Finding True North

Are you looking for True North during these times of unprecedented change? Is your inner landscape searching for solid ground? With so much change in my inner and outer worlds, I’m surviving by taking time to listen to my heart and from that place walking with integrity to the best of my ability. My friend and colleague, Mary Mackenzie, and I will be exploring how to find strength and courage in a turbulent world Sept 8-10, 2017, in a lovely CA retreat center. Join us to discover what matters most to you and how your next steps can help you get there. More information: http://nvctraining.com/media/_2017/KM-MM/LT/index.retreat.html

 

Guest Blog by Aimee Ryan- Life Transitions

Open letter to anyone who ever has, is, or may some day go through a transition in life (that’s right human race, I’m talking to you),

 

I come to you with a special opportunity to join Kathleen Macferran and Mary Mackenzie for a 6-day experiential workshop – Life Transitions: Rediscovering the Spark Within.

 

Why is this a special opportunity?  So many reasons, but here are some of the highlights:

 

  • As the philosopher Heraclitus noted, “the only constant in life is change.”  That means that if we’re going to flow through life with even a modicum of grace and ease, we need to be able to find self-connection and groundedness in the midst of the turmoil. This retreat is aimed at supporting you on that journey and giving you the skills and tools to find your spark and that place of inner peace, regardless of outer circumstance.

 

  • Mary and Kathleen are two of the most heart-connected, authentic individuals I’ve yet to meet and I can’t stress enough what a life-changing delight it is to spend with them. What’s even better is how they balance each other, each bringing something unique, and how their different styles complement this work so beautifully.
  • Kathleen and Mary have been offering weekend workshops on this theme for the past couple years and because they’ve been getting such rave reviews, they’ve decided to go big and do a longer, more intensive workshop. I brought Mary and Kathleen to Missoula, MT for a weekend workshop on this theme last May, and participants loved it.  The people who came represented a huge range of life transitions – some working through career changes, others focusing on intimate relationships, or life purpose, or healing from physical/mental/emotional dis-ease – and each one left with a deeper sense of themselves and their process.

Here’s a little more…

 

This retreat applies Nonviolent Communication (NVC) principles and processes to understanding and working through transitions (big or small). Mary and Kathleen have found this workshop works well for those with no NVC experience as well as those who have an integrated NVC practice.

 

I hope this was enough to get you excited about joining us. If it turns out you can’t make it (you’ll be missed!), it’d be such a gift if you’d be willing to pass this info on to others who you think might enjoy attending.  

 

Here’s a little summary of the details (click here for a flyer):

 

 

 

  • Dates:  September 15th – 20th
  • Location: Seabeck Conference Center, just outside of Seattle on Hood Canal (we’ll be staying in the Spruce building)
  • Price: (until 6/1): $925 (single occupancy) / $800 (double occupancy).  This includes tuition, lodging, and all meals…such a sweet deal!
  • Bonus: 25 CEUs available thru CNVC for LSW, MFT, and RN

 

If you have questions about the details above, or if you’d like to chat about if and how this retreat could support you, please feel free to contact me at aimee@explorecoreconnections.com.

 

Much love,

Aimee

(retreat organizer and Kathleen/Mary super-fan)

 

Do I make a Difference? Shifting Anxiety to Choice

I woke up feeling vulnerable and anxious and decided to embrace and open to the sensations that were there. A flood of memories came back—years and years of teaching, conducting, parenting and the wondering if it had made any difference at all. “Are people’s lives any different? Are the horrors of the world diminished in any way by how I’ve lived?” I asked myself. “Was I so immersed in what I was doing morning to night thinking it was all so important and wasn’t able to see that all that effort didn’t mean much after all?”

 

Sinking into the sadness, some shame, disappointment, and hopelessness leads me below the turbulent waters where I notice the yearning to live a life that has meaning, that contributes to others, that makes a difference because I show up with love. I want to risk my significance based on a full-bodied sense of integrity and authenticity, not reacting to external expectations.

