Tag Archives | Connections

Another New Friend


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0314151550Today I walked to the neighborhood grocery store to buy a pie. Usually I walk along the main street, Laurel Ave, but today I turned a block early to walk down a quieter neighborhood street.

About halfway there, I passed an older house with a big yard tucked in between apartment buildings. There was a sign on the parking strip that said “Plant Sale,” but I didn’t see any plants that weren’t in the ground, or any people. So I went on to the store and bought my pie. (Because Pi Day.) (Peach.)

On the way back, I went the same way and when I passed that house there was an elderly woman in the front yard with a handful of weeds she had just pulled. I stopped and asked about the plant sale, and she took me around to the back yard. As we walked along the driveway past a garden that was filled with giant angel wing begonias, various succulents, and ground covers including what looked like a variegated creeping charlie, she explained that she had too many plants and needed to get rid of some.

We went around the corner of the house and there was a fabulous back yard with raised beds with flowers and vegetables, a tiny greenhouse at the back, and planters all over the patio with various black succulents, kalanchoes, and many things I recognized but don’t know by name. She said nearly everything in a pot was available. (Except for the heuchera that she was giving another chance after coming back to life in a new spot.)

I picked out two kalanchoes with bright orange flowers in mustard-yellow oval pots. She said the two would be $20; I said that was perfect, since that was how much I had. I also asked about one of the smaller black-leaved succulents, and she said it was $3. I told her I would give her the $20, take my groceries home and come back for the plants with $3. “No no no,” she said, “you can have that one too for the $20.” She let me take the small black-leaved plant with me. As I left, I thanked her and shook her hand and introduced myself. “I’m Sue,” I said. She smiled and said, “I’m Maria.”

I came home, dropped off the groceries, and took cuttings from my prized angel-wing begonia and dragon-wing begonia. I wrapped them in wet paper towels, put them in a bag, and went back.

When I went around to the back of Maria’s house, she was there with the two kalanchoes in a box – with another small plant tucked in. This one was a vine with dark leaves and bright red tubular flowers. “I thought you’d like this one too,” she said. “It’s so pretty. And I have it everywhere.”

I thanked her and gave her the cuttings, which she loved. When she saw me pick up the box and start to leave, she said, “Wait, are you walking? Maybe I should have my husband drive you home.”

“No, it’s ok,” I said, “it’s just a couple of blocks.” I thanked her again and headed for the gate.

She walked me out to the front and said, “Come by any time. If I’m not out here, just knock on the door.”

I think I will.

Comfort Angel


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Peanut M&Ms. This happened because of a divine craving for Peanut M&Ms.

I’d been working all morning on a project for the hospital and had eaten lunch at my desk (again – a sacrifice I happily make in order to have more Writing Time in the morning), and suddenly I just couldn’t sit there any more. I needed a break. I needed Peanut M&Ms.

Which I’d have to take a long walk to get, since the shortcut to the cafeteria has been closed during construction of the new hospital. I didn’t care – something was needling me to get up and get moving.

I came out of my building, a small building on the hospital campus, and immediately noticed a woman on the front porch of the MRI building next to my building. She was leaning against the railing, bent at the waist, arms on the railing. Head hanging.

Something in me recognized her body language. And what her body was saying was,

Help me, please.
Just let me breathe for a minute.

I walked by. Wondering. And Knowing.

Knowing she was waiting for someone. Someone inside the MRI building.

I walked by. I was tempted to stop.

I walked by.

I headed for the cafeteria. I didn’t quite make it – I stopped at the espresso cart and bought a brownie instead, from a woman whose English I couldn’t understand and who couldn’t understand me (“No, not oatmeal cookIE, brownIEEE…”) but who was clearly very happy to see me.

I turned around and headed back, around the building, across the parking lot between the MRI building and my building.

She was still there.

Leaning against the railing, head resting on her arms.

I changed direction and headed toward her, but meandering around the perimeter of the parking lot. Indirectly, like I do with the horses. Like I did with customers at the store. Indirectly, so they wouldn’t feel me coming and spook. Until I was right next to her.

She raised her head, and made like to move out of the way.

“Excuse me,” I said. But instead of moving past her, I stopped next to her. “Are you OK?”

