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.

Guest Blog: Revisiting the Landscape of Family Constellations

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."