Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

I am never bored…??!

My sister tells me that she feel impressed and inspired, because I am never bored. I happily confirm the assessment. “You’re right, Saskia, I am never bored. Especially not since I started meditating. I have always something to do, even when I am waiting, because I can always focus on my breath and observe my thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

I feel proud, relieved, and excited that I have found something that brings me joy in every moment.

Image courtesy to WikimediaAs the days pass, I start to pay attention. To the truth of my experience. How utterly bored I feel on my meditation cushion, many, many times. Just focusing on my breath, and nothing else going on. Not enough distraction, not enough entertainment, too much antsyness. I follow Thich Nhat Hanh’s instructions:

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.



Okay, okay, I get it. Focus on your in-breath as you breathe in, and on your out-breath as you breathe out. But 20 minutes in a row???! I get the idea in two minutes, can I do something else the rest of the time?

Let’s try Pema Chodron’s advice. Sit up straight, tongue resting lightly on my palate, mouth lightly open.

Breathing in, I adjust posture.

Breathing out, I let go.

Way better. My neck needs adjustment. I need to straighten my back. Relax my belly. I have something to do, some distraction. Then there is a ring-tailed cat outside. Cool! I have to pay attention to her. You see them seldom, because they are so shy. Now I have an interesting thought. Let’s elaborate on it, it’s a perfect outline for a post.

I am never bored??!… I am bored all the time. Especially with what’s most crucial to my life: my breath.

Jack Kornfield has this story:

There once was a Zen Buddhist student monk. His teacher shared one practice with him: focus on your breath. The student practiced for years, and years, and years. Then finally he tells his teacher: “Master, I have practiced focusing on my breath for all these years. I’m getting bored. Can we add another practice?” The teacher grasps his head, pushes it down the water basin and holds it there till the student grasps for air. Then he lets him go and asks: “Are you still bored with your breath?”

That student is me. Learning to find delight in each and every breath.


You want help to enjoy every breath? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.


I’m back home. In Austin. I said the same thing when I landed in the Netherlands July 12: “I’m back home.” I have two homes. Well, actually, I have many more. Or actually just one.

When I first arrived in Austin in April 2009, I was homesick for the Netherlands, my family and friends, my two cats. For many years.

blue_globeThis time before I flew out to the Netherlands, I had what you might call a little epiphany. I was driving through Texas hill country, enjoying the beauty of nature, the gorgeousness of everything G*d created and is creating, when I realized with a sudden insight “G*d created this piece of Earth, just like She did the Dutch piece of Earth. I am always home in G*d’s Earth, no matter where I am.”

Even though we, humans, establish boundaries, Immigration control, and property lines, Earth knows no such thing. Presence and energy just continuously morph from one manifestation into another. From mountain, into meadow, into river, into ridge, into cliff. There is no sign “Stop here. Go no further. Identify yourself first.”

It is not hard to understand the wisdom of the speech the Indian Chief Seattle gave in 1854 “How Can you Possess the Earth?” when you connect to your breath. Do you know who exhaled the breath you’re breathing in now? Or who will inhale your breath after you exhale? You can hate the person in front of you -or far away- and you cannot stop inhaling her out-breath. Nor can he stop inhaling your out-breath. You share the same air and ‘inter-are’, whether you like it or not. Even if you succeeded not sharing the same air, you cannot stop your dead bodies being held by the same Earth. And even if you could do that, you’ll always be part of the same Universe.

It is Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple message of interbeing.

I am home. And I have always been. Wherever I am.


You want help to connect to the interbeing of all life? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Am I my thoughts?

Image courtesy to Wikimedia

Image courtesy to Wikimedia

I love meditation. I love sitting on my cushion, lighting my candle, inviting the bell to sound, and bringing my attention to my in- and outbreath. And whenever a thought arises, labeling it as ‘thinking’. My meditation cushion is my sacred haven.

This morning I sit on my cushion again. I am so happy to have these 20 minutes to myself, to enjoy this open and loving space in which I can relax into my breath and let go of all my worries, anxieties, struggles, plans, and have-to’s. Just sitting and enjoying my breath.

“Now I understand why I felt so uncomfortable and disoriented at the retreat. That is my habitual fear of abandonment. It has nothing to do with the retreat, it has to do with an internalized pattern of fear. It is exactly the same experience I had when I was eight years old at girls scout camp.” It takes me a while, before I notice I am lost in my thoughts. I quickly label them as ‘thinking’ and bring my attention back to my breath. I relax and adjust my body as I breath in, and let go as I breath out. In, out. In, out.

“I remember how homesick I was, when my dad visited the camp. I just wanted him to take me home…” ‘Thinking!’ Bringing my attention back to my breath. In, out. In, out.

“I can talk to my empathy buddy about this. This is a rich topic to explore, and it would probably…” ‘Thinking.’

What!? Who are you to interrupt this thought process? Who are you to tell me that I should go back to my breath and let go of my thoughts? Huh?! Who do you think you are to tell me to stop this super interesting line of thought?”

