Sunday, May 31, 2009

This article is powerful and important.

My mind is going in so many directions today. There is so much to explore, to discuss and to look at. There is so much happening in any moment, so much to be grateful for, so much to explore, so much to share! Thousands of possibilities in any moment. I feel blessed and exited to be able to share with you today.

I'm writing this article in the local coffee shop called Fuel in Great Barrington. Just a minute ago my friend Peter said hi to me. I told him that I was in the middle of writing this article. He responded: "maybe some day I will write a blog! I have thought about it, but it seems I do not have anything important to say". Hmmm…. I have heard this belief a lot lately from different people. And it is an interesting concept to me.

When you spend time in public places regularly, you hear lots of different conversations. In most conversations people seem very well able to verbalize their opinions. They tell clearly why the latest decision made by president Obama is the best or worst solution ever. They are clear on what makes this website suck and what makes that website great. They are clear why this restaurant (decent prices, big plates of food) is so much better than that other restaurant (small portions, awful service). They will tell you that the person on the table in the corner is smart, and that the person walking through the door is the village fool.

As soon as you ask people to write down the things they normally think and share, they go numb. They do not have anything "important" to share. I think this is so intriguing! What does important mean in the first place? Why seems the written word to be so powerful that it has to be important before it can be written down? When is something important enough that we can write about it? Who decides that?

I feel I can reflect about this and play with the material above for a long time to come. But for now I will share some of my beliefs I hold in this moment:

I believe that fear for consequences keep people from writing. If it is written down or recorded, other people who do not agree, might come back to it and start a discussion about what was written or said. People might decide that the writer is stupid, an idiot, has no principles, or anything else not flattering. Those people may not want to be their friends anymore, or might say bad ugly things about them.

I do not deny that this can happen. I do believe that there could be people out there who are reading this article right now and who might think exactly these things written above about me. And there could be consequences because of that. But I believe that this is only one side of the picture. Another side is that I present myself who I am today in a way as pure as possible. I am changing my beliefs every moment and I’m constantly growing and developing. I believe that sharing this I am touching and inspiring people with my thoughts right now. And while some people might decide they do not like what is happening I am embracing and supporting my other readers and helping them to develop their own thoughts and feelings. Isn’t this exciting!

So, in the end I believe it is all about what we as a writer make important and powerful and where we focus on. I encourage you to find the writer in you and to share what you believe is important and powerful. What is it that you focus on today?

Have a powerful Sunday!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not Judging is Stupid

So, if you're laughing now after reading the title, this should be easy. If not, well...

Over the past months I've been amazed at the number of people I've talked with who have said that they are no longer going to judge anyone, anything, or any situation. My impression has been that they were doing so because they hold the belief that "judging is bad".

Of course, the whole premise is a bit flawed. First of all, we judge pretty much all the time. We judge certain experiences as wonderful. We judge our children as amazing gifts from God or the universe. We judge the outcome of some elections as great for the country. We judge the word intelligent as good.

And of course, we also judge other things negatively. We judge some experiences as terrible. We judge some children as difficult. We judge the word stupid as bad.

Basically, judgment is an integral part of of who we are.

So, what's the issue with judgment? I think that the issue with judgment is that judgment is powerful. It affects our perception of the world. It affects how we feel. It affects who we are and who we are becoming.

When we judge something as bad for us, we start experiencing it as bad for us. We actually start to feel, well, bad. If we judge someone as bad for us, we start to look for evidence of them doing things that are working against us or undermining us or lying to us.

Judgment is powerful.

Given this, what do we do with judgment? I believe that the key is not eliminating judgment. The key is becoming aware of and intimate with our judgments.

In general, we have our judgments for good reason. Our judgments are a way of taking care of ourselves. For example, if I am a parent who is concerned about my child spending time with another child who may be doing drugs, I may judge the other child as a negative influence, as bad, as evil. I do this as a way of protecting my child. The judgment fuels my motivation and causes me to act in bigger and stronger ways.

On the flip side, if I judge a promotion at work to be good for me, I motivate myself to work longer hours, to work harder and to do things that will lead to the promotion, even at the expense of other things.

So, judgment is a powerful tool. And, as is the case with powerful tools, the key is not to avoid judgment, but instead, to become familiar with it, why I'm using it and how it works. By doing this, I become the master of my judgments. I can learn to choose the tool that is best for the job at hand.

So, why is not judging stupid? When I judge judging, I start to dismiss cases of judging as not judging. Rather than embracing my judgments and understanding them, I avoid them and fail to see them.

So, here's my challenge. First, list five judgments that you have that you've been avoiding or dismissing (come one, you know you have them). Second, now that you have the list, look at each of them and see how they're serving you, i.e, look at the reasons for your judgments. Third, now that you see the reasons, what do you think? Do you want to keep the judgments? Do you want to modify them? Do you want to discard them?

Have an awesome (awesome is a judgment) weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deciding not to decide...

Today I have decided to free myself from judgements about decision making. You see, I have a bit of a reputation for being indecisive. Everyone important in my life has their own perspective as to why I am indecisive. One of my personal favorites is that I hesitate in making decisions out of fear of "getting it wrong". There is definitely some truth to this as I really like to be right. Another perspective is that I am a "free spirit" and like to keep my options open. This is also true as I enjoy the flexibility of the moment and the freedom to do different things at different times. Others call me a procrastinator. This is also true as I have always enjoyed the intensity of time to ignite a fire within me. I am a smart, free spirit, procrastinator who relishes in the joys of possibility! I really like these qualities about myself. So why have I been judging myself about these qualities I love?

Why do we judge ourselves about things we actually like about ourselves? This has proven to be a very insightful question for me. As I continue to reflect on who I am and who I want to be, I realize more and more that I make lots of decisions based on what I believe others will approve of verses what I really want. It is this internal conflict about what I want and what I think others will want that actually stalls my decision making. The decision itself is not my challenge, it is caring what other people think of my decision that seems to be the issue.

Do we ever really know what most people think? What percentage of the people that we interact with throughout our lives are truly authentic? How much of our decision making is based on something we made up about how others will think or feel?

Up until today, I have been trying to find a way to improve my speed of decision making. Ironically, I couldn't decide how best to do it. Now I know, trust myself first and the decisions will come.

Love to all,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


So, I've been talking with my friend Ben today about himself, his life and his breakup with his girlfriend Wendy (the breakup initiated by Wendy).

As we've been talking, it's become clear that a potential root cause of the breakup may have been Ben making pretty much everything about, well... Ben. By making all things about himself, Ben has effectively lost the ability to be curious about or interested in other people. The breakup with Wendy has been a bit of a wake-up call. But even that is still, well, all about Ben and wanting to get back with Wendy.

So, as we were talked we ran into the truism that there's no such thing as an unselfish act. You know, even when I'm doing things for other people, I'm still always doing them for my own reasons, e.g., my sense of satisfaction of having helped someone, my need to be accepted, my feeling good about who I am, and so on.

As we talked about this, it occurred to me that, the concept of everything I do is really based on my motivations and not the motivations of others is a bit academic once you get it. It's useful to understand the concept as it lets me avoid the pitfalls of deciding that I did something for someone else, but beyond that it might be more useful to understand the finer nuances of my selfishness.

