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Empathy works. It always does.


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True love requires understanding

Image courtesy to WikimediaTrue love requires understanding. Understanding your beloved one’s pain and sorrow, joys and aspirations. What he delights in, and what he abhors. What gets her excited, and what turns her off. What contributes to his happiness, and what doesn’t.

And then take action. Because you want your loved one to be happy. You want to see her smile, relax, enjoy life.

Understanding needs love too. Without love, understanding doesn’t open your heart, nor inspire compassion. Understanding without love becomes a mechanical one plus one equals two. There is no drive to contribute, no desire to see your beloved one flourish and bloom. Understanding without love is -at most- a tool to please and satisfy.

I feel embarrassed as I hear our Dharma Teacher Terry Cortes talk about true love. I think of Valentine’s day. I bought my love a little chocolate cake in the form of a heart. It looked so sweet, so cute.

My husband stays away from gluten. He refrains eating sugar. He doesn’t snacks, only fruit and dates.

I knew all that.

Yet I insisted on giving him something that was an expression of my culture of celebration. I insisted on introducing something that was me. It had nothing to do with him. It had nothing to do with making him happy. It was about supporting my needs for inclusion and acceptance of who I am.

I realize if I want to show my love to him, I need to ask him how I can best do that. I see that if I want to celebrate our love, I need to ask him what celebration looks like to him. If I want to deepen my love, I need his help to deepen my understanding.

The love is there.

I’m sure a little more understanding will bring miracles.

—–

You want help to deepen your true love and understanding? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session.


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Vulnerability deepens intimacy

Image courtesy to FlickrGosh, I have such fantastic work. I can’t think of a better fit between my qualities and aspirations and what I do right now. My clients are a continuous source of inspiration and hope for me.

Today I talked with Frank. He is getting married. He came in last week, noticing that he was becoming more and more dependent on the approval of his fiancee, her taking the lead, and him complying with her wants and desires. He was losing some of the vulnerability that radiated through the early stages of dating.

We talk about the challenge in committed, intimate relationships of finding balance between autonomy and authentic self-expression on the one hand and togetherness and acceptance on the other. How we often give up on the one in favor of the other, because we just can’t figure out how we can have both at the same time.

Maybe we don’t trust that we matter enough. We cannot imagine anyone caring só much that they are willing to stay, while we pursue our dreams. We cannot imagine that someone will encourage us and stay connected. “Fly on your wings to your destination, I’ll hold you in my heart with unconditional love and acceptance. I’ll wait for you to return.” We think we have to give up on ourselves, hide certain aspects to get the love and acceptance we so long for.

My client is not alone in this. I have certainly thought that more than once. And you probably too.

Today he comes back. He seems tender. He tells me about a conversation he had with his fiancee. He is moved as he shares. He told her he wanted a relationship that was based on their vulnerability, that honored their independence and nurtured their togetherness. She was touched as she listened. She had tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. She wants that too. It is só important to her. She is grateful he brings it up. She feels hopeful that they have what it takes to venture into this unknown land of radical honesty and loving connection.

Today I celebrate that my client is my teacher. Thank you, Frank, for allowing me to witness how vulnerability, self-connection, and authentic expression shift relationships to new levels of intimacy, trust and tenderness. I feel honored working with you.

—–

You want to explore how you can be vulnerable, authentic and intimate with your partner? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be honored to talk with you.


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Deep listening is a present

Image courtesy to Wikimedia, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Butterfly_transparent.jpgCan listening be too slow?

I giggle. It is like saying that meditation is too slow. “Hey, can’t we meditate a little faster? I can meditate in five minutes, what you need 20 minutes for!” Or: “Can’t we admire these paintings a little faster? I can admire this Van Gogh in ten minutes, where you need 30 minutes!”

Some things are not about speed, how much you accomplish, or the results you create, or the insights you gain. Some things are just about the joy of being present. Just sitting and watching a butterfly: the splendid colors, the way it flies, the delicate balancing on a flower. And then watch it fly off again.

Listening can be like that too. Just being present with what someone is saying, feeling the tone, sensing the meaning, hearing the energy. As if you’re on the bank of a river, seeing all these thoughts, feelings, and needs float by. Calmly. Peacefully. Sometimes not so calmly. Sometimes wildly. Your friend may get scared by everything drifting by. He may be afraid the objects will grab him and drag him in the river. Harm him. He may be scared he will drown in the river.

