Life Coaching

Why Do You Hire a Coach?

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We’re living in a period in history where we’re paralyzed by the fear of some impending doom. Our 24-hour news cycle will have us believe that there are more wars and violent deaths than ever.  But we are actually living in an unusually calm time.  The odds of us dying violently are low and getting lower.  We also keep hearing scary economic data.  And while there’s no doubt we’ve been living in a trying economic period since 2008, we’re also living in one of the most prosperous periods in history.  Fear sells newspapers.  It also has the nasty side effect of paralyzing us. We end up sticking with stuff that, while, on the one hand, feels safe, on the other hand, sucks the life out of us, be it a job or a relationship.  It makes us afraid of change.

Playing It Safe

And then we have all sorts of justifications we tell ourselves for why we should just “suck it up.”  Most of the clients that show up at my office have a self-critical voice inside that tells them that they should just be grateful for what they have.  “At least I’m not out on the streets.” But often, they’re just playing it safe.  They’re doing fine, but they’re disconnected from an experience of life that’s vivid, alive, and meaningful.

By fearing risk, something in them has died.  One client who sought coaching with me used to come home from work everyday, pour herself a glass of wine, and make love to her channel changer instead of the man of her dreams she was dying to meet.  While she didn’t particularly enjoy the time in front of the television, at least she didn’t have to face rejection.

As a coach, I can’t do much when someone has given up.  There has to be a hunger in there somewhere, even if it’s buried in avoidance. Sometimes that hidden and elusive hunger demands that my clients be willing to dive down, through the experience of fear, through panic, and through layers of discomfort.  It’s often at the bottom of this journey downward that my clients discover a gem in the form of wisdom, clarity, and creativity. When the client I described above reached her bottom, she realized,  “I’m scared that it’ll be too much work to try to find someone, but I am even more scared of what my life will look like 10 years from now if I don’t try.”  Hitting bottom woke her up to the recognition that she wasn’t preordained to be a recluse.  She was choosing it.

The Calling

So she traded in her remote control for a yoga mat and a membership to the studio down the street.  “Who knows?  Maybe I’ll meet him in class.”  When we have the courage to take the one step in a direction that might be fun, engaging, and just a little scary, we’re reminded that risk brings vibrancy to life.  That it’s a little scary can be a really good thing.  When we choose something that is both exciting and just a little uncomfortable, we start to move out of paralysis and toward aliveness.  Whether it’s a yoga class, quiet time in nature, or a workshop, it can be extremely helpful to shake things up, to get out of our routines in order to be reminded of who we are and what we’re made of.

We all come into the world with a hunger and zest for aliveness, but it’s often been taken from us by the expectations of others.  Mainly when I get the call for a introductory coaching session, the person on the other line can sense that they’ve been called to something else or something greater, but what that is isn’t clear.   Sometimes this recognition comes in the form of illness, depression, or anxiety.  Sometimes, it’s just a low grade, nagging feeling that they have something important to get to in their lives but can’t see it clearly.  Sometimes, it’s clear as day, but the path getting there is fraught with pitfalls, and they can’t see the way through.

T.S.O.

The only way that it can get clearer is if we take just one step forward. And sometimes, just taking that step can be like pulling teeth because we’ve already thought our way to the end, and it looks very scary.  Poet, David Whyte, offers pithy instruction for this tendency to over strategizing in his poem, Start Close In:

Start close in, 
don't take the second step 
or the third, 
 start with the first 
thing 
close in, 
the step
 you don't want to take.

Start with 
the ground
 you know, 
the pale ground
 beneath your feet, your own 
way of starting 
the conversation.

Sometimes it requires that we just take the step that’s in front of us.  I watch some clients giving too much weight to having a plan.  I am not suggesting that it’s worthless to have a plan, but rarely does a path follow a straight trajectory except, of course, when we look in hindsight.  Mainly, we have to have the courage to just take that one step that’s in front of us, the one we’re afraid to take but equally the one we know we need to take.

The technical term I use for one mode of stepping forward that I teach my clients is called, “T.S.O.-ing,” or Trying Shit Out.  Taking that leap into action sometimes calls for 3 parts balls, 1 part throwing caution to the wind, and a dash of “f**k it.”  That step demands that we let go of what we think we know.  It demands that we be willing to concede mistakes.  Often it requires we be willing to just give it a try.

Giving Up Victimhood

That step is a form of reckoning; it requires us to own our hunger and the journey it takes us on.  It forces us to defeat the fears that we might not have what it takes-- the guts, the smarts, or the stamina—to make it to the finish. Once we’ve taken it, we no longer have anyone to blame for our paralysis, not our cruel boss, not our absent father, or the balance in our bank account.  When we take that one uncomfortable, sometimes painful, yet authentic step, we have to give up our victim stance.  It won’t serve us on that journey.

We also have to be willing to withstand long periods of discomfort, of not knowing the outcome but not so long that we’re pigheaded.  And that’s a fine dance.  It seems to me, though, that most of us could use a little stick-to-it-ive-ness.  We’re often willing to live in atmospheres that are simultaneously empty and combative, but for some reason it’s really hard to stay with something that means a lot to us.  Neurobiologists tell us that we’re not wired to do this.  We’re wired to avoid change because it actually hurts. The brain does not distinguish between physical or psychological pain.  We have to be willing to stay with the pain of not knowing the outcome for extended periods of time.

Why Do It Alone?

Given that that one, risky step is so laden with fear, doubt, and all the stuff that comes up when we put ourselves on the line, it can’t hurt to have community and individual support.  We are, by nature, social creatures, no matter how introverted some of us are.  We need others.  We live in a culture that has historically valued people with gumption who make it to the top through sheer willfulness.  We rarely hear about the Bela Karolyi’s that help form the Nadia Comăneci’s.  Nadia did it, but she didn’t do it alone. Sometimes the mentor comes in the form of a historical figure, like Mohandas Gandhi for Martin Luther King, Jr.  Sometimes, it comes in the form of a teaching or a teacher like Gautama Buddha or Jesus.

However it comes, the direct experience of being met in our hunger and acknowledged for it is absolutely life affirming.  It connects us to something we know, something that is much bigger than us, and reminds us to wonder, to stay in curiosity, and to continue to struggle with the journey we feel called to.  The friend, ally, or teacher can’t do it for us, but they can help us frame the path in such a way that it makes sense and, at the same time, helps us stay connected to what’s important.

This is where coaching can be useful.  As coaches, we’re trained to want what our clients want.  Instead of wanting what we want, most people we’re close to, in fact, want what they want for us.  The distinction I am making here is that most everybody else thinks that they know what’s best for us.  But they don’t.  How could they? Someone who comes from a reputable coach training holds their clients as experts and, instead of telling them what they should want and do, asks powerful questions that evokes the learning necessary to forward action.  Additionally, a good coach will hold his/her client accountable for the action, since we all have a tendency to talk good games without much follow through.

Be the Change

This is a time of great change, politically, socially, globally, environmentally, economically and so much more.  The old systems that worked at one time, no longer work.  As a coach, I get that I’m about to be trite when I say that Gandhi had it right when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  The bottom line is that we’re it.  The political system won’t change until we’ve changed, nor will the economic, environmental, social, or any other.  You and I ARE the system.  And its brokenness is only reflecting to us our own brokenness.

Until we’ve become tired of waiting for Santa Clause to come down the chimney; until we wake up to the fact that there will never be enough money in the bank; and until we’re willing to step up to the plate and claim our hunger and take that first step, we’ll remain, at best, innocent bystanders, or, at worst, the cause of the ever increasing decay we see around us.  In short, it’s critical that we, as a species, wake up to what authentically moves us.  It’s my hunch that that’s what will transform the situation we all face.  And it starts with us, you and me.  And it starts, now.  And now.  And now.

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Love and Work Transition Checklist by Bill Bridges

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NYT-1000538340-BridgesW.1_012846The author, teacher and consultant, William Bridges, recently passed away.  He transformed the way people thought about life's transitions.  His landmark book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life Changes, acted as a sort of how-to-manual in the 80's for people who found themselves burnt out in their job, in the middle of divorces, grieving a parent, and overwhelmed with new children.  He mapped out  and gave language to the three stages of transition we all experience throughout our lives: endings, the neutral zone (a time of fertile emptiness), and the new beginning.  Bridges taught his readers to honor each individual stage of the transition, especially endings and that emptiness we all experience when we're in between things.  Honoring these two primary stages of transition ushers in the last stage in a more complete way. I recently picked his book up, again, at the library in honor of his passing and wanted to share an excerpt that I think is sound and wise advice when entering a transition.  I tend to loathe the numbered lists meant to teach/inspire change.  They always seem contrived and glib.  Bridge's list below is actually quite thoughtful:

