Oct 052015

With The Power of Direct Mirroring coming up October 29 to November 1, led by Cathy McNally and Wendy Huntington (pictured below), we are revisiting two pieces written for Shen 15 years ago, by Gary Holdgrafer and Suzanne Gobeil Partridge.

The Power of Direct Mirroring



House of Mirrors

By Suzanne Gobeil Partridge. Suzanne is The Haven’s Reflexologist. This poem was first published in Shen in 2000.

I was brought up in a fishbowl
Always to be aware of what others see
And as any good student I quickly learned
That being on display didn’t mean
     I was seen
So I swam around perfecting my doily image
While living my secret life behind glass.

Years went by and I became more proficient
At juggling masks on and off like a magician
     And like a master of illusion
I fooled myself and became detached from reality.

From this anguish I professed I would change
No longer live in a glass bowl—instead
     Introduce myself to being authentic
And in so doing I created a house of mirrors.

Mirrors that reflected concave images
Where I felt safe and began to reinvent old patterns
     Patterns with a new name like ideal self,
A place where I could engage my perfectionism
And fail and then try harder.

Mirrors that were convex so that I
     Appeared larger than life
Kind, beautiful, always selfless
Where I could be modest in my thank yous.

So I was brought up in a fishbowl
And I created a house of mirrors
     Both, distorted realities
Thinking I could control the outcome
Yet, vacancy has no reflection.

There is another room in my house
It has potential for great things
A place where relationship is part of my mirror
     My reflection there is sincere
A loving, tough honesty that shocks at times
Warms and attracts curiosity at times
This is where I feel the most alive
     And closest to me.


Mirror, Mirror

By Gary Holdgrafer. Gary is Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta, a resident of Gabriola Island and has a long history with The Haven. 

Most of us are on a personal approval-seeking mission for confirmation that the image we present is seen by others as the ideal version we are striving to construct for ourselves. We see others as mirrors to which we persist in asking “mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Direct feedback from the mirror, as in the case of Snow White’s wicked step-mother, is clearly not always highly appreciated when it is at odds with the idealized image.

Coincidentally, the mirror or other person is usually on the same approval-seeking mission and is only too happy to be held in view by another person. The reflection is a projection of the approval being sought by the mirror. The viewer naturally approves of the reflection that is projection and the mission is accomplished all around! Except, of course, for the wicked step-mother. It doesn’t seem fair if you are expecting to be the fairest and are told by a mirror that you’re not.

Approval involves attention and direct feedback involves recognition. Attention is what we get when we do something to please others. Recognition is what we get when we are seen for who we are, “warts and all” – which may have been the first clue in the recognition of the wicked step-mother. She really did not have a chance anyway. No make-over possible would have ever made her competitive with the idealized image symbolized by our snow white little lass.

Inferring from T. Rubin (in his book Compassion and Self-Hate), the creation of superlative illusions is the play of children that unfortunately becomes the very serious work of adults. Self-compassion is the prerequisite for letting go of illusions which, in turn, is necessary for recognition. Resistance to this process is far more likely. It comes in many forms that can be wicked to ourselves and to others.

Sep 232015

Our first session on Skype!

By Susan Clarke. This article was first published on Susan’s blog susanbclarke.com

We launched the first Living It! September 11th, with a weekend in person at The Haven, and online sessions to follow! It’s been a year or more in the making. The initial plan, to launch a nine-month blended onsite and online Living Alive Phase I, did not make it out of the gates. However, we listened and tweaked the plans and came up with Living It!, a much shorter format, designed to give people a taste of a blended program.

I have to admit I expected a different collection of folks than the ones who arrived in the circle on the evening of the 11th. I was anticipating people who were adept and comfortable online or on computer. Not the case. In our opening circle it was clear some were newbies to the land of the internet and others spoke right up about their lack of confidence in the online part of the program.

Wow! Right at the outset we were confronted with a few challenges and some resistance to a core portion of the program!

However, living it was not called loving it – and I guess for a good reason!

We could have been discouraged or bagged the design. But no – instead we decided to make the most of just what was happening.

Truth is, I appreciated the honesty and I guess I’d be the first to admit living it for me has always had some significant elements of resistance, fear and reactivity!

So, instead of waiting for the online dates to start we built the online learning into our weekend!

What we discovered was the creativity that comes from diving into conflict, resistance and the potential of people choosing in, instead of opting out!

