May Resource Round-up

May 31, 2011

Thank you all for another great month! Your presence here is the very best butt-kick I can imagine – a loving goad for me to keep learning and thinking and talking about trust.

As I leave this month’s Help theme, I’m struck by how much more there is to explore on this topic. Before my family’s move took my brain and body over, I had hoped to explore the fears that accompany burn-out potential; the possibility of despairing if we open our hearts too much to the bigger, systemic needs/problems around us; and questions like, What if my/our best efforts at help are only perpetuating problems? I wonder this as I see beggars on the street, and as I consider the work of many non-profits here and overseas.


As a move to trust that no topic can EVER be mined for trust completely – or, rather, as a move to trust that that impossibility is just fine – I’ll close out this month as usual, and offer you some resources I find helpful for nourishing trust on this topic in an ongoing way.

You’re in my heart as I finish up my move (we load up our U-Haul tomorrow), and I’ll be back in this space to kick off a new month – Bodies, this time! – just as soon as the dust settles.

Until then, sending love,


General help for your own stuck places:

  • Getting Unstuck This is an audio series by Pema Chodron that I love so much. Pema’s voice itself is so disarming, but her way of speaking truths clearly, and with great levity, feels to me like Miracle Grow for trust. The subtitle describes the content so well: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality.
  • Finding Your Voice This is Jen Lee’s most recent offering – a multimedia, self-paced course with access to an ongoing, online discussion board. From the back cover:

    There are thousands of books about how to write, resources about the mechanics of telling our stories. But before we ever open our mouths or pick up a pen, there is something to overcome. Debris to clear from our path. The question, Will it be worth it? to answer.

    The time for finding your voice has come.

    Let’s clear the way.

    I love Jen and have experienced first hand her gentle, powerful work of freeing people’s voices. You can’t go wrong with this course.

  • What to remember when waking This is an audio series by poet/philosopher David Whyte. I could listen to this series over and over again and still discover new nuggets to help me navigate life’s turns. Sounds True summarizes it this way:

    [What to remember when waking] offers wisdom for building the essential disciplines that will see us through the difficulties of our human journey—skills of trust, vulnerability, momentum, and courage in the face of the unknown.

    A trust-tending series through and through.

  • Sounds True Sounds True is a wonderful online resource for all things awakening. From the Sounds True site itself:

    Sounds True is an independent multimedia publishing company that embraces the world’s major spiritual traditions, as well as the arts and humanities, embodied by the leading authors, teachers, and visionary artists of our time. Our approach to publishing is not dependent on a single format or technology—rather, we strive with every title to preserve the essential “living wisdom” of the author, artist, or spiritual teacher. It is our goal to create products that not only provide information to a reader or listener, but that also embody the essential quality of a wisdom transmission between a teacher and a student.

    I love the free podcast interviews that Tami Simons does with leading spiritual teachers and writers, and find that they push me gently out of my own places of fear and stuckness.

    LOTS of help and trust-nourishment at this entire site!

  • Rising Tide This is a project with two purposes: to seed trust and hope, and to raise funds for the launch of, a virtual connecting place for all things sustainable. My dear friend, Karah, and her partner, Lorrena (who I hope to meet some day!), are behind both things, and are giving their lives to helping us all see the good things happening locally, and across our globe.

    If you’re stuck in the pessimism that mainstream news can generate, or experiencing even low-level anxiety about the state of our world, this video is so worth a watch (5 minutes, and free)! And if you like what you see, do consider giving 2 or more dollars to access the hope-filled research behind the video’s content!

Balancing helping and being/receiving:

  • The Savor and Serve Experiment. Jennifer Louden has devoted this year to an experiment she’s termed Savor and Serve. In her words,

    It’s a memoir of one year in which I explore the sweet spot where my desire to savor life meets my desire to serve the world…In which I wonder is it possible that self-love+world-love creates wholeness for all?

    I’ve been moved and impressed by how honest Jen has worked to be with herself and her readers about what she’s feeling and thinking as she moves through this year. And though I haven’t joined myself, the Savor and Serve Cafe looks like a wonderful community. For a monthly membership fee, you have access to interviews, discussion forums, videos, art and journalling explorations, and more, all related to savoring life and serving the world.

