Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Connect to your basic goodness and quit smoking

Ten years ago I quit smoking.

It is quite a feat. I was a heavy smoker. Like really heavy. Two packets a day. One in my hand, one in the ash tray.

And yet it was super simple to give up.

It started with my shit list.

I was in an intensive personal transformation program. We had to write down the 100 things in our lives that were shitty. Smoking ranked no. 17. After five days of inner transformation work, we had to write down our gratitude list. 100 Things we felt appreciative of. Smoking came somewhere no. 29.

I walked away from the training, feeling happy I was a smoker, delighted with every puff I took.

A week later I went to a Living Values Training at the Brahma Kumaris Global Retreat Center near Oxford. A sort heaven on earth. My room was called “Benevolence”. Vegan food. No alcohol. No coffee. No cigarettes.

No cigarettes.

Well, since I had just joyfully embraced my smoking habit and I wanted to be transparent about this habit, I asked if I could smoke outside.

I could.

In the breaks I go outside and smoke. Pretty soon I feel uncomfortable leaving the stumps on the pristinely kept porches and lawn. I want to leave the stumps in a place where they won’t disrupt the precious harmony of the estate. I see a monk sweep the front porch and I ask him if there is a container to throw them in. He looks at me with a loving smile, gently points at the ground in front of him and says: “Here”. Feeling awkward and embarrassed, I do as he tells me. He sweeps it up with that same warm, joyous smile.

When I return to the Netherlands something dawns on me. Smoking seems weird. I have been working on my spiritual, emotional and mental well-being, and gladly smoke my lungs to cancer. That doesn’t feel right. Three days later I stop.

I don’t know. I always thought it was the unconditional acceptance from the monk that helped me make the transition. He didn’t shame me, judge me, instruct me. I didn’t need to defend myself or resist his rules. And in his acceptance of my choice to smoke, he revealed his own basic goodness. His basic goodness was not elevated or diminished by my actions. His basic goodness was available to him in every connection. And in showing his basic goodness, he showed me mine. I could now make a choice that was grounded in my basic goodness, and from that place I only wanted to take care of me and nourish my health.

Dear Monk, I never caught your name. In this health-anniversary I thank you out of the bottom of my heart.

May all beings be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.


Dear Jen Collins, thank you for helping me connect the concept of basic goodness to my process of quitting smoking.


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Difficulty choosing between alternatives? Use the priority grid.

coachingI want to enter a ICF-coach certification program. To support my sense of integrity, trust, community, growth and learning. I look into all kinds of coaching certification programs:

  • “Openness to feedback, capacity for self-examination, willingness to challenge one’s own beliefs.” That’s it, that’s exactly me!
  • “The only program that fully integrates positive psychology and neuroscience with advanced coaching skills.” Wow, that’s awesome!
  • “Sponsorship with the Institute of Coaching, at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School.” Oh, my god, associated with Harvard!
  • “NLP is a cutting-edge modality in the coaching field, backed by research on neuroscience and cognitive therapy.” NLP, I must have that.

And those are just some of the things on the websites of the first four ICF-approved coaching certification programs I’m looking at. I am looking at six more.

I feel overwhelmed. How am I gonna choose between all those fantastic websites, the one snazzier than the other? They all look the same, although they have a different appeal to me, based on academic rigor, methodology, faculty and areas of focus.

4. Difficulty choosing between alternativesI decide to simplify my choices by using Richard Bolles prioritizing grid. (His student Beverly Ryle made an online version that you can personalize based on how many items you want to choose from). I start by numbering the different schools 1-10. Then I chose between two at a time and circle the number of my preference in the box. When I am done choosing, I count how many times I circled each number. I then put the schools in the order of their final ranking. The one that is highest is apparently my preference.

I feel super relieved. It is not much work. I am done in 15 minutes. I guess that I have a subconscious preference for academics, inclusion of different modalities, peer coaching, self-reflection and -transformation.

Now that I am clear about my first two choices I can go interview staff and alumni, to see if it is indeed a good fit. If not, I go for number 3 and do interviews, till I found a program of my liking.

For now I am choosing between The Executive and Professional Certificate Program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, UT Dallas and the School of Coaching Mastery to be a Certified Positive Psychology Coach. You have experience with these schools? I would love to hear from you! (512-589-0482)


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Celebrating our inner child

EllykinderfotoHave you ever met your inner child?

I have.

At the Mindfulness Retreat I attended with my Thich Nhat Hanh Sangha last weekend.

I was enthralled by the workshop Gale and Curt organized for us. I valued the support for deep self-connection, the safety of our group, the sharing in our circle, the individual and pair work it offered.

I cried a lot.

And yet, I was not suffering.  I was not even sad. I was just touched to spend time with my inner child.

My inner child has a sense of innocence, happiness and excitement about life. She is curious and eager to learn and contribute. She is satisfied with where she’s at and doesn’t need much.

