Consciousness, Character, Ego and Balance

Speak from your best self

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Anti-social? Or reflective?

do not disturb sign 300“I’m feeling anti-social today,” Layla explained.  Layla is going through challenging times. I understood and respected her need for space.

The next day, I asked Layla if she was still in an inward, reflective mood. She wasn’t. She was ready to engage again. Extended retreats are wonderful at times, but currently, Layla’s life is demanding clear, decisive action, so I was relieved to see her reemerge so quickly. 


The need for retreat, reflection and hearing one’s own voice is not generally honored in our culture. We speak of introspection as if it’s a weakness or a problem. We wouldn’t accuse an extrovert (or someone in a social mood) of being anti-reflective. 

I try to align myself with my community members so that my presence supports their inner journey instead of distracts from it. That’s why I often am invited in by people who are keeping the general world at bay. But even so, there are times when the “do not disturb” sign applies to me, too. 


Introverts of the world, let’s unite and set the record straight about the need for retreat at times!

Or… maybe not. Perhaps it’s better just to let the world turn without us on occasion. Maybe our challenge is simply to honor introspection in ourselves and put out our “do not disturb” signs when we are called inward.Please comment 600

No Self-Betrayal Here…

Yesterday I coached a young woman in an animated way that was made possible by what she didn’t do with my words.

She didn’t globalize, demonize or black-and-white-ize. She heard my observations in proportion to the situation.

She didn’t take my personal examples of my own struggles in similar situations as an excuse to care-take, teach or analyze me. She let me stay in the role as coach and kept her focus on how my words could help her move forward.

She didn’t play victim. She heard my observations about unhealthy boundaries as an imperative to speak up decisively with those who are taking advantage of her goodwill, instead of an invitation to self-flagellate. 

She didn’t put me on a pedestal and hang on every word as gospel. She used my observations as a tool to help her see the situation clearly for herself. 

Another way to put it is: she stayed conscious. That meant we were able to go deeply into her challenges and the resources and options available to her. We got a lot done in a short time. 


Earlier this week I posted about self-betrayal. People often betray themselves by getting on their own case about their flaws, quirks and foibles. Some of my readers did some of that after reading that post.

That’s beating a dead horse. This young woman and I wouldn’t have been having our conversation if she hadn’t already outgrown the person she was who got her in her conundrum. Yes, it was helpful to see how cause-effect had created an untenable situation in her life. It’s even more helpful to recognize and applaud the new eyes that are allowing us to see our folly and make new choices. 

I salute her for honoring herself (and me) rather than betraying herself. 


When Was Your First Betrayal?

police badge 300When was your first betrayal? For me, it was when I was four years old. I was allowed to cross the street – one block in any direction. I crossed the street at my grandparents’ in Providence Rhode Island to play with the kids there. The kids’ father saw me and acted like I had committed a crime. He brought me back in disgrace, acting like he was some kind of hero. I felt sure my mom would stick up for me, but she didn’t. She sat there with a silly grin on her face as he preached and proselytized. In my mind, I screamed, “One block in any direction!!! I’m allowed!” Outside I just cried.

It was a betrayal. The first I recall. Not the last. It was a betrayal where I learned to betray myself. It was a betrayal where I screamed inwardly and cried outwardly.

How many times and ways have I betrayed myself since?

When was the last time you betrayed yourself?

I was four years old at the time. Now I have many more options. We all do.

What does sticking up for yourself look like these days?


The Backwards Apology

Sorry Corner Cry 200“I’m sorry!” Nancy exclaimed with a trembling voice.

Rose’s heart sank just a little. “You have nothing to be sorry for,” Rose tried to explain. “Things change and our working together is a learning process. We’ve outgrown how we did things, and I’d like us to work together to set a new direction that works for us both.”

Try as Rose did to get Nancy on board with her intent, clearly Nancy had gone under. Nancy’s “sorry’s” kept her from being able to understand what Rose was aspiring toward. That’s common in improvement efforts – people hear a desire to grow and improve as criticism of how things are.

Nancy kept being sorry, and Rose started to feel sorry that she had raised the issue. Not that staying silent had been an option.

Rose understood the tendency to collapse, go unconscious and default into apologies. She recalled one client who had missed an appointment.

“I came on time for the appointment, but the door was locked,” the client complained.

