Opening Your Heart

Creating Transformative Change Through Authentic Conversation

What is conversation, and how can it be a way of creating transformative change in your life? At its most basic level, it's a two-way path, a respectful give-and-take requiring that both participants feel free to express what they're noticing and experiencing.

A recent post by my colleague Linda Graham, MFT, introduced me to Sherry Turkle's book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, in which Turkle explores the qualities of dedicated, person-to-person conversation that enrich people's work and lives. Such talks include the right not to say everything perfectly, to stumble at times, to hesitate as a new thought comes through, perhaps stimulated by something the other person has just said. Moments of shared quiet and reflected feelings are also very much part of a rich conversational flow that may seem at times to meander, but is actually diving deep into what is productive and necessary for authentic change to happen.

Authentic conversation is valuable in the moment it's happening, and also in the ripples it extends into the lives of those in the conversation— and beyond. Consider the fascinating ways in which Japanese artistic techniques influenced European and American artists and art from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries (as I learned at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco's recent exhibit, Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists).

This global conversation came about, in large part, through the freedom to exchange new ideas and artwork among merchants, artists, and writers traveling to, and from, a Japan newly opened to trade and cultural exchanges with the West. As with all generative conversations, transformation happened because the participating artists— notably, the Impressionists and Whistler— began interacting in bold new ways with color, diagonal lines, and the Japanese angles of view with which they were now in contact. From this came the daring leaps of imagination that created radically different types of painting masterpieces never before seen in the Western world.

The coaching conversation, too, is an opportunity for connection that expands people's visions and ability to move forward in new ways.  In partnering with a coach, a person engages in a new way of speaking with someone that frees their their hearts and imaginations to explore new ways of perceiving situations they couldn't see before.  That, in turn, can lead to unexpected possibilities and desired changes.

Below, for example, is a coaching conversation I had with Frances, a retired professor in her mid-60's who was considering a new career, moving out of the home she'd shared with her beloved husband, and coping with a broken foot.  It was a transformative experience for my client in that she achieved an attitudinal shift that was very helpful to her in handling the significant changes she was going through.

Frances) I'd like to explore today what it would be like to live in internal peace.

Eve) What would it be like to live in "internal peace"?

F) (Pause) The more I don't "do," the more I improve my search for internal peace. Living without my husband, being by myself consciously in the dining room where we spent so much time together. I can no longer run from myself. Not being able to move well physically can be a blessing. I'm forced to learn more deeply about myself.

E) I'm feeling so much presence in your dining room now. What is it that you feel about the dining room and your husband as you make plans to move from the house?

F) In the dining room, he and I would share intellectual things together. He read Shakespeare to me. Though I've run from the dining room for the past years since my husband died, now that I'm spending time here, I'm having some of my best memories of our time together. (Pause)

E) A room of love and connection. Now that you're not running from this, what's important about being here for you?

F) (Pause) For one thing, the dining room is the warmest room in the house. During this cold month while my foot heals from the surgery, I've come here to be warm.

E) You've been attracted here by the warmth. What is it to feel the warmth in this room?

F) I can be silent and focused on my body without being physically and mentally uncomfortable. I'm totally me here. I feel I can enjoy being there because I'm physically warm. Warmth plus soothing means peaceful. I have here a sacred sanctuary. There's beauty here in this place, and love that my husband gave this to me. Nobody can take this from me. (Pause)

E) What can you visualize now about how to carry the peace and beauty with you, wherever you go?

F) I can see the river outside coming through the valley. This is the image I want to take with me. The river sold me on this house when my husband bought it. I love it. (Pause)

E) What is it that you love about the river?

F) (Pause) A sense of flowing and movement. Transformation. Water moves on, and is never the same, impermanent. The river goes by but stays. Letting go is not giving up. I need to meditate, allow these thoughts to come and go. Making sense and not making sense. Just being. Instead of dashing around all the time.

E) You're not dashing now.

F) (Laughs) That's right, and I'm at peace with that for now.

Self-Compassion— Easing the Path of Change

There's been so much out there on the internet this past year about compassion— not just for others, but also for ourselves. Why do we need to be compassionate towards ourselves? When is this necessary? And how can self-compassion help us ease the potential for failure when we take new risks to change the way we work and live our lives?