For example, I can be authentically selfish (i.e., my stated motivations are exactly my unstated motivations) or in-authentically selfish (i.e., my stated motivations have little to do with my unstated motivations). I can be selfishly motivated by my sense of satisfaction in having helped someone, or, selfishly motivated by the sense of indebtedness that is incumbent upon the people whom I've helped. I can be selfishly motivated to help someone because helping them indirectly helps me accomplish a broader set of goals (e.g., donating to the school that my child attends because it will indirectly help my child), or selfishly motivated simply because I want the immediate benefit to occur (e.g., taking a meal to someone simply because they're hungry).

The list could go on and on, but the main thing is this: since everything we do is selfishly motivated, pointing something out as selfish or not is kind of intellectually masturbatory. What's more useful is understanding the nature of the selfishness, not the fact of selfishness.

So... as Ben and I talked, we came to the conclusion that our understanding of these things is based on our experiences of unselfish acts. Ben recalled walking into Grand Central Station and seeing a woman sitting next to the station, her knees hugged tightly to her chest. He remembers running back up to talk with her and see if he could help. For him, this experience felt fundamentally different than other acts of unselfishness.

As we talked, we came to the conclusion that there are some acts of selfishness based on just feeling good about having helped someone, and others in which we have ulterior motives (e.g., being accepted by the person, being held in high regard, expectations of repayment or indebtedness, garnering favor, and so on). So, we decided that, the I feel good even if no one else knows about it types of motivation are fundamentally different than the other ones.

All that said, in order to help Ben become more adept at the former, we came up with a little exercise: every day, I will help five people in a manner where the only reward is the satisfaction of having helped them (and perhaps inadvertently from their thanking you). For example, I might leave a parking spot because I see someone else looking for a parking spot. I might double my tip at a restaurant I never plan to visit again. I might pick up trash as I walk down the street and deposit it in the nearest waste basket.

Why is this useful? Ultimately, it may not be. But, my thought is that the simple rudiment of helping five people a day independent of return could dramatically increase one's awareness of people. It could lead to greater curiosity and genuine interest. It could change pretty much everything.

So, what do you think?

Sensory Integration and level of arousal/alertness

Imagine you have a headache and you are exhausted, or irritated. Imagine how that would impact your ability to engage with other people. In similar ways as how you are limited by your physiology imagined, children with autism who's sensory processing is compromised find it difficult to play games or engage with people until they feel a sense of comfort and ease in their own skin. All of their energy is used to regulate their body in order to just survive their environment. Since their level of arousal/alertness is in a state of imbalance, all their energy is used specifically to regain that level of balance, which leaves them unavailable to pay attention to anything other then themselves. Because of this very reason when I play with an autistic child or any child with special needs, I am first and foremost paying attention to their level of arousal.

To be able to determine your child's level of arousal all you have to do is to observe your child's behavior. I have noticed from my experience that most children with autism display a high level of arousal. This means that they are engaging in rhythmical, predictable and repetitious activities (e.g. jumping up and down, running in a circle over an over, flapping hands, making the same sounds, rocking back and forth over and over again, lining up cars, etc.). Sometimes the activity might not look like it is repetitious but if you look closely you will begin to notice that your child has put together several activities and that he/she is repeating the same sequence over and over in a very methodical manner.

Below you will find some techniques/ activities you can do to help your child achieve a state of balance when in a high state of arousal.
*These activities are only to be done if the child is open to them. A good technique to use to help a child be more receptive to these activities is to explain what you are about to do and then model it on your self or the child's favorite toy.

1. Massage
a. Deep pressure massage on hands and feet preferably with lotion.
b. Apply firm pressure with your fingers around the jaw line, which lead to the back of the ears, as well as a firm head message if possible.
2. Snuggling in a bean bag, large pillows, sleeping bag
3. Giving firm hugs to your child
4. Finger hugs and tugs
5. Wrapping your child in a blanket
6. Putting heavy object on the child (e.g. your body, weighted blankets)
7. Encourage your child to suck on a straw (e.g. preferably a "crazy straw" it has many loops)
8. Create a corner or a small space where your child can climb, hide
9. Quiet music (white noise music, earthy drum music, chanting music)
10. Reduce lighting in the room
11. Provide a vibration pillow
12. Provide the opportunity to engage in rhythmical, predictable movement such as rocking slowly back and fort, swinging slowly back and forth, rolling slowly on the floor, pushing or pulling with resistance.

The behavior that you might notice when the child is in a low state of arousal is lots of lying on the floor without movement (be careful with making conclusions too abruptly because this might be a child who is so overly aroused that moving might be too overwhelming). It can also be that the activities the child does look very unpredictable, erratic, irhythmical (e.g. a child may suddenly smash into a wall, climb on a ladder, run, lye down, then jump).

Here are some activities you can do when your child is in a low state of arousal.

1. Turning up the lights
2. Fresh cool air
3. Fast swinging
4. Spinning
5. Drink cold/iced water
6. Sitting on an unstable surface (ball, air cushion)
7. Loud fast music
8. Startle-sudden noise
9. Visually stimulation rooms (e.g. lots of bright colors, moving objects)

Some children may fluctuate from a high to a low state of arousal. So the best thing to do is pay real close attention to your child's behavior in the present moment and then do the activity that you think might best help him organize and find a state of balance. I invite you to experiment because sometimes, especially initially, you might not be able to identify the specific state your child is in so just try something and then observe what happens. Allow your self to experiment without placing any judgment on what you are doing. There is really no recipe. We are always experimenting and staying with the present moment.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Feedback and The Dialogue

As many of you know: I help in autism treatment programs of two wonderful children. I believe I make a huge difference in their lives by volunteering in their programs. And they make a huge difference in my life by volunteering their time playing with me! I have seen myself change in so many ways since I started these programs. I'm not even sure whether the program is more beneficial for the children or for us, the volunteers, parents, professionals and everyone else involved!

One of the tools used to train volunteers called feedback. Someone observes you for fifteen minutes in the playroom and then someone else takes over your place in the playroom while you receive questions, observations, input and guidance. Personally, I LOVE to receive feedback. The feedback related to the  playroom helps me  to be constantly improve my skills in the playroom.

Let me see if I can explain you what I mean:
  1. During the feedback we build on the belief that, if we make changes to our beliefs and ourselves, things outside of us will respond differently to us. We can change our relationships with family, friends, bosses, children etc. by changing ourselves and not trying to change them.

  2. In the attitudinal sessions I do I always starts with the question: what do you want to explore? This allows the explorer (the person who is going to do the belief digging) to pick any subject he or she wants to look at. From this first general question, we work towards greater and greater specificity. As we progress, we start to look at the feelings and beliefs involved. We work in the context of specific situations, because specificity helps us to more vividly recall our feelings and thoughts.

    The feedback starts immediately with: "How did you feel in the playroom"? or "How do you believe you did"? We are already in a specific situation and so we go directly into the feelings and beliefs involved.

