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  • feedwordpress 17:11:21 on 2016/12/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , coaching, daring, , suffering,   

    From Darkness to Thrivability 

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    Black Forest night

    I have been championing thrivability for almost a decade now (since February 2007). What a journey! Lately, I have felt a struggle to champion it in the face of loss and change and setbacks. I feel, even implicitly, the pushback — usually unarticulated — about “daring to talk about thriving in the face of loss and crisis.”

    So maybe now is the time to say publicly that I come to thrivability through a journey of loss and crisis. If you glance at me, you might pick up that I am white or an attractive woman or middle class and dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand suffering and loss.

    photo courtesy of Tony Deifell

    Look on others kindly, for we do not know their path and their suffering.

    Maybe your first glance doesn’t catch that I have a physical deformity that means that I was in surgery multiple times before I was three and again at 15. I will never have the experience of being a normal body, no matter how slender my body or pretty my face may be. I don’t go to yoga class because when you can’t do downward facing dog, it isn’t worth it. Most moves transition through postures that use your arms, straight, which I can’t. But this isn’t a pity party. I may not be able to do a push up or play volleyball, but I can run and swim and kayak and lots of other things. I focus on what I can do and not on what I can’t. I learned that at a young age. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.

    At first glance I might seem to be living some sort of dream life, traveling the world talking with interesting people, enjoying sunset picnics on the beach, and living out my life goals. Yes, well, that is because I remade myself from the ground up. I wasn’t handed this life on a golden platter. I was diagnosed with PTSD at the tender age of 21. It was a result of believing that the person closest to me was going to murder me and erase me from existence. I felt like I had no one to turn to. I trusted no one. I know exactly what I look like at my very worst, my deepest darkest moments. And I built who I am up from that place, on purpose, over many years. I found therapy in my early 20s to be deeply counter-productive. Instead I wrote poetry and sat in my own muck sorting myself out. I slowly let people back into my life, and they turned out to be worthy of trust. Around 32 I was trained as a life coach, but by then most of the approach was becoming intuitive to me anyway. And at 35, I started talking about thrivability.

    I am not a Mary Poppins blindly optimistic sort. My optimism is a conscious choice. I imagine being on the Titanic while it is sinking. Do I want to scream and yell about it? Do I want to gobble up all the champagne and caviar I can find? Or do I want to take some action and hold some hope that I can find a way through? Do I want to help others, as much as I can before the end? The predicament may be dire, but there is no way through if I don’t try and don’t believe the impossible is possible. I choose action, hope, and helping. I choose it because it is who I want to be in this moment, regardless of what outcome occurs.

    Thrivability is not about achieving some state in the future, some sublime perfect state. Thrivability is about aiming toward it and giving everything you have toward the possibility of greatness. Your greatness, our greatness, the world’s greatness. As Camus said: “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.”

    Do not play small. Do not make yourself small. Live into greatness now. Strive now. It is not the achievement that matters. It is playing with all you have got now that matters.

    There are two other quotes which form cornerstones for me:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    ~ Marianne Williamson

    And this quote, to me, reminds me not to collapse into fear and shame and doubt but instead to shine my light brightly. Not so that I outshine others, but so that I give permission to others to shine just as or more brightly. I can transform the darkness that comes my way into the brightness of a new day.

    The other quote is one Brené Brown uses for Daring Greatly… from Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Who are we not to live into our greatness? Together let us dare greatly to make the world we want, one full of compassion, dialogue, understanding. One where we ask forgiveness for our wrongdoings and try once more each new day to do right, live rightly, and love each other.

    When we are at our worst is when we most need to yearn for thrivability.

  • feedwordpress 17:07:41 on 2016/12/16 Permalink
    Tags: Art and Creativity, awe, coaching, , , , profane, self-care, spirituality,   

    Playing with the Profane and Divine 

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    Tomales Bay Sunrise

    Are we animal or are we spirit? Reading David Whyte’s poem on maturity, I am reminded to be in the past, present, and future simultaneously. Can we also hold both the profane and divine simultaneously?


    is the ability to live fully and equally in multiple contexts; most especially, the ability to courageously inhabit the past the present and the future all at once; the wisdom that comes from maturity is recognized through a disciplined refusal to choose between or isolate three powerful dynamics shaping human identity: what has already happened, what is happening now and what is about to occur.

    Immaturity is shown by making false choices: living only in the past, or only in the present, or only in the future, or even, living only two out of the three.

    Maturity is not a static arrived platform, where life is viewed from a calm, untouched oasis of wisdom, but a living elemental frontier between what has happened, what is happening now and the consequences of that past and present; first imagined and then lived into the waiting future.