In general, I feel that many people I've met in my life tend to be much kinder and more supportive of others on a regular basis than of themselves. There are reasons for this in our upbringing. Many of us were taught at home to be kind and to consider the feelings of others. But how many of us were brought up to be gentle and considerate of ourselves when we've made mistakes or had a hard time at school, work, or in a close relationship? Many high-achieving people I know were more often taught to get up and go at it again, without learning to acknowledge that we're allowed to make mistakes and be less than perfect— and still be caring and effective people.

In an interview on the radio show, Wise Counsel, Kristen Neff, PhD.— author of the book, Compassion-- The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and co-creator with Christoffer Germer of the highly regarded Mindful Self-Compassion training program— she states that "probably the number one reason people aren't more self-compassionate is that they confuse it with self-indulgence. They really think that they need self-criticism to motivate themselves, and that if they were kind to themselves, they would basically let themselves get away with anything."

Neff adds, "It's almost easier to give yourself compassion if you're thinking of yourself as someone else." If a friend were upset, for example, that she didn't do well with a job interview, you would be very unlikely to take her to task, tell her how she's always so unprepared or unfortunate— those things you're so much more willing to tell yourself. Does batting yourself on the head over and over help motivate you to try again, perhaps in a new ways using some different skills? Probably not!

So as a professional who helps people make career and other life transitions, I'm grateful to Neff and others who are actively researching the role of self-compassion in working and living our lives fully. A key finding is that it's much more motivating to treat yourself humanely, with kindness and understanding, than endlessly criticizing yourself for wrong turns, lapses, and errors of judgement.

I'm glad to be reminded of this, since one thing I know well from my clients' journeys and my own is that making changes and taking risks— even to manifest the dreams and goals you really want— can be very challenging at times. The bigger the changes you go for, the more unknown the territory, the greater is the likelihood of missteps and big mistakes.

That's why in the form, "What I Ask of You," that I give to all new clients, I repeat the message about self-compassion during the process of making changes several times in different ways:

- Just do your best. There is no “perfect” way to do things.

- Remember that change-- even change that we choose for ourselves-- is reliably uncomfortable at times.

- Accept both your successes and your failures along the way. Every step you take is good learning that can help you create your vision for yourself.

- Be compassionate towards yourself.

In my exploration of other research projects on how being compassionate to ourselves can positively affect our ability to make positive changes in our lives and in the world, I was also intrigued by this insight from Jean Fain, psychotherapist and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School, and author of the book, The Self-Compassion Diet— A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness: “Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan. Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.”

So in your quest for achievement-- with your new eating habits, your work, or your relationships-- remember that you, like everyone, will screw up or just plain fail in certain ways, at certain times, in the journeying. You are not alone. You do not have to punish yourself in order to make positive changes in how you work, live, and are within yourself. This is what it is to be human. We are fallible, AND we can learn from our mistakes and hold the light for ourselves, as well. As poet Mary Oliver writes:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

So the next time you feel you're off-track, stop, take a few deep breaths, rest your hand on your heart with loving understanding for your discomfort, know you can learn from your mistakes, get up off your knees, re-calibrate your course with caring and compassion.

Love from the Heart of Wood— A Valentine to Passion, Boundlessness, and Resilience!

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Here’s a classic romantic love poem stanza I’d like to share for Valentine’s Day! What I get from it is that love is boundless, passionate, and enduring. Elizabeth Barrett Browning grew up in London in the 19th century, an invalid under the restrictive oversight of her Victorian father. She freed herself through expressing her soul through her poetry (for which she was famous). This ultimately led to her meeting, falling in love with, and marrying the poet Robert Browning, who literally helped her liberate herself from her father’s home— leading her to a new life in Florence, Italy, where she blossomed, as a person and a writer.

A different sort of valentine, but one that shares Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s feeling for the passion, boundlessness, and endurance of love are the words below of George Pocock— the migrant English builder of state-of-the-art crewing shells (boats) in the first half of the 20th century. Pocock was also the soul partner of the varsity crewing coach, Al Ulbrickson, at the University of Washington, brilliantly detailed in the book, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

As mentor to Joe Rantz— a member of the crewing team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Pocock would meet with Joe to talk with him and help him find his inner core as an athlete and a person:

Joe crouched next to the older man and studied the wood and listened intently. Pocock said the rings told more than a tree’s age; they told the whole story of the tree’s life over as much as two thousand years. Their thickness and thinness spoke of hard years of bitter struggle intermingled with rich years of sudden growth….

