Tag Archives: susanbclarke

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.

Leap of Faith

My word for the year is a phrase, “Leap of Faith”.  I was going to simply stick with the plan, one word for the year.  At first I thought Leap – however, that did not quite fit.  Faith wasn’t quite right either.  Then I saw this picture that I bought earlier in 2012 while taking Sooke to the vet.  I love it.  There’s the elder duck leading the way out of the nest up in a tree and then the little ones, look out and then finally, leap.  Their wings seem so small and incapable of flight.  Yet, there they go!

It's time to fly!!
It’s time to fly!!

Sometimes I feel like those little ducks.  Yet, I am much closer, may be even older than the mother duck pushing the babes out of the nest.  If I reflect on my life as it is now, I do see both, and in many ways both are taking a Leap of Faith.  Sure, the more physical evidence of the leap is seen in the baby ducks.  However, that mom, likely has some inner angst about what is about to happen and must have tremendous faith to step out of the way.  I relate to both.

This year we plan to re-launch Thrive!.  This in many ways will be a Leap of Faith.  We intend to bring our whole selves to this new business.  This means we no longer want to have our lives compartmentalized.  In the past, we had our corporate presence and we had our various more personal pursuits.  The revitalized Thrive! will be designed to integrate both.  We plan to maintain our work with leaders, teams and organizations, and we also will include our strong belief that business is personal.  That the corporate world would greatly benefit from embracing a whole person/whole team approach.  In many ways this concept is really mother bird speaking.  We know this concept is a mature and vital path that works.  We have been embracing it ourselves for years and have built a powerful partnership that continues to ignite and sustain our health, wealth and relationship.

The baby duck part of the leap is simply being willing to step out fully as who we each are and who we are together.  Last year we started leading the Couples Alive Series couples programs up at The Haven.  The Haven Institute has always been like a safe nest where I can learn and develop.  So it was easy to step into leading together.  We didn’t question out value or wonder about being accepted.  We simply brought all we have learned through being together for over twelve years and assumed if we were open, real and curious we had lots to offer any couple – same sex or not.

Now we want to be more transparent in who we are out in the bigger world, to take the leap of faith and trust that we can fly. Sure, may be not everyone will like discovering we are not simply a business partnership.  However, I believe until now our biggest doubters have been ourselves.

Aside from the work transition and re-launching, I am also leaping into the world of writing.  I have been writing for years.  It has been my path for integrating and revealing to myself my inner world.  More recently I have stepped further out.  Through my blog and writing for 406 Magazine.  Yet I don’t think of myself as a writer.  I don’t fully commit to that path.  This year I am making the leap.  I have signed up for a kick-off workshop with writers I know will challenge and encourage me to go deeper and broader.

So my phrase, Leap of Faith, fits for me.  I am both mature and quite young at what I am jumping into.  I have a solid foundation that I can count on and I am ready for new ground and possibilities.

Though what intrigues me most is the space between the young ducks just launching themselves out of the tree and the older duck giving the push.  That space is where faith becomes something beyond leaping into the vast unknown or holding faith in that which is known for someone to step into.  The space is yet another aspect to leap of faith.  I believe it is that middle ground.  I must leap.  My wings are not young and new – my wings are scarred and older.  I have known the pain of crashing into the ground and failing to fly.  Yet I must still step from the tree and take the leap.  Knowing I have the heart and courage of being both young and old.

So I am thrilled to take the a leap of faith into 2013.

Susan Clarke is a long standing faculty member at The Haven Institute. She leads The Living Alive Phase I, with Carole Ames starting Feb 13 – Mar 10, 2013 and Come Alive April 7-12, 2013, and with CrisMarie Campbell: Come Alive Oct 13-18, 2013; and Couples Alive I – Foundation, Communication and Boundaries, April 15-19, 2013 and Couples Alive II – Edge, Igniting Passion & Aliveness April 19-23, 2013.


