Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life is a circus

So send in the clowns already!

This blog is a special gift to all my friends out there who are currently taking life way too seriously! I was thinking of all of you this past Sunday while drenching a group of children with a garden hose at a family barbeque. We had just finished a March of Dimes for Babies Walk sponsored by a dear family member who lost a child (Lucas) who was born prematurely. In the past, this day would have been terribly stressful for me. I would have spent the day worrying about saying and doing all the right things for fear of upsetting people. I am excited to report that last Sunday my only focus was love and laughter and I had an incredible experience!

The walk itself was a beautiful expression of love as hundreds of people came together to celebrate the lives of the children they know and create hope for millions of babies yet to be born. My husband Dave and I packed the kids (Aly and David), all of David's special food, a bright red wagon, and all our love into the car and drove to a beautiful ocean front park in Connecticut. We walked together with friends and strangers as one down a beautiful path of hope.

After the walk we celebrated Lucas with family and new friends at a barbeque hosted by Lucas's parents. We talked, ate, drank, and most importantly, played silly games with the kids. The garden hose quickly became the favorite toy as the children ran through the crazy stream of water, filled buckets to dump on one another, and giggled wildly as the water tickled their lips while drinking from the hose. The beautiful backyard transformed itself into an amazing circus of special stunts, tight rope (garden hose) walking, juggling, and of course clowns! The greatest show on earth began with the children and quickly expanded as many adults joined them. Running through the crazy stream of water was refreshing, exilerating, and incredibly fun! When was the last time you played with your garden hose?

I share this story with you because it is an illustration of the value of love and laughter during challenging times. Many of us are currently facing and will continue to face situations that we never anticipated. I believe that these situations have the potential to be the most amazing, growth promoting opportunities for all of us! After all, isn't anticipation one of the most exciting features of the circus! Can you remember how excited you were to see what happens next. Imagine if we approached life that way. How would you feel if you relished in the excitement of the unknown instead of being fearful of it? How would you feel if you knew no matter what happened, you could always send in the clowns.

If you are currently taking life too seriously, find some clowns and invite them into your life. Clowns come in many forms so here are some places to look: Most importantly, look for the clown in you. If you don't think you have any clown in you, buy some facepaints and a garden hose and go at it! Children are the most free spirited clowns ever so surround yourselves with them, drop your expectations of them to "behave" and have fun! Friends, friends, friends!!! Reunite with someone you have been meaning to call but haven't made the time for. Chances are, they are looking for clowns too!

Love to all of you!

Music is connection, Music is heaven.

Yesterday evening we had our weekly band rehearsal. Our band consists at this moment of Mark (keyboards and vocals), Peter (guitar and vocals) and I (djambe and vocals). We started playing together just a couple of weeks ago and we are having the most amazing fun ever. After our first jam together we decided to work towards our first performance and we have been coming together once a week since.

For me the times we practice are like heaven. I am in awe about how we can create things together from nothing and create an experience of bliss and love. It stimulates my brain in the areas of creativity, excitement, love, being present, joy and probably also many other areas I have not mentioned in this list. The experience we create together is special and wonderful. And you know the fun thing is: it is so easy. No hard work, no frustration, no stress. We all go with the flow and put in our unique personalities to create a unique musical product.

By the time we were rapping up our practice yesterday, two friends dropped in to hang out with us. And guess what happened: we ended up in making music with the five of us and created our temporary five band version of this really wonderful experience. I believe that music is connection, music is heaven. Why? I believe that when we are present with the music we are not holding on to past or future events, and we open ourselves up to share love, camaraderie and create sweet experiences.

Do you do things in your life that gives you the experience I am talking about? How often do take time to create these experiences? Who do you share them with?

With love,


P.S. You are invited to come and join us during our first performance at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington MA on May 25, 2009.

Weekly Focus - Health (4)

What actions can you take to stimulate your health? Have you taken these actions already? If not, why not? Have you done dialogues with yourself or others to look on the beliefs you identified over the last days?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This evening Mark and I had a visit from our friend Mark Kaufman. We love him deeply and have a great open and loving relationship together. We talked to late in the night (morning) while his daughter was napping on the best sleeping chair ever.

What I was thinking about while participating in the discussion was that we seem to make lots of assumptions if we do not have all the information. Mark is participating in Wide Awake this week and the class had given him lots of stimuli and he was working through his beliefs and responses. In a class setting like this, the subject that is discussed by one participant is stimuli for the others and so gives learning possibilities to everyone else.

There seems to me to be two places of making assumptions: the first one is when you don't know what exactly happened or will happen. In this case we use assumptions to fill in the blanks and play around with them to view the situation from different sides. The other is making assumptions using past experience as proof that your assumption will happen. In this case we use the assumptions to move into a certain direction.

So why do we use assumptions? I believe we use them to make us feel comfortable and make us belief that we understand the situation. We want to understand the situation so we can make a clear stand/ choice if needed. But my question is: is filling in the blanks or using your past experiences really a good measure for understanding the situation?

How do you know if any of your assumptions really represents what will happen or happened? And how important is it to understand exactly what happened or will happen?
And last but not least: where does the assumption end and the fact start?

Whahahaha, what a stimulating night! I hope you will enjoy pondering these questions with me..

