Tag Archives: aliveness

Democracy at The DMV

Now on G32!

Today I find myself sitting outside DMV office with my number 64, my phone scrolling to let me know when I am within 6 numbers (currently at 32) and can come in, while reading the Heart of Democracy.

There’s a lot of information about my life right now in just that first sentence.

This is not my first two hour wait outside the DMV. Earlier this month I was here because my car tabs got lost and though paid had to come in to get replacement tabs. At some point since that event I lost the registration papers – lost, stolen, tossed out – I don’t know. But gone. So here I am again.

Now I am trying to stay curious about what I might need to know about these happenings. I will say it is creating the most community interaction I have had with people outside my ‘pod’ for awhile.

Since Covid, I go out with close friends and I pick up groceries but don’t stay anywhere long. The DMV offers the biggest variety of people I have engaged with. This trip it is raining so I am mostly staying in my car. But last time I stood outside, socially distant talking about everything from wearing a mask to which is more of a concern covid or our economic stability. I’d say the vote was split on that last one and fortunately everyone either had their mask on or stood talking from a better than six foot distance.

Which brings me to the book, The Heart of Democracy.

I am reading this book because a friend shared a post about the book and the ideas touched me deeply. The idea that the heart of democracy isn’t about left or right, republican or democrat – but about power and a divide between those who believe that power is found within us as well as outside us, and those for whom all power is external to the self.

His ideas so resonate with many of my own. The idea that we need to not be talking about ‘them’ (politicians – people in DC etc.) but talking with the people actually in the room. (Or on Zoom) The idea that this is not left or right – it’s about people and power and how we define and embrace where we believe we have some choice and control and where and when we don’t.

There are those who see his stories of individuals making a difference as just pie-in-the-sky beliefs and those who use the same stories to inspire their own action.

He shares how Occupy Wall Street and The Tea Party are examples of the same shared goal – to make a collective shift against perceived power. Sure you can say these groups are fundamentally different in ideology but in impact and influence – they are very much the same – examples of democracy in action and people making their power known – the power of “We The Power”.

It helps me to see the common elements and the possibilities that lies in seeing even these two efforts having a common purpose – to impact a change.

Why is that so important now?


Because I am anxious, angry, scared and feeling helpless more often than I wish to reveal. Aside from little pockets of conversation outside the DMV and a Zoom call with only people who share my values I am not having having deeper richer conversations that are touching my heart and helping bridge differences. No, what I am mostly seeing and hearing is screaming or fighting or negative ad campaigns. What is usually a time to gather an understanding of why something is so important to someone else and why I might choice to vote for one candidate over another has become a battle ground and mud slinging crazy talk. My heart breaks with this.

Covid makes it hard because normally I would be at an office, engaging in dialogue over dinner after a day with a team of leaders. I would be up at The Haven mixing with a variety of people with different backgrounds and positions. I’d be stuck in an airport or on a plane with someone who was clearly different than me and I could ask – why is that so important to you or what do you think of the potential Supreme court candidate. We may have some strong differences but we’d be there long enough to know something real about each other and maybe even influence each others position before going on our way. Those moment and those conversations would help my heart and faith in humans.

Even these DMV visits help.

It is for me one of the biggest challenges of Covid. Zoom, Teams House Party and Facetime don’t allow for quite the same spontaneous moments. Don’t get me wrong I am very grateful for what technology has offered because I can Zoom with my sisters, Zoom with my mom and friends. I can help I team bridge their differences and have some real conversations virtually. I can support my clients in breathing and getting more in touch with their heartbeats and breath. But I am missing the moments where I can gather in front of the TV watching the debate with strangers and talk about – what was that? Or why isn’t he answering the question? Or what did you get about his/her position on that? And talk.

I miss those moments right now at lot – because I think those moments and conversations are what make for democracy. Democracy is about the power of people and mostly about how WE THE PEOPLE need to be talking, sharing and listening more than just blaming.

I’d love to hear from and if you feel any of the same. If there is a way you are doing this differently – having real conversations and really getting to understanding someone else’s position – tell me about it.

Sharing My Whirlwind Relational Journey!

I so want to get in some writing!  There is much processing, shifting and integrating through my being!  Life has been a bit of a whirl wind!

Living Alive Phase

Selfie with Carole from the Phase!

