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What is possible when we transform the language of complaint to the language of commitment?

Yesterday, a client who sent a desperate email request for a session signed Barely Breathing had a breakthrough.

I can’t take credit. I credit Robert Kegan.  I used his Immunity to Change model to have her look at her suffering as the intersection of two competing commitments.

She is committed to a loving, harmonious relationship with her teenage son who wanted to trade in his working truck for a newer, fancier model before leaving for college,  AND, she was committed to doing what was “in his best interest” as she interpreted it: saving money until he completes his studies. Read more [+]


‎”Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.” – Dan Millman
What’s this mean?
Dealing with the darkness means being with the pain, the shame, the discomfort, the suffering or other difficult emotions.
It DOESN’T mean avoiding, making smaller, denying or escaping – the usual suspects (and for good reason – who wants to stay with hurt?).
Of course, having loving support for your process, a witness to your “dealing” is helpful and in the case of trauma, essential.
Only by dealing with our darkness, our shadow, can we claim the energy that we burn up in repressing, hiding, avoiding, forgetting – going to sleep.
And that energy, once released, bursts forth in creativity – light, to live more fully, more potently, more consciously whether we build great relationships or great buildings, write great poetry or letters of condolence.
Let’s be like water, receptive, flowing, powerful, dynamic (the vessel of life itself)…claiming our space in the universe fully, completely, uniquely. Then let’s shine our light wherever we go.


How Language Reveals Our Reality: Food for Thought

Tension in the conference room hit the red zone. One VP animatedly described his current project as “a battle”. He was angry with several people who report to him for “lagging” and one for “abrogation of duty”.Others were “incompetent” as their inability “to take orders” demonstrated I was struck by his language.Did it describe his reality or help construct it?  What did it mean for the executive team’s future? Read more [+]


These days our thoughts about who we are are infiltrated by various models – models from  many disciplines; psychological, neurological, spiritual.  These models may be simplistic or complex – elegant or baroque, often valuable, frequently clarifying of certain aspects of life. Yet they are models, and the more value we place on them… the more we rely on their veracity to explain something intangible…the more we rest into the truths these models reveal, the less we find the Truth. Read more [+]


Where does your attention go?  Is it a homing pigeon roosting in the trifling things that are “wrong”?  Does it land on the gossipy or “dish the dirt”? Does it take you higher, to the “big picture”?

G. K. Chesterton says, ” A weak mind is like a microscope which magnifies trifling things but cannot receive great ones.”

What is your attention magnifying?  Does it play on the fields of “stuff” – things – what you have, want, desire, covet, need? Or perhaps it lands on the “people square” and gossip, celebrity talk, reality TV and the shortcomings of colleagues, even friends, looms large?

Does it hang out higher up the food chain? In the realm of the  Arts, big ideas – perhaps even Causes or service to the planet?

An easy, but not simple, practice to tame your attention begins with noticing first, where you hang out, mostly. Note by stopping a few times a day and reviewing what you’ve been a) thinking about; b) talking about; c) posting d) journaling. Is it the winter of your discontent with stuff or people or have you launched into the stratosphere of BIG ideas?  How are you feeling about what you notice? How do you know?

Next, if you find that the majority of your attention is on the lesser (in order from least to great – things, people, ideas) spaces to inhabit… move up those notches. Rather than wondering if a new iPad will solve all your problems, you might wonder how you could solve a babysitting problem for overextended friends, or if you wonder why your neighbor thinks her cooking is great when you get indigestion after her every meal, you might wonder about who you could feed in the ‘hood that is clearly going hungry.  You get the picture!

Of course the doing of these “wonderings” is MOST important ultimately, if you are putting your energy behind your thoughts,  but it  all begins with attention!!!!

So where are you hanging out attention-wise? Don’t be an attention deficit detractor from the common good (including your own). Step up – man-up, woman-up, whatever.  Begin moving your attention to the larger realm of ideas… on a regular basis and watch the launch… new energy, deeper connections, more meaningful conversations and encounters.

Tame your attention and live a bigger life!


I failed yesterday. I missed a conference call with two esteemed clients and friends. Irrelevant is the fact that a minor crisis interrupted my morning. The missed call, while unacceptable, wasn’t the failure.

It was what came after.

