On Showering

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I want to take a moment to give a shout out to showering. Yes, showering. The good wholesome act of standing under a cascade of warm water (or cold, if you so choose, as some do), and letting the water wash over you. My sense is that showers do a lot more than clean our bodies. They have the capacity to boost our moods, offer us a new lease on our day, sometimes even generate inspired ideas.  

Two days ago, there was a monumental snowstorm in the Boston area, where I live, and for the most part, the city and neighboring towns shut down. Wind howled, snow dumped from the skies in a density that managed to sustain itself for more than a full day, and people predominantly stayed inside. On Wednesday, the sun came out, shining down on a world made white with snow, and the bustle of daily life resumed.  I took a shower, which felt heavenly, particularly since I hadn’t done so during the lazy snow day, and went back to work. And guess what I kept hearing? From clients and colleagues alike? Many times throughout the day? How great it felt to shower! This was mentioned both as a passing comment and as an experience to be explored: how, after a welcome day in sweatpants and pj’s, what a morale boost it was to get up and shower. To clean off the gluey film of holing up and find a refreshing new stance with which to greet the day.  Seriously. I did not initiate this topic. But it kept coming up. Coaches compare notes on this: how we pay attention to the themes our clients bring to our attention. When at least five people unprompted mention the glories of a shower, the uplift to the soul that comes with washing off a sticky day of sloth, I take note.

There were a few years in there where my shower-taking was at a minimum. This was during a period when I had four young children and as far as priorities went, my hygiene was low on the list. When I look at photos now from that time, I see four spanking clean babies and toddlers, often in matching outfits, and a mother with long strands of greasy hair who resembles the singer Meatloaf. From a vanity standpoint, I was so not on my game. But deeper than that, in the realm of wellbeing, of taking minimal time to refresh and reboot, I can actually see in the photos how much I might have benefited from a five or even three minute foray into the shower. In the few photos where I obviously have taken a recent shower, I have a glint in my eye. I can see the skip in my step (that is conspicuously missing from the Meatloaf photos). Whether I am retroactively projecting this or not, I believe I can see in the photos from days where I showered that I felt lighter, felt the benefits of a residue I no longer needed having been freshly showered away.

Science has proven that standing under a waterfall offers our systems the serotonin-boosting effect of negative ions.  Could it be possible that the same sort of thing happens from standing in the shower? I’m a bath person myself; I love a leisurely soak in a scalding hot bath filled with bubbles. (What is it about bubbles? Their whimsy? The texture of the sound they make as they subtly pop and merge?) While soothing, a bath offers stillness. Quietude. Peace. But not the shower’s ability to reboot. There’s action taking place in the shower. That shower water has got serious movement going on.  Nonstop Flow. We get to step into that. Into the experience of nonstop flow and join with it. Even as we are mindful of water conservation, the brief act of this is a gift. We’ve got a ready-made mood booster in our very own home.  A mind-body reset at the turn of a handle.

On Taking Back Your Nose Ring

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Is there a relationship that frequently triggers you? That feels like it jerks and yanks you around? A relationship with someone who really pushes your buttons? Throws you? Gets under your skin, waking you up in the middle of the night even though that other person might not even be there—they’re just living rent free in your head? According to a Tibetan expression, that person has you by your nose ring. As if you are an oxen and they can pull you around by the ring in your nose. And furthermore, as the Tibetan expression “don’t hand just anyone your nose ring” indicates, you’re the one who gave it to them. You’re the one who handed over this control.  

The way you know someone has your nose ring is that you are still obsessing on a comment they made many hours (or even days) ago. Or you’ve read and re-read a text they sent you, wondering if that hidden jab is really embedded in their words or if you’re making up a negative meaning. Whenever you get together with this person, more often than not, you tend to leave agitated, preoccupied. You might even feel the need to contact other people afterwards to go over the exchange because it has left you so unsettled. That person has your nose ring. They have your nose ring because what they say and do, or don’t say and don’t do, determines your state of being. Your wellbeing rests in their unwitting hands.

The bad news: we don’t tend to hand over our nose rings to people who guide us around with gentle care. The ones to whom we give over our nose rings tend to be the yankers. The erratic jerkers. The power trippers.`

The good news: we handed it over, so we can take it back.

