Friday, December 30, 2011

Speaking Quiet Truths

I took a painting class over the last month. It has changed the way I see. 

What used to be a “red box” is now at first one of a million shades of red, and then as the quiet looking deepens, becomes a gradation of purple-reds in the shadows, and a rainbow of yellow-reds where the sunlight etches into the painted wood grain. Colors have temperature now, and texture, thickness and contrast. A walk in the woods is like going to the Louvre. We live in a world painted by god in a pallet that changes even as we look.

Ayurveda has done the same thing for me to food. Fruit was sweet or tangy. Vegetables where bitter. Now that I eat for health, balance and energy, everything I eat is a piece of the life-force of the universe. It has color, and texture, properties which it will bring or remove from me, or add to my life. My hunger for food is now more like my hunger for truth or beauty. It is not about making the pain go away, it is a way to connect to my own essence.

The same is true about NVC. It has changed my relationship to thought and speech. I used to use words to carry my meaning, but that is like carrying fish from the market in a Rembrant. NVC has shown me that we live in a deep web of interconnectedness and although we can choose to just react to the situations we stumble into, the real gift is know how our deepest truth creates the very situations that many of us feel victim to. Knowing my part in creation empowers me to shape my life as perfectly as possible at my current level of self-truth-telling.

I worked with a couple yesterday that had a fight about their baby’s crying. They each reacted to the situation as though it was not a baby crying, but some creation of their spouse made just to annoy them. As we worked the moments through, slowly, sinking deeper and deeper through the layers of each of their internal truths, we came to the place where they could have been creators of connection and intimacy. As is so often the case, at this deeper level, they were in deep agreement about the very thing they had fought about for days.

I’m coming to think of “maturity” as sinking deeper and deeper into the truth of each moment, so that food, color, thought and feelings break apart into their composite parts and reveal the underlying beauty of each moment.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

As a mediator, I hate compromise

I guess it depends on the world view you hold, but I believe in Compassionate Design: that whatever happens to you can lead you right into the heart of love.

When I first heard about this possibility, I was in my 20’s, and I decided to put it to the test. Along with two friends, I set out one winter to hitch-hike across the country on $2. There was a blizzard the day we started, and we considered postponing, but that would have been admitting defeat before we began, so we headed out into the snow. A month later we returned, tired, amazed, intact, and with our original $6; and so much richer for having “proved” the hypothesis.

If you travel in gratitude, you arrive fulfilled.

So it’s no surprise I ended up a mediator. I spend my days in rooms where people have lost their way, and I show them the gate of hope. Not all of them pass through there, even with a guide to help. But most look up from their distress with a sigh of relief and leave with a smile and new hope. Time and again they say a great weight has been lifted.

Last night I had a second session with a couple who married before they found out who each other was. Then they had a son, and now, for his sake, they are trying to get to know who they married.

I did what I do in the first session: I translated their accusations first into statements about the speaker’s truth, and then into requests of their partner’s indulgence. And I switched the description of our work from stopping the fights into finding the love. From less-pain into more-fun.

In their case, they were both mourning their single lives. All that freedom.  “Okay,” they seemed to be saying, “teach us how to compromise.”

As a mediator, I hate compromise. It almost always means one or both parties not getting what they want, and that just assures more fighting and discontent.

I told them what my marriage is like. It is a first marriage for both of us, and I was 50 when we  met. We both had had long single-lives, and really knew what we each liked. So instead of giving that up, we kept our autonomy and freedom, and added on all the benefits of married life.

I gave them an example. My wife hates standing on lines. She hates being told what to do, especially when it doesn’t make sense to her, or isn’t fun for her. I, on the other hand, don’t mind lines at all. I have a rich inner life, and lines just give me time to think. So anytime we encounter a situation that involves lines, just as Elise is tensing up, I offer to hold her place in line, and suggest she go exploring. I get time alone with my thoughts, and she gets even more freedom that she had when she was single, and had to stand in lines and fume.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mediation Has Ruined Me

I’m finding fewer and fewer good reasons to justify being upset. I still get upset, but I’m noticing that in order to maintain it for any length of time, you have to keep giving yourself a pep talk about how wronged you were; and those talks are seeming less and less convincing to me.

I know most people are really good at those. Some people can take a tiny incident (some incidents are actually so tiny nobody notices it but themselves) and keep cheer-leading their hurt for years, decades!

I think being a mediator has ruined me for upset. Over and over I see people resolving their differences, discovering the moment of misunderstanding, uncovering the positive intention which was missed, letting go of the grudge and finding Love right there underneath.

