Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Growing into your life

This morning I read a short article by a positive thinker person. A good and uplifting piece. But one thing he said caught me. It was this: "you can't change the past. You can only come to terms with it. You can change the future."

I was taken back to a conversation with an old friend of mine, Paul Fairweather. Paul was a fighter pilot in the second world war flying more than 80 missions in a P51. He was wise, generous, and full of a kind of spiritual energy that was magnetic. One day we were talking about the issue of change and what we do with past wounds.

"There are those who say you can't change the past" he said, "but I disagree. I change the past every day." He went on to explain that the past is carried in our imaginations. Those who study the philosophy of history have noticed that history has no absolute truth or absolute reality but what we understand of history is a joint product of many 'imaginations' recreating stories told by other 'imaginations.' We create the past just as we do the present.

Changing the past is necessary to living your life fully. Relationally, if you are 'locked' into one version of past experience every day is going to look a lot like yesterday. In workshop settings we frequently teach couples how to 're-imagine' past wounds, how to integrate the wisdom inherent in every challenging experience, how to reframe issues that they have chronically and negatively repeated.

Change the past and you'll change the present. In fact, changing the way you relate to the past is the only way you can fully live in the present and living in the present opens the door to loving in a way that is true.

For more on this check out www.marriageconversation.com

Monday, May 05, 2008

Walking in the Dark: Why Modern Marriages Struggle

Walking in the Dark : why modern marriages struggle.

What we carry within us – a true image of relationship possibility – has long ago been obscured by the noise of commerce, the seductions of culture and the demands of living.

Our instinctual knowledge of partnering, our need to love, our aspirations of creating a family with longevity, all suffer from inattention. We could say we are pressured to focus on what we want and increasingly ignorant of what we need.

Here are a few distractions – bite sized ‘news,’ the call to instant gratification of needs, the absence of meaningful conversations, life style impermanence and the loss of community, and the omnipresence of television.

Forgive please the rant in this. I wondered if I should even have ‘gone there’ again. I do so because I coach – couples who want to bring life back into relationships that have flat lined and leaders who’ve lost their tether to their own instincts and their own wisdom.

The two, marriage competency and leadership competency, have a great deal in common. They both require certain skills and talents and, far more important, require a continuous deepening of connection to your self, your own center – the cauldron of meaning, values, love energy and genius with which each of us has been blessed but from which many have become disconnected.

This inner world can lose its vividness, fecundity, energy as well as the power to guide us if we ignore it. You can tell if you are ignoring it by a simple test.

Does the word marriage awaken a sense of awe, deep possibility, a longing for community and a sense of belonging in you? If not, your inner world is neglected.
Does the word divorce roll off your tongue as easily as, say, vacation, going shopping or the time of day? If it does you’ve lost contact with your own deep values.

These are powerful words. They offer deep meaning and point to relationship possibilities and relationship fractures. They describe common human experiences – the need for partnering, the sorrow of failure.

The ‘dark’ we walk in, is the forgetfulness with which we treat these two ideas. When powerful ideas lose their connection to powerful events, we lose their substance. Think ‘democracy,’ ‘loyalty,’ ‘sacrifice,’ and ‘commitment.’

We are meant to mate. We are meant to share ourselves intimately with another. We long to be known and we need to love. These define us and shape the quality of our everyday lives.

How is that like leadership? Someone said this to me recently: ‘Leaders aren’t appointed, leaders volunteer.’ She meant, I think, to remind me of something often overlooked – that leadership is a quality we all have. What we don’t do, probably because we aren’t able to be conscious of our gift, is volunteer it.

This is a big idea. It’s an idea that can change how you relate to your work in this world, your partner, your community, and your children. Without connection to the gift you bring, you will relate to yourself and therefore to others as if you have nothing special to offer. You might even have been educated to call that humility.

This loss – the unawareness of who you are and what you bring – causes a dumbing down of attitude about marriage and similarly about leadership. If you’re leading but not aware of who you are and what you bring your leadership will look more like management.

If you’re married and unaware of yourself, every day will look a lot like yesterday. There will not be any new ideas introduced, relational energy will be low, and emotional vitality will flat line.

Underneath this it is time for a new paradigm – for marriage as well as for leadership. Paradigms which don’t so much describe the idea by what they do – leaders create shared vision, establish goals, set parameters of responsibility; marriage is a romance, party (the wedding), and a commitment to stay together, but create an invitation to what they may become.
Paradigms shape our expectations. Consider JFK’s famous “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” He was inviting a paradigm shift. A new paradigm for marriage is available in the recently published, With These Rings, Vol. I.

A new paradigm for leadership is currently in development. We hope to have it published by early next year.

In other words darkness is itself a paradigm also a metaphor. Challenge it and the light will flood in.

Friday, May 02, 2008


The fire we carry within doesn’t thrive without attentiveness. You must tend it. Tending means adding fuel, providing plenty of oxygen, occasional stirring and always honoring it.

My own view is that as we age many things distract us from adding fuel. Fuel might be a night or a full day alone. It might be taking two hours or so at a bookstore to browse, take notes, learn. This is part of my routine at least two times a month.

Alone time for some might be a weekend camping or renting a cabin in the mountains. No booze, no family, just you, your notebook, and a few good books. Hiking helps.

Other distractions are television, overeating, busywork, conversations with people who do not honor what you bring or who you are. Pay attention to your own natural genius and your dreams – write about it, think on it, meditate.

To give oxygen to your fire you’ll need to take risks, do something outlandish, be bold, throw the dice. Love someone you find unloveable, tell your spouse something you usually avoid talking about, take a child to church. To church?

Children are spiritually alive and are available to mentor us if we allow them to.

Go to see a play or movie that isn’t so much entertaining as mind blowing. Take a walk in a non suburban environment. Roller skate in a park.

The fire, your fire, needs your attentiveness and your love. Embrace it.

I invite your thoughts on tending the fire within.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I failed to acknowledge the source of the image I used yesterday regarding fear. It comes from a wonderful book by Michael Meade, The World Behind the World. Michael is a well known storyteller, scholar of mythology, antropology and psychology, a true world citizen and one of my teachers. Thanks Michael for all you contribute. You can learn more about his work at www.mosaicvoices.org