I Remember. Come Alive, Rocks!

I just finally watched the new Come Alive video on The Haven website. I thought it was awesome. I wanted to find a way to share it with everyone who has ever asked me, “What is it you do at The Haven?”

Yes, I have taken the Come Alive journey many times. Twice as a participant and countless times as a leader during the last twenty two years.

I still remember my first Come Alive. I came with my sister, Penny. I thought I was dying. I had been given three months to live. My doctors were not too happy when I announced I was going across the country to take a five day program called Come Alive. They thought that was a waste. Of course, for me, I had nothing to loss. So I went.

I believe those five days turned my life around. I was so inspired by the leaders – their caring – their open, honest way of being with people. They were not trying to fix me or others, but simply listening, supporting and modeling vulnerability, curiosity and faith. I wanted what I was witnessing. I wanted that more than I wanted to cure cancer. I wanted to learn to relate with that level of authenticity and alive-ness even if it only lasted three months.

I was encouraged to breathe every day. Jock was often dropping by to offer acupuncture. His visits were short, frequent and just the right amount for me to gradually open up to what was happening. I witnessed people sharing a depth of feeling and vulnerability I had never seen before. Of course, I had moments where I totally doubted the process, even got angry about the fact that I was just getting this now with only a short time to live. The beauty of the program was that I traveled to so many places through listening to different stories than my own and never once thought I had to change or be different. I was simply invited to be me and to be curious about how I had gotten to where I was – not as a victim but as a response-able person. It was exciting to have people not feel sorry for me but instead hold me as able. They believed in me and with that invitation I came alive!

I didn’t really remember the models. But I did remember Jock’s tears, as far as I knew, no one had ever cried with me. Here was this doctor with big salty tears running down his cheek. This gave me the permission I needed to cry as well. We did this together, and I will never forget what that felt like. I remember the honesty and warmth of the group as each person revealed some aspect of their life that was raw and new to them. We each held an open space for whatever someone needed or wanted to explore.

Yes, I remember. That first five day program turned my life around, and I have never gone back to the lonely place I knew before arriving on Gabriola at The Haven. So I will gladly share this video and hope it goes viral. There is place, and it is worth visiting. Pass this on!!

Here’s the link to the new Come Alive video!!

Susan Clarke

Another Darn Transition!

I am doing a little bit of everything BUT writing. I imagine if I look back to last year at this time, I might discovery that there was a similar pattern. Having just returned from a very intense month of contact and engagement. I am now home.

Don’t get be wrong, I LOVE being home. However, there does seem to be some sort of adjustment process I go through that is a touch painful and difficult. I just can not seem to find the right rhythm. Plus this year I have returned and Bailey is gone.

Some of you may not be familiar with Bailey. Bailey is our boxer puppy of 2.5 years. I wrote many blogs about our dynamics. In many ways he was my buddy and a lot like me. Demands tons of exercise. Loves to play and has a bit of a stubborn side. Though underneath is a sweetheart. (may be not totally like me – not sure about the sweetheart part). Already some folks may be concerned that this is going to be a sad story of a puppy that died. NO! Bailey is just fine. Actually I think very happy and as playful as ever.

Bailey has a new home. Early this year CrisMarie and I had a very tough conversation about how our life was unfolding. Though we both loved Bailey. He did demand a great deal of attention and energy. For CrisMarie there was an added burden of being the one in charge when I was off at The Haven. She courageously shared her need for something different. To her credit she tried lots of things. Like more dog obedience. Finding boxer buddies for play dates, especially when I was away. But it just wasn’t working.

Of course if I were more of an alpha-type may be things would have been different. I’m not. So even with the extra classes and even more runs in woods, it was clear Bailey was a great dog but we were not the best buddies for Bailey.

So we agreed to look for a new home for Bailey. I struggled with this decision. Because Bailey was so much like me and I sort thought I was giving up on him. Fortunately we found Rick. Actually friends identified Rick as a possible Bailey buddy. We knew this was a good fit when after a four day visit with Rick. Rick’s comments were, “Bailey is such a mellow dog.” Okay there are many ways I would describe Bailey but mellow was never one of them.

Rick was the alpha that Bailey was looking for. Rick took his time because he was clear he wanted to be sure Bailey would have a forever home. Now he does. So Bailey is in great hands. They are hiking, biking and apparently even out on the water. (bailey would not get close to the water with us.) So Bailey is in very good hands.

Still the transition happened while I was away. So coming home and now settling in, the reality of Bailey being gone is upon me. I miss him. He was SO full of life and demanded I join him! He was my energizer puppy!

So without my distraction and energy fixer, I am drowning in this transition. There is a ton of things I can do. The weather is becoming something other than wet – so the great Montana outdoors is calling. I have a great bike just waiting to discover new routes. I have writing that needs to get done. Of course there work which involves some cool new projects. Yet I am sad. Bailey’s gone and I miss him.