  • Marianne Elliott: Zen Peacekeeper. Change-maker. Marianne Elliott is a recovering save-the-world junkie who writes and thinks with great depth and eloquence about the ins and outs of local and international aid, as well as the path and power of self-kindness. She has a growing repertoire of online yoga courses that embody this value of self-kindness. Her life and work in Afghanistan are the basis of her forthcoming book, Zen Under Fire: Learning to sit still in Afghanistan.

Overt Trust-Tending Articles on Help

  • Here is the list of articles from this month at Trust Tending.

Please feel free to share more help-related links in the comments below!

And to view or peruse past or future themes at this site (each month here is devoted to tending trust around a different theme), click here.

Much warmth to you all!

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How we help…

May 29, 2011

This is a guest post by Christa Gallopoulos of Carry It Forward. I’ve invited a couple of kindreds to post this week while my family gears up for and makes a local move. Christa is an artist, a photographer, a writer, and one who rises again and again through intense challenges. I’m in awe of the trust that she embodies. Christa recently launched a beautiful new iteration of Carry it Forward, which I hope you’ll go peruse, and is soon to launch a new venture with Belle Pirri at Thanks so much for being here, Christa!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about help, so it was no surprise when Kristin asked me to write about it here! There are so many associations in my mind with that little four letter word – helpful, helpless, The Help – the book (and soon, the movie!), the help I give, the help I struggle to take, those who need help but reject it, those who seek help desperately. In the end, though, this is what I come up with: we all need it and we all give it, often without even knowing the impact we have on others.

It’s no huge secret that I didn’t have an idyllic childhood, and I’ve been encouraged strongly (pleaded with, lately) to write about my recovery from those years full of abuse and trauma. Somehow, I turned out okay, better than okay on some days, and those in the helping professions (there is that word again!) tell me over and over what a help (!) it would be to many if I could just put my experience into book form.

While I love, love, love to help others – it is so much easier to help others than to help ourselves – I hesitated for a long time. Not because I don’t want to save the world, or because I am embarrassed or ashamed of what happened all those years ago, or because I am afraid of putting bad ideas into the wrong people’s heads (although all of those reasons have come up) but because I really wanted to write the book from a positive place. For so long, I didn’t think my story was all that extraordinary, but with the assistance of a whole team of incredible folks and years of hard labor, I am finally in a place where I can see the good in it and tell my tale. Happily.

And here’s the basis of the story: there was always someone in my life who helped me get from point A to point B. As an adult, I realized that it was likely that these blessed individuals carried me forward without ever knowing what was going on.

I grew up in a small town, and even though Rule #1 was that we did not talk about anything that happened at home, I think I believed that everyone knew. That they saw what happened on the bad days and even on the good ones. So the librarian who opened the public library for me on New Year’s Day so that I could do my book report, who spent hours reading to me in the back office, who introduced me to the photographer who was the first to see and help me recognize that I had a visual eye? It seems that she didn’t know that she might as well have been a wand waving fairy godmother.

And the woman I babysat for, who had known me most of my life and showed me the way a mother could love her children, who gave me my first road map for a healthy life? It turns out that she had no clue whatsoever that things were less than safe at our house. And sadly, she felt as if she failed me when she learned what had been going on, twenty odd years later. I’m not sure, still, that she understands just how much she helped. They both, along with a larger cast of angels, helped me to thrive under less than ideal conditions. Without their guidance, support and love, I know for a fact that I would not be here now.

My point is not that I had a horrible time as a kid. It’s really not. What I am trying to say is this: we all help, all the time. It is what we do naturally. It is when we begin to worry that we can’t help enough, or the right way, or that we might screw things up, that we falter and freeze. If we let fear get involved, we get all tangled up and can’t follow through on our good intentions, on our innate knowing of what is true and right, on the love that we bring to each other.

And it works in reverse, too. If we are afraid of seeming needy, of being honest, of telling our stories and speaking our desires, we cannot be helped. We put up shields, all the time. We get in our own way. We stop the flow of love and we become helpless. And really, who wants to be that?

I believe in the innate goodness in the hearts of all people. Sure, it gets mutated and lost sometimes, but if you are reading this, it is within you. You can do it – and it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort. A simple smile, a quick “you did that so beautifully”, a little note of thanks – that’s all it takes. And that, you can do.

So get out there, run straight out into the game we call life. Help, be helped. Even when you can’t see immediate results, it’s all good.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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When the breakdown is the breakthrough

May 27, 2011

This is a guest post by Lindsey Mead. I’ve invited a couple of kindreds to post this week while my family gears up for and makes a local move. Lindsey’s article here is a beautiful example of what Lindsey does often at her blog, A Design So Vast: reflects honestly, eloquently, and movingly about the wonder and struggle of life. I hope you’ll go read more of what she writes!

