Most Influential Read of 2018

I read a lot of books that I loved this year, but I decided to write about the book that had the biggest impact on me for 2018, The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker.
If you are someone who brings groups of people together for meetings, events, dinner parties,work or play, there is something in this book for you.
Priya Parker emphasizes the importance of boundaries for any gathering. "If everyone is invited, no one is invited." Size does matter. She covers a list of boundaries every organizer should consider. She helps you think about your role during the gathering as a connector and community builder. I can't tell you how many times I've seen organizers disappear into the background when actually they are needed to take on more of a role for their gathering. 

My take away: I think differently about my own events, workshops, and gatherings. I have a list in my head now that is different than the list of things I used to think about.  I also feel very relaxed hosting anything because I feel more confident that my attention is on all the right things to make it a great experience for attendees. I understand better the significance of why we gather and feel a deep commitment to it.
I used to spend lots of time over- preparing my content for gatherings to be sure I had enough for everyone to do. Now I have my attention on other things and it makes the organizing easy. Though I've had successful gatherings in the past, I believe this book has helped me take it up a notch. I keep giving credit to this author for the new ways I am thinking. And that to me is what an influential read must do.  

Your time is precious. And any gathering needs to be worthy of your attention. 

"What do you think is the most needed conversation for this group to have now? "

Taking the Deep Dive End of Year

As you wrap up the year, take time to journal and notice your year. December is a great month to look at the whole year and help set your compass for how you want to navigate 2019. Here are some journal questions I have used to help me look back as well as look forward. Consider sitting with a friend after journaling and discussing your answers.

Questions to Look Back on the Year
What was the most spiritually fulfilling part of the year? 

Who did you have quality time with?

How did you participate with your family?
How did you manage your finances? 

Did you accomplish goals or a vision? What progress did you make? 

How did you care for yourself?

How did you treat your body? What health needs did you have? 

What do you notice was too much? What was too little? 

It's important to do some research and really dive into each of the questions. One of my deep dives was to look closely at my calendar, my bank statements, my computer files - I keep track of certain things by the year. I noticed last year I did lots of presentations and I felt I did too many. It helped me to readjust for this year and to present less in person and offer online classes. This is just one example of the many things I noticed as I researched each of the questions.

The next part is to reset your compass for this new year.

Questions to Look Ahead for the Year 
Who do you want to spend quality time with?

Is there something new you want to learn? What is it and how will you get there? 

Do you have some health needs to pay attention to this year? What can you do to support your body? 

How do you want to participate in your family?

What financial changes do you want to make? 

What dream do you have, a promise you want to make for yourself for this year?

What would be spiritually fulfilling for you? 

Anything you need more of? Less of? 

The Compass setting questions require planning ahead. It involves looking over the months ahead and asking yourself what would you need to do in the months ahead to reset your compass. How can you make room on your calendar for your answers? What do you need to save money for? What do you need to schedule? 

And then of course we always have the unexpected. The great thing about this exercise is it helps you see your priorities. And then when the "unknown" happens, your priorities will be in clear view for you. When you need to readjust your compass, it won't be as overwhelming because you have a practice of looking at your priorities. You'll know how to ask yourself what matters most.

We Hear The Scream

It is time for disembodied people to stop pretending to lead. A few years ago, before the Women’s March ( I attended) and before #metoo, I received a note from a guy who was reaching out to apologize.

 He was apologizing from something he did long ago. We were both just kids back then.

 But he realized his actions were hurtful and he wanted me to know how sorry he was. He had not assaulted me or raped me.  He wasn’t running for office or seeking to be on the Supreme Court. He was just an ordinary guy who had done some soul searching. He realized what he did was wrong and he wanted to take responsibility. 

I told him it was a long time ago and it was not continuing to hurt me. I had long since healed. Though I was fortunate. Some wounds are harder to heal/ much harder. I was very moved that he acknowledged what he had done and that he regretted it decades later. So many years later, his regret was felt by us both. And It didn’t matter how many years had passed. 

It didn’t matter how many years had passed. 
Time doesn’t change the truth. 

A person who cannot judge themselves cannot serve as justice on the Supreme Court. Covering a woman’s mouth to prevent her from screaming while touching her is sexual assault.  It doesn’t matter how long ago it was.

