some seasonal advice

12 03 2010

Unfurl yourself this Spring……

photo by Pippa Green, an amazingly talented designer and gardener living and working on Bainbridge Island. You can hire her or have a proper cup of English tea with her @


the joy of unfollow

9 03 2010

Twitter has taught me some really amazing things. One of the things it’s taught me is how to use my Unfollow button.

And I don’t mean just on Twitter. I’ve also started using the Unfollow button in my life outside of Twitter, and I am here to tell you, it’s making me feel a little giddy and a lot empowered.

I’m one of those people with the kind of martyr complex that thinks the harder the thing is the better it is for me. It’s especially true when it comes to relationships of all kinds.

Here’s a good example of my particular pattern before I discovered the unfollow button;

Someone in my life is negative, critical, tells me all the reasons why it’s not a good idea, why it won’t work, tells me who I am, analyzes me constantly and is usually wrong, undermines me, is generally not enthusiastic and supportive, and is lacking a can-do attitude.

When I am around these people, I feel a loss of confidence, a drain of life force, a claustrophobia, defeated, anxious, and overall like crap about myself.

Now. One could make the argument (I’ve made this exact one myself for YEARS), that having these sorts of people in your life is good for you. That it develops a certain ability to be impervious to criticism and negativity and that if you really want your dreams, these people cannot deter you, and that dealing with negative emotion directed toward you is somehow good for you.

I imagine that is true on some level, but the cost of building that kind of thick skin has taken me from the actual work that I want to do. The dreams I want to bring to fruition. For years!

I have mistakenly thought that I HAD TO grind away with people who don’t make me feel uplifted and energized and capable.

I thought to shape my inner sanctum with only people who I felt good around was somehow cheating.

On Twitter that’s what we are all doing isn’t it? Creating a tribe of like-minded people who make us feel good and move us forward on our journey? Yes I think we are.

Why not create that in my face to face contacts? Recently at a dinner, I had to tell someone that after the Spring I was going to move on to work with someone else. I just haven’t felt like this person is really a positive can-do kind of person and I find myself deflated inside after I leave a meeting with them.

I just don’t have to hoe that row anymore. I really can surround myself with people I am inspired by and who want to embrace life fully with a can-do attitude.

Life is just to darn short not to use my Unfollow button. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s a kind of spiritual act to know what you don’t have to engage with in your life anymore.

what i learned at couples counseling

2 03 2010

I’m someone who is an unabashed proponent of therapy. I’ve never really understood the shame that I’ve heard many people have around going to therapy. I look at it like an Adult Continuing Ed. class in Emotional Education.

I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to go to therapy. I’ve also noticed (myself included), that often people would rather do anything (root canal included), than look inward, and take responsibility for their lives, and make the necessary changes internally and externally toward a more fulfilling life.

I didn’t grow up in a home where emotions were valued or expressed. Well, let me rephrase; toughness and do-it-yourself-ness and everything-is-fine, if those are emotions were valued and expressed, but I found myself wanting a broader and more genuine range, so out of a kind of frantic claustrophobia mixed with despair, I went to therapy at around 20 years old. I’m still at it, and hope to be until well into my eighties. I want to keep learning about human psychology and emotions, my own and others.

Things don’t have to be going wrong to go to therapy. And that’s the spirit that my girlfriend and I decided to start going to couples counseling twice a month. A sort of, “Hey how can we really make sustaining dynamics in the foundation of our relationship instead of stale habits?” And we were both sort of talking about this idea of “What does it really mean to be with each other?”

I heard something last time we were there, that has been resonating with me, and that I keep thinking about and wanted to share with you.

The (Buddhist) therapist said to us (I’m paraphrasing), “What makes a good relationship is actually not great communication. You could master all sorts of communication techniques and still not have a good relationship. What makes a good relationship actually, is the ability of each person to be with the other person in whatever state they are in.”

This is where I was sitting there thinking, WTF. I think I said out loud, “Seriously?”

She continued, “Yes. Whatever emotional state arises in your partner, you want to just be fully present with it, without pushing it away, or trying to change it, or give advice, or become annoyed by it, or anything like that. You just want to be fully with them in it. That,” she said, “is real intimacy. And that is what sustains a relationship.”

I have been reflecting on my ways of being towards Meg in light of this rich statement by the therapist. I am surprised by how often I am uncomfortable for whatever reason by her responses to things. I’m a fixer and an action-taker. How often I want to separate myself from her when I am uncomfortable with her state or words. I have been trying to drop those things since our last session and just see if I can be fully present to her and that’s it. Just really be there. In the kind of naked stripped-down kind of thing just as it is.

It’s an amazing and slightly terrifying thing. The intimacy is immediate and full-throttle, and very rewarding. A natural compassion arises for her and for myself and for the situation.

It’s what all the teachers have been saying. Just be fully present to your life. Don’t try to push anything away or force a change because we think it would be better if we tweaked it slightly. Just be with it. Why would the teaching be any different in its application to relationship?