Monday, May 13, 2013




The word 'no' by dictionary definition is a negative used to express dissent, denial or refusal. The word' no' can often be fraught with pressure and stress because it can disappoint. 
Who wants to hear a no ?
 In reality, saying no can be a real positive statement and offer many benefits.

When TAKING SPACE WITH GRACE in your interactions, no is sometimes a necessary response allowing you to hold onto your true desire.  At those moments of decision, 'no' is protective; it supports your individual needs. "No, I can't go out this evening because (yes) I have to study for my exam,' 'No, I can't help you with money because (yes) I  need to have my money for me: simple as that.
While saying no to one thing, aren't we actually saying yes to something else ? No and yes are closely entwined and no as an assumed negative can with different framing transform into a positive yes very quickly.

I have a friend who drinks way too much. In the moment, she just wants to and when she says no to having a drink, she feels deprived, disappointed and kind of lonely because she isn't joining in with her friends. Sometimes, she is just plain frustrated saying no because she wants what she wants when she wants it. On the other hand, an hour or a day later, she remembers that she would like to be healthier and more in control of her choices and behaviors. She would like to spend less money hanging out and less time feeling woozy and out of control and bad about herself.  Re-framing a no to drinking could actually move her attention to a yes about other possibilities in her life.  Altering her usual belief or narrative from feeling deprived is accomplished by focusing attention forward to something else she wants at a later moment. It is short term delay for longer term satisfaction.
 'No, I won't drink because it's expensive and I really want to go to Europe this summer. If I stop going out a few days a week and save that money, I can afford to visit my friend in Italy for a couple of weeks. She can tame and train her impulses by revising the story she retrieves from inside herself.

For my friend, saying no to drinking is actually saying yes to a vacation. Ciao, bella !

Understanding when 'no' is not deprivation but preservation changes the entire perspective. 


Re-framing requires slowing down a short term desire to make room to consider a long term desire. Try a practice of waiting three full beats before saying yes or no. If I buy this expensive meal, will I then delay being able to buy a new bicycle ? Which do I really want at this time in my life ?

I like the saying..'if you remember the item long after the price, then you should have it,' because it is not impulsive but implies that your choice has been felt through. It can be a buffer against remorse and regret.

Sometimes a no to a long term goal and a yes to a short term desire is the way to go.

So, breathe in, breathe out three times, short inhale and long exhale. Try and empty out the air. It clears and refreshes your mind.
Really catch your instinct for whether a yes or a no is optimal. Giving yourself space to decide, gives you grace to make your choice.

I believe the decision is up to you.  Do you agree ? Breathe.  Yes or no ?

Thursday, March 28, 2013


It is easy to 'take your space with grace' when your needs are met and you are comfortable and at ease.
Why do so many people feel alone even when they have caring friends, work colleagues and family ?   You can feel ‘alone in a crowd’ even in a familiar crowd  because of  the lack of WITH-NESS. WITH-NESS  is a specific kind of care. in which you feel someone or something is accompanying you in your feeling. With-ness has a different quality than a sweep of empathy or sympathy because it offers the perfect note of understanding. It can be a blend of the right words, feeling and a touch of a heart offering or any one of these elements that feels a lot like music as it captures and communicates something important and reaches deep inside you. WITH-NESS can happen in an instant; you just know.
My mother was frantically serving roast chicken and salad at a family dinner. Everyone was talking over one another. Six energetic people flailing and shouting and one guest, Larry, a very nice man my father worked with, was calm and gracious. I was twelve years old and feeling tired because I was having trouble sleeping. I would sit up for what felt like hours in the middle of the night talking with our dog, reading, doing art work. I cannot remember much conversation at the dinner except for one fragment of what I said, “ I can’t sleep at night.” As the chicken legs were good-naturedly flying, Larry turned his full attention to hear me, “ Why are you having trouble sleeping ? Are you worrying ?” He asked.  
I don’t remember what I said but that moment when Larry stepped into my experience, will be with me forever, evidently. I could feel that he knew my distress. There was a knowing in his eyes and expression and he got it and joined me in a genuine moment of ‘WITH-NESS’. It was a piece of love that was usable.  
Usable love happens when care really beams through and reaches another person. Beloved pets are ‘beloved’ for this reason. They seem to get us and touch a sweet spot that clicks.