 Love and work: a transition checklist

  1. Take your time. The outer forms of our lives can change in an instant, but the inner reorientation that brings us back into a vital relation to people and activity takes time. This does not mean that everything must come to a total standstill as you wait for self renewal. But it does mean that your commitments, either to the old situation that you haven't yet left for the new situation that you haven't yet invested yourself in are going to be somewhat provisional. And it means that you cannot rush the inner process whereby this state of affairs will change.
  2. Arrange temporary structures. You will need to work out ways of going on while the inner work is being done. This may involve getting a temporary job while you look for a real job; it may involve agreements at home or at work to carry on in some modified fashion until something more permanent can be devised; or it may simply involve an inner resolve to accept a given situation as temporary and to transfer some energy to the job of finding a replacement for it.
  3. Don't act for the sake of action. The temporary situation is frustrating and there is likely to be a temptation to “do something–anything.” This reaction is understandable, but it usually leads to more difficulty. The transition process requires not only that we bring a chapter of our lives to conclusion, but that we discover whatever we need to learn for the next step we are going to take. We need to stay in transition long enough to complete this important process, not to abort it through premature action.
  4. Recognize why you are uncomfortable. Distress is not a sign that something has gone wrong but that something is changing. Understanding the transition process, expecting times of anxiety, expecting others to be threatened, expecting old fears to be awakened–all of these things are very important...
  5. Take care of yourself in little ways. This is probably not the time to be living up to your highest self-image, although it is time to keep your agreements carefully. Be sensitive to your smallest needs and don't force change on yourself as though it were medicine. Find the little continuities that are important when everything else seems to be changing...
  6. Explore the other side of the change. Some changes are chosen and some are not, and each kind of transition has its own difficulties. If you have not chosen a change, there are a dozen reasons to refuse to see its possible benefits–for by seeing such benefits you may undercut your anger at whoever forced the change on you, or you may realize that the old situation wasn't all that you thought it was. On the other hand, if you have chosen your change, there are just as many reasons not to want to consider the cost–for that may weaken your resolve, or make you aware of the pain your transition brings to others. In either case, you will need to explore the other side of the situation.
  7. Get someone to talk to. Whether you choose a professional counselor or just a good friend, you will need someone to talk to when you're going through an important transition in your work-life or your relationships.   What you primarily need it is not advice, although that may occasionally be useful, but rather to put into words your dilemmas and your feelings so that you can fully understand what's going on. Beware of a listener who “knows exactly what you ought to do,” but also be suspicious if you find yourself explaining away your listener's reactions if they don't happen to fit with yours–especially if several people have reacted the same way to what you say.
  8. Find out what is waiting in the wings of your life. Whether you chose your change or not, there are unlimited potentialities within you, interests and talents that you have not yet explored. Transitions clear the ground for new growth. They drop the curtain so that the stage can be set for a new scene. What is it, at this point in your life, that is waiting quietly backstage for an entrance cue? What new growth is ready to germinate in this season of your life? These are questions that you can talk about with a confidant, or you can privately explore them in writing in a transition journal. You could get a piece of paper right now and right at the top, “What is Waiting to Happen in My Life Now,” and begin writing. (Don't plan it out or try to figure out the answer in advance; just start writing and write as quickly as you can. You will be surprised what comes out once you have given up deciding in advance what you're going to say.)
  9. Use this transition as the impetus to a new kind of learning. You knew much of what you needed to know for what you were, but what you are going to become will require new understandings and new skills that you may not yet possess. Edward Gibbon wrote that "every man who rises above the common level has received two educations: the first from his teachers; the second more personal and important, from himself.” This transition point in your life may well be the time to launch that second education–or to begin it again, for while the first education follows a fixed curriculum to a stopping point, the second education opens out into new areas at every turning point.
  10. Recognize that transition has a characteristic shape. Arnold Toynbee pointed out years ago in The Study of History that societies gain access to new energies and new directions only after a “time of troubles” initiates a process of disintegration where in the old order comes apart; and he showed how often the new orientation is made clear only after what he calls a “withdrawal and return” on the part of individuals or creative minorities within the society. The crucial change, it seems, takes place in some in between state or outside the margin of ordinary life. That is so with individual lives as well: Things end, there is a time of fertile emptiness, and then things begin a new.

Bridges, William. Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1980. Book. pp. 78-82.

 

The Mind/Body Connection

In the years following my brother’s death, I investigated anything and everything that might help me snap out of my grief, anger and worry. I read every self-help book I could get my hands on. I took part in residential retreats in which I swung a plastic bat into a pillow, imagining that I was hitting the negative aspects of my parents in order to heal cathartically. I tried all sorts of diets. I became a vegetarian. I fasted. I even had a stint in which I ate nothing but potatoes. My heartache and sense of loss lingered. When a friend invited me to my first yoga class, I found myself attempting to replicate an intricate series of movements that left me completely fatigued. And then the teacher said,

I am going to teach you to meditate. Ready? Sit down. Cross your legs. Sit upright. Close your eyes and focus on your breath: air coming in, air going out. Let go of your thinking. Each time you’re lost in thought, return to the in breath and the out breath.

After a few moments, he whispered,

Notice the sensations within your body? Do you feel all that movement and tingling? That’s your body’s internal pharmacy healing itself. Stay focused on that.

After minutes of sitting there, attempting to notice my “body’s internal pharmacy,” I began to perceive spasms of emotion roiling through my intestines. I could feel those places inside that felt scared, empty and alone in grief and anxiety.

I had learned to talk about my distress with my therapist—where it came from and how I might think about it in a way that made it more tolerable—but I had never had a direct feeling perception of it. As I invited these waves of unpleasant emotion to wash through me, the internal knots of pain slowly begin to unravel.

While we tend to think of intelligence as residing somewhere behind the eyes, in our cranium, many native traditions indicate that intelligence is located throughout the body. While our thinking mind helps us make sense of the world intellectually and provides executive control, the body is the place of transformation. Our intelligence is not just mental. Other parts of our body provide powerful insight and intuition.

The Gut Brain Our gut is known as the second brain. It consists of more than 500 million neurons, about the same amount as in a cat’s brain. In fact, our bowel produces over 95% of our total serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates our feelings of happiness. The gut is quite distinct from the thinking mind in that it speaks in declarative tones via sensations. It says things like, “Yuck,” “Yum,” “Ow!” “Mmm,” “No way!” “Yes!” and “No!” Unlike the thinking mind, the mind in our gut doesn’t second-guess. It simply calls out what it senses.

Complementary medicine advocate Deepak Chopra used to tell the story of an interview he had with the late co-founder of Sony Corporation, Masaru Ibuka, who liked to “swallow” a deal before he signed it. If Ibuka had an important choice to make, he would do his due diligence: consult with key people, review market data and research sales reports. But he didn’t stop there.  

He’d have his assistant prepare a Japanese tea ceremony, which is actually a type of meditation. Once the tea was prepared, he’d hold a “yes” or “no” question” in his mind. He would then take a sip of tea and listen, carefully observing how his body responded to how the tea felt in the stomach. If it felt good, he interpreted that as a “yes;” if it didn’t, it was a “no.” “I trust my gut and I know how it works,” he said. “My mind is not that smart, but my body is.”

The Heart Brain The heart also has its own consciousness and intelligence related to issues of relationship, passion and morality. When people are sincere, we often say they are “speaking from the heart.” When they need an honest conversation, they have a “heart-to-heart.” When they throw themselves into an activity, we say that they are doing it “with all their heart.” Even our gestures indicate the importance we give to the heart; when people point to themselves they generally point to the heart. Modern science is showing us that these figurative expressions actually reflect a physiological truth.

More than a simple pump for blood, the heart is a brain unto itself. It has somewhere between 40,000 and 120,000 neurons. The heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Like the brain, the heart is neuroplastic; it can grow and change. It continues to create new neuronal connections as our emotional and empathetic capacities continue to expand.

We now have scientific evidence that the anatomical heart sends us emotional and intuitive signals to help govern our lives. It does so through a number of different hormones, the primary one being oxytocin—the hormone associated with labor and maternal bonding, and is also involved in relational bonding, emotion, passion and values. The heart produces equal amounts of this hormone as the brain itself.

Health and Mind/Body Connection While I am a coach and mindfulness teacher, I am also an acupuncturist and herbalist. Most of what I treat is stress-related illnesses, such as chronic pain, digestive disorders, low-grade depression and anxiety. We all know that blood is essential for the body’s healthy functioning. Over the years of doing this work, I have come to realize that tension contracts the body, which obstructs the blood’s flow. In my training as an acupuncturist, I was taught that acupuncture and natural medicines restore it, but I also found out—through trial and error—that unless the underlying tension is dissolved, these modalities only give temporary relief. Despite graduating from a four year Masters Degree program, I initially felt pretty inept at my craft. No matter what acupuncture points or herbal remedies I prescribed, very few of my patients got the help they were looking for.

At some point, I got so fed up with my lackluster results that I started to teach mindfulness to a patient who was trying to give up smoking. I asked him why he smoked. He said he was lonely, that he hadn’t had an intimate relationship for many years. As he learned to feel and welcome the sensations of pain and heartache that smoking numbed, the addiction slowly lost its hold on him.

Once I learned to work with my smoking patient, I began to receive a steady stream of patients with similar heartache. Some had lost loved ones to death. Others were struggling with grief, loneliness or a lack of passion. Some were saying yes to partners, jobs and bosses when their guts were saying no. I’d treat them with acupuncture, but I would also help them uncover and let go of the underlying feeling states by teaching them mindful awareness. I have come to discover that when we dissociate from our hearts and guts, it not only affects us emotionally, it also wears at our health. We tend to put emotions into the category of the mind, but emotions are not just mental phenomena. They’re bodily experiences, too. We feel them in the form of sensations. Some of us feel our hearts racing and shortness of the breath when we are anxious. Some get belly aches when we are nervous. I personally cannot eat when I am about to give a presentation. A friend of mine gets migraines before examinations. As a culture, we have attempted to disconnect the mind and the body, but they are intricately connected. While modern medicine tends to treat them separately, more holistic approaches address both mind and body.

A sore shoulder may be the result of tendonitis, but it can also be caused by stress. When we feel anxious or under pressure, we grip. We can take anti-inflammatories and hope that the pain will go away, but if we don’t give our attention to the pattern of gripping associated with the anxiety, medicine will only have temporary effect.

When we are sleepless, anxious and in pain, our bodies are speaking to us. If we can slow down enough to heed their messages by non-reactively feeling the sensations in our body, we can learn a lot about the circumstances we find ourselves in and the path forward.

Creating a Morning Ritual

In The Power of Myth, the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell said, “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning. You don’t know who your friends are. You don’t know what you owe anybody. You don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

This is what the morning ritual is about.  It’s a time and space of “creative incubation.”  It’s the place where you come back to day after day to look into the mirror, to see not just the lines that are accruing on your face, but to see the beautiful wisdom that wants to and needs to emerge through you.  It’s a time where we don’t need to understand or make sense in conventional terms, but simply to be connected to the essence of life.

Morning rituals are times when we spend 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour or whatever time you need to connect with yourself, to connect to spirit or whatever term you want to call the great mystery. The heart of all ritual is about connecting.  It's about establishing a relationship to ourselves and our emotions, and also about letting go in an unadulterated way to the creative urges that are moving through us.  It’s not about getting caught in doing it right or following someone else’s prescribed ritual to a tee.  One day, you might wake up and want to do some yoga postures.  Another day, you may just want to read poetry or write in your journal.    Maybe it’s just about sitting with your sadness or lying down with your exhaustion.  The important thing is that you meet the experience in a flexible and adaptable way such that you find your inner connection.

Some people do not do morning rituals because they say that they do not have time, but all that is needed is 15 minutes.  We can all surrender 15 minutes of our sleep time for this period.  And even though we may have time in the morning, we often feel too distracted.  We want to check our emails, or the Facebook feed, anything but go to the mat or pillow.  One trick I often teach my clients is to roll their yoga mats out or set up their meditation cushions right next to their beds. That way, when they wake in the morning they stand up and get immediately on their yoga mat or sit down on your meditation cushion.