There are plenty of people in our midst who don’t possess our nose ring—and for that fact we have to say some version of: Hallelujah! Plenty of people in our lives might say or do the very kinds of things our nose ring holder might say or do, but we don’t get tweaked. We can say, oh well, that was kind of obnoxious (rude, insensitive, haughty, cold ________), but we don’t lose any precious sleep or life force over it because with that person, we are free.

Something fascinating and instructive can happen if by chance that very person who doesn’t trigger you does happen to trigger someone else you know. You get to witness what it looks like from the outside for someone to have handed over one’s nose-ring to another. You get to watch someone get dramatically reactive to comments or actions that don’t happen to trigger you one single bit. This can be extremely helpful: you can use this witnessing, these observations, to realize not only how badly you don’t want to be like that, but how badly you do want to retain possession of your own nose ring. You can realize the reactivity is elective. They’re reacting, you’re not—so there must be some degree of subjectivity, therefore choice.

Why do we hand over our nose rings to other people, especially people who jerk us around? The answer is long and complicated, but the short reductive version is: something about them reminds us unconsciously of an authority figure from our youth, and we regress back to child-mind, when we didn’t have the agency we now possess as adults, when we felt our very survival depended on getting a certain authority figure’s approval or avoiding that authority figure’s unfair behavior. And our child-mind (now, in our adulthood) locks into tracking this person, parsing their comments, trying to figure out if we are safe. We want this other person to change, feel our very survival depends on their noticing us in a positive way, giving us approval, treating us kindly. Getting hooked in like this, with its red hot survival energy, takes a lot of energy, and is exhausting. It is much, much less taxing to take our nose ring back and take responsibility for our own wellbeing and let that person be who and how they are.

To get there requires getting out of the threat response, and realizing your wellbeing does not in fact have anything to do with their behavior. To get there requires a form of intentional growing up, accelerating ourselves out of child-mind and back into our adult resources. For some people, imagining an actual nose ring and taking back control of it helps. Visualizing having full access to your own life force and cultivating the feeling in your body of psychological and emotional freedom from the dynamic is another thing you can do. And, as always, practicing compassion for the other person, and for yourself, works wonders—infusing your heart with much needed fresh air. If possible, you might need to take some space from the other person, so you can re-group, limiting your interactions in order to lower your exposure to the triggering behavior. But if that’s not possible (because maybe you are married to them, or they are one of your children, or you work side by side every day), you get to take on the work in an intensive full-immersion context. And when you finally reach internal freedom, you can give yourself an imaginary black belt for evolving as a human.

The freedom lies in letting that person be who and how they are, and realizing that your wellbeing does not depend on how they behave. And when you get there, you will feel in your very own hands the empowering possession of something you once gave away: your nose ring.  

On Discipline

The way I relate to self-discipline is changing—significantly. I still value self-discipline, essential as it is for a wide array of life skills ranging from achieving goals to paying taxes to being punctual. But my relationship with discipline is shifting from having a militaristic inner drill sergeant (whom I either obeyed, avoided, or rebelled against) to consulting a more thematically-oriented internal counselor (whose friendly reminders of my over-arching intention orient, soothe, and motivate me). Put simply, the shift is from the discipline of Doing to the discipline of Being.

I need to say up front that the Being form of discipline—though far more pleasant than interacting with the stress-inducing Czar of Doing—is no less rigorous. It’s not a get out of jail free card, an exit ramp, or a sneaky trick to avoid having to enlist discipline. Vigilance, commitment and hard work is still required. It’s just that, for me at least, I find The Counselor of Being inspiring. Engaging. Clarifying—because the Counselor of Being cuts right to the chase, to the ultimate purpose. And remembering my over-arching purpose helps me recognize what to focus on, and what to let go. Where to say Yes, and where to say No.

Let’s look at a common area where many of us seek to enlist self-discipline: exercise. The Czar of Doing will say something along the lines of, “Wake up an hour earlier everyday and go to the gym.” If you do what the Doing Czar instructs, you feel good about yourself. If you don’t, you feel like a failure. You may start to resent the Czar, or worse yet, resent yourself.

On the other hand, the Counselor of Being will ask a few questions in the process of goal-setting. Such as, Why do you want to exercise more? Answers might be, To have more energy, or, To counteract my high blood pressure, or To lose weight. Whatever the reason, the wise Being Counselor encourages peeling back a layer or two, inquiring: “And what would that give you?” Your answer may be, Better Health, or, Well-being, or, Self-Respect. You’ll know when you have it: your intention for your state-of-Being. Which becomes your guiding principle around which to enlist your discipline.