    Maturity calls us to risk ourselves as much as immaturity, but for a bigger picture, a larger horizon; for a powerfully generous outward incarnation of our inward qualities and not for gains that make us smaller, even in the winning.

    Immaturity always beckons, offering a false haven, an ersatz safety, in one state or the other: a hiding place and disappearance in the past, a false isolation of the present, or an unobtainable sure prediction of the future. But maturity beckons also, asking us to be larger, more fluid, more elemental, less cornered, less unilateral, a living conversational intuition between the inherited story, the one we are privileged to inhabit and the one, if we are large enough and broad enough, moveable enough and even, here enough, just, astonishingly, about to occur.

    Excerpt from MATURITY taken from the upcoming reader’s circle essay series. ©2013 David Whyte

    I find myself, at times, tumbling in the waves of how profane our human world is. What animals we are. How full of despair and destruction. How is it that we still suffer so and make others suffer too? Then, I am at the beach watching the light of the fading sun kiss the sand in orange hues and think how blissfully sublime it is to be here, as a human, having this experience. I think my life is filled with awe: the rainbow after a storm over the Grand Canyon is just one such moment; I think we all have them. Life is not one or the other: disgust or beauty. It is both.

    Rainbow over the grand canyon
    Each are magnetic. When we slip into noticing all of the suffering and fill our lungs with anger and disgust at the depravity of human beings, we tumble downward into noticing the dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of ways humans can be cruel, heartless, and unkind to each other and the world we inhabit.

    And when we slip into that altered state of awe, we leave behind the profane and gracefully ascend into the divine. We forget the struggle and suffering as our hearts expand three sizes to hold our sense of wonder in our chest. What a miracle to be here in this moment, having this experience!

    I am trying to ride between these two and all the spaces in between. So I play a little empath game to practice. I call it, “I am the universe experiencing itself as…” which is a long and clumsy title, so you might suggest something better. And it goes like this, you say, “I am the universe experiencing itself as….” and fill in that blank. Maybe it is a butterfly emerging from the cocoon? Maybe it is the the first flower coming up through the snow? Maybe it is the light coming through a prism and splitting into a rainbow. Maybe it is lovers at the peak of orgasm. You make it up. Then imagine how it feels to experience that. What is it to be that butterfly, flower, prism, or those lovers? Awaken your inner poet. It is there. I promise.

    Then (alone or with a partner or group), suggest something that seems opposite or completely different, orthogonal. Maybe “I am the universe experiencing itself as a piece of gum on the sidewalk.” Then imagine being that gum, what it would be like to be stuck to the pavement and stepped on, unnoticed by others. Or to be a gun or a starving child.

    Give yourself several full cycles of breath to experience both the awe and the profanity. Begin with finding the awe in the profane. Begin to discover the profane in awe. Dance. Build this muscle of being with both what is glorious and what is disgusting. Imagine death and birth and transformation. Imagine loss and sacrifice. Imagine blessing and abundance. Swirl it all through your heart and mind. If doing this with another, hold each other (metaphorically or physically) through the dance.

    Hold all of this through practice, growing the strength to be with what is as it is. Slowly, we slip less into noticing one extreme or the other. Slowly, we begin to live in complex wholeness.

    If you want to develop the muscle on this, let’s connect and play with it.

  • feedwordpress 18:49:08 on 2016/04/11 Permalink
    Tags: coaching, Feel,   

    Hacking Nicities 

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    Over on Quora, Deborah asked me to answer:

    What is the best substitute for "thank you," "sorry," and "welcome" to express gratitude or apologize to someone close who considers those words a mere formality?

    Which I answered briefly with:

    I am not convinced the problem is the words themselves as much as the lack of clarity of what is meant by them. I think it helps to add three details to any of the above statements: what it is, why it matters, and how it makes you feel.

    Thank you: I appreciate that you x because I value y, so now I feel z. “I appreciate that you did the dishes because I value cleanliness, so now I feel ready to start my day.”

    Sorry: I apologize (as for your forgiveness) for doing x. I know you value y and so do I. I feel terrible/out of integrity/uncomfortable… and can we discuss what I can do to make this right for us?

    Welcome: I am happy to help with x because y is important to me.

    Nicities are nice! They help make us feel nice. But very few of us learn how to do them well. We get the ‘Say please and thank you’ lecture. In about a decade of reflecting on why a thank you or apology lands or doesn’t land with me or with other people, I have refined a practice. No, I am by no means perfect at it either.

    Be specific. See, Touch, Hear it.