I loved how our computer literate members stepped up and partnered with those who were uncertain or new to Skype. Frankly, the lessons offered were way more patient and relational than I would provided if I had tried to get everyone up to speed myself.

I also loved that the people resistant or new, jumped in, even with fear and doubts. I found each courageous and developing computer chops much faster than I ever did!

One of our evening groups was done via Skype and the evening was filled with laughter, failure and a coming together (literally –six folks cuddled very closely together so they could be seen by others on the Skype screen, with Toby and I running between other rooms trying to invite, accept and add everyone to the party!). Yes, it was quite rich!

We also took full advantage of the circle and our time together in person to revisit and refresh some of the core models and bring them to life with breath and energy! I loved the commitment and willingness that folks had in stepping forward and sharing, listening and relating!

We weren’t certain how Living It! was going to go. It wasn’t, and isn’t, a set format. However, I am thrilled to be a part of the pioneer program and enjoying all those folks along for the ride!

If nothing else we all know now that indeed you can be personal, relate, laugh and learn online AND in person!

Indeed we are Living It! Thanks guys for making it happen and making it real!

Sep 162015

Cathy Wilder and Cathy McNally

By Cathy Wilder. Cathy is leading Communication Fundamentals with Cathy McNally, Oct. 16–19. Register online, by email (register@ haven.ca) or call 1 800 222 9211 ext 1.

About four years ago, I was first exposed to this program when Cathy and Ernie McNally were leading it. At that time, its overall ‘gift’ for me was slowing down and enjoying the embodied quality of connection throughout the program, as we moved through the communication process at a new depth of experience. I completed the program inspired, rested and rejuvenated.

Years later, my many learnings, which at the time I may not even have identified as learnings, have translated into significant moments – ‘choice points.’ These moments have influenced many communication situations. As I  have found myself either in or on the verge of defensive posturing or disconnection, a learning from the program has emerged, and I have been swayed to choose connection and curiosity. This in turn, has repeatedly led to rich conversations, discoveries, and, often, bouts of joyous laughter.

Now doesn’t this seem worth exploring?

Doesn’t it pique your curiosity and desire to participate?

Doesn’t it seem worth your investment of time, energy and resources?

October 16–19, 2015: Sign up and come join Cathy McNally and myself on this journey of communication.

Most recently, this summer, with my dear friend Mary Pinniger, I was so grateful for one of the many gems of learning I took away with me, embedded in my body-mind system. At a key moment, this significant learning quietly surfaced … while I was teetering on the verge of messing up a wonderful trip to the Canadian Rockies. I heard a quiet voice, a quiet reminder … WHAT REALLY MATTERS? I was so clear that our friendship was what mattered most to me – more than my need to defend or fight – that I found it within myself to connect with her. As she and I began to talk, my unfolding was quiet remarkable. I discovered something about myself that I had not seen play out in the way it did with her in that moment. My willingness to engage, coupled with her generosity of spirit led to belly laughter, fun and a fabulous ending to great trip to the Rockies. Thank you, Communication Fundamentals!!

If you want to establish or reinforce your neuro-pathways for more quality communication and connection, make the time October 16-19 to join us in  Communication Fundamentals.

Sep 092015

By Susan Clarke. This article was first published on Linkedin.

surfacingI read a lot of headlines in business magazines and journals: “How to Defuse Conflict,” “Manage Conflict Better,” or “Make it Safe.” All of these titles sound intriguing. Of course I should want to defuse tension, manage conflict well, and make it safe for others.

I did that for a very long time in my life, and it almost killed me.

So I have a very strong opinion that when it comes to conflict, defusing, managing, or making it safe are not the best things we can do.

How Surfacing and Using Conflict Saved My Life

Years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I was dealing with a health crisis. In the course of trying to get healthy, I found myself smack in the middle of conflict.

The conflict first surfaced when my medical team wanted to understand scar tissue they were finding in my body, and I did not have answers to their questions. The evidence surfacing in my body indicated trauma, and internal scarring from a long time ago. I had no memories of what had happened. I was torn. I had one story about my childhood, but my body had another.

Let’s Try Defusing

At first I tried to defuse the problem. Because I didn’t have the answers they were pressuring me for, I provided a series of possible answers. I didn’t have any idea if my answers were true, but they reduced the pressure from the doctors. That worked temporarily, but my health was not improving. It wasn’t until I started to look deeper into my past, and began to uncover some of the story behind the scars that I realized my fears of surfacing the conflict were actually stopping me from getting healthy.