I hate asking for help. I imagine most of us feel this way. For me it’s less about admitting weakness and more about imposing; I don’t want to put anyone in the position of feeling obligated to do something for me. This is especially true because most people, I suspect, are too nice to say no. So I feel guilty about being a burden.

For most of my life this worked. I just didn’t ask anyone for help very often. I gritted my teeth and did what needed to be done. And then my ability to cope – formerly an asset that I relied on both to get me through the day and in large part for my identity – absolutely dissolved in the wake of my first child’s birth. In a two week period that remains the darkest time of my life, I fell apart utterly.

When I was pregnant with Grace I heard lots of talk about baby nurses and overnight nannies; there seemed to be infinite permutations of help. I rejected them all. First, because they were expensive. But a second, and equally important reason, was because I did not want help. I’d always been able to do everything myself, and this was going to be no different.

Well, it was different. I collapsed into a puddle of tears and regrets, stared blankly at my healthy baby daughter, and wondered if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. At my two week appointment with my midwives, I asked for help. This was unprecedented, but for the first time in my life, I was unable to keep up the façade of competence that was my standard face to the world. After a long day in their office (because they didn’t think I was safe alone with Grace, a fact that still gives me chills) I went home with a lot of help: two therapists, a prescription for Zoloft, and the directive to hire 24 hour help for at least a short period. With a name for my situation – severe post partum depression – I felt liberated to talk to those closest to me about how I was struggling.

What happened after this changed forever my sense of my place in the world. Finally I had reached the limit of my own ability to do things alone, and I was forced to lean into the people who loved me. I was in free fall, and I was startled by the sturdiness of the net that caught me. My husband jokes that it’s still not clear who had colic in those early weeks, Grace or me, and while he’s kidding I think the analogy hints at something insightful. I, too, felt like a newborn, skinless, terrified, and dependent. In what I now understand to be a cataclysmic breakdown, I let go of something that had always been essential to my sense of myself. My unambiguous belief that I could accomplish anything I needed to through sheer force of will shattered. The certainty that had defined me for 28 years was revealed to be artificial. In the midst of those dark, tearful, sleepless weeks I understood something basic: life was about questions, not answers.

I never expected that asking for help would teach me how to live my life. It taught me the strength of my own support system and it also demonstrated that people who care are genuinely pleased to help when you need it. But it also dismantled the scaffolding of certainty that I now realize was standing between me and the sun. Without that – the sureness that I now understand was tremendously brittle, and limiting – I grew more comfortable with questions, with doubt, with all of the immense questions that parenting, and adulthood, and midlife have brought with them. And what an extraordinary and terrifying blessing that has been.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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The magic of compassion

May 24, 2011

This is a guest post by Christine LaRocque. I’ve invited a couple of kindreds to post this week while my family gears up for and makes a local move. I hope you’ll click over to Christine’s site, Coffees & Commutes, and peruse much more of her work there. Her writing always soothes me and is wonderful, trust-nourishing stuff.

As I showered this morning, readying myself for the busy workday ahead, and then drove the long commute to the office, I thought about what I should write for this guest post. Kristin asked that I write about something in relation to help, and though I jumped at the chance to share my words here, I was feeling somewhat uninspired by the theme. 

So I asked myself why? As I come through a difficult season of change and struggle that is marked by an intense path of inward focus, but also the kindness and generosity of spirit of others who have helped me along the way, why would I find writing about help so uninspiring?

And I realized it’s because help is tremendously undervalued in our society. We think of asking for help as a weakness, admittance that we can’t do it, a reason to be judged for our perceived failures. We forget that help is about asking for what is needed, for getting support to help us along, when things may be just a little harder than usual.

Motherhood can be a difficult and lonely place. We spend so much time giving of ourselves, to our children, our partners, our employer, friends and family that we often forget that strength can come simply from asking for help. We are a generation of achievers raised to believe that if we only work hard enough; set aside our hearts for reason; push ahead, do more, we can have it all.

At the turn of the decade, I had declared that the coming decade would be all about living my life. I didn’t anticipate that my life would take over and I would find myself more lost than ever while trying to manage a full-time career, long commute, and two young boys. Before long I was completely depleted without the reserves I needed to weather another storm, let alone a normal day.