  3. Both mentors and the feedback observers work with a loving, nonjudgmental and accepting attitude while exploring the feelings and beliefs involved. In my opinion, this is the most amazing experience and I wouldn't want anyone to miss.

  4. One big difference between the dialogue session and the feedback session is the one where the word feedback probably comes from! In a feedback session, the observer will explain why certain things you do are not as effective as others and sell you new beliefs that would be more helpful in the playroom. In a dialogue we do not do this; we believe that the explorer is the expert and not the observer or mentor.
This week's feedback gave me many new insights. Let me share a couple:

I used to believe that I was the one who decided when we'd had enough. I made up that the child seemed too tired or that the child seemed withdrawn or that the child seemed uninterested in our activity. I changed that belief to: the child will show me when we've had enough.

Here's another one: I used to believe that making the tower for the three-hundredth time was not as exciting as the first time. After realizing that this is not helpful, I now believe that it is more exciting every time. You cannot imagine how much more fun I have had building towers and doing other repetitive activities since changing this belief. Ahhh, I love it!

Finally, I have found a way to deal with my frustrations around no one understanding my Dutch humor and jokes! I now know there is someone who really understands and likes my jokes. He can fold himself double with laughter because of me. So I have changed my view of me not being able to make jokes: they are great. If you don't understand them, I recommend that you spend some time volunteering in a playroom and learn what humor is all about!

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Weekly Focus - Relationships (6)

Relationship with yourself

How do you see yourself? How often do you take time for yourself? How important are you in your life? Are you checking in with yourself about what you want, or are you checking in with people around you about the best choices for you? Do you know what you want out of life? How do you consult yourself? How do you support yourself? How do you empower yourself? Ever thought about doing dialogues to help you create a deep loving relationship with you?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Defining Moments

There's this really nice movie with Kevin Costner and Rene Russo called "Tin Cup" which is ostensibly about golf, but actually about something else...

My favorite line from the movie is said by the main character, Roy McAvoy, an almost-was golf pro who is now teaching pretty much anyone, golf.

I'm not going to fill in the whole movie for you, but at one point Roy says, "I hit it again because that shot was a defining moment, and when a defining moment comes along, you define the moment... or the moment defines you."

You'll just have to watch the movie to get the context, but for me, this line has had profound consequences in my life. Since then, time after time, I've encountered really challenging situations, and the simple awareness of the moment defining me, or me defining the moment, has lead to wonderful results.

For example, not all that long ago, I received a call from the hospital that my mom had had a stroke. It was just prior Thanksgiving and we'd been planning to have all the family together at our house near Boston. My brother and sister and there families, as well as my mom and dad all lived near each other in New Jersey. They were all planning to come to Boston to be with me, Rene and the kids.

So, I got in the car and drove from Boston to New Jersey.

At the time, I was the CEO of an Internet start-up that I'd founded. It wasn't the greatest time for Internet start-up companies and I had a lot on my mind. When I got to New Jersey, I found myself in the most interesting situation.

First of all, it was all a bit befuddling for my family that it was my mom who was in the hospital and not my dad. She was 70 years old, but was still teaching aerobics classes. She'd lived most of her adult life eating organic foods, whole grains, low fat, etc. As a little kid in the 60's I desperately and unsuccessfully would try to trade my vegetarian meatloaf sandwich on sprouted wheat bread for nearly anything else that someone had for lunch (but that's another story).

Meanwhile, my dad had a favorite pastime of buying a bottle of vodka at the liquor store and seeing if he could consume it on the way home before anyone found out.

So... I arrive in New Jersey to find my dad under house arrest (so to speak), my mom in the hospital, and everyone else a bit out of sorts.

I can remember driving to the hospital to visit my mom with my dad in the passenger's seat. He had recently returned from one of his liquor store outings and wasn't quite recovered. While driving, I was on the phone with a reporter for one of the networking magazines conducting an interview about my company.

We pulled up to a stop light that happened to be in front of a liquor store parking lot. As I spoke with the reporter, I noticed my dad making his move to exit the car and run towards the liquor store. I can viscerally remember, grabbing dad by the shoulder of his coat while pressing on the accelerator to shut the door while steering with my knees while maintaining the conversation with the reporter as I forged onward to the hospital.

For me, this was a defining moment. There was part of me that just wanted to run away... to duck the situation... to get the hell out of there. But, the simple realization that it was a choice whether the moment defined me or I defined the moment changed everything. I decided, bring it on!

I ended up getting my dad into alcohol detox at the psychiatric ward of the same hospital where my mom was. I was able to escort him to and from my mom's room for visits. My daughter Joy and I visited my mom with my guitar and we all sang together. It was all a really special time that I remember positively (though I imagine many of those around me remember it differently).

In the end, it turned out that my mom's stroke was the result of advanced pancreatic cancer. She died before Christmas. It all happened quite quickly, unexpectedly and so on. For everyone else, it was a very sad and (I believe) defining experience.

For me, I think it was also defining, but not in the same way. I feel really, really good about the whole thing. I found the challenges to be empowering and the time with my mom to be rich and loving.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the experience itself. It's all about what we do with the experience.

Lately, I've run into many people who seem to be stuck in one past experience or another. In some cases, they seem unable to move on because of that experience. In essence, that experience has defined them, who they are, what their potential is, and so on. They don't seem to exist outside the experience. When you talk about their future, they seem unable to consider it without also considering their past.

Seeing all these people has caused me to look back to Tin Cup, my mom's death and the whole concept of defining moments.

So, are you someone who has been defined by the defining moments of your life? If so, what are they? Is it time to start being the definer rather than the definee? Or, are you someone who has learned the cosmic jujitsu that transforms defining moments into a moments defined? I would love to hear about how you've done it.

Have a wonderfully defining day!

Weekly Focus - Relationships (5)

Relationship to the world

How do you see yourself in relationship to the world? Are you impacting the world or is the world impacting you? Do you believe you make a difference in the world? How does that look like? Do you believe you could be doing more to impact the world? What is that and why are you not doing it? How are you supporting yourself to develop the skills needed to expand your relationship with the world, your family, your friends, and yourself?

Friday, May 22, 2009

I was wrong -- Hurray!!

I was behind the wheel of my car the other day (as I often am) and was thinking about what the topic of this blog could be. I had just been thinking about how my life had been going lately and marveling at how much better things were going than I would ever have predicted. As I had tried to figure out what I thought was the single biggest contributor to that change I realized that I used to work on the assumption that I was fairly powerless to affect the flow of events in my life. I had felt that the best I could do was to try to react to what was happening around me and deal with the wants, desires and demands of those around me and in my life. It had never seemed feasible to insert my own wishes into the flow of events since I was convinced that no one would listen to me anyway and I was not a strong enough force in the world to shape my own experiences. As many of us do, I had proceeded from that belief to collect evidence that I was perceiving the world correctly by focusing in on every time I had tried in the past to get something I wanted and wound up not getting it. It really had never even occurred to me to assess my batting average by including those times when I did get what I had asked or tried for, I just jumped on the failures each time and said to myself "See, things just don't work out for me, why try?"