I once raised an eyebrow in a gesture of support to an eight year old girl in a restaurant vestibule. Her mother was insisting that she put her scarf on, while she protested that she wasn’t cold.  Some people have different thermometers and it didn’t feel cold to me either and the girl politely said that she would put her scarf on if she needed it. I didn’t mean to intrude but somewhere in the third or fourth round of
‘ you have to wear your scarf ‘, my eyebrow got the best of me and it signaled to this girl that I got her experience. As I was leaving she raised her eyebrow at me and smiled.
 Some years ago, I witnessed a  friend’s conversation with her daughter.  Speaking  in a hard, frustrated tone, the mother sputtered,
“ You know I love you!”  To which her daughter painfully replied, “ I know you love me but I can never feel you love me.”
Hearing this was rough. This mother and daughter love each other but the
‘with-ness’ factor was definitely off.  This mother was an organized almost cut and dry type while her daughter was ethereal and artistic. They were moving through the world and relating on a different wavelength and both of them were hurt and angry because of all the missed connections. Just because you are blood related, there is no guarantee that you are cut from the same cloth.
With effort, a weak ‘with-ness’ match can be developed as you learn enough about the other person to join them in their experience. You need a willingness to set aside your natural preference and tune in and get specific with where and how the other person perceives. People often don’t feel you are with them if they do not feel known . This mother and daughter had a tough road; they were in a bind; if you don’t really reach me, you don’t know me and if you don’t know me, who is it you are loving ?

WITHNESS comes about when there is a match; it fits, it’s right.. People commonly crave it especially from romantic relationships, often mainly from romantic relationships  and  undermine many valuable with-ness moments as they move through their day.

With-ness can also come from things and environments. You may experience with-ness in nature; as all feels right with the world when there is a pattern of light on a wall or an exquisite view of the sky or the ocean.
You cannot force ‘withness’ but you can learn  to set your radar to know and receive it. You can cultivate and practice tuning in and being specific with one another.  Of course, no two brains are in sync and there is no such thing as one hundred percent with-ness in human relating. In life it is like panning for gold and experiencing the pleasure a shiny nugget brings.

With-ness is a human need for specific, fine tuned connection that is comfortably received.  Know what I mean ?  Are you with me ?

                                          *********** WITH-NESS !!**************

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

FUN HOUSE MIRRORS..Bruce Springsteen/ Maya Angelou

OR JUST A BRILLIANT DISGUISE ?" - Bruce Springsteen 

Dating can be so confusing. The task of getting to know someone exposes you to their whole world of emotional wiring. It's kind of like opening a television set and looking at all the connections that make the picture appear, only relationships can be more complicated and a lot more haywire .

When you are dating, you need skills that allow you to experience a realistic picture of who is in front you. Sometimes and all too often, desire warps perceptions like a
FUN HOUSE MIRROR and turns someone into what you want them to be instead of learning about who they really are.

There are so many people with their mind set on marriage from the get-go.


Great, let's meet  at 7 at the will I know you?

I'll be wearing a white dress and veil and carrying a bouquet.

'Love is in the eye of the beholder' and the beholder reworks  a 'sow's ear into a silk purse' when the desire for a silk purse is overwhelmingly strong.
I have seen people deny a date's drinking problems, gambling problems, raging ' yes,but only sometimes', and easily minimize the extent of potential trouble. I have tried to help people underline or illuminate some of this murky vision because the best protection in discovering who someone is, is staying present and being honest with yourself. It does not mean you should or have to step away from someone but it's wise to be clear about what you are stepping into.


WOMAN: I am so happy, I have exactly what I want in a boyfriend, the strong silent type.

after awhile....

WOMAN: He never talks, he is silent all the time, I'm so lonely.


Of course, the opposite can also true; fear turns a 'silk purse into a sow's ear' by amplifying a criticism to a major pitch. A minor flaw becomes a major deficit; he's too tall, too short, doesn't exercise, exercises too much, she is too this, too that, went to the wrong college, didn't go to college, has too much education, etc., etc, etc. These things may really be a problem but sometimes you enlarge differences to be deal breakers so that you can run away from the vulnerability of revealing yourself. I would have if he didn't...I could have but she..blah, blah, blah. Distortions can abound when viewed through an emotional lens.