I believed it was my job to be in control. I focused all of my energies on being a good mom. I forgot to spend any energy on me. I didn’t know that it was okay to ask for help.

My life swelled into a tidal wave of fatigue and sadness. There were moments, raw and dark moments, when I wished for everyone and everything to go away. I considered running away. Strong was my desire to be alone with my struggles and to escape.

I wanted quiet. Instead I got help.

And then I shared the depths of my struggle in a very public way at Coffees & Commutes. There was surprise, both online and offline. I had locked this part of myself away, holding tightly to the illusion that all was well and I was managing. I had been deep in denial, focused on painting a pretty portrait. Until then my sadness was my own, isolated and hidden to all but my husband.

In sharing my darkest secret so publicly, I worried. I felt vulnerable. As I laid myself bare I wondered how it would unfold. I wanted to be honest. I wrote about my sadness because we don’t talk of this enough. It was my hope that my honesty could help another in some small way.

In so doing I discovered kindness – the kind that provides a lifeline to a person deeply in distress – and compassion that can come only from one mother to another to another.

I was overwhelmed and buoyed by the support, the generosity of spirit and the wise encouragement. Women I knew and women who were complete strangers applauded me for taking a difficult step, offering a listening ear, and responding with honesty of their own.

There were many who reached out in a very personal way, too – particularly Karen Maezen Miller, a Zen priest and author of the book Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life. She gave of her time, counseled me from miles away by phone. In her wisdom and kindness she gave me permission to struggle. She opened a window for me that had previously been sealed shut. She broke through. By giving an hour of her time, she helped.

That is the magic of compassion, the power it has to help even just one. It is also the magic of a sisterhood of mothers. We understand each other; can make a difference, not only to our children but to each other. Whether through a few kind words, or a phone call to a fellow mother facing her darkest hour, it only takes a moment, a few words of kindness, to make a world of difference.

Christine is a full-time communications professional and mother of two boys. She blogs about the madness and sweetness that is life at

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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A ritual for receiving

May 23, 2011

I’m not sure how representative comments and emails are of the total readership of a blog, but I’ve gotten enough of both this month that say some version of, “I’m not very good at asking for or accepting help,” to want to think more deeply on this topic.

Specifically, I have in mind a ritual that focuses on 1) getting us conscious of where we are on the “able to ask for and accept help” spectrum, and 2) moving us in the direction of “able” on that spectrum. (If you aren’t familiar with the concept of rituals, read this post for an introduction to the way I use them at this site.)

I wrote earlier about there being seasons or specific life arenas where rejecting help in favor of stepping into our own power might be the Big Lesson we need to learn. But even if that is our current lesson, being capable of accepting help when it’s actually appropriate feels like an important life skill to have. Our peace and well-being (not to mention the peace and well-being of those around us!) and even our very lives, sometimes, depend on it.

So here it is:

A ritual for receiving

    This ritual can be performed in 2 minutes, or much, much longer, depending on how meditative you want to or can be with it. And like meditation, practicing this ritual on a regular basis, rather than as a one-time deal, will broaden and deepen and strengthen its effects.

  1. Find a time when you can sit quietly, alone. Depending on your life circumstances, this might be during your prime time of awakeness and receptivity, but it doesn’t have to be. This can be done in bed as you awake, or at night as you move toward sleep. It can be done in your car as you wait for your kid to emerge from school, or as you gear up for or cool down from exercise.
  2. Open up your left hand and place it on your lap or the floor or bed next to you with the palm facing up.
  3. Relax your hand in this gently open position. Feel the weight of it against the floor or bed or your knee. Feel your fingers not working to stay open, but curling gently and without effort toward whatever could be placed on your palm.

    This hand is like a baby too young to have learned fear: open and receptive to the help it unabashedly and appropriately requires. Babies, like adults, are physically, emotionally, and psychologically incapable of doing many things.

    This is the way of things. The way of being human.

    Feel this as you feel the weight of your gently open hand.

    Sit with your awareness of this for a few moments.

  4. With your left hand remaining where it is, and in the same open, receptive position, shift your attention to your right hand.
  5. Place this hand on your lap or the floor or bed next to you and let it take the shape of the level of receptivity that you feel you have right now to help – whether to help in general, or specifically in one area of your life where you’re feeling stuck.

    For this ritual, don’t consider situations where you know you need to do something yourself. The receptivity in focus for this ritual is receptivity to help that you actually need – appropriate, necessary, life- and trust-promoting help.