Let’s say, for example’s sake, your Being intention is to increase self-respect. Now self-respect becomes your gatekeeper, and discipline has a job—a full-time one, at that, which is to only allow in that which serves your self-respect, and to keep out that which does not. Discipline is now engaged externally and internally: activities that enhance your self-respect are sought out and undertaken; thoughts that erode your self-respect are O-U-T out. That means if you don’t make it to the gym and some inner thug voice starts to tell you something unkind (that is hardly self-respectful), you need to marshal discipline ASAP. The discipline not only to notice the inner thug’s message, but to replace it with a message that engenders self-respect—like: “You’re worthy of respect for who you are, whether you go to the gym or not.”

Does this sound like an EZ Pass to becoming a slacker?

Many people fear this, that invoking Being discipline versus Doing will allow you to go soft. To give up on all sorts of goals, becoming a factory of excuses. But guess which part of you fears this? The Czar of Doing. The Czar of Doing is very concerned by this nuanced, foreign approach, because it has one and only one strategy to try to help you which is to come up with To Do Lists. And to do whatever it can, including bullying you (in your best interest) to Do your Doing. Because it cannot comprehend the world beyond tasks, the Doing Czar does not care about the actual end state you wish to achieve. And does not understand the fact that the Counselor of Being is far more likely to lead you towards success—even in the realm of Doing.

Consider what happens when you get down on yourself for not doing what you intended to do. Does self-berating motivate you to get out there and try again? Perhaps it does, and if so, stick with the Doing Czar. Seriously. It works when it works. The whole origin of the Doing Czar in our psyche is to motivate us—and for some, the fear of failure and the desire to avoid both our own inner criticism and the specter of external disapproval keeps them jumping through hoops, performing, realizing goals, which in turn keeps them feeling good. But for others, whether we succeed in the Doing realm or not, the climate of self-criticism wears us down. The fear of external disapproval and humiliation makes us balk and give up—sometimes before even trying. Rebelling against the tyranny of the Doing Czar can backfire into self-sabotage. Using the exercise example, this might be feeling so much debilitating pressure to go to the gym that you go straight to the freezer for a carton of ice cream instead.

The Counselor of Being steers you away from cultivating the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol that can so easily backfire. By remembering your Being intention, you orient around a higher purpose, enlisting your higher mind. To stay with the example we’re using, engaging with the inquiry of “What would give me the most self-respect right now?” is likely to start creating the feel-good hormones of endorphins and oxytocin (given the positive nature of the inquiry). Whether your answer is to write a list of what you respect about yourself, to do a good deed for someone else, or to tackle a long-avoided task that has been weighing on you, you are cultivating the state-of-Being you sought to attain through the original Doing goal. And with this form of discipline, you are likely not only to get to the Doing goal at some point anyway (because maybe after doing a good deed you might organically feel like going for a walk or a run), but to do it in a state-of-Being that was what you ultimately wanted in the first place.

On Gentleness

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I have the flu. Not the flu—which would presumably prevent me from even considering the act of sitting up between sneezing and snoozing to compose a blog post about it—but a flu, a virus. I have been alive for fifty-three years. And I have gotten some kind of sickness, viral or bacterial, every single one of them.  But still, the process of coming down with something always catches me off guard. I am slow to detect a microbe, or a foreign infectious agent. I always think it’s me. That there’s something wrong with me: meaning, my personality. I fear it’s taking a giant nosedive.

I ask myself—trying to be as kind as I can—what the hell is wrong with me all of a sudden. I tell myself—again with an attempt at loving kindness, because I do love and care about myself, but the fact I need to rely on my functioning as my sole work-horse creates a little friction in my tone—to to get it together, put some pep in my step. I notice a headache, so remind myself to drink more water, perhaps gently interrogating myself about the possibility of accidental self-induced dehydration.  

And then I sneeze.  

The first sneeze, then the second, and my inner world starts to shift.

Am I sick? Is that what this is? My sinuses reveal themselves to be throbbing, the cavities around my nasal passages obviously inflamed, and remarkably: the cause of the headache becomes crystal clear. I am not a loser!  I am sick! That’s when the inner nursemaid comes rushing in, with her spoon-full of sugar to help the medicine go down. “Oh honey, you’re sick.  That’s what it is, sweetheart.  Let’s get you into bed as soon as we can.”

