickly get filled, and I have a backlog of material churning inside!

Over the past few weeks, I have traveled to Gabriola for faculty meetings and to lead a Couples Alive program, dropped into Seattle as a guest on Sunny McMillan’s radio show, had meetings with a few colleagues, written various blog pieces for our new program; BE BRAVE,  gotten our edits back on our book to review, launched and delivered my new MOJO Coaching program, trained Rosie (and mostly myself) using a sport collar for off-leash walking, tried to stay fit biking, running and playing a little golf!

I am sure I am missing some bits. I want to work on pulling some of the pieces together. Right now, I am dealing with what seems like fragmentation and diffusion, but I am curious if maybe the issue is more related to velocity than breaking apart!

Several years ago we were involved in some Rich Dad, Poor Dad workshops. One involved a weekend journey to Australia! (That trip is a story all by itself. Such a wild ride and an amazing gift from saying,  yes! It still brings a smile!)

One of the learnings that stuck was the idea that people who are more comfortable with abundance are going to be faced with issues of velocity, and it can be easy to confuse issues of velocity with issues of incompetence! (That last part is my take.)

My memory of the lesson is that the more money you have, the more important it becomes to keep it moving. People who have great wealth must be able to handle velocity, meaning the flow of money. Most people are not comfortable with flow.  Expansion, yes, but flow is something different!

In this context, flow means keeping the money moving and that involves risk. The more flow – the more potential upside and downside. The level of money WILL go up and down. There will be times when all could be lost, or a significant amount, and the willingness to ride with that movement is what defines flow.

Flow is about going with both the expansion and contraction.

This lesson applies to much more than wealth and cash flow. This principle is related to anything energetic.  Since we are energy beings, it applies in all areas of our life.

I am learning for myself that it is important to notice the difference between an issue of velocity versus an issue of incompetence or possibility.

Let me try to explain.

Currently, CrisMarie and I are focusing on developing online programs such as BE BRAVE.  Previously we have done small online programs to our warm and committed clients.  Now, we want to expand our reach to new and more people. This seems quite challenging to me.

I have enjoyed how easily people get to know me,  and I get to know them sitting in a Haven circle or in a conference room working with a team. I am not as comfortable when I am marketing across the airwaves and beyond the comfort zone of my smaller pond! Yet, how can I reach more people if I keep going to the same people?

So, I am jumping into the bigger ocean, and frankly, it’s taken my breathe away a few times!

However, when I do breathe and reflect on the nature of the challenge, I am discovering it is much more about the velocity at which we are moving than it is about our level of competence.

We have a solid foundation of helping people develop relationships that thrive – both at home and at work. We have been doing this together for over 15 years. I would even be so bold to say that we are experts in this field.

However, we are challenged by reaching our ‘tribe’ or target audience who haven’t met us yet. We have been swimming in this challenge for a while. I would say for at least the last three years.

In the beginning, our efforts to become successful in online offerings was more of a competence issue than a velocity problem.

Now, launching BE BRAVE, I think we have the foundation and the basic skills related to marketing and sales AND we are facing velocity issues.

In other words, our velocity issue causes leaks;  not huge chasms and holes.

This is a different problem. However, the internal feelings are quite similar.

46594773 - kid with jet pack riding bike. child playing at home. success, leader and winner concept

I find myself at times collapsing into despair and wondering about my own worth and value as we move into a much broader and bigger market and presence.

Why don’t people sign up?  How could they not like our AD?

Those feelings of despair and questioning my value, are old and very internalized patterns from beliefs and story-lines established when I was much younger and with way less resources.

I don’t like the feeling of fragmentation. However, I get this time it’s isn’t life or death. But it can feel like it at times.

That’s when I need to take a break. The key here is learning when it is a velocity issue and taking a quick break really does help.

Also reminding myself that even though I might feel like I am free falling or too scattered, I am not. I am simply moving faster,  or have more energy, than I have ever had before.

When I realize this, I take better care of myself and become more responsive to my internal cues.

Velocity problems are indicators of growth and expansion! They are a good signs and one that can be attended to with presence and compassion!

It’s helpful to remember being in the flow doesn’t mean all is comfortable, sometimes just the opposite!

A new speed, a higher level of input won’t be comfortable AND that discomfort does not mean there is a crisis or a major problem. I just need to check for leaks!

Just in case you are interested. BE BRAVE is a 6-week program starting July 12th. It is for women who want to reclaim their energy, be empowered and have a felt sense of wholeness in their relationships both @ home and @work! Click here to learn more and join us to learn how to transform your relationships.

Living Life Full Out!

A few years back Kumi, a woman facing and living with cancer, came to one of our Come Alives.  She was inspiring because it was clear she intended to live fully!  She’s the one who shared one of my favorite quotes, “Live Life Full Out!”

 

I really like the intent of living life full out because it’s not saying live happily or lovingly or fearless.  Not that any of those options are bad – just somewhat idealistic for me.

