Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Bird excursion into my head

When I lived in the Netherlands, I loved to go on bird excursions. Every Thursday in April I would get up at 5:00, leave at 5:45, and bike to the dunes in The Hague. I would gather with 15 or so other bird watchers and then go off on a bird watching expedition.

Image courtesy to“Shush… I hear a nightingale.” Everyone freezes in their movement, attentively listening to what might be a nightingale. Or a lark, a robin, a tomtit. Whispering. Quiet. We don’t want to disturb the birds and spoil our fun. We are always equally excited, however mundane or unique the bird. Every bird seems a treat from heaven. And even if we see none, we enjoy the elevated anticipation.

Not once did I have the inclination to mediate between birds quarreling over their domain. Not once did I feel the urge to interfere on behalf of the bird that didn’t attract a mate. Not once did I step in to portion out the food more fairly.

I just watched, carefully observing their behavior, their colors, their sounds. I just had this sincere longing to get to know them.

This Monday during an empathy session I realize how differently I treat my own thoughts and feelings. I judge, evaluate, criticize them constantly, and most of all I want to change them. Into more acceptable thoughts and feelings. I talked about how my back pain had kept me up at night. I interrupted myself, saying I was babbling. I didn’t even notice the judgment in that word. My empathy buddy did. With a shock I see how harsh I can be about myself, thinking my thoughts and feelings are not good enough, thinking I am not good enough.

And all of a sudden I imagine how open, relaxed, compassionate, free flowing my life would be if I watch my own thoughts and feelings with the same openhearted curiosity as when I watch birds. “Oh, here is a flock of grackles. They are loud and chase the other birds away. Fascinating.” “Ah, there is a Caroline wren, her little tail pops up as she sits. So cute.” “Wow, there is a cardinal, I wonder where his mate is.” Accepting whatever comes along, or doesn’t come along.

All these thoughts and feelings flying in and out of my head. On a rainy day, a sunny day, through wind and hail. What a delightful image. I am happy to welcome and observe them.


Want help to practice observing your thoughts and feelings with acceptance? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.

Opening up to the vulnerability of life

Image courtesy to The Church in the Dale

Image courtesy to The Church in the Dale

I always thought that retreats are peaceful, tranquil, and joyful.

How wrong can you can be? This retreat was unnerving, disquieting, and disorienting.

In these two days I realized how much of my life has been dominated by my fear that I won’t get the love, acceptance, and support that I so deeply long for. I am creating my own suffering by expecting the world not to meet my needs.

Many of my critical, judgmental, and evaluative voices are my way of keeping people at a distance to minimize the risk that I will feel hurt, lonely, and scared.

I breathe into that realization. I let it sink in. A second insight comes up. These voices don’t indicate that I am not a good person, that there is something wrong with me, that I should practice harder to be compassionate with everyone. They are just a cry for help to trust that I am good enough, that I do matter, and that my presence is indeed a present to the world.

Gosh. This is what I help my clients with. And here I am struggling with this deeply ingrained fear of rejection, ridicule, and abandonment. I am so scared that I interpret every absence of a smile, every lack of a hug, every non-response as proof that I am rejected, etc.

And that’s where my critical thoughts come in handy. They reassure me that there is nothing wrong with me, and everything with them. Another brick in the wall to guard my vulnerable heart.

I wonder “What if I open up to this raw pain of loneliness? What if I gently embrace this fear that my needs for acceptance, mattering, and belonging won’t be met? What if I step into the courage to share myself nakedly, trembling in this old, habitual fear of isolation and lack of support and understanding?

It sounds pretty unpleasant and unappealing. I like the safety of the wall around me. I don’t see much of life, of the real presence of people, and I’m not sure if I’m missing out. Maybe I just want to stay inside these walls of habitual thoughts and reassure myself that everything is okay. That life is really wonderful in this dark, stuffed cave.

And yet… How would life be if I step out into what’s truly alive in me? No evaluation, just owning my experience. How would life be if I am fully aware of and responsive to how I contribute to my own suffering? No judgment, just an observation. How would life be if I create some spaciousness for other ways of being? No force, just experimenting.

It sounds scary. It sounds appealing.


Let’s do that…My thoughts might not be right after all.


You want help to step fully into being you? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.