With love, Iris

Weekly Focus - Health (3)

Looking at your notes of the last two days: did you write down any beliefs that you feel you can change right now? Which beliefs do you want to question? When are you going to do that?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Weekly Focus - Health (2)

What do you fear most about your health? Why do you fear that?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weekly Focus - Health (1)

This week our focus is on: Health. How is your health? How is the health of your friends and family? What people, situations, feelings and beliefs can you identify? Write them down for yourself so you can work with it during this week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekly Focus - Start Something New (7)

Reflecting on the last six days thinking about starting something new: what did you learn about yourself? What are two things hat you are now very clear on? What are two things around this subject you want to explore further? When are you going to do that?

In memoriam of Jaap Stam 1942 - 2009

What makes someone special? Is it what they are able to accomplish in life? Is it the way they hold themselves in different situations? Is it how we see them that makes them special?

In a two-week time frame last year Jaap and his wife both got diagnosed with cancer. They had different kinds of cancer, so were treated by different specialists in different hospitals. During this time they both were diagnosed, and operations were performed on them in different cities. They had to support each other over the phone, both connected to tubes and needles. They both came home around the same time. She fully recovered from the cancer, but Jaap's cancer metastases and they put him on a pain prevention plan and an unknown time frame.

This January I was in the opportunity to visit him and his wife at their home in The Netherlands. I knew it was probably the last time I would see him and I'm very grateful to have gotten that opportunity. This week I received the message that Jaap Stam passed away. He was a very special person in my life and he will for always be a very special person in my heart.

What made him so special to me? He and his wife accepted who I was in a time that the world seemed dark and challenging to me. I was a teenager with an unstable family life. I could not always rely on help from home. But they opened their heart and their house for me. They invited me to their dinners, they invited me to their family gatherings, they took me with them on the family holiday. They were interested in my schoolwork. They asked me how I was doing. They shared with me what they were doing. They showed me their love for gardening, for helping youth, for being friendly, open and accepting towards others. They showed me how to support others and enjoy their company. They modeled for me an complete different side of family life then I knew. One that was loving, accepting, non-judgmental and fun. One that I am creating myself today.

Jaap didn't perform in an extra-ordinary way. He didn't cure world-hunger or invented the telephone. But I believe he was extra-ordinary in how he lived his life. And because I knew him, I am a more loving person today then I would have been otherwise. That's what makes him so special to me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ask for what you want!

In the upcoming week there is a taught in the Berkshires for the most advanced participants wanting to understand  more about creating happiness in their lives. It is completely taught  in a style called off-curriculum. Which means that instead of following a set schedule the class dynamics are used to expand the teachings. It's done by an amazingly skilled teacher and the classes are very exiting, challenging and fun.

I have been in the wonderful opportunity to go to this course a couple of times and I have met the most incredible people during those times. People from all parts of the world. People with all different backgrounds. People who do not need everything to stay the same, but accept and love change and challenge. People who and are open to look and dig in themselves and create a happier world for themselves and others.

This year I will not be in the program. But I'm so psyched, because I will have a large bunch of the participants in my first "yard party"! It all started with my friend Joy from Denmark. She wrote a comment on a blog article the other day. She said that she would be around fand that if I would do a yard party she would be there! After that Amy contacted me through Facebook and told me that she wanted to connect when she was in town and she would bring some of our other friends. Then Brian responded that he also wanted to be included. This was a week ago. Brian contacted others and at this moment there is a big party planned with lots and lots of people. It is the most exiting wonderful thing to look forward to!

What can we learn from all this?

1. Ask for what you want to get what you want. If Joy, Amy and Brian had not contacted me the party would not have been planned. I'm not in the program this year and I was not keeping track of the calendar. Without them Wide Awake would have passed me by without noticing that all these wonderful people were in town for the program.

2. Friendship is not depending on how often you see each other and how much time you spend with each other. It has more to do with loving each other and embracing the opportunity to enjoy each other without judgment in the present moment. I am grateful that I have friends who know they can call me one or two years after our last interaction and that we can pick up instantly where we left off.

3. If you are open embrace the unexpected, big unexpected things might very well happen! I had not planned to have a party for more than 30 people, but I'm so having pre-party fun! In a thousand ways I could have stopped the evolving of this event, and just have met in person with Joy or Amy, but I decided to go with the flow. And now I will have more wonderful people in my garden then I could ever imagine.

Enjoy the wonderful spring weather!

Weekly Focus - Start Something New (6)

After you start something new, persistence is needed to keep it going. What actions can you take to support your persistence? Which beliefs fuel your persistance? Which people stimulate your persistance? How can your persistence help you work with the negative fueling beliefs that you have not been able to change at this moment?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Pines in Our Minds

"Ah, you miss the pine trees, don't you?" The old man's voice startled me. I was taking Scooter (my goofy pit bull) for her morning constitutional, and we had veered down a route that we hadn't followed for awhile. The roof of one house in the middle of the block was covered with a tarp--as were many roofs in our city following a big windy storm earlier this month. As the recent recipient myself of a new roof (Thanks, Hurricane Gustav!), I was curious to see what the damage was.

His question was more statement than inquiry. He continued, "They had to cut three of them down. It's a shame. I love pine trees." I murmured agreement in a moment of expedient inauthenticity, because Scooter had already sniffed all there was to sniff in the area at that point, and I was ready to head home.