The Heart of the Holidays

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”  

I love the holidays! This year has already been especially rich.  We just returned from Maui.  You are probably thinking Maui is the most wonderful part of the holiday – but no!  Sure sunshine, warm water and the beach are great!  But the most wonderful part of our Maui trip was being there with our friends, Jim and Renee.  Earlier this year, Jim faced a life threatening illness, kidney failure.  More than on one occasion we thought we were going to lose him.  So when they kept talking about Maui for the holidays, I must admit I wasn’t counting on that happening.  Still, they maintained their commitment and at the last minute we just could not let the opportunity pass and jumped on a plane to meet them.  Jim was inspiring.  He couldn’t swim and had to go every other day for dialysis, but his light was bright and an awesome reminder of why I love this time of year!

The simple joys of being with friends!
The simple joys of being with friends!

Yes, I love Christmas. Though it isn’t really about the religious story of Christ for me.  Maybe it was a winter’s night when he was born.  Granted, I think the story of baby Jesus makes a great reason to come together and remember that our differences can so easily be overcome with heart, connection and good will.  Isn’t that really the essence of the baby Jesus story?  Mary needed a place, there wasn’t any rooms at the inn and some people found a spot and made it cozy.  I have no doubt that some warm-hearted strangers helped Mary and Joseph out that night.  Child birth isn’t all that easy.  So I picture folks helping and gathering.  Now, whether you believe in the rest of the story or not, that part of the story for me is is the heart of the holidays.

I believe I have always loved Christmas.  I love singing carols, and when I was young remember well our friend Ruth ‘Charlie’ Brown gathering everyone to go to nursing homes and through neighborhoods singing.  It was fun and she not only did that in December, but throughout the year would call and suggest a night of caroling, just to keep the spirit of the holidays alive.  One July we were out in winter wear, singing our hearts out.  People loved it! They laughed, they sang and once again whatever differences folks might have had were bridged.

There were some harder and lonely holiday times.  However, no matter how dark things seemed in my life, the holidays always bought lightness and joy.  For a few years I worked on Christmas.  I didn’t have family around, and I would sign up for the Christmas shift.  I worked in the hospital pharmacy. We would gift wrap the IV bags and go room to room singing carols of all sorts.  The people who had to be in the hospital seemed to love our hospital cart and we of course had a blast!  When I was struggling with my own health, I gift wrapped my own Chemo bags and played carols which I found way more uplifting than simply getting the standard chemo IV.

There were a couple years there when I doubted I was going to be around much longer and was very lonely.  One year on Christmas Eve, I walked down the street to a local church.  They invited me in like I been part of the family forever.  The music was awesome and when I got home, I just wasn’t so lonely.  That was the same year I would head out to the airport and simply watch people greet family and friends.  Back then there were not security areas and anyone could be at the gate as people stepped off the plane.  I was inspired and would sit with tears in my eyes.  I doubt anyone ever noticed how much their joy touched my life and gave me the heart to keep going.

So yes, I love the holidays. May be it is because this is the time of the darkest and longest nights.  It can seem lonely and hard.  Yet the simplest things, pictures with pineapples, candles, songs, jumping on a flight to Maui, having turkey sandwiches with friends –  connect us.  Sure, people still fight about saying Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays. We shop and get way too caught up in the commercial side of things.  However, every year there are stories just like the baby Jesus story or Jim’s bright light – of people reaching beyond their differences or rising above life’s challenges.  People get together, sing, laugh share and fill the darkest night with the brightest light!  That is why this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year!!



The Island of MisFit Toys & Finding Your Own Special Light!

Of course, almost everyone has heard of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph became famous one snowy Christmas Eve night, when he fully discovered his own unique light! Was a night when normal was simply not good enough, and Rudolph’s nose shone ever so bright!

T’was Santa that called him from that land of misfit toys and made him a hero for all girls and boys.

Hero of MisFits!!

Love the story!

Many assume that the North Pole, Santa and flying reindeer are simply a fantasy designed to entertain children. However, I do believe in the Land of MisFit Toys  – of that I know for sure. There is at least one regional hub that sits in the north. The Haven they call it, down here, of course.