Then one day, about a year ago, I decided to try something different. What if I were to act out of the opposite belief and behave in my life as if my input not only matters but actually shapes the unfolding of my life's experience as it happens around me? What if it was actually worthwhile to speak up when I want something and ask for it out loud? What if I could actually get what I don't like to stop happening, even just sometimes, by telling the world around me that I don't want that as if someone, anyone were listening and might decide to accommodate my request?

So I did. And I learned two things. One is that it turns out I was wrong. It actually does work to approach life as an interactive experience, not just a spectator sport. I actually can take the initiative in setting the direction of my life and have a positive effect on people and events that I am involved in. While this epiphany alone was a huge bonus that i derived from my experiment, my second learning was much larger. I learned that it wasn't important for me to know for sure that my new belief would work in order for it to work! I actually started while pretty much convinced that this experiment would be a wipe out. But I was committed to looking at the results of my choice objectively and giving myself some time to collect impressions from what happened before I tried to draw any conclusions from this experiment. The results I got were nothing short of miraculous (particularly as compared to my expectations). It seems I was wrong on two counts, for all I needed to create the change in my life that I was looking for was to believe in and decide to hold open the mere possibility that my new course of action might work out. Certainty is nice, of course, but optional. Well, that certainly lowers the price of admission to effecting real change in my life and suddenly makes change seem much more reachable!

As I was developing the ideas for this blog in my head I came upon a third important learning. This particular experiment in change stared with me challenging what I thought I knew to be right and allowing for the possibility that a belief I had built for myself over the years was simply wrong. Had I not been able to entertain the thought that I might be wrong, I never would have tried something else. While I have spent much of my life playing it safe for fear of being "wrong", I see now that "being wrong" is one of life's greatest opportunities, and without that much less learning would take place. So I not only want to celebrate myself for finding a new belief that works better fro me than its predecessor, I want to celebrate here my willingness to let go of who I was so that my arms were free to embrace who I want to be.

Love to all of you, always.

Author's note: I want to express here my gratitude to Iris for this blog. I have in my life been a chronic procrastinator. I had promised Iris that I would post this blog about 48 hours ago and I left off writing it to the very last minute and beyond. I was tired when I got home late tonight and entertained thoughts of putting it off for another day, but I thought of Iris and how much I love her and how much I want to support her efforts to have this blog be a reliable and useful place for us to gather and enrich ourselves with the fruit of each other's lives. While I would normally have motivated myself to meet my deadline by feeling bad about screwing up and not keeping my promise to myself and to my friend, I found myself this time sitting down to the keyboard fueled by the warmth of the love I have for Iris and the love I feel from her to me. Thank you Iris for inviting me to participate here and providing me with a place to show up and a chance to show up there out of love.

Weekly Focus - Relationships (4)

Relationships with your community

How many people do you know in your local, daily community? How many of your friends, family and colleagues are part of this community? What beliefs brought to you by the community do you hold high. Why? Which beliefs brought forwards by the community do you not buy? Why not? How integrated are you in your community? Is this important for you? Why? What has a community to offer you? What have you to offer to your community?

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Written by Julie Sando

My biggest learning this year is that with compassion, there are no challenges. If we have compassion for ourselves and others, we will not find adversity. I have found that when I tell myself "I would never..." I am soon presented with a situation that helps me see how "I would..."

An example: when I was in Jr. High gym class learning about self defense, I can remember thinking if someone were to attack me, I would grab, twist and pull, then run away as fast as I could screaming. I would never let a stranger come near me if I had any control over the situation. BINGO... we have an "I would never". What happened? I was home alone and there was a knock on the door. It was two burly men, with beards and flannel shirts, whispering "Let me in," while we stared at each other through the glass window on the door. My first thoughts from gym class were right there…there is no way I am going to let these strangers near me. Don't open the door! I said no. They flashed a badge and had an urgent tone in their voices, urging me to let them in. The fear set in and I have no clear reason why I opened that door. They rushed in and ran past me. My next thought was to run to a neighbor's house as fast as I could and scream so that the neighbors could hear me. Again, my fear took over and the fastest I could go was slower than my regular walking speed. I opened my mouth and no sound came out even though I was trying to scream. I responded completely differently than I ever imagined.

(If you are curious about what happened, the two burley men were undercover cops responding to a mother who had secretly reported her adult son for doing drugs in her house. They were supposed to walk in and catch him in the act. They got the address wrong.)

From that day on I understood how fear affected my ability to act rationally. I knew I would never judge anyone for being stupid in a fearful situation.

If each person focused on having just 20% more compassion in their day, I believe there would be less car accidents, less murders, and less stress in general.

What is the last thing you got angry or felt disappointed about? How can you add just 20% more compassion to that situation? It is simple, by seeking to understand ourselves and others, we immediately become more compassionate. Try on your non-judgmental attitude and ask the other person why until you understand that they are doing the best they can with the experiences they have had. Or if you think "I would never..." about a particular subject, seek to understand yourself by asking yourself why. Is it because you believe something is wrong or bad? That is the place you can insert some compassion. As we will never know how we'd respond until we are in the situation ourselves.

Imagine how different your life could be if you felt compassion toward everyone you encountered.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quick Update

Lee Tuomenoksa's operation went very well and Lee is now in the recovery phase. I want to thank you all for the support so far and hope you will continue sending healing energy to make his recovery as easy and painless as possible during the next weeks.

With love,

Iris and Mark

Weekly Focus - Relationships (3)

Relationships at work

Are you at work a different person than you are outside of work? Do you treat the people at work different than your family or friends? Why? How do you relate with the people you work with? Who are your favorite colleagues? Who are the less favorite ones? Why? What do you share about yourself at work? What are things you do not share at work? How authentic are you at work?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weekly Focus - Relationships (2)

Relationships with friends

What kind of friends do you have? Do you have an authentic relationship with them or are you holding back information? Which are you favorite friends? Why? Do you have friends you have issues with? What kind of issues? What do you like to do with your friends? How do you know they are interested in the same things? Is there a difference in how you have relationships with your friends compared to your family? If so, how come? Are you able to express your feelings and thoughts openly? How do you feel about that?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Send love, and good health his way

My father in law is going into the hospital monday May 18th, 2009 for removal of a small cancerous growth. The doctors expect an easy operation and good recovery. His operation is Tuesday morning and I would like to ask you to take this moment to send him love and good health and strength to help him get through this challenge.

As a thank you for sending him love and good health I want to share the email that he sent me today. The email touched me. He sent me a text he wrote following an article with specific questions which he received from a friend. He wants this text to be used for his obituary. After reading it I called Lee and told him that I was touched and that I love him. I also told him that I believe he will recover from the operation, and that I want to use his text not as an obituary but as a blog article that shows him where he is right now. I hope that the future will bring many updates on the text he emailed me:

Lee Tuomenoksa

Lee was born in Helsinki (1928). He served in the Finnish army at age of 15. He then completed high school in Finland and immigrated to United States in 1947, not being able to speak English. (In high school they taught him German, Swedish and Russian). He graduated from WPI, MIT and Columbia. He married Betty Logan (a SC girl) in 1955 and has three children, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren (so far). He worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories for 35 years and eventually became vice president and officer of the old ATT. He currently resides at Richmond Place, a retirement community in Lexington, Kentucky.