Below are some possible items that may fit nicely into a morning ritual of your choosing.  These are meant simply as suggestions and are not intended in any way shape or form to be performed in a fixed way or in chronological fashion.  Take what works.  Remove what doesn’t. These are just rough guidelines for you to use as a tool.

  1. Start with an invocation.  An example might be a loving kindness meditation  The one below comes from the vipassana tradition as taught by S.N. Goenka:May I be filled with peace.May I be filled with harmony

    May I be filled with loving kindness.

    May I be healthy and safe.

    May all beings  share in my  peace.

    May all beings share  my  harmony.

    May all beings share my loving kindness.

    May all beings share my goodwill.

    May all beings near and far, seen and unseen, human and non-human, sentient and non-sentient  be  happy.

    May all beings be peaceful.

    May all beings be free of suffering and ill-will.

    I forgive all  those  who  might  have  hurt  or  harmed  me, knowingly  or  unknowingly, consciously  or  unconsciously,  by  their  deeds  of  body, speech,  or  mind.

    I seek  pardon from  all  those  whom  I  might  have  hurt  or  harmed, knowingly  or  unknowingly, intentionally  or  unintentionally, by  my  deeds  of  body, speech,  or  mind. All  are  my  friends. None  is  my  enemy . All  are  my  friends. None  is  my  enemy.

    May  all  share  my  peace.

    May  all  share  my  harmony.

    May  all  beings be  happy, be  peaceful, be happy, be happy

  2. Extend your gratitude. One of my teachers, Angeles Arrien says, “Begin and end the day with gratitude. When the heart is open, anything is possible. Gratitude extends curiosity. We want our curiosity to be greater than our criticality.” You might express a prayer of gratitude that is your very own, or you may use one that you’ve learned. Or you can take up a gratefulness practice.  Check out Brother David Steindl-Rast’s Gratefulness.org (http://www.gratefulness.org/p/)
  3. Take action that lifts your spirit? Examples might be an anonymous act of kindness, something that might surprise and delight someone.  Maybe it is doing some yoga postures, some breath work, and/or some seated, lying, or standing meditation.  Maybe it is about drinking coffee or tea with a loved one while reading poetry.
  4. Set intentions by asking yourself, “What is the value that would support my well-being today? What would comfort or strengthen me?”  Examples include: trust, humor, flexibility, compassion, or humility. Wait and watch for that to be revealed to you.  And then imagine placing that value above you, below you, to your left, your right, inside of you, outside of you, and all around you.
  5. Call on your allies: your teachers; your ancestors; your favorite animals, birds, flowers, or trees for their guidance: “Oh ancestor, please live through me today to support the common good for all humanity and for the betterment of all our relations.”
  6. Remind yourself of certain proverbs, sayings, poems or stories your teachers have taught you.  A reminder I often love coming back to lately is from Angeles: “Anything that is at my gate, I can handle; otherwise, it wouldn't be there.” Others might be: "This too shall pass" or the old Beatles line, "All you need is love." You might read a story from a spiritual tradition that resonates with you.
  7. Finally, consider a pattern of behavior that you want to let go of today. Examples might include negative self-talk, pessimism, or gossiping.

 

 

Living with Doubt

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There's an inner process to change.  In the outer sense, all that's required is that we leave a job; start a new relationship; tidy up our resumes; or enroll in a class.  But what gets us to the threshold of outer change is a subtle, mysterious process that requires a capacity to track our inner lives.  So much of what we read in the self-help world is the "just-do-it!" methodology.  Just go to a Landmark Forum or Tony Robbins' Unleash the Power Within, and by the end of the weekend, you'll be walking on hot coals and doing your best to get all your friends to enroll in the same program you got snookered into yourself.  While these trainings offer powerful reminders that we're much more capable than we give ourselves credit for, they tend to give lip services to but undermine our relationship to our inner lives.  Even worse, after we've shelled out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for these trainings, we're often left feeling even more stuck than when we began because on top of feeling unsure about our next steps, we, now, feel weak or inferior because taking those steps isn't as easy for us as The Landmark Forum Leader or Tony purports them to be.  Maybe that's why we sign up for the Level 2 course.  Real and substantive change doesn't happen in a weekend.  What's required aren't quick fixes, new tricks, or gimmicks.  What's needed are two things we already have: attention to our interior lives and the capacity to live with confusion.  I personally am in the middle of what I consider to be a major work transition that I think is demonstrative of this notion that substantive change is 80% an inner job/ 20% outer. About a year ago, I started to feel a dimming of interest in one of my current work projects.  I've been co-running an Ashtanga Yoga program in San Francisco with a friend of mine for five years, and I stopped feeling that magical feeling I'd previously felt about running a Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga program.  While each student always brought something new and alive to the class, I kept bumping into a kind of been-there-done-that, burned out feeling along with the sense that there was something "out there", something unclear waiting for me.  I'd had these sort of feelings before. I'd been running these programs, for a little more than fifteen years, so aversion isn't new hat.   Like all feelings, this one would previously come and go.  But in this case, these feelings were persistent.

Distinguishing Reactions from Callings

It's often hard to detect when a feeling is just a passing reaction or when it's a message from the deeper interior.  We all have periods of time when our jobs or our relationships don't satisfy us.  That's normal.  The notion that we're always supposed to be happy all the time is a myth.  Even the best of job or relationships can go stale on us or just irritate us to the core.  That's normal.  But when that difficulty is prolonged, it's often an inner message that it's time to slow down and reflect on what we're bumping into.  Often times, we get busy trying to alter our lives or situations to make our discomfort go away only to discover that we're in a new relationship or new job meeting the same feelings again.  Sometimes the message from the interior is that, in fact, it is time for a change.  Deciphering the inner codes can be quite difficult.  It can be immensely helpful to have wise counsel as well as a community of friends on the path with us that we trust enough to help us distinguish the wisdom of our inner callings from the voices that deceive us.

So I shared the experience with my coach, my wife, and my partner in the project.  I said, "Okay, I'm feeling burned out. I'm starting to wonder if co-running this program is coming to an end for me.  I want to give voice to this experience, but I don't want to make a decision. I want to wait and see if, in fact, I am done, or I am just a little burnt out.  I'd like to revisit this conversation in two months."  In the meantime, it was important for me to test my hypothesis.  Was I really done?  Or was I just experiencing a message from the interior saying, "Slow down. Stop giving your energy.  Find a new way to work."

Sure enough, after two months, the feelings had passed.  I felt reinvigorated by some responses I'd had to some blog writing I was doing about the intersections of yoga and life coaching and started to see that the project I was in was a great platform for the expression of this cross-breeding.   But then a friend contacted me and said, "I'd like to partner with you to do some coach-consulting work in corporations."  And my response was, "Yes!!! I'd love to do this!"  But with a little deeper reflection, I came to the sad conclusion that I was still teetering on burnout.  There was no way I could take on another project.  I just didn't have the energy reserves to take something like that on.  My days were too filled with teaching classes, seeing clients, and treating patients, that I couldn't possibly give this new project the attention it needed.  This recognition had me feeling extremely frustrated .  And so, here I was, once again, thinking that it was time for a change, but somehow I wasn't quite ready.

Are We Really Meaning  Making Machines?

This is where I imagine most coaches and self-help workshops would throw me off of the cliff.  They'd tell me, "Just do it!"  All change has the tendency to be dummied down by these so-called change-agent experts:

No action = No change

No change = Procrastination

Procrastination = Bad/Unhappy

Action = Good/ Happy

And while this perspective, no doubt, gets people into powerful action, it's the kind action that makes them feel cut off from their interiors, which, by the way, deliver messages slowly and subtly and require not so much boldness but softness, receptivity, and awareness to detect and decipher their messages.  Many self-help programs regard humans as machines that misinterpret everything and, thus, need reprogramming so they can function as better machines. Disregarding all of the self-help jargon I'd acquired over the years, I thankfully held off from making a decision for another few more months.  And then I had this experience that absolutely changed me forever.

The Teacher Appears When the Student is Ready

After an arduous bike ride to the top of Mt. Tamalpais, I stood on a hillock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, The City of San Francisco, and the East Bay.  As I stood there taking in the scenery, I felt a sense of gratitude for the beauty that surrounded me, and so I started to do a little, improvised gratitude jig, somewhere between a yoga sun salutation and a dance.  As I did my gratitude dance, I started to hear a clicking noise behind me that kept the rhythm.  And when I turned around, I saw this raven standing only a few feet from me with a seed of sorts in its beak. The clicking was coming from the raven's beak making contact with the seed, and I had this clear sense that the raven was relating to my movements by keeping the rhythm.  I continued to dance my gratitude dance around the hillock.  Each movement I made to the left, the raven moved to the right.  Each movement I made to the right, the raven moved to the left.  We were in a dance together, and the raven was keeping the rhythm.  At the same time this dance was taking place, I'd had this intuitive sense that the raven had a message for me.  Who knows whether I was making it up or not, but it was a message that moved me:

"It's time to let go, to stop dancing someone else's dance, to dance you're own steps, and to trust them."

For me this was code for the fact that I'd spent the last 20 years faithfully following a tradition.  I'd been a student and teacher of a deep and old tradition of yoga, but, nevertheless, someone else's interpretation, someone else's ideas, and it was time for me to learn to trust a deeper and more personal wisdom, the one that was moving through me.  Gulp.  I'd been a student of and run these sorts of programs for so many years because they had given me access to deep teachings, the security of a teacher a community, a sort of authority to back up my own teachings, and an identity.  Now, the raven-teacher was giving me the the sage advice, "Let go!"

One might read this as a sort of self-aggrandized interpretation of an experience, a sort of glorification of narcissistic tendencies, but the inner sense of clarity the experience evoked in me was profound and true.  I realized, in that moment, that my need for change wasn't so much about leaving the program or about being burnt out.  Rather, it was about making room for something more personally truer to enter.  I realized that I had to make space for that to come about.  And for that brief moment, I felt released.  Released from the burden that by leaving, I was betraying my students, my partner, or the tradition.  It was a visceral experience, this clear sense that not only was it okay to make a change, but I was being called forth to make it.  And while I'd been preparing for this moment for the nine months of back-and-forth, the inner teacher's message had clearly arrived.