In the realm of dating, to TAKE SPACE WITH GRACE, you need to trust. Trusting your own feelings is essential. A valuable technique to stay in connection with yourself involves listening to your body. Often, your heart and your gut offer physical clues. States like a speedy heart rate, queasiness, tightening, fluttering or anything out of the ordinary that may uplift or cause you to sink are worth sorting through. These responses can be understood and allow you to know what connects and resonates.  Is the person in front of you true;  'what I say I am, I am'. If she tells you she is considerate yet often arrives late without calling, is she ? Do you smile in response, as your chest tightens ? Tune in, not out. What is the chest tightening about ? It may be telling you something important.

Sometimes, people are not clear about what they can and cannot live up to. The expression, 'his eyes are bigger than his stomach' does not necessarily describe someone who intentionally deceives but rather someone who does not know themselves well enough to present a truth. I have often heard romantic regrets voiced as, ' I didn't know.' I didn't know does not produce easy grace, knowing does.


And then sometimes someone does deceive because they want what they want, when they want it and does not possess the skills or heart to act for another's welfare.

As words and behaviors do or don't match up, you can come to know and depend on certain patterns.  Reliability, good and bad,  becomes clear over time, not in a minute. You can have a hunch and good intuition pretty quickly but a healthy dependency becomes solid through accumulated experience. And presence of mind and spirt protects and keeps your view clear.

If you are dating for awhile but you don't feel ready to move forward but feel that you will be in time, be true to that.
Lily had a breakup a year and half ago and when she finally met an interesting new person, she instantly felt pressure and responsibility to put this person's needs ahead of her own. This was emblematic of her last romance and made Lily want to bolt as her fight or flight instinct kicked in. She was just scared of losing herself again.  Lily practiced taking space with grace  by stepping forward with her own desires.  She didn't dominate and he didn't dominate. She stated clearly that 'she wanted to take it but take it slow.'



" The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them."

1- Pay attention..wake up.

2-Sort through your desire and see how they match up with the facts in front of you.

3- Watch and interact over time and become aware of patterns.

4-Don't pretend.

5- Listen to your body and your mind.

6- Pace yourself, don't rush.


Sunday, January 6, 2013


Ever feel like this ?
"I like him/her but not that way. What should I do ? 'I don't know what to say','I don't want to hurt someone's feelings', 'I know how bad I feel when someone rejects me', 'I feel awful when someone wants something from me that I can't or don't want to give','it's so uncomfortable'.

And of course, there is the other side of this coin;
' I call him/her and I think they are not going to get back to me and then a few days later they do and I can't tell if he/she is nervous or it's bad timing. I think there could be something good and I don't know what to do because I'm attracted. I'm confused. He/she calls back; why would they call back and accept another date at all if they are not interested ?'

Being direct with feelings can feel too vulnerable when you take a position and the other person comes back with a completely different take. We are all creatures wired for connection and when our point of view isn't met with agreement, our separate stance can feel to varying degrees rejecting and lonely. And who wants to feel that ?



Offering a clear communication causes less confusion and pain. People receive the news directly and simply; a quick pull off of the band aid. This allows them to get over it and move on versus the shuffling, prolonged, confusing, ambivalent (yes-no) scenario which will not be leading to 'a happily ever after' anyway. Being on the receiving end of a yes/no when you have a stake and a prayer for a yes from someone creates awful anxiety. It prolongs the rejection. Ironically, avoiding saying no to spare someone's feelings, more often than not hurts their feelings more as they stay invested in hope longer. It may seem unkind to say no but an inevitable no is best said early on.


If you are not interested in someone, perhaps some of these lines will be useful:

1) For whatever reason, I don't feel what I need to feel.

2) I do not want to pursue a relationship.

3) This isn't a match for me.

Begin with something constructive and positive if you can:

1) I so appreciate your kindness, however..

2) I have enjoyed talking with you, though..

3) Thank you so much for this lovely evening...



Finding a relationship is an extended interview, a long conversation in words and behavior. You listen over time to what someone is really saying and you watch how their behavior matches. Trust is built as you see someone keeping their word and following through with action. I will do this for you and they do. What they say they are, they are.  For some, an intuitive sense of knowing is strong so they proceed pretty quickly with a yes. For others, they  have positive feelings but proceed with more caution and feel tentative for awhile waiting to see more of the facets and layers of the relationship prism.