I now have permission to cancel my workday, and give head’s up that I will most likely need to cancel tomorrow as well. And I have a mission now, one-pointed focus, which is to get well. I put on my pajamas and gather the Kleenex, the cough drops, the tea and the juice.  A culture of inner gentleness settles in like a lullaby.  

What if this gentleness were there all the time? Would there be a cost to that? When I work with clients and students on cultivating an inner gentleness, an interior culture of self-compassion, there is often the fear that one would go soft. The worry that without the inner task-master, we would curl up on the sofa and wallow, sucking our thumbs and becoming sulky balls of self-indulgence. But honestly, I don’t think that would happen. I used to be run by an inner bully, an impatient whip-cracker who thankfully now only takes over when my reserves are down, my resources low. Yes, I hear the twisted logic in that—in what sounds like kicking me when I’m down, when I need my own support the most. But the way I interpret this phenomenon is that it takes a lot of resources to keep the inner tyrant at bay; it requires reserves to keep the voice of inner kindness amplified. When my tank is full, my health thriving, my resilience quotient on high, then my primary inner voice is (these days, after decades of working to rewire my own brain) the kind, self-loving one. And I am pleased to report—as are many others on this journey—that this inner gentleness does not lower my functioning. Does not beckon me to soften into a perma-state of immobility. In fact, it inspires me. To engage, to contribute, to savor, to receive—all of which gives me strength. Not a rigid authoritarian power, but a flexible, fluid kind of strength. It would be ideal if this voice could sustain its reign even when my resources are low—before I realize it’s not my fault, it’s a microbe!—but I’m not there yet. I hope to be, in this lifetime, but for now, that’s aspirational.

I can’t help but wonder, here in my pj’s, about the possibility of gentleness in our shared outer culture. What would that be like? In our very own country, there have been thirty mass shootings already in this new year. We have a leader who not so long ago threatened to give North Korea—a country—a bloody nose. (Code for a pre-emptive strike that could have cost tens of thousands of lives). The white supremacist movement is currently emboldened—in the modern world, in our so-called educated civilized nation. I wonder about the inner culture of those practicing hate and bigotry, threatening violence against civilians, and shooting down classmates. Are they as barbaric to themselves internally as they are to others? I can only conjecture. If the people practicing bullying, hate crimes, and violence had a practice of inner gentleness, what would the world be like? I imagine that this gentleness might make these people not only more compassionate to themselves and others, but ultimately stronger—so much so that they wouldn’t have to resort to bullying, hate and violence which are expressions of weakness. I can only hope that the more of us who cultivate inner gentleness—which is humbling work, with incremental progress—spread gentleness outwards, with contagion.

On Quiet

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Noise is everywhere. The television, radio, whatever podcasts or music you might have piping through your ear buds. Traffic sounds: cars, rumbling trucks and—depending where you live—honking, sirens. Leaf blowers, snow blowers, jackhammers, coffee grinders, blenders, hair driers. People in the background: arguing, whining, laughing, crying, singing. People in the foreground: talking to you, asking you questions, giving you love, attention, advice, telling you stories, making requests, demands.  Maybe you have pets, barking for food, affection, or to be let outside, meowing for your attention.

And that’s just the external noise.

What goes on inside our heads can create even more of a cacophony. Our To Do lists barking their orders—with special addendums highlighting items on yesterday’s (last week’s, or last year’s) list still not done. The self-criticism, on an infinite loop so incessant you may not even hear it, but it’s there: the auditory landscape running you ragged. And how about the internal conflicts? We all have them, on a variety of topics, but sometimes, like the internal criticism, the internal bickering is so constant you may not even recognize it as there anymore.

Internal criticism sometimes slithers in posing as a motivational pep talk:

          Today you’re going to get your sorry ass to the gym!

          Try to be productive at work for a change!

Then the defense kicks in:

          Hey, don’t be so hard on me.  I’m a good person who deserves a _________(carton of ice cream, six pack of beer, hours of binge watching my favorite show…)

And the argument is off and running again:

          I told you not to eat/drink/watch that. Every single day I tell you not to     eat/drink/watch that and you go right ahead and do it anyway.  

          Well, why did you LET me? Why don’t you lead me to do the RIGHT things for a change?

          Because you do whatever the EFF you want no matter what we decide our goals and plans are going to be. You have no will-power whatsoever!