I know this place exist because I happen to be one of those misfit toys that found my way there. Growing up I was always a bit of a misfit. I was too loud, too intense, or always too something. I struggled in school, wasn’t able to spell or read or be cool! Use to get teased and called funny names. Indeed, found it hard to play all the games. Yes, I could relate to Rudolph. I managed. I found ways to fit it and just figured some day I would either find a way to be normal or just be ok being me. I found some interesting ways to explain my differences, and looking back think I was quite creative. Still, there was always this loneliness and sense of not fitting in.

Then one rainy northwest day, I found myself at The Haven. T’was Ben that came to say, “Susan with your odd and interesting way – won’t you come to The Haven and play?” Well, I never really “saved Christmas” or anything that awesome. But I did take my odd and interesting way up north to the island where misfit toys find their way. There I discovered that misfit was simply another word for unique and different. I also learned that it might just be easier to stop trying so hard to fit in or convince others I was okay. That a little acceptance and compassion on my part would go a very, very long way.

You see it’s not about changing me or the world. No, it’s really about seeing what’s already there.There’s really is no normal or best way to be. There simply is you and there simply is me. If we could just get that different is cool. It really doesn’t mean we get kicked out of school. I think if that was the message we shared, there be no real reason to bicker and scream. No, then we could simply enjoy being on the team.

So this holiday time I strongly suggest: Don’t fight to be normal or simply exist. Remember the true spirit of Rudolph and the land he came from – it’s not about presents and being just right. It’s more about finding your own special light and shining it bright!!

Resilience: It’s not what you do – but what you do next that counts

My Marco, Polo; adventures have been wonderful. I loved working with CrisMarie and leading the Living Alive Phase (http://www.haven.ca/programs/living-alive-phase-i.html) a 25 day program focused on helping people heighten their awareness of their physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual selves and to live more fully.

The group was awesome, as was the leader team. There is always so much learning and richness added to my life when I get to be a part of such a transformational process in other people’s lives. Plus, this time I was working all month with CrisMarie and that has been a dream of mine for a long time. So it was quite amazing.

One of the lessons that really stood out for me this month was a simple reminder of an old quote I love to live by: It isn’t what you do – but what you do next that counts. When I was in my Masters program in Family Systems Counseling almost 20 years ago, this was a quote given to us by one of the faculty members. I can’t remember the author or even the story shared at that point. But I do remember thinking that this really is important when it comes to resilience.

We all make mistakes. Say things that we see impact others differently than we expected. Act in a way that results in unintentional negative outcomes. It is so easy when that happens to feel guilty or quit because of the belief that everything has been ruined. However, resilience is that moment when I have fallen or made a significant mistake, but instead of focusing on what happened I shift to what happens next. I don’t hang out in self-hate, pity or feel guilty. (Unless, of course I do. You know, I’m not perfect. More material for another blog.)

Resilience is when I pick myself up and get right back in the game.

Maybe it’s because I played sports most of my life, and in sports it is pretty clear that extra time taken to dwell on any mistakes results in the score just getting worse. Or may be I simply wasn’t born with a perfectionist gene. I came into the world curious and determined to try things and made lots of mistakes.

When working with people in a human, real way, it’s pretty important to be able to be a good enough leader not a perfect one. Things happen. Plans get changed. People are dropping into themselves and at times are terrified, angry and resistant. Sometimes I am open and compassionate and have no issues holding the space. Other times I hate that my best laid agenda/plan gets blocked, or I am not so willing to take the anger coming my way. It’s in those moments when I am less than my ideal self, that I say things or act in a way I don’t like. Often the group dynamics get worse or more challenging. I try to tell myself, “It’s not what you just did, but what you do next that counts.”

There were more than a handful of rich learnings like that this past month for me. Thankfully, I did remember and spent much less time making a bad moment a lot worse! I think even some bad moments turned into miracles.  That’s the thing, you never know.  Sometimes the mistake is really the greatest opportunity. Best to stick around and stay open to all possibilities.

Leadership takes a lot of curiosity, courage and humbleness. Mostly though, it takes resilience. Taking action, seeing the results and being willing and able in the moment to self-correct as needed.