You just bring your presence to the fear, the anguish. “I see you’re overwhelmed, caught in the grasp of your feelings and thoughts. Your needs don’t seem precious to you at all. They seem harmful. You’re afraid. You want help to maintain your calm, so you can watch your feelings and needs float by, and maybe even enjoy watching them.”

This kind of presence may be enough for your friend to calm down, and experience her feelings, thoughts, and needs as something she is having, not being.

I have found this kind of listening healing, especially when emotions run high. Giving space to them -without fixing- is a message of unconditional openness and acceptance.

I don’t consider that slow. I consider that empowering.

—–

You want deep listening and unconditional acceptance to explore your inner world and heal yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session to see how I can help.


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Triggers tell us what’s truly important to us

Image courtesy to goodngreat.comTonight in our Nonviolent Communication Practice Group we talk about triggers. “Think of a moment these last past days when you got triggered and you think you didn’t handle it well.”

Mine is easy. Traffic. People who hang in the left lane, next to a car in the right lane, and go at or below maximum speed. Blocking my use of the full road ahead of me. Slowing me down. Making me arrive late for my nanny kids.

Last Thursday I was five minutes late. Kiran was waiting with his teacher. In the hallway. I felt sad. I want him to know how much I care about him, how important he is to me, how excited I am to see him. Being late doesn’t tell that. It might tell him he gets third on my priority list. After my plans and my goals.

David empathizes with me “You have a need for care, to contribute and support?”

“Yeah. And now I realize that if I would leave the house five minutes earlier, I would not be so stressed for time. If I would stop trying to finish all my plans, I would be calmer and more patient on the road… That is actually a need for acceptance… Accepting that I can only do so much in a day. That if I do this, I cannot do that. If I write this email, I cannot call that friend. If I cook a meal, I cannot clean the kitchen floor.

And that that is okay. I’m probably half way my life, and I realize I cannot do everything anyway. I can’t do ànd improv ànd ceramics ànd hip hop classes ànd knit my sweater ànd start restorative circles ànd expand my business ànd become a certified NVC-trainer ànd travel the world AND connect to my family and friends. Some things won’t get done by me in this life time. If I accept that, I won’t push myself to do everything last minute. I would relax and accept that what I d0 is enough.”

“Does it also have to do with impermanence?”

That’s right on the spot.

The day has now ended, our lives are shorter.

Now we look carefully: what have we done?

Noble Sangha, with all our heart,

Let us be diligent, engaging in the practice.

Let us live deeply, free from our afflictions,

aware of impermanence,

so that life does not drift away without meaning.

Yes. That’s it. Understanding that life is to be lived, not done. It’s not about making a living, but making a life. Right here, right now. Doing less, being more. Remember? The less I am attached to results, and the more I am focused on the joy of the process, the more I can celebrate the sheer fact that I am alive. And that is enough. More than enough.

—–

I offer coaching to help you live more deeply. Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.


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The essence of human bravery

NioTodaijiAgyo

“The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” Chögyam Trungpa, ‘Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior’

I always thought that difficult conversations are those where I want to express scary honesty or expect to hear a message of wrongness.

I never realized that difficult conversations include those where someone expresses a view of the world, themselves or others that seems very different from what I hold to be true.

Last week I saw a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. I knew she was going through a rough time, and imagined she would like to be greeted with some kindness. I give her a hug and express my care for her well-being. She starts talking about all the suffering and fear in her life.

I feel overwhelmed. I didn’t intend to talk about how you have to protect yourself against others. That’s not my experience. I have found most people friendly, willing to help, and open for connection.

I struggle how to handle her truth and honor my experience at the same time.

Then I remember something I learned in the Mediate Your Life retreat. When you mediate conflict, make sure your needs are heard and included too. Empathize with the other, reflect back what she says, and share how that lands for you. Express what you want and ask what she heard you say. Alternate this cycle of expression, reflection, expression, reflection till you both feel you are heard. That’s the moment when you can brainstorm how to support everyone’s needs.

So I practice mediating my own conflict. I listen, and reflect back her despair that her situation and suffering won’t change. I ask if this is what she tries to tell me. It is. Then I tell her that I feel confused and want clarity what she is asking of me by telling this: maybe she wants understanding, support, to be heard? She reflects me back, and tells me that she wants acceptance. She is afraid I will reject her, because she shared her vulnerability and her uncensored enemy images. I hear her need for acceptance. I want acceptance too, for my limited capacity to listen to her suffering and ability to help her. I want support and time to process what I heard.

Now that we both have a sense we are understood, we brainstorm together what we can do or say in this moment that would nurture all our needs.