Yes, just as she had told him it would be. Just as she told all her clients. The front door to the building stays locked and the back door remains open, so go in the back door and walk up the stairs. Bring my number with you in case you have any problems and I’ll come down to greet you.

So why had Rose apologized to him as if she had committed some egregious error? Even as her “sorry’s” came out of her mouth it felt backwards. If any “sorry’s” were in order, he should be apologizing to her. In fact, he should be offering to pay her for the missed appointment. Yet, Rose continued to say how sorry she was, even as something inside her screamed in protest to her self-betrayal. 

That was many years ago. Now, as Nancy apologized when she had done no wrong, Rose was tempted to apologize for hurting her feelings. But she refrained. Nancy had nothing to apologize for, and neither did Rose. They might not get through it in this conversation. But it was time for a change, and Rose knew that could be a process. Her heart hurt as the conversation came to it’s necessary close and Nancy told her, “I need to cry.” It was hard to let it rest there. Yet Rose trusted that their mutual respect and love would get them through to a new level. Eventually.


When Did You Stop…?

In earlier times, when someone came to the village elders with some kind of malaise, the wise women asked,

  • When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop listening to the birds chirp and watching the butterflies flit about on the flowers? When did you stop playing?

I learned this from my wise woman friend. She just returned from camping. We were riding home from dance. My friend loved the hour of conversationless, unscripted, community movement. 

My variations of the village elder questions are,

  • When did you stop saying what you mean and meaning what you say without being mean when you say it?
  • When did you stop doing the things that make you whole?


  • When will you start doing them again?



Alive Inside

Want to bring an elder back to life? Play music from a powerful time in their lives. There is a documentary called Alive Inside about that. Here’s the trailer.

You don’t have to be seriously diminished for this to have power for you. Bob and I (and our cat Cindi) danced through the house to the band Iron Butterfly’s Inna Gadda Davida this morning. I don’t mind at all that Bob bonded with his first wife to that band and song. This morning we shared the energy it awakens with each other. 

Energy is energy. I like it.

Revisit my previous post, Stir Ashes, Find Embers

No need to wait until the light is almost out to stir the embers. There is buried treasure everywhere in our lives if we can recognize it. 




The Master Manipulator

CinderellaShe’s a master manipulator, yet I love her. 

  • She invites me in and then makes it difficult to connect.
  • She elicits an invitation, and then stalls as if undecided.
  • She approaches me and then turns away just short of reach. 

It took me a while to realize she was working me. It took me a while to conclude she liked the game. It took a while to stop playing her game.

Who is she? She’s my cat Cindi. Princess Cindi-rella. 

Cindi comes up as if she wishes to be petted. Half the time she enjoys the strokes. The other half of the time, she pulls back as soon as I reach for her.

Cindi stands at the edge of my reach when I attempt to brush her. Cindi looks at me invitingly. I extend myself. A few brush strokes into her brushing, I discover she has pulled away little by little and I am off my center reaching for her. 

Cindi stands at the door asking to be let out. Cindi stands there as long as I let her, as if deciding whether or not she wants to go out.

Cindi is really playing a game. Things are not as she wants them to appear.

My body told me before my mind did. My body knows what being manipulated feels like. 


Now, think of Cindi’s behaviors as metaphors. Do you know people who play games like this? I do. Like Cindi, I can’t convince them to stop playing their game. The game is too engrained.

But I CAN stop taking the bait. I can listen to my body when it tells me I’m being manipulated and I can stop putting myself out to help when they are only working me. 

Then I can love them without feeling manipulated.

Now excuse me while go brush my sweet cat. She’s a master manipulator, yet I love her. 


Ron Johnson’s Rousing Speech About the Killing of Michael Brown

Have you heard Captain Ron Johnson’s powerful speech to the Ferguson Missouri community? I’ve been concerned about the militarization of our police force for a long time. It really hit me with Katrina when people who were seeking help in crisis were treated as criminals and suppressed with weapons of war.

There was darkness and overreach in Ferguson. There is also great beauty there. Captain Ron Johnson humbly gives voice to that beauty – and draws out the gorgeous humanity of the citizens there.

Watch it here.

The simple truth is incredibly powerful. Personal expression moves mountains. We are human – so human – and embracing that humanity is what will get us through our challenges intact. 

