Category Archives: Connecting

Back From The Edge

We just returned from Part II of the Couples Alive series, The Edge, at The Haven Institute in BC, Canada. In addition to being a part of the design team and leaders of the Couples Alive series, we are also committing to taking each part of the four part series as a way to deepen our relationship and ‘walk our talk’ so to speak.

I found the trip to The Edge quite enlightening. By saying that, I am not saying it was easy.

When we created the design for Couples Alive II, The Edge, we had talked about the idea of creating experiences that first allowed people to visit their own edges and then meet as a couple at the edge. That all sounds good, but it wasn’t until I found myself spiraling down into an OLD family of origin hole that I realized just how successful we had been at finding a good way to get people right to an edge. I won’t say I enjoyed revisiting the past; however, it was a great way to see how my ‘story’ of the past still influences and plays into my current relationships.

It was also amazing to get the opportunity to understand how our histories meet at times for a somewhat wild ride in the present.

Of course, for each of us, the edge can be quite different. There’s the situations from our own life experiences that can bring us to the edge and there’s the tension that occurs in a relationship when I want to be ‘me’ without risking losing ‘us’. There’s the soft spots that are hard to expose and there’s the conflict that occurs simply because we are unique and have differences.

Finally, after discovering many edges and meeting edge-to-edge at various points in the workshop, we closed by being reminded of that deep longing which bought us together in the first place.

Apparently, it’s simply human nature to want to find someone who has your back and who is also willing to journey to the edges, together.

I came home more committed and more revealed. Knowing I had work to do on my patterns, but was excited about the commitments we each made and the opportunity to put new learning into our life back at home and in our work.

Indeed, I Do Have A Spiritual Practice!

A few years back, I was down in the San Francisco area participating in a program called Transformational Lessons. I was there with about 40 or 50 other folks. We started with introductions where we were asked to share our spiritual practices. I listened as each person spoke about either a yoga practice, a meditation/prayer, or mantra, and/or some guru or ashram where they were currently studying or regularly attending. As my turn arrived, I wondered what I was going to say.

I couldn’t really relate to the question, nor did I have any idea of an answer. At that time I was not at all interested in yoga (too tight for that) and I sort believed chanting, meditation, and ashrams were all about transcending this human experience–and I wasn’t interested in that.

However, I did consider myself a spiritual person. Finally, as my turn arrived, I spoke about the one practice that I believed transformed my life and has regularly provided me a pathway to my most spiritual experiences – connecting with other people in a deep and personal way that expands my reality. The practice involves utilizing The Haven communication model.

When I mentioned my practice, I could tell a few people did not understand how a communication model could be a spiritual practice. Since that day, I have regularly referred to The Model as a spiritual practice. These days, I practice yoga, enjoy chanting, and even regularly do some form of meditation. However, I still firmly believe the most spiritual experiences I have come from those times when I practice intimacy through open, honest, vulnerable communication – the essence of the communication model.

Almost thirty years ago I was introduced to The Model. Now after years of teaching it, practicing it and applying it in every relationship that matters to me, I still learn new things, discover deeper connections and expand my world.

Why? Because to practice The Model authentically, I have to fully own my judgments and whatever feelings I am generating. I have to take full responsibility for whatever experience I am creating or having. This requires discipline and can be hard. However, even more challenging at times, is suspending my own rightness about my views or opinions and listening with heart and curiousity to someone else. When done well there is an opening that takes me way beyond the limits of my human ego experience, providing a moment of loving that reminds me of the quote: “To love another person is to see the face of God”.

To me, that is what defines a spiritual practice, an experience that allows me to see the face of God. Something that I will likely never fully master and will continue work on as a way to open doors and bridge differences that not only transforms my life but profoundly impacts the world around me.

If you want to discover more about this model and possibly start you own practice, visit: The Haven website, or better yet take any of their core programs.

Finding All Of Me!!

I am thrilled to be writing this blog as a way of supporting CrisMarie’s adventure into teleseminars! Thursday she’ll be doing her first solo online seminar. She has decided to focus this one on her interpretation of The Haven’s selves model.

I can always use a reminder of the many ways I avoid accepting and living with all of me. My ideal self would love to think I have this model down. (What is there to learn?) But the truth is, my actual self often isn’t quite as ideal as I would like.