And the rest: Was a bridge and chess player (hates to loose). Hobbies now include photography, reading, computers and traveling with a friend.

Favorite Food: Lobster. His favorite desert is Tiramisu. Specially when made himself.

Most recent Discovery: That I'm 80 and not yet dead.

Always in your fridge: Cheese

What sort of garden you fantasize about: Rose garden. I had 350 T roses (not now).

Obsession: Staying alive until I am dead.

Center stage or watching from the wings: Center stage but only when I think can contribute.

Great escape: Kawaii

What are you most proud of?: my family, every one of them. Getting to be a VP in AT&T, First selling the idea and then directing the development of the first digital switching system on time exceeding it objectives, being part of getting ORB started; becoming a fellow of IEEE and being a recovering alcoholic. Being a Finnish National. These are blessings, not really something to be proud of.

At age seven what did you want to be?: Electrical Engineer.

The favorite trend of all time: Patience, understanding and wisdom. (So I hope)

Last supper: Does not matter. But if I had to choose it would be at James Beard House in NYC, or better still, a fish camp in SC.

If you were an inventor what would you like to invent: Understanding how brain controls the body.

Most treasured possession: None

What antique or piece of art you would like to pocess?: Antiques: none; art: Mona Lisa.

I have wanted to learn?: Lately it has been to know God.

What moments in your life you wish would last forever: Marriage to Betty (Betty passed away after 46 years of marriage in 2001); Relationship to Bridget (from 2003)

Something that has been in your mind lately: My family; that I been blessed much and have much to be thankful for.

Sunrise or Sunset or Sunrise: Sunrise, walking on a fallow beach with a friend.

Weekly Focus - Relationships (1)

Relationships with your family

How you do relationships is a very personal business. We all have our own perspectives on what works or doesn't work for us in our relationships. If there are lots of overlapping beliefs in our relationships, most of us seem more gravitated towards hanging out together then when the beliefs are very different from each other. Growing up in one family does not mean that all family members have the same beliefs and perspectives. When people know and accept these differences, and they connect with each other from a loving, open and non-judgmental place, beautiful relationships can exist.

Sometimes we make relationships harder than that. We want someone to be a certain way or want him or her to act a certain way. I believe it is important to know what you want to give and to get from the different relationships with all your family members. I believe it is also important to look at your beliefs so you can see how they influence your relationships.

So, how do you interact with your different family members? Who do you believe hold many of the same beliefs you have? Who seems to think very different than you? Are you able to accept the differences, and connect with each other from a loving, open and non-judgmental place? What are the beliefs you hold that keep you from being in this loving, open and non-judgmental place with al your family members?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What do you invite into your life?

On Friday evening, I asked Mark, "what's on your schedule for tomorrow?" (A question I ask regularly so we are up to date about each other's appointments and the things we want to get done the next day.)

Mark answered, "I want to have a day of nothing planned".

"Cool", I responded.

I had nothing planned either and was looking forward to a day of going with the flow.

So, Saturday morning I woke up and walked downstairs to find Mark puttering around the basement. It turned out that our tankless hot water heater had given up on us. We love the little machine when it works (it's saved us a lot of money and has an unlimited supply of hot water), but it has left us in the cold a lot lately and we were ready to take it out and go back to an old-fashioned water heater with a tank.

Without having breakfast or coffee, we drove to the hardware store to see what they had available. We called a friend to ask if he could help us install a new heater. We got information about the number of gallons of water that different systems can produce in an hour. We discovered that the old-fashioned water heaters have similar challenges to our little modern machine (we have lots of minerals in our well water) and we learned all about water filters.

The more we learned, the more we realized that our little machine is really great. It just had to be repaired and we needed to install a filter. So I googled some instruction manuals and we started to figure out what to do. We ended up taking the machine completely apart, treating the elements with hot water and vinegar, driving to the store three times to pick up little tools and materials, and now, at 7PM, we have HOT water! Hoorah!

So, why am I telling you this story? Because I wanted us to consider the things that we invite into our lives! I'm not sure that "I want to have a day of nothing planned" created this situation, but we did get what we talked about the previous evening (even though fixing the water heater was not exactly what we had in mind).

So, what do we invite into our lives? If we fear something, are we inviting what we fear into our lives? If we focus on living love, do we create love? If we are happy and exited, do we invite things in our lives that are happy and exciting?

I created this blog with the intention of exploring questions like this and helping us all find answers and empowerment. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. If you reflect on the things in your life, do you see ways that you invited them into your life? What are the things that you're inviting into your life today?

Have an inspired Sunday everyone!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What Are You Afraid Of?

What are you afraid of? Is it the loss of a job? Is it being left or cheated on by your partner? Is it cancer or heart disease? Is it money? Perhaps it's the welfare of your child or children? No doubt, most of us have experienced at least one of if not all of these fears. And, invariably, we respond by either doing everything we can think of to avoid the fears becoming a reality, or, by doing everything we can to avoid thinking about them.

In other words, we're OK when we either convince ourselves that whatever we fear isn't going to happen or we get what we fear out of our minds. The problem with these two approaches is that, well... they don't work, or at least not for long.

No matter how much we do to convince ourselves that what we fear won't happen, doubts always creep back in. For example, if we fear cancer, we might get a screening to ease our minds, which works for a while, but... If we fear the loss of our job, we might begin to work harder or talk ourselves up with management or seek reassurances from the boss, but any relief is only temporary. If we fear our partner leaving us, we might start watching what they do or checking up on them when they're away or confronting them whenever doubt or jealousy enter into the picture, but none of these approaches seem to really help.

So, the question is, "what's a sustainable approach to dealing with our fears?" The answer occurred to me when my friend Paul was asking me questions about things that I fear. In this case, my fear was focused on not being enough or good enough. I always believed that there was more that I could do in any situation and I would run myself ragged trying to do enough or be good enough.

Paul and I pursued several lines of what it meant for me to be not good enough: not good enough in my work, not good enough for my parents, not good enough for my family, and so on. I built it so big that I finally said, "for me, it would amount to simply being worthless."

At that point Paul asked this great question, "How would you feel if tomorrow morning you woke up and you were worthless? Completely and utterly worthless?"

As I considered the question, the answer was really surprising: I'd feel great! If I woke up tomorrow morning and I were to find myself completely worthless, I would feel completely free of expectations, unencumbered by commitments, and on and on and on...

Since then, I've concluded that the best way to deal with fear is to simply face it straight on and know that I'll be OK. Not just OK, I'll be great. Starting with the premise that I'll be OK sets me onto a completely different thought path and I come up with amazing results, results that don't require others proving to me that what I fear isn't going to happen, results that simply depend on me. Further, a nice side effect of just embracing what I fear and knowing that I'll be OK is that I also tend to convince myself that what I was fearing is silly and not going to happen.

So, what are the current big fears in your life? Are you worried about the economy and money? Do you worry about your kids being OK? Are you fearful of you partner or spouse cheating on you? How would starting with the premise that, no matter what happens, I'll be OK, affect you and how you handle your fears?

