Your body has a lot to say about how to choose your friends

I was sitting beside a friend the other day during the lunch break at a course we were attending. In the past, I’ve had a somewhat uneasy relationship with this friend because I viewed her as an authority figure. After we finished discussing something that came up in the training, the conversation drifted into other areas. We ended up having a wonderful time just talking about mutual friends, telling stories, laughing at the funny ones, and commiserating over the sad ones. When I think back to this experience, the picture that comes to mind is of two young, school-age children sitting side-by-side on a playground bench, swinging their legs and kicking the dirt. They are laughing, telling stories, watching the other kids play, and watching the clouds go by. They are taking delight in the moment. They are also of an age where friendship doesn’t pay gender much notice: they could be two boys, two girls, or a boy and a girl.

To Have a Friend, You Must Be a Friend, Part 2

A good friend of mine tells this story about her childhood: “Remember,” her mother would say, “to have a friend, you must be a friend.” Simple and sage advice but advice I wouldn’t follow. I grew up in a home where the most important relationships were not safe and, to cope, I learned not to risk being a friend first, instead choosing the safer and lonelier path of waiting for people to befriend me.

To Have a Friend, You Must Be a Friend, Part 1

I’ve been thinking about friendship lately. I have a friend who, during an earlier phase of our friendship, would close their emails with “Your tenuous friend.” This simultaneously amused, reassured, and unsettled me.

That I was amused by their closing has to do with similarities in our sense of humor: we both love irony, paradox, and can even see humor in the tenuousness of life itself.

That they signed as “friend” was reassuring because I have harbored doubts about my worthiness as a friend since childhood. As children, we all have doubts about friendship because in that stage of life friendship is naturally tenuous—your friend today may ignore you tomorrow or even become your enemy. In that stage, we are just beginners but as we grow older most of us learn that we deserve to have good friends upon whom we can rely. This understanding is a natural by-product of healthy self-esteem: I am worthy of good friends, and I am a good friend. That they signed as friend told me that I am moving into a more adult sphere where I am willing to trust my friends and to be trustworthy to them.

That I was unsettled by having a “tenuous” friend also had to do with my feelings of unworthiness from childhood. Why can’t they just sign “Your friend,” instead of reminding me of my insecurities? Well, let me tell you something: if they had signed it “Your friend,” that would have unsettled me, too.

A View to Constellations - by Suzi Tucker

Pickpocketed from Wikipedia: “A constellation is a group of stars that forms an imaginary outline or pattern on the celestial sphere…”

A systemic constellation refers to a group of relationships that forms an imaginary pattern or outline on the internal and external landscape of a human system. Rather than an animal, the pattern we see tends to be in the shape of despair or disappointment or anger, loneliness, illness, poverty, grief, longing, lack of thriving …

This pattern appears imprinted on the family or organizational system as a whole or on the heart of an individual.

Systemic constellations are both surgical and encompassing; they invite change quickly and unfold over a long time. Bert Hellinger, the provocative founder of the work, has assembled thinking from the realms of philosophy, psychology, sociology, and art to try to understand where things fall apart — and how they can come back together no matter the amount of damage that has been done.

The Tent

The tent is huge—the largest I’ve ever seen. It’s been set up in a grassy field next to the small Sears store. The Sears catalog is where, when I still believed in Santa, I got my ideas for what I wanted for Christmas or, when I was older, for what to tell my parents I wanted and, when even older, I got a thrill from the models in underwear. But this Sears is just for mowers, refrigerators, washing machines, and other boring stuff. Nothing a kid would want, except maybe a riding lawn mower.

But tonight, the Sears store is not on my mind. The Tent Revival is. It’s the biggest show in our small town. And I am a little kid with big, frightened eyes.

Vulnerability and Honoring “Thank You”

I have a friend who thanks me from time to time for something I’ve done for her. Her thank-yous seem sincere and heartfelt, maybe even earnest. I find it challenging to take them in, to really believe them. This is undoubtedly a vestige of learning as a child that I was worthless and always would be. This shaming was at the heart of my mother’s parenting approach. I imagine she learned it from her mother.

