Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

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.