Conversations about change: self-actualization (3/6)

grandaspirations.orgWhen I talk about change, I actually talk about growth. We cannot change into someone we’re not, we want to grow more fully into whom we are.

A bougainvillea might rather want to be an oak tree. She can work as hard as she can on becoming one, and she never will. She’ll always be a bougainvillea. That’s her nature.

She can become the best bougainvillea she can be. And if that’s what she wants, two strategies are essential: to maximize her nourishment, and to maximize her protection from harmful influences. With nourishment and protection she will naturally bloom and blossom, and become the abundant flowering plant she is meant to be.

Humans are much the same. Carl Rogers, the founder of human psychology, calls that self-actualization. The natural tendency to become more open to whom we are, what we are experiencing, and how we are relating to the world. It is the process of becoming more fully ourselves.

In this process there is no stage, no experience that is not welcomed. We don’t rush the little seedling to grow up. Or the flower to bear fruit. Or the fruit to ripen into new seed. We enjoy every stage for the beauty and uniqueness it holds right now.

In this sense growth is much like mindfulness.  We accept our experience and appreciate every stage of our life. Even if we don’t like it. We embrace our stress, resentment, and anger and look into it.

We look into the conditions that give rise to our experience. Once we understand the conditions, we can remove any hindrances to our growth. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about wrong perception. Byron Katie offers The Work. Then we can see our lives as experiments in growth. We observe our thinking, speech and actions, and analyze the results. And when we notice something doesn’t work that well, we have a choice to change that behavior. So that we may all be happy, healthy and safe.

I wish you a happy and joyful New Year’s Eve.

You want help bringing compassion, healing and integration in your life? Contact me, 512 589 0482 

Conversations about change: unconditional acceptance (2/6)

I once was a heavy smoker. I would have one cigarette in my hand, while the other was burning in the ash tray. I smoked everywhere, every time. I smoked holding a baby on my lap (gosh, I do feel shame around that), as soon as church was over, in my parents’ yard. My biggest question in life was “When can I smoke next?”

Balanced choicesI tried to quit. I tried several times. I once stopped for three years. Then I was tempted again. I smoked one cigarette. Only one. The next day another. And before I knew it, two packages a day. Again.

I got very discouraged. I wanted to stop. I knew how bad cigarettes were for my health. I hated the addictive behavior. I didn’t want to harm other people with my smoking. None of these reasons ever helped.

In April 2006 I went to a retreat with the Brahma Kumaris. It was a beautiful residence, in a beautiful surrounding. I am pretty sure heaven looks like this. The distance between the villa and the road was at least 2 miles long. You were not allowed to smoke in the house nor on the premises. How could I participate in the sessions and have a smoke outside the premises?

I gathered my courage to ask their help solving my cigarette-issue. These were people who were committed to healthy nourishment. No coffee, no alcohol, no cigarettes, no drugs, no meat. Only healthy food. They granted me permission to smoke outside. I did. I had no clue where to leave my stump. Everything was so clean, so beautiful, I didn’t want to contaminate it with my stump. Finally I asked a monk. He was sweeping the porch. He looked at me with a big smile: “Oh, just throw it on the ground, I’ll sweep it up.” I did. I felt embarrassed. He swept it up with a peace I have not often seen.

When I came home, I stopped. I never smoked again. I never even wanted.

I often wondered what happened.

I think the biggest contributing factor was the unconditional, loving acceptance of my behavior by the monk. No judgment, criticism, ‘have to’ and ‘should’. Just acceptance that I smoked, and a friendliness that was almost supportive.

I think unconditional acceptance is the best condition for change. We want to empathize with both sides within ourselves, the part that wants to remain the status quo and the part that wants to change. We want to acknowledge that they both represent needs that need nourishment and support. If we keep shouting at ourselves that we should change, we are actually reinforcing the part that doesn’t want to. Because it wants to be heard, it wants to be included in the decision making. If we acknowledge our ambivalence, we can make a balanced decision that is sustainable and wholesome in the long run.


You want help bringing compassion, healing and integration in your life? Contact me, 512 589 0482

Conversations about change, introduction (1/6)

changeYou want to change, and you’re failing. You try, you struggle, and finally give up. Your mind tells you: “Ah, it was not so important after all.” “It is too hard, it is just impossible.” “You don’t have time for it anyway.” “Your dreams are too big, you are not worth it.” Your mind has all kind of good reasons to stop trying. That’s what minds do: maintaining homeostasis, maintaining the status quo. You’ll just never wear these skinny jeans, you’ll never be a compassionate Bodhisattva, you’ll never make enough money.

Feelings of disappointment, self-judgment and criticism arise as you acknowledge that you are not the person you want to be, and might never be. Peter Senge calls that emotional tension. It often leads to lowering your vision, bring it closer to your current situation. This helps lessen the tension, and the anxiety. Personal masters are those who use this emotional tension creatively. Instead of bringing their vision closer to their current situation, they use the tension to think of steps that bring their current situation closer to their vision. Emotional tension becomes creative tension.