Truth is, I had no idea those pine trees were gone, or that they had ever been there in the first place. While I do love trees, I didn't miss those pines. When I looked at that house, I didn't perceive or mourn a lack of trees, while he held a strong judgment about the matter that he activated every time he looked out from his driveway across the road.

As I walked on, I chuckled to think of the assumptions we make. Like the old man, often we assume that all the various in-our-heads thoughts and preferences have an out-there-in-the-world independent existence, and that other people carry them around in their heads as well. These thoughts and beliefs can become mixed up in our awareness with facts/observations. As such, they begin to form the lines and boundaries that we use to guide us in coloring our worlds. Pretty soon, we're insisting that others should stay inside those lines as well--I mean, it's only logical, based on the "facts."

The method I have been taught is one tool that helps clarify these differences, so that we can recognize what's really "out there" and what's a choice "in here." In my experience, there isn't nearly as much as we might think in that first category, after we sift through the beliefs.

Thoughts and beliefs can grow as tall and solid as towering pines within our interior landscapes. On the other hand, it might only take one big wind--or maybe one really useful question--to bring them tumbling down.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Weekly Focus - Start Something New (4)

Our beliefs fuel our actions. What beliefs can you distinguish in the notes you wrote over the last days? Which of the beliefs are supportive to start something new? Which are not supportive? If you compare the percentage of supportive and not supportive beliefs, which percentage is the highest? Why?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weekly Focus - Start Something New (3)

What is one new thing you want to start this week? Describe what your goal is, and what you have to do to start the project. What are the different steps you have to take to get to your goal? What are the things are you are clear about? What questions have to be answered? Do you not want to start something new? How come?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Weekly Focus - Start Something New (2)

Starting something is transforming your thoughts into "an action". Did you take time yesterday to take action by writing down your thoughts around this subject? If not, how come? On a scale 1-10 how do you rate your skills for starting something new? What is the last time you started something new? How did you feel? Why? Don't forget to take time to write down your answers...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekly Focus - Start Something New (1)

This week our focus is on "starting something new". Write down the thoughts that come up for you when you think about starting something new? What people, situations, feelings and beliefs can you identify?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

1000 ways to happiness

Friday night Mark and I were invited by our friend Peter to watch a performance by Lizzy West and Baba Buffalo. They are a couple who make music and travel around together. They are fabulous musicians with great vocal and instrumental skills and they are joy to listen to!

But that is not the reason I am writing about them. I'm writing about them because they had a theme for the night: happiness. Throughout their songs, their stories and their performance, they were telling people about being present, being loving, and doing gratitude. I was touched by how they used their medium of music and performance to help people help themselves become happier. It is so exiting to be invited to go out for the night and then end up with these wonderful spirited people.

The way Lizzie is creating her happiness is interesting: she writes about all the "poison" out there (or at least that is the way she describes it during her performance) and how it's important to do things that help you get rid of the poison in your life. Doing this helps her to stay clear and let go of unhappy emotions. So, there is a part of her songs that is deeply focused on unhappiness. And it brings her to happiness!

I notice that this is a bit different than how I move towards happiness, but that it was also amazingly effective for her. And, really, really fun to watch.

Like Lizzie, I create happiness by creating new things. It could be writing songs... or painting a room... or cleaning the garden... or doing a dialogue with someone. I believe that all my actions related to starting new things take me towards happiness. Today I will do that by reading a book I have been given by another friend, Jonathan. The book is called, "The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz".

This brings me to the question I want to leave you with: what are some of the specific activities that do that move you towards happiness? Please share them with our readers so we can all benefit from your solution!

Have a great Sunday...

PS, As I've been talking with people I'm finding that many more of you are reading this blog than I ever imagined. If you're enjoying the articles or have comments, the authors and I would love to hear from you!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tickler Twenty-Nine

What is something you really want to do this weekend that you think will not happen due to time constraints? What are the things that are higher on the priority list? Why is that? What is the possibility to do them all?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blowing Out The Candles

Have you ever wondered why we make a wish and then blow out candles on our birthdays? I became curious about this ritual last Wednesday as David's amazing autism treatment team sang Happy Birthday to Kim. Kim is one of our creative, happy, fun loving volunteers whose face lights up a room from the moment she enters. Singing Happy Birthday and blowing out candles has become a monthly celebration during our team meetings as we have been blessed with a team that not only adds unique value to everything they do but also have birthdays spread evenly throughout the year.

What began as a simple celebration of the lives of people who mean the world to us quickly tickled me once again to explore my beliefs and cherish the world of autism.

So why exactly do we celebrate and blow out candles? As I googled a few key words, I was surprised to see so many different "historical references" related to blowing out birthday candles. I read about celebrations designed so that the noise would scare away evil spirits, making a wish to be granted by a Greek Goddess, and my personal favorite, allowing the smoke from the blown out candles to carry our wishes up to God to be granted. This one made me chuckle because all I have ever seen the smoke do is make my children sneeze and set off the smoke alarm. Now that I think about it, I am certain that the evil spirits were scared away that year.