As Pocock talked, Joe grew mesmerized. It wasn’t just what the Englishman was saying, or the soft, earthy cadence of his voice, it was the calm reverence with which he talked about the wood— as if there was something holy and sacred about it— that drew Joe in. The wood, Pocock murmured, taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here….

Pocock paused and stepped back from the frame of the shell . . . carefully studying the work he had so far done. He said . . . it wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually . . . When you were done and walked away from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart.

What is love? From these special "valentines," I believe that feeling and sharing love is the foundation of all the well-being and success in our lives-- because love endures in the heart of the wood, is resilient, has infinite beauty and undying grace, and is, finally, larger than ourselves and who or what we love.

“Got Your Back, Joe!”— Success with Authenticity and Community

I recently read the most gripping book, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown— the story of all the players and creators of the eight-oar crewing team from the University of Washington that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. At first, the author draws you in through the personal stories of the athletes, most of whom had to deal with financially and emotionally impoverished backgrounds to attend the university and then to be selected to crew for the boat destined for the Olympics.

At the same time, I also read Yes, Chef— the memoir of a brilliant, young chef, Marcus Samuelsson, who’s Ethiopian-born, raised in Sweden, and now a citizen of the US, living and working in Harlem in New York City.

What’s the connection? For me, a vital one is the counterpoint of Samuelsson with the highlighted crew member, Joe Rantz, in The Boys in the Boat. Both had natural talent for their winning directions, and both had to learn under extremely challenging circumstances that flair, ambition, and even intensive practice can only take you so far.

To take the big leap towards your vision of success, you have to acknowledge and accept the communities that still nourish you— where you were born, who raised you, who mentored or coached you, who your lasting partners are, who you can love and trust absolutely (who’s “got your back”). To live out your dream, to go for the gold, you must anchor yourself— your skills and your genius— in the community that has grown around you or that you’ve designed for yourself.

As George Yeoman Pocock, master crew shell (boat) maker and spiritual guide to Joe Rantz and his crew team, shared with Rantz:

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them . . . ‘Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined….’” (from The Boys in the Boat)

Rantz, however, had such a hard-scrabble life— abandoned twice by his father after his mother died and from childhood having to work for his living— it was remarkable that he made it to college, hanging on financially by a hair during the Great Depression days. As for Samuelsson, he almost died of TB as a child in Ethiopia before being adopted by a working-class couple in Sweden. Both gained from that experience a hard-work ethic and reliance on themselves. Seeking and acknowledging the need for community support in meeting incredibly challenging goals was, understandably, a tough proposition for both.

“The psychology is complex . . . Rowers must subsume their often fierce sense of independence and self-reliance, [while] at the same time they must hold true to their individuality, their unique capabilities as oarsmen or oarswomen or, for that matter, as human beings.” (from The Boys in the Boat)

As Marcus Samuelsson found out, where he could be his most authentic self as a multicultural person of color, where he could best bring all his gifts as a master chef, was far from rural Sweden where he grew up— at his own restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem-- the famous and infamous ghetto and cultural nexus of African Americans in New York City. This is where he, his partners, his staff, his old friends, his new friends from Harlem, his family from Sweden and Ethiopia, and all his new and old customers could gather, eat, celebrate, and be at home.

“Food memories give people something to talk about— our food, our culture, our journey . . . The restaurant [Red Rooster] had to be a place that honored and mirrored the mystique of the renaissance but showed the new Harlem— inclusive of both old and new. The menu had to tell the story of all of Harlem’s residents— Latin, Southern, Caribbean, Jewish, Italian. When I cook, I see faces: When I make meatballs, I see my grandmother and her smile….” (from Yes, Chef)

Success like this goes beyond even the biggest imagining of Marcus Samuelsson. To create a place that sings and delights the palate and brings people, past and present, together from around the world into community— that is more than a goal— that is the gold!

As Joe Rantz discovered, in the best boat possible, with the right group of crewmates— the ones he could relate to and do his best with— he found both the support and the power of community— the joyful vehicle for the ultimate success of his and their dreams.