Now, back home I am aware that my travels and detours have resulted in some important projects and relationships being left unattended. I have no regrets or guilt. I just need to step back into this game and clean up any mess made in my absence. I am on it!

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!!

A Crack – That is Letting the Light In

Looks like I am going to be going back to my roots. My life is presenting me with many opportunities to test my own congruence about valuing differences and acceptance.

On a personal level I am having to re-define relationships because our differences are no longer open for dialogue and more about black/white and right/wrong. Of course, in this course of re-defining I am having to look at how I am holding on to my position or presenting what is important to me. In the past, I would say I have always been a bit like my boxer, Bailey. People know where I stand, and I can look tough. However, equally like Bailey, I am not nearly as tough as my bark.

I have been learning that indeed I am quite an open-heart-ed person, who cares more about the relationship than my own point of view. Most of my life I think I have covered up this softer side because I really did believe that a tough front would be safer and create less pain. If no one ever knew that I cared deeply, they would more likely give me an honest opinion. Plus, I grew up watching lots of strongly opinionated people sit around a dinner table and wrestle with politics, religion and various other intellectual challenges, and it seemed to me, the best at it, were the most opinionated and loudest. So I went that route.

Many years later, a few health challenges and lots of deep emotional de-armoring, I am realizing that there is indeed another path. One that isn’t easy for me but much more fulfilling and quite frankly, honest. That path is one of vulnerability and intimacy (into-to-me-see). The problem with the new path is that I often have a shaky voice and don’t sound quite as solid. Also I cry. I am not comfortable crying. Just doesn’t come easy. Plus, big tears for me is usually not so obvious to anyone else. Inside I am wailing, but outside I think I look a bit more tight.

Still, I like me better this way. I like being able to finally say to the world – I care more about you and I connecting, having an honest dialogue than I do about a truth, or any one opinion.

Of course, I am also learning that this is not a value that everyone has or is interested in considering. Some folks really are all about finding ‘a truth’ – or the ‘truth’.

I work in relationship to a very charismatic leader who has become quite respected for some very simple and practical wisdom when applied to business, teams and leadership. I love his message – well the message in the books. It seems he is becoming more interested in including his strong religious values as part of his message. He has a platform from which to speak and wants to speak about what matters most to him. On one level that is great. However, his religious beliefs are not mine. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be a problem. I respect differences and have always loved working with teams, people who are very different than me. However, I am getting the message that may be my belief – but not his. He believes in one truth and that truth quite clearly makes some people ‘wrong’ or eliminates the values of others. That’s not okay with me.

So now both on a personal and a professional level, I am being challenged to stand forth. To show up and not fight about these issues but to speak from my heart, my heart that feels a bit broken right now. Much like the Leonard Cohen lyrics, “a crack in anything is where the light gets in”, I believe this broken heart of mine is an opportunity to discover what is next for me. To find my own words and message.

I do have something to say about all this. The message is forming. When I am ready, I plan to step up and without the heavy armor of my past and say what I think. Sure my voice may crack and likely I will have some moist eyes (that you might just think are tight) but I will be strong – not tough – strong.

I do hope the message will be the one my life has been crafting since the beginning. Because I think I came into this world wanting to bridge differences, not knock them down. I think bridges are for crossing over and seeing what life is like from someone else’s perspective. Sure I have an opinion and it is quite likely a good one for me – but it isn’t the only one. That much I do know for sure.

Life Goes on

I realize it has been a long time since I last posted a blog. My last posting was in route to Portland to sit with my dear friend Jennifer and be with friends and her family. I doubt that I intended to stop writing until after Jennifer died; however, it seems that is what has happened. Jennifer died on August 28th. Still I have yet to start writing again.

The weeks since my visit have been extremely busy. I came home too opening night of The Nerd, our new local theater group’s summer production. CrisMarie was the female lead. The show ran for two long weekends. CrisMarie was awesome. We had family and friends through most of the run. I found myself totally caught up in entertaining, watching and supporting CrisMarie in her first major role.

In some ways it was odd because my heart was still heavy and I was very aware of jumping from one experience into quite a different one. Of course isn’t that how life usually goes.