Personal masters are brutally honest about their reality ànd hold on to their vision. Personal masters have compassion with themselves, and excitement about their dreams.

We all want to be personal masters. We all have dreams of togetherness, compassion, contribution. We all want to strive for what is good, pure and wholesome for all of us.

We often aren’t.

This week is dedicated to change. I will support you taking steps towards strengthening your mastery skills. So that you can transform the emotional tension into creative tension, and create the life you love. So that you can honor your dreams and hold on to them, even if evidence seems to indicate that they are unattainable.

This week, at the turn of the year, we’ll take a step towards our dreams. Together.

Contact me, if you want my help to bring more self-compassion, healing and integration in your life.

Self-compassion, day 12: Autonomy

You cannot change someone. You might want to. The world might seem so much yummier if such-and-such behaved so-and-so. But you can’t. It is beyond your scope of influence.

You can only change your response to them. That’s it.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl

I have found great delight in the strategy of nót responding when I am upset. Of delaying expressing myself. Of absorbing what the other person said or did. And let it be.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us to not speak or act when we are angry, and I finally get it.

Something happens, and my habitual response is to react. Now I bring my attention to my belly. I notice if my belly is tight, or loose like a Buddha belly. The attention itself relaxes my belly. I bring my attention to my breath. I notice if it is deep down, or more constricted in my chest. I don’t change it, I just observe it. I focus my attention on something I enjoy. Working, walking, talking to a friend. I pause my painful feelings, and create feelings of happiness and joy. I will get back to the painful feelings when I am calmer.

Then something resolves. The anger mellows out. It is not such a big deal anymore. Nothing serious happened. Just someone who needed help, and didn’t quite know how to ask for it. I don’t have to have a big conversation about it. I can let it go. If something big happens, I can talk about it when I am calm. For now, let me focus on the important things. Let me save energy for connection and understanding.

Contact me, if you want my help to bring more self-compassion, healing and integration in your life.

Self-compassion, day 11: Love, light and life

CandleAt the Christmas eve celebration with Unity Center Austin we lit a candle for each apostle, and recited a meditation to reinforce their qualities in us. The last candle was for Judas.

I cry. I feel so moved that we include the one person whom we consistently have excluded throughout history. I feel so touched that we honor him, that we acknowledge him as a source of inspiration.

I once read an article about Jesus and Judas. New research showed a different perspective on Judas, “the traitor”. It described how Jesus and Judas talked about the kingdom of God. That it is the kingdom of thís present moment. Of being fully alive with whatever is. Of being fully present with our suffering, feeling it, saying “yes” to it. That it is the kingdom of our vision, our dreams, our soul’s calling. Of holding on to what is true for us, what we envision for the world, even if all circumstances might indicate it is impossible. It is the kingdom of asking for what we need, and knowing we’ll receive it.

Jesus and Judas discuss how reluctant people are to enter this kingdom. How hard it is to give up on the habitual patterns of fear, of holding back, of not trusting we can reach for the stars. For all the miracles in the world, people are still blind to the truth that embracing the present moment and holding on to our dreams transforms suffering into light, life and love.

Something more radical needs to happen. They come up with a plan that will lead to Jesus’ crucifixion, so he can resurrect after three days. That should be powerful enough to open people’s eyes. Judas is willing to be the one who betrays Jesus. He shares Jesus’ vision of transforming suffering. So deeply that he is willing to be rejected, excluded and ostracized in pursuit of this dream. Jesus trusts Judas enough to know that Judas will stick to the plan, and not back off when the going gets tough.

We all know the rest of the story. We repeated it for 2000 years. Last night we celebrated his existence and his contribution to our well-being. We included him in our acknowledgment and affirmation of love, life and light. I felt touched and honored to have been there.

I wish you a merry Christmas, may your dreams come true.


If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.

Self-compassion, Day 10: Living life to the fullest

FlowersI’m watching Maya and her friends practice their dance performance. I get tears in my eyes. Life bursting into unfolding. Eight years old. Girls practicing being a pop star. They take it so seriously. They radiate with joy and energy. This is the most important thing right now. To prepare for the talent show in Spring. To get the steps right, the lyrics and the costumes.

This is what life is all about. To live life to the fullest. To know what is important to you and to sculpture yourself into the person you want to be, and maximize your contribution. To give it your best. Dance like no one is watching.

Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all give ourselves fully and completely? Open, excited, só happy to be us? Grasping thís moment to share ourselves. For no other reason than that the joy of being us, of being alive.

Gosh. There ís suffering in the world. There ís pain and hurt. There ís anger and fear.

We need to get together and create compassionate communities. We need to create safe havens where we can heal, integrate and be nourished. So that we can bloom and blossom. So that we can nurture gardens of happy flowers, a beauty for everyone to see.

Can you imagine what the world would look like if it is full of people having the excitement and joy of being themselves? Can you imagine a world full of dancing circles?

I can.

I wish you a merry Christmas, full of love, connection, and belonging. May you find the joy and excitement to live life to the fullest.

If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.