“That’s the deepest challenge. Even after the right mixture is found, each man or woman in the boat must recognize his or her place in the fabric of the crew, accept it, and accept the others as they are. The intense bonding and the sense of exhilaration that results from it are what many oarsmen row for, far more than for trophies or accolades.” (from The Boys in the Boat)

Evoking Your Passion for Life with Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion by Gregg Levoy

I was delighted to get an email recently from a favorite human-potential speaker of mine, Gregg Levoy, letting me know that his new book, Vital Signs— The Nature and Nurture of Passion, is coming out on December 26th. His first book, the bestseller, Callings— Finding and Following an Authentic Life, is one of those touchstones in my life that I often revisit for its inspirational insights (contemporary, historical, and literary) into creative, authentic ways of living and working. Because of its personal resonance for me, as well as the lively elegance of its writing, I used quotes from it in my own book, Success with Soul— Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance.

With Vital Signs, seventeen years and several significant life passages have passed for Levoy since the publication of Callings. This time he explores the particular ways he has learned to cultivate living with passion— cultivating wonder, the quest route, the call to wildness, the way of love, authentic expression, and taking risks. In Vital Signs Levoy is more personally revealing and willingly takes more risks, sometimes stripping himself— literally, emotionally, and spiritually— before our reading eyes, to let us feel “what inspires passion and what defeats it. How you lose it and how you get it back.”

When I opened to the first chapter, “Eyes Wide Open— Cultivating Wonder,” and read, “Years ago I saw the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti perform….,” I was hooked, because years ago I, too, had heard Pavarotti sing and had had the same experience— that “it was impossible not to recognize that Pavarotti’s voice was heart-stoppingly beautiful, like nothing I’d heard in my life….”

This sense of the wonder in being fully alive and engaged in an experience that heightens one’s senses and one’s spirit is what I, too, have learned to cultivate and embrace— and seek to share with others through my work today.

Throughout this book, Levoy shares from a wide range of sources what it’s like taking on and renewing a passionate stance with the deepest relationships in your life— with the longings and sensations in your body, in intimacy with another, with the wildness within yourself longing for expression, and in risk-taking that cracks open your fears and touches your spirit.

As in Callings, Levoy in Vital Signs draws from a rich, quirky, anecdotal brew of his own life stories and those of other life adventurers, mythology, art, music, biographies, philosophy, and science to share how people throughout the centuries have learned to re-discover and re-ignite passion in their lives from the same materials that haunt us in our own lives— our dead ends, stuckness, depression, and failures.

One of these stories is that of my friend, Bonnie O'Brien Jonsson, for whom the trauma of having her father declared missing in action during the Korean War ultimately led to her facilitating dozens of Year-to-Live groups (based on Stephen Levine's book, Year to Live].  In these groups, participants act on the assumption that they have a year to live, and are guided through a series of experiential exercises designed to help them come to a deeper understanding of the value of living fully in their lives now.

Basically, Vital Signs is a wonderful, highly readable book for gaining new perspectives on re-lighting the flame of your own passion when the demands of daily living or the weight of past misfortunes drain you of energy and curiosity.  I strongly recommend it for inspiration that can kick you forward towards the changes you long to make to re-connect with your alive and vibrant self!

Below are a few examples from Vital Signs about reconnecting with passion that I really enjoyed and would like to share—-

What we’re after isn’t the wildness that’s divorced from cultivated life and exists only in outbacks and hinterlands, belonging only to other species and other eons— though we seek that, too, sometimes. We’re after the wildness that exists alongside daily life . . . It surfaces in those rich and raw emotions that occasionally manage to claw their way out of the bag of behavioral restraint and in those moments when you act with spontaneity— from the Italian word “sponte,” meaning, once again, “willful,” “of one’s own accord,” “obeying natural impulses.”

The rub is that to take advantage of the healing power of a confiding relationship, you’ve got to actually confide. You’ve got to reveal things that many people are terrified will lose them the very love they’re after. Meaning that the hunger to be safe works against the hunger to be known, which will have to fight against a stiff headwind to gain purchase in your psyche and your relationships.

Just prior to quitting my job as a reporter, I had lunch with a mentor of mine, and when I mentioned my fear of failing at self-employment, he said, “Gregg, if you’re not failing regularly, you’re living so far below your potential that you’re failing anyway.’ Which reminded me why I had lunch with the guy maybe once a year.

But whether life came about through accident or intention, through natural selection or God, whether we believe every atom in the universe is saturated with infinity or divinity or lime-green Jell-O, it doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s amazing any of it is here. And equally amazing that each of us is connected to the passionate force that put it all here.