For CrisMarie, an Olympic athlete, I find her take on this model refreshing because she focuses on tapping back into the authentic self. Of course in the end, it’s really about accepting all parts of me.

If you are interested in joining the teleseminar please follow this link:  Join us on Thursday April 14,2011 at 2PM PST.

Relationship Math: 1 x 1=1

I live in a community where there is lots of talk about oneness and unity.  Often, I feel at odds listening to the discussions because there has been a quality to the conversation that I interpret as a transcending of the human experience to a higher order, which I don’t agree with.  However, when some Haven friends presented me with the Relationship Equation: 1 x 1=1, I had an “ah ha” moment!

Let’s just review some basic math: 1 x 1=1, and 0.5 x 1=0.5, and 0.5 x 0.5=0.25.  By applying this equation to any relationship, you can see that if I show up in a relationship as only half of myself, then the outcome, even if the other person fully shows up, is still only 0.5.  Not oneness!  Worse still, if we both show up only half way then the return is a mere 0.25.  This means that if I want to get to oneness, I must bring all of me to the equation: the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful! There is no transcending, cutting out parts, bypassing the ugly ego, or really any part of myself.  This totally changed my view on oneness.  I am all for it now.

From a relationship context, this makes complete sense.  Sure, I wish only the best of me showed up day-to-day in my interactions with CrisMarie.  However, when you live and breath, travel and work side-by-side all of the time, that is just not real.  We have amazing moments of closeness, and we have horrible clashes.  We also have lots of boring day-to-day experiences.  This is life. It’s easy to disengage or try to hide parts of myself that show up at the wrong moment.  However, if I go back to the math, I understand that when I take a part of me out of the equation, I miss the opportunity to experience oneness.

I listen to people trying to shed parts of themselves.  I am sure we have all tried to stop crying or wish we could rid ourselves of rage, pain, sorrow, or hate.  It doesn’t work.  Somehow, if we want to be one or whole, we have to feel everything deeply, and then and only then, do we get to know fully who we are and maybe get better at choosing how we show up.

This same equation applies to teams, groups, families, even countries.  1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1=1.  There is no other way to get to oneness.  My imagining that I could do more, say like 1.5, does not help anyone else I am in a relationship with get to oneness.  1.5 x 0.5=0.75.   Wow!  The math makes it clear. Each of us can only work on showing up fully ourselves.  That is the only way to ONE!

If oneness is our destiny, as some have said, then it means our path on this planet is to embrace everything, the good the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Then, and only then, do we have a chance to experience wholeness, unity or oneness together.

So what do we do about the pain, the suffering, the meanness and the cruelty that exists in the world, and within ourselves?  First, we don’t deny it;  We embrace it;  We own it; We show up fully and invite all of the those standing there with us to show up fully as well.  In that moment of intimacy, we may indeed kill each other, however, we may also see God. Does that possibility scare me?  Sure.  I know I have yet to show up fully moment to moment for very long.  But if I do the math – it is the best option.

How Will I Measure My Life?

Last week I lead the Come Alive program at the Haven Institute.  When I arrived on the property and discovered the group was significantly smaller than I had thought, I found myself disappointed. I imagined the week was going to be challenging because sometimes, with smaller groups, there isn’t the same level of energy, and if there is any degree of resistance among participants, it can become even greater because one person’s engagement or disengagement has a greater impact.  Plus, I wanted to cover my travel expenses and though I hate to make leading programs about the money, it is a factor. 

However, once I got to know the folks in the room everything changed.  I loved the week. Yes, Carole and I were called to be more creative in offering experiences that engaged everyone.  We could not rely on the usual structure to fill the week. But this was great and I think we both liked the challenge.  Also, with a larger group, there is less demand for my own vulnerability and personal connections, assistants and interns becoming far more connected to folks than I.  So again, this past week offered me the chance to connect on a deeper personal level with each member of the group. In the end I realized it wasn’t really the numbers that mattered at all.  The group was special because they were engaged, committed and willing to step forward throughout the week. 