    Maybe you know right away that you aren’t open to help at all. Your hand could be a tight fist, and even be faced down to the floor.

    Maybe you know you’re sort of open to help, but have lots of resistance to it, too. This might be an almost-fist, or a hand open slightly, but with tight fingers that cannot bend any further out or close in around and make use of whatever might be offered.

    Maybe you feel lots of ambivalence both ways, and so have a soft, open hand, but it’s placed downwards to show the mixed messages you sometimes give to people about your openness to receive from them.

    Whatever the case may be, form your right hand into the shape of your receptivity right now to help.

  6. Shift your attention to both hands, now. Notice the differences between the two. Sit for a moment with your awareness of these differences.
  7. Slowly shift the shape of your right hand to be a mirror of your left. As you do, imagine something real shifting inside of you. Imagine the parts of you that have become rigid and resistant to help; the parts that have come to associate neediness with being annoying or obnoxious; the parts of you that are convinced that loser = someone who can’t _______ on their own (“do life” might fill this blank for you, but things like “publish a book” or “get the house cleaned” or “land a job” could, too): imagine these parts of you softening and relaxing and becoming just as shameless as a small babe in need. Just as shameless as that open left hand.
  8. Once your two hands are resting open, just alike, give a small internal bow to the changes that just took place in you. Lean into the possibility that this ritual is actually more than just symbolic, and has already moved you in the direction of the receptivity you know you want or need to nourish.
  9. If you know you are resistant to help or even just ambivalent about receiving it, consider practicing this ritual daily for a couple of weeks. If your right hand continues to start out closed or tight or facing down through those weeks, consider making this a more ongoing practice. Turning our attention onto any internal thing initiates real changes in it – and all the more so if we apply intention to that change. So if you make a daily habit of noticing even how closed you feel toward help, my hunch is that your closedness will inevitably soften over time.
  10. Bonus action: Watch for opportunities throughout your day(s) to ask for or receive help. Where appropriate, see if you can take one or more of these. Notice if this becomes easier over time, and what this does to the quality of your inner world.

If you try this ritual, I’d love to hear about your experience of it!

And whether or not you do, I wish all of you who struggle to ask for or receive help a real transformation on this front. A real conversion to a deep and powerful knowing that needing and asking for help are not signs that you’re defective, but rather signs that you’re wonderfully, beautifully human.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Staying with the discomfort of your power

May 19, 2011

Sometimes you have to break down. You’re at the end of every rope, your well is dry, your tank is empty, and truly, objectively, the best you can do is cry.

There isn’t any shame in this, and I’m guessing all of us have or will find ourselves there sometime(s).

Tonight I want to talk about all the other cases, though.

I have this set of talks by Pema Chodron called Getting Unstuck (highly recommend), in which Pema talks about our tendency to avoid and numb out and run away from our uncomfortable feelings. The practice she describes to counter this tendency – which really is a tendency that keeps us stuck and perpetuates our lack of peace, rather than the opposite (sorry subconscious; it’s true) – can be summed up with one word: stay.

Sit each day in meditation, she says, and stay with what comes up. Anger? Let anger rise. Don’t try to push it off. Don’t try to talk yourself out of it. Don’t hold onto it, either, but simply observe it. Note what it feels like. Note what it does in your body.

And then stay with the next thing that arises.

You’ll be surprised by the succession, and by the way feelings start to seem like clouds over time, rather than sledgehammers – wisps of weather that come and go across a much more stable sky.

“You are the sky,” Pema says. “Everything else is just the weather.”

As I sit with some uncomfortable feelings this evening – loneliness, vulnerability, a wish for more hand-holding in my process of stepping into my power (the irony, right?) – I’m struck by something I haven’t seen so clearly before:

One of the uncomfortable things that I and maybe all of us need to stay with sometimes is our capacity to give good things and shine our light even when much of us is feeling small, or tired, or depressed, or unprepared, or inarticulate, or inexperienced, or the wrong race, gender, age, height or weight.

This isn’t a pep talk to give of ourselves at the edges of burn-out or impose ourselves where we really need not be. This isn’t about saying yes when everything in us or our lives is saying, “NOOOOOOO!!!”

This is about staying with our vulnerabilities AND our power when our vulnerabilities are trying to run the whole show.