She stood up a little straighter, and nodded.

“Yes, I’m OK. I’m waiting for my husband,” she said, nodding toward the building. “I’m trying to be strong.”

I nodded. “Would you like a hug?” I asked.

She hesitated, then nodded. I took her in, and when she tried to pull away, I gave her another squeeze before letting go.

She came up with tears in her eyes. “We’re here to see if his glioblastoma is back,” she said. “They take the pictures, and then we go see the doctor to find out what they show.”

“I understand,” I said quietly. Boy, did I. The hope. The dread.

I wanted to say, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be all right.” Because I know it will be. But probably not in the way she wants.

So instead I asked, “Can I get you anything?”

“No,” she said, “Thanks.”

“I’ll keep you in my thoughts,” I told her, and we parted. Both of us with tears in our eyes.

And she was in my thoughts all afternoon, as I beamed her love and courage while I worked on my spreadsheets and formulas. I beamed faith that Everything Is Going To Be All Right. Because I know it’s true.

Even if it’s not the outcome you hope for. Everything is going to be all right.

Maybe she was able to stand up a little straighter. Maybe a little breeze of grace blew through her and she was able to take her first deep breath in… days.

Maybe the entire reason I got this job six months ago and had a craving for Peanut M&Ms that turned into a brownie was for that moment. That encounter. That chance for her to be Seen. To know that she isn’t alone.

Maybe that’s the entire point.

Of everything.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Spark Plug Wire That Connects Us


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“Hey Brian, long time no see!” I joked as I walked into the auto repair shop. It was only Tuesday, and I had just been in on Saturday to have The Corvette smogged – only to find out that it needed to have some significant work done to pass the inspection. I could have had it done on Saturday, but Brian had recommended I come back during the week when The Experts were on duty.

So there I was, making another 40-mile trip each way, so The Experts could work on the car.

I had asked Brian if someone could give me a ride to a local cafe so I could hang out and use their WiFi to work, which I had pre-arranged with my boss. To my surprise, the chief Expert himself came out to drive me over (and inspect the car at the same time).

In the mile or so drive to the cafe we talked about some other repairs I had deferred (and had planned to do this month, until this new work came up) and he suggested I purchase a particular part myself to save money and told me to bring it in and they’d install it for me. He also noticed, and diagnosed, a sound I’d been hearing, and suggested they look at it next time.

“You know,” I told him, “I lived here for 13 years until I moved to San Carlos a few months ago. I come back to you guys, not just because you know this car, but because you always treat me well. You’ve got good guys working for you.” He didn’t say anything, he just nodded.

As I got out of the car, I said, “I’d really appreciate it if you can keep the work within the estimate, this is all I can do until next payday.” He promised they would.

I had spent the last three days getting used to the idea of deferring the other work on the car yet again, and to the possibility that the cost would be higher than the estimate. If it was, I might be living very frugally for a couple of weeks. I knew it would only be for a short time – just the week before my accountant had predicted I would get a tax refund that was, ironically, almost exactly the amount of this repair, and I had an unencumbered paycheck coming up. But still. It was a surprise, and one that was fraught.

When Harry, the chief Expert, came to pick me up five hours later, he assured me The Corvette was all set and running fine. “Oh,” he said, “and one of the spark plug wires needed to be replaced. You have to buy them by the set, but I had one lying around, so I just used that one and didn’t have to charge you for a whole new set.” See, that’s just one reason I drive 80 miles round trip to these guys.

We got back to the shop and, as we got out and Harry handed me the keys, he paused to admire the car. “It sure is a pretty color,” he said, “look at that gold fleck in the sun.”

“You know, it was broken into last year and got all scratched up, and Brian over at B&D Autobody repainted the rear end for me. He did a great job.”

“Oh yeah,” Harry said, admiringly. “He does great work, you couldn’t have picked a better guy.”

“Well, it was Brian who originally referred me to you guys,” I told him. We shook hands, and he headed around to the back of the shop.

I walked into the office, and this Brian greeted me. “So, are you coming back on Thursday?”

“No, I’ll be back to finish the smog certificate either this Saturday or the following Saturday.”

“I was joking,” he told me. “Since you were just here a couple of days ago I thought maybe it was becoming a regular thing.”