I failed yesterday. There was an emergency situation that derailed me but the failure wasn’t there! It was in the hour plus after  where I felt shame, guilt and self-hatred over not checking for the call before dealing with the unexpected crisis.

It took some hefty processing to first surface what I was experiencing, relating it to some core wounding, understanding what the shame and guilt were really about and “being with” the deep, dark discomfort.

After some time, I could come back to a more centered place and then move forward, limping and haltingly as we humans sometimes do, but forward nevertheless.

What was forward in this case? I wrote to my friends, told them the truth of what had happened before, during and after the missed call – sharing the painful process. I recommitted to the relationship by apologizing and offering to make it right by discounting the makeup call  fee by half and allowed whatever was to be, to unfold.

Why am I telling you all this? Because, whatever coaching wisdom I have acquired over the years, there is little more valuable to my understanding than exploring the way of self-hate and the means to moving beyond it.

Self-hate is insidiuous. Whether one calls its awful voice, the “inner critic”, “cruel judge” “Super Ego” or something more glamorous, the self-hatred that frequently descends generally has very little to do with what is actually showing up in the present. It is the carryover of our past. As Cheri Huber states in There is Nothing Wrong With You” Going Beyond Self Hate, “You have been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn’t and  you’re not.” When we’re young,  we seek to find unconditional love and wisdom outside ourselves rather than inside.  We begin to believe the messages we receive and are sure “we have to earn it” by being a certain way. This is taught to us from early childhood by unwittingly  self-hating parents who were taught by their unwitting self-hating parents and so on…

Yet, every spiritual paths teaches that everything we seek is within – love, compassion, understanding, peace and so on.

It is cyclical in several ways and  a BIG topic. Too big for a short blog…but worth decoding, exploring, mining for its very rich vein of gold!

Clients, readers, friends, family have heard me say, over and over, hold yourself with the compassion and love you would display to beloved others. Yet, yesterday, for a piece of the morning, I failed. (I required support to do that – thankfully present in my life!)

So I am sharing that we are all works in progress, that we all fall down, scrape our knees or our souls, and need to get up. How quickly we stand and move again is the work!!!

We attempt, we make mistakes, we understand that failure is feedback, we learn, we attempt again.

It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something. ~Ornette Coleman (jazz impressario and GREAT)

Enough said. Hopefully this is helpful.


All our lives may be charted as a series of “letting go” experiences.  Sometimes we choose and let go graciously, often we are forced to let go and most often of all, we let go by “making them wrong”.  To be born into this chaotic, inspiring frightening, beautiful,  painful rich life, we ‘let go” of the womb. Soon after, we “let go” of mother’s breast. We let go of our childish stuffed animals and move onto more sophisticated toys… and so it goes.

People, experiences, ways of viewing the world – as we mature and grow we “let go”of what is outdated, too narrow, too small for our larger selves. And in this “letting go” we gain new experiences, new work, new friends, lovers,  a broader world view.

Some people make these moves with grace while others struggle and chafe as they make their way through life. What is the secret to this grace?  Is it a gift for a special few or are we all equally capable of bringing it into our daily lives?

“Making them wrong” is the way many of us “let go”. We qualify our decisions by finding fault in the people or places we are leaving, the organizations we no longer support, the teachers we no longer go to. By finding fault, the responsibility rests elsewhere. We are absolved. Furthermore, any movement away is seen as a wise move.

Yet, if we closely observe those we admire, we see that they too “let go” only they do so without blaming. Instead, they are able to appreciate what they received, honor the gifts, the lessons learned and experience true gratitude while moving on. The energy of gratitude is very different from that of blame.  Gratitude invites us in, asks us to come near the campfire to warm ourselves. Gratitiude is expansive, creating space for wonder and awe – for feelings of blessing.

Blame is stiff, hard and cold. Blame is strident and points a crooked finger. Blame makes our eyes squint, thus limiting our vision. It is contracted, thus limiting our movement. Rather than possibility, blame subtracts from what is possible, keeping our attention on  staying hurt or anger and being a victim.

The choice is yours. Will you choose the gains in letting go or blame?


“Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.”