Last Friday around this time Carole Ames and I were having lunch, laughing and unwinding from our Living Alive Phase 1 experience.  The month is always a very special and transformational journey for me.  This past month was no exception.  Having said that, each is unique and offers me many different lessons.

This month I was amazed at the younger people in the circle.  I found myself reminded of my first Phase when I was in my early twenties, trying to find a reason and way to stay alive and on the planet!  The stories of these folks was different but underneath the differences there sure were threads of the same desire to connect, to find purpose and somehow know that in those dark and painful places there’s a way through.

It was inspiring to be a part of the range of ages, careers and life experiences!  So much richness and depth.

Yes, the 26 days is intense and this year due to some additional meetings I only had one day off.  So when I was heading home, I was aware of my fatigue.  But hey, I wasn’t about to let that stop me from jumping in to celebrate my Mom’s 90th birthday.

Mom’s Big 90 Celebration

Mom Waving to the crowd at Blake Island after a Happy Birthday sing-along!

Fortunately I was not the composer or coordinator of all the activities!  That was my sister, Penny and her family.  They were awesome.  Plus, Melissa, my other sister, and her husband Monte, made the Friday evening I missed quite the party at the Northgate Plaza!  I just got the joy of being on the cruise to Blake Island and having some great moments with family.

I know without The Haven and the many lessons I have learned about relating, loving and finding a way to hold multiple storylines, I would never have been there celebrating with my Mom.  I am very grateful!

Speaker Session

Coming home hasn’t really offered much time to unwind.  CrisMarie and I have been wanting step more fully into speaking and had been introduced to an amazing woman, Renee Rogen, who is a speaker and now focuses on mentoring others in the business of speaking.  Renee arrived for a two day intense strategy session just after I got back to Whitefish!

I was very grateful she came to our town and our home.  I also was humbled by all there is to know and learn about speaking!  The two days were great for us.  I believe we have a path and a clear way to engage and make more of our speaking going forward.  I am looking forward to that AND was also grateful that though Renee did encourage to get started, she also suggested not to try to do everything at once!

Taking The Next Speaker Step

Of course, a great opportunity presented itself less than 24 hours after Renee left for me to step up on the stage here in Whitefish as part of a local event S{peck}: The Business of Mountain Living  (this goes to the FB Live feed) I had agreed to be a speaker before I left for Phase and this was going to be one of the few times I was speaking alone.  CrisMarie was already booked for a NYC trip so I thought I’d give it a go.

I had done a little prep with the leadership team while at Haven.  However, I decided to be a bit more personal and vulnerable from the stage after our two day session with Renee.  I was nervous but I am super glad I did it!!!!

My topic:  Business is Personal: The Challenges of Living and Working Well Together in a Mountain Community.  I think I was really speaking to the challenges of living and working well together in any community.

In our world today there is so much suffering, disengagement and apathy from what I believe is compartmentalization and fear of fully bringing all of me to everything I do.  We are so busy trying to do it right, be good, stay positive or create some type of work/life balance – that we don’t show up.  We manage. We let our stories control us. Instead of checking things out and sitting down next to someone who’s different or challenging, we don’t!  We believe our stories.  We miss the chance to share ourselves and to relate!  That’s deadly.

I learned that long ago when I was in my twenties.  The Haven taught me a way to do things differently!  I have been walking that path ever since – not perfectly and not without some additional scars, heartbreaks and the odd two-by-four to get me back to the basics – breath, be real, risk being messy and stay curious about those around me!

So I was happy that last night  I decided to share a few moments from archives.

In so many ways, I believed I had the circle Phase folks with me, my family and my friends.  It was special.

Find Your Mojo in Montana – Up Next!

SkyDancer and Promise Saying Hello!

I have this crazy idea now that I will have a few days of rest and recovery – but really I imagine life is going to keep going at a rapid relational pace!  Find Your Mojo in Montana is kicking off next Thursday and I am getting excited and reconnected with Bobbi and the horses!

Life is good!

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:  http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life/ar/1.

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!

Celebrating Life: Muchness Vs. Shouldness

Jim and Renee arrived yesterday to join us on our big adventure. In honor of my birthday they created wonderful riding shirts for each of us. They had planned these shirts with my birthday in, mind but instead of simply focusing on me, the shirts broadcast celebrating life. I personally think everyone else on the trip will want one. They are great.