This brings me to the next piece for discussion.  What measures a successful, fulfilling life?  This question surfaces for me as a result of an article forwarded to me by a colleague.  The article is the most emailed article this year from HBR (Harvard Business Review).  Here is the link in case you want to read the article yourself:

I enjoyed reading the article and quickly realized that the way I measure my life is by my level of aliveness. Aliveness to me means engagement, commitment and willingness.  When these three conditions are high I have a felt sense of fulfillment, joy and success.  In thinking about these three conditions, I realize they are each something I have a choice in creating in the context of anything my life presents. Sure there are activities that naturally invite these elements because of my own likes and dislikes. But really, even is life is presenting some stuff that is not to my fancy, I have found that attitude adjustments related to these areas can make all the difference. The Come Alive was a relatively easy example.  Because I love and am generally always curious about people, I knew that once I engaged, the rest would follow. 

There are other areas and situations in my life that are far more difficult. I have been in groups where I have disliked the path we were taking or found members of the team or group very difficult to deal with.  In those situations, my level of engagement has declined. I become less committed to outcomes, and I suspect others in the room might call me willful and not at all willing.  The degree to which I let these barometers slide without notice or attention becomes a key driver in aliveness.  For me, the worst is not cranky or willful, no, the low of lows is when I become disengaged and apathetic.  When that occurs I can go without oxygen and there is a numbness and deadness that, once set in, becomes very hard to shake.

So in the end, how I measure my life becomes a daily opportunity—a moment to moment invitation. Am I engaged? Am I committed? Am I willing? If not, what can I do to adjust?  Generally speaking, the answer involves a revealing of myself.  There is something I need to say that I am withholding or there is something I am feeling that I wish not to expose or reveal.  Once I take care of that, my aliveness returns and though things around me might not change, I see and experience the world quite differently.  I am curious, I am able to connect, and I am deeply in touch with loving myself and others in the world around me.  That, to me, is success!

It’s Showtime Here In Whitefish!

CrisMarie is engaged in the local community theater again this year. She is once again playing the part of the family maid. This year’s production of Dividing the Estate, though billed as a comedy, has some quite realistic themes of fighting over money and other dysfunctional family dynamics that can cut close to the core. Her character, Mildred, the maid, gets a bit caught up in the “When do I get the money” theme of this Horton Foote play.

I have now seen the play three times. It has not been as easy to enjoy as last year’s zany comedy, You Can’t Take it With You, but I am beginning to appreciate Foot’s ability to show a slice of middle-American life.

I think we would all prefer not to recognize how we could be one of the members of this play. I hate to think I would hire lawyers and argue about the division of money and property the day my parents die. However, I have no doubt that if feeling desperate and fearful about my own security and livelihood, I too, would likely resort to unfavorable human dynamics in order to survive.

What is interesting for me during this annual theater experience and seeing the play so many times, is that I’m seeing aspects of the characters that I would otherwise never fully appreciate. Stella, the matriarch of the family, at first pass seems controlling and demanding. Three shows later, I am much more aware of her deep desire to have her family close. Though she doesn’t listen or connect to anyone other than Doug, the older servant, I get that she wants to give something to each of them. When one of her children is in trouble, she drops her crusty attitude and does whatever is needed. Stella’s unwillingness to divide the estate is much more about keeping the family together than holding on to money and land.

I could go on with each character, but unless you live in Whitefish and are around this weekend, you may never see this play. I don’t think it is one that shows regularly.  Still, I am reminded how much I like live theater.

In my many years at the Haven with Ben and Jock, I would always enjoy listening to them share their views of plays they would see in New York City.  Each year they would spend a week or more watching two plays a day, if possible, and come back using the stories from the stage as a connecting point for all of our lives.  For them, theater was so much like life.  Throughout the year at The Haven leading groups, these guys would work endlessly with the stories of peoples’ lives.  The hardships, the pain, the joy, the craziness—would be played out in group after group.  Ben and Jock were masters at directing people and assisting them in seeing how the choices they were making in their lives provided them with possible new interpretations on ways of living.  I loved learning from them.

I get it now. Each day of my life is like live theater, always acting with some objective in mind.  There is always a back story influencing each interaction. I have lines that I use and often forget.  I have a choice at all times to either respond in the moment and connect with the others on my stage or simply live life from the script without fully making an impact or connecting.

I get it and I am grateful for my annual community theater experience, and joyful that CrisMarie loves acting.  Maybe this year I will even make it to New York City for a week of seeing plays.  I know for sure that I will be at the Haven directing, assisting and participating in the rich and wonderful stories of others who join me on that stage.  Hopefully, I’ll do as well as Mildred and the others in Dividing The Estate at bringing all of me to the stage in whatever part is mine to play!