 

Allowing my body and heart to sink into that hunger, to give my full weight to it in the present moment, I notice another fear at the thought that some beloved people in my life may not understand or support my choices. A wave of sadness come over me thinking the consequences may be that I fall from grace or lose being held with positive regard by those I care about.

 

Breathing into the fear of loss, I relax into how much I care, how much I love others and want to deepen sacred connection. I feel relief knowing that I can choose to offer unconditional positive regard to others, no matter how they respond to me. I can create the qualities I cherish. Can I offer that acceptance and care to myself as I step more and more into my own authenticity? I’m willing to try.  Hearing my own “yes!” connects me with the flow of Life moving through me and the power of being connected to meaning and purpose. I don’t know how to answer the question “Do I make a difference?” but I do trust that living each moment with a willingness to risk my significance for the sake  of connection and love may help me live my way into the answer.

How To Tune Yourself Into Gratitude

I was thinking about how gratitude is a door we open to Life’s energies. We only need to open the door a little. Frankly, that’s all the energy I have most of the time. Thinking I’m responsible for creating and holding this huge dream of peace on the planet is overwhelming for me. I can, however, crawl to the doorknob and push the door open just a crack.

happy girl with deely bobbersThrough that crack comes a wide range of energies that ebb and flow. You could think of them as radio stations that we tune ourselves to. We can label those radio stations as universal needs. Examples of these needs could include the need for respect, safety, clarity, or understanding. They are energies of life moving through me and through all people. When I say a thankful yes to dancing with any and all of those energies, it allows me to live in the flow of life more directly and opens me to a spontaneous experience of gratitude and joy.

Sometimes we push one of those specific radio preset button voluntarily.
When you share a joke or funny story, you could be dialing yourself into Joy.  If you follow through on something you said you would do, you could dial yourself into integrity.

Other times, you seem to just land there. “Welcome! You’ve just tuned into Need for Belonging Radio, along with the rest of our listeners.”

It is different than focusing on what I might call “positive” and pushing away what I might consider “negative.” I embrace my experience in its wholeness, feeling the fullness of all feelings and present to the underlying needs When I am tuned into one of those radio stations that is uncomfortable, I match my dance to the music on that station. When I’m connected in that way, accepting what is present, I sense a vitality and authenticity that brings me to life. Just that presence is enough to lead me to gratitude.

This practice is so powerful and can have a great effect on your own daily living. It tends to be noticed by people around you, whether they are new faces in the line at the grocery store or your closest friends and family. Gratitude is one of the best ways I know to connect with our children. Sharing your gratefulness with them gives them a sense of really being seen for their beauty. It’s a splendid way for them to become aware of the power they have to make life wonderful for themselves and others while experiencing how good it feels to use that power.

Self Gratitude Exercise

  1. Pause 2X daily spontaneously or during planned times.
  2. Connect with Life reaching out through you now.
  3. Notice ways you are living, savoring, embodying, and sharing the things you most value.
  4. Give yourself gratitude for whatever is alive. This could be just stopping to notice and savor a way you are living out your values and your awareness of this process.
  5. Celebrate that you had the power to give to yourself or someone in a way that was nurturing whether or not it was acknowledged.

Notice what thoughts and feelings come up for you when you start to give yourself gratitude. Is it easy or hard? Are you nervous or relaxed?

 

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Learning This Stuff is Life or Death For Me

skeletonIn 2009,  my colleague, Sura Hart, and I were leading an Empathy workshop for men in a WA State prison. As I entered the workshop, I was surprised to see an inmate, Dan (not his real name), who had participated in a Freedom Project workshop I had co-led with another colleague, Doug Dolstad, four years ago at the same facility. I hadn’t seen him since.