Weekly Focus - Assumptions (6)

Often assumptions show up as things we take for granted. What are five things you take for granted? Seeing you take them for granted, what would change if you didn't take them for granted?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekly Focus - Assumptions (5)

List three assumptions you would like to keep and build. This could be assumptions about your life, your future, people etc.

List three assumptions you would like to change.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Curiosity killed the cat"

While driving home last night I began to think about all the silly things I have heard throughout my life but never thought much about. Like most people, being busy has often been an excuse for not really thinking deeply about things. Now, with lots of driving time as a result of a very long commute to work, friends, and family and few radio stations that come in clearly when you live in the mountains, I find myself thinking about everything and anything that pops into my head. I am truly amazed at the diversity of topics that fill my mind during this quiet time in the car.

I spent a lot of time last night wondering how in the world a proverb would emerge that would scare people into limiting their curiosity. I spent even more time thinking about how successful it has been together with so many others that seem equally silly to me:

You can't have your cake and eat it too
Mysery loves company
No pain, no gain
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
Do as I say, not as I do
Don't bite off more than you can chew
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen
When in Rome, do as the Roman's do
Two's company but three's a crowd

I can remember hearing every one of these proverbs from the time I was a child but never really thought much about the messages they were sending and how they were shaping my beliefs. As I look at these proverbs with a new lens, I am quite fascinated with how limiting they really are. Take "curiosity killed the cat" for example. This one is really exciting for me to explore as I am inspired by my two beautiful children who experience the world so differently. Aly demonstrates her curiosity like most "neurotypical" children through the endless streams of questions she asks about everything. It is amazing how many questions from a first grader I can not answer. I find myself wondering if it is because I was never that curious as a child or if my curiosity ended when I was satisfied with the answer "I don't know" an answer I just realized I give a lot. Then there is David. He demonstrates his curiosity in a completely different way. Instead of asking questions, he tries things out. Like now for example as he is flying two deflated ballons held between a pair of sunglasses all around the house making sure to stop at the computer to see how his newly created "flying thing" looks as it whizzes by the words of my blog. Even though he is not asking questions, I am often answering him with "I don't know" simply by not experimenting with him. This simple reflection about a silly proverb has proven to be incredibly important to me. My "I don't knows" are reinforcing the silly proverb of "curiosity killed the cat". My new proverb is "curiosity found the cat" because I believe if the cat was not curious, it would still be hiding under the bed.

Experiment with me for a week. Every time someone asks you a question and you don't know the answer, take a guess, look things up, experiment, etc. Take the words "I don't know" out of you vocabulary and see how much fun you can have!

Love to you all,

Weekly Focus - Assumptions (4)

Think of three situations in which people have made assumptions about you that were totally off. How did you feel about that? How did they affect your relationship?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Weekly Focus - Assumptions (3)

Name someone for whom your assumptions are biased positively. How does this positive bias affect your relationship? How does this affect you?

Name someone for whom your assumption bias is negative. How does this negative bias effect your relationship? How does this effect you?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

weekly Focus - Assumptions (2)

List five assumptions that you have made about your future. How do you feel about these assumptions? Would you characterize them as positive or negative?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weekly Focus - Assumptions (1)

If there is one thing we humans are very skilled in, it is in making assumptions. What are assumptions? Assumptions occur whenever we make up information without actually having data. Assumptions are very powerful and useful! They help us to fill in the gaps when information is not available. They are a part of everyday life.

For example, I assume that I'll wake up in the morning when I go to bed at night. I assume that I'll receive a paycheck at the end of the week or end of the month. I assume that the bridge I'm driving over isn't going to fall down.

However, there are cases where assumptions can be less useful. These cases typically have to do with assumptions about other people, their actions, their motives and their intentions. In these cases, assumptions can lead us down paths that we may not really want to pursue.

For example, if I'm meeting someone for dinner and they don't show up, I might assume that they had an accident, or that they decided they didn't want to see me, or they forgot, or something terrible happened to them, or... basically, I can make up pretty much anything. The tricky part is that, for most of us, our assumptions can quickly become our reality. Once the assumption is made, it tends to stick. Once stuck, it becomes a filter through which we begin to view all future data.

So, this week is a celebration of assumption! We're going to look at the assumptions we make on a daily basis. We're going to explore the impact of those assumptions on our lives, our activities and our relationships. We're going to decide which assumptions we want to keep, and which assumptions we want to drop. Welcome to assumption week.

For the first day of assumption week, I'd like to ask the following questions.

First, what is the most recent assumption that you made about someone that was right on? How did that assumption affect your relationship?

Second, what was the most recent assumption you made about someone that was completely off? How did that assumption affect your relationship?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What makes us BIG?

What makes us BIG?

Sometimes I have a "Dutch" experience. One of them was this week with my good friend Beverly. We hang out on her porch in the morning sun with a cup of tea and we talked about all kinds of random stuff. Nothing planned; nothing prepared; just a spontaneous conversation about us, our work, or loved ones and anything else interesting that comes to mind. It was a very intimate and sweet time together which reminded me of me of past times with my Dutch friends hanging out in their gardens with tea..

One of the subjects we got into was: how do people get most out of their lives? For example: Beverly is not only an amazing teacher and mentor; she also started a business a couple of years ago with her husband called FrannyToo. And I'm not only a life transition counselor starting a new business. For the first time in my life I sing in a band, share my written songs with others, work in playrooms with autistic children and do a lot of other things I have never done before.

So, one of the questions we tried to answer while together was: "What beliefs and attitude does someone hold who is perceived by others as big?" We didn't mean physically big, but being big in getting everything out of life! Below you can find the list I created at home after our conversation:

Big people:
1. believe they can do anything and they can get what they want
2. are fearless
3. know that not everyone has to agree with their ideas
4. are always open to learning new things
5. not only like but seek challenges
6. are open to new and changing possibilities
7. are not distracted by the future or the past

My friend Jonathan's motto is "how hard can it be"? And this attitude has helped him to do amazing things with medical devices.

Tell me, are you big in your life? Which points mentioned above resonate with you being big? Do you have other ways in which you are big? Do you want to be big?

Weekly Focus - Being Present (7)

Today it's Mother's day! How are you going to practice being present today?

I recommend the following while interacting with people today: listen closely to what people say to you and ask questions and give answers on what is said. Do your best to avoid assumptions about what was said or what was meant. Set an intention to check in with yourself on a regular basis. How am I feeling right now, am I present or distracted, am I loving first?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

1% Empty

At one point or another in your life, you were probably asked the question "are you someone who sees the glass as being half empty or half full?" (That or some variation.)

The question puts forth the classic boundary between pessimism and optimism. Over the years, I've found it to be a great question to consider whenever encountering challenging situations. Sometimes, just challenging myself with the question causes me to realize that I might want to change my perspective on the situation. Simply changing perspective changes everything else.

Lately though, I've encountered an amazing phenomenon: all sorts of people who see the glass as being 1% empty. They seem to have an uncanny ability to find what's wrong in almost any situation, to focus on it, to grow it to the point of masking all else, to find the dark cloud lurking below any silver lining.