I just spent an hour surfing the internet aimlessly, swimming in feeling small and private and alone. I went to the kitchen for a snack and noticed this strange, simultaneous feeling to these others that didn’t cancel these others out, but was a very different hue. It was a knowing that right in the midst of feeling small, I actually have some things to say. A knowing that my light can shine no matter the weather. Or at the very least, no matter my current internal conditions.

So here I am writing right now. Here I am saying that if you’re feeling small or depressed or insecure or afraid and like you cannot give because of it – cannot write or call a friend or say yes or listen well – consider the possibility that you have more than just that feeling to stay with right now. More than the feeling of being off the hook or barred from giving in any way.

Consider the possibility that there is a well of strength in you alongside the weakness, a flame of light that can shine hope into the darkness.

Consider the possibility that your staying with that power, even when so much in you wants to run from or suppress or deny it altogether – is your ticket to more peace and more joy and more inner spaciousness than your living small or hiding out will ever help you find.

Hiding out is important and necessary sometimes, but may be less important, right now – even far less so – than you think.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Do you need your butt kicked?

May 18, 2011

Holding tension with yesterday’s post about NOT heaving Big Lessons onto anyone is today’s post about butt-kicking. I’m going to let the video speak for itself, but wanted to quickly introduce our conversation partners today. In order of appearance, they are:

  • Dyana Valentine: Dyana is a self-described professional instigator, based in Santa Monica, California. Her primary media include coaching and speaking, and just this month she launched a brand new business and show called Woke Up Knowing (you must check it out! I was soothed and inspired, both, by the very first show). Here blog and website are at
  • Andrea Scher: Andrea is a creative entrepreneur, writer and life coach living in Berkeley, California. Through her company, Superhero Designs, and her award-winning blog, Superhero Journal, Andrea inspires other creative souls to live authentic, colorful and extraordinary lives. Andrea also co-facilitates Mondo Beyondo, a transformative (for me and so many others!) online course designed to unlock and give flight to your dreams.

    Baby Nico: Andrea’s youngest son reveals his utter cuteness (again) in this cameo appearance. Heart-stopping raspberries not excluded.

  • Tammy Strobel: Tammy, of Portland, Oregon, is the author of Simply Car-free and Smalltopia. A leader and instigator in the simplicity revolution, she hosts a warm, inspiring community at her site, RowdyKittens. “Social change through simple living” is the (perfect, in my mind) tag line there.
  • Elese Coit: Elese is a transformational author, speaker, radio show host, and Master Transformative Coach. She specializes in training coaches and teaches classes in Peace of Mind and Wellbeing. Her international radio show, A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything, airs each Friday (for those interested in growing trust, I highly recommend!). Learn more about Elese at

I hope you’ll consider yourself a person at this table, too! What do you think about butt-kicking? Have you had positive or negative experiences with it? Is there a helpful, trust-inducing place for it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(Those reading via email, click here to view the video. My first experiment with animation opens it up – I hope you’ll stop by and see! :)

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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What change-makers and the rest of us sometimes need to hear

May 16, 2011

Do you remember when I talked about the possibility of stages to the growth of trust?

I’m wondering, today, whether stages might be a helpful way to think about change more broadly, and particularly for those of us wanting to helpfully, trust-inducingly instigate it.

Because here’s what I think sometimes happens:

  • Person A learns an important life lesson.
  • Person A sees that person B hasn’t learned this lesson yet.
  • Person A heaves said lesson into person B’s lap, en total.
  • Person B must confront, and in some cases clean up, the heaved lesson which he or she may or may not be ready to apply.

I think this happens all the time and isn’t inherently harmful. It’s the way learning often happens, the way culture gets transmitted, the way kids grow up, parents parent, bosses boss, and, sometimes, nations treat other nations. We are all “person A” sometimes and “person B” at others.

On the same token, I think this process can be harmful, and can do the very opposite of grow trust. It can frustrate person A to no end that person B cannot appreciate or apply the lesson that A has so generously offered. It can offend person B, who isn’t ready or able to see the value of A’s lesson, let alone the timing of it being foisted upon them. And in both cases, it can strain the relationship between A and B.

But maybe most importantly, in the context of this site about growing trust, this process can grow pride in person A, and shame in person B – both, to my mind, antithetical to trust.

Because person B might be perfectly capable of seeing the value of the lesson that person A has learned. But having a different life and a different context than person A, and without all the factors that led to A’s natural “aha” in the first place, person B can feel incapable of incorporating A’s “gift” into his or her lived experience. He/she can feel sharp dissonance between how he/she continues to live, and how he/she would be living were person A’s lesson applied.