Blowing out birthday candles has a very different meaning to me. It is a symbol of a simple gesture we do every year because it is simple to do, we have always done it, and it is fun! At least that is what I used to think.... Now, I believe we do it because it the one time each year it is socially acceptable to believe in miracles. How many of us have made a wish thinking it was a long shot but wishing for it none the less? Imagine if we lived our lives believing that it is up to us to grant our own wishes. Technically, the smoke from the blown out candles tickles our noses as it dances into our bodies. It carries our wishes into us, not up to God, so perhaps we were always meant to grant our own wishes. How many more wishes would come true if we began granting them ourselves?

Ironically, my last candle blowing wish was wishing that David would enjoy blowing out the candles on his next birthday cake. In David's world, the noisy celebration scares him away, Goddesses fly around his playroom in the form of bubbles, and smoke stimulates all his senses into a celebration of life. This year, his world and our world came together in a magical celebration that continues each month as he shares wishes with his amazing team, while blowing out the candles.

Grant yourself a wish today! Love, Kathy

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Take control of your life by taking 100% ownership

written by Julie Sando

Ultimate power lies in ultimate responsibility for everything that we encounter. That means when you get sick, you created that sickness. When you get stuck in traffic, you created that as well. Sound crazy? Buying into this belief will change your life in ways you can't imagine.

When I first started working I was a completely different person, unaware of how painful it was for me to say no. As a result I usually took on more than I could handle. At first I did not see the connection between my challenge of saying no and a reoccurring illness I had. About six times a year I got a severely sore throat that would last a whole week and prevent me from using my voice. I could still be productive at home but I couldn't go to work as I didn't want to get others sick. It was the perfect (yet extremely painful) illness. I had 0% ownership and as a result I kept getting sick. I decided to explore this illness and realized that it was my non-confrontational way of saying no because I was afraid of not being good enough. It got me out of the extra projects I took on. However, I was tired of using up my sick time in the first two months of the year and I wanted to feel healthy. I decided to practice the art of saying no. …immediately. I have never had the same illness again. It has been five years. The power was in taking ownership of my illness and changing my belief that it is best for me to say no.

There are two ways to take ownership. One is to find the belief you are holding that is creating your experience (which is what I did above). Or you can look at your thoughts to see how you attracted this into your life. I believe that what you focus on grows bigger. If you focus on anger, you attract situations that inspire anger. If you focus on joy, you will create more joy. If you focus on traffic, you will receive traffic. If you focus on a quick and easy commute home, the Universe will provide it to you.

Try taking ownership over one thing that bugs you in your life. Ask yourself why you created that situation. Was it because of a belief? Or was it because of the thoughts you are creating? Be prepared for quick and powerful change!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Atypical behaviors of our children are a window in to their unique world

As an occupational therapist and playroom therapist, I have had the pleasure of working with many beautiful autistic children who presented with a very wide range of diagnosis and behaviors, biting them selves or others, intensely banging their heads, staring into space without movement, lying on the floor while licking the mirror, lining up objects, reciting all kinds of cartoons, and self stimulating, etc. My training has allowed me to look at these behaviors from a very empowering perspective, while most of the world sees them as unacceptable. I view these so called "bizarre" behaviors as a window in that child's world and in the process gain an in-depth understanding of how I can best help this child connect to his/her internal (body) and external environment and begin to see the world around him as a friendly extension of him self.

The sensory integration approach explains the brain-behavior connection (e.g. every atypical behavior observed in an autistic child or another special needs child is directly related to the state of his/her Central Nervous System - CNS). Even though every autistic child presents a variety of ritualistic and atypical behaviors, when you look close, you will start to notice that every child creates their own unique pattern, speed, and intensity of how they prefer to engage in their unique behaviors. For example: one child might decide to place all his cars near him and begin lining them up by gently placing one car next to the other while moving with caution in a very predictable manner; another child might be running to get cars from another side of the room, falling down, smashing the car into the next car and then adjusting the car to make sure it is in perfect alignment with the other cars, and still maintain a very predictable rhythm. So here we have two children seemingly engaging in the same activity. But are they really engaging in a similar activity? They are both lining up cars. However their unique behavior is a communication to us all about what kind of sensory input their body is craving in order to achieve a state of balance.

Noticing the specific ways our children engage in their activities will allow us as therapists, counselors, teachers, and parents become super sensitive to our children's needs and thus allow a doorway for these children to engage with us and motivate them to be a part our world.

I dedicate myself fully to observe each behavior of a special needs child as a meaningful and purposeful action on the part of that child. I look at the deeper meaning of why that child is engaging in this specific behavior (where is the break down in communication with in the CNS of that child) and finally then synthesize a treatment plan based on what I have observed and which will fit the program the child is following. During this process I ask myself: "what purpose is that behavior serving for that specific child?" The atypical behaviors of our children are a window in to their unique world, which provide me with the opportunity to design a very specific tailor made treatment plan for each child I work with.

Occupational Therapy and autism treatment support each other and gives us a window into our children's unique world!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter/ Happy Passover

We wish you a happy Easter/ happy Passover...

No blogs will be posted today. Come back tomorrow :-)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Big calves stop ticks...

Hurray, spring is here! More sunshine, higher temperatures, finally spending time outside. What can be more wonderful? One thing is for sure, all my spring gardening activities have helped me to grow in the most unexpected ways! Let me tell you...