Here are a couple of questions that will help you determine whether or not you exhibit 1% empty behavior.
  1. When considering new ideas or opportunities, do you spend more time thinking about the things that could go wrong or on the things that could go right? What percentage of your great new ideas do you pursue?

  2. When undertaking a new diet or exercise regimen, if you have a lapse (e.g. eat a peace of cake at a party or skip a workout session), do you feel badly about it, beat yourself up, and start to doubt whether or not you can do it, or do you let it go and pick up as though nothing happened?

  3. In your relationships, when the other person does something that you find challenging (e.g., getting upset with you, saying something angry or negative, showing up late for an appointment, doing something "embarrassing" in a group), do you see it as a "sign" or indicator of other potential issues, or do you see it as a single incident and let it go?

  4. When talking about others while they're not present (i.e., gossiping), what percent of what you say would be considered positive or flattering, and what percent would be considered negative or insulting? What percent of what you talk about would you say if the person were there?
Essentially, a 1% empty attitude results from taking a small number of (or even just one) negative indicators and using them as the primary filter through which you view a situation.

Now, I've always considered myself to be a 1% full type of guy. No matter what the challenge, my first inclination is to always see a way through it, a path to success, a challenge that's engaging and fun. Except... Well, except when it comes to people and relationships.

Give me any technical problem, any physical challenge, any business issue, any marketing dilemma, and I pretty quickly get to "no problem". But, give me a people challenge and, well... People are just so much more challenging than anything else. And, I think my plight affects more people than me.

So, I've created some new resolutions and beliefs for myself regarding people.
  1. In the grand scheme of things (across space, time, et al), we're all much more alike than we are different. We all have pretty much the same motivations (health, happiness, friendship, safety, well being); we just often differ in our beliefs on what is required to get there.

  2. Given item 1, then it's very difficult to ever actually get to a truly 1% empty scenario when working with other people.

  3. Therefore, if I find myself in what I consider to be a 1% empty scenario, it must be some fabrication on my part (no doubt for good reason, but nonetheless a fabrication).

  4. Given that the 1% empty scenario is a fabrication, well, the rest is easy.
So, are you a glass half full or a glass half empty person? Are there any situations in your life where you're a 1% empty person?

Weekly Focus - Being Present (6)

Many people are able to get fast and easily in the present moment by focusing on something around them. For example: when you are in the playroom, a very quick way to become totally present with your child is by believing that this present moment is the most amazing, wonderful, exciting moment ever and then let your excitement show to your child.

What are ways you can ground yourself in the present moment during your daily activities?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weekly Focus - Being Present (4)

Let's say you are always present with something. What are you present with while you are reading this? Are you present with your reading? Are you thinking how these words are going to impact your day? What were your expectations before you started reading the "Weekly Focus day four"? Did your expectations influence your being present? What can you learn from this?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

And the Truth will Set You

The other day, I was reading a Facebook posting by a friend who talked about the concept of 'truth' leading to 'self-righteousness'. It got me thinking...

For those of you who know me, you'll know that I consider 'truth' to be a really interesting concept. First of all, there's the whole idea that something might be true or not. The idea that something could be invariant across time, space and whatever other dimensions come to mind (i.e., true), strikes me as being, well, not true. (For you sticklers on logic, I know that what I just said is kind of oxymoronic, but nonetheless...)

Second of all, there's the whole idea that, even if there were things that were 'true', why would I be in the position to know what they are? I'm always amazed that people can talk about both the existence of truth and the idea that they actually know what is 'true'.

Third of all, even if I were to believe in the existence of 'truth' and the idea that I actually have an inside track on knowing what it is, I still have a hard time finding the practical application of truth in the midst of the world in which we live. Whereas I used to believe that most wars were fundamentally linked to money, I'm starting to believe that most wars are actually linked to a conflict of truths.

So, from my perspective, truth doesn't really set us free, it just sets us. It locks us into a set of beliefs. It keeps us from seeing other perspectives. It's mitigates against new insights, creativity and invention. It runs antithetically to curing cancer, solving world hunger, keeping the planet green, and so on.

So, what about this concept of self-righteousness... My experience with self-righteousness is that it helps us to pursue our wants when we believe our wants might conflict with the wants of the people around us, i.e., we use self-righteousness to justify unpopular decisions.

For example, if you want to break off your relationship with your significant other, then there's a high probability that your significant other won't be too happy about it. In anticipation of this, you might look for ways to justify your leaving the relationship. To do this, you'll most likely look for things that are wrong with either the other person or with the relationship itself. Of course, their being wrong naturally gets juxtaposed to your being right. Before you know it, your need to justify your wants becomes, well, self-righteousness.

All this self-righteousness stuff has very little to do with truth; it's simply the way we deal with our discomfort around pursuing what we want.

There's nothing particularly good or bad about self-righteousness, it's just another way we take care of ourselves and help ourselves to make transitions. Still, it can be a whole lot easier to simply say what we want and why we want it, without justification or defensiveness.

So, that's what's on my mind tonight. I hope you're having a wonderful, open-to-new-idea, justification-free day!

Weekly Focus - Being Present (2)

If being present simply means being focused in this moment, then not being present means begin focused on either the past or the future. What are the past moments in your life that distract you most from the present? What are your anticipations of the future that distract you most from the present?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekly Focus - Being Present (1)

If we would define being present as: "being in the moment, not thinking about the future or the past" how often are you in the present? Once a day? Hours a day? Once a month? During what activities are you most present?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


April 30 is a big celebration day in The Netherlands called "Queens Day". 16 million people have a day off from work and school and celebrate the birthday of our queen. We all dress up in orange, go out to flee markets, listen to music and enjoy the day with family and friends. I have tons of amazing wonderful memories about the koninginnedagen I celebrated with great people in different cities.

Living in the states for six years, I was not thinking about the upcoming Koninginnedag. But someone invited to the barbeque arranged at my house on April 30 pointed out that Koninginnedag was that exact day. What an awesome possibility to celebrate! I decided to dress in orange and to give myself a clown face, and to share during the barbecue the article that my friend Kathy so appropriately had posted that afternoon on this blog.

All dressed up I waited for my visitors. I was exited to do something out of the ordinary for the people around me and show them a little of the Dutch culture. People were surprised and laughed when they came in. Then one of them says: "your queen got attacked today". I said what do you mean? He says: "a car drove into your queen. The queen is fine but other people died". Below you'll find my thought process following this information:

An attack on the queen? Where did the world get to? Then I thought, ohh my god, another "Theo van Gogh" or "Pim Fortuyn" incident! Why do people believe that killing each other is a solution for anything? It's Koninginnedag, all those children out. What if…

Then my thinking paused and started again: wait, what information do I have? How do I know it was an attack on the queen? Does the information I received give enough information to draw conclusions like: people believe that killing each other is a solution for anything? Does someone using the word "attack (dutch translation = aanslag)" make it one? And even if it was one, do I want to believe the world is moving towards "craziness"? Do I want to belief that people in general need to create damage to express their beliefs? No, no, no, no! At that instant I decided to let go of these judgments.