And on the flip side, person A can feel in response to B’s less-than-exhuberant reaction to said lesson a smug sort of pride in having learned the lesson at all, and in being capable of applying it – heck, even teaching it to other people too! Person B’s inability to apply it can be seen as person B’s problem, rather than the natural way of things when timeliness hasn’t grown ripe, and unsolicited force-feeding has occurred.

So much theory! How about an example…

Let’s say Big Name Blogger has taken a year or ten to grow a big following (I don’t have anyone specific in mind here – let’s call this an amalgamation). Let’s say she worked her tail off to get where she is today, used all the fuel her ego had to offer her, all the excitement about subscriber numbers and commenters, her willingness to work night and day, travel often, let her body go to pot and her in-person relationships suffer.

And let’s say she did it! She got what she was after! And she realizes that the costs have been enormous and she needs to make some serious life changes.

So she turns off comments on her site, scales back screen time dramatically, begins to rebuild her body and relationships and starts to say no to many of the opportunities to which she used to always say yes.

…And she begins a crusade to tell as many bloggers as she can that all that ego trap? All that out-of-whackery involved in growing a huge following fast? Totally not worth the price.

She knows this. Deeply. From experience.

But she also has such a huge following by this point that she really doesn’t have to do half of what she used to do to keep momentum on her site going strong. She can literally afford this lesson.

Can you see where this is going?

Little Name Blogger, let’s call her, oh, Kristin, is one of Big Name Blogger’s followers. And she really digs deep life lessons. When Big Name throws this one at her, she loses balance for a second, but then willingly gives it a closer look.

And the lesson looks solid. It looks like something she wants to apply.

The only problem is that Kristin is at the very beginning of her life as a small business owner and there is a chasm between Now and Financially Sustainable that she’s pretty sure must be bridged by a hell of a lot of hustle. Hustle that involves ego fuel. That leaves time for sleep or exercise, but not both; online friendships or in-person friendships, but not both.

So she does what her bank account requires – she hustles – but with Big Name’s lesson ringing in her ears and a nagging sense of failing miserably, constantly, in the peaceful, life-in-order, body-in-shape, enlightened-soul arenas.

The Take-Home

Big Name’s lesson was and is an important one, and may even be a healthy agitation for the Kristins of our world. But as we talk about help here this month, and stages of change in this post specifically, here’s what I think bears noting if trust is something As and Bs (that is, all of us) are after:

  • Force-feeding our Big Lessons to anyone can do the very opposite of our helpful intent. It can push people away, close them down, fuel shame and resentment fires, and generally – for these and other reasons – strain our best (and worst!) relationships.
  • It isn’t a sign of inadequacy or defectiveness when the “person Bs” of our world – which are all of us at one point or another – are not ready to hear or apply the lessons of our world’s “As”. If you hear a Big Lesson, however eloquently or persuasively put, and you feel overwhelmed or despairing by the impossibility of applying it to your life right now, maybe it’s not the time to apply it just yet. Maybe your situation is calling for something else entirely.

    Or maybe you need about one hundredth of the force of that Big Lesson to season other things you’re learning right now, and as life and circumstances change, higher doses will apply.

I know this isn’t rocket science, but I sense these are things we all could stand to hear from time to time – that we aren’t defective if we can’t apply or even understand all the good lessons we hear; that our loved ones aren’t hopelessly lost if they’re pushing away good advice; that change often happens incrementally, over time, and one person’s (or nation’s!) “aha” can’t usually be packaged and peddled (or heaved, or bombed) and experienced the same way by other people whose circumstances have not led them to that same “aha”.

I sense if we all lived inside such things – feeling them viscerally and seasoning our words and actions with them – our world would be a much more hospitable, trust-inducing place.

But by all means, you don’t have to take my word for it… :)

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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What’s your Big Lesson right now?

May 13, 2011

Here’s a mind-bender:

What if the help you most need right now has nothing to do with the physical or emotional or psychological or financial help a person or book or job or institution might offer you, but rather is all about the motivation behind your acceptance or rejection of that help?

It could be that rejecting some form of help is the most important thing you could do. Maybe your most pressing lesson right now is all about stepping into your power, owning your capacity to make choices, being comfortable making mistakes or looking foolish. Doing it yourself.