When we made an offer on our lovely house about year and a half ago, the house had the space inside that we wanted and only a small yard to maintain. Mark and I do not like to spend lots of our time working on tasks around the house, so it was perfect!

By the time we closed on the house, the situation had changed a bit; the former owners were required by the state to put in a new septic system. The new rules for septic systems include the installation of an enormous field of pipes that clean the water as it passes through the system. To make room for this, they had to take down a great number of our trees.

I now have a field of grass at least four times bigger than planned. In the last week I have spent around six hours raking leaves and needles from the grass, and I am only half done. When this task is finished and the lawn mowed, there are flowerbeds to be cleaned and lots of dead wood to be removed. Yes, there have been moments that I noticed that I wanted to choose unhappiness with my situation, but instead, I made it a game to find positive happiness fueling aspects of yard work. I will share some of them with you in the hope to inspire your gardening experiences:

  • Because of the new septic system we have now extra light coming into our living room.

  • The view from our living room is way improved (we can see much farther than 10 feet out the front window)

  • I can now organize huge garden parties

  • I now know what Poison Ivy looks like (kinda like a strawberry plant but then a little different! Great!) and I know that it is better not to touch it!

  • I now have first hand experience with the fabulous effects of Calomine lotion and can recommend to everyone that they keep a bottle in their medicine cabinets at all times

  • There is grass growing under the brown layer of pine needles (yeah) and with me raking the needles from the grass, it can grow strong and be happy

  • I don't have to spend any money on a fitness club

  • The wind and the trees have an agreement that involves me; the wind blows the dead wood out of the trees onto my grass field so I can properly dispose of it.

  • Next winter we will have way less heating costs due to an abundance of firewood; thank you wind and trees.

  • I have lots of friends who would love to learn how to use a chain saw

  • I've finally found a great reason for my big calves: when I put on my garden boots my calves seal the top of the boots so ticks cannot find their way in!

  • Muscle aches get less if you repeat the same activity regularly

  • The fresh air and exercise make me sleep like a baby!

  • When I record my thoughts while working in the yard, I have my blog articles written at the same time--how efficient!

  • I will be in great condition by the time I put my bikini on

Happy Easter Sunday everyone! Don't hide any Easter eggs in the Poison Ivy

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tickler Twenty-Eight

Happiness is a choice! What was a moment in the last week that you choose happiness, knowing you could choose unhappiness instead? Why did you do that?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Asking from a happy place

If you would ask someone in my past to mention one characteristic about me I am sure it would have been "controlling". I didn't really understand why people said that about me, but now that I am letting this "wonderful" but hard to live with quality go I can see what they meant. When someone is controlling they don't ask from a happy place. They have to have it and usually in the way they want it.

Today I am staying at a hotel where the Internet connection isn't strong enough in all the rooms. My laptop couldn't pick it up in my room. So I went to ask the lady at the reception whether I could have another room. I didn't need it, so I could ask it with ease and an honest smile. She also responded very nice and told me that they were all booked up, but maybe something would open the next day. I was totally fine with her answer and I really appreciated the next day option. It is still nicer to work from my room for 4 days than staying at the tiny reception table for 5 days.

And when I was about to go back to my "Internet-less" room the receptionist remembered that the disabled access room was free and she offered it to me. I checked it out and the Internet worked, hurray. And even better, I had never seen a disabled access room before. It is amazing! It has all these handles you can grab and strings coming from the ceiling you can pull if you need help.

After the first excitement of exploring this new room I started thinking about how my life would be if I were in a wheelchair. I could feel two ways while exploring this room. Either I could feel unhappy about me being so different and that I need all these special equipment to get by or I could be really appreciative that there is all this help, so I can do all the same things as if I wasn't in the wheelchair. Coming from the happy place makes life so much brighter.

Anyway the light doesn't work in my bathroom, but they will fix it tomorrow. This made me wonder how funny we people are. For each of us different things are important. I am happy to have a romantic almost no light shower in my Internet accessible and disabled accessible room!

So today I had a lovely evening because I was asking from a happy place! What about you?

Monday, April 6, 2009

What is your favorite flavor?

This past week, we had the most diverse set of articles written so far by our authors.

"Stepping into growing our comfort zone", "Autism as a cure for world hunger", "sexy independent dishwashers", "the 'I' that makes relationships special", and "trust as a decision independent of the other person." What an amazing week it was.

I feel grateful to be able to read all these stories. The unique words, thoughts, insights, jokes and comments touch me deeply. I love to see the world through all the different eyes, and experience the world in so many different flavors. It stimulates me to organize my thoughts, question my beliefs, laugh until my belly hurts and create new perspectives.

I LOVE that we are all unique. I am not like you, and you are not like anyone else. This means that what we share has unique flavors. Depending on your taste buts, you might think Mark is like dark chocolate, citron or pumpkin pie ice cream! I like to see myself as an ice-cream Sunday!

At this moment we have ten distinct blog flavors and I hope you like them. Do you already have a favorite? Is there a flavor that you're missing? What flavor would you add?

Come back often to enjoy our delightful stimulating brain ice cream!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Who Do You Trust?

The other day, I was talking to my good friend Mark K about trust and what it means to trust. We had a lot of fun playing with the concept.