For this article I went online and found you a short movie on YouTube that shows from one camera angle what happened at that moment during Koninginnedag. I watched it and strengthened me in my belief that I don't know what happened and why it happened. I also realized I will never know the full extend of what happened. What a clear example of assumptions and how we translate them into facts and truths and right and wrong.

My thoughts are with the families of the deceased, the family of the driver and anyone who in some way has been touched by this incident. I wish you the strength to look deeply in yourself and question your beliefs around this incident. I wish you to adopt and/or strengthen the happiness fueling belief that the world is filled with supportive and loving people. I wish you the belief that there are people around you to listen, support and love you.

Weekly Focus - Health (7)

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

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Weekly Focus - Health (6)

When we are in company of others (examples: party, visits) a lot of us do not take care of our health the same way as when we are by ourselves. Examples: do you smoke in company but not by yourself? Do you eat desserts while you normally skip sugar? Do you eat in company, while when you are alone you skip food? Do you recognize this? When do you do it? And why?

Friday, May 1, 2009

What a Week!

Ahhh... I have so many things to write about this week. Where to start....

I had an amazing experience with an old friend with whom I've worked over the years. He and another friend had been having issues with one another over the past few months. Normally, this isn't anything I'd be concerned about. However, in this case, the issues had escalated to the point of interfering with a bunch of activities that I'd planned.

So, I told the first friend that I was going to hold off on working together further until he and the second friend worked out their issues. As you might know from my other blogs, I'm into low drama in my life and I actively avoid artificially created dramatic situations.

Anyway, the issue was something that I thought could be resolved quickly (literally in a couple of minutes with a conciliatory phone call) and that was pretty much my expectation. What happened, was anything but that, which was totally awesome as it turned into this incredible experience.

First, rather than my first friend making a conciliatory phone call to my second friend (which I thought would pretty much wrap up everything), the first friend decided to make the whole situation incredibly challenging for himself.

Second, when the first friend found himself challenged by the email I'd sent, rather than calling me and talking about it, he decided to talk about it to pretty much everyone else we both know. This was especially interesting as my friend and I had had a longstanding understanding that we would both always take our issues with one another to each other and not to third parties.

But wait, it gets better! Third, as my friend informed others of the challenges I'd foisted upon him, the whole situation apparently escalated into a discussion of loyalty, picking sides, etc. As I understand it, there were discussions, assumptions, accusations, angst, anger, concerns... an amazing feast of fear, judgment and all sorts of things that I've decided to avoid in my life.

Now, to be clear, the only reason I have any insight into any of this happening is that a couple of friends who had experienced some of this decided to tell me about it; I don't have first hand experience with what was said or not. Still, as I understand from the friends who did witness all this, the situation escalated to the point where some people were actually being asked to choose sides (i.e., are they with me or with my friend). It was totally bizarre and I can't decide whether it reminds me more of high school or the weapons of mass destruction that got us into Iraq.

Remarkably, although there were apparently many accusations about me and how I operate, almost none of the people involved (especially those that apparently participated in the side-choosing activities) ever called me or asked me for my perspective.

So, what I thought was a relatively straightforward and simple activity escalated into... well, I'm not sure what it's escalated into yet, but it's definitely not the kind of drama I want in my life.

That all said, here's what I've learned and/or reinforced for myself over the past week. They coincide with some of the things I've been reading lately in a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Essentially, the four agreements are straightforward, simple and, I believe, amazingly useful. Here they are (loosely paraphrased).

1. Say what you mean and mean what you say
2. Take nothing personally
3. Don't make assumptions
4. Do the best you can

Since I participated in the course a course focused on authenticity in relationships, I've been wholly bought into Agreement #1. I think that being clear, specific and saying what I think is the easiest way to go. I love living a life that's spin-free.

Taking nothing personally (Agreement #2) has been a cornerstone of my relationship with Iris. It allows each of us to experience our own challenges, unhappiness and issues without the other getting dragged into them. We end up being much better positioned to support each other when we don't make it personal.

Agreement #3 played out incredibly this week, what I believe could have been resolved in minutes, well, has turned into something that I'm not sure can (or will) be resolved (my assumption for now).

Agreement #4 is great to me as it's always good to recognize that our "obligation" is to do the best we can, not necessarily to succeed. At points in time, I was actually feeling like I should "fix" the situation, and now I've just relaxed into what I'm doing is the best I know how to do and that everything will work out, even if it doesn't work out in the manner that everyone would like.

So, that's a bit of a ramble for me, but it was nice to share this with you. I hope you have an amazing week in which you're totally authentic, take nothing personally, make no assumptions and do your best (not your perfect).

Conquering the World!

Wow! What an incredible month I've had, I feel amazing! I have been doing lots of outreaches. I am so grateful for the experiences I've had and so proud of myself for really going for it, giving and using ALL of myself...what a dream I am living!

One of the things I have been doing during outreaches that I feel so amazing about is coaching family members. For example, I had a group of seven foster siblings and their parents all listening to suggestions about how to help the youngest in the family (who has autism) around the house and during 1:1 playtime. What a magical time this was for me to share my knowledge and be an inspiration.

When I'm coaching, I use all my experience and knowledge regarding autism (e.g. Psychology degree, workshops, being a foster parent, my training as play therapist and my learnings from parents) and I help families with questions about the playroom as well about things that that come up with their children in the house and in the community.

Some coaching tips for your home based autism treatment program:

Think about how much of what we say and do in the playroom is positive and's well over the majority, perhaps about 90% of the time we are talking it is to celebrate, right? Well, it's no wonder then why the playroom is such a powerful place. The Playroom is like our garden and we are growing "flowers" with the warmth and nourishment of our positive and celebratory words. Are you celebrating yourself, your life, your volunteers as much as you do your special child? If not, why not?

One specific way I like to celebrate volunteers and family members after I observe them in the playroom is to:

1. Point out at least three specific, amazingly, wonderful and effective things the person did and before telling them why I think it was amazing, I celebrate them and ask them why they did it (just as I would with something less effective). This technique is so powerful because, well for starters, who doesn't like talking about the great things they do! And secondly, doing this so hugely grows the behavior that we want to see more of! Thirdly, focusing on the positive is such a beautiful way to connect and possibly shift the energy of feedback sessions. I find that people open up more, are more positive about change, excited and motivated to learn when I focus on what they are doing tremendously...sound familiar? (its what we do with our kids, let's do it for each other too). Exploring things to change can be just as FUN too, it's all about our attitude!

2. Encourage your volunteers to direct their learning (again, as we do with our kids). For example, ask your volunteer to pick a time that they felt amazing and awesome in the room and a time that they felt most uncomfortable and then explore BOTH these moments using Stimulus Belief Response. I find writing each example down on a chart with columns works well.

3. Get comfortable with other people's discomfort!

4. Allow space and time for a person's discomfort. Feel honored and celebrate the person for sharing their feelings with you (especially about discomfort because of the judgments that people may have about being uncomfortable). What a wonderful feeling it is to be accepted at all times, even when we are uncomfortable.