APRIL 18, 2018

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We can spend so much time wishing our partners were different, complaining to ourselves that they’re not responsible enough, they don’t make sense to us, they’re unable to be who we need them to be. Or they simply drive us nuts with how they chew their food or take too long to put their shoes and socks on.

All our relationships have deep potential for growth and learning. And the intimate ones count for way more because they’re more potent and there are fewer boundaries to keep us in check with our behaviour. So more of us gets revealed quite naturally.

The more intimate the relationship, the more unfiltered, the more raw we are. And this intimacy is extreme fertile ground: for wounding, for joy, for rage and for beauty.

What if we could birth a new narrative for relationships?

What if a relationship is a sacred learning ground that is designed by our less obvious, more powerful heart and mind—  and that provides us with the exact curriculum for our learning in this life?

If we had this in mind when we argued, how might it go differently? If we respected the choices we make as to who gets to spend time with us as intelligence beyond the telling, what would we say to ourselves when the pain hits and we feel trapped and choice-less?

Next time your partner or child opens up sacred ground (i.e. drives you nuts / annoys you / irritates you / does something you think is crazy, etc.), what if you could feel into the sacred ground of their actions? Can you sense the situation demanding that you grow, and have a conversation about it—a really honest conversation— with someone you trust?

Perhaps then we may not feel alone or helpless anymore. We can share and feel the relief of connection, reach beyond the four walls of our sometimes emotionally prison-like homes, and be in contact about this shame-riddled subject with our much loved friends.

Frankly and most probably, those friends will be deeply relieved that they are not the only ones in that sacred, fertile, and sometimes very scary ground. Sharing these experiences helps us know we are not alone; rather, we are all learning lessons and growing together and because of one another.

Lizzie is a coach and NVW faculty member based in London. More of her writing can be found here

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DECEMBER 19, 2017

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It’s amazing how often we assume our requests can be heard while ignoring the capacity of others to listen to what we’re asking. Some examples:

You made a request by email

If your recipient didn’t read it, didn’t see it, or is overwhelmed by emails and messages, as so many people are, you probably don’t have a listener, no matter how many times you insist that you’ve asked, or how sure you are that they should have read what you said.

You asked at a time when the other person couldn’t pay attention

If they’re busy, anxious, fearful, or distracted, then just because you’ve spoken, again, doesn’t mean you have a listener. Even asking someone face to face who is distracted this way does not guarantee they have any capacity to hear you.

You assumed the other person should be interested in what you have to say simply because of who you are

Your seniority, fame, position of authority, sense of yourself as interesting or important are no guarantee anyone is listening. Neither is being a parent or a partner or the boss. Assuming you do is a route to many difficulties.

Can you think of times you might have asked when there’s no listener available, even if the request seems obvious to you? And if so, what might you do to make it possible for people to genuinely hear you?

You might need to think about timing, place, tone and the medium through which you make your request, as well as the mood of your request (sincerity, cynicism, frustration). All of these will have an impact on others’ capacity to listen.

If you find yourself thinking “I’ve asked them time and time again, but nothing ever seems to happen” you might well still be assuming you have a listener when you don’t.

And now you have a place where you can look to resolve your difficulty.

You can read lots more from senior faculty member  Justin Wise on his blog.

Take up a rigorous study of speaking and listening in Masterful Conversations, a three-day workshop happening in San Francisco and the DC Metro Area in the spring.

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DECEMBER 6, 2017

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What are you doing with your feelings?

Chances are, not enough!

We’re all trained by our culture and family of origin to become “thinking” and “doing” machines and to forget about our feelings as much as possible.

It starts early. As young children, we’re told that we don’t need to feel afraid, that it’s not ok to feel angry, and to pleeeease stop crying when we feel sad. And that's before we're even asked how we're feeling!

It’s like it’s only okay to express happiness. Anything else is either not valid or cumbersome to others.

We learn to reject our painful feelings and, in the process, we reinforce the notion within ourselves and in others that only positive feelings are worth being expressed. If we do allow ourselves to express difficult feelings, we take the risk to see our feelings called invalid or getting “fixed” by others who believe it is their duty to “make us feel better.”

It’s an addiction to pleasure and a complete rejection of pain.