My grudge-muscle is atrophying. Still all these people around me continue begrudging me and others as if it were normal. Well, it may be normal, but it sure ain’t healthy!

Friday, December 23, 2011


So many of my clients say they have no time to do the homework I assign them each week. They don’t have time to even talk to each other, sometimes not even once in a whole week.

Of course, they have no time to rest.

I prepare to rest on the next in-breath. I relax on the turn-around between in and out.  I rest deeply on the out-breath. I relax again on the turn-around between out and in.

Every breath, therefore, is an opportunity to rest.

Sometimes, between the typing of one letter and the next, I take a breath-vacation, and rest.

The wisdom of the world can arise on one of these breath-vacations. A single one. They are like doorways to the place where serenity is manufactured.

They are always available. Anytime you still have time to breathe.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Occupy Together

The Occupy Movement took a quantum step this last weekend. You won’t hear about it in the news, because it was too big, too important, and too positive to be “newsworthy.”

There are now “Occupy’s” in so many places: not just cities, but hamlets, parks, places, ideas. And even though the 20-somethings can take action at the tapping of a few thumbs - like the action to move money out of the offending banks - an idea that was spoken at a GA meeting a few weeks ago with no mike to amplify it, but it was tweeted world-wide in seconds, and this weekend they reported that one billion dollars has moved out of the banks in those few weeks.

OT was a gathering of Occupies from all over the North East. We were brainstorming how to network across Occupies, regionally, nationally, globally, so that not only could a good idea for an action (like the bank idea) spread at the speed of light, but the interaction could be two-way, so the kernel of an idea in Philly could be improved upon in Seattle, and honed in Kiev, and refined by individuals and groups until it was ready to be tweeted as an action world-wide.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Edge

Elise and I keep moving our relationship to a further edge. How many times have we gone beyond any known horizon with our truth telling? Those quiet conversations, usually in bed late, late at night, or early, early in the predawn morning.

The foundation of my home, is now, therefore, afloat, way out to sea. Grounded, I am, now in the deep waters of the soul. Mated there, soul-mated. 

I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. This is the closest locale there is to my own true epicenter. It isn’t a place. You can’t get there, the traveling was done in moments of truth-telling, and now the place I live is no longer a place. I live in Elise’s understand of who I am, and she lives in mine.

If she were to die (first - we will die), I think I would be set adrift. The journey would begin to unravel like my other, mundane memories, and I think all I would know is that I am not home, but I would not know how to get there from here. Half of here would be gone.

Monday, December 12, 2011


People keep asking me what the Occupy people want, what they expect to change, how do they expect to do it, why they don’t have any leaders or agenda?

Of course none of these people have ever been to a GA (General Assembly) meeting, or gone to any of the thousands of online documents and chats about content. What they are really asking is: Why hasn’t the Occupy movement done anything that is “newsworthy” enough to be reported in the commercial “news.”

I could quote Einstein to them, “No problem has ever been solved by the kind of thinking that caused it.” It is apropos.

Those of us whose political habits are pre-Occupy are so preoccupied with the structures of power and information that got us into this mess, we not only don’t question the process, we have a hard time noticing when change is occurring.

It’s the same with my clients. By the time most of them come to me, their relationship is in the same kind of disarray our society is, these days. They too are about to lose their homes, their dreams are already turning into nightmares. 

Still they come to me hoping I will change some “thing” within the existing structure - usually they hope it will either be how their spouse is, or who is their spouse.

Instead I do what the Occupiers are doing, I set up camp beside their “business as usual” processes, and advocate for inclusion, for all the parts of themselves and of their spouse that have been marginalized, downsized, foreclosed, and disenfranchised.

At the macro level that the Occupy movement confronts, I don’t know what the solution is. On the micro level of the family, the solution is just as invisible to the couples I work with as it is to the 99% who keep asking when the Occupy Movement is going to fix everything.

It’s hard to see the answer, when you’re right inside the problem – so close you’re actually part of it. That’s why a marriage mediator is do valuable. I stand just outside their marriages, so I can see the way out. “Follow me.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Power of Listening

Last night, after 10 weeks of discussing the theory of NVC, I sat in front of the class, and had each student sit next to me and let me listen, non-violently, empathetically, to whatever was up for them. It was a revelation to both the participant and the observers. With the subtle touch of a feather, each person’s deepest truth emerged with a whisper, like blowing eraser shards off a drawing and seeing the picture like magic.

So many people are walking around with unspoken, unexamined truths - most people with a lifetime’s worth. Without this inner guidance they don’t even know they don’t know what they do know.