Life's Third Act -- Generating Wisdom and Purpose!

Recently, a dear friend of mine of many years, Béla Breslau, sent me a link to a TED (Technology, Education & Design) talk by Jane Fonda, now age 77, on what Fonda calls “the third act” of her life. Fonda has always fascinated me by her luminosity and by the many ways she has re-invented her work and her self throughout her life.

Since both Béla and I are also people who have grown with re-inventing ourselves many times over-- and, like Jane Fonda, are into our third act of life-- I interviewed Béla to explore the patterns we’re noticing from this perspective as we move into our latest careers-- Béla a proprietor of a B & B in western Massachussetts and a Shintaido movement instructor, and me a career & life transitions coach. I began to realize that Béla, Fonda, and myself were talking about a certain kind of professional and personal growth-- one involving shifting perspectives and growing into one’s true purpose.

Concerning shifting perspectives, Béla-- who has a flair for friendship-- mentioned a new friend in her 20’s going through major changes. “It’s hard,” she commented, “being kind to yourself at that age, separating yourself from your parents’ expectations. It’s hard to have the more authentic perspective that life experience and awareness can bring.” Fonda, when she was 60 and examining the pattern of her family and other relationships from her past, gained the new perspective “that a lot of things that you used to think were your fault . . . really had nothing to do with you. It wasn't your fault; you're just fine.” This is valuable learning, that this shift in perspective can build your confidence from within to go forward in new directions that call you.

What about growing into and feeling our sense of true purpose? When you’re living successfully in your own terms, you can feel your purpose from within. For some of us that takes time and involves moving from the external sense of purpose that key others in our lives-- parents or teachers or peers-- try to assign for us. As Béla notes, she did not live out her parents’ purpose for her, which was to marry a nice Jewish lawyer and have a traditional Jewish family. Instead, she headed to the west coast and switched gears a number of times-- becoming a lawyer, a realtor, a fundraiser, and a long-time practitioner and teacher of the martial art form, Shintaido.

It is in her third act now, however, that she notices her purpose is “to help people in their journeys through life. I really love teaching and sharing, particularly with women, helping them validate their own strength, and share their own messages and abilities in the world.” So she teaches a “softer” form of Shintaido blended with yoga, not as a martial art form, but as a way of allowing people to open to their authenticity by enjoying and paying attention to their bodies in motion. As a mother, too, she is happy to allow her daughter to become the person she really is on her own, particular career and life path.

The purpose of Fonda’s life was initially an external one of trying to please her father, actor Henry Fonda, by becoming an outstanding actress herself, and then her first husband, Roger Vadim, who directed her in the space sex fantasy film, Barbarella, in 1968. Contrast that with her 1978 film, Coming Home, in which she is the wife of a traumatized Vietnam War army officer and the lover of another war veteran whose heart has opened with his injuries. As she gained stature and confidence in her acting career, she refused to take on roles that had no value or meaning to her.

Now, in her 70’s, Fonda has dug deep into what really does have meaning for her. Her discovery?-- that “it's not having experiences that makes us wise, it's reflecting on the experiences that we've had . . . that helps us become whole, brings wisdom and authenticity. Her goal? To be “an example to younger generations so that they can re-conceive their own lifespans.”

In other words, in our third act, from our deepest learning from the obstacles and successes in our lives, we can become the teachers and mentors we would have liked for ourselves. We can help others live from more authentic perspectives that generate an inner sense of purpose-- and culminate in rewarding career and life paths.

As yet another person in her third act-- famed author, Isabel Allende, now age 71-- says in her TED talk-- “I try to stay passionate and engaged with an open heart. I’m working on it every day. Want to join me?”


Jane Fonda’s TED Interview:

Bela’s B&B in Massachusetts:

Isabel Allende’s TED Interview:

Japan and the Effects of Trauma - - Healing by Being Heard!

Several weeks after the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor near-meltdowns along the northeastern coast of Japan, newspapers here and in Japan are still running daily articles about the quality of the Japanese character in the ability of people there to absorb the overwhelming stresses of their overturned lives with “patience, persistence, and acceptance” (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/28/11).

What is less well-known is how well the Japanese directly affected by these disasters are coping emotionally with the huge magnitude of grief and loss they have been experiencing.  Trauma, to paraphrase Freud, is a breach in one’s barriers-- somatic (of the body), psychological, and societal.  The devastating events in Japan recently affected people in all these areas.