Holding the Tension

Within a week of this experience, my partner and I met.  I shared my decision, and we both wrote a public announcement about that decision.  By the way, this doing, this action required little to no effort.  Even though most self-help programs focus on action, that wasn't the challenge.  The challenge was living with the uncertainty for almost nine months.  One of my teachers used to call this form of waiting, "holding the tension."  Holding the tension is another way of saying, living with uncertainty.  It's called holding the tension because it feels uncomfortable to live between a question, to live in ambiguity. Each of us has a propensity to try to get ground underneath our feet by wanting certainty or clarity.  That's why we turn to self-help programs, gurus, yoga traditions, techniques, methods, and philosophies.  But if we're following our inner guidance, the messages come in only when we're really ready.  Sometimes we must undergo a trial by fire before the message is clear.  You can't coax the interior into a "yes or no decision" in a weekend. It is much more subtle than that.  But when the message is announced, it comes in declarative tones from that still small voice within: "Call her."  "Go to New York." "It's time." "Let go!"  And when we disregard these messages because they're inconvenient, we sometimes find ourselves in the throws of depression.

And Continuing to Live With Uncertainty

Tomorrow is the last day I will be teaching at Mission Ashtanga.  I can't say that I am not sad or even that I don't regret my decision.  I can't tell you how many times my doubting voice has entered.  Right after I made the decision to leave, I started to like teaching, again.  All of the previous feelings of burn out have completely gone away.  In fact, some aspects of my teaching, which previously had been driven by a proving energy, are gone.  I don't have to prove anything to anyone anymore.  And as that's gone away, I am just enjoying the process, which has me thinking, at moments, "Why the f-ck am I doing this?"

But I know, within a much deeper place of my being why I am doing this.  This decision is not whimsy.  I had to struggle valiantly with the decision.  I had to endure lots of back and forth while continuing to live with uncertainty.  And since that certainty came, I have to be willing to trust it in spite of the fact that I want to second-guess my decision. I get that my ride is unique to me, but I think that the essence of my experience is universal, that if we want real and substantive change, we have to be willing live for sustained periods with the discomfort of ambiguity and doubt.  In fact, one might say that most of life requires us to get accustomed to uncertainty.  The sooner we get that message, the less we'll fall prey to quick fixes and the more authentic our lives will be.

So as I enter the next step of this journey, I have some more ambiguity I have to live with:  What is my next step?  What is the deeper and more personally authentic expression I am being called forth to bring about?  To be honest, I have no f-cking clue.  I've made several stabs at it over the last few months since making my decision.  Every time I start to get something down, I feel like I am met with more confusion and uncertainty.  I've tried to put deadlines and timelines on the process.  I've spent hours trying to distill a message.  All of my efforts have been in vain.  In spite of my frustration with this process, I'm pretty clear that if I am patient and am willing to live with the uncertainty and a low-level of frustration, the next step will clarify itself.  Who knows, maybe I'll crumble and send away for Tony's Power Talk CD's.

How do we get to belief: Is it through faith or practice?

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I just came across this TED Talk by Karen Armstrong, author on comparative religions, that I think is particularly important because it points to the difference between spiritual practice and modern, religious expressions of faith.  While this talk is about the Golden Rule--'don't do to others what you wouldn't want done to you.'-- what I found of particular interest was her commentary on the etymology of the word, belief.  We have an awkward relationship with the world, belief today.  Before reading on, consider the way this word, belief, makes you feel or what it makes you think of.

Belief, in its original, 17th century sense meant, "an intellectual ascent to a set of propositions; I commit myself, I engage myself."  In other words, trust in God was not something that one simply decided.  It was through committed action that rendered one's relationship to God.  In other words, belief was something that was discovered through practice.  It wasn't just something you just swallowed down while ignoring common sense.  You engaged in a set of disciplines on a day-in and day-out basis that gave you access to the deeper mysteries that lie at the heart of the teachings.  As Armstrong says, "Religious doctrines are meant to be summons to action. You only understand them when you put them into practice."

The source text of yoga, The Yoga Sutras, which is dated to the first century, around the time of Jesus, describes the results of all spiritual practice--higher powers, subtle states of awareness, and, clarity-- but the bulk of the text is organized around the practical application, "the doing," how we attain these experiences of yoga.   While there is a sort of worldview that The Sutras hinge on, it's never explicitly described, nor does it particularly matter whether the yogi believes in it or not.  Following the practice is enough, not because it leads one to being a good, moral yogi.  Morality--good versus bad--isn't the game of Eastern spiritual practices.  Instead, through commitment to practice, a sort of wisdom or insight is gained, the sort of insight that one can trust.  By the way, that's the same thing as belief as Merrian-Webster describes it, "a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing."

In a way, I can't help but see that our attraction to the East stems from our modern religions having lost their way.  Instead of providing us with a path, as they used to, many expressions of modern religion ask us to adhere to a comprehensive understanding of the world that divorces us from our common sense.  At one point several years ago, I tried to evoke a debate with an orthodox Jewish friend's interpretation of the Torah.  His response was that we couldn't carry on a discussion because he understood the Torah to be written by God, whereas I understood it to be written by men.  In other words, in order to carry forward a good discussion, I'd have to disbelieve what I knew to be true.  Bummer.  What makes this even more of a bummer is that modern religions sanction this sort of divide.  Some even sanctify wars.

I am not suggesting that all Eastern spiritual practice is perfect or that all religions promote xenophobia.  The problem isn't the religions, it's the people that practice them, the one's that bring a sort of rigidity and orthodoxy to them.   I've seen yoga teachers who's whole lives are dedicated to adhering to and promoting a severe approach to tradition, even when it creates injury, both to themselves and others.  These people may be adept at contorting their bodies, but they never really grow.  Practice, like religion, has the potential to be a trap, as well.

The role of discipline is to enlighten us, to awaken us to that which isn't obvious.  It's designed not to be an end unto itself but to allow us to comprehend mysteries. A mystery is a religious truth that's hidden.  It's only through practice that it becomes obvious.  Once obvious, we can trust in it.  To get there is a journey.  In a way, each of our lives is a journey that's revealing one great mystery.  And for each of us, that mystery is very individual.  To take a set of propositions on faith is a sort of bypass of that journey.  Blind faith is like claiming to know a subject we never studied before.  Our job, as I see it, is to be willing to take that journey.  It can help to have signposts of those who have come before us--whether they come from spiritual or religious traditions--to guide us on that journey.  Ultimately, though, that journey is very individual.  But if it is taken, wholeheartedly and with courage, the result is a sort of belief that is different from that of blind faith because it's the sort of thing that you know in your bones, even in those moments when you've lost your way.

How to Make Profound, Lasting Change

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When we lose a job, get a bad review, experience burn out, or our heart is broken, we often can’t help but experience a sense of groundlessness and paralysis. We struggle with meaning and end up feeling stuck.  Who am I, now?  How do I recover from the sense of frustration, overwhelm, or loss?  In this post, I am going to suggest that what stops us is not the situations themselves.  It’s never fun to lose a job or have our hearts broken, but there’s no inherent meaning in these losses.  In other words, the circumstances of our lives don’t make us unhappy.  Rather, our experience of them depends entirely on the meaning we bring to them.  Some perspectives empower us when faced with even the most difficult of situations and some render us incapacitated.  How we hold the circumstances of our lives can either grow us or take us down.

Part 1: Uncover your interpretations of the situations you find ourselves in.

Rarely do we relate to our actual experiences. Instead, we relate to the meaning we make of our experiences and the emotional charge we feel about the experience.

If we observe ourselves over a few days, we’ll notice an automatic, unconscious propensity to see that we’re always adding meaning to the experiences of our lives.  We have the tendency to fit each experience that shows up into an ongoing story we have about our lives and who we are.  In fact, rarely do we regard ourselves in relationship to the immediate circumstances we find ourselves in.  Instead of relating directly to our experiences, we often just relate to our beliefs, opinions, and judgments about the experiences.  And so when things fall apart, and we lose meaning in life, it can be incredibly helpful to reassess how we make meaning of our lives.

A 48-year old client, Mary, had been driven her whole life to make it big in the corporate world.  A year ago she arrived at my office and declared: “I am totally burnt out and am just going through the motions of my life.”  She didn’t sleep well; she’d gained ten pounds over the last few years; and her relationship with her girlfriend was suffering from her tendency to what she called “workaholic tendencies.”  She’d been to a psychologist already, and while that work had clued her into why she felt stuck, it still didn’t propel the change she desperately needed.

When I asked Mary why she didn’t leave or alter her situation in her job, she responded that to do so felt like torture.  Mary’s sense of purpose in life, up until that moment, revolved entirely around her work.  Her sense of self and the qualities of her relationships went down when her work went down.  Likewise, they went up when her work went well, not to mention the fact that she’d spent her whole life working her way to the top.  Now that she’d finally made it to the “big time,” she couldn’t help but look around and scratch her head, asking, “Is this as good as it gets.”  Her health and her personal relationships were suffering, and she found her colleagues, in fact, intolerable.

While Mary felt that to make a change would put her family in financial jeopardy, she knew, rationally speaking, that they’d do fine if she took a pay cut.  She, like most of my clients use the “financial card,” as an excuse not to make a change.  But when she looked closely, she was really afraid to upset her relationship with her girlfriend. As a child, her alcoholic mother had been inconsistent, sometimes present and sometimes altogether absent. When we looked at her “life’s story” it was obvious that she’d done everything in her power to give herself the security and safety that her mother constantly took away from her.  She’d lived her life in service to accruing professional accolades so she wouldn’t feel the way she felt as a little girl, scared and destitute.

Part 2: Meet the feelings you’re avoiding.

To make profound, lasting change not only must we uncover the background stories that help us make meaning of our experiences, but we also must meet the nervous system’s response to the experiences.  Embedded within each of our narratives is a statement like, “I never want to feel "x" again.”  "X" might be loneliness, sadness, anger or fear.  The narratives that live in the subtle background of our lives help us not only to succeed but also to avoid certain feelings.  If we’re ever going to really transform, we have to be willing to meet the feelings we’ve spent a lifetime avoiding. In Mary’s case, her workaholism protected her from the fear of being destitute. As Mary examined her life’s narrative and discovered her propensity to be risk averse, she started to confront bodily feelings of terror: fluttering feelings in the chest, queasiness in the stomach, and a knot in the throat.