Seeing Dan, I remembered a moment at that first workshop when he responded to some grumbling in the group about what he was doing by saying, “I know I’m taking up a lot of time here, but learning this stuff is life or death for me.” The whole room went silent as we soaked in the truth of those words for all of us. Dan was transferred out of state for three years and had recently returned. I was moved by what seemed to me a profound change in his energy and skills at the recent workshop. He set a tone of courageously looking at “skeletons in the closet,” inviting the whole group to participate in his learning and understanding. His example encouraged others to do the same. 

Encountering the enormity of the violence around me can be overwhelming, but I find renewed energy when I focus on creating safe corners, places of sanctuary in the midst of a larger backdrop. Science and history seem to support the idea that small changes in behavior have the power to affect living systems and organizations in profound ways. Be the change you wish to see and savor new life unfolding.

To experience the kind of presence these men gave to one another is to walk on sacred ground. If we can create that sacred space inside prisons, we can create it anywhere. What corner of your life do you want to turn into a place of hope and healing? What support would you like to make that happen?

3 Steps To Free Ourselves From Our Inner Prisons

bird-flying-from-cageThough I frequently walk in and out of WA State prisons, I find myself trapped in my internal prison much more often than I enjoy. It’s one I carry around with me and enter easily. Getting out can be an arduous process. The prison is my mind, specifically the part that spins stories about what other people are thinking, doing, intending or reacting to. I am amazed how frequently my brain can come up with a story and how often a story when checked out, can be way off base.

I find I am not alone. Conversations I hear daily are couched in language that implies wrongness or diagnosis of others. When our stories are about others, we usually feel anger. When our stories are about ourselves, the feelings of shame, guilt and depression arise.

The last time I was in the women’s prison I found myself on the receiving end of the stories. It was a very stressful weekend for the inmates. Mother’s Day events were being held. Try to imagine the stress of parenting from prison or the pain of not having contact with your children anymore. A higher number of fights than normal were breaking out, and most of the women who were trying to focus in the Freedom Project workshop I was co-leading were bundles of nerves.

At one point on the second day, one of the women told me I was disrespectful, then another said I was being condescending, yet another one agreed and added I was just like one of “them” (the officers). They were sure their stories about me were true. Their evaluations were clearly facts in their eyes. I listened with empathy and was trying to find out what they had seen or heard from me that they interpreted as disrespect or lack of caring.

I had asked two women to join me out into the hall first thing in the morning, to create safety, when I thought a fight was about to break out. I mediated between them for 45 minutes and the two women involved were thankful for the reconnection and learning. Some of the women who remained in the room, however, assumed I was somehow punishing the women I had asked out into the hall. It took empathy from my colleague and individual empathy from me with the angry participants during the following break to finally have my intentions for support, caring and learning seen by the women. We ended in a place of connection. The remaining hours of the workshop were spent giving empathy to the women for their pain and talking about the self-empathy that allowed me to stay present to myself in a way that let me hear their pain and not take their judgments personally. Judgments are simply tragic expressions of needs. 

I spent the next couple of weeks noticing when I didn’t stop to pause between something that triggered me (what someone said or did) and my story about it. Some of my stories are well rehearsed as I’ve practiced them for years. My belief in my stories can be as strong as the inmates’ belief in their stories about what they thought was going on in me. The freedom from the internal prison happens in that pause between observation and evaluation. I work through 3 steps that spring me loose.

  1. I find a way to notice what I’m reacting to the specific observation of what someone actually said or did.
  2. I pause long enough to look under my story (the evaluation) to my feelings and needs.
  3. I let a request naturally arise in relation to the needs I’m aware of.

That pause is a place of choice and power. Separating observation from evaluation is a crucial first step to freedom. I find myself making that inner journey time and time again from my prison to liberation. It’s starting to get easier the more I do it. It requires compassion for myself along the way and trust that continuing on that path will lead to greater joy, clarity and connection.

Kathleen Macferran, Certified Trainer
Strength of Connection Center for Nonviolent Communication
Office: 472 Grow Ave NW | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
206.780.1021. Tel / Fax
Mail: PO Box 10009 | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-0009