She certainly doesn’t need the forcefulness of a protector — a protector who lives in the fear and responses she created when I was around eight years old. A protector who still thinks it is 1973 – who believes she has to scramble to get a pancake before they are eaten by her siblings. A protector who still carries the fear that her siblings will start to talk over her as soon as she starts to tell about her day and stutters.

My inner child knows better.

She knows that was then and now is now. She doesn’t fear that there isn’t enough, or afraid that she doesn’t matter. She simply trusts that we share our basic goodness and that the world is a fantastic place – waiting to be explored and enjoyed. My inner child engages people and life with openness, authenticity and vulnerability.

I am so moved to meet her.

As I look at her, I understand Thich Nhat Hanh’s Second Mindfulness Training in a whole new way:

True Happiness: “…I can live happily in the present moment, simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy…”

I always thought that those conditions referred to my material well-being, my physical health, my marriage and friendships. This weekend I learned they do not. The conditions of my happiness are the unconditional acceptance and love I receive from my inner child. With her I can relax. With her I can manifest my true self and realize my dreams.

Contact me 512-589-0482 to understand and nourish the conditions of your happiness.


Thank you, David Nayer, for editing this blog at such a late notice. My life is richer by your support.


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We all want to blossom and bloom

20160405 From seed to plantDo you see my seedlings?

Aren’t they adorable, little plants growing up?

I am so happy with them. Every morning, as soon as I get up, I take a look at them. Very carefully. Did they sprout? Did they grow? Are they getting second leaves? I water them, measure them, write down their growth, and carry them around into the sun and back into the house. One night I wake up by an enormous thunderclap. I realize with a shock my seedlings are still outside. I run outside to rescue them, barefoot, no cover against the rain. Nothing seemed more important than to protect my seedlings from the gushes of wind and the pouring rain. The next morning, I felt relieved to see them as perky as before.

20160407_154101_picmonkeyedMy husband calls them my babies, as he listens to my excitement about taking care of them.

I never compared them with each other. When all the other plants were peeking out through the dirt, I didn’t tell the sunflower seeds to look at their neighbors, hoping the comparison would sprout their seeds faster. I accepted their own pace. I didn’t label the nasturtium seeds as “lazy”, when they came out last. I knew they would come out in their own time. I didn’t pull on the leaves of the cosmos, so they would develop a second set of leaves. I did none of that.

I nurtured and protected, and carefully observed them to understand the conditions of their happiness. Because I trust their self-actualizing energy.

I don’t need to tell them to grow up, because they want to. Every seed is born with an innate, natural drive to grow into the next step of their full potential. Their potential, their true self. Not into what they or others think they should be (at least, I hope so). The bachelor’s button doesn’t try to be a zinnias. They want to be themselves.

20160330 From seed to plantFor me, this gardening project is a magnificent lesson in how I want to treat myself.

I want to show myself as much acceptance and respect as I show my little plants. I want to offer myself as much nurturance and protection as I offer them. And I want to nourish self-empathy and self-compassion, so I can understand and nourish the conditions of my happiness.

I hope you do the same for yourself.


Contact me 512-589-0482 to understand and nourish the conditions of your happiness.

Thank you, David Nayer, for giving me feedback on the previous version of this blog. I enjoy your support.


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Which three words do you want to be known for?

“Which three words do you want to be known for?”

“Empathic. Compassionate. Committed.”

“Tell me about committed. What does that mean to you?”

That I care about relationships. That I try to understand the needs in people’s behavior. That I never give up on relationships.  That I search for ways to make it work. That I listen to feedback to learn how I can show up better next time.”

“Why is that important to you?”

hqdefaultI feel startled. I thought I had to avoid the ‘why’ question. I have no clue why that is important to me. For me, it has always seemed a given, a natural tendency to care about relationships.

Kelley Russell-DuVarney is patiently waiting. She looks around the room filled with 30 women at the Austin Women’s Network meeting. “Tell me, why is that important to you?”

“I don’t know. I just care about my family and friends. My clients. I want to contribute to their happiness. I don’t like to see them suffer.”

Then I stop. I feel tears well up.

“You know, I am born and raised in the Netherlands. My father lived through the second World War as a young child. I still see him suffering from the trauma he endured during the war. I don’t want anyone to suffer like that. I want to help prevent something like that from ever happening again. I want to support people to listen to each other, understand each other to care for each other.”

That’s all I can manage to say without breaking into tears. The room is quiet. Kelley is quiet. She gives me space to connect to my deepest motivation, the drive behind my work.

I want to ensure that we resolve our differences peacefully. I want to protect people by helping them with nonviolent, compassionate ways to resolve conflict. That is my mission in life.

It was empowering to connect to the power of my true motivation.  The tears were not an expression of sadness, they were a sign of profound self-connection.

You want help to connect to your true motivation? Contact me, 512-589-0482 for a free, discovery session.


Thank you, David Nayer, for editing this post during your travels. I am inspired by your shaping of words, the clarity of meaning and focus you bring to my writing, and your dedication to contribute!