Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

There is a thought. It is.

When is the last time you saw someone talk to the chair on their porch and say, “You shouldn’t be here”? Or, “What’s wrong with you?” Or, “You should be ashamed being here”?Chair

I’ve never seen it.  And if I had, I probably would have thought them a bit crazy.

Most people see and accept the fact that there is a chair on the porch wherever it is. They don’t argue with reality.

And if they like where it is, they leave it. If they they don’t, they do something about it. Like give it to someone else, put it at the curb, or bring it to Goodwill.

We can probably agree that that makes sense.

When it comes to our thoughts, though, we act like a crazy lady: “This thought shouldn’t be here!” “This thought should feel ashamed being here!

We argue with reality. We challenge what we are thinking, even though it is right there in front of us being a thought.

If we fight reality, we can’t spend our energy doing something that might actually be more productive.

I think our lives are easier when we start from the beginning. Accept what is here, whether a chair or a thought. It is. Just that: there is a thought. Then choose what to do about it. Maybe work around it. Maybe change it. Maybe accept it.

One of my favorite clients told me that when her thoughts are too distracting, she writes them on a piece of paper. I think this is brilliant. By writing it down, we manifest in the external world what we experience internally. In writing our thoughts on paper, we create distance between ourselves and our thoughts: here’s what I am thinking, there is the thought.

We can become an observer of our thoughts. Literally: “There is a thought.”

Now we can soften our identification with our thought. And in that softening, we can stop arguing with reality and get on with what we want to do about it.

What do you do when your thoughts come up?

Safe travels David. Thanks for editing!

Sitting on a meditation cushion is NOT about achieving peace and calmness

“The path of the spiritual warrior is to have the courage to face life.” Geshe Lama Phuntsho talks to a visitor at the Sand Mandala Dissolution Ceremony at City Hall Austin, April 17.

“We have six consciousness: ear, eye, nose, tongue, touch, and mind. Our suffering comes from our desire to see beautiful views, hear beautiful sounds, feel something pleasant, taste something yummy, and have enjoyable thoughts and feelings. We crave what we like, and resist what we don’t. That is the source of suffering. The spiritual warrior accepts all that is, and learns to see reality for what it truly is, without distortion and illusion.”

Image courtesy of Mayusanctuary.comDid you ever sit on your meditation cushion, yearning for a sense of peace and quiet of mind? Did you ever get frustrated, self-critical, or hopeless, because your mind was racing with thoughts you didn’t want, you had the urge to get up, you got antsy, felt uncomfortable? “This is not what meditation is about! Meditation is about calming yourself, having these alpha and theta waves get stronger, being still! This meditation stuff is not for me. Meditation just doesn’t work!!!” And there you go, ready to give up on sitting on your cushion.

Wake-up, beloved friend! Meditation and mindfulness are not about trying to be this smiley, peaceful Buddha. Mindfulness is about having the guts to acknowledge all the places where we are stuck, all the places we feel hurt, and all the places where we want revenge, slash out, hide, disappear, disconnect, possess, hold on to, and be reassured that everything will be okay. Mindfulness is about opening up to what is true for you in each moment, engage with your very own, personal experience, accept that that’s your reality, and embrace it with care and compassion. That is what it means to be alive, to be a full human being, and to walk around on our precious Earth in your one wild and precious life. Your feelings, thoughts, sensations might not change on your meditation cushion, AND your compassionate and courageous heart can grow in the experience!

Isn’t that what we all want?

You want help to embrace your experience on your cushion with compassion? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.

My jealousy, my child

She is quiet. Her eyes are closed. “I want to talk about my jealousy…. I feel shame around my jealousy…. As if there is something wrong with me…. It is hard to talk about it…. I am so afraid I will be rejected when people know about my jealousy….”

She looks down, her head slightly turned away.