 As a psychotherapist for more than 30 years, I have worked with many people who have been sexually assaulted and the wounds are permanent. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. The trauma is significant and keeps returning in many ways over many years requiring continuous healing work. 

It is very difficult healing work. 

 If you cannot look at your own soul, you can’t sit in a seat of Justice. Period. We don’t need disembodied people pretending they can lead. We don’t need justices that don’t  understand the damage done during sexual assault. We don’t need justices that actually do the sexual assaulting. It doesn’t matter how long ago.  They can’t lead. Leadership is far bigger and requires more from mere mortals. 

And we don’t need Senators that want to cover the scream. 

The Art of Reflection


I have been teaching reflective processes for a long time because they help you in so many ways to: untangle your knots, choose the steps in your path, lead, heal, figure out your boundaries, know your truth, and get grounded. Reflection is key to your relationship with yourself and others.

Reflection allows you to connect to your wisdom.

But how do you reflect?

You need to use a process for reflection. I have become a big fan of the SoulCollage® process for reflection because it is so darn effective for getting to your truth. It is also fun and full of surprises. I think it offers lots for those of you who need some relaxing restorative time.

In SoulCollage® you put together images (no words) on a card to form a collage. You reflect on what you see in the card. Working with just images, you get to know yourself from your right side of your brain. Each card you create becomes an aspect of yourself. The cards help you see parts of yourself that may be hidden from your view. Hidden gems are revealed in every SoulCollage®.

I've recently become a SoulCollage® facilitator. SoulCollage® was developed by Marriage and Family Therapist, Sena Frost. Though Sena is long passed away, I speak her language as we are both from the same school of therapy. I was drawn to her work.

I am a big fan of writing as a reflective process and SoulCollage® uses a writing component (left side of brain). Because this reflective process uses both parts of your brain, you get the chance to access more of yourself and your soul.

How does this relate to boundaries?

Listening to your boundaries is also a way of knowing yourself and of bringing clarity to who you are and what matters to you. Your inner boundary compass answers what is a Yes for you and what is a No.

To know your boundaries, your truth, your authentic Yes and No, you need to use a reflective process.
A reflective process offers you a doorway in to listen to your truth and understand yourself.

If you'd like to dive in and try SoulCollage® as a reflective process, join me for a full day workshop (click here for more info- or paste ticket link in browser) October 27 at the Earth Sanctuary on Whidbey Island, Washington.

You can contact me if you are interested in SoulCollage® for a fun and relaxing workplace wellness workshop or as a travel retreat. I am happy to share this with you in beautiful places. Next week I am taking it to a retreat in France. I think a nurturing setting enhances the experience.

Save the date to join me for a 3-day Retreat at the glorious Whidbey Institute on Finding Your Way with Your Boundaries March 1-3, 2019. More info on that soon.

Reflection Photo by Sarri taken at Bloedel Reserve. 

The Joy of Being Spontaneous

I started with an experiment to intentionally slow down for a month. But what I ended up getting is a gift I am keeping forever.

How I Slowed Down

In case you feel like trying this yourself, here is how I planned it.

It takes many boundaries to slow down.

It wasn’t a “slow” season for me. To give myself time to slow down, I intentionally reduced my work hours for the month. I didn’t completely stop working.

The purpose was to not feel "busy" with a busy schedule.

I explained this to my clients. I was really surprised by their response. Some of my clients loved the idea and decided to do their own version of this experiment. I saved some work hours to be sure my clients were seen and getting the support they needed from me. But I want to be honest and share that reducing work hours was an important part of slowing down.

I had to slow everything down, not just some things.

There was no expectation of how I would feel or what I would do.   I decided I would not start any new work or home projects. As tempting as it was with time on my hands, I decided that just filling it with projects would not allow me to know what slowing down was. I would just be distracted with other things to get done.

In addition to no projects, I made minimal commitments to leave space to be spontaneous. This allowed me to see the weather and decide what I wanted to do. We had a smoke filled sky from wild fires, rain on a Saturday, and I had the space to be present, flexible and decide what would be fun to do based on the weather. I didn't feel disappointed by the weather. It didn't matter. 

I moved slowly. I was not feeling hurried. 

What happened?