First of all, as you might have guessed, my definition of trust is a bit different than that of others. I've found that most people think of trust in terms of the sincerity or sentiment. For example, when they say, "I trust Mary", they mean, "I believe that Mary has the best of intentions for me" or "I now that Mary would never lie to me or steal from them or cheat me, etc."

I tend to think of trust more as an engineer would. For example, I might talk about a bridge or a car being trustworthy. By this, I mean that the bridge isn't going to fall down while I'm driving over it or the car is going to break down while taking a long trip. It's not about the bridge or car wanting the best for me (sentiment), it's about them behaving in a manner consistent with my expectations.

I find my model much more useful than the sincerity/sentiment model. For example, it's not a challenge for me if people lie as long as they do it predictably. If someone who promises to be on time is always ten minutes late, it's easy to incorporate that into my interactions with them. If I'm working with someone who is extremely talented, but who's ethics are not the same as mine, I don't need to make them "unethical" or decide I don't want to work with them. I simply don't rely on them for decisions that involve ethics, but instead value the skills and talents they bring to the table.

On the other hand, the best liars are the sincere ones, especially if they are sentimental. I've had my share of people who, wanting to protect my feelings, see a moral imperative to lie.

So, as Mark and I talked about this, Mark pointed out that I wasn't squeaky clean on how I actually implemented my trust model. He said that, while he liked my model, in fact, I don't operate that way. He said that instead, I tend to just trust people as a matter of course. Hmmm...

Mark gave me some great insights into this third trust model which is apparently my operational model of trust.

First, trusting someone is a unilateral exercise on our part, it has nothing to do with the other person. There's no way to know what another person's intentions are, how they will behave or what other circumstances will enter the picture. Trusting is something that each of us does independently of the situation.

Second, trusting people as a matter of course is simply a better way to live. It just feels better to spend your days with an attitude of trust towards others, rather than an attitude of mistrust.

Third, actively trusting people has this peculiar side effect of causing people to become trustworthy. It's amazing how often people show up and deliver when they know that you believe in them.

I really like Mark's model a lot. It definitely feels better to face the world with open arms, and I've experienced this remarkable side effect of people whom I trust becoming trustworthy over and over again.

So, who do you trust?

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I was talking on the phone to a very dear and close friend of mine the other day. We were talking about how each of us felt that our relationship is "special" and my friend, in particular, was remarking that, of all the people she knows (besides her children), I am the most special and she feels closest to me. As she spoke, I was thinking about how that sort of feeling comes about and wondering why my friend feels that she has it only with me and not a wide assortment of people. It seem to me that sharing a genuine and deep love with another human being is a great thing to do and I, for one, want as much of that in my life as I can manage. I also reflected on the fact that I have several people in my life that I feel deeply connected to and wondered what was responsible both for the difference in how many intimate relationships I and my friend have as well as the why in my own life I have some people that I feel extremely close to and others to whom I don't.

While my friend wanted to ascribe the specialness of our relationship to her belief that I am an extraordinarily loving and giving person and she feels very loved by me, I am always wary of explanations that disempower the individual by assigning causality to someone or something outside oneself. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely do believe that I am a kind and loving man and an extraordinary friend, but it just didn't make sense to me that I alone could be the cause of this wonderful thing in her life. I felt that she had to be doing something to create this relationship for herself as each of us live in a universe fabricated of our own make-believes and their resulting actions. Looking over everything I have learned about my friend during the course of our friendship I searched for the creator in her that was taking action to build a beautiful experience of connection and shared love with me.

Then it hit me - Part of what my friend has shared with me is that she feels she can be more herself with me, without editing, modifying or watering down who she is than with anyone else she knows. I realized that in the context of her relationship with me she had given herself permission to be more herself than anywhere else in her life. Consequently she has shared more of herself more openly than ever before. So it makes sense that we have connected more deeply and completely than in any other relationship she has built for herself. What's more, the sheer unbridled joy of so freely and unreservedly venturing out into the world and luxuriating in the back and forth play of this dance of growing connection and love feels so damn great that I can't conceive of how that wouldn't feel "special".

Following this line of thought, I started thinking about my own life and my own relationships and I realized that this holds true for me. Over the past two years or so I have both formed many new and cherished friendships and significantly overhauled existing relationships with those closest to me. The basis for this flurry of activity was a decision on my part to be as authentic as I can and stop worrying about how others will react or whether they will approve of me or my actions. While I am still only applying this principle to specific areas of my life (in other areas I lie rather frequently and can be breathtakingly inauthentic), in those relationships where I have followed through on my new belief that authenticity is the best way to go I have been repeatedly astounded by the results I got. In those relationships where I have made it a point to be myself no matter what I have formed deeply satisfying and nourishing friendships based primarily on how much I have put into the friendship, not on what the other person has provided. And in those of my pre-existing relationships where I have done this I have seen growth, change and a resurrection of the love that originally made those relationships "special".

So naturally I find this all very exciting. It seems that we have the power within ourselves to create beauty and joy in the way we relate to others if we are willing to muster the courage to really dive in and believe that it's not necessary to hold back, it's always safe to be just exactly who you are. And since we are creating that experience for ourselves, there's no need to wait around hoping that just the right person will come along and befriend us.