“I feel jealous of you…. As soon as I saw you walk in, I felt this surge of jealousy overwhelm me…. Out of the blue…. It has nothing to do with you, I like you….”, she says with some sadness, “You just have something I want…. It is always about wanting something I don’t have….. I’m gonna be quiet now, I don’t want to get into stories, I’m gonna self-connect….”

After 50 seconds, “The way the group listened to you, with so much empathy, care, compassion. Ferociously protecting space for you to express yourself, to share your pain…..”

She looks at me. “It has nothing to do with you. I can be jealous of anyone who seems more successful, lovable, attractive than me.”

“My jealousy is harmful. I want other women to fail, to be less popular, less loved.”

She starts crying. “My jealousy is like a child with bloodshot eyes and a hot, iron rod in her hand, chasing other children to poke out their eyes.”

Tears roll down her cheek. “She is not the kind of child you would put up on stage. She is not the adorable five-year old in a tutu, doing a pirouette, who keeps twirling, till she finally loses balance and falls down, and when she gets back up, looks at her teacher with wide-open, blue eyes full of wonder about the next step…. My child wants to cripple that girl, harm her.”

She is quiet. “I understand that everyone is afraid of her and wants to get rid of her.”

She sobs. “Don’t take her away from me…. Don’t put her in an asylum.” She looks at me, “Please, form a circle around me, …. and let me learn how to be a good mother to my child. How to take care of her, surround her with love and compassion, hold her closely, and prevent her from harming others.”

Her breath is deeper and slower. I see a shimmer of peace on her face, her muscles relaxed. “Let me just practice the first Buddhist principle ‘Do no harm’. And then, maybe, I will learn to connect with her, understand her, support her, so that my jealousy can calm down.”

There is something amazing when you create a safe container of radical, unconditional acceptance of someone’s experience. People learn to accept themselves, look at their pain with compassion, and find their own solution from a place of empowerment.

You want help to hold your jealousy with care and compassion? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.


Mara pays me a visit

Mara brought me a visit today. Right during meditation.

He usually does that. I don’t know how he knows when I’m gonna sit -my schedule is rather erratic- but he knows. As if he is around the corner, waiting for me to ring the bell, then barge into my room, pull up a chair, and talk right in my face. Rather loudly too. I never understood how my husband sleeps through his barking, but he does.

Image courtesy to lennemi.files.wordpress.comMara rants in a non-stop stream of words: “You should do butterflies to transform your pain, not this stupid chunking along with your plans. You’re too attached to your ego, you don’t live from your heart. You’re not funny enough, your website doesn’t have nearly as much humor as your sister’s. You’re not giving enough, you don’t really love from your heart, serving without attachment or expectation.”

A constant cascade of words that undermine my self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.

This time it’s different. I remember how Mara threw arrows at Buddha, and how Buddha transformed each of them into flowers.

Mara is just doing what he is supposed to do: to create a world of illusion, of suffering, of despair. Nothing wrong with that. We each have a role to play, and Mara is playing his to the best of his abilities. There would not be any mindfulness, any compassion, if it were not for the suffering in the world.

No mud, no lotus.Image courtesy to

All I need to do is to bring my awareness back to my breath, my thoughts, my feelings.

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.



Breathing in, I know I have feelings of loneliness, sadness, shame in me.

Breathing out, I smile to the feelings of loneliness, sadness, shame in me.

Breathing in, I know I have seeds of solidity and peace in me.

Breathing out, I smile to the seeds of solidity and peace in me.

I look at Mara. He looks rather cute on the tiny, red seahorse chair. “Hey friend, thank you for visiting me. I would love to hear what you have to say. I’ll listen to you after my sit.”

Breathing in, I know I have unconditional love in me.

Breathing out, I smile to the unconditional love in me.


You want help to smile to all your thoughts, feelings, and sensations? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

When was the last time you turned toward conflict?

When was the last time you felt angry with someone? Do you remember your response? Did you close off and suppress your anger to maintain some sense of acceptance, emotional safety, peace? Or did you blame, judge, criticize in an effort to support your needs for transparency, being heard, emotional safety? Or, maybe, did you turn toward your friend, expressed yourself with compassion and listened with respect to understand your friend better and restore the connection?