Wag More, Bark Less Project

Wag More, Bark Less

I love this bumper sticker. Maybe it is simply that I love dogs. Or it might be that my own dogs are notorious for living by the wag more, bark less motto. Only recently have I committed to fully living this motto myself.

I would not really call myself a barker. However, I do have a reputation of being intense and have been fondly referred to as a pitbull that licks. So even if I am not a regular barker, I don’t believe I wag nearly enough. Sure, I have moments of joy. But to meet and greet by wagging my tail is not my usual. I tend to skip the “Hi, how are you” part of interactions. Also, when upset or deeply concerned about something tend to dive in and cut to the chase. These aren’t always bad qualities. But after spending the past six or seven months helping my boxer puppy, Bailey, learn how to play with all breeds not just boxers, I know I could use some tips.

Boxers playing with other boxers are very physical. They go right at each other and there is no need to keep four paws on the ground. I am sure this style of boxing must have something to do with the name. This rough and tough style of play at the dog park and with other breeds sometimes doesn’t make for the best first impressions (or second or third).  Bailey had to learn to keep his paws on the ground and make sure other dogs were up for the contact before going all out. He has done well. I love to see him with his boxer buddies playing rough but I am glad he has learned to wag first and bark less with new playmates.

In my effort to adapt to a more wag more, bark less lifestyle, I have committed to a few new projects. I have taken on yoga, working to gradually open my shoulders and heart more. I have known for a long time that my body took on a protective stance that served me well early in life. But it isn’t needed anymore. The problem is that character body armor is not easy to take off. Yoga seems to be one path. I like that I am working with someone who knows my bigger picture and story and is tailoring the yoga to fit what I need. I am also committed to more regularly getting feedback from folks that work with me regarding my style. I am committed to finding ways to wag more without withdrawing my passion or watering down my message. Finally, I am working more with my hands, meaning simply making more physical contact. I have always found this easy and rewarding with small children and pets. I am not a touchy type of person with friends and family. I am working on that.

I’ve put the bumper sticker on my car. I smile whenever I see it. I doubt I will ever be known as a softy, probably more like my boxer, Bailey, though I think I can learn to play better with all types. In human terms, I think wag more, bark less translates to be more open-hearted and less paranoid. I am willing to work on that!

Boxer Bailey with four paws on the ground!

Grateful And Fulfilled – Heading Home!

I am on my way home, back in the Alaska Boardroom on the last leg of my trip.  I am thrilled to be meeting CrisMarie, Sooke and Bailey tonight and sleeping in my own bed again.  The month at The Haven has once again been rich and fulfilling.  This morning as we shared our last circle together, I had a chance to look around and reflect on my connections with each of my follow travelers, forgeting about the hard parts and the moments when I wished to be home. Instead, I felt touched and honored to have witnessed transformation.

I am soon leaving again, this time to celebrate my 50th birthday with a bike trip to Croatia. I realized today, in thinking about turning 50, that I have spent over half my life involved in programs and transformation at The Haven. I believe it was a May Come Alive that launched me on my journey many, many years ago. At that time I didn’t even think I would make it to 25, much less 50!  However, here I am turning 50, and though I will be officially celebrating in June, it seems right to have had a month at The Haven to test my aliveness, remembering what turned my life around back then and what still keeps inspiring me.

It’s really pretty simple.  People.  The power of two or more human beings opening and revealing themselves to each other—the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful moments of realness that happens over and over in the Haven session rooms. I did have a few moments in the past month when I wondered why I still keep coming. I questioned my ability to be like others had been for me: a mentor, a guide, personal and authentic. I caught myself putting up some walls and disengaging. And I called myself out, challenged myself to make a choice—to risk, to have some faith and trust the process. Much like the Grinch, my heart grew in size three or four times throughout a given day.

This time around I discovered the joy in developing a longer more intimate relationship with my co-leader. We have been doing enough together now that we have a way of working together that is smooth and connected. We can laugh, cry and clear things up. We know when the other is tightening and are willing to say something and hold each accountable to the task of staying present, curious and open.