And finally it dawns on me. I am attached to my thoughts. They make up my identity. I don’t know whom I would be without my thoughts. Whom would I be in this wide open space of presence. It sounds too scary. Too little me. Too little of the well-known, carefully crafted person I’ve come to identify as Elly.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about our historical and ultimate dimension. The ultimate dimension is the shore of liberation. It is the insight of interbeing, that we consist of self and non-self elements, that we all are waves and water.

I realize I am not so sure I want to be liberated. It sounds all yummy and good, and I realize I want to linger a little longer on the shore of the historical dimension. It is a well-known place that brings me comfort and security.

Let me just breathe into that attachment for now. Let me just breathe into my fear of letting go. In, out. In, out.


You want help to let go of attachments? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

Generating energy

IMG_3074Life isn’t a business to be managed, it is a mystery to be lived

I breathe in

I indulge in the beauty of my view. It is like a big movie screen of nature. Trees, rocks, the hill. A blue sky, full with birds. I haven’t seen this many birds in a long time.

I breathe out

I feel so grateful. That I have this opportunity to sit and watch the trees, the sun, the birds. That I have fingers that can write. That I have friends who support and encourage me. Who see the beauty of my essential Elly-ness. “Humble and excited”, that’s what my friend saw in me as I talked about the small, successful steps I’m taking in expanding my business.

I breathe in

A bird catches a butterfly. The butterfly flies off. The bird catches up with him. It takes him a full minute to succeed eating him.

I breathe out

Such a spaciousness. Such a joy to be alive. No where to go, nothing to do. Just sitting here, and enjoying life, my breath, this moment.

I breathe in

I have finally decided to ask my Sangha if they will accept me as an aspirant member in the Order of Interbeing. I have been contemplating this choice ever since I first saw Thich Nhat Hanh. I have always postponed it. I don’t have enough time, it is too big a commitment, I am not mindful enough.

I breathe out

All of those thoughts might be true, my Sangha might not even accept my application. That is fine with me. It is not about the result, it is about the excitement of making a choice. Of freeing the energy stuck in thinking about a choice, and taking a step.

I breathe in

It might not be the right path. I might get stuck. The path might not lead anywhere. But it still is a path, and I am moving. I am creating an opportunity to learn, and get feedback for the consciousness and choices I make.

I breathe out

My dad told me to get into action. To get away from my desk, designing my business. To call anyone who might have an interest working with me. He is a wise man. It helped so much. To take a step and learn from it.

I breathe in

I am ready to climb a tree. For the fun of it. Life isn’t a business to be managed, it’s a mystery to be lived (Osho, Zen Tarot).

I breathe out


You want help to take your next step? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482

Four steps from anger to reconnection

Angry? Focus on your breath

Thich Nhat Hanh has a simple four step process to support connection when we are angry.

The first is to bring our attention back to our breath; to notice where it is in our body, how it rises and falls. To continue doing this as long as anger is grasping us and to embrace the anger as if it is a crying baby that needs holding.

Hum. I can stop right here. I have failed this first step often enough. Yep. Sneaky moments where my mind told me Thich Nhat Hanh was wrong. That it was much better to slash out, yell, blame, disconnect.

Ànd I have had times when I followed Thich Nhat Hanh’s invitation and focused on my breath first. Then I was ready for the second step. Breathing in, breathing out, “Darling, I suffer, I am angry.”

Express your pain

‘What?! Darling?! Thich Nhat Hanh got thàt all wrong! My husband is a jerk, hè caused my anger, and he needs to be punished for my pain.’ No matter how much Nonviolent Communication I have under my belt, and how aware I am of emotional liberation, and the difference between cause and trigger of my feelings, this is thè exception. ‘My husband is not a darling, he is a jerk, and I a saint, and we need to be treated accordingly.’

So another breathe. In. Out. Looking him in the eye. Seeing a glimpse of a human being. A hunch of someone who loves me. Cares for me. Wants to support me. Breathing in. Feeling my anger. Breathing out. Feeling my suffering.

Applause for your failed efforts

Step three. I breathe in. I breathe out. “I’m trying, I’m really trying.”

Something softens in me. I feel my anger towards myself. That I screwed up my mindfulness practice, that I failed. And I feel compassion that I try, that I really try. To dissolve the habit energy of my anger, the years of practice slashing out. I do fall off the ‘mindfulness bike’ a lot. Like, rèally, a lot. And I get back up. After every failure. Trying loving speech when I am angry, again, and again, and again.

Courage to ask for help

Now I am ready for the last step. Breathing in, breathing out. “I need your help and support.”

I feel vulnerable. To own up to my pain. To acknowledge I am struggling. To tremble in that nakedness. Will he help? Or will he retaliate? Will he blame mè for yelling, slamming doors, running away? I want to be held. Seen for my humanity. For my struggles. And for my longing to connect.

I feel scared. And proud that I dare to ask for help.

Success guaranteed

Sometimes these four steps take a while. Often it takes my husband’s generous and empathic heart. And the process always works.

Thich Nhat Hanh is right. Just four steps to get us from anger to reconnection. Isn’t it fantastic?