I laughed. He handed me the bill, and it was less than the original estimate. “Awesome!” I said. “Thank you!”

We finished the paperwork, and I asked, “Do I need to call before I come for the smog test?”

“Nah,” he said, “You can just come over. In fact, you can just come have coffee with us if you want. Any time.”

He wasn’t joking.

I was so happy that I had to go for a drive. Of course. So I went to my favorite park, and just sat on the bench and was grateful for a while. Then I took out the bill, for some reason, and compared it to the estimate to see where it was different.

They gave me a discount on the labor. Not because it took less time than they expected. But because they appreciated how much I appreciate them. That’s basically a tank of gas for me, out of their pockets.

There are opportunities all around us to connect. If we see them.


Who do you appreciate? When have you felt appreciated?

Please tell me in the comments.

Image courtesy of…Me! Yes, that’s The Corvette.

Skin and Bones and Memories


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The other day I was reading an excerpt from “Writing Life Stories,” by Bill Roorbach with Kristen Keckler, PhD, and this paragraph struck me:

“And—I’m just realizing this—memory is what people are made of. After skin and bone, I mean. And if memory is what people are made of, then people are made of loss. No wonder we value our possessions so much. And no wonder we crave firm answers, formulae, facts, and figures. All are attempts (however feeble in the end) to preserve what’s gone. The present is all that’s genuinely available to anyone, and the present is fleeting, always turning instantly to the past.”

People are made of loss.

That’s a powerful statement. I feel the truth of it in my chest, in my heart, in my belly. Even as part of me resists it.

And. The present is all that’s genuinely available to us.

People are made of loss. Of disconnection. The good news is, Memory is how we maintain connection to what – and who – has gone away. Grief is the emotion of that disconnection, and Joy is the emotion of connection. So memories can make us laugh through our tears.

And. The present is all that’s genuinely available to us.

One of life’s paradoxes, where more than one thing can be true at once.

I have learned to embrace that paradox – to embrace the grief, with its happy and sad, and to embrace the here and now. Fiercely.

At least sometimes Fiercely. Sometimes Fiercely is required, and is its own satisfaction. And sometimes gentle Relaxing Into It is possible. Even necessary.

We are made of memories. All we have is The Present.

I have learned that when I am able to embrace both the loss and the Here and Now, without hiding, then I am able to also release.

More paradox. Sorry. *winks*

PS, March 31 2014: And then there’s this timely post from Wayne Wirs to consider: http://waynewirs.com/2014/assumption. Paradox resolved?


How would embracing this paradox change anything for you?

Please tell me in the comments.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pocket Watch


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Yesterday, as I waited at the Crosswalk With the Fake Button And The Light That Changes In Its Own Sweet Time, I noticed a grizzled old guy in a white t-shirt and jeans. I noticed him because he had a silver chain going to the watch pocket of his jeans. Nobody does that any more. Which made me curious, did he really have a pocket watch? What did it look like? So I went over and stood next to him as we waited for the light to change.

He started talking to me – First about not crossing against the light because he’d talked to a guy who’d gotten a $250 ticket… the cops hide just around the corner and watch, he said. (Mental note.) Then I commented on the watch chain, and asked if he really had a pocket watch. He pulled it out and showed it to me: Nothing fancy, just an old Timex. He has a collection of watches, he told me; in fact, he thought he even still had his high school graduation watch… somewhere… “I wonder if it still works,” he wondered out loud.

The light changed and, as we crossed the street, he told me about the weird (his term) things he collects in addition to watches. Probably the strangest, he said, was his collection of axes. Axes? Yes, axes. He has everything from very small hatchets to very large axes. He has about 50. He’s currently searching for one used by the lumberjacks in the redwoods. The axe handle is more than 40 inches long, and the axe head weighs a ton. (He told me how much but I don’t remember.)

“You’d think those guys had to be big and tall to use an axe like that,” he said, “but I read that on average they were less than 5’7”. They must have had big burly arms, that’s for sure.”

He went on to tell me that he has lots of hobbies in addition to collecting axes. For example, t-shirts don’t have pockets any more, so he makes leather pencil holders you wear on your belt. (He showed me the one he was wearing.) He also makes leather jewelry, and Native American jewelry with bone beads.