What moved me the most was Johnson’s affirmation that the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death would transform them all and make them better people. I know the biggest tragedies in my life have been my greatest teachers. It’s an incredible gift to be reminded of that while you are walking through your fire instead of figuring it out years later. 

Watch the video – he is a master of Speaking Strong.


Ouch!!! Yikes!!! I read this morning’s headline.

Ron Johnson DOES have his work cut out for him. At least I trust the wisdom of his captainship.


True to What You Do

Tea Pot 200







Tony put down the sheet of paper he was holding and leaned in toward his client. He said:

  • I don’t know why you come to me. You know I treat the root cause of illness, and that means you probably will feel worse before you feel better while I take you through the die-off process. Yet, every time you start to feel bad you do something that stops the process. You say you want to learn from me, but you seem too intent on proving how much you know to listen. You don’t ask questions, you argue. You finish my sentences for me, and most of the time, your completion isn’t where I was going with my point. Yet, you tell me I’m helping you and you want to work with me. It seems to me that what you really want is a practitioner who will relieve all your symptoms and let you get on with your life without dealing with the root cause. It’s like the restaurant owners who get on Kitchen Nightmares because their businesses are failing, but try to teach Chef Ramsey how to run a restaurant.

Let that settle in for a minute.

There is a Japanese tale that illustrates the frustration of trying to work with someone who isn’t open to receive. It goes like this:

“The Japanese master Nan-in gave audience to a professor of philosophy. Serving tea, Nan-in filled his visitor’s cup, and kept pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could restrain himself no longer: ‘Stop! The cup is over full, no more will go in.’
Nan-in said: ‘Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.'”

Sometimes when Tony confronts clients like this, it results in a conversation that gets them on the same page. Other times the client talks like he or she is ready to get on board and changes just enough to stay a client, much like the employee who only does good work before the performance review. There are times when the client argues that they really are on board and Tony needs to pull the plug unilaterally.

Then there are times when Tony and his clients jointly decide they aren’t a match. They dissolve the working relationship.

Do you have anyone in your world who says they want what you do? Someone who says they agree to your terms, but in practice they are redefining the relationship on their own terms?

Maybe it’s time to have a conversation like Tony does. For Tony, it’s the difference between loving his work and hating it. What difference might it make for you?


Only Human

Rose was in the middle of watching the second season of The Good Wife. Now, resting on her bed, something struck her. The hero of the show, Alicia Florrick, was going through heart-wrenching devastation, but they never showed her cry. She was admirable, strong, succinct, tough – but she never collapsed into an emotional release. 

Rose remembered a movie she had seen years before where the hero, a television anchor, collapsed on her bed and cried every time she found herself alone. Then she pulled herself back together and focused.

Rose could keep it together if she needed to. But now she let down. She had felt blocked and lethargic. Now she sensed emotion and invited it to talk to her. It spoke, not in words, but in wails. She let it fly.

Her husband Tony heard her and came in to rub Rose’s feet as her emotions erupted. When did he stop feeling threatened by the power of her releases? Rose adored him for that. 

The tide turned, the storm subsided and Rose felt whole. She turned on Pandora radio: Christine Perri’s song Human came on. Unlike Alicia, but like Christine, Rose could be a good machine, but let herself be human.

These are the lyrics. 


I can hold my breath
I can bite my tongue
I can stay awake for days
If that’s what you want
Be your number one

I can fake a smile
I can force a laugh
I can dance and play the part
If that’s what you ask
Give you all I am

I can do it
I can do it
I can do it

But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human

I can turn it on
Be a good machine
I can hold the weight of worlds
If that’s what you need
Be your everything

I can do it
I can do it
I’ll get through it

But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human

I’m only human
I’m only human
Just a little human

I can take so much
‘Til I’ve had enough

‘Cause I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human

And the video: (Al – no vampires on this one.) 

Maybe, by the time Rose got to season five of The Good Wife, Alicia would break down and have a good cry. If so, would Peter (or Will) be able to rub her feet and be there with her when she did? In the meantime, Rose would live her humanity now. 

You’re invited to this party. Speaking Strong and authenticity isn’t just about being tough all the time. It’s also about honoring your right to be human. Rose’s emotional alchemy moved by it’s own path, not a linear one, but this is a good tool should you want one. Emotional Alchemy Through the “Love Letter”