Or maybe your recurring internal critic pipes up every time you interact with other people:

          You shouldn’t have said that. You made yourself look like a complete fool.  Now everyone is judging you.  

Or every time you don’t speak up:

          Oh great: you could have finally SHOWN UP but instead you just hid out. Yet again! Letting the world pass you by…

Maybe these inner voices aren’t familiar, maybe they are. Maybe you address yourself as “you” internally, maybe as “I,” maybe you use your name. But whatever your internal chatter sounds like, it’s there. And chances are, if you aren’t aware of it, it’s because you’ve turned up the dial high enough on the external noise to drown it out.

The problem with all this noise is, we miss out on the important internal voice we really want to hear most, our wisdom, our inner guidance. Ghandi once said, “the only tyrant I choose to accept is the still quiet voice within me.” The voice of our internal wisdom is just that: still and quiet. In order to tune into it, we need to be still and quiet, too. This voice is not going to use a megaphone, or a frying pan to slam us in the head to get our attention. It’s too dignified for that, too secure to need to be the center of attention. Our wisdom waits peacefully inside us, quietly chilling out in the stillness, until we slow down, until we stop.

And get still.

And quiet.

This tends to require breathing our way through all the layers of noise and chatter and distraction in order to be able to listen. In order to be able to hear. We have to listen attentively to attune to its style, peacefully to receive its offerings, with curiosity and an open heart to accept the guidance however it arrives. When we do this, we will find our still quiet voice within always to be there. Our wisdom always waiting, with loving open arms to welcome us home.

On Going Vertical

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The other day while giving a talk on Compassionate Straight Talk, I kept noticing my hand. It drew a line in the air from my forehead down through my heart-center into my belly. Over and over again. If I were one of those football commentators who draw diagrams on the screen to illustrate a play, my play would have looked the same every time: one straight line, headed down.

That’s because I was discussing the importance of going vertical, not horizontal, if you want to create effective communication. If you want to offer feedback that won’t put the other on the defensive. If you want to be straight, and be heard. If you want to create emotional intimacy. You have to go inside yourself, and report from your own internal experience, versus telling the other person what they’re doing wrong. Versus diagnosing them. Versus going horizontal. (The play I drew repeatedly on my imaginary screen for going horizontal was simply pointing a finger. Creating the energetic specter from the tip of my index finger of a straight line aimed at the other.)

You can successfully broach a lot of uncharted territory—or perhaps previously charted, but perilously so—if you start out by going vertical.  By exploring what goes on inside yourself in the challenging interaction, when the triggering behavior of the other happens. How do I feel in this dynamic? What’s at stake for me?  What do I wish for? Long for? Need? Getting clear first, on the vertical experience, is step one. Step two is, from a place of internal understanding, reporting on it. The late pioneer of family systems theory Dr. Murray Bowen referred to this style of relational reportage as “representing self.”

We’ve all heard about “I statements,” and the importance of “I statements” over “You statements.” Ideally, “I statements” go vertical, allowing us to report on our own experience, to represent self. “You statements” point a horizontal line at the other—the exact line the other can use to zing one right back at you! “You statements” set up the back and forth volley of “Yeah, but you…” “Oh really?  You’re the one who…”   And that imaginary line denoting the horizontal play gets thicker and thicker, traversed back and forth ad infinitum. (The only problem I observe with “I statements” is when they are a “You statement” in disguise. The ultimate satirical version of this is: “I feel like you’re an asshole.”) Used genuinely to go vertical and represent self, “I statements” clear the air, create pathways for understanding, compassion, relational peace.   

In the workplace, a manager can tell her direct report, “I want you to succeed. But I’m finding myself at a loss as to how to get through to you in this particular area.”  That’s vertical. That’s representing self.  That’s compassionate. And it’s also real. And very likely effective – certainly more so than, “You never listen” or “You’re stubborn.”  

Same goes for communicating at home. With family members, “I worry when I don’t hear from you. It would really mean a lot to me if you checked in more,” is more likely to be received than, “You never check in,” or “You make promises you don’t keep.”  Another example of going vertical might be, “I shut down and stop listening when you raise your voice; it alienates me,” versus the horizontal, “You’re hysterical,” or, “You’re crazy, I’m outta here,” or, “Shut up!” With our younger children, when we really go vertical, what are we worried about? Their safety. Their ability to thrive as humans. We may not like their behavior, but if we go vertical and get in touch with why, we can communicate from a deeper, more compassionate place. “I care about you. I want to help you learn something really important here.”