 Painful feelings are useful

There is a reason why we feel emotions and feelings, including painful feelings. When we feel a feeling, we’re getting information about ourselves and the environment. If we don't use that emotional information, we lose the crucial insight of one of our major intelligence centers and we jeopardize our ability to take good care of ourselves and our capacity for emotional connection with others.

Feelings are indeed energy that needs to be processed wisely, then cleared from our organism. Repressed feelings fester in our bodies until they become extra weight, physical pain and illnesses, and/or linger in our minds to turn into resentment, chronic anxiety and/or depression. Unconscious rejection of painful feelings is also what leads to all kinds of physical and behavioral addictions.

The way we connect

When we are not aware of our feelings and the feelings of others, the first interpersonal skill that becomes compromised is our communication. Authentic and effective communication is more about taking into account and addressing underlying feelings than understanding and eloquently expressing pure facts. Not taking the emotional dimension into account when communicating affects our relationships with our intimate partner, as well as with people to whom we are less close.

Therefore, the most important inner work that we can do for our self-care and relationship care is reclaiming our ability to be present to each of our feelings. It’s about becoming aware in real time of what we are feeling, deepening our understanding of what triggers our feelings, learning how to express our feelings authentically and respectfully, and finally clearing the energy of our feelings out of our organism to make room for fresh, new feeling experiences.

Journaling Questions:

  • How do I relate to my inner world of emotions and feelings?
  • Do I allow myself to feel fully or do I tend to distract myself from feeling?
  • What feelings am I most willing to express? What feelings do I tend to ignore or resist?
  • How do I process my feelings? What could help me become more intentional in processing my feelings?
  • Who can listen to me expressing my feelings without trying to change them?

Ariane is an Integral Coach specializing in relationships. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more of her writing about self-care and relationship care on her blog.

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MARCH 13, 2017

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Death is not something we like to think about, talk about or face up to. And yet the truth of our mortal condition is always lurking just outside of our thoughts, conversations and awareness.

As human beings, we know that we will die and that we have no control over when or how. When I was younger, contemplating death caused me intense physical and emotional anxiety. I didn’t know how to address this anxiety so I did my best to distract myself and to push it out of my mind. It wasn’t until I travelled in developing countries that I began to face my fear of demise.

Real human suffering, on a large scale, forced me to face the reality of my own condition and that of everyone I’ve ever known: we will all get sick, we will all suffer and we will all die.

When trying to accept death and suffering as an individual, it’s overwhelming. Chaos seems the only answer for why good people suffer and die. However, it was amongst the chaos of Africa and Asia that I found a release for my existential anxiety: spirituality.

I was discussing my spiritual beliefs today with my boyfriend. We were sitting on Bernal Hill overlooking the beautiful city of San Francisco. Kyle wanted to know how I can be so sure that this world isn’t just random chaos.

My answer was, of course, that I don’t know. In my opinion it is arrogant for a person of belief or non-belief to claim to know the answers to the biggest questions of the universe. My answer was only that I know that I do not control much in this lifetime. I can’t stop bad things from happening to me, any more than I can stop famines in Africa.

What I can do is, with humility, give my worries to something greater than myself. In this way I say, “I can’t hold all the unknowns of my world by myself. I give them over to The Great Mystery with faith that I am an integral part of a divine plan.” I let go of a control that I never had.

In my view, this is the essence of all religion: a recognition that our tiny life really has no power over the destiny of ourselves, our loved ones or our world. What we do have is a bond to every human being that has ever walked the planet and asked “what does it all mean?” It is this question that connects us to the essence of ourselves and also to the essence of every person living and passed.

It’s easy in our ego-driven world to lose site of this connection. But today as I sat with my boyfriend above the city, I began to cry. I told him I have faith because this world that I love will all be taken away from me too soon. I don’t know if I will die today or 50 years from now, but I do know that in my last moments I’ll be thinking about how much I’ll miss this crazy and beautiful life that I was so generously gifted.

Now when I contemplate my death my heart fills with gratitude and I feel an aching to become more present to my passing days. In the light of death, I experience how much I really love my life. That’s enough for me to hold onto. I hold my life as sacred and believe deeply that I’m a part of something divine. I have control over that much: my choice to believe. Everything else I release to the mystery of the universe.

Jessie Curtner is an Integral Coach based in San Francisco. More about her at

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