Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Transforming my hero image into self-acceptance

I’m in the woods with my grandfather. I’ve never met him. He died when my dad was not even eleven. He was a member of a resistance movement in the Netherlands during WWII, betrayed, arrested by the Nazi’s, and dead after ten days in prison.

He stood up for his principles and was willing to risk his life for his values: compassion, inclusion, care for those who are vulnerable.

As a child, every May 3, the night before our national commemoration day, I would sneak downstairs and take out a book with his name, picture and short bio. It contained the names everyone in Limburg who had given their lives standing up for love, peace, and justice. I never told anyone I did. My grandfather was a secret hero in my life, one that I looked up to with awe and reverence.

I admired him and aspired to be like him: courageous, fearless, and truthful.

I always fell short of my hero image of him. I never went to a war zone and rescued people. I never offered myself to take the death penalty so the convict could live, I hardly ever showed up as a silent witness when someone was executed. I have a client scheduled, I have to clean, I am too tired.

Gosh, all those things that I hold dear and don’t act upon.

During the Mediate Your Life retreat, I realize I need his help. I need his help to find balance between my aspirations and my fear of scarcity. I decide to spend half an hour in the woods each day for the next two weeks.

I invite myself to bring a bag with my meditation bell, my journal, and my pen. I carry it on my left shoulder and look to the right when I speak as Elly, and swap it to my right shoulder and look to the left when I speak as him.

I feel uncomfortable at first. It seems too forced and unnatural. I much rather speak out loud as Elly and respond in silence as my grandfather, than this left-right stuff. And I’m willing to give it a try. I’ve heard it helps.

And it does. I tell him how much I admire him and how sad and scared I feel about the continuous failure to live up to my self-imposed standards of courage and commitment. I shift to the right position and look myself -as my grandfather- in the eyes. I hear him say “You have a unique quality  ‘zachtmoedigheid’. That’s where your power is and your leadership lies: the balance between soft and tender (=zacht) and courage (=moedig). Don’t try to be Pat, Joe, Ike, or John. Be yourself. That’s more than enough, and that’s what this world needs most.”

Be myself. Acceptance, support, and appreciation. Never expected that from him.


You want help to transform your hero image into self-acceptance? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.

Deep listening is a present

Image courtesy to Wikimedia, 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.

Self-compassion, day 5: Self-acceptance

AcceptanceI just got off my daily prayer with Silent Unity. They pray with me that I am showered with prosperity and abundance, that God wants the highest good for me and that positive and sustaining results are created.

I cry. I soften in the sense of belonging, love and acceptance in this connection with God. My dreams and desires are accepted at face value. All the actions and choices I made so far are accepted without a shred of criticism. My current situation and steps are appreciated. Silent Unity encourages me to let go and let God. They invite me to relax into this moment, trusting that only good comes to me. To allow me to let go off my worries, anxieties and fear, and to bring my attention to what I càn do in this situation. I can focus on what is good, pure and loving within me, and hold myself as precious and beautiful.

Teyber and McClure write about a corrective emotional response when someone responds to you with care and compassion, where you expect rejection, exclusion and shame. You show up naked, covered with shit, and instead of the anticipated, repulsive reaction that you’ve learned to expect, the other approaches you with kindness, covers you with care and compassion and holds you close to their heart. This is the healing response we all long for.

Maybe for the first time in your life, you experience love, connection and belonging ànd being seen right for who you are. This healing helps you to bring that same compassion, care and acceptance to yourself.

Ever seen a three-year old play with a doll? Ever heard him talk to the doll in exactly the same way as his mom does to him?

That’s what this is all about. We have gathered all these negative, critical thoughts in our head. Things we heard our parents say, our teachers, our older siblings.  That we are stupid, cowards, worthless. Now we’re adding positive thoughts and feelings. We are filling ourselves up with the knowledge that we are lovable and competent by nature.

Thàt’s how we can heal the world. When we replace our habitual criticism with compassion, support and understanding and bring full acceptance to one another, we let each other feel that we are in this boat together, and that we are here to help. We show each other that we care. That’s all we need to know.