So, do you want to give it a try? Who with? When? And, if you can do it a wide variety of people, how many do you think you can handle before you max out? More to the point, what if there is no maximum limit?

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Dishwasher and the Elliptical

"ERR!" The LCD panel on my dishwasher flashed at me accusingly that morning. "ERR! ERR!"

I wasn't completely blind-sided. There had been indicators that our relationship was changing. Lately, she had grown more moody. She knew that I preferred the 93-minute Normal Cycle, and for the past week, she had deliberately defaulted to the 91-minute China/Crystal Cycle. No button I pressed--no matter how tenderly or passionately--could change her mind. A couple of times I had awakened to find her shaking and groaning alone in the kitchen at night. Unable to sleep, she had woken up on her own and was sobbing into her drain.

I remembered happier times. It had been love at first sight. She was a looker--jet black, sleek, extremely quiet, with a hidden control panel, configurable trays, and these special fold-down holders for wine glass stems. We had been together just over a year (translation: 3 months past the expiration of my warranty).

"ERR! ERR! ERR!" Enough already. I pulled the plug. Crap. What to do? The problem was apparently electromagnetic, and outside my repair comfort zone. Visions of my immediate future filled my mind: taking multiple trips home from the office to meet an unqualified repairman (who smelled of cigarettes and bad cologne) who had probably never dealt with this model; having to stay late at the office to make up the time; enduring extended delays while the repair guy ordered the very expensive parts he didn't keep in stock; watching a tall stack of dirty dishes grow steadily in the sink; and frantically trying to plug yet another major leak in my checking account this month. Crap, I said again.

For solace, I walked across the dining room and into the utility room that I use as a make-shift gym. There resided my other love--a gleaming gym-quality elliptical. I flipped on the switch and stepped onto the pedals.

With the first stride, I could tell that something wasn't quite right. At a certain point in the cycle--the same place each time--I would feel a definite catch in the left pedal arm. "Dammit!" I don't know what I had done to displease the God of Large Electrical Appliances, but boy, was he was pissed.

I knelt down next to the machine and pushed on all the joints that I could reach. Nothing. I wanly contemplated the large plastic cover (secured by multiple screws) which enclosed the dark forbidding space the pedal arm disappeared into. I remembered the warning note in the instruction manual about how you were supposed to check the tightness of all bolts after every use, and felt a twinge. They must have really meant it. Maybe there was some play in one of the joints and something had bent.

Whatever it was, this felt like "one of those problems"--the kind that (1) there would be no readily discernible cause for, (2) would get quickly get worse over time, and (3) would destroy my pleasure and motivation in using the elliptical. In addition, there went my current plan for losing the additional 10 pounds I picked up in the past year. I settled back on my heels and shook my head.

And then I saw it: the small piece of twig debris lying on the track for the left support wheel under the pedal arm. Could it be??? I reached down and flicked it off, turned the elliptical back on, and climbed aboard. Sure enough: smooth and easy, like a knife through soft buttah.

As I sweated and panted for the next 20 minutes, I thought about all of the beliefs and judgments I had engaged in that minute or so, and the unpleasant experience I had given myself as a result. What purpose had the bias toward unhappiness in that moment served? If I hadn't been crouched down just the way I was, could jumping to that assumption that this was "a difficult problem" actually have prevented me from finding and seeing the simple solution?

My experience with the dishwasher had definitely greased the rails. Why had I gone to unhappiness over that? Even if it ended up costing me additional money and time and effort, what purpose does the unhappiness serve? Is it a Law of Nature (e.g., Money Lost + Staying Late at Office + Dirty Dishes = Pain x 1000)? A lot of people I know would say that. However, the only thing that was certain about the outcome of the dishwasher was that I was unhappy about it. Everything else was make-believe.

Why do we go there so easily? If we instead chose an optimistic scenario, we would still be living in make-believe. The only that would be certain is that we would be happy in that moment.

As long as we're just makin' stuff up, how would you rather spend your time?

Update 1: I called Electrolux, and they told me I had to hold down the cancel button for 15 seconds. YAY! The dishwasher works! All that angst was unnecessary! What a great lesson!

Update 2 (15 minutes later): The "ERR!" message is back! The dishwasher is still broken! HOW COOL IS THAT?!? I can't wait to meet the really hot-and-interesting repairperson.

Update 3 (24 hours later): My brand spankin' new Roomba doesn't runba! WOOHOO! (It TOTALLY doesn't suck--literally.) Maybe they'll upgrade me for free!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What if........

I was recently reflecting on my thoughts and feelings the week our beautiful, amazing, sensitive, baby boy David was diagnosed with autism. Having been a psychology major in school, I knew what the books said about autism and I was scared. Upon reflection, I realized that I wasn't even sure I knew why I was scared, but fear replaced all my emotions. I remember sitting on my neatly made bed surrounded with pillows crying about the friends I imagined David would never have, the experiences he would miss, the teasing he would endure, and the family memories we would never create. As I think about it now, tears roll softly down my cheeks. They flow in a trickle of kindness and love that I never knew I had inside me for a life I never knew I needed. A flow far different than the wild and jagged stream of water rushing down my face three long years ago. Captured in these tears is a reflection of my journey. A journey that has not only transformed me and my family but one I believe will transform the world.