I noticed a picnic basket that had been unused. So I used it and went on picnics.

I found myself being spontaneous, more flexible with my time. I had time to spare! It is a feeling of spaciousness.

I felt my own creativity tingling on my skin. It was like creativity was bubbling on my surface. New doorways to my imagination opened.

I felt more patient. Waiting was easy and even pleasant. 

I noticed the absence of pressure. In fact, things that came in that could give me a feeling of pressure, were set aside in a box, to deal with when I chose.  

The volume of input moving towards me from news, social media, mail, phone, text, email, felt like it was now under my control. It didn't go away, I chose to quiet media interruptions, not respond immediately, and protect the feeling of slowing down.

Playing and slowing down go very well together.

I felt my inner child joyful and eager to make contact with me. Anything I did choose to do, had to align with my inner child. I returned to guitar lessons. I spent time with friends. Lots of time with friends. I had a week of making my own day camp with a friend of 40 years. 

I had unhurried time with a friend who is very sick. 

I signed up for fun workshops to learn how to dye yarn with natural indigo and I followed the trail to become a SoulCollage® facilitator.

I did something I always wanted to do, river rafting.

It was easier to catch mistakes, oversights, overcharges. I had time to read receipts. When I am too busy, it is easy to miss things.

The Big A-HA  

What started as something I was doing for a month, slowing down, has become something really significant. I imagined if I liked it, I might do it annually. But it turns out I am not willing to give this up eleven months of the year.

It is my new priority. I will continue to simply live slower. 

I am returning to my clients in our normal schedule. My work feels intentional, calm, deliberate, and it allows me to focus with each person. I love my client hours. Meaningful, unhurried, slow, deep conversations.

Outside of my client hours, I am doing some rethinking to ensure I am protecting this boundary to slow down. I am leaving open space, unscheduled hours around me and being much more careful about how I use my weekend time, my evening hours, my mornings, to be more spontaneous. 

Being present is how I show up in the moment. But having all my moments planned in advance, doesn't allow me to show up spontaneously. And I discovered that having spontaneous moments is what I needed most. 

Being Brave Enough To Try

I signed up to do something new, snorkel in the glacier water of Iceland. 

Why would I get in freezing water?   I wanted to see the earth's tectonic plates, the edge of the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. These two plates can be seen together in Iceland. 

I was eager for the adventure. I was all Yes.

The morning I was scheduled to snorkel, I drove out with my husband early to the meeting point, a parking lot at the edge of the water. The dive company had a truck loaded with wet suits, dry suites, masks, and fins. I met two guides who would help dress 6 of us adventurous souls, and lead us through the water for 30 minutes between the tectonic plates. 

While the guides helped us suit up, we were shown a map of the route we would swim. The water was crystal clear and we would see more than a hundred feet below.

No part of our bodies could be exposed to the icy water. 

I was wearing thermal pants and top, a dry suit and wet suit. The dive hood was placed on my head, my wrists taped to assure no water would get through, and finally a cord placed around my neck to seal the dry suit. Each layer that covered us made me feel more trapped.

The confinement in the suit was more terrifying than icy water. My mouth went dry and my vocal chords were sticking together, which makes it impossible to breathe.

I couldn't do this.

I wanted to do this.

I couldn't do this.

The head game went on.

The guides were completely ready for this. I wanted to give it a try. I entered the water, floating and marveling at the plates. And as the rest of my group entered the water, I lost the head game. I couldn't swim forward without a way out of the water for 30 minutes. I had to listen to my No. Yes was gone.

I climbed out of the water and waved goodbye to my husband and the rest of the group.

One of the guides linked his arm in mine and walked with me back to the parking lot. He would help me out of the dive suit. As we walked he said,

"At least you were brave enough to try."

I thought of all the things I had done in this lifetime. All the things I had been brave enough to try. And I did not feel any sense of failure as I left the parking lot.

I took a walk and climbed the hill to see the tectonic plates above ground. It was stunning. Just as stunning as seeing it under water.

I marveled at the stone walls created by the plates. If I had not signed up to snorkel, I might never have seen the plates. I did not realize they could be seen above ground. 

We all have those times when something doesn't turn out the way we expect. Sometimes, being brave enough to try is enough.