That is actually pretty simple. She wants to hear me say that I see and accept her pain and despair, and that I am open to future connection. That is piece of cake. I’m happy to say that, because it is true.

And you know what? Because I included my needs, I look forward to our next connection as a beautiful opportunity to practice human bravery.

_____

You want to learn to include your needs in difficult conversations? Contact me 512-589-0482.


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I am afraid to die

WavesI was born and raised in a very loving, forgiving protestant religion. I was always sure that God was loving and loved all of us, including my quarreling sister. I didn’t understand how He could love both me and her at the same time, and I was absolute certain that She did. We humans are limited by our aversions and attractions, God was beyond that. God was abundant Love, powerful and almighty.

I also was sure that I would get in heaven. Not because of my personal achievements or character, but because God was boundless Love. I could not imagine She would turn anyone away at Heaven’s door. He was too loving for that.

Now I study Thich Nhat Hanh teaching’s on impermanence and interbeing. There is no death, no birth, just the stream of life. As long as we identify with the wave, we get upset with it’s disappearance. As soon as we see that the wave has been water all along, there is no gain and no loss. Just an opportunity to appreciate this unique manifestation of life. Nothing comes, nothing goes, everything transforms.

It hasn’t really helped.

Trouble began when I was 12. I realized Heaven was eternal. I imagined living forever and forever and forever. And forever. And forever. And I completely spooked out. That seemed like being stuck in a nightmare covered in icing!

Even writing it down 1:00 am in the morning, I feel scared. What if you get as terrified as me? What if you cannot calm yourself down when I panic? What if there is no way out of this stuckness?

I have no solution to my fear. Maybe there is none. Maybe I need to accept this fear as part of our human existence. Maybe I can just allow myself to be penetrated by it, and open my tender heart a little bit more. We all stand to lose everything and everyone that is dear and precious to us, including ourselves.

I don’t know. I just hope to stand tall when my time comes. I hope I’ll face my own death with love, openness and tenderness. Maybe that is the only thing I am really striving for.

We never know how high we are,

Till we are called to rise;

And then, if we are true to plan,

Our statures touch the skies

Emily Dickinson

This post is in honor of my former colleague and first introduction to Zen Buddhism, Karolijn de Heer. May she rest in peace.


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Creating results in little steps

Courtesy to www.clker.comCleaning has something healing to it. Not just the cleansing part, nor the mind-quietening impact. It is also the sheer delight of creating results. The stove is dirty, you clean it, and hup, it shines again. There is instant success.

Today I cleaned the bathroom. I hadn’t done that in a while, and it was certainly ready for a thorough clean-up. I feel overwhelmed. It is so much work. I decide to split up the chore in four parts, and work on other things in between. After the third part I start to feel frustrated. It is not only so much work, I can’t get everything done either, without giving up my other goals for the day.

When I start with the fourth part I decide to clean certain parts, and not others. Just the shower floor, the railing and the bottom row of tiles. I’ll clean the rest of the tiles at another time.

I relax. This is very doable. I can do this with joy. And success.

Setting goals is not only about getting results. It is also about how we get there. We want to get there in a way that is sustainable. If we deplete ourselves by exertion, we’ll never create what we want. We need time to replenish.

Sometimes we want to plan in-between results on our way to the top. We don’t need to get there in one jump. We might have more joy getting there, if we take one step. Then rest. Then another step. Rest. Another step. Till we get to the top.

This is not only true for cleaning. This is also true for relationships and habits. Instead of wanting to see our relationships and habits change all at once, we can set ourselves in-between goals. And then think of one step we can take in this moment to get to where we want to be. Maybe sitting meditation, even for just five minutes. Or calling one potential client. Or eating two chocolates and one apple, instead of three chocolates. And then rest. We can do more tomorrow. Now it is time to celebrate the one step we took. On our way to the top.

And if we never get there? At least we have enjoyed the journey!

—–

You want help dividing your big project in doable steps? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to help.


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Screaming in giraffe

GiraffeMy friend is unhappy at work. She wants her boss to understand her troubles and acknowledge their shared responsibility in the problems. She hopes this will inspire him to support her finding a position where she will be seen and appreciated for her qualities.

Current conversations haven’t helped. She wants my advice how to proceed.

I tell her that I would start with “Beginning Anew”, and use feelings and needs language. As I talk, I notice that she grows quiet. I ask her how this idea lands with her.

It doesn’t. At all. She is sick and tired of having to listen first, of being the empathic and compassionate one. So far it turned out that her listening ended any conversation. The other responds to her accurate reflections of feelings and needs with “Exactly, that’s it” and walks away. No interest in her experience. No intention to include her needs.

