Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

The legacy that motivates me to get up in the morning

I am born and raised in the Netherlands. As a child I saw my dad suffering deeply from his experience as a child in WW II, an experience that he never talked about till a few years ago.

2015-05-04 - Koning WIllem Alexander en Koningin Maxima tijdens de Nationale herdenking op de Dam. ANP ROYAL

Every May 4 the Dutch people commemorate those who died in WW II and the aftermath of WW II’s devastation, with 2-minutes of silence. We as a family sat together at 8:00 pm and watched the solemn national ceremony on television.

As a child the night before, every May 3, when everyone was asleep, I would sneak down to the living room, take out a book of war heroes and look at the picture of my dad’s dad. He had been part of the resistance movement that smuggled Allied pilots into safety during Nazi occupation. In September 1944, right before my dad’s 11th birthday, the Nazis arrested my grandfather. He died in prison 10 days later. My grandfather left behind his wife and 10 children.


My dad recently told me that my grandfather “stood up for compassion, inclusion and care for those who are vulnerable” and that “he died for his principles.”

As a child, I didn’t have the words to describe the inheritance my dad had passed down to me, even though my lifelong connection to compassion shows I was strongly impacted by it. As a small child, I spent hours rescuing hedgehogs and blackbirds caught in the nets around my father’s raspberry bushes. At 12, I inspired my class to “adopt” Diego, a boy in Colombia, through Plan International, and collected our monthly donations for him and his village. At 30, I joined Pax Christi to bring refugee children in Croatian refugee camps to the Netherlands for 3-weeks of peace and safety.

At 51, I now have a special dedication  to bring compassion, empathy and mindfulness to couples in divorce. I specialize in helping them maintain mutual respect.

This is my contribution to transform conflict into respectful understanding, right here, right now.

I hope I can leave the world a better place, and honor the legacy of my granddad.

Stuart is my role model

When is the last time you heard someone say: “Peter? Peter is highly successful. He did very well for himself. He opened his heart, speaks in a way that encourages others, learned to transform his anger in requests, and listens to his friend when she is down and out.”

I never did.

Such things are usually not counted as accomplishments, as something others are impressed by and want to copy.

When we talk about success we usually talk about careers, houses, cars, maybe fame, hopefully a stable family life, although we would not say “Margaret she did SO well: her husband loves her SO much!”

Yet, most possessions don’t go into the grave. And even if they do, they are mainly interesting and valuable to archaeologists 1000, 2000 years from now, not so much to you. The only thing we take into our grave are our intentions and efforts. Financial enoughness can help us stay more focused on those -because we are less distracted by survival struggle- and that’s all.

Image courtesy to FlickrLet me tell you about Stuart.

I met Stuart four years ago, when he asked me for money as I waited for the traffic light. He walks with braces on both legs, which -of course- makes it harder for him to reach cars in time and receive what’s been offered. He had polio when he was one, didn’t receive much support during life, managed to find work on only a high school diploma, and finally got fired from his last job, because he couldn’t climb the ladder anymore. I never heard him complain. He always told me that every situation is an opportunity to thank G*d for support and love. He received every dollar with gratitude and grace.

Can you imagine the world we would create if we’d call people like him successful? How would your life be if he is your role model for modesty, gratitude, and trust? Can you imagine the big smile, appreciation, and openness we all would have?



You want help to live of life of love, openness, and gratitude even under challenging circumstances? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Our breath, our soul


In the last Kabbalah class our rabbi, Monty Eliasov, talked about the five levels of soul in Biblical Hebrew. The third level is the breath-soul. The soul of our breath, the breath of our soul.

Isn’t that interesting? I practice with my Buddhist community for years now, sitting in meditation and bringing my attention back to my breath, over and over again. In Hebrew terms I am connecting to my soul, again and again.

Whom would have thought that something so basic and simple as our breath is so profound and unique at the same time?

Connecting to our breath, and being inspired

My meditation has become more sacred now that I realize I am actually connecting to my soul. It is more than bringing my focus to the here and now. It is about listening to what my spirit is telling me in the quiet of the moment. It helps me to be inspired.

Did you know that spirit and soul are etymologically related? Spirit stems from the Latin “spiritus”, which actually means breath, soul. Just like the Hebrew Neshamah. The Romans must have learned with the Jews.

I always thought of inspiration as being full with the Spirit, being full with something outside myself. Now I understand inspiration is being full of me, of my breath, of my soul, of my spirit. My assignment in life is to connect to my breath, nourish my soul, and trust my own inspiration.

Even as I sit here, I have no clue what to write next. I just sit, and feel my belly rise. And fall. And rise again. I put down my pen. I look out the window. I see the trees. I feel the sun, and bring my attention back to my breath. And whatever thoughts come up (and there are many, many!!) I label them as ‘thinking’ and bring my attention back to my breath. To my soul, my spirit. Till I feel inspired and know what to write again.