All this in the space of less than a block and up an elevator.

We said good-bye as he got off the elevator. “I enjoyed talking with you,” I told him. And I did. Although I didn’t get to do much talking. I’m glad I was curious about that watch chain.


Curiosity leads to Connection.

When has Curiosity helped you Connect to someone else?

Image “Old Pocket Watch” Courtesy of Aleksa D/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, Universe, are you trying to tell me something?


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I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, a room panelled in honey-colored knotty pine, listening to the rain on the roof just inches from my head. Now a resident of California, I haven’t heard the sound of rain in months, and the rumble of thunder is delightful, comforting.

If I look out the window, the rain and clouds obscure the view, but I know well what is beyond them: Puget Sound and the Vashon Island Ferry docks to the southwest, and the Olympic Mountains to the west. For now, though, the horizon is the rooftops across the street and the treeline a few blocks away.

I am reminded, being here on this rainy day, that grey and green is a soothing color combination, one that you have to have lived with to appreciate. It is quite a contrast to the combination of blue sky and golden hills that is the horizon of my home in Northern Califorinia’s East Bay.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, with my mother’s cat, Tommy, purring at my feet. Tommy is three times as big as my cat Abby, and one and a half times as big as my cat Rocket, who are at home in California. Tommy is taking care of me, making sure I get enough Feline Time while I am here.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom with a borrowed laptop on my lap. My own beloved MacBook Pro, labelled “vintage” by Apple, gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, and a friend of my roommate is experimenting to see if he can pull six years of files, photographs and music off of the hard drive. (“What, you didn’t have a back-up?” I hear you tut tut. I thought I did; my external hard-drive was whirring away several times a day, but the files are all from the first backup in 2011. Only the database files have recent dates. Lesson: Test everything at least once a year. More often is better.)

When I moved last year and held a gigantic moving sale and let go of many things, I began thinking about the difference between connection and attachment. This year, as I have wrestled with selling my Corvette, the difference between attachment and connection has become a lot clearer. Contemplating the loss of my files, music and photographs brings it up again.

Hello, Universe, are you trying to tell me something?

When the Corvette was broken into at the beginning of this year and many of my favorite CDs were stolen, I thought, “Ah well, most of them are in iTunes on my computer.” Not all, but many. Now those are gone.

Most of the photographs are on memory cards, either in my camera bag or in storage. But the edited versions may be lost forever, except for the ones uploaded to WordPress. Ah well.

And the files… some can be recreated, some cannot. Much is just historical archive, files I have accumulated over the years. But I will be sad to lose the poems and essays I have written and not yet published. It is a challenge to lose the budget spreadsheets and resumes, the invoices, all the files I was able to just open and replicate as needed. Ah well.

Thinking about all of that, I mind me of the difference between accumulation and collection. Much of what is hidden on that hard drive was carefully created and collected, but much was just accumulated. The accumulation I won’t miss that much. But the things I had consciously collected, those are different. Ah well.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, on my first vacation in a year and a half. I am here for the wedding of my cousin, an occasion of great rejoicing. Not just a public commitment and celebration of love, but a validation. That something that was denied to him and to so many others for so long, and still is in many places, is now available to him. They were always worthy, but it took society a while to catch up. This is a celebration of inclusion after being excluded for so long. A celebration of connection. An event of fierce and tender Joy. It’s going to be one hell of a party.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, thinking about how to get together with everyone I want to see while I am here and still get some rest, still spend some quiet time with my mom and my immediate family. Thinking about how to maintain those connections, and build some new connections with people with whom I have only corresponded.

Connections. Versus Attachments.

Collections Versus Accumulations.

Worthy musings for a rainy morning in my childhood bedroom in Seattle.


Where are your connections vs. attachments?
Where are your collections vs. accumulations?
Please leave a comment.

Please share this post – Like it on Facebook, +1 it or Tweet it!

It Made Me Smile


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Yesterday I got an invitation to join someone’s network on LinkedIn, from a name I hadn’t heard or thought of in quite a while. There was no personal note with it, as is often the case, but I responded (as I frequently do) with a note thanking him for the invitation.

He replied, saying, “I saw you on LinkedIn and it made me smile.”