I understand my friend.

Listening is just another strategy for connection. Reflecting feelings and needs can help to establish trust and understanding.

And it might not be sufficient.

Nonviolent Communication is not very nonviolent if it sustains an imbalance in resources. It is not very nonviolent if it excludes the needs of some and emphasize the needs of others. It is not very nonviolent if it silences the have-nots and favors the haves.

Sometimes we need self-expression as a strategy for connection. Sometimes we need to “scream in giraffe” (a term coined by Marshall Rosenberg) to be heard. Sometimes we need to take action to make sure all needs are included, also ours. Peace, connection, understanding are not possible if not all needs are supported.

Let’s practice using NVC to express our anger and unmet needs AND maintain connection. Let’s practice using NVC to support ALL needs. Let’s practice using NVC to awaken our awareness that our needs are interdependent, and that none can be happy if not all are happy.

—–

You want to learn to scream in giraffe? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to work with you!


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Meditation is being on the spot, right on the spot

Meditation“In the practice of mediation, an upright posture is extremely important. Having an upright back is not an artificial posture. It is natural to the human body. When you slouch, that is unusual. You can’t breathe properly when you slouch, and slouching is also a sign of giving in to neurosis. So when you sit erect, you are proclaiming to yourself and to the rest of the world that you are going to be a warrior, a fully human being.” (Shambala, the Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Ttrungpa, 2007, 18-26).

Trungpa gives us the following instruction for sitting meditation: we focus our attention on our out-breath, and adjust our posture on our in-breath. When a thought arises, we label it ‘thinking’ and bring our attention back to our breath. This harmonizes body and mind.

I love proclaiming my spot, my humanity, my warriorship, so this morning I’m gonna pay special attention to adjusting my posture to regal position on every in-breath.

I follow my out-breath and adjust my posture on my in-breath, I follow my out-breath. ‘I’m a warrior. I like that.’ ‘Thinking’: right on the spot!

I follow my out-breath and adjust my posture on my in-breath. ‘Garbanzo beans and broccoli. Enough protein. Enough vitamins. Hum. Not so yummy. Too dry. Maybe add tomatoes?’ ‘Thinking’ ‘I got that one too!’

Back to out-breath, adjust posture. ‘Tempeh is too dry, too. Good for protein, not for taste. I don’t have veganaise, so how shall I make it more creamy? Oh! I have tempeh sausages! Super! That is so yummy! It adds bite, flavor, protein. Perfect combination!’ I feel relieved and satisfied with my breakfast solution. Really satisfied. I’m looking forward to eating it. Minutes pass before I even notice how entangled I am in my thoughts. When I finally notice, I feel so disoriented that I don’t even label my thoughts as ‘thinking’. I go straight back to my out-breath, posture and in-breath.

Gosh, I knew mediation is hard work, and I never expected it to be this hard. “It has to be on the dot, right on the dot.”

Let that be my practice, to be on the spot, right on the spot.

—–

You want help to be on the spot, right on the spot? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would love to share my practice with you.


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I’m cleaning up with joy and energy

FriendshipI like a clean and organized house.

I’m not such a big fan of cleaning myself.

I rather go for a hike, read De Groene Amsterdammer, watch a documentary. Sitting in the sun and listening to the birds is nice too. Or hanging out with family and friends, my favorite hobby.

I have many, many things I would much rather do than cleaning

Not so yesterday.

My best friend Afrien is gonna visit me. Six weeks from now. From the Netherlands. Her first trip overseas by herself, ever. It is a big thing for her.

It is a big thing for me too. She is my first Dutch friend who makes the trip, besides my parents and two sisters.

I love her dearly. We’ve been friends for more than 36 years, and we’ll be friends for the rest of our lives, I hope. We’ve known each other through graduation, lost loves, pregnancies, settling in, divorce and -now- emigration. We know each other to the core of our souls. We don’t need much explaining, we just have an excitement to share and a curiosity to listen.

Yesterday I have a completely new cleaning experience

I’m noticing with how much joy and delight I’m cleaning the guest room. Afrien is coming! I imagine how relaxed she will be having this room to herself. How well she’ll sleep, and energized she’ll wake up. How much she’ll appreciate the order and spaciousness.

I’m not cleaning a room, I’m expressing my love for her.

This is not have to, this is want to. This is not my habit energy of working hard to get acceptance, this is an excitement to contribute.

Gosh, I never expected cleaning to leave me this happy and energized.

—–

You’re curious how to do your chores with energy and joy? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482.