Peter Levine, founder of Somatic Experiencing™ for healing from trauma using body-based techniques, uses the term “copability” to describe a person’s ability to draw on inner and outer resources to survive, emotionally as well as physically, overwhelming events.  If a huge wave, earthquake, and radioactive leakage have suddenly destroyed your family, home, and livelihood, your ability not only to survive, but heal, may very well depend on your sense of personal power to act to support yourself and others-- combined with feeling heard and supported by safe people in your life and even your society.

One thing I’ve noticed recently are articles highlighting Japanese people speaking out concerning their feelings about what has been happening-- beyond their immediate concerns (whereabouts of family members, food, heat, shelter).  In the New York Times of March 31st, is a poignant photo of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko sitting in an intimate setting, listening to evacuees from the Fukushima area whose grief and fear are etched on their faces.  Though their role is largely ceremonial, the emperor and empress embody the essence of Japanese society.  If they are listening to what their people are feeling, it is a model for a people in a publicly stoic country to follow in helping others who are suffering in Japan to heal.

As a career/life coach and somatic healer, I know from the personal and professional successes of many of my clients that the power to recover from trauma and serious setbacks is entirely possible.  While it will take some time, support-- and is a definite learning curve-- being able to speak and share your feelings in a safe environment is a big step towards becoming empowered after grief and loss.

“Answer, if you hear the words under the words--
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones”

-- Naomi Shihab Nye

Creating Life Satisfaction by Designing Fulfilling Relationships

I’m feeling so energized from the tele-class I presented earlier today--

“Creating Life Satisfaction-- Giving an A to Possibilities”!, which was based on the inspiring book, The Art of Possibility by Roz and Ben Zander.  A wonderful group of people joined the class who stepped forward and shared their own experiences about what’s involved in creating relationships that lead to fulfillment at work, at home, and overall in their lives.  We also experienced what it is to create-- in the moment, with each other-- ways of relating that are positive and lead to satisfying outcomes. 

            One woman shared her story about the mutually supportive and expansive relationship she’s had with her current boss.  What made this possible is each of them finding ways to reach out to each other--  being open to what each other has to offer, and also finding ways to express appreciation for the work they do together.  This woman particularly admired the way her boss fully supports her and has helped her move ahead professionally. 

            I was intrigued, as always, with how much more you get from a topic when you explore it with others.  For example, I had researched and planned this tele-class and was fully aware of its content.  However, as some of the participants were talking, I realized that there was a very important quality to creating dynamic relationships that I had assumed but not articulated: that is, the people involved must have the intention to make them positive and rewarding.  Relationships that add value to your life engage you actively.   

            Continuing this theme, we explored what it means to use your intuition in designing quality relationships that show appreciation of each other and lead to satisfying outcomes.  Some great tips that came up were: 1) really listen to the other person; 2) assume that the other person is able to do whatever they really want; 3) ask if the other person wants advice-- help him stay empowered; 4) be curious and sensitive about the other person’s feelings-- notice when you may need to ask further questions; 5) anticipate the needs of the other person; and 6) assume that everyone wants to make a contribution-- so help open the way for that to happen in your relationships. 

             At the end of the class, we mutually agreed about the value of taking time out to look at what is deep and nourishing for ourselves in building relationships that matter. As we look for how another person wants to be acknowledged and given space to open her heart and life, we open our own heart and life too.  In reaching out to others, we receive the gift of other points of view that expand and enrich our own.  

            “When we give an A, we can be open to a perspective different from our own.  For after all, it is only to a person to whom you have granted an A that you will really listen....”  (The Art of Possibility

                                          Join in the Discussion! 

  • How do you use your intuition in building quality relationships? 
  • How do you actively show up and engage with others?
  • In what way have you been empowered by someone reaching out to you in a caring and interested way?

Opening Possibilities in Relationships-- “Granting Greatness” in Others

How about this for a powerful question:  “How much greatness are we willing to grant people?” (from the book, The Art of PossibilityHow much do we want to connect with the alive, passionate part of the people we work with, live with, and interact with at all levels in our lives?  How much of yourself do you want to bring to each relationship in which you’re engaged?  When someone offers you, for example, the beautiful Hindi greeting, “Namaste,” she is saying, “The spirit in me greets the spirit in you”-- which sets the tone for the highest level in your interaction together.  How does that sound to you? 