Which of course made me smile. That was the nicest thing anyone had said to me in a while – and people say nice things to me all the time. (I’m surrounded by nice people, and I’m grateful.)

When I stopped to think about it, I realized that we had worked together nearly twenty years ago. Gadzooks, how could that be possible? I don’t feel old enough to have done anything twenty years ago.

Even more, I marvel that those twenty years could disappear in an instant – because we made each other smile.

Make someone smile today. It will come back to you. I promise.


Work with a coach with experience in Connections, Joy and Grief.
I invite you to contact me: susan @ susanTblake . com
.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Garden. Stand. Glow.


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Breathing Into a New Year

I am not immune to the seasonal reflection and contemplation that goes on this time of year, and like millions of others I find myself reflecting on the past year, my successes and failures, realizations, and what I want for the coming year.

It isn’t just about flipping to a new year on the calendar, though. 2012 was a year of huge transition for me, and I have spent the last two months on a sort of working vacation. Working. Treading water. Breathing. Contemplating. Being Grateful.

But over the last two weeks, as my schedule has slowed down slightly and we have passed through the Winter Solstice and the end of the Mayan calendar and entered 2013, I have begun to look forward. That has manifested as three exercises (so far) that have been very fruitful. I’d like to share them with you here, as you may find them helpful as well. (And going public, and the accountability that can bring, is probably a good thing.)

A Personal SWOT Analysis

A what?

It started when a friend invited me to send her my resume, as she wanted to share it with her client. I took some time to review it first and do some updating. One of the things I had highlighted was helping my clients perform SWOT analyses. What’s a SWOT analysis? It stands for

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

with Strengths and Weaknesses being Internal factors and Opportunities and Threats being External factors. The idea is to brainstorm these, and only then set goals and plan initiatives that have a good chance of succeeding based upon your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

I looked at my resume and thought, “Hmmm, this might be a good time to do that for myself.”

So I did.

It’s been an interesting process (which is still in process, especially the Opportunities and Threats part). Here are a few highlights:

  • This has been a great opportunity to be reminded of my strengths. I have a lot of them. I tend to take them for granted. (Is there anyone who doesn’t, at least at some time?)
  • This has also been a reminder of something two different wise people have said to me at different times in my life: “Your strengths taken to extreme can be your greatest weaknesses.” One example? I am extremely persistent and tenacious. Taken to extreme, I can be quite stubborn (good Taurus that I am). This doesn’t always serve me (or those around me), especially when it’s time to walk away from something.
  • I have a number of opportunities available to me, and I had an idea for another one as a result of this process.
  • Examining the Threats is important, especially since most of them can be prepared for and overcome. But they have to be recognized first.
  • Regarding those Threats, I realized that they, and the Opportunities, aren’t all external. Those Weaknesses can pose threats to my success if I don’t manage them. As for the external Threats, I need to watch my feet, and be aware, not wary.

That Amazing Question Again

Then, on Sunday, Chris Brogan’s newsletter arrived. In it, he asked this version of my Amazing Question: What would you attempt if you believed in yourself a lot more than you do today?

Hmmm. Excellent timing. I emailed Chris, and he challenged me to answer it for him. So I did. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Schedule more workshops – at least one every month.
  • Actively promote my coaching – by calling people, sending emails, launching a newsletter.
  • Get back on a regular – or at least more frequent – blog schedule, even if the direction changes.
  • Invite new Captains Curious guest posts.
  • Create a new photography site.
  • Create a site for my jewelry and either begin selling on Etsy or actively schedule shows and parties.
  • Submit a proposal for the magazine article I want to write, interviewing other women named Susan Blake.
  • Finish the rewrite of “Remember to Look Up” and publish it for e-readers through Amazon etc.

Damn. That’s a big list of Opportunities. But completely achievable – if I believe in myself. Since it was fed by the Strengths and Opportunities lists I had recently begun, I know it’s all possible – Weaknesses and Threats not withstanding.

Boil It Down

And then Chris’s next blog post arrived, his annual “My Three Words” post, in which he describes choosing three words that will be his touchstones for the year, his guiding force to keep him on track. They are the words that represent the Big Vision for the year.