This part of the journey can be very uncomfortable and equally counterintuitive. Each of us spends a whole lifetime avoiding these feelings.  Turning around and looking at them can be like turning around and facing the demon we swore off almost a lifetime ago.  It takes incredible courage, even-mindedness, tenacity and compassion to ride the waves of emotional pain.  And to do so can feel like this:

Heavy-heartedness… irritation in the chest… boredom… really heavy heartedness… tightness in the ribs…. burning rage…heat in the face…tight throat… boredom… fatigue… numbness… impatience and boredom…. nothing… nothing…nothing…hurt

Often times my clients will ask, “Why would I want to be with this shit?”  Often my response is that to meet it is to transform it.  To avoid it is to let it rule you.”  If we don’t meet the body’s response, we miss a deep learning that our suffering has to show us. So as Mary met the fluttering, queasiness, and knots in one of our meetings, her “fear of change” lost its hold on her.

Part 3: Reinterpret the experience in such a way that it leaves you powerful.

At that point, she was no longer afraid to feel her terror.  She could see that she didn’t need to be a workaholic her whole life in order to avoid “ending up broke, homeless, and alone.”  Instead, she was at choice to create a new narrative, one that created possibility and that empowered her.  When Mary tapped into the wiser and more intuitive parts of her being she could see that instead of her burn out being an obstacle, that it could be seen as an omen for change.  “I could work less, maybe even go to yoga class, and have time to eat a meal with Donna [her girlfriend].” Instead of creating less safety, this crossroads might give her an opportunity to explore a new way of being in the world, one in which work wasn’t the only focus, but, instead, included family and intimacy.

Part 4: Make the insight real through action that leads to specific and measurable outcomes.

All it takes is a moment to see our situations in a light that renders us free, powerful, or expressed.  But to make the changes necessary to fulfill this recognition a clear set of goals accompanied by practice. Once Mary committed to a change in her work, she started to look for new work opportunities, both within her corporation and outside.  She made a point of meeting colleagues within her network.  It took time and a lot of what I call “t.s.o.-ing”—trying shit out--to stumble upon an opportunity that excited her and gave her the flexibility she needed.  She knew that she’d have to surrender some of the clout of her previous job, and so she also established some practices that made this transition easier on her nervous system.

Part 5: Practice mind-body techniques that support the nervous system and facilitate the change.

Mary and I co-created a morning ritual.  Each morning she did some movement, whether it was yoga I taught her or taking a walk with her girlfriend.  I also taught her a few simple meditations, which she could practice for 5-15 minutes.  Finally she wrote in her journal on an inquiry I’d assign her each week. An inquiry is an open-ended question that can be answered from many different sides that gives new insights each way we look at it. One inquiry that uncovered a landmine of insight for her was, “What must I drop in order to gain something new?”  This question helped her discover the confidence that she wasn’t just dropping off altogether but that her change would put her in touch with something new.

Slowly, over a six-month period, Mary discovered the right fit she’d been looking for in a new company. To an outsider, that move might have been seen as a demotion, but to her the move enhanced the quality of her life immensely.  She worked less; had more time to explore new ways of relating and playing with her girlfriend; and found time for herself.  Essentially, this move provided the breathing room Mary needed to replenish the well that had dried up inside of her.

Exercise

  1. Very briefly, write an account of your life and conclude with the situation you currently find yourself in.  Keep the writing to a minimum of one page.
  2. Reread your brief account once.
  3. Notice how your life’s story influences the current circumstances you’re in.  Does  it empower or disempower your circumstances?
  4. Review your brief account, again, this time, reading your account out loud.
  5. Notice how it makes you feel in your head, throat, heart, belly, and genitals once you’ve completed the account.  Do you notice any emotion, sensation, or charge in these areas of the body?
  6. If you notice that you do, read the account out loud, once again.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until any feeling of constraint has altogether gone away.
  8. Notice if there’s a new meaning you start to derive from the circumstances you find yourself in accompanied by new possibilities for yourself and your life.
  9. Write them down on a piece of paper.
  10. Hire a coach. A coach will hold you accountable to making the changes in life you sense you need to make.  Don’t bother trying to do this part alone.  Creating something new can be incredibly daunting.  A good coach is really a skilled change agent.  He or she will collaborate with you in designing practices that will make the process of change easier, fun, and intelligent, too.

What Are We Really Afraid Of?

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IMG_1083Franklin Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  If I'm really honest with myself, the only thing that holds me back is my fear.  When I think of somewhat risky things that might enliven my life, often the first thing that comes over me are subtle bodily warnings with anticipatory images, either of failure or mediocrity.   So much of what stops me and my clients from risk-taking, trying out something new or making  creative mistakes is a fear of something unknown. My friend and coaching peer, Peter Bostelmann, and I were discussing this very topic over lunch today.  I was describing this urge to take on a new project, one that would challenge me to give my gifts and, at the same time, would be an expression of what I sense my life purpose is all about.  As I attempted to share the details of that project, being the good listener that he is, he noticed that I was holding back, even being a bit shy about it.  When we looked closely together, I could see that much of what held me back was a part of me I'd rejected, a younger part of me that felt  ashamed for wanting to share myself for fear of being dismissed or disregarded as frivolous.

He helped me identify that part of me that doesn't want to feel old childhood feelings again.  That fear of really taking a risk and following my heart, he posited, might just be the avoidance of feeling those feelings again.  I believe what he's saying is true. When I look at different aspects of my childhood, I can see that a lot of what stops me is that I was either taught or I decided that certain parts of me were whole and others were broken, incomplete, or misaligned.  A lot of the work I've done, either in coaching, in therapy, on the yoga mat, or on the meditation cushion has been in service to healing those parts that feel fragmented.  And yet, I also recognize that not everything gets healed and even when there is some healing, those fears that stop us are still present.  Why?

Morbidity

Maybe our fear isn't run exclusively by our avoidance of certain past experiences and wounds.  Maybe, in addition, what stops us is our inability to anticipate our future.  All that we're capable of knowing with certainty is that we will die, that at some point we will have to say goodbye to our loved ones, let go of all that we have created, and surrender to the great mystery called death.  I wonder if what's stopping me isn't just that my dad didn't tuck me in one night when I was seven years old.  I know that had an impact on me.  But maybe what stops me is that I know that one day it will all go.

I've been facing that recognition more and more, the idea that at some point we all are forced to let go of what we love.  As I continue to open my heart ever more to my wife, Melissa, I keep running painfully into the fear, that at some point either she will die or I will die.  It's a horribly morbid thought, but one can't help but notice it when intimate ties grow stronger.  I wonder if that's what makes vulnerability so challenging with those we are most intimately connected to, like our significant others, our parents, and our siblings.  We rarely consciously face the thought that eventually we will have to say, "Goodbye,"  but I wonder whether somewhere in the back of our minds, we sense or even premeditate that loss and, as a result, guard our hearts, so we won't have to face the intensity of the pain once it actually occurs.

Hindsight and Foresight

Does our aversion to past experiences create this low-grade, unknown fear? Or do we fear and thus protect ourselves from the fact that some day it will all go?  Either way, we, unlike any other species in the world are cursed and/or blessed with hindsight and foresight.  These two perspectives do funny things to our nervous systems.  They're not always the most empowering.  In fact, they're often paralyzing.  Is it my past that's holding me back?  Is it my fear of eventual success, failure, or mediocrity and eventual death that stops me from taking the great leap into the unknown?

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter.  All that matters is that I find the place inside that doesn't fear the fear and, at the same time, hold a healthy regard for it, too.  I suppose that's the learning in all of this meandering for me.  That's where I have to look.  Courage, then, is the willingness not to take on the anticipated journey all at once but to just take the step that's presented here and now, the one that's right in front of me, the one that I fear but also the one I know is where I am called.

SF Street Coaches Featured in Leiweb an Italian Periodical

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Below, you will find a translation of an article about San Francisco Street Coaches in an Italian online journal called Leiweb.  The original Italian version is written by journalist, Anna Volpicelli.

From left to right: Chad, Melissa and Michael on Castro Street
In times of crisis, it is good to return to ourselves, rediscover our passions and find a way to put them into practice. This is the three musketeers mission of peace. Chad, Melissa and Michael, all professional life coaches, have decided to spread their art on the streets of San Francisco free of charge. A project that they've dubbed San Francisco Street Coaches finds them  on Friday afternoons somewhere between the bars of Market, Castro, Dolores Park or 18th Street, stopping passers-by asking, "What is your passion?"  The trio were inspired by a video posted on Youtube by Sivani Mair, a life coach and professional communicator. In the video Mair wanders the streets of London offering street coaching sessions. "When I saw her," said Chad, "I thought about the great opportunity we have here in San Francisco.  As coaches, simply by asking powerful questions and listening with care, we might be able to support people in finding access to their inner wisdom." The project has been well received by students, retirees, women and men.  The therapeutic energy and compassion that these three musketeers emanates draws both amusement and amazement from almost everyone.

 

 

Small talk in Dolores Park

SF Street Coaches Featured in Leiweb an Italian Periodical

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Below, you will find a translation of an article about San Francisco Street Coaches in an Italian online journal called Leiweb.  The original Italian version is written by journalist, Anna Volpicelli.

From left to right: Chad, Melissa and Michael on Castro Street
In times of crisis, it is good to return to ourselves, rediscover our passions and find a way to put them into practice. This is the three musketeers mission of peace. Chad, Melissa and Michael, all professional life coaches, have decided to spread their art on the streets of San Francisco free of charge. A project that they've dubbed San Francisco Street Coaches finds them  on Friday afternoons somewhere between the bars of Market, Castro, Dolores Park or 18th Street, stopping passers-by asking, "What is your passion?"  The trio were inspired by a video posted on Youtube by Sivani Mair, a life coach and professional communicator. In the video Mair wanders the streets of London offering street coaching sessions. "When I saw her," said Chad, "I thought about the great opportunity we have here in San Francisco.  As coaches, simply by asking powerful questions and listening with care, we might be able to support people in finding access to their inner wisdom." The project has been well received by students, retirees, women and men.  The therapeutic energy and compassion that these three musketeers emanates draws both amusement and amazement from almost everyone.