Image courtesy to Wikimedia.orgJohn Gottman has 40 years of relationship research under his belt. Married couples, friends, siblings, co-workers, parent-child relationships. You name it, he researched it. He describes all interactions between people as bids for connection. “Honey, will you pass me the sugar?” “Dad, I need help with my homework.” “Will you come to my birthday party?” Even a bitchy “You’re late.”, or an enraged “Get of my back, f*ck off with your anger.” are bids for connection, a longing to be understood for our experience.

It took me a while to get the concept. Usually I see anger, dishonesty, blame as clear signals to disconnect, and I feel relieved to do so. One less conflict in my life.

The truth is, it doesn’t work that way. When we habitually turn away or turn against bids for connection, including conflict, we have less and less intimate relationships that help us weather the storms of our lives.

Let’s take the example of “F*ck off with your anger.” Not the most inspiring bid for connection, and we can respond with empathy and compassion. “I hear you’re fed up with the way I express my anger. Do you want more respect, harmony, support for your sense of well-being?” Sounds pretty open, doesn’t it? That’s what turning toward does. It conveys a message of acceptance, ‘your experience matters to me’, and a willingness to understand and restore the connection.

Turning away shows up as silence, disregarding, interrupting, being preoccupied. Turning away seems to be devastating for relationships, because the implicit message is ‘I don’t care about you, or your experience. You don’t matter.’

Turning against is more contemptuous, belligerent, contradictory, domineering, critical, or defensive. There are many flavors. It could sound like this “As if you’re such a sweetie-pie.” “What did I do? Nothing! It is you who is angry!” “You’re blowing it out of proportion, as usual, drama queen.” Painful responses, because I am arguing your experience. In the long run partners lose trust that they’ll be heard, and they’ll retreat within themselves and withdraw emotionally.

What is your habitual response? Turning toward? Turning away? Turning against? And how does that impact your relationships? Do they deepen, grow stronger, build up trust? Do they evaporate, dissolve, disappear? Or does conflict, distrust, withdrawal increase?

You want help to give turning toward a try? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

Offering your request with Santa-Claus energy

When I first started my vegan diet, back in 2008, I felt self-conscious and even a bit embarrassed by my vegan choice. I thought I was too much of a burden for others, and if not, certainly a weirdo. someone from another planet. Whenever I asked for support, I carried some shame in my request, and even the mildest “No, so sorry, gosh, I wished I knew how to make you vegan food” confirmed my belief that there was something wrong with me wanting what I asked for. I was more or less convinced that I was not worth the trouble to accommodate my wishes. I tried to escape situations where I needed to speak up for my truth, so I would not feel the pain of my own lack of self-acceptance.

Reading The World Peace Diet transformed my fear of rejection and disconnect. The more I read about the horrors animals face as food commodities, the more joyfully I embraced my vegan preferences. In no way did I want to contribute to suffering, if the alternatives were so easy.

Image courtesy Creative CommonsI changed from a self-conscious mumbling “Do you have vegan food?” into an enthusiastic, happy vegan. The level of self-acceptance changed the way I make requests. I am so excited about my choice, that I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to accommodate me. I offer my request with Santa-Claus energy: “Ho Ho Ho, hi there! I am so excited about my vegan diet! I am happy I don’t eat meat, fish, birds, eggs, milk, cheese, or any other animal product. I love veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains and beans. This chicken salad looks yummy. I wonder if you can make me one without the chicken, or the sauce, and give me an extra doses of avocado and sesame seeds instead?” And yes, for sure, they come back with the most beautiful dish on the table in a restaurant that hardly even has vegetarian food.

When you offer your request with Santa-Claus energy, as an unique opportunity to make your life more wonderful, a gift for them to contribute, you’ll probably get all the collaboration and support you want. Try it out. And if you need help to let go of your shame and embarrassment: contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.