Bring your attention back to your breath, to your soul

Traffic, of course, provides a perfect opportunity to connect to your breath. Someone cuts me off. I startle. I get angry. I blame. I yell. ‘You idiot!’ I want to slash back. I catch myself. I drop the accusations and retaliations, and feel my breath. I feel it stuck in my chest. I feel it relax with my attention. My breath goes slower, deeper, and I notice how scared I was. The anger is just a cover up for my fear. I get that. Instead of blame, I need to comfort myself. ‘Gosh, sweetie, that was scary. You almost got hurt in a car accident. Thank goodness, you are safe.’ And instead of tailgating, I slow down, and pay attention to traffic.

It was just a little moment of disconnection with my soul. Let’s bring her back in.

Being inspired

LifestylesPlaying hide and seek

My niece and I used to play hide and seek. She would hide behind the curtain, and I would open a drawer and ask out loud “Is Floor here?”, then exclaim “No, she isn’t!”. Then open another drawer and ask the same question, and of course, give the same answer. Till I had opened all drawers and cabinet doors, and finally looked behind the curtains: “Oh, there she is!”. With surprise and delight, of course.

Floor loved it. As soon as she was found, she would tell me to hide behind the curtain, and open all drawers and cabinet doors. “Is Elly here? No, she isn’t!” Till she found me, with as much surprise and delight as I had done, of course. I loved it too.

Hiding behind a curtain of fear

As adults we often play this game too. Usually with less delight.

We hide behind a curtain of fear, self-doubt, resentment, negativity and despair. Then we complain that God isn’t here. (or our husband, friend, mom, sibling, colleague for that matter), because we can’t see Him. And whén the Spirit finds us, we pull the curtain closer, because we are too scared to be seen for whom we really are. We are sure that our nakedness will reveal our basic flaws. We cannot believe that our vulnerability shows only beauty and basic goodness.

Being our best self

Inspiration means to be filled with Spirit. To be filled with a sense of purpose, passion and presence. It means nothing more than letting God do Her part, let Her do what she does best: carry our worries, concerns, insecurity and anger. So that we can do our part: bringing our soul to life. We relax into the sense of support our breath gives us, and feel into what we truly want. We breath in, and listen to our heart. We hear her tell us what brings us alive. Even if this is a so-called “have to”, we can still feel with how much joy and gratitude we can do our task. Because we celebrate that we are alive, that we have this opportunity to contribute, that we have legs that carry us, and hands that touch. Because we can be the best street-sweeper to be found.

You can be your best self in any situation. Thàt’s being inspired.

Still saying God doesn’t exist? Drop your curtain, get into the arena of life, and show up as your vulnerable, authentic, beautiful self.

And feel inspiration take you to the next level.

I wish you a happy new year!

Trying to be inspirational

Our heater doesn’t work. It is 33°F outside, it storms and rains, and our heater decided to quit. Fortunately, we can go up the attic, and repair it. You can do that with heaters. It made me think. You can do that with people too. But you can only force compliance, never collaboration out of the joy of their heart.

Inspiration, admiration, sleep, empty mind are all examples of “states that are essentially by-products”. Jon Elster writes about them in Sour Grapes. These states arise as a result of something else. They cannot be created intentionally. The sheer attempt to fall asleep is counterproductive, as the effort itself will keep you awake. Sitting in meditation only brings calmness if you accept the busy, repetitive thoughts. If you strive for empty mind, your focus conflicts with the state you’re trying to attain. The effort to inspire someone is self-defeating, as it prohibits the spontaneity crucial for inspiration.

Ah! You cannot intentionally inspire someone…?! That explains why none of my efforts to inspire people have ever been fruitful. Not that I didn’t try. I died to be inspirational. Being inspirational seemed to give meaning to my life. But the more I strove for it, the less I got it. I only got it at moments that I couldn’t care less. A friend told me once how appreciative she was that I helped her surrender to the idea of staying home. All I had done was sit at the porch, enjoy the sunshine and listen to the birds. And giggle at her efforts to try to find something interesting and important to do. Just sitting there, doing nothing. That was inspiring to her. Being me and doing my me-thing apparently inspires, trying to be inspirational not.

Maybe that’s why I am tired of trying to figure out my ideal client, my ideal reader and how I can uniquely serve their needs. The truth is: I have no bloody clue. I don’t know what they need, and how I differ from all the other fantastic writers, trainers and coaches out there. I lost all interest coming up with yet another enrolling, inspirational elevator pitch to match my services with my ideal client.

The best advice I ever received was “When you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Wait. Breathe. And let the life within you show you your next step.” I don’t know what my ideal client wants. I don’t know my grand purpose in life. All I know is what I love to do, where my passion and my heart is. And maybe that’s enough. To do what I am most jazzed about. Not to achieve anything, but to enjoy the brief moment that I walk this earth.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Harold Whitman