That’s what I see with my clients when they go vertical and represent self, and what I experience repeatedly in my own relationships when I do it: space opens up for compassion. When we go vertical, we are communicating on a deeper level, beneath the surface blame game, where the capacity for compassion resides. Compassion for self. Compassion for the other. And the other’s compassion for you. Compassion begets compassion; it’s the soil of intimacy in which all things healing grow.

On Hibernating

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I might be part bear.  

During winter, the bear emoji, which I completely overlook on my phone for the other seasons, shows up in my oft-used section.  That furry little ursine face is how I identify myself via text, giving a visual to the low-hanging trundling-towards-the-cave state of my energy.

I cannot say enough about the comfort of my bed, the draw of the flannel sheets, the cozy containment of a pillow over my upward-facing ear, blotting out all noise and stimulation, swaddling me into another hour—or two—of sleep.  I used to think this was depression.  (The truth is, it could be. After all, it’s seasonal, and taking to the bed is a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder, acronym: SAD.) One January, seeing me dig my warm bathrobe out of my winter storage box and change into it before dinner, my son said, “Oh no, Mom: you’re doing your housecoat phase again?”  That was when it dawned on me I actually had a housecoat phase. (And that my eleven-year-old son somehow knew the term for that 1950’s garment.) Not great for my self-image, not at all a depiction of the fun-loving Mom I wanted to be year-round, but true.

I’ve been working on accepting this downshifting of gears my body naturally goes into the first months of every new year. I still show up where I need to show up, but beyond that, I don’t.  Beyond that, you can find me under the covers, a pillow over my ear, in my “housecoat.” I lose touch with people, see my neighborhood friends less, take a little longer to respond to the outside world. Honestly, I don’t love this. I wish it were different.  But fighting against my inner current, which I did for years, caused tension and stress, an inner civil war.

I am noticing as I move along through this journey of life how many aspects of character, personality traits and tendencies, are healed by self-acceptance. That does not mean fixed. Or cured. It means softened, chastened, made easier to handle. I see this over and over again with clients and friends, and experience this myself: the balm of accepting what we wish were different in ourselves.  I wish I loved to get up in the dark cold morning hours to brave the elements in my running sneakers—or even brave the stairs to the coffee maker! But I don’t. I like to snuggy down and lure myself back into the dreamscape I was just enjoying. I choose not to do some of the things I would normally do in lieu of more sleep. This has an obvious cost to how effective I can be, but I am coming to accept being less productive, and more self-attuned.

There is a fine line here. One I walk with mindfulness, even concern. On one side of the line is pushing oneself, which I have done, in fact done too much of, at times burning out. On the other side lies self-indulgence, torpor, lassitude—which can look an awful lot like a housecoat and a pillow over the head! So I am cautious. Is this healthy?  Does this serve my wellbeing? What are the alternatives and what happens when I try them? Does my wellbeing meter go up? Or down? These are some of the inquiries that keep me honest with myself as I walk that line. And I notice those inquiries helping others as well, on a wide range of topics where someone is walking this same kind of line. Sometimes the questions yield an honest step towards more action and more initiative, other times, they bring about the healing balm of self-gentleness, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance.  

For me, what I’ve come to is valuing wellbeing over productivity. Yes, I have to produce. Yes, I have to show up.  And yes I want to both produce and show up.  But whenever possible, I want to do so in wellbeing. I want to have my inner reservoir full, and I want to transmit wellbeing to those in my midst. To be in wellbeing—and perhaps this is simply a synonym or definition—I need to be in synch with myself. And to be in synch with myself, I often have to adjust to and accept the reality of who and how I am, versus the myth of who and how I think I should be.  

When I work with other people and ask, “Can you forgive yourself for that?”, for me it is always obvious—and I do mean always, with no exceptions—the answer is and must be YES.  Not only are the actions or choices or personality traits in question one hundred per cent forgivable, but the cost of not forgiving self is staying stuck, living in inner conflict. Very often, the YES is not readily available. The person isn’t there yet. We might have to peel back layers, coming at the topic from a few different angles before they get to their birthright of: yes, yes I can forgive myself.  The result? Visible, palpable, contagious wellbeing.