Even now the show seems like a distant event. Because of the commitment CrisMarie made to fully participating in summer theater our work schedule was repositioned to take off just after the lights went down and the stage was dismantled. Plus with CrisMarie so alive and engaged I truly believe new doors and opportunities opened as a result. So now we have some very challenging and creative work engagements that are demanding and leaving very little space for dwelling or sentimentalizing about anything.

Again isn’t that the way life goes. If I want to live fully, with the brakes off, well there isn’t a lot of time for holding on to anything too long.

Life simply moves on.

Something sad happens. Something wonderful happens. I get engaged in work, in play, in whatever/whoever shows up that day. In many ways that works for me.

But today I am aware of just how busy I have been. There’s a frog that has settled in my throat and a tightness in my chest. Partially I am tired. I think also I am sad. There are many feelings that are running through. Some have been easier to let flow, others seem to get a little backed up.

I am hoping simply sharing something will bring me back to blogging and even feeling some of the lingering emotions that may be harder to let flow through. I think I stopped blogging (and likely feeling) because i thought somehow that would keep Jennifer with me longer.

Odd, the things we do to hold. I know when I have cried my connection to Jennifer has been the closest. However, with the tears has come the awareness that indeed she is gone. I can not hold on.

Life goes on.

I Wonder – What Is Enlightenment?

What does it mean to be enlightened or awakened? I am asking myself this question because soon a yogi master, Shri Mahayogi, will visit our yoga studio at Jodi Petlin’s invitation.  Shri Mahayogi is a man who was enlightened at a young age. He has mastered all forms of yoga and various teachings. In preparation for his visit, I have been reading his book, Satori. This is a series of questions and answers from Shanghas that have taken place over the years.

I am enjoying a great deal of the book, though I still wonder about enlightenment. Personally, the closest person I have known who I consider enlightened is Ben Wong. I say this because he has a presence about him that is profound, and when I sit with him or witness him working with someone, my heart opens in resonance with his ability to locate himself and invite the other to be fully open. There is always a moment of deep connection.

But is that enlightenment? As I read, I am learning that to awaken is to tap into the true essence of who I am. This essence is not related to any physical, emotional or mental state that I may or may not reach, but is rather, a vibrational resonance that is universal to all religions, practices and states of being.

I can not say that I have found that resonance yet through my yoga practice. Although as I focus more on lessons and classes, I am finding that my alignment is improving and my heart is opening, which is quite interesting. I am experiencing an energetic shift in my being. Not always and I would not say regularly—but there is a subtle, steady shift. I find at times I am uncomfortable with the shifting. I feel more vulnerable. This is a good thing but not always a comfortable experience.

Is this enlightment? Or on the path? I do imagine it is a part of awakening. To be vulnerable and live in the world with an open heart sounds inviting and worthy of effort.

Still, is that really the essence of everything? I wonder.

Weeks Later—After meeting with Shri Mahayogi

The opportunity to meet and be with Shri Mahayogi was quite wonderful. He had a sweetness and sincerity about him with a deep resonance in open-hearted moments. Listening to his simple wisdom struck a note deep inside me and though I was not always certain of the meaning, I felt the warmth and possibility that transcends words.

A few bits that really rang true:

There is one truth. Many paths lead there.

It seems like some of us need to try many paths while others follow only one and that is where most of the problems start.  If we could just remember we are all heading to the same place and that all paths are possibilities.

Grace is a moment when immortal essence meets pure faith.

This was my experience, completely, at my first Come Alive when Ben’s music, Jock’s accupuncture needles, Father Jack’s holy oil and everyone’s faith touched my cells. Cancer—gone. Grace!

Find a guru (a bright light) and commit fully.

For me that guru came through my Haven experience. I came to that place and I fully committed. The light is bright and I am still on the path to relational enlightenment.

What to do when in conflict: Speak honestly and let go of the outcome or results.

This last one may be the least profound but the hardest for me to live day-to-day.

In summary: My path is not his. However, as I return to chopping wood and carrying water, Shri Mahayogi’s light is still bright and so is mine as a result!

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, www.haven.ca or better yet take any of their core programs.