So, here is my response to his challenge to come up with three words that represent my Big Vision for 2013:

Garden. Stand. Glow.

Garden: The first word that actually came to me was Renaissance, because I have a lot of interests, a lot of talents, a lot of avenues I want to pursue. I am a Renaissance Woman. My commitment for 2013 is to respect them and to pursue them all: Coaching. Writing. Photography. Music. Jewelry Making. Partnering with horses in Equine Guided Experiences. They all feed me, they feed others, they feed each other, and they have the potential for literally putting food on the table – if I act like I believe in myself (see above). I am a Renaissance Woman, but an even better term that describes this, and embodies action, is Gardener. A garden requires tending – planning, tilling, planting, watering, pruning, weeding, harvesting. And this is about action, not just interests and talents. Also, a good garden is filled with a variety of plants, not just multiples of only one plant, and that describes me. A polymathic garden. So my first word is Garden.

Stand: As in, stand in my power. 2012 was a year filled with repeated reminders that I am powerful. And that I often either discount it or take it for granted. Especially my Intuition. I built a varied and successful career on mostly left-brained, highly analytical abilities, but events in the past year have repeatedly plunked me smack dab in the middle of my right brain. My work with horses is part of that. Where before I have often discounted my intuition, I am finding that it is indispensable and usually accurate. Part of respecting my garden of talents, interests and skills includes trusting that intuition. It guides my curiosity and I can employ my curiosity to validate it. This year I commit to standing in that power, so my second word is Stand. (I also like the visual connection to a “stand of trees.”)

Glow: As I tend my Garden and Stand in my power, I see myself start to glow. That glow serves as a beacon to others. The glow of a candle in the window, a campfire in the forest, a lighthouse on the coast. Come this way! It helps us find each other, connect, engage. No hiding my light. My third word is Glow.

* * * * *

There you have it. Three exercises for the New Year, the new age. It is all part of a work in progress, of course. I encourage you to try them! Please share the results here in the Comments, or feel free to reach out to me.

Horses and Open Space


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I’ve recently been exposed first-hand (or should I say, “first-hoof?”) to Equine Guided Education (EGE) – working with horses in leadership development and coaching – through the work of The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership here in northern California.

It has been a moving, thought-provoking and powerful experience to work with the horses and their human partners.

On my most recent visit, I was struck by the parallels between working with the horses and the Four Principles of Open Space Technology.

Open Space?

Open Space Technology (OST) is a meeting or conference methodology that is, as Wikipedia so succinctly says, “most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda, which sets the stage for the meeting’s participants to create the agenda for themselves.”

What I love about it is its fundamental assumption that the participants are the experts and that they bring the answers with them. This flies in the face of the traditional “banking method” of education (thank you, Paulo Freire) in which experts deposit information in the minds of the students.

The Four Principles

Here are the Four Principles of OST – as I apply them to Equine Guided Education:

  • “Whoever comes is the right people.” In this setting, one isn’t sure which horse or horses will decide to participate, but whoever comes is just right.
  • “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.” As often happens when working with groups and even with individuals, I am often surprised and delighted by what happens – despite my best planning. The same thing is true here, and I am reminded to be honest about what I can control and what I can’t.
  • “Whenever it starts is the right time.” Creativity and Spirit – and the horses – don’t pay much attention to the clock.
  • “When it’s over, it’s over.” As Kimberly Carlisle, the foundation’s Executive Director said to me, “When the horses are done, they’re done.” They can have incredibly long attention spans if there is still work to be done (or fun to be had), but when it’s done, or the bonds of authenticity are broken, they’re done. I can learn a lot from them about not forcing things.

The Law of What?

I shared this with Lisa Heft, who then introduced me to Eva Svensson (thank you, Lisa!), who is both an OST facilitator and EGE practitioner in Sweden (where EGE is known as HAE). Eva agreed and went on to add that OST’s one law, the “Law of Two Feet” (or more appropriately the “Law of Mobility”) also applies.

The Law of Mobility states that “If, during our time together, you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet and go to some more productive place.” That’s kind of revolutionary, isn’t it? The One Law not only places responsibility for learning on the participants, it also creates “bumblebees and butterflies” who float from one group to another, potentially pollinating as they go.

