Psychological Safety in Groups

Psychological Safety in Groups

Psychological Safety is important because it is what allows human beings to combine themselves to create a system that can think and operate as ONE THING, a unit that is capable of greater intelligence and creativity than any individual could be alone. Furthermore, being part of a group like this gives us the profound experience of belonging to, of being part of, something larger than ourselves. This makes going to work and being at work intrinsically meaningful and rewarding. If we're going to spend the majority of our waking hours at work, with these people, we may as well have a good time doing it.

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On Love & Loss - My Story

On Love & Loss - My Story

In mid-February of 2016, my then-partner Benjamin Buell was diagnosed with a very serious liver condition. Just a few months later, he was diagnosed again with an aggressive form of bile duct cancer. And though we had come to the mutual agreement to transition from partners back to friends, I spent the majority of the next year helping him navigate the dizzying labyrinth of the medical system and weather the incredible suffering brought on by his illness. And on this day last year, May 2nd, I received the unfathomable gift of sitting by his side as he gently and peacefully left his body.

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Present Moment Productivity - Success from the Inside Out

This experiment that I didn’t mean to run has yielded a realization I wasn’t trying to find: that it’s perfectly fine to put peace first, to put presence first, and if life doesn’t go the way I think it should go, then SO BE IT. Productivity does not lead to peace. Peace leads to productivity. "So be it" is my mantra these days. 

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Is Meditation Working?

I was about to get dealt one of the most intensely disappointing experiences of my adult life and the utter disorientation and pain that ensued was enough to glue my butt to my cushion. I NEEDED practice, but the follow-the-rules-and-hope-it-helps approach wasn’t going to cut it. I needed it to be focused, purposeful, and measurable - I needed it to WORK.

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Leaving Home - Finally

The poles and roles we inhabit within our family systems become embedded into our belief systems and our identity structures. It doesn’t take long before we would be completely unrecognizable without them, and eventually we come to cling to them as the only way we can know who we are, how it feels to be us, and how to navigate the world and relationships with other people. But a funny thing happens in adulthood when we become aware of the niches we first inhabited within our families: it’s really hard to get out of them. 

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Relic of Self-Love

This evening, while sipping my customary cup of tulsi, nettle, peppermint tea, I'm doing something quite the opposite of customary: cleaning old files out of my computer. My new favorite Spotify playlist, "Deep Focus," and softly flickering candles are making the task somewhat less mind-numbing, but not much. Surprised, then, was I to come across something that instantly captured my attention: a "sticky" note with only one word visible at the top, "Sweetheart..."

A leaden rose of sadness bloomed in my heart as I began to read the letter I had written to myself long ago...

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NLP Demystified

Neuroscience gives us an incredible insight into the nature of our experience: what appears to us as "external reality" is actually the result of millions of brain processes that filter, sort, de-compose, and re-compose the raw data that we collect with our senses. We don't experience all those computations, we just experience "the world" as a unified, continuous whole. What neuroscience shows us is that the brain takes lots of creative liberties in how it creates that whole. Luckily for us, it's pretty accurate in representing what's out there. 

 I've just been feeling so constrained lately...

I've just been feeling so constrained lately...

But here’s where it gets interesting. Just as instantly and automatically as the brain decides what it all is, it also decides what it all means. And what it means determines how it feels, which is really what’s most important to us humans. Here's an overly simplified example. I was once driving with a friend and had to make some quick moves to dodge a car that was swerving right next to us. I may have shouted some things, so my friend gently touched my elbow and said, "Crystallin, what if there's a bee in the car?" Her brain was generating a reality where people are mostly reasonable beings, so their behaviors probably have reasonable explanations. My brain? Let's just say it was not quite so generous. Even if there was no such insect, witness the remarkable difference in our experiences: my friend was calm, amused, open, patient, even kind. I was a hot, steaming mess. Which would you choose?

The implication here is that each of us live inside a bubble of meaning that's being generated from within our own brains. But I'm not talking bumper sticker wisdom here; this isn't as simple as "Don't believe everything you think." The brain processes I'm talking about happen instantaneously, completely outside of our conscious awareness, and are going a million miles a minute all the time. For the most part, all of this works out to our benefit. If our brains could not automate these meaning-making processes, we couldn't do things like create languages or recognize the faces of our loved ones. But there are some ways that this capacity of the brain starts to work against us, especially in the first two years of our lives when the brain is writing the programs that it will use to make meaning for the rest of its life. Think about it: there you are, one-and-a-half years old, and something really, really scary happens. You can hardly stand up straight, let alone make good sense out of your scary experiences. You're probably going to decide something about yourself, about other people, or about the world that is totally and completely untrue (example: "I caused this bad thing to happen because I'm bad"). Our brains cannot not make meaning, so I'm sorry, but you're stuck with that faulty bit of programming (until you change it, that is).