Susan started dating Matt a few months after a break-up so she was still pretty vulnerable. After a few weeks, Matt seriously felt Susan was someone worth his while for the long haul. Susan began to feel uncomfortable knowing that she was interested but did not match Matt's enthusiasm. She would accept a date with a full yes because she did like him but when Matt reached for her arm she moved back with a physically lukewarm reply. Susan was giving mixed signals which is alienating to the other person and interferes with  figuring out if you both have something worth putting time into.
After a couple of weeks of two steps forward, one step back which Susan was doing in order to spare Matt from liking her too much, they were walking home from dinner in an awkward silence filled with
those inner date dialogues about 'what is really going on here'. ( see Woody Allen clip from ANNIE HALL below)
When they arrived at Susan's front door, Susan made small talk and Matt was feeling rejected/dejected.
As he said goodnight with a weird peck on her lips, Susan tightened up but guilt propelled her toward a kinder parting; " I like you, Matt and I think there is something here, it's just that I'm not ready for this
timing wise but I could be if you could hang in with me and I can't promise but if you are willing, we can see what we could have." That was the truth and rather than acting it out in dribs and drabs, it was in full view and a choice could be made based on the reality.

Oh, what happened with Susan and Matt ?

Matt....hung in and a few months later, the relationship turned a corner toward the real deal. It could have easily ended that night had Susan not taken the risk to take space with grace. Susan wanted to take it but she wanted to take it slow and she said so and in this case it worked out well.

INNER DATE DIALOGUE  ( 'what is really going on here ') by Woody Allen with Diane Keaton

Sometimes it just helps to say what you feel and get it on the table.                                                          


Sunday, December 16, 2012


                                                                           The New Yorker
It's that time of year again when you may choose or be obligated to be in close proximity to family.  Which brings me to the concept of obligation versus inspiration. A large part of the stress that people feel this time of year has to do with the feeling of HAVE TO rather than WANT TO.
I have to go home, I have to buy twenty two presents; that's how it's always done, I have to eat all the food my family makes or they are hurt; even if it's like being in FOOD PRISON. Quite often, these  'requests' that are to be met make it difficult to meet what you really want for yourself. Rather than scream or clobber someone out of the mounting frustration of demands, be pro-active and choose some things to do in the midst of observing your holiday traditions that inspire or at least get you further away from feeling dutiful and acted upon.
But first a clip from the film, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. My favorite section is at 50 and involves an exchanged glance. What speaks to you ?

Okay, so back to requirements:
If you are participating in events because you feel you have to ( obligation), think about what kind of experiences you would enjoy even as you encounter dominant forces like Granny,your parents and miscellaneous folks who only want you to do things their way. Finding a way to connect to your own want and then using it to join, will give you a better chance to feel inspired because there will be pleasure and engagement for you rather than tolerating a situation.
Here are some possibilities for taking care of yourself as you are also


1) Bring activities you like; make some art..a poster, cards or bake a cake or teach someone to knit, bring a favorite book you can share like a book of cartoons, photographs, a guide to a country you love and have or want to visit.

2) Find out ahead of time if anyone is coming or is in town who has a similar interests. Plan a meeting or activity. This is something to look forward to.

3) If your family watches a movie; can you bring one or weigh in on suggestions.

4) Be the family photographer. You can be there but you don't have to get into detailed conversation if you would prefer not to.

5) Find an event that you can attend solo or with a kid or some other family member.


1) Bring a project either personal or work. Excuse yourself and move into another room or a local coffee shop so that you can carve out time where you are not relating to others. This project can be anything that speaks to your well-being and you don't have to explain and justify this to anyone.

2) Exercise to maintain a health routine. If someone complains..simply state..'I have to do this for my health; I'll definitely be with you later', (subtitle: I'm doing this so back off but done with grace)

3) Can you bring someone with you that is a buffer if you are entering a difficult situation. Sometimes this can diffuse problems and keep people on better behavior.

4) Go for walks.

5) Take breaks and listen to music you like.


P.S. If nothing works to connect and you feel inside yourself the need to scream..please do. Find a private place or call a friend who gets it and validate an authentic moment or watch this and know you are not alone.

BAA HUMBUG (sort of)


P.S.S  Read my post SPACE INVADERS so that you can identify many personality types that you may be faced with managing like Guilters, Pushers, Twisted Heads and Blamers.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

SPACE INVADERS -w/Michael Jackson/Ella Fitzgerald

Ever notice how difficult it is for people to let you stay in your space and just be who you are when you  have a difference with them  ?
                                                                                                    The New Yorker - Peter Steiner

You're sitting in a restaurant waiting for your food to be served, everyone is nibbling rolls and you aren't..someone says, 'you can have one.' You say, 'thanks but, I don't want any, I'll wait for dinner.' Sometimes you hear responses like; 'you don't have to deprive yourself.'  'one won't hurt you,' 'you can have one every once in a while.'
Funny, how people become 'food pushers,' when they have a crust or two hanging off their own lip, not that there is anything wrong with that, FOR THEM.
However, if you reach into your own inner space, you find that, you don't feel deprived when you decline a roll. As a matter of fact you can choose to have one or twenty rolls if you so desire.
You don't need 'space invaders' to try and take your space by pushing you into their choice..