– Dan Millman

Some people hear the word shadow and go silent with fear. They assume that whatever lurks in the dark must be monstrous. What we know about our very human shadow is that it can also contain our brilliance, our intelligence, our generosity, our kindness. Unacknowledged, those parts of ourselves can also hide in shadow – for our conditioning comes in many flavors.

A compelling question to ask  ourselves is, “What  shadow element am I supporting by keeping this door shut?” What discomfort am I avoiding?”   As Nelson Mandela said,  “…Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

In our families, we learned that being “powerful beyond measure” was taboo or dangerous. We were taught to conform to the family culture…subtly,  if we were lucky and with harsh repercussions if not. Bypassing our own wants, desires, needs,  we “metabolized” these messages without deconstructing them. They became our shadow – deeply etched into our response patterns.

If the time has come to shine a light on these areas of your life, to liberate the trapped energy for more creative endeavors, look no further. If you are finally willing to go into the dark to integrate ALL of you for a richer, bigger, more meaningful life, begin a dialogue with us at The Valiant Group.  We love working with the shadow – our own and yours and we have the experience to guide you on this courageous journey.  Call now!


Here’s something I’ve noticed. Its often challenging for coaches to be both succinct and to “go deep” in establishing a client’s current narrative. And if the proffered current narrative doesn’t go deep enough, the new one loses impact, is too narrow or shallow; doesn’t enroll the client.

I’ve found a lovely practice for developing this competence. And its fun (for those film buffs among us). Read more [+]


“Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.”

– Dan Millman

Experience is precious. Let’s investigate it!  We explored curiosity in Part One.  Why is it so important in shadow work? Curiosity occurs in freedom… freedom meaning here a space uncluttered by assumptions, judgments, suppositions and filled with a dynamic desire to learn, to know.   When we are truly curious, rather than compelled by some formulaic methodology, we allow our intuition into the room.  And, when we aren’t curious, a compelling question to ask  ourselves is, “What  shadow element am I supporting by keeping this door shut?” What we avoid being curious about is a powerful clue to some element of our shadow.

In our families, we learned that being curious about certain subjects was taboo. Yet certain topics brought not only recognition but rewards. The messages about the subjects to avoid were often further complicated by indirect signals (like facial expressions, shallow breathing or changing the topic). Bypassing our own verbal markers, we “metabolized” these messages without actually deconstructing them. They became shadowy, but strongly informed future patterns in us.

Some families disallowed the sad emotions – grief, despair, disappointment, for example,  weren’t accepted. In others, topics like money, mental health or sex were taboo.

Here’s a useful exploration.Where we were free to be curious, around what topics and where we we restricted? What arises ( sensations, emotions and ideas) when we touch into those unacceptable subjects, the ones that we were discouraged from pursuing. Observing ourselves as we explore our curiosity helps identify areas where we have dark shadows.

The next step, after identifying these areas is to see what strategies you employ in keeping parts of yourself hidden. Try this self-observation ( SO).

As you do this SO, try to get closer and closer to the experience of each moment of Presence and note more and more exactly what the experience is like emotionally and somatically (contractions, heat, numbness, energy, breathing, pulsing, heaviness, lightness – whatever).

Then, each day for ONE WEEK ONLY, YET IN DETAIL, take a few moments to note how these showed up in you: Be specific. Be rigorous.

Fear: (projection about the future)

Attachment: (inability to let go of a thought, idea, thing that doesn’t serve you)

Control: (choice that keeps you in the manager’s seat)

Entitlement: (a sense that something – space, action, response is owed you)

Manipulation: (indirect behavior involving an other to get something you want)

Anxiety:(projection onto the present based on the past)

What am I discovering about myself? What patterns emerge? What new questions do I have?


As the pattern surfaces, name it  gently and welcome it. Then exaggerate the emotional and physical sensations that arise with the thoughts (like turning up the brightness knob on the TV). Stay with the discomfort.  Check it out fully – what texture does it take, what color, what scent, what size, what taste. Staying with the experience offers up fresh insights… what the intelligence of this experience ( protection, avoidance, distraction for example). Once this pattern served a younger, less resourceful me. Does it serve me now? If not, I invite it to loosen (and eventually to leave) its grip.

By shining the light of awareness on our pattern,  we use less energy to keep the pattern in place and the place dark. We free some of our energy for other parts of living for our creativity and we take back our power.