As always when we get together, we started chatting about everything and my latest blog on muchness came up. The concept was one that we all agreed was important especially in relationship to our trip and celebrating life. As we talked we realized life can as easily become about shouldness as well as muchness and that the real challenge is to recognize it when it occurs and to do something about it.

Most of us lose our muchness when we get to caught up in the shoulds and the obligations of life. It is easy to do. Whether it is a passion that becomes a job and suddenly instead of taking risks and learning the job, it becomes routine and lifeless. Or a relationship that slowly becomes more about doing what’s predictable and safe rather than what is desired, which thereby causes conflict or tension. We all make these small decisions and choices and though they may not seem that serious over time, the result is a loss of our muchness in exchange for shouldness.

It is what I like about being with friends like Jim and Renee. Together we talk about these things and confront each other about our patterns. Sure sometimes it can be uncomfortable. That is the problem with living with muchness, it can create anxiety and tension. Instead of being predictable, I am in the moment and may not do what everyone expects and thinks is ‘right’. When each of us is living that way, there is more potential for differences and conflicts. However, there is also more newness and possibility. So if I am willing to stay in that uncertainty and tension there is an aliveness and freshness to life that is definitely worth celebrating!

As we travel together for these next few days, I look forward to discovering where am I living my shouldness and how can I recapture my muchness and celebrate life by more fully engaging. This is a wonderful opportunity to discover and commit to the next part of my journey and be clear that it is not the shoulds that my life reflects but instead all the possibilities, i.e. my muchness.

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!

Testing My Aliveness

I am on my way to The Haven for Phase I. It is never easy for me to get ready for a month away. I intend to get things ready in advance and make sure I am not doing things at the very last minute.  However, I generally end up packing late the night before. I may have done better this time at making a list of things to get done and getting many of them checked off slightly ahead of deadline. But I was still washing and packing clothes well into the night.  At least this trip I left a day ahead to make sure I get arrive and get settle before jumping into to a very busy month of work.

I love The Phase program.  It is an awesome journey for all involved. Personally, I found The Phase program transformational when I took it many years ago. They say it takes twenty-one days to create new habits.  The Phase program is 26, which allows for habits to change and a bit of added time for discovering what some of those patterns might be.

There is a lot more to The Phase than just developing new habits.  There is a lot of the emphasis is on self-discovery and learning through interactive experiences in a group.  Some folks spend years in individual therapy, and though that, too, is focused on self-discovering; often I think the process is much slower because there isn’t the feedback and resonance that occurs in a group process.  In the Phase program there are anywhere from 15 to 40 folks all interested in some type of personal development.  People’s reasons for coming, along with their life experiences, are all vastly different which makes for a wonderful opportunity to broaden perspectives and to realize that reality is indeed relative.

Also, being together for 26 days means things are likely to get messy at some point. Putting that many people in a room day after day creates challenges, differences, boundary issues and any number of other opportunities for growth.  Of course that is part of the design.  Most of us can play nice for a few days and can often avoid our inner demons for brief periods.  But a month is a long time and at some point peoples’ surface-styles drop and deeper aspects of who we each are show up.

It happens for those who come to participate for the first time and for those of us leading the program. As leaders I think we often arrive with greater awareness of the process and hopefully the ease and grace in taking down outer defenses as well as being vulnerable and more personal with each other.  But still even as leaders there will be those moments that we could never have anticipated and will call us into the unknown.  That’s what makes it special.  The Phase isn’t a formula.  It’s alive, organic and deeply personal.

My friends at home wonder why I leave for a month at a time.  It isn’t easy.  I love my life in Montana: my partner, my dogs, my home and my friends.  But I also know each time I arrive on Gabriola for either The Phase or a Come Alive, I am stepping into a journey that will test my aliveness.  Some people travel all over the world searching for the next awesome high or adventure.  Me—I find that aliveness by being willing to be open, vulnerable and intimate with a group of people interested in self-discovery and self-responsibility in relationship to others.  For me it is the ultimate high. I have the opportunity to open my heart and broaden my world through listening and seeing the world through the eyes of others. It really is quite a unique and amazing adventure and a wonderful test of my own aliveness and willingness to live outside any self-imposed box.