For the above dynamic, try and substitute clothing purchases;' oh, you can buy that !!
Cutting out of work early when someone else wants you to...'It's only one day.'

Home decorating..'you're putting that there ?'  This said, as you are pounding the nail into the wall.

These are examples of the casual, common undermining of being YOU when someone wants you to be THEM.


Space invaders exist because people have trouble being in their emotional space they press you to join them.

Space invaders are people who want to be validated and therefore when you have a separate desire or action, they feel invalidated which creates discomfort for them. To alleviate their discomfort, they pressure you to agree (validation) and participate  (merge) with their desire or action which eliminates their separateness/aloneness (validates them) and decreases their discomfort until the next difference appears.
They push on you, not because you are choosing incorrectly but because they cannot tolerate the space between their choice and your choice.  They cannot trust their own choices and tolerate their own feelings.

SPACE INVADERS are everywhere on this planet; in your state, in your neighborhood and even in your very own home.

BEHAVIOR STYLES***************** 


Here is a quick example of what I mean in this morning conversation between my friend, DEV and his girlfriend, JULIE.

SETTING: Kitchen, Sunday morning, New York City, 2012

                              Want a walnut muffin ?
Dev is reading the paper. He looks up.
                               No thanks.
Thirty seconds later..
                               How about half a walnut muffin ?
                               No, thanks.
Twenty seconds later…
                              How ‘bout half a muffin with jam ?
                              Uh, uh, no thanks.
Ten seconds…
  Let me give you half a walnut muffin with about with  butter ?
Dev looks up from the paper.
      No, thanks..I  just don’t want anything now.
Few seconds…
                             Are you sure…it’s reeally good ?
Dev stands up and throws the paper down.
      I don’t want a muffin..I don’t want a half a muffin,  I don’t want a muffin with
      butter, I don’t want a muffin with  jam… I DON’T WANT A MUFFIN !!!!!! I
      don't want a muffin !!!!

Dev cries in frustration and pulls at his hair, the only thing he can re-arrange since his replies seemed to have no effect on Julie's locomotion.
                             Okay,okay, fine, don't have a muffin.

*QUIZ: Did Dev want a walnut muffin ?

I do not take direct responsibility for what I want rather 'I am doing it as a favor to you'

*here is your laundry :

My friend lives in an apartment building with staff. Recently, the porter brought her laundry to the door. He took all of her clothes out of the dryer and brought them to her, an hour before the laundry closed with the explanation that he didn't want anyone to take them. Though the truth was that he wanted to leave early again.

( Ah, I want to handle my own laundry)

*about your birthday:

A friend says: "Let's celebrate your birthday on's a more relaxing day for you.'

(Ah, how about asking the birthday person what they want ?)

*on the phone:

I'm going to let you go.

(Ah, but I don't want to go yet )

THE BLAMERS or you are wrong when you don't do it my's your fault

*If it were me, I would have paid for the cab.

(Well, it's not you, it's me and I chose not to pay for the cab.)

*I wouldn't have said mean things to you if you had arrived on time.

( I would not, if you did are responsible for the reaction I chose )

                                               The New Yorker-William Haefeli


*'I would do it for you.'
( Ah, that's nice)

                   * 'I never hear from you.'
                    (Ah, you just did, I called you )

                        *' I can't believe you feel that way.'
    ( Ah, I just told you I feel that way..why can't you believe it ?)

                       * ' I don't know anyone who feels that way.'
                            (Ah, now you do.)

                                * 'Don't feel that way.'
                                    ( Ah, but I do.)

This MIKE NICHOLS AND ELAINE MAY SKIT show massive SPACE INVASION where the pressure to be validating, joining, merging is over the top, hilarious. Does this mother invade her son's space ? Have a look and DECIDE FOR YOURSELF.

If you want to stay true to your emotional life, it helps to know the tactics of your fellow travelers who through their own habits and human frailties challenge your positions.
I leave you with an old anthem of self-preservation.

                                          I GOTTA BE ME