What if........ What if instead of autism needing a cure, autism IS the cure. The cure for world hunger, war, poverty, global warming, and every other world issue that seems so incredibly challenging to us today. I began to contemplate this possibility the day David started eating again. After seven days of not eating a single bite of food David looked up at me with those big beautiful brown eyes and said "waffle". After the waffle he asked for a hot dog, and then a cookie, and then two apples. Completely oblivious to the fear and concern we had as a result of his 20% bodyweight loss, David ate everything he wanted to, asked for his binkey and blanket, and slept peacefully for the night. The next morning, he was back to his playful, giggly, happy self. He was playing, talking, looking at us, and smiling more than ever, common challenges for a child with autism. After this experience, I thought about the group of parents from around the world that I web chat with who also have children with autism. I remembered that when Robin, another little boy about David's age stopped eating, the webposts were full of love and encouragement from other parents who had similar experiences. I began to imagine that all these well nourished children in the world were trying to show us that they have more than they need and that they would love to share to their nourishment with the world. Finally, the cure for world hunger!

For anyone who has spent quality time with a child with autism, you know the many gifts they bring to this world. Those of you familiar with the autism treatment program I run with my sun, understand the idea of joining these special children in their unique worlds to lead them back to ours. Here is a new thought to consider... "Join the world of a special child, learn all that they have to teach you from their world, and then together, come back to our world and apply your learnings." Through my journey, I have decided to believe that autism was specially designed by the universe to save us from destroying our world in the ways we have been for decades. If we really learn from children with autism and apply those learnings, we would very quickly change the world! Here is what I have learned so far from David:

1. Expectations created for someone are useless if they have not created them for themselves.
2. The more you try to control, the less control you have.
3. Differences foster learning, sameness stops it.
4. We have infinite potential when we do what we love.
5. If I only take what I need, there is plenty for everyone else.
6. What you judge in others is what you fear in yourself.
7. There is no collective reality.
8. What you do today impacts tomorrow but it doesn't define it.

If you haven't been blessed with the gift of a special child in your life, find one and learn from them. Our world depends on it! All my love, Kathy

"Stepping Out ....of your Comfort Zone"

Hi All!

I am excited to be posting again. I'm thrilled to be a part of this blog and have been enjoying reading the posts and comments. Through this blog, I feel a great sense of community between us. We are family by choice because we share such awareness and a desire to explore ourselves and look at life and our experiences from all sorts of angles! Yee haa, what fun! A big thank you to Iris for creating this and for everyone's thought provoking posts.

I want to write and explore about the phrase "stepping out of your comfort zone". What does this mean to you?

This phrase implies that we have an area or space that we are comfortable operating from and that we can, by choice, actively move OUT of this space. Does doing so necessarily mean we move into a place of DIScomfort? Must it be uncomfortable to step out of our comfort zone? If so, why do we set it up this way?

First of all, why would a person want to step out of his or her comfort zone anyway?

I think it has a lot to do with: MOTIVATION! In many ways through out my autism treatment training, I stepped out of my comfort zone because I was highly motivated to do so! My "comfort" zone in actuality wasn't all that comfortable! It was familiar but also restricting. I wanted more room for myself and I was greatly inspired to help and learn from people with autism.

A big part of my training was uncovering the many layers of my judgment that being uncomfortable is bad. I continue to come to deeper levels of understanding as I explore the topic of discomfort further. During training, especially in the beginning, I didn't feel that it was OK to be uncomfortable. Not wanting to do the unmentionable and get uncomfortable in the playroom, I avoided doing things that I got uncomfortable about and during feedback, I often thought "I should be over this issue by now" and so I was not very forthcoming.

Because our culture puts such an emphasis on judging discomfort (how many of us were told: "Don't cry, you'll be fine" or "Stop crying you big baby!"), I think it is very important for people to be given space and permission to be uncomfortable. I just realize now how much I wanted to feel safe feeling whatever I felt versus being asked why. Being asked why got me intellectualizing which further blocked my feelings that were already blocked because I was judging them. I simply wanted a safe place to feel uncomfortable.

When I experienced this space and acceptance (from myself and therefore felt it from the teachers) training was so much easier. When someone shares a discomfort with me, I feel honored, I celebrate them, and take time to embrace their feelings!

Going back to the question: Must it be uncomfortable to step out of our comfort zone?"

I'm deciding no, it doesn't have to be and it isn't even meant to be. Nature and young children don't seem to operate from the "no pain, no gain" paradigm. I don't think a tiny plant struggles with discomfort as it emerges from the dirt, or a baby gets uncomfortable as it learns to sit up or crawl.

The experience of discomfort is resistance to the ease of our natural unfolding and growing. Like trying to pull apart the petals of a flower or trying to hold them shut. Discomfort is a sign that says "Let go". When I get uncomfortable, I am most likely pushing myself, or "shoulding" myself rather than acting from a place of genuine and inspired wanting.

I see that stepping out of my comfort zone is more accurately simply stepping into a new stage of myself or into a new way of experiencing the world which doesn't necessarily involve discomfort. For so long my "comfort" zone was all about struggling because that what was most familiar to me. Now I've eagerly stepped out of struggle and into ease without effort and from this place of ease I will continue to grow my comfort zone rather than step out of it!

Thank you!