I have been wanting to writing about Bailey for a while. But just couldn’t without welling up in tears. Maybe posting something about just what a good life he is living will help move this letting go process along.

I know it’s not really all about Bailey. I am home and it always takes me a while to find my footing after a month at The Haven.

This too shall pass and may be I’ll go hiking with Rick and IO (yes Bailey has a new name – pronounced EE-O!). I’m not ready yet – but soon.

At least I have started writing again!!

Home From Phase

I am back in Montana after a month up at The Haven leading the Phase program. A month is a long time to be away from home. Yes, I love the program and believe there is incredible value for folks who decide to take the time. Still, it’s a long journey.

Of course, it is not simply a discovery process for those who are participating. I also learn amazing amounts about myself. This year there were a number of situations I found challenging. There were some personalities that were not easy for me to like. Sometimes because of what seemed like impulsive and angry behavior that got in the way of others. Also, I was told to ‘f-off’ more than ever before. In general, I expect some negative transference or some projection. This time though I did find myself exhausted and wishing I could push a ‘mute’ button when I saw the signs of an eruption.

We also had a leadership team that struggled to work together. I generally think of myself as someone is pretty good at building positive team dynamics; however, we struggled. There simply wasn’t the level of laughter and good will I am use to in our meetings.

Still even with all the challenges, I love this program. Because it isn’t really about having a ‘feel good’ experience. No, The Phase is about ‘living alive’ and that means spontaneous, impulsive behavior. It means having issues come up between people and dealing with them live time. Sometimes it even means asking someone to leave and having to deal with the empty space and the fears that they may not be okay.

Yes, this year’s Phase was not easy. It was real. There were some wonderful moments and once again I was privileged to witness transformation.

Now home I am working to get caught up on things. Of course that also involves reflecting on my own learnings from the month.

In general, I feel good about how I handled things. Though I frustrated myself at times, I also found paths out of the frustration. I did move from being in my role to being personal and authentic. I handled some very difficult conversations and came away feeling like I had said what needed to be said, listened and at times was influenced and changed accordingly. I liked the people I got to know and as I looked around the closing circle, had memories of each person that will remind me why I do this work.

Yes, it is great to be home, and I miss dancing before each group session, a schedule that ensures I stay on track, and mostly, folks interested in growth and engaging fully in life!! I would say until next year, but the next Phase I’m leading comes earlier in February. So less than a year away. Wow!

Using Strength To Power Through

Over a month ago I was invited to offer a virtual dialogue for donors of The Haven Foundation fund. This is program set up for donors and involves faculty members offering one hour dialogues around various topics. At the time this seemed like an easy enough request and since I have a huge appreciation for all of those who contribute to The Haven, I was willing. Carole Ames (my co-leader in the Phase program) and I agreed to talking on the topic; Strength, An Alternative to Powering Through.

Now 20 days into a month-long Phase program, the evening of the dialogue has arrived. The topic is much more relevant than I had imagined it would be. I find myself right in the midst of an active battle with my will. I am caught up in the demands of a long intensive program and I am wrestling with my best path. To power through and simply do what must be done or to use my will to drop into my vulnerability and feelings and connect with folks even if it means some things on my to do list will not get done.

There is value in both paths. I am committed to making sure that things get done. We do have a fairly tight schedule and at times it is important to simply use my will to power through and control my impulse to ‘give up’ or collapse into to helplessness when faced with a challenging situation. Yet there are also times when I would be best served to drop the control and role and simply be open and authentic with my feelings.

More than any previous program I find myself faced with choices in the power and strength continuum. (To learn more Go To Ideas in Action: http://www.haven.ca/resources/the-haven-models.html )Maybe it is because of the invitation to speak on the topic, maybe this is simply a more challenging Phase for me. I have always loved the model and have wrestled myself with what seems like the good side and the bad side. I place a high value on connection, vulnerability, authenticity and being personal. (the strength side – or good side) Yet I know that at times I would become quite lazy and irresponsible if I was not willing and able to use my will to take control and actively push myself out of an entitled stance or my own despair. (the power side – the bad side)

Tonight I want to speak from both sides of the continuum. I want to create a frame and provide a structure and understanding of the concepts that does demand a concentration of purpose. (the Power side) Yet I also want to show up and be vulnerable. (The Strength side) I am by no means an expert of this topic, though I am finding I am more of a master these days as I become more willing to flow and flop through my day between power and strength, control and vulnerability and my role as leader and my place as a human being.

I do believe that is really the message in model; sometimes I surrender to the day and sometimes I fight my way through. At least these days I am more conscious and aware of the difference.