I do have many happy moments.  I have actually become someone who does a good job of smelling the roses.  Meaning, I get great pleasure from visiting the dog park, watching a herd of horses, reading a good book, or just having a great cup of coffee (best on the porch but inside still provides the joy factor!)

I am also someone who lives through my loving.  Now, my definition of loving isn’t always about being sweet and nice. My form of loving is being honest and true, which sometimes creates discomfort.

Also, my face doesn’t make my loving all that obvious.  An earlier post Being a Grumpy-Faced Leader talks more about my face. Not that a smiling face as anything really to do with the depth of one’s loving, but I do sometimes wish my wasn’t quite so intense.

Fearless, me? Well, no. Most of the things I love to do the most, bring up fear!  I just feel the fear and do the best I can with it!

But that’s why Living Full Out – makes so much sense.  Living full out includes the fear, the pain, the anger, the joy!  Kumi knew that and so do I!

I have added my own lines regarding how to:

  • Connect with curiosity
  • Love wholeheartedly

My tag lines or how to’s  came from my years at The Haven.  It was at The Haven that I first discovered the power in curiosity.   Since then I have used my curiosity over and over again to help me connect to people who think and live differently than me.  I have come to believe it really is the secret sauce in any relationship.

Living wholeheartedly – well my heart can hold a lot – cracks and all.  To me, the wholeheartedly means embracing the cracks, the sorrow, hurt, and anger that is a part of living and loving.  The human heart is much like a lava rock – it can withstand tremendous heat!

I am writing about this today because sometimes living life full out isn’t easy.  Since returning from leading the Living Alive Phase I have been struggling to find my Montana rhythm.  But riding through the melancholy is just as important as riding the big waves of joy, especially if I want to live full out.  Got to love the dark spots too!

Leading and Following

The Movement Between

Sitting reflecting. I am a week into Living Alive Phase I, just after finishing The Haven Leadership Summit and I find myself reflecting on leading and following.

For some this may seem a bit to Haven focused. Bare with me, or better yet, apply to your own experiences with being deeply engaged in learning, work or some aspect of your life that has been very familiar and involves discovering that you as leader might need to grow and yet also stay in some ways the same!

During the Summit the idea of leadership and followership had come up and I was intrigued and reminded of how much my own journey as a leader has been about discovering the dance between leading and following. There is both an internal aspect and movement that occurs, as well as the external shift from being in a role as leader and as follower.

For me, as I have become more comfortable in my own skin, and to be clear this can be comfortable in discomfort, I find myself much more fluid in leading and following.

Of course there are moments when I am struck by my own strong agenda or vision for what I want to have happen. I like that about myself. I like having a vision and being willing to stand forth and offer a direction. It’s a bit like my belief about judgements. That I am judgemental, I like. I enjoy using my ability to imagine, assume and discern. I also enjoy meeting and ‘clashing’ with new information and someone else’s assumptions. I notice when I am okay in my beliefs, I am quite open to the bump of a new view and can integrate the new information. When I am not so okay with myself, I can tend to fight or flight in some attempt to stay right!. I am finding this is a similar dance in leading and following.

Over the years as a faculty member at The Haven, I have had strong views on what is important and foundational, what needs to stay the same and what seems ‘special’ about our way of approaching group dynamics, aliveness and energy. I recognize that I have at times been defended and quite unwilling to embrace something I judged to be outside of the playing field I called Haven.

I have shifted in more recent years. Some of the shift has come from my exploration of new ways of thinking and experiencing growth. Some of the shift, as been because I keep hearing that others want something different and as someone in a role of leadership I want to be open and receptive.

At the Summit, I noticed so many new faces, new voices speaking up about diversity, leadership, youth, eldership, training, counseling, educating and embodiment. I found myself integrating much of the input into my understanding of The Haven, filtering new theories or thoughts into ways of thinking and embodying that have been so useful to me over the years.

At times it was exciting and I could feel the expansion and inclusion happening both inside me and around me in the room and online. Other times, I noticed my own contraction and fear that there was too much desire for change or something new. At times I spoke of my resistance and at times I simply sat with myself and wondered.

Of course with the Living Alive Phase starting hours after stepping out of the Summit, I have had an opportunity to notice what am I including now as I lead and what might I have dropped.

In truth, I love the Living Alive Phase I format. I find both structure and freedom in what has been a core Haven program for well over thirty years. Yet, I also have moments of wanting to introduce something new or noticing someone is leading us into something new and I have that choice to follow or not.

I am aware of my tendency to get swallowed into my world of The Haven and lose contact with the much larger world around me. So on a day when I have some extra time, I enjoy pulling myself out of my Haven world of leading and following and checking to see what is happening in the world around me.

I would love to hear from you and what does leading and following mean in your world. Is leading a role? Is following a different one? Do you dance in your own life between the these concepts? Are there areas of your life that are working and could use some new and fresh ideas? How do you grow and keep what works?

I’d love to hear from you.

Learning About Leadership From Horses

I love watching a herd of horses. There is so much going on and yet it can all seem so subtle.


Today, I sat and watched a herd of geldings for thirty or forty minutes. There were 15 in the herd. Their space had recently been downsized due to a need to seed an area for future use.