 Bye Bye Bucket!

Bye Bye Bucket!

Think of it this way: when you were really, really young, your experience was like liquid jell-o: fluid and formless. But inevitably, as you had more and more experiences interacting with the world, your little brain had no choice but to make sense out of your experience and thereby form beliefs about it all. Eventually, those beliefs clustered together and formed a container, like a jell-o mold. Once that container is in place, no matter what kind of liquid experience you pour into it, it will always take about the same shape. Have you noticed that certain things in life tend to turn out the same, over and over? They tend to go wrong or fall flat or refuse to get started at all... and after a while you realize that the only common denominator in all those experiences is... you?

Yes, this is where it starts to get a little out there. But check it out: that friend of mine, the voice of wisdom and compassion in the war zone of Denver traffic, she assumes that the world is a nicer place than I do (or used to). Is it any wonder, then, that the world is just nicer to her in return? What I see over and over again, both with myself and with my clients, is that our experience has this eerie but consistent way of reflecting our most deeply held beliefs about ourselves, about others, and about our world. And I don't mean our conscious beliefs, like, "Trump is a joke." I mean the deep patterns and programs that got written down before we could form full sentences. Our brains write programs to make sense out of our experience, but at some point, they start generating our experience

One of my favorite professors, the late Pat Patton, once said, "The only thing that ever benefited from a beating was a rug." So there's pretty much no reason at all to be hard on yourself about this. The good news is that all those patterns and programs spinning away inside your brain are totally revisable, if only we know how to speak their language. NLP is that language, and if we can change the shape of those deep programs, we change the shape of the experiences they generate. At that point, change happens by itself. You don't have to try to be different, because you just are. 

The Sexiest Approach to Life's Biggest Question

Do we live in an intelligent, loving, densely interconnected universe that calls for openness, surrender, and "going with the flow?" Or do we live in a giant game of legos just waiting for us to build the castles exactly as we'd like them? Whatever you choose, the implications are huge in regards to how you live your life and the results you will see. 

What's most true for me is that they're both true and I don't want to choose. I want to live in a loving, intelligent universe that invites me to relax my thinking mind and allow miracles WAY bigger than I could plan to unfurl themselves. I have to snap when David Whyte says, "What you can plan is too small for you to live." I crave the sense of being deeply, divinely connected to all that is, of being guided by what is actually just my own soul speaking to me from the dimension of myself that transcends appearances like time and space. I know I have a soul and I know it has somewhat of an agenda, which is always in my highest good no matter what it may feel like in the moment. I believe that we're all taking part in something that is Basically Good, so I treat it as such. God or no God, I see that this approach to life leaves me with tremendous Hope about Life. I hear hope is good for your health, so there's that. 

But then there's this other thing that's true: we have CHOICE and we're riddled with intense feelings that compel us to reach for certain things and to run like hell from others. It's not wrong to want things, in fact I think that this wanting is PART of my soul's agenda, not a side show, a hindrance, or an illusion. Furthermore, if you have it that you don't have the right to want things and aren't worthy of receiving them in the first place, it's highly unlikely that you'll even SEE the opportunities that DO manage to get through to you. Our thoughts, our words, our intentions, and our actions ARE powerful and they DO impact how things unfold. Equally important is learning to when to set boundaries and say "No," no matter what the consequences might be. So there must be an active, directive counterpart to the receptive, the yang to the yin, so learning to inhabit and wield this power is also part of our task in this life.

So this is where I live, sandwiched (or perhaps hugged) right in between these two forces, with deep longing to submit and be ravished by life and an equally fierce thrust to create, to build, to wield my power for good in this world. It's not a bad place to be, actually it's sounding kind of hot now that I think about it. But it doesn't always feel that way. So I have two questions for you.

What do YOU want?

What does LIFE want for you?

In rare, fleeting moments, I catch a glimpse of the way in which these are actually the same question. But most of our waking life is spent in the space in between. So let's play. I invite you to come dance with me in that pregnant space in between.