As Eva said, “If they (the horses) don’t think you are interesting enough, they take their hooves and walk away.”

And if they stay, you know it’s because they want to.

And Something Magical Happens…

Both OST and EGE have facilitators, and structure within which, well, magic can happen. How does that magic happen?

Like OST, EGE assumes the intelligence and the gifts that the participants bring with them – all of the participants. Including the horses. All of that intelligence and all of those gifts in one place  combine and recombine and have the potential to produce something totally unexpected: Insights. Collaboration. Connection.

How can you not love that?

Are you curious?


Would you like to learn more about The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership and Equine Guided Education? Visit http://www.theflagfoundation.org/.

Want to learn more about Open Space Technology? Visit http://www.openingspace.net/openSpaceTechnology.shtml

Want to explore having an experience with OST or EGE?
Email me at susan at susantblake.com.

Want to join the conversation? Leave a comment!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Do Jewelry, Jigsaw Puzzles and Recruiting Have in Common?


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I had a surprising epiphany the other night after spending a good part of the weekend making jewelry: Making jewelry is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

I love a good puzzle. In fact, I am a Jigsaw Puzzle Addict from way back. If there is an open puzzle on the table I’m working on it.

We discovered this when I was in high school. My family went on vacation for a week to a beach cabin with no television, and my mother brought along a jigsaw puzzle to prevent utter mayhem in case it rained. (In western Washington State rain is a pretty safe bet.) If I was inside the cabin I was working on that puzzle. And I finished it.

So we bought another one when we got home. Same thing. Then my mother bought another one and this time she took away the lid to the box – so I had no picture to go by.

Didn’t matter. I did it anyway. Faster.

I find them very soothing. My brain goes into a different mode where there are no words, only visuals (and I am a very visual person). And with puzzles, I get to focus on both the details and The Whole.

There is something enormously satisfying about taking a jumble of pieces and making the myriad connections needed until a consolidated whole emerges.

When I was in college, I started using jigsaw puzzles as therapy at the end of a term. Once I was done with all of my papers and exams (and my brain was fried) I would lock myself up with a puzzle. By the time I finished the puzzle (usually in a weekend) I was fine again.

When my (late) husband discovered this, he adopted it as his favorite gift. Perfume? Jewelry? Occasionally. But my favorite thing was to come home on a Friday night and find a new puzzle and a bottle of champagne on the dining room table.

He had no interest in (or patience with) doing them himself, and he didn’t drink, either. This was something he bought just for me.

He even knew me so well that he could tell if I was having a difficult time at work. He would just look at me and say, “I think you need a puzzle.” And he was usually right.

I haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle in a long time, though, because I haven’t given myself permission to sit still and not focus on work in quite a while – except the occasional day spent reading or gardening.

But I’ve recently taken up beading. I blame my mother and sister, who took me along when they went to a humungous bead store for an afternoon when I last visited them in Seattle. I went in not intending to buy anything, but I ended up purchasing the beads for a necklace as a souvenir of that visit. (And, I should say, I bought way more than the two of them put together.)

Then a friend gave me a kit with a huge variety of beads, wires and tools, and my sister came to visit and helped me figure out what I had and organize it. Then we visited another bead shop, and one of my favorite jewelry stores had a sale on hand-blown glass beads… you can see where this is going.

So I have been spending time sitting with the beads, looking at them, combining them, recombining them, and recombining them again. Do these two go together? Do these three go together? Is there a pattern emerging? Are you earrings? Or a necklace? Or a bracelet?

I realized this is very similar to the process I go through when sorting puzzle pieces. Do these two go together? Do these three go together? Are you a roofline? Or a tree branch?

Then the thought occurred to me that maybe being an external recruiter, which I did for six years (and thoroughly enjoyed), was like doing jigsaw puzzles, too. Sifting through candidates and their skills and personalities and goals, sifting through clients and their job requirements and company cultures and goals, and matching them up. Do these two go together? Do these three go together?

They’re all about making connections, and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

My point is this: Sometimes we take things so for granted that we fail to see the connections that exist between them and the patterns they create.

What are some of the patterns or connections that repeat themselves in your life, whether in hobbies, or relationships, or in your work – or that cross over between them?

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