 

 

Small talk in Dolores Park

Staying Open is a Choice No Matter the Circumstance

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A few weeks ago one of my most favorite aunts passed away.  Jeannde was one of those very special souls who embraced life with joy, openness, and wonder no matter the circumstances.  She had a way of bringing light wherever she went.  Melissa, my wife, and I had the gift to say goodbye to her a few days before her passing. The evening when we walked into her room, I could feel a profound peace, beauty, and light.  At the time, she was in limbo, not quite in this life but not quite in another.  She wasn't scared but, in fact, at peace.  She was clearly in a lot of bodily discomfort, but her spirit was palpably in total acceptance.  We managed to exchange a few powerful words, letting each other know how much we meant to one another; saying, "I love you"; and then, eventually, saying, "Goodbye."

I left that night with a deep peace that still reverberates in my heart as I write this two-weeks later.  Jeannde showed me that it is possible to continue to stay curious, not only in the twilight years but even up to the moment of death.  I always like to tell others that at the ripe age of 87, she was coming to my yoga classes, bending, twisting, and breathing, just like every other 20/30/40-something student in the room. I once told her that a few of my students were inspired by her presence in the room.  She couldn't understand why.  Age meant nothing to her except for the fact that her body was quite a bit less responsive than it had been in her younger years as a dancer.

I share Jeannde's story here because she taught me that circumstances don't make the light dim within us.  At each threshold, no matter what we face, we are at choice to stay open.  And it is a choice.  Literally, on her deathbed, on the threshold of the great unknown, in agonizing physical discomfort, she was sharing her heart, expressing her love, and accepting the calling that it was time for her to go.  Not only did the circumstances she was in not dim her.  They only seemed to add to her luminescence and magical capacity to stay in awe.

SF Street Coaches

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My wife, Melissa, colleague and friend, Michael Ehrenberg, and I went out on the streets of San Francisco yesterday to initiate a new project that we call SF Street Coaches.  The idea was born from a Youtube video of Sivani Mair in London who calls herself a certified life coach and a professional communicator.  Another Colleague, Marla Skibbins, CPCC sent Sivani’s video off to me a few weeks ago, and it inspired me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF4nembFLIk

Taking a Stand for Those Around Us, Including Strangers

I thought, “Wow, just think of the transformation that might be possible if we, as coaches really got out in the world and gave everyday people an access to their wisdom.”  It’s my hunch that we are living in a particular moment in history in which the old modes and models of living and being in the world are breaking down.  Our society is coming apart at the seams.  Just look at our political systems, our banking systems, our medical care, and our environment.  We’re in grave danger if we don’t get our act together.

At the heart of this massive and collective breakdown is a mindset.  From a very young age we all were taught not to rock the boat, not to want what we truly want, and certainly not to go after what we want.  As coaches, we think it’s critical that we individually and collectively wake up and actualize what authentically moves us.  When we do that, we can actually start to be a contribution in the world, we can start to give our gifts, and initiate the repair of all the breakdown we see around us.  We can only give our gifts when we follow the thread of authenticity and resonance.

As a coach, I have the unique responsibility--and opportunity--to remind not just my clients, but the people around me, including the strangers I do not even acknowledge on the street, to wake up to this knowing.  It takes incredible courage to both take a stand and to make it real in the world.  Hanging my shingle as a professional coach was a big step, but being a coach in the world is much bigger.  Yesterday, was a step in that direction.

Coaching the Masses

A few days ago I had buttons made that said SF Street Coaches.  I also made a shell of a website. Melissa, Michael, and I met up in downtown San Francisco.

 

We didn’t have a clue about how we’d start.  We all were both a little nervous and extremely self-conscious as we stood on Market Street.  As we stood there, we were looking at all the various people passing us by wondering if any of us would have the courage to stop someone and initiate a coaching conversation.  None of us knew how the heck we would do it.

So Melissa had a good idea.  She said, “I hate to be stopped on the street.  Most people do. Why don’t we go somewhere where people are seated and are relaxed?”  So we found a boulangerie where we ordered a tea and sat…and sat…and sat.  At some point Michael says, “I just want to tell you guys that I have no expectation whatsoever from this day.  If we don’t coach anyone, I am okay with that,” to which I said, “Me, too,” to which Melissa said, “Not me.”

And immediately she turned her head to a couple of young women next to us and initiated a coaching conversation. That’s how our afternoon began.  Instead of getting what we expected, “No,” “Not interested,” or “Too busy,” we got “Sure.” “I’m game,” “Would love it.”  After the second or third street coaching client, it became clear that, for the most part, each person we’d ask was up for it.

The Boomerang Effect

Even more interesting was that four out of the five people we coached were hungry and open for the inquiry.  What a privilege it is to have three ears listening curiously, attentively, and wanting only what you deeply want, rather than what your self-sabotaging voices want.  This is an unusual gift to give another person.   And when the authentic, resonant voices shine through, over those self-critical and self-doubting voices, something magical happens in the space of that interaction.

Each time we coached a stranger, the gift boomeranged right back at us.  Just as we were giving the gift of curiosity, our clients were giving us the gift of transparency and of vulnerability.  When complete strangers were sharing their hearts, their passions, their doubts, and their fears with us, it touched each of us. While we only spent 10 or 15 minutes with our clients, each managed to share their essence with us.  Each willingly danced with us.  The process really moved us.

Collaboration

I also really loved that we, the coaches, were a team.  We both approached and coached as a team.  It is rare that, as coaches, we get the opportunity to co-lead with one another.  The process is infinitely more impactful when six ears and three mouths are offered than just two.  Somehow whatever is said, either by the coaches or the client, is more real in the world when there are more than just one or two witnesses.  Additionally, as a coach, it helped immensely to be able to lean into the support of my co-leaders.  Finally, it was so much more fun to be able to share the experience with them.

Needless to say, the movement has begun!  If you’d like SF Street Coaches to show up in your neck of the woods, whether on your street, at a party you’re throwing, at your café, or at your office, please let us know.  We welcome any and all invitations.  If you’re a coach and you’d like to take part in SF Street Coaches, we’d love to hear from you.

The Neuroscience of Happiness

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I wanted to share some ah-ha's I experienced while listening to a TED Talk by Shaun Anchor, author of Happiness Advantage.  What  l love about Anchor’s message is that our cultural orientation around fixing what’s wrong is being invalidated by science.  So, if we’re depressed, we go see a so-called 'expert' who diagnoses what’s wrong and treats the problem. That way of looking at things may apply well in engineering or technology, but it doesn’t really pan out too well for us humans in our quest for happiness.  And, most importantly, neuroscience is actually demonstrating this to be true.

DO-HAVE-BE

We live in a cultural paradigm rooted in doing and having in order to be happy:  by working harder, working elsewhere, getting that raise, finding that partner, etc. we will be happier.  We all have experienced the fallacy of this way of thinking.  We’ve all succeeded in one way or another but eventually discover that we don’t, in fact, experience the happiness that we thought the job or the paycheck would bring us.

Anchor demonstrates that research now shows that “90% of long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes this world.  If we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way we affect reality.”  Another way of saying this is that if happiness is where you come from, you don’t need to go out and look for it; in fact, it comes to you.

Dopamine: The Happiness Neurotransmitter

From a scientific standpoint, when we’re happy, the neurotransmitter, dopamine is released in the brain.  By the way, research has shown that acupuncture's main effects in the body are to release dopamine.  Dopamine not only affects an overall sense of wellbeing, but it increases our capacity to learn, be creative, and experience increased levels of vibrancy.  In fact, “Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral, or stressed.”

Practicing Happiness

The good news is that it doesn’t take a whole lot to develop the knack of optimism, positivity, and happiness. Anchor sites research that has found that the brain can be rewired within 21 days doing the following three practices:

  1. 3 Gratitudes:  Writing three things you’re grateful for.  This results in the brain “starting to scan the world not for the negative, but for the positive.”
  2. Journaling about one positive experience you’ve had over the last 24 hours. “This exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters.”
  3. Meditation “allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple things at once, allowing us to focus on the task at hand.”
  4. Random acts of kindness: Praising someone in your social support network.

What’s exciting about Anchor’s message is that science is demonstrating what yogis, meditators, and mystics have been saying forever, happiness is right here and right now, and it doesn’t take much to recognize it, just simple daily practice.  My hunch and hope is that as scientific findings start to show up in mainstream media, we’ll all experience a cultural paradigm shift from trying to fix what’s wrong with ourselves and one another to appreciating each of our unique gifts.

Sharing Appreciation

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The client in my previous blog has begun asking her boyfriend to tell her that he loves her.  When she introduced this idea of requesting that he verbally appreciate her, he responded: "I'm with you, aren't I?  If I wasn't with you, I wouldn't love you.  Isn't that enough?" Let me just start by saying, "No, that's not enough."  The honest truth is that we need to know that we are cherished.  We need to know that we're treasured by those people around us.  I'm about to get a puppy, and so I've been doing all sorts of reading about how to train and interact with her. What's clear to me is that we're a whole lot like puppies.  While we don't thrive from being rewarded with kibble, we do thrive when our essence is recognized.

Open-Hearted Seeing

Our essence is who we essentially are at the depth of our being.  Merriam-Webster defines essence as " the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing." When we value another's essence, we're not just acknowledging the qualities of an individual that are unique to that individual, we're acknowledging who they elementally are to us in that moment.

To detect essence, requires a quality of open-hearted seeing.  We need to be able to look with appreciative eyes. Noticing essence is distinct from noticing something that that person has done or that they have.  Being appreciated for doing a job well-done feels good.  Being acknowledged for who we are essentially feels amazing!

Emotional Intelligent Behavior

So my client showed him how she wanted to be acknowledged.  So often we ask our significant others to just guess how we want it.  We ask them to be mind readers, to just know.  Most of us need to be taught this.  As advanced as our culture is scientifically, we have some catching up to do when it comes to emotional intelligent behavior.  In order to show him, she looked at him for a second or two, connected with his essence and said, "You are a deep, sensitive, and sexy man."  When she did, she said that she saw him melt, that all of his defenses came down.

Why?  Because he was seen.  When we share our appreciation for  another, we're basically saying, "I see you, and I love what I see."  So rarely do each of us have the experience of truly being seen or known.  When it happens, it's like a healing balm.  Truly being known, being seen, is what each of us longs for.