            As Ben Zander, internationally renowned conductor, says:  “The conductor decides who is playing in his orchestra . . . He can decide that they are bored and resigned, or he can greet in them the original spark that enticed them into music....” 

          In other words, each of us has the choice to decide how meaningful each interaction with another person will be, and therefore, to set the stage for outcomes that are satisfying and opening.  Simply by holding the attitude that the act of relating with others is an opportunity to “come alive and aware” together (D.H. Lawrence), you increase the possibility a thousandfold that this will, in fact, happen.  

            As a professional life coach and somatic therapist, I feel so very fortunate because I can almost always connect with people from the place of seeing the most possibility in any given situation for them to grow and evolve in their lives.  With a young, single woman in her early 30’s, for example, I allowed her sense of discouragement over her career path to be heard, while encouraging the part of her that really wanted a life centered in the warmth of home and hearth to come forward. 

             Our work together focused on building her trust in her intuition about the importance of home, while she continued to explore career options.  The critical factor was connecting again with the man who wanted to be her mate and build a home together.  Her glow of delight at this new evolution of her life was palpable-- as was the way in which she then clearly envisioned her career path securely based on a foundation of home and family. 

            By helping her stay connected with the “spark” in her soul that wanted to come fully alight, she realized that she no longer had to feed the part of her locked into “the downward spiral” about what to do for work.  The larger questions that our authentic interrelating allowed her to pursue were: “How much greatness can I call forth in my life?  How will following my heart allow me to evolve a way to live and work that fully embodies all that I am and most desire?”  

            If you’re interested in exploring further the how to create richer, more satisfying work and life possibilities through developing quality connections, please join me in my upcoming tele-class, “Creating Life Satisfaction-- Giving an A to New Possibilities!” on Wednesday, December 8th.  To sign up, please go to the following link:

                                     Join in the Discussion! 

  • What makes you feel most alive and energized in relationships with others? 
  • How have you changed for the better the quality and productivity of a relationship with a colleague through an attitudinal shift on your part?     
  • How has someone helped you regain your excitement about a project or plan you really want to do?

Lighting the Spark-- Creating Connection Through Your Passion!

In Greek mythology, possibly the most important character as far as humans are concerned is Prometheus-- the Titan intermediary who brought the divine spark of fire from the gods as his life-supporting gift to people.  For daring to carry this spark of flame, his passion, from the heavens to his earth-bound fellows, Prometheus was severely punished by being chained to a rock and having Zeus’ own eagle pluck out his liver every day until he was finally rescued by Heracles.  Despite his suffering, Prometheus was passionate that all humans have access to that divine spark of fire that can inspire greater vision and connection with its illumination and healing warmth. 

            The book,The Art of Possibility, claims that “our universe is alive with sparks.  We have at our fingertips an infinite capacity to light a spark of possibility.”  I would go even farther than that-- I would say that each of us has a personal responsibility for finding ways to share our passionate sparks with others so they themselves will catch the sparks and go further in living out their own passionate dreams.  

            In just the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing these sparks igniting enthusiasm and a sense of possibilities all around me, even in difficult or grim situations, such as: 

  • Girls in Pakistan demanding and getting opportunities for quality education in impoverished communities where families traditionally cannot afford it and do not value it 
  • Tim Lincecum (pitcher) and Edgar Rentaria (ace batter) of the San Francisco Giants pulling themselves out of crippling slumps in late summer to inspire their team to win its first-ever World Series baseball championship this fall 
  • A Stanford classmate who is thrilled about his transition from overseas aid projects toa new job promoting the rights and well-being of severely needful patients in a mental hospital 

            One of my clients recently expressed this sense of wanting to give something of meaning to society with a new career that allows her to use her “passion and enthusiasm,” as well as her particular skills, to connect people with resources that will make a difference in their lives.  As The Art of Possibility states, “The life force for humankind is, perhaps, nothing more or less than the passionate energy to connect, express, and communicate, . . . [lighting] sparks from person to person, scattering light in all directions.”  What greater gift can we give or receive? 

                                    Join in the Discussion! 

  • When have you lit a spark in others that has validated their own passion and let their true selves come forth? 
  • Which people and/or experiences have lit this spark in you?  What kind of difference has this made in your life?
  • What is your biggest dream for passionate connection in the world?