    I have learned though that it helps to include one or more of the parts: describe specifically what is appreciated or what the apology is for – the more the other person knows precisely what is being discussed, the better they can hear what is said. “Thank you for sharing the day with me” is not half as powerful as “thank you for buying me coffee while we discussed the current political climate and watched the clouds go by. I love sharing that kind of time with you.” Be specific and use your senses of sight, touch, and sound.

    Be nice

    Get Subjective

    The details of the objective reality – where you were, what was in the room, what would an observer say would happened, the details writers love to use, help us get into that moment.

    But they don’t tell us why it matters. There, we get into the subjective. So if you share how that relates to your values, what is important to you, or why it counts for you, that also helps to ground the expression. “I find conversations about politics with people of opposing views to be the roots of good democracy, so I value practicing that with you, even when we disagree.”

    Talk about Your Feelings

    Even more in the subjective angle of expression here is how it makes us feel. “Debating with you makes me feel wiser because I have a better handle on both sides of the argument.” Or “Discussing these issues with you helps me feel closer to you because I see why you hold that position.”

    When I have written letters of gratitude for something that happened in the past, I also include a list of things that I feel came about because of the other person. Results I attribute to their actions. So few of us know the second order effects of our interactions, yet all of us want to be a contribution. Good: “Thank you for connecting me with Sally.” Better: “Connecting me with Sally led to a new client engagement, a new idea, meeting my partner, etc.”

    Specifically, on Apologies

    Similarly, a great apology is grounded in specifics:

    “I am sorry I was late this evening. We both value not wasting time, and my being late held you up. I feel frustrated with myself for letting you down and being out of integrity myself. I feel compassion for you feeling delayed and disrespected. I am so sorry. How can I make this right for you?”

    Notice it also ends with an invitation to discuss how to make it better. Also notice that it is an invitation to make it better for the person you are apologizing to — improving their experience of you — and not for you to feel better about your actions — improving your experience of yourself. (That is your own work to do.)

    Being humans together is often messy. We have conflicting desires and make human mistakes. Niceties help remove friction in that experience.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.43.36 AM

  • feedwordpress 17:01:42 on 2015/09/30 Permalink
    Tags: brown, coaching, Csikszentmihalyi, desire, , Perel, seligman, , worthiness, zizek   

    The Critic’s Pursuit of Happiness 

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    I totally love Žižek, of course, that old rabble rouser! And I am not a fan of chasing happiness. However, in this post, I will invert both of those.

    Žižek talks about happiness, here on Big Think.

    Zizek on Big Think

    First, it is important to understand the tradition that Žižek comes from. His is Slovenian, the first to translate Derrida into Slovenian, one of his first books was a response to Lacan (read: Freud), and a post-Marxist Communist and far left of liberal. He is so much a practitioner of post-post-modernism that he is even post-ironic. Of course, he isn’t interested in happiness! Duh!

    Second, the father of the positive psychology movement would support the flow and purpose elements that Žižek mentions (see also the flow and purpose work of Csikszentmihalyi). If you want to go deeper than these TED talks, take a look at Seligman’s book: Flourish (and for that part Csikszentmihalyi’s classic book on Flow).

    Third, most of us have a terrible and childish relationship with desire that fits the kind of model that Žižek describes as the problem with the pursuit of happiness. See The Pursuit of Unhappiness for the real errors from a practicing psychologist. It ties well with Brené Brown‘s work on being whole-hearted and worthy of love and belonging (and the flip side: shame). Because people reject their achievements when they feel unworthy of them. It isn’t about the goal, it is about whether we believe we deserve it.

    Finally, to finish my critique of Zizek’s view of happiness, see Esther Perel’s Ted talk on long term relationship for how to solve the mistress problem. Sure, if TED isn’t your style, she has a book too, Mating in Captivity. When we become conscious of the dance between security/safety and desire, we can better ride the edge and enjoy desire as desire rather than the pursuit of an (unsatisfying) outcome.

    I also think Open to Desire from Mark Epstein may have some of the answers on how to ride that edge beautifully. But I have to finish reading it to be sure.

    Also note, the title is eerily similar to Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, the biography by Jeannette Winterson.


  • feedwordpress 22:39:25 on 2013/12/30 Permalink
    Tags: coaching,   

    Review the Secret Guide 

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    You probably know most of what it is, but do you know all of it? See the guide for updating your interpersonal skills. I originally wrote it several years ago for a socially oblivious friend, but I still find it useful to review for myself. SecretGuide13

    It is made of a collection of old Normal Vincent Peale, How to Win Friends wisdoms with lessons learned as a poet and some NLP training.

    What would you add to the Secret Guide to Interpersonal Communication? SecretGuide13

    Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 4.37.02 PM

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