Thirteen of the horses were gathered in relatively small area. Most were standing with their front legs locked and shifting the weight on their back legs. They almost seemed asleep, were it not for the flick of a ear, usually directed at me. Yes, they knew I was watching as soon as I had moved towards the pasture.

I settled and took in the larger scene. Two of the geldings were off from the herd, grazing. Their ears were also trained on my position. It is amazing how subtle and keenly perceptive horses are to any movement in their environment.

When I first started watching horses I would hardly notice the little movements. Now, I was getting much better at picking up when one of the horse would make a very small shift backwards, pushing the horse behind him ever so slightly. Today, I could see that the signal was not at all subtle to the horse receiving it.

Pretty much everything about the arrangement was an intricate communication network where there were clear lines of dominance and order. Where boundaries were being set with minuscule gestures and smaller connections were well established even if undetected by the my human eye.

I realized as I was watching, I was learning a great deal about leadership. I have often thought of leadership in terms of dominance, who had the loudest gestures or offered the loftiest vision. We as humans tend to think of leadership in those terms.

But really leadership has a lot more to do with who amongst us is really the calmest, clearest and most embodied. In a herd of horses, there may be a dominate horse but that has little to do with the leader. No the leader in a herd of horses, is the horse that is calmest, and most embodied. It may not always be the same horse, in today’s gathering there was one gelding that stood slightly away from larger group between the cluster and the two grazers. If any of the others, made a slight move in his direction, his tail would swish and the advancing horse would move back. Nothing big, nothing loud, just clear. This horse was in many ways the most settled and defined – not through dominance – but just presence and space. I knew he was the one who would pick up any signal that truly needed the herd’s attention and would ignore any other type of intrusion.

Leadership can seem almost boring when watching these horses until my eyes adjust and I begin to see just how incredibly advanced and intricate the interplay and communication has become.

In the world of horses, leadership is about safety and living well together. It’s about ensuring that each member has a place and contributes. It’s about each member being able to express needs, desires and getting clear signals about what works and what doesn’t. It’s about making sure that when one horse is resting, other’s are aware and watching.

We could learn so much about leadership through observing and watching how horses and other pack animals communicate and live together.

Yet, for the most part we don’t. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if leadership wasn’t about who is dominate – but instead about who is calmest, clearest and is able to notice when real danger is afoot. Imagine a leader like that. Wouldn’t that be great!

 

 

Putting Action Foreground At The Haven

onlineslide-words-jumpingJust wrapped up our in-person day with the ESG (Education Steering Group) at The Haven. Was a very productive day as usual.

As is often the case, we spent a good portion of our time looking at programs and educational direction. However, one piece that came up and I am really excited about working on going forward, is emphasizing putting action foreground in The Haven models.

So what do I mean?

Well we spend lots of time focusing on program content and what happens at the Haven. We got to talking this time about how could we start talking as much about what happens next! Meaning how do people take action with their learning and experiences at Haven.

Haven really isn’t just a center for personal development. It’s a center for self-responsible relational living and that has a lot more to do with how people live their learning than just how they get it!!

I know for myself. I love coming to The Haven and taking a program or connecting with friends. But really what I love and value most about The Haven is how I have transformed my life, my relationships and my world outside of The Haven as a result of engaging in the programs and living that learning when I left!!!

For me, I changed my relationship to my cancer and my relationship to the medical model. As my health changed, I focused on building relationships that were based in open, honest dialogue. This has lead me to leadership at The Haven but also out in the world with my work and life partner CrisMarie through thrive!

I transformed my relationship to my family, where for years we did not speak, Now we have deep connections based on who we each are as people. All of this came from learning about self-responsible relational living and taking action!!

I think sometimes I can forget to talk about just how important the action part of the Communication model and the Selves Model really is!

Sometimes in a program, I may not talk enough about what comes next. I know I do usually mention my favorite motto: It’s not what you do – but what you do next. For me that motto is immediate and intentional in regards to taking whatever I learn into what I do next!

When people ask me, what does the Haven offer. I often answer with information about the programs and that may be the intent in the question.

But really what Haven offers is so much more than the program.

Haven offered me a choice in how to live my life and face whatever came my way by responding – not just reacting. Now I don’t always do that! But I do get I have a choice! Sure I still make a choice to react, to blame, to self-hate …. the list goes on. However what The Haven offered me was the opportunity to fully own my choices and basically with that comes freedom.

My relationship to myself and to the world around me becomes something else entirely when I really get the meaning of that!!

Indeed the programs at The Haven are amazing but what is really even more amazing is what the people who have come through the Haven have done next! I do believe those stories are worth sharing. Those stories are about how Haven is changing the world.

Tell me – how did you take action with what you learned at The Haven! What did you do next!! How have you changed the world through self-responsible relational living!

I would love to know!!

Next Up At The Haven:

Living Alive Phase 1 – April 17, 2016 with Toby Macklin

Also check out my new Leadership Mojo Intensives – Equus Coaching in Montana!