I spoke up about what I was discovering, and my health outlook took a significant turn.

Not In Kansas Anymore

I got told I was dealing with cancer.

I bet you thought I was going to say I started getting better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my experience. No, my efforts to surface the conflict inside me and find my voice led to things getting much worse.

However, the difference was that there was now a way to treat and work with my health in a way that was not possible when the conflict was being avoided, defused, or buried.

Beginning to make meaning of all that I was uncovering, and finding my voice brought the conflict out so that it was no longer just inside me.

What I was remembering, however, had implications for my family and my community. Suddenly, I was in conflict with others.

Things continued to get worse. My memories involved some traumatic events in my past, which others did not think, or want to believe, had happened. My parents disagreed with the storyline I was remembering.

In particular, the memories I was surfacing involved a high profile member of our community, and no one was open to considering or talking about that.

Safe? No.

The conflict became threatening. I received a direct message to stop looking and exposing things from the past. I was scared, and I questioned if it was worth it to continue.

At one point, someone I was close to even told me, “You would be better off dead than in the middle of all this.”

However, as the conflict was raging outside of me, and I was continuing to speak my truth as best I could, my cancer started responding. I was physically getting healthier.


I knew one option was to manage the conflict that was showing up everywhere around me by going silent. Some part of me thought it would be easier.

However, another part of me knew silence would cause my health to plummet. So I literally walked away from the storyline that was killing me. I left my home in the states and moved to Canada, where I stayed for 14 years.

Walking away from the life that I knew was not easy, comfortable, or safe. It took me many years, and a lot of work on myself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – to begin to find my own feet and new way of being in the world.

It changed the way I approached life and conflict.

Two Magic Ingredients

Fortunately, I was able to find people and a place, The Haven, that helped me find a way out of the right/wrong trap that had characterized my experience so far.

I discovered the power of being vulnerable, meaning exposing myself to danger. I also discovered the power in being curious, meaning having my story and at the same time holding a space and genuine interest in the perspective and story of others.

Sharing parts of my story and letting people around me know about my uncertainty about the past was painfully difficult, and yet each time I opened up without fighting for my ‘truth,’ I was met with acceptance – not validation but contact and connection. That connection allowed me to begin to more fully accept myself. I also discovered when I did not have to fight for a truth, I could become much more curious and interested in other people’s ideas and opinions and more open to possibilities.

Being both vulnerable and curious involves living in the tension of there being no one reality or one right path. In that place there is an aliveness that is not about being safe. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is about stepping out without a safety net. In that place I discovered a new possibility and a creative way to go forward.

For me it is a place of faith – a simple belief in the continuity of life, beyond right and wrong.

The Fine Line

Those years of coming to terms with my own life and walking in the choice point between going silent, or risking speaking my truth and living with the consequences, have led to what is now my passion and mission.

I did turn my health around and have been working now for over twenty years creating a space for people to show up fully in their differences and use the tension in that conflict to discover and transform fixed and narrow storylines.

Not all situations involving conflict have the same degree of life or death charge. However, I know that choice point is always there. Sometimes it is a fine line we must walk. Will we go into the place of vulnerability and curiosity or will we opt for safe, secure, right/wrong?

If we get too comfortable by avoiding, defusing, and managing conflict, we are deadening ourselves from transformation, innovation, and creativity. It won’t kill us yet – but it is a very slippery slope. One I don’t think is worth going down.

So, I will continue to speak up for using the energy of conflict, risking and exposing ourselves to the danger and also the possibility beyond what we know.

I do have faith in our ability to hold the tension and create a space between us for greater possibility to emerge, and I have no illusions that it will be safe, feel good, or be easy. It is simply the only path to something outside of our current storyline, and that is where innovation and possibility lies.

A member of The Haven’s core faculty, Susan Clarke is a Consultant, Coach, and Speaker at thrive!incThrive! helps business leaders and their teams use the energy of conflict, rather than defuse it, to get to innovative, profitable business results. Susan and her co-founder, CrisMarie Campbell recently released their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! on You Tube. Search for it there. Feel free to contact Susan at *protected email*.

2016 Artist in Residence: Meet the Jury

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