I was touched when Carole pulled out a poem I had written after an earlier Phase and wanted to use it in our closing circle. I wrote those words to go with a closing song over a year ago and when we read it again, I was very glad she had kept it alive.

Sometimes writing is the easiest way for me to freely share my heart, writing a poem about touching a raw moment, and sometimes it’s writing a blog.

I am grateful for The Haven, for each of the many lives that have touched my own over the years, and for myself for sticking with it!


In spite of the crowds,  I did decide to go see Avatar.  It was a three hour film. One way I measure a film’s success is if I notice the length and in this case I found this film more engaging then Sherlock Holmes, a two hour film that seemed more like three.  I am sure part of the engagement was the wonder and color of the planet, Pandora.  I loved the idea of a people so in tune with the land that every step is linked to the life around them.

Okay so this is not an original story by any means.  Natives in any major continent all have histories of being linked into the land and natural rhythms of the earth and all of these aboriginal peoples have been dominated and killed for access to the lands.  There’s also nothing new about foreigners finding some precious metal, resource or nugget that is worth tons of money but would require the destruction of the planet to mine .  Finally the fight that eventually takes place is not new either.  Indeed Avatar is the same story we keep repeating over and over, for real and in stories like Fern Gully and Worship Down.  yet, we never learn.

Avatar means teacher, but I am not sure the lead character lives up to the title.  Maybe Grace did.  But she died.  Our main man did change.  But I was wishing for some other path then fight war with war.  I get he was only defending their home which by any human standard is perfectly acceptable, but isn’t there something else.  Here is a planet that is so interconnected that eventually all the animals come to fight off the bad guys.  What if instead of fighting them off that interconnecting link was used to shift minds.  I know it is not Hollywood but I am still looking for a new storyline.

I liked Avatar.  I was cheering for him and the natives.  But I left wishing there could have been a more unique and novel path for resolving differences.  I have to believe there is something – a paradigm shift that is available to us and all living beings. Often that type of magic arrives through remembering or imagining and then sharing the stories through the present day medium which in today’s world, is 3D film.  Avatar had many elements of that possibility; telepathy, interconnection, blending of different species and of course the age old ingredient love.  However, in the end the story still didn’t provide a new paradigm.

I am still waiting and will keep trying to remember and imagine that there is a path other then violence that leads us home!

Forgiveness: The Heart in the Matter

I have wrestled with this word and my own relationship to including ‘forgiveness’ in my vocabulary over the years.  This mainly stems from the too often religious use of the word and in my opinion people’s quick desire to ask for or give ‘forgiveness’ without any deeper reflection.  It may also stem from years of being told I needed to ‘forgive’ some things that frankly I was not yet able to deal with on that level.  Eventually I got I was causing my own pain with my walled position on the matter.

These day I am more curious and less ‘righteous’ about the word.  First when I play with forgive or forgiving,  I break it down to for and giveFor meaning in support of or affecting – I think of ‘in support of giving’ – makes the word much more interesting.  Even more so with affecting; affecting giving.  Suddenly I can see that that forgiveness might just be speaking to what separates me from ‘giving’ freely.  Now that makes a significant difference in how I can relate to this word.

I have always liked Covey’s habit – ‘Seek first to understand’.  However I believe that to really do that I need to be in the space to give the other person room to be different from me, to give them the benefit of doubt, in other words to be ‘giving’ not just neutral or worse reactive but to be willing ‘ to hand over’.  This is a very vulnerable and open position to take – yet lies at the root of what to give means. This is what I have started to think of in relationship to what forgiveness means to me.

Of course this totally applies to my own life events.  I think I believed forgiveness was something I was doing for someone else but really it was all about doing something for me.  When I am ‘forgiving’ I am being in support of my ‘giving’ or ‘handing over’;  opening a door or path that without ‘forgiveness’ remains blocked, closed or worse unaffected by what is happening around me.

I was told the opposite of forgiveness energetically is estrangement.  Now this is a word filled with separation, distance, even hostility –  just to mention a few associated words.  That makes it even more important in my world to stay open to the energetic definition of ‘forgiveness’.  I have spent too much of my life ‘estranged’ – treating others as strangers – instead of ‘as family’.

May be I am way off and some book like the dictionary or the bible or a frantic fundamentalist will send me right back to my self-righteous or estranged stance to the word forgiveness.  I can only hope instead I will stay in a state of for giving.