Timing is Everything

Once people learn how to acknowledge, they start to see how powerful it is.  It's powerful because it creates a sense of connectedness.  People around us feel connected to us when they know that they are seen.  And when they do, their best comes out.  But there's a timing to it. I know people who acknowledge so much that it loses its potency.

In addition, there are times when it should and should not be used.  The bottom line is that it has to come from an authentic place.  We all can sense an authentic boiling up of love, care, or affinity for another.  It's in those moments when we feel or sense that that acknowledgement can and does create connection.  When it's used in the form of manipulation, it feels saccharine and manipulative.

And there are recipients, who no matter how authentic our words of appreciation are, have a hard time receiving.  Some people just have a hard time being admired.  To receive words of appreciation are seen as prideful.  When that's the case, no matter how authentic our words, they will never land.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Each of us must develop the capacity to express our care for one another.  It has to come from an authentic place.  And, at the same time, that care must be backed with acts that represent that care.  The two have to occur, not necessarily simultaneously, but without action, words are just that, words.  When our word and action are one and the same, our expressions of love and care for one another are powerful and transformative for all to see.  The very few relationships that I've seen that express a depth of caring consistently marry both words and deeds.  At the heart of their expression is care.

The Basics: How to Share Appreciation

  1. Start to pay attention to those moments when you sense love, care, or affinity for another.  That's often the best time to acknowledge them.  If you're not habituated to noticing this sense of love and care, make that your practice for a week.  Notice each time it arises.
  2. Once you notice it, give expression to the feeling.  You might say, "I feel love for you," or "You make me feel warm inside," or "My life feels whole with you in it," or "I really appreciate the joy you bring to my life."
  3. Next, take a moment to look in the direction of the person.  When you look, you're looking with a different set of eyes.  You might say that these are the eyes of appreciation.  You want to notice, in the moment, what you deeply and profoundly appreciate about the other person.  Remember, it's just a moment.  Don't take too long.  Essence is obvious.  If you keep looking for something, you will totally miss the mark.
  4. Next, offer your appreciation in a "You are..." statement. For example, "You are a bright light who brings warmth wherever you go,"  or "You are deep soul," or "You are gorgeous." Because essence has a poetic quality, metaphor can be a powerful form of acknowledgement.
  5. Once you've offered a "You are..." statement, don't keep talking.  Pause and notice how your words landed.  Were they received?  Were they blocked or deflected?  And if they landed, notice what's present between you and the person your acknowledging.  Is there more love and affinity?

 

Loving Yourself Is Bullshit: Stop Going It Alone

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One of my clients feels badly that she wants her boyfriend to tell her he loves her.  She thinks that she shouldn't need the acknowledgment.  She says she should feel solid enough about herself-- about how attractive, intelligent, sexy, and special she is--that she shouldn't need his acknowledgement.  She wants to find the hidden secret to confidence, the magic potion that will take away her sense of wanting. Another client is trying to get a new business off the ground, one that really excites him.  His current job is "soul crushing," but his wife offers him no support whatsoever; in fact, she's sabotaging his every move by criticizing him and laughing at his ideas as if they were the antics of a juvenile.  No matter how much he wants to switch gears and how many times he starts and stops the movement in a positive direction, he can't really get traction.  He knows his wife doesn't support his ideas, but he can't seem to connect the dots in terms of why he's stuck.  Like my client above, he's hoping for that tool, that shift in perspective, that stroke of magic that will get him out of his current job and into the career of his dreams.

Loving Yourself is Bullshit

Both of these clients have something in common. They're both doing it alone. Neither of them realize that we can't.  I'll say it again.  We can't do it on our own.  This thought is so contrary to the New Age concept that we have to love ourselves first before anyone else can love us or the all-American "Lone Ranger," pull yourself up by your bootstraps mythos.  Either way, there's a hardcore ideal within American culture of self-reliance, but really, that's just a bunch of bullshit.

A lot of the heroes we read about in history books are individuals who overcame odds to create great change, people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela.  But nobody speaks about all the love and support they had along the way.  These men had people who believed in them, who offered them their energy, their resources, and sometimes even their lives in support of their goals.  What's discussed is the greatness that these men achieved.  Very little is mentioned about their collaborators.

Collaboration

Certain relationships come into our lives to remind us that we are brilliant, creative, capable, and beautiful.  These are the relationships that feed us.  And if each of us looks closely at whatever excellence we've accomplished or created, we will never find us and us alone in the creation of it.  We will always find collaborators, people who believed in us and/or people who shared a common goal.  Either way, we didn't--and by the way, can't--do it alone.

The Magic of Partnership

The magic my clients are looking for can be found right in the relationships that they're currently in.  Sure there's always more soul searching we all could do to establish a deeper accord with ourselves, but we are social creatures. Even if we could do it alone, why would we want to?

Any project, any experience is so much more vibrant when we have a partner, a friend, and collaborator to share the adventure with.  Our relationships are what give a quality of richness to the experience.  In addition, our partners see to it that not only do we not fail, but they support our success just as we support theirs.

Creating Conscious Relationships

The magic my clients are looking for is right in front of them, but where can they start?  How do they transform the relationships that they're in from relationships that aren't supportive enough or even antagonistic into ones that are collaborative?  The first step is building on the foundation of their relationships: trust and respect.  Without these two, collaboration doesn't happen.  I've written a whole blog series on recreating trust in relationship.  Check it out.

Once trust has been reestablished, the next move is to consciously design the relationship, which I've written about as well.

[jbox color="blue" vgradient="#fdfeff|#bae3ff" title="Complimentary Relationship Rescue Coaching Session"]If you are ready to make a shift in your relationships and want help developing a game plan, I offer a complimentary 60-minute Relationship Rescue coaching session. There's no obligation; I love doing these and hope you'll get in touch.

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If you have a story about a collaborative relationship that might inspire others, please share in the comments.

Soul Mates...Do They Really Exist?

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Recently a coaching client had been complaining about the various partners that showed up in her life.  Mostly she felt a maternal instinct for them, and more often than not, they turned out to be people she had to take care of.  She'd become jaded by the various people that'd show up on her online dating service.  She'd say, "I know this'll just turn out to be another one of those 'energy suckers,' so why bother?"

Default Relationships

Sound familiar?  It's pretty common in the dating world to keep ending up with the same partner.  Sure they have a different face and address, but after awhile thy all start looking the same.  These are what I call "default relationships."  These are the relationships that show up in our lives when we're on autopilot, when we're not really doing the work necessary to continue to grow and evolve.  We often seem to get a mirror image of what we won't look at in ourselves.  The universe is magnificent in its capacity to give us just what we need.  If we won't learn the lesson by ourselves, we're sure to learn it in relationship with another.

But in this conversation, I decided to ask her what she thought about soul mates.  She didn't have much of an opinion one way or another about whether they existed or not.  She'd never had the experience, herself.  So I described my own experience of meeting my soulmate, who happens to be my wife, now.

The Source of Aliveness

Melissa, my wife, says that she knew I was her mate right away.  It was clear as day to her right from the get go.  I, on the other hand, didn't have an inkling at all that she was my soul mate.  Part of the reason is that I'd just completed a pretty significant relationship of five years with someone and also, I just wasn't open to the experience.  Then one night after being friends for about three months, we went out.  Nothing happened.  I didn't notice anything that night, but the next morning, I felt lit up.  It was as if I had stuck my hand in a light socket and had this incredible sense of aliveness.  And I knew it was because of her.  She was the source of that beauty, that magnificence.  At that moment, I was open to the possibility that she was my soulmate.  And that was the beginning of something that continues to be quite a magical ride.

Magic Exists

After I shared this story with my client, she seemed pretty open.  And that's where the story ended for me last month. About a week ago, she came in looking and sounding noticeably different.  She said that the moment after she'd left our meeting she'd gone to her dating site and came across the face of someone she'd found attractive.  That person had noticed that she was looking at her page and contacted my client.  One thing led to another, and they ended up speaking for about eight hours that night.  What became clear to both of them that evening was that they'd come across the one that they'd been waiting for all of their lives.  That was how my client reported it.  She said that she didn't even know she was waiting, but when she met her soulmate, it clarified all sorts of struggles and confusions that she'd battled her whole life.  And it felt like the culmination and completion of a portion of her life and the birth of a new one.  Previously she'd known herself simply as an individual who happened to have partnerships with people.  Now she wanted to know herself as a member of something greater than herself.

I share this story not just because it's a good one, but because I hope--as does my client-- that her story can open the possibility that one of my readers finds their soul mate.  If you have a soulmate story that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear it.  I think these stories remind us that love can be an access point to the magic of life, and magic does exist!!!

 

[jbox color="blue" vgradient="#fdfeff|#bae3ff" title="Complimentary Relationship Rescue Coaching Session"]If you are ready to make a shift in your relationships and want help developing a game plan, I offer a complimentary 60-minute Relationship Rescue coaching session. There's no obligation; I love doing these and hope you'll get in touch.

 

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Recreating Trust Part 6: Expressing the File and Listening

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If you are going to communicate everything in your file to another person, how would you manage your communication?

Expressing the File

It is evident that being accusatory, yelling, finger-pointing, and attacking would be nonproductive. Instead, you are speaking to another person.  You need to handle them with both respect and care.

Also, be open and honest and say exactly what you need to say without sugar-coating it. Listeners find it annoying if they feel the speaker is trying to protect their feelings by being "nice." Some of the things you learned as children keep you stuck. One of these childhood messages is that if you do not have something good to say, you should not say anything. If you took this instruction literally, you would never communicate your upsets and disappointments and your files would grow and grow. Obviously, that old childhood message is not very useful here.

At the same time, it is critical that you not be righteous.  If you become righteous, the listener will feel you are "wronging them," then they will want to justify and defend themselves, which would defeat the purpose of the exercise.

At this point many people ask, "but why would I want to say it at all, especially the things I do not want to confront?" Only when the file is completely empty can there be 100% openness, intimacy, and trust.  If you leave anything in the file, it becomes like a cancer that can only grow and eventually cause another upset.