Revisiting the Landscape of Family Constellations - by Suzi Tucker

The phrase Family Constellation refers to both a philosophical lens and a process. The premise is that the family system and the individual’s internal system are reflections of each other.

The word Constellation is meant to denote a sense of how people inside a system — and the system inside the person — cluster in response to precipitating events. Who runs? Who hides? Who denies? Who shuts down? Who strikes out?

Sex and the Balance of Give and Take

One way for a couple to think about their relationship is for each partner to say of it, "There is me, there is you, and there is us." It’s in the us where the couple gets to create the relationship, including what role sex will play.

In almost any couple’s sexual relationship, one partner has more desire than the other. If this partner’s desire isn't reciprocated by the other, it puts the partner in a weakened position, facing the possibility of rejection anytime he or she makes an overture for sex. Bert Hellinger, the founder of Family System Constellations, sees the balance of give and take as one of the fundamental needs of any relationship, and it is especially important in the sexual realm.

From A to Z: Being Alpha, Becoming Zen

This morning in Men’s Yoga, I found myself resisting the teacher’s suggestions to quiet the mind by becoming more aware of the sensations in my body. The part of the brain responsible for these sensations is called the sensorimotor brain, and it is evolutionarily much older than our cognitive, “talking brain.” My sensorimotor brain keeps me breathing, enables me to walk without falling, lets me know when something is hot or cold, causes pain when some part of my body is broken or ailing, and tells me the beautiful woman next to me might just be interested in a little bit of romancing. 


My friend Frank (not his real name) answers his phone. He has this notoriously unreliable Bluetooth earpiece that he loves to use. Today it’s having a bad day. He sounds like a Martian. I tell him I’ll call back. When he answers the second time he’s no longer a Martian. I say, “Ah! It’s my old friend Frank – the one I know and love!” This joke brings him to tears because he’s not my old friend Frank, he’s the new Frank. The one who is fighting a disease that will shorten his life dramatically.

Compromise Is Not The Answer

Compromise is a way of reaching agreement in which each person gives up something that was wanted to end an argument or dispute. This may sound reasonable, but it rarely happens in intimate relationships. Say one of you wants to vacation at the beach and the other wants the mountains. A compromise might be to go to the beach this year and the mountains next year. But what if you really don’t like the beach? Do you go to the beach and sulk? Or, do you go and put on a happy face while silently letting your resentment grow?

How to Turn a Physicist into a Life Coach

My wife, Bobbi, and I moved to the Washington, DC area in the fall of 1983. We had been living in Lubbock, Texas, where I had a post-doctoral fellowship to build a pico-second spectroscopy lab. If you're a laser, science, engineering geek like me, that kind of post-doc is your idea of a good time. But all good things must end, and I had landed a one-year National Research Council fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory. It was potentially renewable for a second year. Bobbi and I figured a one- or two-year lark in DC would be a wonderful diversion before we settled down somewhere else to get on with our real lives.

The Courage to Sing

Emily is singing the chant solo to the Kirtan workshop participants. She is also one of the participants, but it is her turn to sing the Call. Emily has a lovely voice. She knows the chant by heart. She sings the Call beautifully. We then sing the Response, repeating what she has just sung. We sound pretty good, even though some of us can't carry a tune or stay on the beat. Not so long ago, I would have been one of them. But this workshop is not about perfection, it's about using your voice to get out of your head. It's about sharing your voice in community, about finding your inner truth while chanting in a room filled with erstwhile strangers. This is the kind of crazy stuff that regularly happens at Esalen Institute.

I am up next to sing the call after Emily.

The Fear Constellation

Sara sits at the end of the table, surveying the horse figurines she has placed in front of her. I am to her right at the side of the table. "Pick one to represent where you are today," she says. I look at the fifty or so horse figurines and try to pick one. I have learned over these four days of working with her that my logical left-brain will be of little use in choosing. The part of my brain that enabled me to get a PhD in Physics many years ago will only make me anxious if I use it to choose. Instead, I tune into my intuitive, relational, feeling brain. I choose a black and white pinto that looks young, energetic, curious, and eager, yet somehow hesitant. That is actually the way I feel in this moment. I place it slightly to my left and in the center of the table. "Good," she says.

 "Now pick a horse to represent the fear you spoke of."