Self-compassion, day 9: Stand your feelings

Smile at Fear, Pema ChodronI wake up and I feel heavy with fear. Literally heavy. It seems almost impossible to move this heavy weight out of bed.

I remember Pema Chodrön‘s invitation to lean into heavy feelings, to lean into the sharp points, and feel the groundlessness of our existence.

This seems a perfect moment to accept the invitation and lean into my fear.

I breathe in, and bring my attention to this dread, this apprehension, this fear. I let it cycle through me, and scrupulously observe it’s different aspects.

It turns into terror, then blind panic, then an overwhelming blackness and feverish nightmare. It grasps me, chokes me, I can’t wake up from it. I sweat and tremble.

Which idiot ever thought this was a good practice? Which imbecile ever thought that leaning into your fear was a good idea? Pema Chödron probably never experienced such consuming feelings. Never experienced the certainty of going crazy and lose your mind. Like forever. Like really forever being stuck in that nightmare.

I feel my breath go faster. I feel my body tighten. I am noticing I am bringing my attention to my breath. To my body. To my feelings. I feel into my experience. It doesn’t get much more comfortable, ànd it stabilizes. I’m getting calmer, more solid.

I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know how it’s happening. But after five minutes I get up. I feel light, relax, open. I made it. Leaning into your feelings might be a good idea after all.

If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.

Self-compassion, day 8: Self-forgiveness

Compassion, EinsteinI feel a surge of compassion rise within me. For myself. Compassion for all the choices I have made. For all the pain I have created. For myself. For others.

I did the best I could and I made mistakes. The consequences are painful and scary.

I need compassion, not criticism and rejection. I need help to get out of this situation and to heal the wounds. To make new choices that bring love, joy and harmony in the world. To accept my habitual fear of rejection. To come from a place of strength and wisdom. I need help to honor what I truly want. To live an Elly-life that brings more Elly-ness in the world. This is the only time I can make that happen.

Self-rejection and self-criticism are not gonna do it. Self-compassion will.

I feel a surge of compassion rise within me. For others. Compassion for all the choices people make. For all the pain they have created. For themselves. For others.

They did the best they could and they made mistakes. The consequences are painful and sad.

They need compassion, not criticism and rejection. They need help to get out of their situation and to heal the wounds. To make new choices that bring love, joy and harmony in the world. To accept their fears, anger, despair. To come from a place of strength and wisdom. They need help to honor what they truly want. To live a life that brings their uniqueness in the world. This is the only time they can make that happen.

Rejection and criticism are not gonna do it. Compassion will.

Now is the time.

If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.

Self-compassion, day 7: Empathy

empathy-quotesMy new client walks in with some apprehension. I bid her welcome and offer tea. She sits down and starts to talk. About everything that bothers her. Her concern for her mom, her struggling relationship with her husband, her worries about finances. I give her space to talk, non-stop, uninterrupted. I want her to know that I am here for her, that she is not alone in this, that I’ll support her the best way I can. She cries. She feels so much sorrow, grief, guilt, confusion.

She takes a breath. I reflect back what I heard her say, using her words. She looks at me surprised. “Yes, that’s exactly it, that’s exactly it.” She relaxes.

We are silent. We are connecting to ourselves, savoring what has been said.

Then she continues talking. Worries about losing relationships she cares about. Celebration of relationships where she receives acceptance for her choices. Her best friend, her sister, her colleagues. I share what I observe: her tears, her softening frown, her relaxing facial muscles. I guess her feelings, her needs. Simple empathy. She softens even more. She tells me how good it feels to just be heard, without being talked over. How grateful she is for my enthusiasm to work with her. How she appreciates the support and acceptance she is getting.

I look at her with a smile. I feel compassion for her. I see a woman who carries a lot of pain. A woman who has tried to carry this pain by herself, not wanting to burden anyone. I see a woman who is dedicated to bring more support, trust and acceptance in the world. A woman who is committed to work on herself, before judging others.

I feel honored that she chose me as her coach.

“Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.” Marshall Rosenberg

“Empathy is a strange and powerful thing. There is no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of “You’re not alone.” Brene Brown

If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.

Self-compassion, day 6: Unconditional love

My dear child,

Can’t you see how beautiful you are?

Can’t you see you’re precious beyond words?

See how your smile lights up the room,

how your gentle presence fills our hearts with love.

Nothing you think, say or do

can take away from this eternal beauty within.

We love you without measure,

we respect, nurture, and cherish you.

Fill your heart with spaciousness,

and walk in the light of love,

knowing you are a true daughter of God,

carefully crafted in His image.

Compassion rules the world,

yours too.

Don’t let your failures fool you,

they reflect how hard you are trying

and how deep your commitment is.

Open your heart to the life within you,

celebrate your efforts and your failures:

they are the proud sign of your true self.

I wrote this poem after a deeply spiritual session with a dear client. I always make notes after each session, and send them to my clients for feedback whether they are correct and complete. This session was beyond words and logical reconstruction. I wrote a poem instead and post it here in honor of my friend, my client.

If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.