If this is your lesson, and you sense it as a resistance to or a digging-in against well-intentioned and even wise and seasoned council: bless you! Reject help for the time being! Step into yourself and do this thing your way, knowing full well that your way might not be the most efficient or effective or mistake-free way possible. Efficiency and effectiveness and grace aren’t your Big Lessons right now. Stepping into your power is.

It could be, though, that your Big Lesson is all about humility and about peeling back the layer of your ego that has huge signs all over it that read “Help is for losers” or “I should be capable enough to do this on my own by now so just buck up, self!” or “My job is to GIVE help, not receive it.”

Peeling back this layer enough to see your wide open field of possibility for both giving AND receiving; the utter freedom you have to be weak without shame – to be actually lovable and beautiful right in the midst of your weaknesses; the blessing you have from the universe to step into your rightful place of need – no matter how big or small this looks to you in comparison with others’: this may be the Biggest, most Important Lesson that’s yours right now to learn.

And if it is: open up your hands in whatever ways you can. Maybe literally, as a morning or evening practice. Maybe figuratively by saying no to helping someone else when you know that what you need more in this moment is to rest or be comforted or listened to well.

Maybe you need to back out of a commitment for the sake of this lesson. Maybe you need to step off the grid completely. Maybe you need to have the hard conversation with your partner or parents about putting money toward therapy or coaching or detox or some other form of help or healing.

Maybe accepting or rejecting help is, for you, right now, the Most Important Thing.


P.S. Need some inspiration for one of these directions? Here are a couple of songs that might help (those reading via email, click here to see both songs).

This one is all about the first lesson. And for the record, in my book, power and greatness aren’t synonymous with efficiency, effectiveness, and making no mistakes. They’re about your inherent identity and the gift you are to the world – in your strengths and weaknesses, both.

If your Lesson right now is about receiving help, consider this a serenade from the universe. Or better yet, a serenade from the person or program or people whose help you most need.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Life beyond fear lizard brain

May 11, 2011

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know that each month is devoted to tending trust around a different theme. My thinking has been to create a useful and accessible catalogue of “trust food” on a wide array of topics – topics I personally have interest in growing trust around and that feel timely and important to our world today.

What I never anticipated was the trust that I would grow because of the way these themes have unfolded. I used a lot of logic-mind in thinking through their order (connecting them with seasons, for example), and have each month sketched out rough lists of topics I want to cover and people I’d like to interview.

But as I live my life, and even as I sit before this screen to write new posts, I find my rough lists changing often, and posts I’ve been adamant about writing resisting being written at all. I’ve felt inspiration hit at odd times, and often in the slow dawning that’s followed intense bouts of fear and frustration that have had nothing to do with this site at all.

And of course those bouts have been consistently, precisely related to the topic I’m writing about that month.

It’s been almost creepy. But in a wonder-full way.

So my rough list for this month didn’t have the post on timeliness on it, nor the one about everything belonging. Both ideas came as I sat to write other things and paused, at the start, to listen.

But here I sit tonight with both before me, recognizing them as the container, or context, in which I think every last thing about help can be explored.

There is a buzz that comes with fear, a kind of static, that makes it difficult to access our full range of wisdom. This is quite literal, actually – a physiological trigger that keeps our neurological activity centered in our lizard brains – that part of us responsible for survival by means of fight-or-flight alone – rather than flowing to the parts of our brains responsible for much more nuanced, complex problem-solving.

If we consider the challenges of our time, and the challenges of our own households and souls – from global warming to chronic depression to war to rebellious teens to disease epidemics to violent gang activity to cancer to corruption in high places – all of it, every last challenge, can trigger the static that keeps our best efforts at help and at being helped well within the bounds – the constrictions – of our lizard brains.

Holding the conversation about help inside a paradigm of trust, on the other hand – inside a container of patience with process, humility about timeliness, and the expectation that goodness can flow from every last thing: this looks like anti-static to me. It looks like access to a whole different way of approaching the tough work ahead of us all.

Hearts can engage minds in this context.

Creativity and innovation can be unleashed.

Self-sabotage can relax into receptivity.

The desperation that leads to burn-out can lose steam.

I could go on and on as I imagine and play out help in situations where fear no longer dictates (and subverts!) action.

To bring this heady talk to the grist and grind of our everyday lives, consider these two questions:

  1. What is one area in your life where you want to give or receive help?
  2. How might your experience of that giving or receiving change if you weren’t afraid of any possible outcome?

I think these questions can be helpfully – transformingly – applied personally, as well as to bigger sociological/environmental/political challenges facing our world today.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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