How to Listen:  The Art of Grocking

Most us don't actually listen to what the other person is saying.  We tend to listen from a place of judgment, of whether we agree or disagree? Is what they are saying right or wrong? We listen from a guarded reality.  Unless we are really able to appreciate the other person's stance or position, all communications continue to break down.  What often passes for communication is just human beings manipulating one another in order to defend and maintain their world-view.  If we are not manipulating, we are looking in the world for agreement about the rightness of our perspective.  To communicate, we have to grasp the other's reality, and we have to be willing to not take their communication personally. The words other people say rarely have anything to do with us.  They're just words. We seem to feel the need to defend and protect ourselves from others' words, but other people's reactions to us have to do with where they are coming from.  We simply represent something to them.  We are rarely the thing itself.

If communication is ever going to happen we have to be more committed to being connected with the person we are listening to than we are about being right about our perspective.  We have to be willing to see the way in which our pride is poisoning our relating to one another.  In other words, it has to be more important to be connected to the other person than it is to being right.  Likewise, we have to be willing to see the way in which our pride is damaging not only our relationship, but ourselves.  The pride is like a poison that seeps its way into every aspect of our lives.

We can engage in our relationships from an entirely different paradigm.  Within this paradigm, we have the space to heal any and all relationships that are broken.  At the essence of this stance is listening for respect.  Ultimately, this is what we all seek.  We seek other human beings to reflect us and to hold the space for us.  In order to heal a relationship, it requires an act of generosity.

Listening from a place of generosity can heal any relationship. All it takes to restore a relationship that has been stuck for minutes, hours, days, or even years, is to understand what the other person is saying exactly, with nothing added and nothing changed, just getting their experience, the background of the experience, and listening form a place of respect.  When what they are saying is totally grocked--which means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed--conflict disappears and connections can reappear.

Getting in the other person’s world is listening from their reality or seeing their words in relationship to their lives, not ours. In order to grock, we have to hear what is going on, both on the surface and below.  We have to hear what is not being said, including body language, facial expressions, and the subtleties that arise in language. In addition, we have to be willing to listen for the emotion present.  Rarely do we hold space for our own emotions, much less another's emotions. Often times we fear someone else's anger, hurt, jealousy, and sadness for fear that it will destroy us.  However, if we listen from the place that emotions are not personal, we can just feel without needing to defend what the other person's world is like.

 

Curiosity and Compassion

If someone is going to tell you everything in her file, how would you listen to it? The way to listen is to listen with curiosity and compassion. Listen by getting your attention off yourself, getting over there with the other person is, and get how it is for her or him.

Thank You, Go Deeper, and Say More

Also, encourage the other person to say everything, and say nothing in response other than “thank you.” Do not react, do not listen as if you you’re being wronged, and do not take anything the other person says personally, even though it is personal.

If you sense that there is something more that needs to be said that will create more intimacy, you can say, “Go deeper”  or “Say More.”  You are the one who is in the driver’s seat.  You are responsible for lifting the veil that’s blocking intimacy between you and your partner.  If you’re willing to hear more, in fact, all of it, by requesting more or go deeper, then you have the power to recreate intimacy.  If you hold back because you’re afraid of hearing it all, then you, once again, will be passing up an opportunity to create intimacy with you and another human being.

 

Recreating Trust Series

Learning how to create and recreate trust is the most critical step to being intimately connected with others.  This is one part in a six-part series that explores how trust and intimacy breaks down in relationships and how to recreate it. And, by the way, if you’ve been in a relationship romantically or non-romantically for longer than two months, then you're probably inadvertently experiencing breakdown.

[jbox color="blue" vgradient="#fdfeff|#bae3ff" title="Complimentary Relationship Rescue Coaching Session"]If you are ready to make a shift in your relationships and want help developing a game plan, I offer a complimentary 60-minute Relationship Rescue coaching session. There's no obligation; I love doing these and hope you'll get in touch.

[jbutton icon="love" size="medium" color="blue" link="/relationship-rescue/"]Get a free Relationship Rescue session![/jbutton]

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Recreating Trust Part 5: Take an Inventory

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Before we move forward in any relationship where trust has broken down, we need to first clean up the mess that we and others in our lives have made. The unresolved upsets will weaken the foundation of your relationships, making meaningful and satisfying ones impossible. Consider: When the process of making entries into the file started, at some level you knew you contributed something to this breakdown, and you knew you should have communicated your feelings to the other person. But you did not.

The number one requirement for cleaning up the messes you’ve made in your relationships is that you have to be willing to go back in time and cleanup the trash. You must be willing to let go of it, not get even or dump, but to let go. This restores the intimacy, openness, and trust.

Step One: Take Inventory

Letting go is a simple two-step process.  Step one requires that you get honest by noticing where you’re withholding in that relationship, where you’re not telling the truth.  Notice any assumptions you have about that other person.  How you’re either protecting yourself or manipulating the other person. Notice any unfulfilled expectations, thwarted intentions, disappointments, withholds, and assumptions.

Write down in your journal the file you have on the other person:

  • What I'm withhold or not saying to you is...
  • The things I am assuming about you are…
  • My expectations of you that are unfulfilled are...
  • My intentions for you that have been thwarted are...
  • I am disappointed with you/our relationship in that…

 

Recreating Trust Series

Learning how to create and recreate trust is the most critical step to being intimately connected with others.  This is one part in a six-part series that explores how trust and intimacy breaks down in relationships and how to recreate it. And, by the way, if you’ve been in a relationship romantically or non-romantically for longer than two months, then you're probably inadvertently experiencing breakdown.

 

[jbox color="blue" vgradient="#fdfeff|#bae3ff" title="Complimentary Relationship Rescue Coaching Session"]If you are ready to make a shift in your relationships and want help developing a game plan, I offer a complimentary 60-minute Relationship Rescue coaching session. There's no obligation; I love doing these and hope you'll get in touch.

[jbutton icon="love" size="medium" color="blue" link="/relationship-rescue/"]Get a free Relationship Rescue session![/jbutton]

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Recreating Trust Part 4: File Emptying

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Have you ever been in a situation where somebody else said or did something, and another person reacted in a way that was dramatically disproportionate to what you said or did? Of course! Have you ever been in a situation where somebody else said or did something, and you reacted in a way that was dramatically disproportionate to what the other person said or did? Of course you did that, too. This is called ‘file emptying.’  In file emptying we do not react just to what was said or done at the moment; we react with all the fury that exists in a cumulative file. Given that the reaction is totally out of proportion to what just happened, the recipient of the file emptying is caught off guard in the wilderness, almost guaranteeing that he or she will take the communication personally, get defensive, and attack back.

Sometimes, instead of the file emptying, the other person becomes the enemy. You drift apart and fight about everything. The file becomes evidence of something negative about the other person, you start to use the file against him and make him wrong. And, of course, the payoff is that we get to be right and avoid being wrong; we get to dominate and avoid being dominated.

So instead of leaning into that relationship knowing without a shadow of doubt that they have your best interest at heart, you start making all sorts of assumptions about them.  You start subtly and not-so-subtly manipulating them.  You start controlling.  You start avoiding.  You think you’re “protecting” them from the truth.  You basically withhold from the relationship.  Withholding is actively not telling the truth.  If you want to kill a relationship, just withhold the truth from them.

We have all experienced this occurring in many forms sometimes people are polite with each other, but we can feel the underlying tension. Everybody knows it is there, but nobody is willing to confront it. Two people become like strangers, exchanging pleasantries and doing the best they can to make the most of that situation and get on with what they have to do.  This is definitely not a formula for a great relationship.  Sometimes it is worse. Sometimes people climb into their foxholes, arm themselves, and dare anyone to walk into their space. It can get ugly.

 

Recreating Trust Series

Learning how to create and recreate trust is the most critical step to being intimately connected with others.  This is one part in a six-part series that explores how trust and intimacy breaks down in relationships and how to recreate it. And, by the way, if you’ve been in a relationship romantically or non-romantically for longer than two months, then you're probably inadvertently experiencing breakdown.

[jbox color="blue" vgradient="#fdfeff|#bae3ff" title="Complimentary Relationship Rescue Coaching Session"]If you are ready to make a shift in your relationships and want help developing a game plan, I offer a complimentary 60-minute Relationship Rescue coaching session. There's no obligation; I love doing these and hope you'll get in touch.

[jbutton icon="love" size="medium" color="blue" link="/relationship-rescue/"]Get a free Relationship Rescue session![/jbutton]

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Recreating Trust Part 3: Storing Our Resentments

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During the honeymoon, everything is so wonderful because you are not dealing with a lot of disappointments. You can be open and intimate with a high degree of trust. So on the scale of openness, intimacy, and trusts, you could say that 100% is available to you. But every entry put in the file displaced the possibility of 100% openness, intimacy, and trust. Think of it like a glass of water that fills to the brim. The water represents openness, intimacy, and trust. If we start pouring sand into the glass, where the sand represents the undelivered communication, then it is evident that the water will soon start spilling out.

So one day you have 100% openness, intimacy, trust, and you feel wonderful about the other person. But before you know it, you are down to 90%. 90% isn't all that bad, but it does not feel quite as good as 100%. You are not quite as eager to be open with the other person, but it is not too bad.

However, the sand keeps going into the glass, the disappointments keep going into the file, and now you're down to 80% on the scale of openness, intimacy, and trust. You are starting to suffer a bit. It is getting harder and harder to be with the other person to talk openly and honestly. You start avoiding, maybe being a bit sarcastic, but you continue on.

You can see where this is going. Eventually you get to the point where you will not put up with it any further. This is when your mind starts playing very interesting games with us. As the file gets bigger and bigger you lose all sense of the responsibility, and you become convinced that the source of your increasing distrust really is the other person.

 

Recreating Trust Series

Learning how to create and recreate trust is the most critical step to being intimately connected with others.  This is one part in a six-part series that explores how trust and intimacy breaks down in relationships and how to recreate it. And, by the way, if you’ve been in a relationship romantically or non-romantically for longer than two months, then you're probably inadvertently experiencing breakdown.

part in a six-part series that explores how trust and intimacy breaks down in relationships and how to recreate it.

 

[jbox color="blue" vgradient="#fdfeff|#bae3ff" title="Complimentary Relationship Rescue Coaching Session"]If you are ready to make a shift in your relationships and want help developing a game plan, I offer a complimentary 60-minute Relationship Rescue coaching session. There's no obligation; I love doing these and hope you'll get in touch.

[jbutton icon="love" size="medium" color="blue" link="/relationship-rescue/"]Get a free Relationship Rescue session![/jbutton]

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